Saturday, August 13, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Shockwave, Part II

Enterprise, Season 2
"Shockwave, Part II"
Airdate: September 18, 2002
27 of 97 produced
26 of 97 aired


Archer finds himself trapped in a ruined far future, needing to communicate with his crew in the past to avert calamity.

 I'm telling you, Harry Potter is in Young Adult, not Feminist History!


Matthew: Many a Trek two-parter has suffered some drop-off in its second part, and I think this one does as well to some degree.  What do we want from a second part? Personally, I want it to answer the questions raised in the first part, which I take to be the following: 1. Who are the factions in the Temporal Cold War, and what are their aims? 2. What could resolve this conflict to the point that it is not an omnipresent obstacle for the present of the show? 3. Will Archer find out why he is important to history, and how will it change his behavior? And this episode doesn't really answer number 1 beyond "someone wants to stop the formation of the Federation," doesn't answer number 2 at all, and sort of punts on number 3. The problem with this story line is that it raises the question of why, if the bad guys' goal is to stop Archer from playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Federation, they don't send information back further, and have a Suliban push baby Archer and his tricycle over the edge of a cliff or something. More needs to be done in the story on screen to establish the parameters of this conflict, what the combatants are capable of and why they might not be capable of other things. And an episode not containing answers is something I'll give a first part a pass on, because first parts are for raising questions. But not answering them here leaves me suspecting that the writers don't have answers, and that sort of storytelling makes me nervous that I'm wasting my time.

Kevin: It's the problem with time travel that always comes close to nullifying the story. Once you establish you can do it, you can always do it, so just keep sending Terminators to the 80s. Eventually, one of them will find the target. We just have not, and apparently will not, get a real look at the participants and why and what they are fighting over. Also, I don't personally subscribe to the Great Man theory of history. If the Federation is going to form, it's going to form because a sufficient nexus of people with political and cultural power got on board. Archer's actions may make that process easier or harder and it may alter the shape of the finished product, but I don't think without him, the Federation just never forms. Sure, if you kill Julius Caesar in the crib, we don't get the nifty metaphors about the Rubicon and dice being cast, but the some other general would have eventually toppled the Republic in the name of their own ambition. Also, I don't buy that even if killing Archer prevents the founding of the Federation that that is actually a goal that someone in the 31st century would want, even if they absolutely hated the 31st century Federation. We know from the other series that the Federation is  one of the tentpoles of power in the galaxy for at least a few hundred years, so I'm not sure how you undo that and hope to have your arms around the consequences. It's too big a change, too far back, to feel like a viable goal. Now if they had given us more information and credibly built an enemy making increasingly big and irrational swings, maybe it would work. But without that information, it's just narrative fog.

Matthew: As an action plot, the shipboard stuff was reasonably entertaining.  I was not a fan of T'Pol's torture/interrogation, but everything else was pretty decent. Seeing the crew conspiring to surmount their captivity was fun, and when Archer gave them instructions, the plot moved nice and quickly. As far as the time travel plot goes, I enjoyed the bombed out cityscape, and the idea of finding things that could create a time communication device. But I would have liked for there to be more scenes located there, providing more exposition about both the future and the Temporal Cold War. Unfortunately these scenes were rather brief. I also can't help but think an additional ruined future character could have been a nice things to find in the course of the story. Maybe someone Daniels knew in the other time line whose life was radically altered.

Kevin: The torture scene was upsetting in a way that didn't quite justify itself, I agree. The Great Escape stuff was fun and it did a good job of making the crew look competent. I did find Archer using the communication thingy as his path back somewhat silly and hand wavy. 

Matthew: The resolution of whether the Enterprise mission should continue was pretty pat and cheesy. Archer's "gazelle" speech was cute and not particularly germane. It was nice to have T'Pol go to bat for the mission, and it was some nice good character building for her relationship with Archer.

Kevin: I was also hoping they would find some way to go back and save the colony. I don't know why, but it doesn't quite feel like a win just because the crew is not being reprimanded for something not their fault. 3600 people are dead, and were killed in a really hideous manner. Sure, it's dumb that they are mining an explosive gas into their own atmosphere, but details, details.


Matthew: This was an Archer showcase, and Bakula brought his typical "I'm annoyed but also responsible" attitude to the proceedings. I enjoyed his scenes with Matt Winston's Daniels. Winston was at his best when boasting of how he learned technique X in high school, and had his most challenging delivery when he was asked to give cryptic half answers to things.

Kevin: These are good actors all around, but when you give them nothing but green screens and vague references, it's hard to find something to latch on to.

Matthew: Jolene Blalock convincingly played mentally traumatized, and it kind of creeped me out to witness. I liked Connor Trinner and Dominic Keating's can-do insurgents quite a bit. Linda Park put in some good physical work in the tight crawlspace.

Kevin: Blalock's performance was almost too good. It was up there with Picard's in Chain of Command, and it almost derails the story, because there's so much there, the story wants to go there to explore it more. It's not something she did wrong, but that level of trauma just doesn't gel with the zippy escape story it was paired with. 

Production Values

Matthew: A production thing that stuck out to me were the power conduits that Hoshi was asked to crawl through. They looked fine, that's not it, it's just that the script made a great deal of fuss over how small they were and only a very small person could navigate them. But Hoshi had many inches of clearance at basically every juncture. So it kind of dragged me out of things a tad.

Kevin: My objection was the juvenile shirt-pulling gag. I'm not a prude, and I acknowledge I enjoyed Trip running around in his underwear last season, but this just felt extra creepy and exploitive. Like if you told me it was Linda Park's idea and she thought it was hilarious, I will back down from this position, but short of that, it really felt like someone on staff just getting the young woman in the case naked because they could.

Matthew: I appreciate the design philosophy behind the library and other future sets, but the green screen work was quite bad, The lighting on the actors was totally wrong, and lighting it better was not beyond the bounds of 2002 technology. The instances in which Daniels and Archer were rendered as CGI on a digital background also stuck out like a sore thumb.

Kevin: I get that building an actual palatial ruined library would probably be a tall order, but yeah, this was about the quality of the library in Myst.


Matthew: I'm at a 3 on this one. It had several evocative images and some good character interactions, but overall it punted on all the types of big questions I want an "event" episode to answer. Good performances and mixed production values seal the deal on a squarely average episode.

Kevin: I agree with the 3 for a total of 6. If nothing else, I think both parts of the two-parter succeeded in having a steady, brisk tempo. It's been a recurring complaint of mine that even when the story and acting is succeeding, that it just feels a little more languid than it should, and this was a nice, solid outing that kept a good pace throughout.

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