WARNING: Spoilers for ENT's season finale, "Shockwave," exist below.�
In brief: A leisurely beginning, but one wallop of an ending.�
"Shockwave" Enterprise Season 1, Episode 25 Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Allan Kroeker Brief summary: After a mission goes horribly wrong, Archer finds out that all may not be as it seems.
I'll say this for the B/B team -- they know how to create a cliffhanger. Archer stranded in a wrecked future nearly a thousand years ahead of what he knows, and the Enterprise on the brink of destruction by roughly a zillion and a half Suliban ships -- let's just say this situation does not suggest obvious solutions to the viewer, or at least this one, and I consider that something of a plus.
Something else interesting about "Shockwave" is that for a while, it doesn't necessarily have that "we must create some enormous problem because it's the season finale" feel to it, but instead builds a bit more gradually. Enterprise is visiting a Perragan mining colony, and what appears to be a freak accident ignites the colony's atmosphere, killing all 3600 colonists instantly. Lt. Reed insists that he followed every safety protocol to the letter, and the instruments bear that out -- but there are still several thousand dead colonists.
That's not the sort of thing you might think of as season-finale material ordinarily, but it works -- particularly because it provides some emotional and "political" (for want of a better word) jeopardy to go with the physical variety. Hoshi is clearly fighting to hold herself together while reporting the news to Archer, Malcolm is fighting equally hard in a different way to reassure himself of his own blamelessness, and Archer simply falls apart internally.
Archer, in fact, seems more inclined to agree that Enterprise is to blame than anyone else. When others point out that all the diagnostics point to no problem, he insists they're wrong -- there must have been a problem, because everyone is dead. He calls Admiral Forrest with the news, and Forrest is as encouraging as possible under the circumstances, but again Archer is not in the mood for sympathy. "We came here to *meet* these people," he notes, "to learn something about them -- not to kill them." Before long, Forrest reports back to Archer that Soval is using this incident to argue against the presence of humans in deep space, and Archer informs Trip and T'Pol that their mission is over.
Now, this whole sequence of events didn't quite have the same emotional impact as, say, watching the DS9 crew evacuate in the face of a Cardassian/Dominion assault -- but it proved surprisingly effective on a character level. In particular, we get a sense -- and one that's all too rare -- that Archer really feels the weight of history pressing down on him. As Trip points out, he's used the phrase "we're making history with every light-year" a lot -- but when an event happens which is absolutely horrific, and Archer realizes that that event might set Starfleet's goals back a decade or two, he just crumbles. When there's a decision he can justify, he's fine -- but when he makes a serious and irreversible mistake, he doesn't seem to have learned how to deal with it yet. (It's akin to Kirk's reaction in the face of Spock's death, although I hasten to add that it's not even close to having the same effect on the viewer.)
Another nice offshoot of this is that we get to see, on some level, just how far T'Pol and Archer have come. Six months ago, T'Pol would probably be the one insisting that Archer must have violated some protocol or another, and might well have been taking Soval's side and trying to get Enterprise sent home. Instead, her primary concern is whether Archer is fulfilling his responsibilities *now*, and in fact promises to try interceding with her government if he will with his own. There are not a lot of Archer/T'Pol scenes which have really had a ring of truth to them, but I think this one did. (Ditto the scene where Trip helps Phlox pack -- Phlox's ever-present good humor annoys Trip to no end, and that seems to match both characters quite well under the circumstances.)
Then, of course, at about the halfway mark the episode becomes a different story entirely. Archer goes to bed, but almost instantly finds himself back on Earth, in his quarters from ten months earlier -- just before Enterprise's launch, in fact. He's at a loss to explain what's going on, but he's reassured that he's not dreaming ...
... by Daniels, the Temporal Cold War fighter who was seemingly killed by Silik back in "Cold Front." He took Archer back to this time because they need to talk privately, and this seems an unlikely place for anyone to look. History, it turns out, has absolutely no record of the Perragan disaster -- thus, it clearly wasn't supposed to happen. Another faction in the war has interfered, trying to stop Enterprise's mission before it goes any further.
Dramatically, this gets the plot going -- in other ways, though, this also demonstrates some of the danger of a time-travel story. For starters, I think it's a bit of a leap from "history has no record of these events" to "therefore they didn't happen without outside interference." Records can be just lost, after all, particularly if they're of events that aren't all that significant. (Take, for instance, the Enterprise-C's battle at Narendra 3: Picard tells Garrett that "history has no record of your battle with the Romulans," but doesn't conclude that the Ent-C should stay with them and avoid said battle.)
The bigger issue, though, is that the episode picks up a lot of exposition from here on out. Here Archer and Daniels have a lengthy talk where Archer tries to figure out what's going on: if he's here, where's his earlier self? If he's his earlier self, who just went to bed after speaking with T'Pol? There was enough temporal confusion that you almost expected to hear Daniels say something like, "I realize this has been a bit of a Leap for you, captain" and make the joke explicit. (Either that, or have Archer just get off a quick "oh, boy.")
At the same, there's a dearth of other information. Did Silik actually kill Daniels? Well, Daniels himself says, "He did. In a manner of speaking." Nicely mysterious, but it also gives the writers free rein to pretty much pull any stunt they want -- and I'm not quite comfortable with that much carte blanche.
As soon as the conversation's over and Archer's back in his quarters, he calls Reed to his quarters and everyone else to a meeting in a few minutes. As the recipient of much extra information, Archer winds up confusing everyone with a great deal of new information, advice, and orders. The gist, however, is that the Enterprise heads back to the Perragan colony, where Archer intends to gather information proving that his crew is innocent -- and with some of the information Daniels gave him, he knows just how to do that.
