Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 8, 2005)
Time for some more fun with the crew of Enterprise. Without any further ado, let’s plow through Season Two’s 26 programs. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs. The plot synopses come from http://www.tv.com – thanks to them for their great work.
Shockwave Part 2: “Temporal Agent Daniels (Matt Winston) and Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) must find a way back to the 22nd century in order to make sure history plays out as it should. Meanwhile, on board Enterprise, the Suliban have taken over the ship, but Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), Commander Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), and Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blaylock) formulate a plan to eject the aliens.”
All that sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the “Temporal Cold War” elements remain just as confusing as ever, and they muddy this potentially interesting show. Lots of sturm and drang occurs, but the story is such a mess that it doesn’t go anywhere.
Carbon Creek: “After Archer and Trip become curious about a visit she made to a Pennsylvania mining town called Carbon Creek, T'Pol explains to them that Vulcans actually had their first contact with humans in 1957. That year, a Vulcan ship crashed on Earth and three crewmembers survived, including T'Pol's great grandmother. They pose as humans in Carbon Creek and take on jobs while waiting for rescue and soon find themselves becoming more involved with the town's residents.”
“Creek” easily could have become excessively cutesy, and it occasionally veers perilously close to that territory. Happily, it manages to stay on the intriguing side of the story and makes for a surprisingly strong episode. It confronts the complications realized by the Vulcans and manages to treat the Fifties in a believable way without the usual camp.
Minefield: “When attempting to explore a new planet, Enterprise triggers a cloaked mine. While the crew deals with the resulting damage, it's discovered another mine is stuck to the hull. During Reed's attempt to disarm it, a spike is driven into his leg, trapping him out there. While Archer goes out on the hull to help him, the rest of the crew learn they are in a minefield belonging to the Romulan Star Empire, who demand Enterprise leave or face destruction.”
An otherwise solid action show, this one gets a little silly at the end. Nonetheless, it provides enough taut drama the rest of the time to make it good. It takes on a tough situation with a fresh view and works nicely.
Dead Stop: “Suffering from damage inflicted in the Romulan minefield and unable to complete repairs on their own, Archer orders a distress call to be put out. A response leads Enterprise to a repair station, which surprisingly has no crew aboard it and is run by computer. Repairs on Enterprise are carried out quite efficiently and quickly, though the price for all this is much higher than the crew could've guessed.”
So far, so good, as three of Season Two’s first four episodes are positive ones. Although we know there’s a nasty twist coming in the show’s road, it makes sure it doesn’t telegraph things, so it keeps us interested. A few plot holes occur, but not enough to actively mar this generally enjoyable program.
A Night in Sickbay: “Archer spends a night in sickbay with Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) after Porthos contracts a deadly virus on the Kreetassan homeworld. Crew members suspect Archer's increased stress level is due to Porthos' illness, but Dr. Phlox suspects it has to do with Archer's repressed sexual tension.”
A gimmicky episode, “Sickbay” stands out mainly due to its portrayal of Angry Archer. Boy, is he irritable in this show! Otherwise, the program doesn’t go much of anywhere. It does reinforce that Archer must be okay since he loves his dog – anyone so devoted to his pooch is all right with me.
Marauders: “In need of fuel, the Enterprise arrives at a Quonset mining colony for deuterium supplies. They discover that Klingons are forcing the colonists to give up all their deuterium. Archer and the rest of the crew work to train the colonists so they can fight back against the Klingons.”
Anyone else think this episode reminds them of Home Alone? Of course, the crew of the Enterprise has a lot more with which to fight than some little kid, but the whole thing operates as nothing more than an exercise in some Klingon butt-whupping. It seems improbable and makes me want the Enterprise to simply blast the Klingon ship and be done with it.
The Seventh: “Archer, Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) and T'Pol travel to an arctic world to apprehend a fugitive when T'Pol is contacted by Vulcan High Command. The mission takes a dangerous turn when T'Pol begins having flashbacks that suggest the events she remembers about a former mission may not accurately relate to what happened.”
If nothing else, “Seventh” gives us a little feel for T’Pol’s backstory. We learn about her earlier days and the show also operates as a decent thriller. It doesn’t qualify as a great episode, but it does okay for itself.
The Communicator: “Archer and Reed return to a pre-warp society, that is on the verge of war, to recover a lost communicator from an undercover survey mission.”
The whole issue of societal contamination gets a lot of discussion in the Trek series, and “Communicator” digs into that topic well. It lets us glimpse problems that could occur and the extremes to which the personnel will go to stop them. It’s a good show.
