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The Trek Nation - Borderland

Borderland

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 30, 2004 - 4:17 AM GMT

See Also: 'Borderland' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: A Klingon ship tractors in a small shuttle with two humans aboard, who proceed to escape from custody and massacre the command crew. Soon after on Earth, Jonathan Archer arrives at a penitentiary to visit Dr. Arik Soong, who shows Archer his handwritten notes for altered human DNA sequences before learning that Archer has come because the crew of a Klingon ship was massacred by humans bearing the DNA that Soong stole from a medical facility 20 years before. Archer tells his own command crew that Soong took embryos from the Eugenics Wars from Cold Station 12 and refused to say where he had taken them. They were ten years old when he was captured and incarcerated; it is now ten years later, and the adult Augments must be brought back to Earth to divert a war with the furious Klingons. Soong has promised that he can get them to surrender without a fight, and moreover he is familiar with the Borderland - the space between the Klingon Empire and the Orion Syndicate, containing dangerous elements from both.

On the Klingon ship, a power struggle emerges between Raakin, the leader, and Malik, who was responsible for capturing the Klingon ship that allowed them all to escape. Both of them desire a woman named Persis, who says that she wants the strongest man for herself and chooses to side with Malik, helping him trap and kill Raakin in the name of their "father" - Soong. On Enterprise, the doctor argues with Phlox about the value of genetic enhancement, with Soong pointing out that it can cure disease and end suffering while Phlox notes that it also caused a war that killed thirty million people. The debate is interrupted by an Orion attack during which nine crewmembers are beamed off the ship, including T'Pol. On Soong's advice, Archer follows the Orions to a processing station where his crewmembers are being sold as slaves. He beams down with Soong, who is the only person on board familiar with the Orion Syndicate trading system.

T'Pol discovers that she and the other prisoners have been fitted with neurolytic restraining devices that give them seizures if they don't behave or if they try to escape. She finds another Enterprise crewmember but he cannot help her when she is taken to be auctioned, purchased by a Tellarite. While most of the Orions are distracted by the auction of a green-skinned slave girl, Archer and Soong track down their crewmembers, but since T'Pol has already been bought they cannot hope to buy their freedom. Instead Archer bids for one ensign, uses tritanium cobalt to disrupt the restraints and ignites a riot as the prisoners discover that they can free themselves without the devices torturing them. He is able to beam all the crewmembers aboard, but Soong grabs a prod from a guard, knocks Archer down, then uses the prod to disrupt the transponder he is wearing so that Enterprise can't track him. He sends a message from a console on the processing station before Archer recaptures him.

Orion interceptors hail Enterprise, telling Archer he is holding their property and launching an attack. The ship is under heavy fire when a Klingon vessel appears and fights off the Orions. It's the Augments, who request permission to dock and demand to see Soong. Archer initially refuses, telling Malik that he has orders to escort them back to Earth, but Malik says Earth, which opposes their very existence, is not their problem. He grabs Archer by the throat, forcing the Enterprise crew to give him free run of the vessel. The other Augments board, taking out MACOs to rescue Soong from the brig and greeting him as their father. Because Enterprise is disabled, he lets Archer and his crew go, taking the Klingon ship with the Augments, telling them that he is proud of them but there are thousands of brothers and sisters waiting to be born.


Analysis: One of Enterprise's finest episodes, "Borderland" has something for every Star Trek fan who watches it. For those who love the original series, there are Eugenics Wars and supermen, Orions and Tellarites, hostile Klingons; for those who love Next Generation, there's Brent Spiner; for those who love Enterprise, there are character moments for Archer and Phlox and particularly for Tucker and T'Pol. There's also action aplenty, a fairly engrossing storyline and some of the arguments we've heard about the value of genetic modification from Khan, Bashir and Tyr Anasazi...oh wait, that's Andromeda, but it's difficult not to make comparisons, particularly when Malik starts quoting Nietzsche.

