WARNING: This article has spoilers for the first season of "Enterprise." Advance at your own risk.
[continued from part 1]
"Shuttlepod One" Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by David Livingston Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: Another long list. Hang on: "Sometimes I think you North Americans read nothing but comic books -- and those ridiculous science-fiction novels." "I'll have you know that Superman was *laced* with metaphor. Subtext layered on subtext." "Oh, if only Dr. Cochrane had been a European. The Vulcans would've been far too reticent to help us. But no -- he had to be from Montana." "I don't suppose you have a sextant handy." "Left it with the slide rule." "God knows what's gonna be lurkin' around behind the next planet we run into." "But that's just it, sir. At impulse we're not likely to be running into *any* planets -- not for at least six or seven years." "I'll heat up some rations -- unless of course you'd rather wait until we run into a vessel serving proper meals?" "What's your problem with having a little hope?" "And what's your problem with facing the truth?" "I don't want to die -- what makes you think I want to die?" "Because ever since we saw Enterprise spread across that asteroid, you've done nothin' but write your own obituary." "But with the crew of the Enterprise it was different. I was really starting to feel comfortable with them. And now the only one that's left thinks I'm the bloody Angel of Death." "I'm an engineer -- I won't blow up our only engine." "Then I'll ask you again -- ever hold your breath for eleven hours?" "How does it feel to be slower than a snail?" "I saw a great cartoon once. There are these two snails sittin' on the back of a big ol' turtle. One snail turns to the other and says, 'Hold on, Fred -- here we go!'" "You better hope we don't make it, because if we survive, the first thing I'm gonna do is bust your ass back to Crewman Second Class for insubordination!" "Be my guest! I could use a little less responsibility!" "I've invested far too much time trying to figure you out, Mr. Tucker: I'm not about to accept that it was all for nothing."
As with "Cold Front" and "Dear Doctor," what flaws this has are minimal: a throwaway line from Archer suggests that he doesn't know the engineering chain of command, Reed's "Stinky" dream goes on a few beats too many, the bourbon turns up just a little *too* conveniently, and so forth. Those are mostly nitpicks, though -- at its heart, "Shuttlepod One" is a beautiful character piece tossing Trip and Reed into a fairly dark place and seeing what comes out. Unlike "Silent Enemy," the tension and desperation here *do* build, and there's no real cheating the viewer by, for instance, making us allegedly wonder for half an episode whether Enterprise is actually okay. Both Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating do standout work, and I for one appreciated the look into Malcolm Reed. I don't know how often this particular type of "toss two crewmen together for an emergency" story will work -- "Desert Crossing" tried it and didn't do so well -- but this one was golden.
Final rating: 9.
"Fusion" Written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by Rob Hedden Initial rating: 4.5 Quotables: "From the library of Admiral Jonny Archer?" "I had high hopes when I was a kid." "Just because they smile and eat chicken doesn't mean they've learned to master their emotions." "You probably don't know this, but regret is one of the strongest emotions, and one of the saddest. I have the feeling you haven't had a brush with it yet, but it sounds to me like you're pretty close. It's somethin' you might want to avoid." "Feeling any better?" "Has the Vulcan ship left?" "About 20 minutes ago." "Then yes, I'm feeling better." "Captain? Do you dream?" "Sure. Sometimes they're even in color." "Is it enjoyable?" "Most nights." "I envy you."
The closing scene is one of the few really bright spots about "Fusion." The episode's undoubtedly intended to spark our interest in T'Pol as a character -- but when the "more interesting" dreams are so clearly sexual in nature (and thus the ones many people remember most strongly), it's hard to avoid the conclusion that yet again, there's not so much "T'Pol the character" as "T'Pol the catsuit-babe" to be found here. ("Fallen Hero" deals much better with T'Pol as a character, methinks.) It's perhaps slightly more interesting than I thought in that there are more hints that T'Pol isn't your typical Vulcan, and I do enjoy the Kov plot -- but balanced out against a rotten performance from Enrique Murciano, some mind-meld history which flies in the face of common sense, and some fairly horrid direction during the mind-meld scenes, and you have an episode I'm in no real hurry to see again.
