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The Trek Nation - The Augments

The Augments

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 13, 2004 - 5:29 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Augments' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Archer isolates the main lab from the pathogens released on Cold Station 12, but cannot divert them from the central core. He has T'Pol decompress the core and beam him onto Enterprise as he is ejected into space. While he is recuperating, Reed suggests faking a Klingon warp signature to follow the bird of prey into Klingon space. On that ship, Malik assures Soong that Archer is dead, which enrages Soong, who wanted no more deaths. He wants to take the Augments and the embryos into a region of space known as "the briar patch" to hide, but Malik wants to make a stand and is further enraged when he learns that Soong has been genetically engineering the ungestated Augment embryos to make them less violent.

Enterprise tracks the bird of prey and threatens to fire upon it, sparking another argument between Soong who wants to flee and Malik who wants to fight. As a diversionary tactic Soong has the Denobulan pilot put aboard her craft and dumped into the atmosphere of a nearby planet, forcing Archer to launch a rescue mission while the Klingon ship flees again. Malik admits to Soong that he stole pathogens they can use to build a bio-weapon, which they can fire at a Klingon colony, thus sparking a war between the Klingons and Starfleet that will prevent either from pursuing the Augments, but Soong accuses him of plotting mass murder and orders Malik to obey his orders. In his quarters, Malik tells Persis of his plans to take command from Soong, then leads a group of Augments to confine him. Persis helps him sneak into an escape pod.

A Klingon ship hails Enterprise. Archer bluffs and claims to be carrying the Chancellor from secret negotiations with the Orions, which fools them long enough for him to discover Soong and bring him aboard. At first he refuses to believe that Soong is not trying to cover for the Augments, but Soong insists that if Archer does not stop Malik from deploying his bio-weapon, the Klingons will unleash more brutality against Earth than the Xindi did. Another Klingon ship approaches Enterprise, recognizing the Starfleet ship and demanding its surrender, but Archer uses the grappling hooks to damage the vessel and escape. Meanwhile, Malik guesses that Persis helped Soong escape and kills her when she attacks him with a Klingon weapon.

The Augments reach the Klingon colony Malik plans to destroy just before Enterprise does. Malik fires the bio-weapon, which Reed blasts apart in space with Enterprise's torpedoes. Soong then tells Archer where to fire to disable the bird of prey but Malik overloads the reactor rather than surrender. The Enterprise crew believes that all aboard have died in the subsequent explosion until Malik beams onto Enterprise and nearly kills Soong. Archer shoots him dead, and the Klingons call off plans to retaliate against Earth when they learn the colony is safe. When Archer returns Soong to custody, he promises that Soong's notes on genetic engineering will be saved, yet Soong announces that he no longer believes humanity can be perfected; he is turning his attention to cybernetics instead.


Analysis: The final installment of the Augments arc isn't as tightly written as previous installments but it's quite entertaining to watch, with numerous references to other Trek shows and Spiner's best performance yet as Arik Soong. He has one classic moment, after having threatened Malik with imprisonment in a Targ pit for killing Archer, when he learns that the Starfleet captain is alive and notes that Archer sounds pretty confident for a dead man; he has another on the Enterprise bridge, having just tried to insist in Klingon that Archer is a man of honor, shrugging and saying, "I tried." It's perhaps a little too pat in the end that he would mention cybernetics, just as it's perhaps a little too pat that Malik's final crawl across the bridge of the bird of prey is so reminiscent of Khan's struggle to crawl across another bridge to launch the Genesis torpedo, but such things are easily forgivable. And hearing Archer threaten a Klingon captain with the humiliation of commanding a garbage scow has a delightful sense of poetic justice, even if Kirk has not yet been dealt the affront to which it refers.

If this arc has had a weak point, it's Malik. Alec Newman does the best he can with the role, but he's a cardboard villain by this installment. There's no careful logic laid out for his plans to exterminate a world, he isn't methodical like Khan; he's bratty and impulsive, and it's never clear why any of the other Augments choose to follow him rather than the man they all call Father, because he doesn't come across as stronger or smarter than the rest. In fact, one wonders why Persis doesn't simply throw in her lot with some more even-tempered man. One sensed real regret when Malik had to kill Raakin; here, he brutally murders his lover and steals her dying breath with a kiss, defining her even in death as a commodity for his use.

