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Two Days and Two Nights

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WARNING:  There are at least "Two Days and Two Nights" of spoilers contained in this article.  Beware.�

In brief:  Enough hits to watch once, enough misses not to want to go back too often.�

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"Two Days and Two Nights" Enterprise Season 1, Episode 24 Teleplay by Chris Black Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Michael Dorn Brief summary:  The Enterprise crew takes two days of shore leave on the pleasure planet of Risa.

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My first thought after watching "Two Days and Two Nights" was "well, I'm glad it was better than the other two shows we've had on Risa."  Of course, since the other two Risa shows were TNG's "Captain's Holiday," which I didn't particularly care for, and the truly awful DS9 episode "Let He Who is Without Sin," that statement by itself wasn't implying a lot of praise.

The idea behind the episode is pretty simple:  we finally make it to Risa, and everybody heads out on vacation (well, except T'Pol, who instead talks Archer into doing so).  Trip and Malcolm plan to visit a few clubs, investigate the local ... er ... scenery, and "expand their cultural horizons."  Hoshi plans to learn some new languages, Travis wants to do some rock climbing, and Archer just knows he'd like to relax.  Naturally, no one's trip goes quite as planned.

"Two Days and Two Nights" suffers from the same problem a lot of other "light" Trek shows do:  it's uneven.  More specifically, it's playing most of its humor so broadly that it tends to feel more like a caricature than a comedy -- and ironically, it's the two performers whose work I've appreciated most this year who come off the worst.

One of those two performers would be John Billingsley.  Apart from "Dear Doctor," Phlox tends to get a scene or two per episode, but Billingsley usually manages to invest Phlox with enough depth in those scenes that it's difficult not to take notice.  This time, alas, it didn't work -- and I'm honestly not sure whether it's due to the material, Billingsley's performance, or simply a mismatch of the two.

Specifically, while the rest of the crew heads down to Risa, Phlox enters a hibernating state in order to get some much-needed rest.  Of course, a medical emergency quickly crops up, and T'Pol and Crewman Cutler have to revive Phlox prematurely.  Is Phlox disoriented?  Yes -- but to such a degree that he quickly becomes Stupid Half-Awake Guy, and it's simply played too much for laughs. (Among other things, when everything about the scene is screaming "laugh, damn you!" at the audience while all the characters around Phlox don't seem to acknowledge any sort of humor, it's jarring. You'd think that someone would at least say "you know, in some other situation this could be really funny" -- other than T'Pol, I think any of the characters in the scene could have done so without breaking character.)

This isn't to say that the Phlox scenes were utterly unbearable -- they just veered so sharply from funny to stupid to funny that they didn't make for good viewing.  I did like a few moments here and there, particularly Phlox ordering the ship to Regulus to pick up some bloodworms.

Moving down to Risa, Travis's story can be discussed pretty quickly, because he didn't *get* one.  The only reason he wound up on the shuttle in the first place was to get injured and thus drive the Phlox plot -- for all the use to which he was put, a random crewman would have served just as well.  (Of course, that would've meant paying another actor, so why not put Montgomery to use, right?)

Trip and Reed's journey was the other one that came off as way too broad for words.  Briefly, they visit a club, get friendly with two aliens ("gorgeous aliens!  Don't forget they were gorgeous!", to quote Trip), only to find once alone that they're both muggers and male.  The duo is knocked unconscious, only to wake up stripped to their skivvies and tied up.  They escape, but don't exactly get much of a vacation.

Now, the idea of the pair getting into trouble by thinking with their hormones is all well and good, but the two of them felt so overblown and so adolescent that I felt as though I'd stumbled into a "Saturday Night Live" sketch that got out of hand.  (I've never seen "A Night at the Roxbury" or the skits that inspired it, but I remember the ads well enough to see some distinct similarities here.)  We even got the apparently-obligatory leering and speculating about Vulcan mating rituals and the seven-year cycle:  it's been mentioned so often recently that I wonder if it's going somewhere, but frankly I'm not looking for the trip given the way it's been used so far.

And as was true in "Shuttlepod One," Dominic Keating actually gets more of the blame than Connor Trinneer, which given how much I usually like Keating is a surprise.  (It's consistent, though:  broad comedy just doesn't seem to work with him, or at least with his character.)  Watching the two of them scope out the local women upon their arrival was pretty much actively annoying, and unfortunately for the show's creators, no amount of Dabo-girl-esque window-dressing is going to change that very much.

As with the Phlox story, however, this isn't to say there weren't moments.  Reed's "how would the Vulcans know?" when Trip talks about how much fun the club should be, the "we rotate -- he's captain next week" dodge, even Trip's "bearing 1800" warning when the two disguised muggers slink up ... all were good for at least momentary grins.  The story as a whole was tiresome, but some moments were there.

Hoshi's story, on the other hand, was surprisingly successful, even sweet.  While practicing her Risan (which she's known for all of a day) with an older couple, she's approached by an alien of indeterminate origin named Ravis (Rudolf Martin).  Ravis has overheard the conversation and wonders how many languages she actually speaks.  Upon hearing a number of nearly 40, he's impressed, and wonders if she could manage to learn his.  Hoshi's game, even when it turns out that something as simple as his homeworld's name is almost entirely unpronounceable.  She accepts his challenge, and apparently spends much of her first night trying to learn from him. Eventually, the two become close, and spend her second (and final) night together, apparently quite blissfully.  (As she puts it later on the shuttle, she "learned several new conjugations.")

