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    "Precious Cargo" Carries Cliche At Its Worst, Writers Creatively Hogtied, Says Deus

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    Posted: 09:04:40 on December 12 2002
    By: Steve Krutzler
    Dept: ENTERPRISE Reviews | www.stenterprise.com

    Reviews Ex Deus

    "Precious Cargo"

    Summary: Trip stumbles on a scheme to kidnap an alien monarch-to-be and escapes with her into the overgrown depths of an overused plot.

    In doing my reviews I often try to list past precedents for episodes but "Precious Cargo"'s plot is so old and has been used so many times, as recently as Madonna's latest flop, that there's simply no point in such an overview. Indeed the entire uptight rich girl meets working class guy where they end up isolated on a tropical island and struggling to survive before acting on their attraction to each other is such a hoary cliche that it ought to have spider webs around it and moss growing on its underside. In fanfic, plot devices that rely on two characters getting together under such circumstances are strictly bottom of the barrel and writing guidelines warn against them. Apparently the same writing guidelines though don't apply to Enterprise executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga who came up with this story.

    Not that any of this is sufficient grounds for criticizing the episode. Just because a plot has been done a hundred thousand times before doesn't mean that something interesting can't be done with it on the one hundred thousandth and first try. Great Enterprise episodes like "Shuttlepod One" and "Dead Stop," for example, relied on formulas that are just as overused and predate Western civilization. The real question is whether this time around something interesting is being done with the plot, whether there's a twist ending or at least some growth for the characters or a sense that the preceding hour has not been a waste of time.

    "Precious Cargo," though, doesn't bother with any of that but unspools the same plot at its most cliched. First, two aliens arrive on board Enterprise in Westmore's patented evil alien makeup. As if that wasn't subtle enough, they twitch, leer and lie insincerely. They do everything but carry signs reading 'We're evil.' For anyone expecting twists and turns that might challenge our expectations or create any ripples in the viewing experience, there are none. It's all just one long forty-minute flat line. From the moment we see the woman inside the stasis pod, the rest of the episode is as predictable as it gets. With the right co-star, Connor Trineer's usual routine might at least have been a little entertaining but Padma Lakshmi's line delivery is hopelessly flat and artificial and between the two of them there is about as much chemistry as there was between Paris and Torres.

    What few good moments "Precious Cargo" has surprisingly come from a story involving Archer and T'Pol trying to coerce information out of one of the kidnappers. Not only is it is a nice routine reminiscent of a Kirk and Spock moment, but it's only the part of the episode that has any life to it. David Livingston does his best with this episode from a stylish opening that has Trip playing the harmonica while the alien ship arrives to the scenes in the cramped escape pod. But the flaws in the episode are not his fault and probably not even the fault of David Goodman who produced the actual teleplay. After all, there's a limited amount of originality that anyone can bring to a story like this. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga need to trust the writers they've hired enough to come up with their own stories, otherwise the entire process of bringing in new blood will have been a waste of time if the new writers are kept on to write the same stories that were being turned out ten and fifteen years ago. Seeing Berman and Braga's name on so many episodes leads us to the conclusion that either Enterprise's writers can't come up with suitable episode ideas at story meetings or that they're not being allowed to.

    It's hard to say whether "Precious Cargo" is the result of UPN programming chief Dawn Ostroff's threat to make Enterprise 'sexier' but if so it can be considered a dismal failure in that department. It also flops as a comedy because Lakshmi doesn't have the timing or the line delivery to keep pace with Trineer and aside from the cliched situational friction, there's not much that's funny here besides Archer and T'Pol's interrogation scene. As action and suspense it never gets off the ground. The aliens have a Warp 2 ship and they're basically slightly brighter versions of Pakleds and never manage to present any real threat or challenge. The result is a hybrid episode that fails in all three departments. While "Cargo" is never actually as awful as "Vox Sola" or "A Night in Sickbay," it's simply mediocre at a time when Enterprise needs most to attract a regular audience and can't afford to suffer from more lazy writing and recycled plots. Enterprise might be able to afford to do such episodes in its sixth or seventh season, but not in its second when it still has a chance of maintaining and extending its audience.

    Next week: Aliens try to take over Enterprise. Again.

    About the Authors


    O. Deus has been a TrekWeb visitor since the site's 1996 inception. Along with being an ardent poster, he is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Deus has written reviews and columns for TrekWeb for over two years.

    Steve Perry is not the former lead singer of Journey. He is, however, a long time fan of all Trek, yes, even Voyager. He is currently in law school and contributes reviews when his busy schedule permits.

