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The Trek Nation - Regeneration

Regeneration

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 8, 2003 - 3:58 AM GMT

See Also: 'Regeneration' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: On Earth near the Arctic Circle, a research team finds debris from an alien vessel and a pair of corpses. The wreckage has been there for nearly a hundred years, yet when the cybernetically enhanced bodies are thawed, the nanotechnology in their bloodstreams repairs them and reanimates them. Abducting the researchers, the beings modify their transport vessel to enable faster warp speed and leave Earth. Admiral Forrest orders Enterprise to try to intercept the vessel and retrieve the scientists.

When a Tarkalean freighter sends out an automated distress call, Archer discovers that the aliens have added weapons to the previously unarmed transport. The Enterprise crew rescues two injured Tarkaleans from their damaged vessel, but the two have been modified with nanoprobes by the unknown aliens and attack Dr. Phlox as he tries to treat them. Meanwhile Archer recalls reading something about Zefram Cochrane saying that during the first contact with the Vulcans, cybernetic creatures from the future attacked and were driven off by humans from the future. T'Pol suspects those were the ramblings of a drunken storyteller, but Archer worries that the beings they are following seem to have a lot in common with the mysterious menace from Cochrane's era.

The altered Tarkaleans who have attacked Phlox escape from sickbay and begin to make modifications to the ship, injecting something into the plasma relays. Archer is forced to evacuate them into space to protect his crew, but the damage has already been done and Phlox is slowly being overcome by the nanoprobes in his body. Having discovered the aliens' resistance to phase pistols, Reed comes up with a plan to modify the weapons, but when Enterprise catches up with the transport, the ship sends a signal that activates the technology modified by the Tarkaleans, bringing down Enterprise's weapons and main power. An audio hail informs the crew, "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

Using the transporter, Archer and Reed board the transport with explosives while several of the aliens board Enterprise to carry out their threat. On the transport Archer discovers that the research team from the Arctic can no longer be considered human and destroys the vessel before the Enterprise crew suffers the same fate. Meanwhile Phlox, whose immune system has some resistance to the alien nanoprobes, treats himself with a very high dose of omicron radiation that he knows will leave him terribly debilitated even if it destroys the technology. He survives, and warns Archer that while the nanoprobes were in his body, he experienced a telepathic connection to a group consciousness. He heard a numerical sequence over and over again.

When Archer analyzes the data, he realizes that the numbers represent the spatial coordinates of Earth. The data was sent deep into the Delta Quadrant. T'Pol informs him that it will take about 200 years for a subspace message to travel so far, but Archer believes they may only have postponed an invasion until the 24th century.


Analysis: Fans who were in a panic about the Borg on Enterprise can breathe a sigh of relief, because the word "Borg" was never uttered in "Regeneration". Not that that completely erases the continuity issues; I want to know why, if Archer had a record of a presumably drunken speech by Zefram Cochrane in his database, Picard wouldn't have had a record of Archer's encounter with these nameless assimilating aliens in his own. But history hadn't been changed yet when Q first showed Picard the Borg, so we'll just chalk this up as one of those Trek time conundrums that Kathryn Janeway says give her a headache ("Future's End").

In fact, "Regeneration" attempts to straighten out the timeline that was altered by Star Trek: First Contact, when the Borg arrived to assimilate Earth centuries before they were supposed to have encountered humans. The sphere that was destroyed at the end of that film is apparently the one that the Arctic research team uncovers. The episode plays coy, opening like a horror movie with a cast of expendable characters in an isolated haunted environment; we don't actually see any of them get assimilated, and complete newbies to Trek might get chills at the mysteriousness of it all, though I'm betting the majority of viewers know exactly what's coming.

Unfortunately these are the wussier Voyager variety of Borg, not the utterly terrifying "Best of Both Worlds" Borg; they don't make any concerted effort to assimilate Archer's crew when there are just two of them, even though presumably assimilating a couple of engineers would make their work go faster, and they don't adapt very quickly to the phase pistols, allowing Reed to kill a surprising number of them. Plus the one Enterprise crewmember they attack, Phlox, has some natural resistance...and he comes up with a treatment plan that none of Starfleet's later doctors seem to have been able to discover.

