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The Trek Nation - Oasis

Oasis

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 4, 2002 - 10:03 AM GMT

See Also: 'Oasis' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: After hearing rumors of a haunted ship from which Enterprise might be able to salvage parts, the crew heads to a nearby planet to investigate. Though he finds the run-down corridors 'creepy,' Tucker is surprised to discover that the ship's engines have remained intact and more surprised when he and T'Pol discover a thriving aeroponics bay. Soon the entire landing party is discovered by the ship's crew, which is apparently alive and well, though they have been hiding for three years from the enemies who shot them down. Archer offers his crew's services to help repair their damaged systems.

While he works, Tucker befriends an alien girl named Liana. T'Pol reminds him that the last time he fell for an alien woman, the situation proved dangerous. Still, Tucker invites Liana to Enterprise. Though her father does not want her to leave their ship, he lets her go after she promises not to tell their secrets. But while Tucker is giving his new friend a tour, Reed warns the captain of several inconsistencies concerning the aliens. The Enterprise crew discovers that the alien ship actually crashed over 20 years earlier. The corpses of some of the crewmembers who appeared to be alive and well on the planet remain in orbit in life pods.

When Tucker returns Liana to her ship, her crewmates take him prisoner to force him to repair their computer systems. Archer leads a rescue team to retrieve Tucker and T'Pol, who is also being held captive. With Liana's help, they learn that most of the aliens are holograms; only Liana and her father have physical bodies. Liana's father blamed himself for the crash decades before and replicated the others to keep his daughter company while he tried to repair their ship. Though he is initially reluctant to leave now, Tucker persuades him to think about Liana's well-being. The father decides to repair his ship so that he can take his daughter home.


Analysis: Rene Auberjonois said in a Trek Nation interview that this script seemed familiar, and no wonder; he appeared in a nearly identical storyline on Deep Space Nine, when Odo and his crewmates discovered a civilization of holograms in 'Shadowplay.' The twist here is that Auberjonois portrays the creator of the holograms rather than one of the confused souls who don't recognize them for what they are. It's the Enterprise crew who play the fools this time out, even though we're supposed to excuse them for their naïveté since Enterprise takes place centuries before Deep Space Nine. The timeline gives Archer and Tucker an excuse for not knowing how the plot will unfold. But what's the excuse of Enterprise's writers, who should know that nearly everyone in their audience will recognize this feeble plot device before the halfway point?

This series is less than a season old, yet we've already seen two storylines involving holograms -- the bane of Voyager, a weak point of many TNG episodes and a science fiction cliché in general. To make matters worse, the emotional pivot of the 'Oasis' storyline runs parallel to the original series episode 'Requiem For Methuselah,' in which a man much older than he claims to be gets the Enterprise crew to stick around his private haven, saying he wants to protect a girl he's actually manipulating to fulfill his own emotional needs. It doesn't matter that in this case the perpetrator is the girl's father rather than her would-be lover. When we see her utter passivity while Tucker pleads for her freedom, we can't help but suspect that her patriarch has damaged her beyond repair.

Probably Enterprise's writers thought they were being clever, borrowing the timeless story of Prospero and Miranda from Shakespeare's Tempest, yet they reduce the characters to their least-likeable aspects without giving them the sort of glorious speeches that convince us Miranda grew up happy on Prospero's magical isle while he smoldered in consuming rage. Tucker thinks Liana is mute when he meets her, and even when she starts talking, she fails to convince us that her life has been wondrous. Liana's father would prefer to remain in his oasis with his daughter even when his spirits vanish into thin air. He suffers from the intolerable guilt of having chosen to save his daughter rather than the rest of the crew -- including her mother -- yet that guilt has not prevented him for two decades from looking in the eyes of images of his purported victims. He calls the replicas his friends, his family. It's creepier than a ghost story -- one suspects that he takes orders from the hologram of his captain and makes love with the hologram of his wife.

Liana's major purpose in life seems to be to convince her father that he has not only saved her but made her happy. She understands that she has been living a delusion, yet she repeatedly embraces the only reality she has ever known; it doesn't even occur to her to resent her father for it. When she says it's possible to tell a lie so many times that it becomes the truth, one suspects that she means the daily lie of her own happiness, not the more superficial lie about her artificial community which she can't have had to tell very often, given the lack of visitors to the planet. Considering the depths of her deprivation and his denial, it's impossible to believe in the happy ending. One suspects that, with their holograms returned and the Enterprise crew gone, Liana and her father will return to the unreality that has sustained them for twenty years. Otherwise, she will have to face the fact that she was robbed of her own life, and he will have to deal with the deaths he caused without the illusion that those people continue to exist. How happy are they likely to be, once they get home to a world of strangers with that sort of crushing past?

Several of the supporting players on Enterprise make the most of their limited screen time. Mayweather, who isn't sure they should be mucking about in an alien tomb, starts out challenging Archer but ends up disappearing from the story. Reed's obsession with ballistics and tactics serves them well as he uncovers the inconsistencies in the aliens' story, but he, too, is denied any role in the denouement. Tucker does a fine job laying out the moral issues for Liana's father, though I really dislike him talking about the woman as if she weren't in the room -- instead of telling her father to ask her opinion, why doesn't he ask her himself? Still, he steps into the role of James T. Kirk with aplomb, wooing the lady and putting forth his own ethical beliefs without acknowledging his own biased interest in the matter. He's charming, he's charismatic, and in the end, even Liana's father acknowledges that he's a prime mover.

Unfortunately, Archer has a dismal outing by comparison, and T'Pol looks even worse. She throws a tantrum over Tucker's curiosity about another woman, sounding jealous, petty and as un-Vulcan as ever; though she accuses Trip of being distracted, one wonders whether T'Pol's own frustrations are what prevent her from discovering the alien secret until it's too late to protect herself. As for Archer, he talks to everyone yet listens to no one. He disregards Mayweather's concerns about violating an alien grave site, he scoffs at Tucker's reasonable concerns over a potentially hazardous vessel, he dismisses Phlox's distaste for unsealing a space-borne coffin, he accepts glib answers from the alien captain about their fate, he evades Reed's suspicions about their new friends until forced to examine the evidence. In the end all he can do is act as a sounding board while an alien stews over a lecture by Enterprise's chief engineer. On any other Trek series, that would have been the captain's speech, no matter who served as the romantic interest for the girl.

Part of me is happy when Archer resists the urge to pontificate, particularly when the superiority of human versus alien values are at issue, yet it's hard to see him as a man of conviction or depth when he remains silent at critical moments. The ease with which he accepts Tucker's denial of improper sexual behavior, given the history T'Pol mentions, is just as disturbing as Janeway's excessive meddling in Harry Kim's erotic misadventures; when Tucker walks in and says, 'I didn't do it!', I'd expect the captain to take a moment and find out whether Trip's got something he wants to get off his chest or off his conscience. It's no surprise that Archer doesn't notice the inconsistencies bugging Reed, nor that he lets Trip determine the best approach to Liana and her father. This captain just seems oblivious a lot of the time.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written for magazines and sites such as SFX, Cinescape and Another Universe. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.