    TrekWeb Reviews


  • "The Catwalk"
  • "Precious Cargo"
  • "Vanishing Point"
  • "Singularity"
  • "The Communicator"
  • "The Seventh"
  • "Marauders"
  • "A Night In Sickbay"
  • "Dead Stop"
  • "Minefield"
  • "Carbon Creek"
  • "Shockwave, Part II"
  • Season One Re-cap (Deus)
  • "Shockwave" (Deus)
  • "Two Days and Two Nights"
  • "Fallen Hero" & "Desert Crossing" (Deus)
  • "Vox Sola" (Deus)
  • "Detained" (Deus)
  • "Oasis" (Krutzler)
  • "Acquisition" (Williams)
  • "Rogue Planet" (Deus)
  • "Fusion" (Deus)
  • "Shuttlepod One" (Deus)
  • "Shadows of P'Jem" (Deus)
  • "Sleeping Dogs" (Deus)
  • "Dear Doctor" (Deus)

    STENTERPRISE.com Mission Logs



    Season Two (2002-2003)
    Prod #Title Airdate
    128 Shockwave, Part II 9/18/02
    127 Carbon Creek9/25/02
    129 Minefield10/02/02
    131 Dead Stop10/09/02
    130 A Night In Sickbay10/16/02
    132 Marauders10/30/02
    133 The Seventh11/06/02
    134 The Communicator11/13/02
    135 Singularity11/20/02
    136 Vanishing Point11/27/02
    137 Precious Cargo12/11/02
    138 The Catwalk12/18/02
    139 Dawn1/08/03
    140 Stigma2/05/03
    141 Cease Fire2/12/03
    142 Crash Landing2/19/03
    143 Canamar3/??/03
    144 The Crossing3/??/03
    Season One (2001-2002)
  • TREKWEB TALKBACK
    (31 comments)

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    Star Trek: The Void
    By silly_naked_captain (tcook52@hotmail.com) at 11:30:37 on December 14 2002
    URL: www.geocities.com/thefreerider2002 | User Info
    I think With 'Enterprise' it's lacking those special episodes that stand out. Even Voyager had those episodes which made us watch. Enterprise seems to be a good way for them to use old bad guys, old plots and hopefully keep teh spirit burning. I'm sorry to say everyone but lately it seems as though Star Trek is on the road to death. The only decent Spin-off series was DS9 and there was only a hand full of decent movies (less than half...This also excludes Nemisis because i'm in australia). I think what we need is for Star Trek just too STOP. No more movies, no more series. Just let it die while it still has a fan base to follow.
    I agree maybe they could come back in about five years or so. For Example, You buy your kids a toy, it's new and exciting (Star Trek & TNG) But eventually the kid finds newer and better things to play with.
    Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's give the franchise we love a period to relax (hopefully in that time Rick Berman and Brannon Braga will not return)


    Trip
    *Can Anyone remember the days when we were explorers*

    ---

    The Naked Captain- 'Going Where No Normal Man Has Gone Before'

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    you're right
    By douglas () at 18:19:07 on December 13 2002
    URL: | User Info
    It was obvious that this episode was one big cliche from start to finish but at least it's better than previous episodes that he have seen so far.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Wish I could disagree...
    By Noxmagic () at 19:43:19 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    ...with you Deus, but your review for Precious Cargo was pefect (let that be a lesson to Deus' constant distractors). The only redeeming quality to "Precious Cargo" was the b-storyline involving Archer and T'Pol tricking their alien captive into giving up information. If not for the acting ability of the dude who plays Tripp, and my personal love for this character, I think there would have been several moments during Cargo when I would have thrown up. I will say this in Ent.'s defense; this was their first truly bad episode of the season (yes, I'm one of the few who loved A Night In Sickbay). Every show currently on t.v. will lay an egg or two, and this is Ent.'s first egg of this season. Hopefully, there won't be anymore.
    P.s.
    I like what Deus had to say about Ent.'s writing situation. I've posted before that, despite being an overall quality show, Ent. would probably improve greatly if it injected some new blood into its cast of writers. Take the previews for next week's ep. for example. Yet again, the Enterprise is hijacked. How many times have we seen this on Trek? I'm going to keep an open mind though.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Oh no.. more trashing..
    By Hbasm () at 19:40:34 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    Not a single positive word about this story yet? Oh no... :o( But I've never seen fans with higher demands than Trekkies, so even if some new writers took over, they probably won't deliver something "worthy". It's not just a matter of good stories, it's necessary to consider 35 years of Star Trek canon. I think new blood will have initiative, but will build up a series that is "theirs" and maybe not Star Trek. At least Berman should still be in charge, to offer guidance along with some fellows to help with Star Trek history... But actually I just hope these experienced producers get enough time to teach their baby (improve the show).

