Friday, November 18, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Twilight

 Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: November 5, 2003
59 of 97 produced
59 of 97 aired


Archer wakes up during an attack on the ship, but finds that he is no longer the captain and that Earth is being destroyed. 

THIS is Ceti Alpha V!!!!


Kevin: This is a pretty good story idea. Once again, Enterprise has managed to riff on other episodes without feeling like a retread. The future jump/memory gap recalls TNG "Future Imperfect" and filtering that through the lens of Memento helps make it unique. I think they could have gone farther in how weird and awful this would be. How many times has T'Pol had to give this speech? What happened after Porthos died? This is literally a version of hell of finding out your world is gone every day anew. I think once they established the mechanism of the memory loss, it did get a little blurry story-wise. They said he loses memory after a few hours, he seemed to retain a whole business day right up to the end. I suppose it would have complicated the 45 minute teleplay to have him constantly blanking out, but they could have tweaked it to the reset occurs during sleep or something. That aside, the idea of the memory loss in this way is good and they used it well to tell an interesting and credible "what if?" story.

Matthew: Once the shape of this story became clear, I was very, very pleased. Here we have Star Trek, using a science fiction trope to tell both a good character story as well as to turn the season narrative on its head. Destroying Earth in the teaser was a great move. I agreed on the wonky mechanics of losing memory - when does it happen and why? From a science fictional standpoint, when the parasites were eliminated from current and all past scans... why would they ever have known they were there again? They should have never seen them, and thus been unaware of their removal. But these are nitpicks in what was overall a very entertaining and engaging story on multiple levels.

Kevin: The future glimpse is good. We get a concise recap of the Xindi destruction of humanity, and particularly when T'Pol is reciting colonies and convoys destroyed, it's quite effective and haunting. I am annoyed that they quickly kill off Mayweather so he's not even in the scene when Archer comes back on board. Like...give the man something to do or let him out of his contract. I liked the version of Trip as captain. It was the right balance of the man we know worn down by a decade of living on the edge. All around, some fun character work. I will admit I was annoyed by another firefight, but that's more a macro problem than an issue with this use of it. It was well paced, and added the tension it was supposed to. It is the acceleration of the plot, not the replacement, so that's good. I would like one episode without a running a firefight through the corridors. As a treat. 

Matthew: The strangeness for me was in making Trip so antagonistic towards T'Pol. Coupled with the quasi-romantic vibes on the Archer/T'Pol story, it seemed to run counter to the will-they-won't-they that has been brewing with Trip and T'Pol. Anyway, yes, I quite enjoyed the hypothetical future. I liked the idea of humans being a refugee diaspora, similar to Battlestar. I wish we had gotten to see more of it, though budgets do have a way of reducing extras and wide-ranging sets. All of the character beats made a good amount of sense.

Kevin: I am on record loathing any and all attempts to romanticize T'Pol and Archer. I think they stayed just inside the line on this one. Obviously, they would be closer, and caring for him for so long would create an intimacy. I just don't think that has to be filtered through romantic attraction and would have been more fun to explore what their friendship looks like at this point. Aside from that, it was great character work all around.

Matthew: I agree. For what it's worth, they definitely did not indicate that they had consummated anything, which of course makes the most sense, given that she would basically be pushing herself on someone whose relationship with her is at the same level it was 12 years ago (an aside - this would be very similar to the biggest problem in Groundhog Day, in which Andie McDowell's character ends up finding Bill Murray's character attractive enough to basically marry him, after only 12 hours or so from her viewpoint).


Kevin: The strength of the episode is definitely the acting. Blalock knocks it out of the park, infusing her interactions with Archer with a decade of history only she knows. Just some top notch work. I will also praise Bakula. We've dinged him for defaulting to our now trademarked "Angry Suburban Dad" routine, and you figure a profound neurological disorder would be an excuse to exacerbate that, but Bakula handles the iterations of his memory loss well, and I liked his rapport with Blalock. Great work, all around this week, team.

Matthew: Yeah, the lack of Angry Archer really helped this out for me. He was bewildered, and yeah he punched a guy, but he wasn't glowering or lurching around like an ape. I believed his impairment. I agree with your appraisal of Blalock's subtle effectiveness.

Kevin: Trinneer and Billingsley also turn in some good work with variations on their established characters. Keating and Park don't get real character work to do, but they do have new hairstyles, something the time jump in the finale can't even deign to give them, so I guess they should take what they can get. 

Matthew: I think Trinneer was the next best in this episode. I wasn't thrilled by Phlox being given the task of yet again prying into someone's romantic lives - but Billingsley sold it as best he could.