Singularity: “While Enterprise is surveying a black hole in a trinary star system, the stellar phenomenon causes strange effects on the crew.”
Sometimes the “teasers” that open episodes are helpful, but often they’re a nuisance. That’s the case here, as the teaser lessens the tension that would ensue during this otherwise strong episode. I’d have preferred to see events unfold without knowledge of what will happen later. Nonetheless, the show ends up as tight and gripping.
Vanishing Point: “Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) experiences her first transporter experience and strange aftereffects lead her to believe she wasn't reassembled correctly.”
And now we get our token “Focus on Hoshi” episode! Not that this is a bad thing, but I must admit I don’t like the fact that Enterprise often treats Hoshi and Mayweather as expendable characters who get the spotlight once or twice a year and that’s it. Overall, “Point” works, as it enjoys an intriguing and entertaining story. Unfortunately, a cop-out ending reminiscent of Bobby Ewing’s return mars this program.
Precious Cargo: “Trip boards an alien cargo vessel to help repair a stasis pod, which holds a beautiful woman in suspended animation. When the woman accidentally wakes up, she reveals she's not a passenger, but a prisoner.”
Anyone else find it amazing that virtually all of the alien women on Trek shows are babes? This show offers a decidedly Star Wars feel as Trip and the princess enjoy a very Han/Leia vibe. Heck, the planet on which they land even bears a notable resemblance to Dagobah. (Yeah, I’m well aware that Han and Leia never visited Yoda’s swampland, but I still think this isn’t a coincidence.) Other than a decent twist to the usual deceptive alien plot, this one’s fairly unmemorable.
The Catwalk: “When a lethal neutronic storm approaches faster than Enterprise can escape, the crew take shelter in the maintenance shafts inside the warp nacelles. They also provide refuge to a group of aliens, who aren't exactly honest about themselves.”
With that title, I hoped this episode would be about an intergalactic fashion show – who doesn’t want to see T’Pol strut her stuff? Instead, we get even more deceptive aliens, an old standard Trek storyline that doesn’t go anywhere new here. The parts that focus on the crew’s stress in the catwalk work well, but otherwise the show meanders.
Dawn: “During a solo test mission on Shuttlepod One, Trip is attacked by a territorial alien and forced to land on the night side of a moon. As he tries contacting Enterprise, he discovers his alien foe has made an emergency landing nearby. The two contend with each other as an extremely hot sun rises and threatens both their lives.”
Another tired plot line shows up here. We find a basic “alien enemies who need to learn to get along with each other” story, and “Dawn” doesn’t bring anything interesting to the table. Any twists remain dull and this one fails to engage.
Stigma: “Enterprise visits a planet where an Interspecies Medical Exchange conference is being held. Dr. Phlox tries to obtain research on a terminal disease from the Vulcan contingency, without revealing T'Pol has been infected by it.”
At least “Stigma” offers some intriguing insights into the Vulcan and Denobulan cultures. Unfortunately, the rape/AIDS subtext gets overplayed. Those issues make this a hamfisted Very Special Enterprise that lacks the necessary subtlety.
Cease Fire: “Both the Vulcans and the Andorians make a claim to a small planet and military conflict soon erupts. As the fighting goes on, the Vulcans announce they are willing to discuss cease-fire terms. However, Imperial Guard officer Shran believes only Captain Archer can be trusted to mediate the situation, which drags the Enterprise crew into the tense situation.”
Despite mild expansion of the Andorian/Vulcan relationship, this one offers a very average program. It focuses on lots of brawling and little else. The Andorians remain interesting characters, largely due to their quirky look; they’re so Sixties-based that they provide a cool retro vibe. That makes them fun to see but doesn’t redeem this mediocre episode.
Future Tense: “The Enterprise crew find a small craft drifting in space and are surprised to find it contains a human corpse. More questions arise when the Suliban and Tholians make claims to the craft.”
Do the Temporal Cold War episodes ever go anywhere? Not from what I can tell, and “Tense” fails to expand on the topic in a satisfying manner. It offers a cool space battle but little else. Even the title stinks, as it ruins a potential surprise.
Canamar: “Archer and Tucker are arrested and placed on a prisoner transport heading for a penal colony, Canamar. They won't have a chance to correct this error as one of inmates plots a takeover of the ship.”