Final rating: 5 (up half a point for the closing scene)
"Rogue Planet" Written by Chris Black (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Chris Black (story) Directed by Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 4 Quotables: "Vulcans are revered for their accomplishments, not for the way they look." [T'Pol, vying for Most Unintentionally Ironic Line Given The Circumstances] "Why don't you let me play captain for a while, Malcolm?" [Archer, showing the good sense that's gotten him this far] "These can detect infrared!" [Malcolm, being far too impressed] "Captain Archer, what are the chances you'd encounter a half- naked woman, who you think you know, dozens of light-years from your homeworld?" "Trip -- have you ever known me to do anything foolish, I mean really foolish?" [Archer, with his entry into the "Ya Want The Short List?" sweepstakes]
I know there are people out there who liked "Rogue Planet" a lot. They're welcome to it. Apart from a decent performance from the guest cast and some nice moments with Malcolm, there's really not much here I can recommend. The planet is made needlessly exotic (and implausibly so given the plants), the "monster that's really sentient" plot has been done to death, the problem is both spotted *and resolved* with not much more than <tech>, and the hunters turn needlessly stupid near the end. Bakula gets a little bit of credit for pulling off the "quietly obsessive" attitude, but that's about it.
Final rating: 3.
[Note: if the Reed/Archer stuff about Boy Scout training had come *before* Archer decides to boneheadedly lead the search party, you could make a convincing argument that he's jealous. As it is, he just looks kinda dim.]
"Acquisition" Written by Maria Jacquemetton & Andre Jacquemetton (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by James Whitmore, Jr. Initial rating: 8 Quotables: "A man is the sum of his possessions." "Back on my homeworld, that kind of thinking almost destroyed our civilization." "You should have managed your businesses better." "Just because a guy's in his underwear, you think the worst." "There are times I wish Vulcans hadn't learned to repress their violent tendencies." "Sorry, fellas. Bank must be closed today." "Not that interesting ... no sense of humor ... always complaining?" "I'll make it up to you." "How?" "Five bars of gold? [...] Open these things, Sub-Commander: that's an order."
Complain all you like about continuity breaches -- I'm far from a fan of most Ferengi episodes, but I had a hell of a good time watching this. A scene here and there made me cringe, to be sure (in particular the "interrogation" of Porthos), and the "let's put Trip in skivvies for half the show" felt somewhat silly, but I smiled a lot more than I groaned. T'Pol actually made me chuckle (which is rare for her) when she set the Ferengi against one another, Archer managed to outwit the Ferengi on their level, and the whole thing just felt like more of a fun romp than most of the DS9 Ferengi shows. I think a second one would be a big mistake, but I enjoyed this.
Final rating: 7.
[Note #1: Why wasn't Porthos knocked out by the gas? If it got the whole crew, presumably it'd get a dog as well.]
[Note #2: Yes, if Archer and company have any scanners working there should be some detail available on the Ferengi well before Picard meets them -- but is there much evidence that Picard doesn't have said information? He might not know about it during the events of "The Last Outpost," but by "The Battle" the Ferengi seem much more like known quantities. I think one can rationalize a single encounter by Archer here -- more would be questionable.]
"Oasis" Written by Stephen Beck (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Stephen Beck (story) Directed by Jim Charleston Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "You got a lot to learn about makin' friends!" "I've *made* all the friends I need." "What happened to your crew?" "They're *gone*, Captain. Isn't it obvious?" "Your real crew." "They didn't seem real to you?" "Sounds like you did everything you could to save the ship." "They're all dead. Apparently I didn't do enough."
The Ferengi worked once in "Acquisition." "Oasis," however, features holograms who most people think are real until shown otherwise -- and that's not only a couple of hundred years too early from a Trek point of view, but about a decade too late from ours. There are few if any surprises here from the plot side -- it holds together, but at the cost of being extremely derivative. What makes the show work as well as it does is the guest stars -- Annie Wersching is decent (and cute) as Liana, and Rene Auberjonois gives his role a lot of depth, making a stock character's pain come to life quite a bit. That's enough to keep the hour going, but not the sort of thing you'd want to come back to.
