Thursday, February 23, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Daedelus

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: January 14, 2005
85 of 97 produced
85 of 97 aired


Enterprise is visited by preeminent transporter physicist and inventor Emory Erickson, who wishes to test a radical new transport technology. Or does he?


  The.... script.... just won't... materialize!



Kevin: Memory Alpha informs me that Manny Coto came up with the idea for this. That means, somewhat shockingly, that it was not a season one/two script someone found in a crawlspace at Paramount. This episode is basically Ultimate Computer + Jetrel, except the result is a fraction of either of those episodes. Coto's goal was to explore the history of the transporter, which to date, we hadn't gotten. The problem is we already introduced the transporter, and we've already covered all the proto-McCoy humor of people's anxiety about. Shoehorning a genius but reckless inventor into the process doesn't make it more interesting.

Matthew: Agreed on the similarities.  I think one of my main problems with this story is that it retcons in a "second father" and "best friend" to Archer that have gone wholly unmentioned until now. I know and accept that some amount of character building involves retconning, but it needs to be done more elegantly than this. Has Archer really never noticed that Emory Erickson is a self-absorbed twat who doesn't care about hurting those around him? It diminishes his character to have such blinders on. He could have at least acknowledged the haze of youth or something. That would have softened the impact of this new character information. In a meta sense, although this is a reasonably apt use of the name "Daedalus" (he being the inventor father of the doomed Icarus), I can't help but feeling annoyed that I don't get to see a Daedalus class starship in this episode. This is a very nerdy critique, however.

Kevin: The mechanics of the story are pretty predictable from the jump. The Ericksons only speak to each other in coded warnings about their plan. It was clear from the first 'haunting' what was going on and we were just waiting for the crew to catch up. The story limps along to its inevitable conclusion without ever really engaging me. A father's concern for his son and Trip dealing with some misplaced hero worship are sound story telling ideas on paper, but they never really come alive in any real way. It even feels trite to make the obvious criticisms, like how could a corporeal being exist as a cloud for twenty years and somehow be recoverable? Jetrel has the same problem, but it was in service of a much more interesting story about redemption, so we could overlook it. The story here was just not enough.

Matthew: As a father, I am amenable to father-son relationship/loss stories. I'm the prime demographic target, really. So why does something like "The Visitor" work and this one fall flat? The sci-fi nuts and bolts are fine, if a bit expected based on the past episodes you've cited. But the emotional story fails  because the character of Emory Erickson and his relationship with Quinn was not adequately examined. This man seems rather ethically challenged and self absorbed. How does this impact his relationship with his son? The script tells us that Quinn was "his whole world." Uh, what about his daughter? And if he was his whole world, why was his son willing to engage in such a risky experiment? Was he totally on board with his dad? Was he seeking his approval? Was he equally challenged in terms of risk-reward analysis and ethical grounding? We're just not given much of this, and without it, I have too many questions as a fellow parent (incidentally, this reminds me a bit of the M'Benga story line in Strange New Worlds, it is just mercifully condensed into one episode instead of stretched across eight).


Kevin: Bill Cobbs is one of those actors you've seen a hundred times and I was honestly surprised that he hadn't done an episode of Star Trek before. He has the voice and he has the gravitas, but it was sadly wasted here. I bought his desperation to save his son, and I imagine in a better crafted story, it really could have felt like something. Leslie Silva's Danica was pretty flat for me, but again, I think it's the writing, or at least I'm not comfortable saying it was her and not the writing. I'm not sure if Viola Davis could have squeezed interest of those lines.

Matthew: I agree that the script did not serve either character, and neither actor was able to really overcome it.

Kevin: He's baaaaaack. I was gobsmacked by how quickly Bakula reverted to angry suburban dad. Again, the writing did him no favors, but wow. He was snapping at everyone for no reason and flinging from one irrational decision to another because the script ordered it. Ugh.

Matthew: I agree that Snippy Archer Jerk was an unwelcome return, but I will say that I caught some interesting nuances in his expressions during the rescue scenes. It was as if Bakula was clearly aware of the script's deficiencies and wanted to shade Archer with a bit more nuance. I really liked Connor Trinneer's reticence to help and arguments with Bakula.

Production Values

Kevin: I don't have a lot to say here, and it may just be because I was not well disposed to the episode generally, but did this episode feel really underlit? I think I have developed a Pavlovian response to bad Trek and associate it with being under lit. Beyond that, there was nothing really to write home about here. The transporter and ghost effects were pretty average to below average CGI.

Matthew: I don't think it as terribly dark as episodes go, but since I am coming off of Picard Season 3, my eyes have adjusted to practically no light output from the screen. Anything would seem brighter than that. The directorial choice that stuck out to me was the weird whip-pan closeups on the faces of the actors when they were trying to rescue Quinn. It was jarring and annoying, and amateurish looking. We were too close to the actors' faces to really register their emotions. I'd say the transporter and ghost effects were solidly average.


Kevin: Especially after a resoundingly successful three-parter, this episode feels like a return to form in the worst ways. It's just a bland, predictable story and it even manages to somehow revivify characterization problems we thought we left behind last season. This is a disappointing 2 for me.

Matthew: I am in agreement on the 2 for a total of 4. This script was two rewrites away from working, and from justifying its similarities with past scripts. It felt like it was a rush job, like they needed something to fill in between their better planned and written story arcs for this season. Ultimately, it's kind of forgettable, but not horribly bad.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. There was the potential to add some interesting background and worldbuilding, but it just went all meh.

    I am surprised this isn't a recycled script. It feels isolated, and it would have fit much better early in the run. If we were still learning about Archer's, well, daddy issues, and the transporter hadn't become routine yet, then there could be some sense of mystery being revealed.

    And yeah, Archer is getting pretty unseemly high on the scale the episode after he had Surak in his head...