Friday, November 11, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Impulse

Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: October 8, 2003
56 of 97 produced
56 of 97 aired


Enterprise responds to an automated distress call from the Vulcan ship Seleya.

Though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver...



Matthew: So this episode pays off the setup from earlier of Vulcan ships having entered the expanse and having their crews go cuckoo for cocoa puffs. We knew it was coming, and it's here. The upshot for the larger season's plot is that it was attempting to insulate their ship with Trellium-D that caused their insanity. But in the main, this is just a zombie episode. I am not opposed to zombie episodes if they are well executed or tell us something interesting about our characters. "Regeneration" from Season 2 was surprisingly effective, especially given what should have been an enjoyment-squelching retcon (previous zombie episodes include other Borg stories, as well as TNG "Conspiracy"). This is about the straightest zombie tale we've gotten - they're insane, and that's pretty much it. So it wasn't inspiring of any deep thought. The nuts and bolts of the plot were reasonably well executed, though, with a ticking clock of sorts on T'Pol's loss of emotional control.

Kevin: I think this episode would have been better earlier in the arc, maybe episode 3 or 4. The implication of the setup of The Expanse was that this effect happened pretty quickly. Also, is the idea that both Vulcan ships suffered this fate is odd. Did both ships figure out the Trellium-D thing so quickly? The original idea seemed that the anomalies were somehow directly responsible. But I can let that go. I just think this would have been better earlier on to help set up the stakes of the Delphic Expanse. That aside, I think it would have helped if a few of the Vulcan crew were still sane-ish and transforming, especially since T'Pol indicates she knows these people. It may be a classic trope to have the friend bitten by the zombie, but it's a trope for a reason.

Matthew: I liked the question of whether the Vulcan crew could be saved, and the dilemma it presented. I wish it had been given more screen time, as opposed to corridor chases (oh, I'll get to the corridor chases). Another story thread I would have liked to see better developed was the crew morale idea. Voyager would have done a whole episode's B-plot on whether Neelix could cheer people up. Here, it's basically two mini scenelets. I think this idea could have really humanized the conflict of the season and would have lent itself to character building moments. Is R&R important? How do you engage in it when you're angry and depressed? The movie night scene we got was a lot of fun, and I wanted it to last longer.

Kevin: I think they really gave short shrift to this element of the story. It's just taken as read that these 140 people are too far gone. Again, this is why having the one sane shipmate who is on the verge of a breakdown would really help better define the stakes. My only issue with movie night is that it appears to be the only social activity and it's always 20th century American movies from a narrow band of the 1920s to the 1960s that curiously are all part of the Paramount library. Wonder why that is... Anyway, it just seems a little narrow that this very narrow band of a single art form is the only way they unwind after three seasons. My kingdom for Dr. Crusher's drama club.

Matthew: The asteroid mining B-story was kind of mundane. They needed to get some Trellium on the ship, and they got it. Landing on an asteroid would be an interesting sequence when done in a more hard sci-fi manner, focusing on technical challenges and such. But we didn't really get that.

Kevin: This was basically just a reason to make sure the Enterprise couldn't save the day immediately, while that kind of too neat set up is usually fine, this time it just felt tooooo obvious.


Matthew: This was a Jolene Blalock showcase - and a showcase of something other than T'Pol dealing with an assault. She did a great job modulating her voice and increasing her tension scene by scene. Her paranoia was believable, and her full on insanity scream was legitimately terrifying. It was nice to see her get the chance to let loose, the inverse of Season 1's "Strange New World."

Kevin: Agreed on that scream. That was really well done. The acting of the zombie actors was terrible. It was reading like a knockoff of the Thriller video, but maybe that was a directorial and not acting choice.

Production Values

Matthew: I do not have epilepsy or any extreme degree of photosensitivity (I do wear sunglasses almost 100% of the time outdoors). But I felt queasy and upset by the strobe lights in the Vulcan ship's hallways. I hate it as a shorthand for "scary" or "broken," because I think it's lazy visual storytelling. What in holy hell do Vulcan corridors look like when the lights are functioning properly? But I also have to think people with actual medical conditions would find this episode very damaging to their well-being - the strobing was very bright and the hallway scenes seemed to occupy a good 20 minutes of episode run-time.

Kevin: I renew my objection to the acting, if only to prime the pump for my strenuous objection to the make up. This was sub par make up, shockingly so. The coloring was flat and unconvincing, and the application felt cheap, something I normally don't think about Trek make up. Roger Corman flicks have better makeup, and it's sort of their thing that they look cheap.

Matthew: The Vulcan ship itself looked fine enough, with a sickbay, sort of bridge, and a lot of hallways. I would have liked to have seen some quarters, or to have had a better idea of the internal layout of the vessel, sort of like we get in TNG "Starship Mine." The ship exteriors and asteroids were pretty average CGI.

Kevin: I liked the exteriors for themselves, but yearn for the model version. The asteroids were terrible, and waaaay too closely spaced. I get that spacing them a real distance would not read on TV, but this was just too busy.


Matthew: I think this was a pretty average episode all around story-wise, and it had some very good acting by Blalock. How much should I penalize this episode for the strobe lights? I think I'm going to stick with a 3, but with a stern warning. If they do it again, it's an automatic 1 point deduction.

Kevin:  I agree on your critique of the strobe light, and the associated hyper-quick-cut cinematography, but for me it was the make up and skipping right on over the interesting moral question that sink this one. I will, however, still give it a three, on the strength of Blalock's acting, for a total of 6.


  1. You raise an interesting point about how the Vulcan ships apparently both discovered the Trellium-D solution, and also failed to realize its dangers. It might have been something for your proposed not-all-gone crewmember to talk about. The second ship in particular ought to have shown some extra, Vulcan restraint. Maybe it was down to the urgency of the rescure mission that it was deemed an acceptable risk?

    Anyway, I seem to recall that the usual zombie problem crops up: How do they only attack outsiders? How long can a group of people this unstable avoid harming and killing each other? And how do they manage to activate and maintain the replicators regularly? The need for more research is clearly indicated.

    1. Right, like how do the mindless hordes know how to release dangerous gas into the life support system?

      I think the problem with the two ships both suffering this fate is obviously the trellium solution had not been imagined yet when they wrote the season premiere. The clear tone of the Event Horizon rip off in the season premiere was that something about the Expanse itself was the culprit.