Final rating: 6.
[Continuity notes: while it was nice to see Trip be the one who recognized the holograms, I think it was more telling that Travis is the one who noted the problems with the alleged colony's food supply. A nice touch.]
"Detained" Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by David Livingston Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "You're the new arrivals." "Why are we here?" "Why are any of us here?" "If you want to explore alien cultures, you'll have to learn to respect their laws." ["Just ask Wesley Crusher in a couple of ... okay, bad example."] "'Be careful of their wicked smiles, their shining yellow eyes. At night they'll squeeze right through your door, and everybody dies.'" "I thought you'd decided not to interfere with other cultures." "In this case, I'm making an exception."
"Detained" is a bit better than I initially gave it credit for. Although the Tandarans are some plot-convenient combination of knowledgeable and idiotic (the latter in keeping a whole slew of spaceworthy ships right next to the compound, for one), and the final escape has a couple of weird editing moments (mostly in dealing with Danik's fate), the show as a whole gets our heroes involved in very plausible ways, with Archer's attitude evolving in gradual and sensible ways. The Tandarans do appear to be decent people most of the time (most of them, anyway), all three of the major guest stars flesh out their characters pretty well. Travis could have been put to more and better use down in the camp, but there's a good mix of action and philosophy here. I'll take it.
Final rating: 8.
[Note #1: What I said above does not apply to the head Tandaran guard, who's not much more than a one-dimensional thug. Even the line readings were dull.]
[Note #2: How could Travis have been better used? For one, when he has his big speech about learning to rise above his preconceptions about the Suliban's appearance, he could point out that not long ago, his own appearance would have provoked a similar reaction in a lot of humans. It's a perfect place for a little real-world resonance; I'm sorry it didn't happen.]
"Vox Sola" Written by Fred Dekker (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Fred Dekker (story) Directed by Roxann Dawson Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "'Wages of Fear' -- a classic French film. You'll like it -- things blow up." "Think of [water polo] as one part basketball, one part swimming, and one part wrestling." "And here I thought it was just a bunch of guys screwin' around in the pool." "Can you assemble some EM emitters?" ["Sure -- I'll go one stage down and grab a few spotlights. Will they do?"] "I'm willing to help you, Mr. Reed, but not if it means torturing this organism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't our mission to try to better *understand* unique forms of life?" "If you feel I have been unfair to you, I apologize -- but I hold you to a high standard, Ensign, because I know you are capable of achieving it."
Damn. This is about as split-personality an episode as you get. The last fifteen minutes have some juicy character conflict (T'Pol/Hoshi and Reed/Phlox) and a great "sense of wonder" resolution involving the alien -- it's really good stuff. Unfortunately, the first 45 minutes have some really stupid "capture the crew" effects, Reed creating crucial pieces of Fed technology almost singlehandedly, "alien links minds together" scenes which feel a lot like filler, and an awful lot of telling instead of showing. I like the end result a lot -- just not how we got there.
Final rating: 6.
[Note #1: When Travis talks to the Kreetassans towards the end, is anyone else concerned that he's the only person on the bridge? Could we not afford extras?]
[Note #2: Hoshi notes a similarity to some Andorian dialects at one point. I'm surprised she knows enough about the Andorians to have any sense of their language at all.]
