Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Rogue Planet”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Chris Black
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 1, episode 18
Production episode 018
Original Air Date: March 20, 2002
Captain’s Star Diary. Archer reluctantly poses for the photographs Tucker takes for the back-to-Earth portrait painter who will paint Archer’s portrait at Starfleet HQ. Reed interrupts the photo shoot to announce that they’ve found a rogue planet, which is a big relief for Archer. It is a planet that has broken free from its star and is floating in interstellar space.
The planet has underground heat sources that provide an M-class atmosphere, uh, somehow, and they also find a ship on the world, but no signs of life. Archer, T’Pol, Reed, and Sato get off in a shuttle with flashlights and night vision goggles and end up meeting three guys. Their name is Eska, and our heroes are able to communicate with them almost instantly, making Sato’s presence on the landing party a total waste. To prove this point, it is referred to Business and not seen again.
The Eska are hunters. This planet is a kind of safari for them, because at certain times of the year a party of three is allowed to hunt some of the game on this world. Business have not picked up their life signs because they wear masking agents to hide them from their prey.
Archer asks the Eskas if they can hang out with them, and they agree. When Sato returns to Business, Tucker descends to help survey the planet, while Reed asks if he can accompany the Eska on their hunt. (Reed promises Archer he won’t kill anything, he just wants to watch the hunters in action.)
The landing party sleeps with the hunters during the “night” before the hunt, and Archer is awakened by a female voice calling his name – he follows the voice and spots a female human in a nightgown.
The next “morning” is seen by everyone as a dream, even though Archer thought it seemed real. Archer hears and sees the woman again when he, T’Pol, and Tucker are watching. At the same time, one of the Eska is injured by a local animal. Archer offers the services of Phlox to patch up the hunter.
Phlox detects bizarre skin samples on the hunter’s skin, presumably from the animal that attacked him, which the Eska call a specter. (Not this Wraith…) Cells are in a state of chromosome flow.
Archer continues to search for the woman and she shows up. She is one of the ghosts that the Eska hunt. They change shape telepathically and ask Archer to help them against the Eska. She appeared to Archer as the image he had in his head of a woman from a poem his mother read to him as a child.
Back at camp, Archer asks the Eska why they hunt here when they can hunt at home, and the Eska tell them about the specters and how they can get inside your head. It’s the hardest game, though T’Pol says it looks sensitive.
Archer returns to Business with the landing party and talk about it. T’Pol points out that they can’t really stop the Eska from hunting there – even if they stop those three, they’ll just send more. Phlox, however, can create a masking agent that will prevent the specter from Eska’s scanning devices – this will at least level the playing field.
The Eska fail to capture the specter, much to their annoyance, and then leave the planet, wondering if the Business the crew was responsible. The specter thanks Archer and Business get the hell out.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? We see Starfleet night vision goggles. Or rather glasses, since they only cover the right eye for some reason. (The Eska have night vision visors that cover both eyes….)
The speech of the gazelle. Archer’s mother read to him “The Song of the Wandering Engusby William Butler Yeats (one of your humble rewatcher’s favorite poets) as a child, and the specter resembles what little Jonny Archer imagined as the fish that turned into a woman in the poem.
I was trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol pointedly comments to Archer that he probably wouldn’t be so eager to seek out the specter alone if he appeared as a scantily clad man. She’s not wrong…
Florida man. A Florida man is stuck in his photographic endeavors.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox heals the injured Eska and finds a way to protect the specter. Because he’s just awesome…
No sex please, we are Starfleet. It’s to the episode’s credit that the Specter makes do not appear as a long-lost love of Archer or an object of lust or something, although the Eska and T’Pol make that assumption. Instead, it stems from a long-lost childhood memory involving Archer’s mother, who is actually quite nice.
I have faith…
“What are the odds that you’ll meet a half-naked woman you think you know, dozens of light-years from your homeworld?”
–One of the Eska, asking Archer the right questions.
Welcome aboard. Four guests in this one, all of whom appeared on hiking before: Stephanie Niznik (who played Perim in Insurrection) plays the spectral image that Archer sees. The three Eska hunters are played by Conor O’Farrell (who played Jeff the scientist in DS9“Little Green Men” and who will play D’Jamat in “Chosen Realm”), Eric Pierpoint (who played Voval in GNT“Liaisons” by Sanders in DS9in “For the uniform” and Kortar in Traveler“Barge of the Dead” and who will play Harris in the fourth season of this show), and Keith Szarabajka (who played Teero in Traveler‘s “Repression”).
Trivial questions: This episode was based on a notion by editor and science advisor André Bormanis, although he received no credit for it.
This is the first mention of Archer’s mother, who will not be mentioned again until “Cold Station 12” in season four, and who will only be named in a biography of Archer seen in “In a Mirror Darkly”. , Part II,” which will give her the first name of Sally (the same as Scott Bakula’s mother).
It’s been a long road… “We’ve never failed in the hunt before you arrival.” The notion of a rogue planet is fascinating, and it’s exactly the kind of strange new world that would be fun to explore.
Unfortunately, there is precisely nothing in the story that compels it to be a rogue planet. In fact, after going to the trouble of establishing that this is a planet without a star system, we get a standard hunting story on a standard jungle setting, with three guest characters who are nominally aliens, but who might as well be three guys named Joe, Fred, and Billy-Bob from central Pennsylvania, given their behavior.
There are hints of the interesting episode that this could have been, but they drop the ball on all of them. Talk of how humans don’t really hunt anymore isn’t going anywhere, Sato’s presence may indicate some difficulty talking to aliens, but they give up on that and the Universal Translator works flawlessly and effortlessly. The notion of a creature that may look like something you remember might make for a good story – something like what the original series did in “The Man Trap” – but, while I like the “fantasy woman Archer’s is actually from a poem by Yeats that his mother read to him, there are so many story possibilities that are just wasted here. I mean, Archer is so jaded about the specter getting into his head and digging like this. And yes, star trek the characters have their heads up in the air all the time but in a prequel like this it should be new and weird and scary but Archer did a great job about it which just isn’t so interesting.
And in the end, the problem is solved in a simple way, Eska’s pout at Archer for a moment, and that’s it. It’s not disappointing because it goes along with the rest of this dreary and going nowhere episode.
Deformation Factor Rating: 3
Keith RA DeCandido will be a guest author at HELIOsphere 2022 this coming weekend. He’ll be doing panels and programs and stuff, and also hanging out at the eSpec Books booth in the dealer hall. Click here for his schedule.