Spiner owns every scene Soong is in, performing with a maniacal glee that's fun to watch. Everyone else looks stodgy beside him, from Phlox whose people do practice genetic modification but nothing like the redesigned species Soong advocates to Tucker whom Soong quickly guesses he can needle about T'Pol. At one point Soong announces that the crew needs a sense of humor, and he might have a point. He's so sweetly paternal with the Augments that one is tempted to forget how dangerous they are in combination. I'm a little bit confused about whether Starfleet knew that the Augment children had remained on the planet after they took Soong into custody; if not, I'm surprised none of them resent having to rescue the "father" who never returned to rescue them, and if so, their utter disinterest in the fate of Earth seems quite justified. In any case they have a lovely bond, quite apart from what it might mean for anyone else.

As for Augment society itself...all right, I've been very restrained this season on the feminist rants, I only grumbled a little teeny bit about Hernandez taking time from getting ready to launch to nurture Archer, I didn't say anything about Alicia's uselessness in the second half of "Storm Front"...I am entitled to loathe everything about Persis. She grew up in the absence of adult humans, so she certainly did not learn sexuality from observing them, nor from watching bad UPN shows; therefore one must conclude that we're supposed to believe that her behavior - playing around until she's chosen the strongest man and then standing behind him to kill her other lover and his rival - is innate. The would-be alpha males have read Nietzsche, which presumably explains their survival of the fittest competition, but must we believe that women will define themselves as inferior sexual objects, even apart from enlightened 21st century society? Orion slave girls, bred and raised to be sex machines, are easier to take than genetically enhanced superbimbos. Coupled with Hernandez, who's boning the only boy that's her superior as a captain, I'm starting to feel like we really are back in the days of original Trek, with Hoshi to answer Uhura's hailing frequencies and T'Pol to play damsel in distress in a slave market.

But that was really the only thing I didn't like about the episode, other than Archer's silliness in not beaming down a disposable MACO to the processing station to keep a weapon surreptitiously pointed at Soong. Away from the big green tough guy (at least before she's free from the restraints and taking aim at his genitals), T'Pol has some lovely moments: receiving a compass from Archer congratulating her not on her wedding but her promotion, evading Tucker's questions about what happened on Vulcan after he left, telling off Soong when he tries to bond with her over insults to humans, trying to comfort a panicked ensign in the prison cell, reluctantly explaining to Tucker that she spent what might have been her "honeymoon" in private meditation at Mt. Seleya. Tucker, meanwhile, must put up with what must be unbearable teasing from Soong about her and put aside his personal fears for her to concentrate on the engines, since there are eight other crewmembers to rescue and a mission to accomplish. I must say, I'm not sorry she got married, since I don't expect Koss to live as long as most Vulcans and I think the enforced separation is allowing for better relationship development than we might have gotten otherwise, with this writing staff that obviously believes girlfriends are to be shagged and not heard.

There are many marvelous bits of dialogue in this episode: Archer's comparing genetic experiments with nuclear experiments, Soong's sarcastic "Permission to come aboard?", Phlox's retorting "I can read" when Soong asks how the doctor knows he hasn't learned from the past, Soong gleefully explaining what Orion slave girls are best known for, Soong earnestly telling Archer that he respects him and did not risk the Enterprise crew lightly, Malik quoting Nietzche's "Mankind is something to be surpassed." Did Malik remind anyone else of Joachim, Khan's sidekick from Star Trek II ("I shall avenge you!")? Okay, the Augments' dialogue was pretty horrible with all the "You are my brother, you are my leader" schtick, but let's attribute that to them having had no proper education.

There are also many superb visual sequences though I was frustrated at times with how dark they were. I gather that there wasn't much beyond the cages at the Orion processing center, and the Klingon ship we saw was already more elaborate than any we've seen from the era after this one, namely Kirk's. The Augments on the Klingon ship very much resemble Khan's crew on the stolen Reliant, though as in Star Trek II I am curious about the artfully ripped clothing and how they found a Hot Topic on such an isolated world. Those neck restraint devices are creepy, cross between a dataport, the colorful disciplinary devices from "The Gamesters of Triskelion" and those exploding collars from The Running Man. I was a little bemused by some of the S&M overtones in the Syndicate but that auction board was neat.

It's hard to evaluate the actual story in a segment of a three-part arc, so I am going to hold off on talking about the plot. Let's just say I'm engrossed, I'm eagerly looking forward to next week, and Brent Spiner rocks.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.