We then get an act of everyone planning, building, and strategizing, with everyone but Archer in the dark as to exactly what's going on. Aside from much heavier doses of technobabble than we've had in the series to date, however, this time I enjoyed being in the dark, however -- because it was clear that Archer had information we lacked and had come by it plausibly, knowing exactly what information it was seemed less important. So we build a beacon which lets us detect a Suliban cruiser through its cloak? Sure thing. The action didn't have me on the edge of my seat, but I enjoyed it -- and so did Archer, as it pretty much came off without a hitch. The usual Big Three invade the cruiser (after Malcolm damages it for them), make their way to some sort of engine room, grab a few crucial data disks, and then get the hell out. So far, so good -- and since those disks have hard evidence linking the Suliban to the Perragan disaster (and to the framing of Enterprise), all seems to be well.
Except, of course, that the Suliban aren't going to take this lying down. After Reed detects some engine imbalances, Archer trains those same quantum beacons aft, and detects a ton of cloaked Suliban ships in pursuit. He prepares to fire on them, but Silik hails and urges him not to: when they drop out of warp, sensors pick up enough weaponry on the Suliban side to make it clear that Enterprise can't fight its way out.
Silik, simply put, wants Archer -- he's gotten his orders from the mysterious future figure, and has been told that Archer is the only important part of all this. Archer has five minutes to come aboard a Suliban ship in the process of docking, or Enterprise will be destroyed with all hands. Archer agrees, without hesitation, putting T'Pol in charge of the ship and Hoshi in charge of Porthos. Unfortunately, while leaving, he exits a turbolift and finds himself in the midst of a ruin.
While Silik, concluding that Archer's trying to play him for a fool, orders all weapons trained on the Enterprise's warp core, Archer finds Daniels, now in what is presumably his normal clothing and in a fairly advanced state of shock. Daniels brought Archer here, to the 31st century (!), and in so doing has apparently destroyed his own time. Archer's prepared to go back and take his chances with the Suliban, but Daniels sets him straight. "You don't understand. All our equipment ... the time portals have been destroyed. Everything's been destroyed. There's no way to send you back."
Fade to black.
The last act of "Shockwave" is one of the more enjoyable acts I've seen from the show in a while. It was somewhat quiet in a lot of ways, but built up a nice sense of mystery and foreboding while remaining true to its characters. I particularly enjoyed Archer trying to convince T'Pol that he really traveled through time with Daniels: T'Pol may insist that "the Vulcan Science Directorate has concluded that time travel is impossible," but Archer's good-natured "well, *good* for the Vulcan Science Directorate" is about all the answer that claim deserves. Archer's also willing, as usual, to risk himself for his crew -- mostly, I think, because he almost blindly trusts that fate will get him out of whatever jam he puts himself into. The real meat of the act, though, was the very last scene that sets up the cliffhanger. Putting Archer in the 31st century may not be a huge surprise, but it most definitely worked -- as I said at the outset, we're certainly not facing a situation that invites obvious solutions.
In fact, I'm a little bit concerned by how open the whole thing is. The first real cliffhanger in Trek history was "The Best of Both Worlds," and I think most people agree that the second half was a disappointment compared to the first. Why, apart from the obvious fact that after a three-month wait we were almost bound to be disappointed? In part, because Michael Piller hadn't really written out part 2 and decided how he wanted to end the story yet, and as a result came up with an ending that many found unsatisfying. I'm hoping "Shockwave" doesn't have the same sort of problem, and that Berman and Braga already know exactly how they'd like to resolve this situation. I don't know offhand why that should affect our perceptions as viewers, but I've been around long enough that I know it does in many cases.
So -- a bit too much <tech>, a few slight cases of "the viewers don't need to know this" syndrome, but all in all a pretty successful episode.
-- When Archer's in his quarters brooding, he appears to be looking at pictures of the dead colonists. I imagine Mike Okuda sneaked a few interesting pictures and/or captions in there, but I saw it as particularly reminiscent of the "Portraits of Grief" series the New York Times has run in the wake of September 11. (Even the number of dead is about the same.) Intentional, you think?
-- The scene in sickbay right after the disaster was particularly well paced, with everyone getting in little tidbits of information in between Archer's explosions. I especially liked his "that's impossible -- there were 3600 colonists!" in terms of urgency.
-- The Hoshi/Travis breakfast where they discuss future plans seemed pretty true to both characters, and it's interesting to see how fiercely defensive of Archer Hoshi can get.
-- True to his armory-officer nature, Reed really wants to look at *all* the schematics Daniels left lying around, not just the Suliban one. Good work there.
-- As amusing as "Just like those old Bible movies, Malcolm -- it wasn't written" was as a line, it again suggests that Archer (and perhaps Daniels) is putting far too much faith in historical records. One could certainly play with that in interesting ways if one had a mind to.
That pretty much does it, both for the review and for the season. (Yes, there's a season-end review coming up sometime this summer, but don't expect it any time soon.) "Shockwave" isn't the best episode of the season, but it's far from the worst -- and it's certainly going to keep us all guessing for a while.
So, to wrap up:
Writing: A bit more tech-heavy and/or confusingly mysterious than it needed to be, but fundamentally solid. Directing: The action felt a little pedestrian, but the closing scene was a killer. Acting: Not a lot of standouts (except possibly for Keating and Park), but no complaints either.
Overall: Call it an 8: certainly worth coming back for the resolution.
NEXT WEEK: Reruns, reruns everywhere. See you for the wrap-up review!
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department) tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "As I've told you, the Vulcan Science Directorate has concluded that time travel is impossible." "Well, *good* for the Vulcan Science Directorate." -- T'Pol and Archer -- 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.