Borderland: Some super-strong humans take over a Klingon bird of prey, and the Klingons start massing for war against Earth. Turns out the super-strong humans are genetically enhanced humans (Augments) that were originally made during World War III (think Khan). They were born only about 20 years or so before the events of this episode, when Dr. Arik Soong (Brent Spiner) stole the embryos from a research station and raised them as children on a remote planet. Enterprise, finishing up its repairs, is sent to the Borderland — an area between the Klingon Empire and the Orion Syndicate — to find the Augments, and Archer gets Soong (who had been imprisoned for several years without giving away the location of his children) to help. Enterprise runs into some Orions who kidnap about a dozen of the crew (including T’Pol) to be sold into slavery. Archer, with Soong’s help, rescues the crew members but Soong is able to contact the Augments, led by Malik (Alec Newman) as Enterprise flees the Orion planet. The Augments grab Soong and leave a disabled Enterprise behind.
Cold Station 12: Archer and Co. determine that Soong’s plan is to go to a remote research station where thousands more Augment embryos are being held. They run into Soong and the Augments there and Malik openly defies Soong and kills a member of the research team when the station’s leader and Phlox’s friend Dr. Jeremy Lucas (Richard Riehle) won’t provide the codes to unlock the embryos. Soong and the Augments eventually get the embryos and leave Archer and his away team (and the station crew), but not before Malik (unbeknownst to Soong) releases a deadly toxin into the station’s environmental system. The episode ends with Archer and Co. working to prevent the group’s exposure to the toxin.
The Augments: Archer is successful in saving the lives of everyone on the station and Enterprise continues pursuit of Soong and the Augments. When Soong rebuffs Malik’s rather vicious suggestion to keep Enterprise from pursuing them — and after Malik objects to Soong’s plan to make the embryos less vicious — Malik gets the crew to unite against Soong. But one Augment, Persis (Abby Brammell) gets Soong to an escape pod. Soong meets up with Enterprise and helps Archer disable the bird of prey. Malik then appears to destroy the ship and (presumably) the embryos. But he actually made it to Enterprise, where he nearly kills Soong, before Archer shoots and kills Malik. Back on Earth, Soong returns to prison and tells Archer that perfecting humanity is no longer his focus — but that artificial intelligence has intriguing possibilities. The episode ends with Soong working in his cell, work that he believes will take a generation or two to complete. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
Why it’s important
Well, this is where the season of fan service truly begins. More on that in a moment, but here’s where this episode is important:
— It ties into the Khan plots from TOS, even naming Khan and the ship Kirk’s Enterprise discovers in “Space Seed”.
— We get our first real look at the Orions, other than the Orion slave girls from “The Cage” and “Whom Gods Destroy” and a showing in The Animated Series.
— We get more background on why humans and Klingons don’t like each other too much by the time TOS rolls around. This is a slow burn that dates back to “Broken Bow” but didn’t result in too much direct conflict between the two races.
— We see the beginnings of Dr. Noonien Soong, the creator of Data. It’s not explicitly stated, but casting Brent Spiner as Arik Soong and (obviously) the last name makes it pretty obvious for any Trek fan. “Noonien” of course is also part of Khan’s full name, Khan Noonien Singh.
What doesn’t hold up
To make everything work, the creators had to twist and and tug some previous items from Enterprise to fit.
One of the weirdest things about this three-parter is that it basically paints Soong as having gone farther into space than any human previously. The creators don’t explain how Soong was able to get to an area near the Borderland. I suppose he could have booked passage on an alien ship from Earth, but that severely undercuts the theme of the first two seasons that Enterprise was “making history with every light year.”
Beyond that, there are humans on Cold Station 12, which is pretty far from Earth by all indications. In that instance, I suppose the researchers could have been transported to the station — and we know Dr. Lucas was on Denobula, based on previous episodes. But, again, it makes it seem like Starfleet’s first warp-five ship was merely the first ORGANIZED effort by humanity to go far beyond Earth’s solar system. And, sure, we knew about Earth cargo ships in previous seasons, but even they seemed to stay somewhat closer to home.
Still, it sounds like Soong boldly went as much as any human in the 22nd century.
Also, the Augments are just too one-dimensional, at least, in a global sense. Of the 19 we see, only four have any real personalities, and one of them (Malik) is too villainous. The real problem, though, is that so many of them act like red shirts. Shouldn’t many of the Augments do more than fall in line? I know that you could say the same about Khan and his followers, but Khan had been ruler of a good part of Earth.
Oh, and how did the Augments get the ship they used to reach the bird of prey?
There are also some weird aesthetic choices in this episode. For one thing, the bed Malik and Persis sleep on seems very un-Klingon (blankets, pillows, etc.). And the Augments’ clothing looks entirely too stylized. The idea is that they’re wearing frayed rags. But they certainly are stylish frayed rags.
Some fans might disagree, but I think season four of Enterprise goes too far to tie in items from previous Treks. I mostly like this three-parter, but it’s essentially an excuse to bring Brent Spiner to Enterprise and to give fans the big moment at the end where we realize what we’ve seen leads to Data.
Why is that a problem? Well, it’s reminiscent of the Star Wars prequels, in which so much is explained that a lot of it ends up being goofy (Anakin Skywalker building C-3p0, etc.). Worse, the fan service becomes the strength of the outing, as opposed to the plot itself.
That said, this three-parter isn’t the worst example of over-the-top fan service in Enterprise’s fourth season. It’s probably not even the second-worst. We’ll get to those, in time. One thing about fan service is that it’s often consequential in a big-picture kind of way, so we’ll end up reviewing a lot of Enterprise’s fourth season.
Coming later this week …
The best of Enterprise’s final episodes — an effective and compelling three-parter that is also heavy on fan service.