Monday, September 12, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Cease Fire

Enterprise, Season 2
"Cease Fire"
Airdate: February 12, 2003
40 of 97 produced
40 of 97 aired


Archer is called upon to mediate an armed dispute between the Vulcans and the Andorians on a contested world.


I'm going to be under-utilized in this episode, I can feel it.



Matthew: The way I see it there are two portions to this story - the fight on the planet, and the scenes of Archer sparring with Ambassador Soval. Calling them A and B stories isn't quite accurate, because they advance the same plot. I liked the overall theme of humans being drawn into tense galactic politics against the Vulcans' wishes. Soval is always a fun character for that, because despite his seeming priggishness, he has a position and desired outcomes, and he pursues them relatively logically. The mechanics of Archer doing better than the Vulcans was pretty rote, and the ultimate resolution was rather fuzzy (who gave up what again?). 

Kevin: I like the general set up as well, and agree Soval represents the best version of Vulcans having a stick up their ass without veering into constant scene-breaking condescension. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was a little fuzzy on the specifics of the conflict. The Vulcans drove off the Andorians, but there were still 'refugees' or something there? It was unclear to me. I liked T'Pol's analogy about a Klingon colony on Pluto, thought I supposed a better one would be Alpha Centauri, nearby but not literally in-system. 

Matthew: The planet-side scenes were decent, and the action was pretty entertaining, but I wanted deeper exploration of the issues.  I very much approve of Tarah not believing in Shran's pursuit of a diplomatic solution, and her orchestrating violence to undo the process. But look: if you know you're going to have Suzie Plakson guest starring in your episode, you had damn well better give her a big scene, in which she argues and sasses and acts the hell out of her character's position. She should have been given more of a back story, something that motivated her position, something she could have delivered with the actress' inimitable panache.

Kevin: I try not just to rewrite the episode as I would want since that's not a really a criticism, but I think it would have been more fun to put Plakson in the role of an Andorian ambassador, fully acknowledging it would be a another diplomatic role for her. It would elevate her to co-equal status with Shran, and they could still have a strong backstory and then we could have gotten a little more direct friction with Soval, and the duh-duh-DUH twist that the ambassador is one of the people undermining the process could have been fun. I found the debate about tactics more fruitful than the firefight scenes, so I'm just idly wondering if more debating would have been more effective. That's really just me daydreaming more than anything. The episode we got is certainly solid. Notes of softening the ground for Soval's view on humanity and Archer get some nice attention here. I do agree that Tarah needed a little more filling in to really make her position sing. It's not this episode's fault, but I know she doesn't come back (again) and that also makes me sad. More Suzie Plakson is good. That's an axiom right up there with "nothing unreal exists."


Matthew: The guest cast really nailed it in this episode. Jeffrey Combs perfectly embodies Shran, both his aggression as well as his inner depths. The way he commands his soldiers really does create respect. I loved his arguments with Suzie Plakson's Tarah, which is why I think the real failure of this episode was not giving us more. The hardened soldier who undermines a peace process is a pretty solid trope by this point in Trek, but we did not get a Ben Maxwell or an Admiral Cartwright moment for Plakson, and that's a real shame. Gary Graham also really brings it as Soval, which is even harder given his characteristically flat affect. 

Kevin: Plakson embodies the notion that no character is a supporting role in their own story. Whatever the shortcomings of the story, she sold it. The woman has presence to spare, and given that this make up appears more technically demanding, it's really to her credit that she shines through under it. Combs is his usual excellent self, and our story critiques largely boil down to "just give us more of them talking." Graham is also good, and I wish he had scenes with Combs and Plakson outside the brief ending. An episode focusing on their negotiations really would have sang.

Production Values

Matthew: Effects in this episode were pretty strong in a low key sort of way. The ship shots in orbit were nice, the shuttle landing was well done, and the CGI urban helicopter shots showing phaser fire were pretty good - Enterprise has done this sort of thing before with alien cities, and has fallen into the uncanny valley with weird miniature CGI people. Here, the darkness of the setting pays dividends, and we get all the vista with none of the jank.

Kevin: On the one hand, yes, it is another dark, ruined city, but I think this is the most effective of them. The camera work was also really helpful in establishing the claustrophobic nature of urban warfare.

Matthew: The interior sets on the planet were dark, but lit well enough to keep my interest. There was always a blue gel light from above, or a control panel, or something that kept this from turning into yet another mushy cave backdrop. And the makeup work on the Andorians was the best yet - the antennae really added to the characters, moving with their emotions.

Kevin: Less is more with these kind of makeup effects, and they really nailed it. It's not just the movement in concert with emotions, it's that they moved in a way that implied muscle contractions. It's an easy dial to over- or underdo, and it really helps underscore that the Andorians are alien and their reactions and priorities can't be assumed to be our own.


Matthew: I think this episode stalls on a 3. It's not boring, and what's here is good enough. But this was a fertile setup for a big speech, one that explores an important distrustful militaristic worldview, and which would have been delivered by one of the all time great Trek guest actors, in opposition to one of the other all time greats. So I can't help wishing for what might have been.

Kevin: Suzie Plakson certainly always puts a 4 on the table by her mere presence, but I agree, it doesn't quite reach the heights. We just got back from seeing the 40th anniversary screening of Wrath of Khan in theaters, and it was awesome, and what was really driven home again for me is how little of that movie is actual combat. There's basically two main weapons exchanges that total a sum of maybe five to ten minutes or run time, maybe another ten if you count the submarine stalking in the nebula. The rest is just talking. Turning the episode over the extremely skilled cast to just act and react to each other would have really elevated the story. That said, it's certainly entertaining, and when our main complaint is "just do more of this in this episode," that means you are at least in decent shape. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. I agree (as usual) that this episode is borne on the strength of the acting. The 'ball is in your court' idiom exploration could so easily have fallen flat, but Graham makes it speak volumes - this is not a game to him, but he will work with the humans in their way, since it seems to him the least bad way forward. Likewise, a lesser actor than Plakson could easily have made Tarah a boring villain fading into the background - a mere plot bump. I bought her attachment to both Shran and her people's militarism every step of the way.

    This episode always reminds me how much was lost when ENT was discontinued. It feels like a fourth season episode, dealing with the big stuff. But it is a little half-hearted and unpolished. And this ensemble of actors deserve the better material to work with.