Production Values

Kevin: So the last human colony felt a lot like the mining colony from Marauders, but hey, if you live and work in Southern California, then your exterior shots will be in Southern California, I guess. If the show shot in Vancouver, we'd be all "Another pine forest, really?" Anyway, at least the setting and vibe work for the story. The interior of Archer's home is nice too, airy and open. They nailed the "retiree who moved to a condo in Arizona for the weather" aesthetic flawlessly. I was...fine...with the planet destroyer effect. It read pretty video gamey, but I guess that's fine. And it's not this episode's fault that I have some very negative associations with "ill-defined villain using a laser to bore a hole into and destroy a planet" thanks to Star Trek 2009. That said, it is a nice little additional to my file of "A lot of Enterprise's problems are also NuTrek's problems, separated only by what they could get away with in context." 

Matthew: There were two major explosions here. The latter, the Enterprise blowing up, was pretty bad, all told. It looked like copy and pasting of various other explosions on top of one another in Photoshop. I liked the planet explosion better. The way the tectonic plates ripped upwards from below did it for me, even though I agree the overall explosion looked a bit fake (to the extent that I can judge how fake a planet being rent into oblivion can look). I also like the set designs for Archer and T'Pol's refugee house. I like that they still have orange juice and eggs in the future, even in a tome of such privation.

Kevin: The ship battles were good, and I like the design of the Intrepid. It felt like a pared down version of a Starfleet vessel, which it was. The battle sequence was good, on balance. I liked the idea of targeting and destroying the bridge, but the effect looked very video game and while I'm not saying I want to see a bunch of Gumby People get spaced, the empty bridge read weirdly, too. Great idea, just off in the execution. My real praise for this section is for the wardrobe department. This is pretty much the equivalent of Jellico putting Troi in a standard uniform. Jolene Blalock is a very attractive woman and while the standard issue jumpsuit wasn't exactly doing her any favors, it's not supposed to, and it was nice to see her in uniform. Her civilian wear was also great. They really nailed "hot suburban mom in a Judd Apatow movie" with both the hair and costume. The hairstyle is simple but flattering and the blousy top says "I want to look nice at book club for me, not the other suburban moms, but also a little bit the suburban moms."  I know this won't last, but it was nice to see them realize that they can dress Blalock with the understanding that while, yes, all people on TV are anomalously attractive, we can do that without ignoring or shredding the character we've written. 

Matthew: So actually, a bunch of Gumby crewmen did get spaced. It was such a quick shot it's easy to miss. The shot looked really cool generally, so I'm OK with it, though it raises the question of why every attack doesn't focus on the bridge. Very much agreed on T'Pol's costuming and hair. Hoshi's bob was a bit... meh for me. Ditto Reed's goatee. I am normally not sensitive to wigs, but Archer clearly was wearing a rug (apparently it was one of Ambassador Soval's).  I also thought they overdid the makeup and styling on aging the characters, especially Phlox. It's only been 12 years, right? And Trip's frosted sideburns looked ridiculous.


Kevin: So overall, I have nitpicks and what I think would be fun alternative ideas for the stories, but few straight up complaints. The premise is an interesting one and they mine it well for character work. I suppose my one real wish for the episode to really push it that last mile is some kind of lasting impact in the 'prime' timeline. Inner Light, for example, was so powerful in part because it made a lasting impression on Picard and how he related to people. Likewise, even something as simple as knowing something new about the Xindi or a slightly new status quo with T'Pol would have been the cherry on the sundae. That said, this is still a solid four from me.

Matthew: I want to give this a 5, because of how enthusiastically I responded to this episode on an emotional level. It feels like Real Star Trek, and after so much of the crappy, kind of off flavors of the artificial stuff, this felt like manna from heaven. But for me what drags it down is not going a bit more deeply into T'Pol's emotional state (while fully accepting that you and I both do not want Archer/T'Pol development) and the temporal plot hole I mentioned above. I want my timey-wimey stories to be tighter than this. Ultimately, an episode like VOY "Timeless" was better executed - and I gave that a 4, so I can't go above that here. That makes for a total of 8.

1 comment:

  1. Somewhat more curmudgeonly, I dislike the near-erasure of the episode rather more than you do. In Voyager's Timeless, Harry knows he is erasing his future, so he makes it a point to send a message to his past self. So the writers [Goldblum pause] found a way.

    Worse for me is that we once again has Archer as the indispensable captain. Earth is doomed unless it gets saved by this man. He also happens to be white, cis, and straight, which would be less glaring if the show had strong inclusivity. Though B&B can share most of the blame this time with Mike Sussman.

    I'm reminded of Q Who, when Q abducts Picard. The captain is confident that the Enterprise will carry on in its mission without him. He clearly does not subscribe to the Great Man theory of history.

    Those things aside, this is a largely enjoyable view, especially for the Xindi arc.