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Preach on, Brother Dues!
    By Bucky () at 18:01:51 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    ENT is at its best when it takes old cliches and puts an interesting new twist on it (Singularity, Shuttlepod One) but this is just lazy, lazy, lazy. Trineer deserved a much better spotlight episode.

    I think this was so medicoire that its the worst episode ENT has ever done. EVER! on the plus side, there's nowhere to go but up!


    ---

    iamtheradioyouaretheradiowearetheradio


    The Smashing Pumpkins 1988-2000

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    The Last Straw
    By DarthSpock () at 17:39:26 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    I am not sure what was worse: The guest Stars god-awful acting, or the episode itself.

    Didn't the powers-that-be hear, ohh just about everyone, bash how awful that Madonna movie 'Swept Away' was? It seemed to me like they were trying to re-make it with a worse actress. I am still in shock over how poor that was.

    That episode was so bad that I am handing in my resignation. I am not watching anymore. I do everyweek, and everyweek I come here to complain about it and see 1000 other people feel the same way. Something needs to be done, but I am just not going to watch something I have grown up with go down in flames like this. It's too painful.

    ---

    "I am not sure what disappoints me more... your cowardice or your stupidity."

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Glad I skipped it
    By sky () at 17:09:55 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    Thanks O. Deus, glad I didn't bother watching this ep. Actually, we dumped ENT about a month ago and have been finding better things to do with our Wednesday nights. OK all you ENT-lovers, bash away. But like it or not, a lot of us long-time Trek fans are giving up on this turkey show. I predict this "retooling" will either need to be the end of B&B and their weary, cliche-ridden product, or else it'll be the end of Trek.

    ---

    "When I was your age, I didn't watch television! I LIVED! So... move out of your parent's basements!"

    -- William Shatner on SNL, 1986

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Kick Them Out
    By Edzo (lordedzo@hotmail.com) at 14:04:28 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    J. Michael Stracynski wrote nearly every episode of "Babylon 5." It was his creation and he deserved to write it, most especially because he had a bona fide direction in which to take the series.

    Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have written a majority of the episodes for "Enterprise" but they have no direction. They don't know what to do with this series. Therefore, IMHO, they don't deserve to be writing for it.

    When I was in high school and college, if I was assigned to write a paper, it had to be about something. There had to be a thesis, and the paper had to proceed in a certain direction toward a certain point. If it didn't, if it just rambled on aimlessly without saying very much, then I would receive a failing grade. If I received enough failing grades, I would fail the course.

    Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have amounted a number of failing grades. They have failed "Enterprise" and they have failed the fans. It's time to kick them out of school.

    ---

    Edzo!

    "Considering the rate at which you imbibe, sir, is your lineage at all mixed with human?"

    --Data to Mr. Homn, TNG's "Haven"

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    A story that should never have been told
    By One of One () at 13:25:33 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    Keeping in mind the misguided decision of B&B to tell more "humanized" stories and the manner which they've chosen to do so, and the decision that Star Trek could somehow be "sexy" and have "mass market" appeal following this formula, I must say that I am STILL appauled with the stories being told. This story in particular accomplishes NOTHING. The only thing more "human" about this story is Trip's reference to his car. There was nothing of consequence that came from this story. It established nothing new about Trip, Archer, or T'Pol... except maybe that T'Pol is alot more comfortable lying than any other Vulcan we've ever met, and does it more often.

    It seems the only point to this story was to show Trip without a shirt and give him the chance to make out with a good looking woman. If this had happened in the context of an important story, it would have made more sense and worked a whole lot better. When that woman kissed Trip, I almost threw up. You could see that coming a mile away, but for the wrong reasons. It was by the numbers and it looked completely awkward and out of place because there was absolutely NO chemistry or sexual tension between these two people... The only justification I can think of is that she was a mess of raging hormones due to not having been with a man for a very long time.

    I have nothing against showing relationships or flings on Enterprise, and if they're going to have a Kirk-like womanizing character, Trip is much better suited at it then Archer, but at least do it in the context of a good story. This story contributed nothing to the development of its characters or the progression of the show as a series, and wasn't even entertaining as a show in a bottle. This is a story that should have never been told.

    The problem lies in Berman not wanting to do Star Trek, he wants to do a show were they "drive cars and wear sneakers". But either his ego won't let him leave Star Trek or he's too scared to take the chance of finding something else after all these years. So he projects his desires onto the show, trying to make it less Star Trek and more... whatever it is.

