Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Rogue Planet”

“She may just be something I envisioned a long time ago but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let anyone shoot her.”

In honor of Stephanie Niznik, I felt I should write up a review of “Rogue Planet,” an episode from Enterprise’s first season, and unfortunately, it’s not a great episode. Yes, it’s a bit of a train wreck (definitely not due to Niznik – it’s not like she had script approval) that involves telepathic, oversized, shape-shifting snails and other strange creatures. Archer and company find a small planetoid permanently acquainted with the night (to quote Frost) with volcanic formations and tropical jungle environments where they come across game hunters who call themselves the Eska.

They come to this planet for a handful of days every few years to hunt unusual animals, and while T’Pol (and even Archer) find this tradition backward, Reed joins them on their hunt because he’s impressed with their stealth and cloaking abilities. One night while trying to sleep by a campfire, Archer hears a woman’s voice calling to him. He gets up and looks around, thinks he sees a woman in a gown, but she runs off before he can get a good look at her. Nobody takes him seriously. I mean, would you? The next night, she re-appears and stays around long enough for us to see she’s a beautiful woman with long, blonde hair wearing a blue gown.

Archer feels like he’s seen her before, or knew of somebody like her. The Eska act like they don’t know what he’s talking about, but they do. It’s what they’ve been hunting: a Wraith, a shape-shifting creature that can read minds and get into people’s thoughts. This would all be very well and good if perhaps handled in a better way with better visual effects. You’re with Archer in his adventure, determined to know what she is, and even when he remembers her as a character in a Yeats poem and not as anyone from his family, you’re still with him.

It’s a good hook, like remembering somebody from your past when you hear a certain song. Maybe if we spent more time with the memory and less time with the physical manifestation, “Rogue Planet” would’ve had a shot at being interesting. While Archer and T’Pol wrestle with the ethical quandary of hunting for sport (it really isn’t their business), Archer meets with the mystery lady. She tells him the hunters are trying to kill her, and that she lives in fear. Archer decides to help her. Phlox discovers the Wraith excrete an odor when frightened so he devises a masking agent they can use to hide from the Eska.

The Eska men cannot understand why they’ve been so unsuccessful in their hunt this season unless it has something to do with the Enterprise landing party. It’s not like Wraith are benevolent. They’re animals, and they can be vicious when cornered. Also, the idea of probing people’s minds to either manipulate them or strike fear in their hearts makes them somewhat morally ambiguous, but we have to have good guys and bad guys to make an episode. The girl is revealed, in short order, to be an enormous snail-like thing that saunters off after thanking Archer for his help.

I don’t know how anybody watching this could take it seriously. It’s like an episode of the Animated Series. If she had morphed into a bird and took flight? If, instead of a dark planet with no terminator, an untamed landscape resembling the African plain? Instead, we’re stuck with a creature that resembles the Slurm worms from Futurama (“Whimmy-wham-wham-wazzle!”). We spend all this time crafting what could’ve been an excellent fable about the power of memory and … never mind. Stephanie Niznik also appeared in Star Trek: Insurrection. She was a regular on Everwood (a show I adored) for the WB. She died on July 12th, 2019. Too damned young.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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