Raise your hand if you’ve already seen the “Trek character falsely imprisoned” story. That said, “Canamar” gives us some decent twists and manages to turn into something mildly surprising. Despite cheap cavalry ending, the fact it pushes Archer into some tough decision makes it interesting.
The Crossing: “Non-corporeal aliens possess the bodies of the Enterprise crew.”
Half ghost story, half Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “Crossing” falls into the category of okay but unmemorable shows. I could live without the usual convenience factor: isn’t it amazing how there’s always exactly one crewmember unaffected by the invading aliens? This adds up to a moderately enjoying program with little to make it stand out from the crowd.
Judgment: “In a Klingon tribunal, Archer stands accused of aiding fugitives of the Empire and faces death if found guilty.”
Shades of Star Trek VI! Any similarities between that film and “Judgment” are clearly intentional. Unfortunately, they forgot to give this episode a plot. I like the looks at Klingon “justice”, even though they become moralizing. The show simply lacks much to make it special.
Horizon: “Mayweather discovers his father has died and that things on his old home, the E.C.S. Horizon, have greatly changed.”
And now we get Season Two’s token Travis episode! “Horizon” exists as little more than an excuse to give him some screen time, and it doesn’t become memorable. It’s a cheesy family drama that feels more like soap opera than Trek. I do enjoy our glimpses of the cargo ship, as they offer a fun contrast to the much more polished world of Starfleet.
The Breach: “When militants take over a world, the Enterprise crew move to evacuate Denobulan geologists that are deep underground. Meanwhile, Phlox has to save a dying Antaran that refuses treatment due to the history of their races.”
Too much of this episode focuses on that rescue expedition. Those moments should get a little attention but not as much as we find. Their prevalence shortchanges the much more interesting Phlox story. Those aspects become involving, but they don’t get enough time to flourish.
Cogenitor: “The Enterprise crew makes first contact with the Vissians, a species with three genders. Trip meets one of the species' third gender, known as Cogenitor, and learns how badly Vissians treat all Cogenitors. Trip attempts to help the Cogenitor, even though it interferes with Vissian culture.”
While not an unusual topic, “Cogenitor” takes it on in an unusual way for Trek. It doesn’t present easy answers, and for every moment that progresses as expected, we find a twist that takes us by surprise. A good show, this one points out the plusses and minuses of what would become Starfleet’s Prime Directive.
Regeneration: “The remnants of an alien ship and two frozen cybernetic bodies are uncovered in the arctic by a research team. These aliens soon thaw out and flee Earth, taking the research team with them. Starfleet orders Enterprise to find them, but the crew aren't prepared for just how dangerous these aliens really are.”
In no way do I claim to know Trek continuity well, but I could have sworn that Starfleet first heard of the Borg during Next Generation’s run. However, this episode firmly establishes the species 200 years earlier, though not by name. Maybe there’s some explanation for this that I don’t know.
Anyway, “Regeneration” manages to bring the Borg into the Enterprise timeline with an exciting episode. The Borg always were one of the best Trek villains, and they give the crew a run for their money. It’s interesting to see them deal with this unknown threat, especially since their primitive technology – compared to the Next Gen folks, at least – makes things more difficult for them.
First Flight: “Archer tells T'Pol the story of when he and a rival named A.G. Robinson were in competition for breaking the Warp 2 barrier.”
Time for an old stand-by: the flashback episode. This one works pretty well, at least, as it gives us a look at a slightly younger Archer. We find a nice look at his earlier self in this entertaining piece.
Bounty: “Archer learns the Klingons have put a price on his head when he is captured by a Tellarite bounty hunter. As Enterprise pursues, a virus causes T'Pol to go into premature Pon Farr.”
Too many Trek episodes stick crew with antagonistic aliens so we can watch them eventually turn into pals. “Bounty” is another of those, and a ho-hum iteration of that tale. The T’Pol B-plot exists solely to get her into her undies. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it doesn’t make for a memorable story.
The Expanse: “An alien race known as the Xindi launch an attack on Earth, causing great casualties and massive damage. As Enterprise heads back home, an unlikely source informs Archer about the Xindi and that their next attack will destroy Earth.”
This episode appears largely to introduce the Xindi. It doesn’t offer much of a plot on its own, as it’s essentially expository. It works fine for what it is.
It does make me look forward to Season Three. Season One had its moments but was too inconsistent to really draw me in to its characters and situations. This improves during Season Two. Sure, it still isn’t terribly consistent, but I can say the same of virtually every Trek series. Season Two shows Enterprise on the upswing and serves to give us a good year of Trek.