    The prequel concept was chosen for the very selfish reason of furthering this goal. Not because there was a very interesting story to be told about the condition of Earth and the Human race taking its first steps into the galactic neighborhood, and then rising to be such a great influence. There was an epic war, first contact with many species, and a great struggle for power in the quadrant that took place during Enterprise's time, but all they care about is showing some cardboard characters in their underwear, talking about cars and water polo.

    An earlier post in this thread is very telling... someone said his teenage daughter found the show just as predictable as the rest of us... This "sexier" Trek doesn't even appeal to an adolescent, why would it appeal to a more grown up taste?

    I'm holding out some hope, based on the realization that UPN needs more dramas, that they'll move Enterprise in that direction, of telling more meaningful, RELEVANT stories, which would be made much more entertaining by exploiting the time period the show is set in. However, it seems that sex and mindless explosions are all we'll be getting for the time being...

    On a side note, why even bother showing T'Pol in those traditional Vulcan robes when she was posing as a judge with Archer? All it's doing is highlight the fact that she should be dressed that way all the time.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Predictable Even to the Young
    By sid () at 11:52:06 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    I disagree with the earlier post that suggested that maybe teenagers would eat this stuff up. My teenage daughter watched this episode with me. Even she found it predictable - especially when she tore off the bottom of her dress.

    I think they should hire writers from the old T&A shows if they want to make ENT more sexy. B&B are not real skilled at this and it shows.

    Of course, I could live without the sexy if I got a compelling episode.

    Maybe they could put in a twist that shows that the Archer/T'Pol interrogation scene was actually truthful and that T'Pol can sentence crew members to death. Now that would be an interesting turn.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    I agree with O. Deus
    By X-Drone1701 () at 11:48:44 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    I think O. Deus nailed it exactly. From what I've seen, this was a horrible episode, and I'm glad I watched a third of TNG instead.

    Next week....aliens take over the ship again and dumped on Hanon III where the crew must take back the ship from the evil foreheads. By now you'd think they'd figure out a way to prevent this already(even if it is a prequel).

    ---

    "We're starfleet officers....weird is part of the job!"

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Star Wars rip-off?
    By Lord Chairman Kaga () at 11:39:09 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    Did anyone else notice the PLETHORA of Star Wars "references" in the episode? First of all was the obvious Han/Leia dynamic. She was "on a diplomatic mission". Direct quote from the show. He was her "only hope", again a direct quote. Then there was the escape pod, which from the interior looked errily similar tot he one 3Po and R2 escaped in (the round door). If nothing else, the shot of the door was identical...
    There were a few other little things I can't remember exactly, but jumped out at me.
    Homage? Rip-off? Who can say?

    Regardless, the episode was painfully predictable, poorly scripted and acted. I like Trip and Trineer, but Bakula still seems like he's reading cue cards, and the aliens were just as common as I've come to expect.
    I watch this show about once a month, just to see if it's improved. Sadly, it's taking the same path as Voyager.
    Oh well... At least DS9 is on DVD next year, and I can relive some actua character development and plot!

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    You know it started out good...
    By Theo () at 11:18:38 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    I liked the very beginning.. it had promise... Trip playing his harmonica and encountering the ship was kinda cool.

    I also liked the set design of the alien ship. All messy and creepy. It was a nice touch.

    As O. Deus states, that chicks acting was horrible. She just doesn't pull off the "elitest" type right. They should have brough back Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia for that role... it would have been more entertaining.

    If they wanted it sexier, they should have shown more T&A. That makeout scene was laughable.

    On a final note... I really plead with the site moderator to eliminate the "poll". I question the sincerity (and sanity) of any Trek Fan (or human) that votes this one a 10 (best of all times?).. a show in the same league as City on the Edge of Forever or Best of Both Worlds? PLUUUUEEEAASSSEEE...I see 44 people (at least) who voted this a 10 and I really think this vote is a huge waste of bandwidth... but, who am I to complain since it is free....

    *shrugs*

    Well, at least some the FX were decent...

    Happy Holidays!!!

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    speechless
    By psp1 () at 09:27:35 on December 12 2002
    URL: | User Info
    I could predict this was going to be a mess in the first two minutes. It left me wondering why I am even bothering to tune in to this juvenile drivel.

    'Enterprise' has abandoned all pretense at garnering any mature thoughtful audience support and has gone straight for the teenagers who will presumably drooling over the 'stars' who have not taking Acting 101 lessons. The terrible acting combined with the predictable silly plots is a volatile mixture, resulting in sludge that belongs in a sewage treatment plant.

    O.Deus, I know you are under fire for being too harsh on the show. I think you might be going too easy on it.



    ---

    psp1

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

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