Still, it's gutsy to do a sweeps month episode that doesn't show the regular cast until a quarter of the show has passed, and "Regeneration" is quite different in feel from previous Borg episodes. We see only teasing snippets of Borg technology, regeneration chambers and assimilation tubes, plus remarkably few of the trademark makeup effects. The slow transformation of Phlox is ghastly, more distressing in some ways than the near-instantaneous changeover in the humans. It's a pleasant change of pace to see a part of Earth that's rarely been explored on any Trek series, and interesting to hear repartee among a different crew on an exploratory mission, though in this case they all might as well be wearing red shirts.

"Regeneration" is the strongest evidence I've seen yet that Enterprise must become a reset-button series, in which all the events of the show's run are wiped out in the final episodes. There are just too many inconsistencies with original Trek and TNG canon, otherwise. It's clever that the Borg make their "You will be assimilated, resistance is futile" speech without their trademark opening, "We are the Borg", but it makes absolutely no sense that that warning wouldn't be on file in every Starfleet database from Archer's era forward. Okay, we're back in that time conundrum with this problem, but it doesn't solve the mystery of why we've never heard of Denobulans and their progress with nanotechnology, what's going to happen with the Suliban future-tampering, what's going on with the rumored time-traveling aliens in the upcoming season finale.

On the one hand, it's good that the producers can say, "Well, the timeline has been changed so we can do whatever we want." But on the other hand, what's supposed to keep us old-time Trekkies grounded, to make it familiar and logical? I'm a lot more impressed when they manage to get seeming inconsistencies to reconcile -- something Pocket Books' authors have done admirably in the Trek series, especially The Eugenics Wars -- than when timeline disruptions are used as an excuse for rewriting canon. This show's viewership has declined significantly enough that I'd think winning onetime Trek fans back would be a huge priority.

And on the more-important internal consistency count, "Regeneration" suffers from being broadcast the week after "Cogenitor". It's not just that the latter had a superb script and made even gutsier choices, not about when and where to show the crew but about how to characterize those crewmembers. It's also that people changed and grew and became furious with one another during the course of "Cogenitor" but there's no evidence of it in "Regeneration" whatsoever. Archer and Tucker are back to being buddies -- not just working well together as captain and engineer, but chatting casually about the unlikelihood of anything surviving polar ice for a hundred years. T'Pol is quite icy and not all that logical -- sure, it's true that Archer may have to blow up the transport to keep Enterprise safe, but as the science officer I'd think she'd be a tad more interested in learning what she can about these mysterious aliens first.

Lovely performances by Linda Park as Sato and John Billingsley as Phlox don't quite make enough of the personal element in all this. The doctor should be scared out of his mind, but we only really see it when he's undergoing radiation and in great pain -- even when he asks Archer to kill him should he fail, he's keeping an awfully stiff upper lip. And I love the idea that Hoshi visits him, armed, to feed his laboratory animals, but again we don't get much from Phlox about what his relationships mean to him, what it would mean to lose them. We knew exactly what Picard suffered and lost when he became Locutus of Borg. With Phlox, there's almost something titillating about watching him fight assimilation as we wonder: what will he learn from the Borg? Is he strong enough to resist them somehow?

I do like Archer's unhappiness about having to evacuate live beings into space, even though he knows and T'Pol assures him that it is necessary; nice shades of the argument between Janeway and Chakotay in Voyager's "Scorpion" when Chakotay evacuated live Borg out an airlock with little apparent hesitation. But I can't help feeling this episode's almost fluffy. We know we're not going to see the Borg again on Enterprise without major canon overhaul. So what have we learned, really? Nothing new about Archer. Nothing new about the Borg. A teeny bit of explanation about the consequences of the time alterations from First Contact, but there are more new questions than there are answers.

And next week...T'Pol's in heat. I shall hope until then that this is another example of a terrible UPN preview, and that it's all wrong.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.