"Fallen Hero" Written by Alan Cross (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Chris Black (story) Directed by Patrick Norris Initial rating: 9 Quotables: "It's my understanding that your mating ritual is effective in easing tension." "That hasn't always been my experience." "Cap'n, you need this as much as I do." "NOBODY needs this as much as you do." "That was over ninety years ago. How long have you been a diplomat?" "Commander Tucker! I understood that on your world, it is considered bad manners to ask a lady her age." "Well, I, uh, ..." "Forgive me, Commander. My attempt at humor." "You presume that my time with humans has left me susceptible to their emotions." "They're our emotions as well. We simply hide them better." [To quote Trip, "Thank you!"] "We were asked to pick you up and deliver you to a Vulcan ship. Nobody said *anything* about getting shot at." "There are diplomatic matters at stake here which do not concern you. To tell you any more would only put your ship and your crew at greater risk." "How much greater could it *get*?" "You really enjoy [having people shoot at us], don't you?" "If you must know, I much prefer the shooting back part." "You had just emerged from a global war. The idea that you deemed yourselves ready to join the interstellar community seemed ... premature." "And a century of good behavior hasn't changed your mind?" "Are you aware that your engines are overheating?" "So are yours." "Archer to Engineering." "*Please* tell me you're ready to slow down." "It's called a warp 5 engine." "On paper!" "If there was ever a time to start trusting us, this would be it." "Someday I'd like to walk into a room without it seeming like a state visit." "Occupational hazard?"
Now that's more like it. "Fallen Hero" is one of the meatiest episodes of the season when it comes to really giving us a sense of the mid- 22nd century. Ambassador V'Lar (played by the ever-watchable Fionnula Flanagan) is a far more convincing spokesbeing for the Vulcan point of view than any Vulcan we've seen all season, and the fact that she even leads T'Pol to argue on behalf of Archer makes for some compelling moments. The race against time (and the Mazarite ships) oozes tension, and pretty much everything here just rings true. I could have done with T'Pol acting as chief procurement officer in the teaser and without V'Lar explicitly telling us "look, see, they're friends now -- just like Kirk and Spock will be!", but in general my reaction is "yes, more please."
Final rating: 9.
[Note #1: Archer should, however, have known all along about the phase cannons not being able to fire at warp. For him not to smacks of plot-induced ignorance.]
[Note #2: For a species that only mates once every seven years, those Vulcans sure have some mighty phallic-looking ships...]
"Desert Crossing" Written by Andre Bormanis (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis (story) Directed by David Straiton Initial rating: 4 Quotables: "Please! I wouldn't be a very good host if I allowed you to get killed." "I was thinking about those Suliban prisoners. If we hadn't helped them escape, we wouldn't be in this situation." "T'Pol's ears must be burnin'." "Want your chief engineer's advice?" "What is it?" "Walk away."
"Walk away" isn't bad advice when it comes to the episode, either. It's trying to be "Shuttlepod One" with a message attached, but it's not succeeding. Clancy Brown does his best to make Zobral worth watching (and it's at least worth pointing out that he wasn't actually after weapons so much as advice), but most of the show is Desert Survival 101, with Trip serving as the Goofus to make Archer's Gallant look more heroic. I like the idea that Archer's starting to face at least one consequence of his past behavior, but this wasn't the venue for it.
Final rating: 5.
[Note #1: How long were those two walking, anyway? They leave in the dead of night, but the next time we see them it's broad daylight and the sun seems not too far off overhead. How far away *was* this encampment they were heading for?]
[Note #2: For anyone who watched "Greg the Bunny" on occasion during its short-lived stint (that would be both of you), I couldn't help occasionally giving Zobral a "Count Blah" riff when rewatching this. "I must warn you ... I am easily offended, blah."]
"Two Days and Two Nights" Written by Chris Black (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by Michael Dorn Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "Travis?" "Rock climbing, sir." ["AAAAIEEEE!"] "You should always listen to your science officer." "She'd be the first to agree with you." "The Vulcan database said no one leaves this club unhappy." "How would the Vulcans know?" "You're up late." "Just looking at the stars." "Don't you get enough of that on your ship?" "Never." "I wouldn't be surprised if they're naming schools after you back on your world." "Archer Elementary ... has a nice ring to it." "You think this is my fault!" "You were willing to follow two strange aliens into a basement!" "Gorgeous aliens! Don't forget, they were gorgeous!" "They were MALE!" "Not at first!" "Doctor, I think this was a mistake. You should return to your quarters." "I appreciate the offer, but it would be best to keep our relationship professional."
