Thursday, April 5, 2018

Enterprise 1x20 "Oasis"

rating: **

the story: The crew encounters an apparently haunted ship.

what it's all about: Like "Acquisition" immediately preceding it (Voyager's Ethan Phillips), "Oasis" features the novelty of a previous series main cast member appearing in an entirely unrelated role.  This time it's Deep Space Nine's Rene Auberjonois, who previously embodied shapeshifting Odo.  Fans had a hard time appreciating this fact on original broadcast, as he happens to be featured in an episode that's very similar to one Odo himself previously experienced ("Shadowplay").  Yet it's also worth noting that even then, the template of an isolated survivor living in an artificial setting had been done before even that, in Next Generation's "The Survivors."  And if we want to be really technical, that's the basis of the very first episode ever produced in the franchise, "The Cage," a pilot that was scrapped and later repackaged as the two-part "The Menagerie."  So the story has considerable pedigree.

The question is, does "Oasis" do anything significantly different?  Well, it can be argued that every time the story's been told, it's been told differently.  "The Menagerie" retold Pike's experiences so that he could reclaim a semblance of a normal life after a horribly debilitating injury.  "Survivors" was about a lonely alien who regretted the actions he took on the attackers of his colony, and the wife he resurrects to accompany him.  "Shadowplay" was about a similarly isolated man who simply wanted to have village life around him again.  "Oasis" is about a father trying to give his daughter a normal life.  Each time the premise is depicted as a mystery.  "Menagerie" is presented as a Spock story, his complicity in Pike's efforts to return to the planet where he might find sanctuary.  Only "Shadowplay" has similar character-specific content: it's a rare instance of a soft look at Odo, who otherwise usually puts up massive barriers around himself.  His relationship with a little girl is actually the central element of the story.

Which makes it appropriate that Auberjonois is once again playing someone protecting a girl.  The premise happens to lightly touch on the nature of the young Starfleet mission, how the crew learns about the space around them, and how that reflects their fears.  Voyager similarly produced scores of episodes that handled its crew's isolation and hope for a shortcut home, but usually had more direct associations being made.  In "Oasis" it's mainly the crew experiencing the mystery, including the manner in which the ghost ship is discovered, from a visitor, which calls to mind material from earlier and later episodes ("Cold Front," "Cogenitor").

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Follows a rich tradition of mysteries surrounding inexplicable communities.
  • series - Touches on the crew's habit of learning things.
  • character - Focuses mainly on a guest character's arc.
  • essential - Its appeal seems diminished rather than enhanced by the story's history.
notable guest-stars:
Rene Auberjonois
Tom Bergeron

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