I kept expecting this story to have a dark undertone to it -- there's no shortage of reasons why someone might want to use or manipulate someone with a gift for language and a knowledge of Starfleet.  (The fact that Rudolf Martin played Dracula on "Buffy" last year only added to that, as Dracula's nothing if not one of the ultimate seductive manipulators.)  Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out not to be -- Hoshi just managed to have a terrifically relaxing vacation, and that's all.  Her initial conversation with the Risans (done entirely with subtitles) felt natural, and her romance actually felt fairly plausible, or at least more plausible than most Trek one-night-stands.  I've no complaints here.

That leaves the good captain -- and his story is best split into two halves, as the tone changes considerably partway through.  After settling into his villa, he meets one of his neighbors, Keyla (Dey Young), when her dog gets onto Archer's patio and enters into a growling competition with Porthos.  The two quickly become friends, and all seems to be going very well -- though it's somewhat one-sided, as Archer seems to tell Keyla a lot about himself without her returning the favor.  When Archer tries to ask Keyla about her own history (what she does, where she's from, whether she has a family, and so on), however, Keyla gets somewhat grim.  She had a family, it turns out, but they were killed not long ago -- by Suliban.

"Suliban?"  Archer asks. "You know about them?" she responds.

Now, up until then this seemed to be nothing more than "Archer finds a friend," and was genial enough -- if it was less than memorable (in part because I thought Scott Bakula's and Dey Young's chemistry was sort of spotty), it was also far from unpleasant.  As soon as the Suliban enter the picture, though, Keyla gets very interested in what Archer knows about them -- it's implied that she wants to get some revenge for what was taken from her, but nothing too specific.  All she has to offer are questions -- about the Suliban homeworld, their bases, their plans, and anything else Archer might know.  (She also, perhaps surprisingly, mentions that the Cabal is getting its orders from the future, saying that said knowledge is "no secret."  Evidently not.)

Archer surreptitiously scans her, then agrees to talk, but shoos her out of the villa long enough to have Enterprise analyze the scan.  When Keyla returns, he confronts her with some newfound knowledge of his own:  she's a Tandaran, the same race we saw in "Detained" just weeks ago.  He figures that Colonel Grat must have sent her to get the same information he wanted via a different approach.  Keyla tells him he's wrong, but when pressed she drugs him and quickly checks out, saying that she can't allow him to interfere.

For the most part, this worked, though I'm of two minds about a few bits here.  Part of me wonders if making her a Tandaran was really necessary, since the idea of someone hurt by the Suliban wanting to strike back is perfectly meaty in and of itself.  On the other hand, her story and her species are far from incompatible, there's a strong implication that we'll see her again, and it's becoming very clear to me that the events of "Detained" are going to be resonating for a while.  I like the general sense that things are going somewhere.

(Since I mentioned the Bakula/Young chemistry, let me also say that Dey Young's facial reaction when Archer mentions the word "camouflaged" was really excellent -- he's talking about something else entirely, but you can immediately tell that Keyla's mind has gone elsewhere and why.)

Other minor highlights, good and bad:

-- This is the second time Michael Dorn's directed a light episode with a dark subplot just before the end of a season, the first being the far superior "In the Cards" back in DS9's fifth season.  One more and it's a tradition, right?  :-)

-- The discussion about Archer having schools named for him was cute, particularly because there *is* an Archer School in Los Angeles -- it was founded a few years ago not far from where I used to work. I wonder if someone on staff has a connection.

-- Old-time MST3000 fans probably had the same reaction to the first shuttle scene that I did, namely something like this:  "Travis?"  "Rock climbing, sir."  "AIEEE!"  (If you don't know, please don't ask -- it would take far too long to explain ... )

-- T'Pol sending along a copy of Surak's teachings to Archer is fine, but did she have to reference it as "to help you relax?"  Given the conversation that initiated the trip to Risa in the first place, my first thought was "oh, hell, she sent him a woman?  Great -- T'Pol, science officer and general procurement officer."  :-)

-- For anyone keeping score, Enterprise is now 90 light-years from home -- far by human standards, but a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the galaxy.  Sounds reasonable to me.

-- Did anyone else find it odd that Keyla hopped up all set for a second walk on the beach when apparently nursing a turned ankle from the *last* such walk?

-- If anyone found the Hoshi/Ravis dialogue insufferably saccharine, let me just advise you *not* to go see "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" without heavy-duty earplugs.  No spoilers ... just trust me on this.

All in all, then, there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour than "Two Days and Two Nights," and there are some interesting hints for the future -- but it also veers into enough "let's be stupid" humor to grate on occasion.  A mixed bag.

So, to wrap up:

Writing:  Decent on character, uneven on comedy. Directing:  I have to wonder if some of the Phlox material might have         been handled better with a different touch, but no real         complaints overall. Acting:  Surprisingly weak work from Billingsley and Keating, really         solid work from Linda Park.

Overall:  6.5; mixed, but with more good than bad.

NEXT WEEK:�

Silik returns, and everything comes to a head. Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu        <*>
"The Vulcan database says no one leaves this club unhappy."
"How would the *Vulcans* know?"
                -- Trip and Reed
--
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
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