The movie is tremendous fun, with the fast pace that you expect from a Marvel movie, but also with the strong, honest characterizations. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh make a superlative double act, and their banter carries the movie. They talk like siblings, and Belova’s pointed commentary on Romanoff’s second life as a hero lands beautifully, as does Romanoff responding the same way she always does: not by talking about it, but by anteing up and kicking in and doing what’s right. The best, of course, is Belova teasing Romanoff about her “superhero landing” pose, which she’s used in pretty much every appearance going back to Iron Man 2, and it’s hilarious, particularly when Belova herself tries the pose. (“That was disgusting…”)
Basically, the only reason anything bad happens in this episode is because Archer doesn’t listen to T’Pol. He’s impatient, he’s stupid, he’s moronic, he’s imbecilic, and what’s especially frustrating is that nobody actually points this out after T’Pol’s initial objection. The episode should have ended with Archer apologizing to every single person on that survey team, especially T’Pol (whose good advice he disregarded in a snotty and mean-spirited manner) and Novakovich (who nearly died).
While I appreciate that Kenneth Biller tried very hard to address some things that had gone unaddressed, they half-assed it to such a degree that you kind of wish they hadn’t bothered. Plus there was a certain level of not thinking things through that was maddening. Like addressing the Maquis-Starfleet divide in “Repression,” but doing it in a totally absurd way that defies credulity and makes absolutely nothing like sense. Like finally acknowledging the number of casualties among the crew over the past seven years in “Repentance” and “Renaissance Man,” but not actually addressing it in any kind of logical, emotional, or interesting manner. Like continuing to not promote Kim beyond the rank of ensign and repeatedly drawing attention to it and trying to explain it away even though that explanation is inconsistent with both Tuvok and Paris being promoted at various points.
Speaking of lazy, we have Sato’s plotline, which has a completely foregone conclusion by virtue of Linda Park’s place in the opening credits. I do like how Park plays it: one of her talents as an actor is showing her emotions via body language, whether her tense apprehension while asking Archer for new quarters, her slump-shouldered depression after the first away mission, her sad frustration at Sluggo’s declining health and at her inability to communicate with the Axanar—and, most notably, her very obviously feigned confidence-boosting posture when talking directly to the Axanar.
Indeed, the show is trying a little too hard to capture an original series feel. The dynamic among Archer, Tucker, and T’Pol is so aggressively attempting to ape the Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter it’s almost painful to watch. And, since T’Pol is played by an attractive woman, we get the added “bonus” of focusing on how hawt she is in the decon scene. Yes, Connor Trinneer’s manly manly chest gets some attention, but the camera lingers quite a bit longer on Jolene Blalock’s torso and chest. This is exacerbated by the gratuitous Archer-Sarin kiss (which they very carefully only allow to happen when Sarin looks like Melinda Clarke instead of Clarke covered in pock-marked makeup and greenish skin) and the scantily clad butterfly dancers of Rigel X.
After moving away from the square-jawed-white-guy template for the spinoffs, we get in Scott Bakula’s Jonathan Archer a stereotypical manly hero type, having gone for the middle-aged cerebral captain in TNG, a man of color in DS9, and a woman in Voyager. (Having said that, Bakula was the same age when Enterprise debuted in 2001 that Sir Patrick Stewart was when TNG debuted in 1987, but Stewart was playing much older than Bakula was.)
Most distressingly for the franchise, Enterprise was also the first (and so far only) one of the Trek spinoffs to fail in the marketplace. Its three predecessors all ended on their own terms after seven seasons, and the five ongoing series that have been produced since are all still in production. Enterprise was ended by UPN after four seasons, and that cancellation in 2005 concluded an era of Trek on television that started with TNG in 1987 and wouldn’t come back until Discovery‘s debut in 2017.
Even if you ignore the very un-Trek-like message of this misbegotten finale, it’s still a big ol’ mess. Bringing the Borg back again was probably as inevitable to the writing staff as bringing back Q was for TNG’s “All Good Things…” But all having the Borg here does is remind us how ineffectual the Borg have become as bad guys, starting very early on when Voyager flies within ten meters of a Borg Cube and the Queen just lets them go for no compellingly good reason. Once again, the Queen is a mustache-twirling villain, this time actively disobeying the Evil Overlord Rules as Admiral Janeway is able to run rings around her in a manner that is totally unconvincing. (“I can beat you because I’m from the future” is extremely lame when we’re talking about the Borg.)
We’ve only got one episode left, and Robert Picardo is pretty much the breakout star of the series, so it seems fitting that he gets one final vehicle. He gets to sing opera, he gets to be the ECH one more time, he gets to histrionically confess his sins, and he gets to be repentant, yet still improve his relationship with Janeway. The rivalry between him and Paris gets two final acknowledgments, the first with the EMH being forced to kiss him while disguised as Torres, the second when Paris rather bitterly asks if the EMH has anything he wants to confess to him (he doesn’t, though Paris very obviously thinks he should, dagnabbit).
And while that’s nice, it also doesn’t entirely ring right. Neelix has completely embraced the notion of being part of Voyager’s crew, right up to the top of this episode when he’s painstakingly re-created the bar scene in First Contact. (Minus the tequila, anyhow…) Yet all of a sudden, he decides to stay with these people. Admittedly, Dexa’s probably a big part of that, and it ultimately is a very nice little happy ending for a character who has not been particularly well served by the writing staff over the past seven years.
Where it falls down is in the ending. There are serious Prime Directive issues here, and the episode half-asses it. The problem is that the violation has already happened: Chakotay and Seven have exposed the Ventu to people outside the barrier that was placed around their home, and the Ledosians finally have access to that continent again. The final solution is one that involves Voyager making a decision that is contrary to the decision that the Ledosians have made. And it’s an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube, which is exactly as messy as that sounds.
Here’s the problem: nobody talks to the Ventu. Chakotay has already figured out enough of their language to at least have rudimentary conversations. The Ventu are the ones who are supposed to be protected, yet nobody actually asks them what they want. Up until the end, the script did a great job of showing that the Ventu are self-sufficient and worthy of being considered a proper civilization, yet when it counts, nobody bothers to give them any agency in a major decision about their future.