I thought this was a mixed bag back in May, and I still think so now. The Phlox plot gets what mileage it can from the situation (and Phlox's "set a course for Regulus" is still pretty funny), but it seems odd that he's the only competent physician on board when we've heard several references in the past to medical *teams*. The Hoshi plot manages to be sweet without going saccharine, the "two wild and crazy officers" bit is a lot less funnier than it clearly considers itself, and the Archer plot raises some interesting questions. (I still think Kayla might have been a better character *without* the Tandaran angle, but I can live with what we got.) It's mostly fluff, but I've certainly seen worse fluff.
Final rating: 7.
[Note: Apparently I'm a sucker for good Hoshi scenes with subtitles: both this one and the one in "Dear Doctor" are among my favorite Hoshi scenes of the season.]
"Shockwave" Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 8 Quotables: "Get me Admiral Forrest. This is not gonna be fun." "We came here to meet these people -- to learn something about them, not to KILL them." "Anyone tries to badmouth Captain Archer in front of me is gonna get an earful, in any language they want." "You have to find somethin' good in everybody, don't you? I gotta tell you, that's one of your 'unique qualities' that drives me crazy." "I'll certainly miss your outspoken personality, Mr. Tucker." "Commander Tucker told me you were dead -- that Silik killed you." "He did. In a manner of speaking." "Can't you ever give a straight answer?" "Depends on the question." "I thought you were supposed to protect the timeline, not screw with it." "It has already been ... screwed with, Captain." "Assuming he's right, and we manage to find the cruiser, what makes you think the Suliban won't come after us?" "Just like those old Bible stories, Malcolm -- it wasn't written." "As I've told you, the Vulcan Science Directorate has concluded that time travel is impossible." "Well, *good* for the Vulcan Science Directorate." [Archer in particular has a lovely playful tone in his voice here.] "It's targeting our warp core. They're all targeting the warp core." "So you're telling me this just happened? It doesn't look like it just happened!" "No. It looks like it happened a long time ago." "There's no way to send you back."
And thus, a cliffhanger. "Shockwave" isn't a perfect episode by any means -- the technobabble quotient is high enough to stick out (thus showing that "Enterprise" as a series has actually been fairly good at avoiding much of it), the mystery of Daniels' fate is handled perhaps a bit too cavalierly (giving Archer the runaround is one thing, the audience quite another), and a couple of the logic leaps from "there's no record of this" to "the timeline's been tampered with" seem questionable. Overall, however, "Shockwave" starts off with a bang (or perhaps a <fwoosh> is more appropriate), builds a decent mystery, has some great action in the assault on the Suliban (reminding me a little bit of the recapture of Locutus in BOBW2, though not quite on that level), and certainly gets people's attention in the end. As a cliffhanger, it'll certainly do.
Final rating: still 8.
Whew. Congratulations to everyone who made it through all of that. :-) (It does seem to have come in a lot shorter than DS9's seventh- season one did, for what that's worth.) For those interested in numbers, here are the stats (counting the premiere as two votes, since it's double-length):
Mean +/- Standard Deviation = 6.7 +/- 1.8 Median = 7
Going by the mean, that puts it almost smack in the middle of DS9's seven seasons: 4 seasons ranked above it and 3 ranked below. Going by the median, it's also in the middle: 2 of DS9's seasons have higher medians, and 2 have lower ones. There's a lot less scatter here than in any DS9 season, however: all of the DS9 season had standard deviations above 2.0. (It's a bit above Voyager's first season and WAY above the second. Alas, for those wondering, I don't have the stats handy from my TNG reviews.)
What does all of that mean? Fewer really abominable shows, but fewer clear-cut winners as well. Emotionally, that feels about right as well. So, that seems like a good time to move on to Part II, namely ...
[concluded in part 3]
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department) tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "Have you ever seen anything like that?" "Actually, I have." -- Copyright 2002, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.