November 3, 2012

Free Enterprise #18: "Acquisition"

The Enterprise is drifting in space. Onboard its crew lies unconscious, their bodies limp where they fell. A smaller vessel quietly sidles up and docks, and a team of salvage workers begin to strip the ship for anything they can find. Trip is the only Enterprise officer still awake - but can he save the ship on his own?

"Acquisition" is fast-paced, beautifully shot, well plotted and regularly funny. It's an entertaining commercial hour of television that ticks all the right boxes, made me laugh several times and provides an inventive antidote to the dull, predictable episode that preceded it. So as a general viewer, "Acquisition" gets a solid and enthusiastic tick of approval. As a fan, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall - or preferably the heads of the episode's writers.

It's frustrating because this is a Ferengi episode. The Ferengi: everybody's favourite vaguely offensive Jewish stereotype. They didn't start off that way. They were initially introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation's first year as savage, doglike predators - only they looked ridiculous and audiences didn't take them seriously. Rather than let them pass away into obscurity successive teams of producers and writers used them again, and again. Deep Space Nine gave one of them a regular role, and dedicated multiple episodes to expanding and elaborating upon their cultural practices. When used well, the Ferengi can be hilarious. When used badly, they grate on the nerves.

Thankfully here they're quite funny, partly due to the script and partly because a bunch of great actors are playing them (including Jeffrey Coombs - his third episode of Enterprise and his second role - and Star Trek: Voyager's Ethan Phillips). They're not what frustrates me.

What frustrates me is that the original Next Generation episode that introduced the Ferengi, "The Last Outpost", is a first contact story. The Federation has heard of the Ferengi, but have never encountered them. Here we're asked to accept that actually humans had encountered Ferengi all the way back in the 22nd century, 210 years earlier. Like I said, as a general viewer this episode is wonderful. As a fan I just start kicking, screaming and stamping my feet.

This is why I generally dislike prequels: either you find yourself restricted in the characters you can use and the stories you can tell, or you start contradicting yourself. Either way it leads to frustration. As I've noted, it is a good episode, but it will infuriate the hardcore Trekkies to no end. 11 good episodes out of 18 makes for a progressive tally of 61%.

For what it's worth, this is the 200th post on this iteration of the Angriest blog. Thanks for continuing to read it.

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