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By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 31, 2002 - 10:17 AM GMT

See Also: 'Marauders' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: An Enterprise shuttlepod lands at a small, run-down mining colony to trade for deuterium, but the administrator, Tessic, tells Archer that all their deuterium has been promised to regular buyer. He and his team suggest that if Archer's crew can help repair their broken deuterium pumps, they will trade deuterium for power cells and medical supplies. When Phlox learns from their doctor that they require equipment to treat neural shock and a cardiostimulator, he suspects that something more unpleasant than plasma burns has been afflicting the colonists.

Sure enough, a small Klingon ship arrives and beams a crew down to the colony. Their leader, Korok, demands hospitality, then threatens the colonists for not having a full supply of deuterium ready for him. He warns that he will return in a week and they had better be prepared. Tessic admits to Archer that Korok has been taking most of their deuterium for the last five years, leaving barely enough for the colonists to survive the winters. When they tried to resist, the marauders killed several of them in battle, then executed several others to make an example of them. He warns Archer to leave. T'Pol concurs, stating that any action the crew takes will make the situation worse, for the rogue Klingons will only return in greater numbers if Enterprise attacks.

Archer visits Tessic and offers to teach the colonists to defend themselves so that they can win their freedom from Korok once and for all. He and Tucker propose moving the colony's mobile structures to leave the plasma pumps exposed so they can trap the Klingons near the explosive material. While Reed and Sato help train the colonists with firearms, T'Pol and Mayweather teach them to avoid Klingon bladed weapons. Archer gives Tessic a pep talk by comparing the situation to his first encounter with the Suliban, saying that the need to protect one's people can be stronger than fear. When the Klingons arrive, the Enterprise officers help draw them into the trap, and the humiliated Korok beams away after stating that the colony's deuterium isn't good enough for him.

Analysis: As an hour of action television, "Marauders" provides quite a bit of entertainment -- good pacing, interesting sets, fun villains, some nice character moments. It's nice to know that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga saw A Bug's Life, and such an amusing gimmick to see Hopper played by a Klingon! It's exactly the same story: every season, a small but nasty gang of big grasshoppers descends on a hapless ant colony, taking their grain, leaving them barely enough to survive for the winter. When the ants try to stand up to the grasshoppers, Hopper threatens to squash them. But one intrepid ant comes up with a plan to stand up to the bugs, involving a deception with some circus tricks, and eventually the good guys win and get to keep the whole harvest for themselves.

But A Bug's Life is fun to watch in execution even though the ending is a foregone conclusion, and 'Marauders' feels the same way. It's an old Western, the Wagon Train To The Stars that Roddenberry originally promised, though of course Star Trek became so much more. These are frontier politics with Archer and crew as Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, etc., trying to save the town before the posse comes riding in. And these are the sort of Klingons we knew and loved on original Trek; though Archer holds out hope that complaining to the High Command might do some good, one suspects the High Command probably rewards pirates for so effectively terrorizing other races' colonies. Thatís nice continuity, as is the ongoing arc about Enterprise's repair problems -- the Kreetassen send them to this colony, I guess, to make up for making Archer chop trees and carry wood.

Tucker bonds with a young boy who loves starships -- the standard paternal Trek routine with star-struck boy and older crewmember who remembers when he was like at that age, but at least the kid's not a prodigy and he doesn't end up interfering with the action. He's firmly ordered to stay behind the lines. It's a little bit Phantom Menace-ish, Qui-Gon to Anakin, which gains some humor value later when Sato teaches the colonists to shoot at a remote ball that looks suspiciously like the one Ben Kenobi used to train Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and again when the kid argues that he could fight because he can shoot lizards in the desert ('It's not impossible. I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home').

But it's good character material for Trip, who always comes across as the crew's biggest "people person" except maybe Hoshi herself. And it's nice to see her impress Malcolm with her shooting. She's a good teacher, something that's been kept consistent. Once again Mayweather gets to be resident hunk -- I'm not sure whether he's joking or not about being nervous how T'Pol will respond to his 'bat'leth' training, but that's his biggest scene all episode, which is pretty silly. Phlox only gets a few minutes of screen time but they're major minutes, as he becomes the first person on the crew who can articulate that something's really wrong at the colony besides stinginess and apparent bad tempers.

T'Pol has a few nice scenes -- in addition to the mock-fight with Mayweather, another humorous one where Tucker and Archer discover the superiority of Vulcan hearing to their own, and a serious one in which she makes Archer consider his options by agreeing with his desire to get involved even as she's insisting that Enterprise cannot interfere with the colony.

The colonists themselves are all stock types -- the worried administrator who becomes a reluctant warrior, the angry young man who gets responsible in the crunch, the sensitive doctor who learns to protect herself from brutes -- but they're nicely played, and Archer's scenes with Tessic don't have quite the usual lecturesome quality of his dealings with people he thinks are less smart than himself. It's still troubling how much of the work the Enterprise crew has to do to save the colony. I know this is their show, so we're supposed to see Reed and Mayweather get their few seconds of hard work and heroics in, but I'm not terribly convinced that these people could defend themselves if, as they initially fear, the Klingons come back with a bigger posse.

Interesting sets and some lovely shots of the desert and sky make this episode much more entertaining than gray ship-based stories. This is no Magnificent Seven, but it's tighter and more spirited than 'The Magnificent Ferengi,' and it ends with a Klingon saying 'garbage scow' -- a line that puts Classic Trek fans immediately in mind of 'The Trouble With Tribbles,' an automatic free grin. I'd like a bit more ambition from this series, but I'll never object to a decent genre piece with good character work.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She is also a staff writer at Green Man Review. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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