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09/20/2004 Archived Entry: ""E" for Effort; "S" for Suckfest"
Posted by CKL @ 10:18 AM PST

I've figured it out. Intestinal distress confined me to bed this past weekend, where I finally watched last season's ending arcs of Smallville and Star Trek: Enterprise, and I've deduced the central theses of both series. Are you ready?

Enterprise says: Humans are assholes who don't know what the hell they're doing.
Smallville says: Anything is possible, because we just make shit up!

I have to admit that Enterprise has gotten better, which isn't saying much, but most of the last few Xindi episodes were not actually painful to watch. (I said most.) I appreciate the producers taking more risks with the story, even if many of the plot points were transparently manufactured (insert moral dilemma here!) and the idea of a season-long Big Bad is at least seven years old (hello, Buffy).

The defining moments, for me, came in the last two episodes. When the Xindi weapon reaches Earth, the Reptilian ship escorting it vaporizes the Yosemite 3 space station, and Archer visibly and significantly mourns the loss of the thirty or forty humans who were aboard. He steps toward the viewscreen and does that head-turning "I can't stand to watch!" thing. Very sad.

But there was an earlier moment-- well, several moments, actually-- when Enterprise and an entire fleet of friendly Xindi ships were trying to stop the weapon from reaching Earth. In particular, the Aquatic Xindi, who had only recently joined the alliance and whose giant starships formed the backbone of the offensive, lost untold hundreds in the battle. We see a spectacular and horrifying shot of one Aquatic ship being torn apart by a roiling spatial anomaly-- possibly the same ship which had been shielding the crippled Enterprise from attack.

And how much mourning do we get for those Xindi? Not a single second.

The destruction of Yosemite station, and the deaths of its crew, were tragic. Granted. But the Xindi who gave their lives, risking civil war to trust a former enemy, practically dismantling their entire religion in the process-- they were heroes. And it's morally despicable for the show to treat them like disposable redshirts, without even acknowledging their contribution. "Yeah, we couldn't have done it without you guys, but sorry, only humans allowed at the wrap party."


Meanwhile, over on Smallville, nobody has any idea what's going on. I'll be honest: I hate prophecies as a narrative gimmick. One episode it's ironclad truth, the next episode it's open to interpretation. Why do people need to believe that their actions are inconsequential, anyway? The only good thing that came out of this quagmire was Lex's reading of the Kawatche mumbo-jumbo: that maybe the supposed villain of the story is actually the hero. Well, that would be interesting, wouldn't it? And I'm sure that will happen in one upcoming episode, and then everyone will magically forget about it. Whee.

Also, what's with ditching half the cast for next season? Pete's moving away, Lana's gone to Paris, Chloe's dead, and according to reliable sources, Lois Lane's going to show up. Plus Clark and Lex are no longer best friends. Far be it for me to prejudge, but this just seems like the producers admitting that they don't really know how to write a Superboy show and deciding to just throw in the towel and move to Superman, which is what everyone prefers anyway.

Finally, speaking of giving up: isn't it nice that Enterprise's sexy Vulcan, T'Pol, has emotions now? I mean, the producers never knew what to do with the Vulcans anyway, and it must be a relief for them to not have to worry about actually writing anything other than trivially nonhuman characters now.


At least there's still Stargate for halfway decent televised science fiction.

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