Saturday, January 14, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Storm Front, Part I

Enterprise, Season 4
"Storm Front, Part I"
Airdate: October 8, 2004
76 of 97 produced
76 of 97 aired


Enterprise finds itself on Earth in the past, but one in which the Nazis are winning World War II with alien assistance.


"Ach, but der red states are in all zee wrong places!"





Matthew: This episode has a lot going for it, and I mean a lot. It's got alternate history, it's got location shoots, it's got antagonists with clear motives, it's got a strong guest cast of characters who are well drawn in a short amount of time, and it's got SPACE NAZIS. Let's talk about that - the aliens here have an identifiable motivation that we learn unequivocally in the first 45 minutes of the story. I can't tell you how much this involved me in the story. Alien combatants in the temporal cold war being stranded in the 1940s who need to use 1940s technology to build a portal home works. It makes sense to me, it informs their actions, and it's just kind of cool (similar to Spock building a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins). The way the Nazis are portrayed also really works well - using only some gunshot noises, a brief racist jeer, and a short dinner conversation about bad food rations, their disruption of normal life is very economically portrayed. The record player interlude really works, too.

Kevin: I agree with the structural reasons the story works, and clear motivations are portrayed pretty organically. I will only add the caveat that I sucked a lot of air in through my teeth when the Nazis showed up. Star Trek has done Nazis a few times now, and the bloom is off the rose for me. I get that WWII New York is a permanent set on the Paramount backlot and all those uniforms are just sitting around, but it's just not that interesting to me anymore. The Nazis are unequivocally bad and the people who ally with them for any reason are also bad by association. There's no real narrative lift there, and Trek does its villains best when there is a little bit of shading. It's also just not fun watching an alt history of Nazis invading America sitting here in 2023, in which each and every federal election for the rest of my life will have at the best outcome I can hope for beating back incipient fascism 50.1/49.9. Nazis work as allegory when we all agreed the Nazis were bad and shouldn't come back.

Matthew: When I say guest characters are finely drawn, here are examples of what I mean. Alicia Travers provides aid to Archer. She has a husband who is fighting on the front lines. She lives in Brooklyn and since she is Black, she has suffered negative prejudicial treatment as a "colored" person. I learned all of these things in short scenes that both introduce these facts about her and get me to care about her. Similarly, Sal and Carmine present themselves as ex-gangsters who are working for the resistance, and they have likable motives and demeanors - but demeanors that fit their prior histories. It just really populates the world and it does so economically, consistently, and effectively. I don't mean to harp on Kurtzman Trek here (well...) but this is the sort of crisp screen writing that is in very short supply on those shows. Coto knows what he's doing here, and even if it isn't the most inspired writing, it demonstrates a baseline competence that is really refreshing.

Kevin: I was less enthralled with the character work. I agree that Alicia is well sketched out, and fits in nicely with your Edith Keelers and your Gillian Taylors. The gangsters felt more like caricature, something closer to ones we got in DS9s Badda Bing Badda Bang, where the over the top was a little more intentional. This was very "New York written by people not in New York" for me.

Matthew: The nuts and bolts of the plot are paced well. Archer tries to find out about the alien Nazis, which leads him to the technology that puts him back in contact with Enterprise. Meanwhile, Enterprise receives a tip from Silik that puts them on the hunt for the aliens from a different angle. The action scenes are interspersed in a pleasing proportion to supporting dialogue scenes. The whole thing really maintains tension and exposition in a great balance that never flags and always entertains. If this is what Coto can do, it bodes well for Season 4.

Kevin: I will agree that this feels more confidently paced like a Star Trek "fix history" story. It slots in along side them more easily than a lot of Enterprise stories have. I think this episode ends up doing a little too much world building and recapitulating the stakes, but that's always a hard balance for a two parter.


Matthew: Scott Bakula isn't angry any more. He acts like a Starfleet Captain. Part of this is surely the writing, but it's refreshing either way.  Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock also hold up their end of the story well. Matt Winston does excellent work as a grievously wounded Daniels.

Kevin: I agree Bakula did a good job with confusion and frustration without slipping into the now infamous 'suburban dad' territory. The rest of the main cast did good work with managing the crisis and processing Archer's apparent death. Silik will get more to do next week, but it's always a delight seeing him.