I would be very close to a rant about how much I have despised every single female role thus far under the much-ballyhooed new Manny Coto regime were it not for the lovely scene between T'Pol and Trip, picking up the threads of their relationship which has of necessity been neglected the past couple of episodes. Admitting that he's been avoiding her and that things have felt awkward since she returned from her wedding, Tucker says he's proud of what she did and adds that it's probably for the best: "It's not like we would have made an ideal couple, a Vulcan and a human...Romeo and Juliet probably stood a better chance." So he's finally admitting the feelings he didn't want to drop on her before her marriage, and I'm betting she understands the reference to Earth literature. (I'm also wondering whether her husband is going to survive the upcoming Vulcan arc.)

I don't understand how Malik knew about the launch of the Botany Bay yet wasn't sure if Soong would know the reference; if it was so top-secret that all official records were destroyed, and Soong didn't teach the Augments about it, how did they find out about it? Someone more up on biology and physics than I am is going to have to tell me whether it's realistic that Archer could be exposed to the vacuum of space long enough to get frostbite without his capillaries exploding, and I don't understand what Soong was babbling about when he left the Denobulan ship hovering between layers of atmosphere of the big blue marble planet, why it had a few hours. Also, why was no one in a panic on Cold Station 12 when they realized the pathogens were missing in the first place -- you'd think Archer would have mentioned that to the crew right away. These are all nits, but I've had quite a lot of them over the course of this trilogy: the performances and action have been of a quality that I'm very willing to let them slide, but an episode can only get away with so many "Bzuh?" moments, and after "Storm Front" I'm still a little wary.

Soong's characterization, however, is superb. Archer accuses him of having developed a taste for killing hostages, but in truth Soong only uses a hostage because he knows that the humans really don't have the stomach for letting them die, no matter the price for saving any given individual. One gets the sense that he's playing a game with Malik long past the point when he should realize his "son" is a danger to himself and others, and one gets the same sense with Archer, from Soong's inappropriate smirks and his insistence on arguing his points long after he knows Archer isn't listening. He isn't thrown at all that Tucker dislikes him and seems rather surprised that T'Pol doubts his advice about how to disable the bird of prey.

I don't like Archer's dogged insistence that the Augments were bred to be conquerors and there was never any hope for them, whether Soong or anyone else had been there to wield influence in their formative years; Archer himself should know better, after meeting Smike, though it's possible that Archer doesn't believe his own words but is only trying to press Soong, to see how far he will go to defend his creations. (Obviously, given the non-Alpha Augments' willingness to follow Malik long after he has revealed himself to be reckless and violent, they aren't all prone to want to lead, at least.) In any event Archer has certainly developed a grudging respect for Soong in the end; it's clear that he doesn't believe humanity is ready for Soong's science but he's also not rejecting the notion that one day that will change.

I'm interested in the problem of Soong's loyalties -- how much of his loyalties are to the Augments as individuals versus how much are to what they represent, the idea of bettering humanity. He wants very badly to save the group he raised, yet at the same time he's increasingly aware of their imperfections, and his final plea to Malik is not for Malik's own life but for his "siblings", the embryos. He seems sincerely attached to each Augment he loses, which makes it harder to forgive his use of hostages, particularly letting Phlox be put in the isolation chamber on CS12. He does not reject Smike as the Augments did but he does not demand to know how he died, as he did with Raakin. It is his personal bond with Persis that saves his life and ultimately the colony, yet he does not appear troubled to find her being treated as property by Malik. Similar issues will arise for a later Dr. Soong with his android prototypes, and it's fascinating to see the balance between personal attachment and a ruthless will to perfect his science.

If this had been a Classic Trek episode, I would have expected Kirk to make a summing-up speech announcing the dangers of tampering with genes. Instead it ends with a Next Gen sensibility, both in the reference to the next Dr. Soong and in the ambivalence about the Augments and the science that created them. I wish we'd been given some glimpse of the Eugenics Wars to make them more real -- the huge death toll seems very abstract without images on a viewscreen or something to make us understand that this is supposed to happen in our time, in our lives. As the timeline of the real world and the timeline of Star Trek diverge impossibly, it's nice to see the attempt at relevance in the issues, and interesting stories with solid characters can make up for a lot of flaws.


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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.