Matthew: The guest cast was really exceptional here. Golden Brooks had an effortless charisma as Alicia Travers, and really sold this is a real world with real people who were tired of it. Similarly, Joe Maruzzo surmounted Italian mobster cliches and gave Sal a rough but understandable inner life that sold his character. And Jack Gwaitney did a commendable job acting through heavy makeup, giving Vosk a real quiet menace. I wanted to know more about him, and I enjoyed when he was on screen. That says a lot. Our human Nazis, especially J. Paul Boehmer and Christopher Neame, handled their accents well and avoided coming off as cartoonish cliches. 

Kevin: I think the mobsters were a little closer to cartoonish cliches, but that was as much the writing. Golden Brooks was good in scenes talking about her neighborhood and the little ways the occupation is humiliating. I liked Gwaitney's Vosk as well. Maybe it's literally that he looks like Nosferatu, but he was definitely scary. Boehmer should have a conversation about how many times he's played a Nazi on Star Trek.

Production Values

Matthew: Getting off the ship and outside of interior sets does wonders for the feeling of an expansive world here. Are they standard back lot city sets? Sure. Is it planet California? Sure. But it's a real change of pace compared to the last season. Costumes, uniforms, firearms, hair and makeup - it all really works wonders for visual interest. It reminds me of Voyager's Hirogen Nazis - and that's a good thing. Side note - keeping some healing wounds on Hoshi's forehead is a really nice continuity touch.

Kevin: I will applaud them for finding a non-desert biome of Southern California. The costumes and makeup work were pretty good. I'll get to my complaints with the digital film in a second, but even in the hyper-crisp shots, the makeup still looked real.

Matthew: The digital mattes certainly had a fakey look to them. But execution isn't the same as imagination. A damaged White House with Nazi banners? I'm there for it. The alien portal machine also had a nice sense of visual imagination and was better executed. The shot of the fighter planes attacking the shuttlepod over San Francisco worked well and the cityscape/coastline really popped. I also quite liked the German language war map in the White House.

Kevin: The city scape in the teaser was good, but a lot of the establishing shots were not great for me. The combination of digital film and CGI renders them even more like video game cut scenes. The White House shot looked really fake to me since it was clearly the central structure was sitting in an open field. Even if the east and west wings had been destroyed, it wouldn't look like that. And something about the placement of the tanks made it look like a diorama and not a place. It was the location equivalent of gumby people. Even the building itself didn't seem to have anything approaching a real texture. And the digital film itself, used as a cost cutting device, just isn't there. It makes a lot of the scenes, particularly of people talking in a room, look like soap operas. I suppose I'll get used to it, and I know digital film was still in its infancy, but it's not great here. The true outdoor shots are better, but the interiors really suffer.


Matthew: You know, I'm having a hard time identifying major flaws here. I was consistently, even deeply entertained by the story. The acting was top notch and the number and quality of guest stars was exceptional. And the visuals were similarly rich. So I think I'm going to have to go with a 5 on this one. It's a slam bang start to the season, and places itself highly among the extensive tradition of Trek time travel stories. Will it stick the landing? We shall see.

Kevin: I was thoroughly entertained, but not as rapturously as you were. I just see this as 'highly competent' action stories, rather than something deeper that gets me to break out a 5. I'm starting from a place of just not wanting to watch Nazis do things anymore. The production value had a lot of detail that really worked and the acting was good overall, but in the end, it's still a fairly paint-by-number 'save the timeline' story, and of course, we know they will. It's been executed by a better leader who both 'gets' Trek and can turn that into results, so that's very good, and encouraging. I'm going with a 4, for sheer entertainment value. That makes a total of 9.


  1. I'm glad you guys are enjoying it, at least. :) I'm feeling a bit like Ghân-buri-Ghân here, impatient with the udeniably improved writing: "Kill gorgûn! Kill orc-folk! No other words please Wild Men! Drive away bad writing and nonsense with bright iron!"

  2. The more I look at the map, the more I wonder what the heck Canada is up to, since they sent troops to the front in the real WWII. Also, do the Germans print a new map every day? Every week?