Sunday, August 14, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Carbon Creek

 Enterprise, Season 2
"Carbon Creek"
Airdate: September 25, 2002
26 of 97 produced
27 of 97 aired


T'Pol tells the story of her great grandmother's visit to an American small town in the 50s.

The "mechanical rice picker" story isn't going to fly, buddy.


Kevin: This episode feels like it lies somewhere between TOS' City on the Edge of Forever and Voyager's 11:59. The vague sense of economic depression and the clothing choices were what made me think City on the Edge of Forever, and the general "here's a pleasant if lightweight story about my ancestor on Earth" were giving the notes of Voyager. I remember that we liked but didn't love 11:59 since, again, while pleasant, didn't really have any stakes for the characters in the past or present. I think that same description applies here. It's cute, but it's not much more than that. Maybe if T'Pol had been a little more in favor of humanity's attempts at space or maybe had T'Mir been the one to show such faith in them and T'Pol disagreed with her, it could have felt like more of a character study for T'Pol. As it stands, it's nice, but not much more than that.

Matthew: I think there was enough there to keep me invested in the outcome. Was T'Pol's story true? Will Mestral hook up with Maggie? Will Billy be able to go to college? Will the Vulcans be discovered? Maybe I'm a really easy target for nostalgia right now, and for simple tales of nice people being generally good but the overall milieu worked for me, as did the "aliens hiding among common people" trope. I think Mestral's overall story arc was a good one, with his compassion for humanity. It might have helped even more to have one scene in which he relates (perhaps to Maggie) some longing in his childhood or adolescence for change/discovery/something of the like.

Kevin: The story in Pennsylvania is also nice, but a little paint by number. The Vulcans practically stumbled into a production of Our Town. It's not that anything was bad, but I don't think any of the townspeople really rose above cardboard cutouts. It all moved fine, and the basic conflict of saving the humans versus possibly revealing their true identity is solid, but again it doesn't really go anywhere. It seems no one had any follow up questions for how Mestral was able to save them, so that works out. The velcro bit was probably was a little too cute for me. It lacked the lampshade hanging charm of Scotty inventing transparent aluminum.

Matthew: The Velcro bit annoyed me. I don't like attributing human achievements to alien intervention. It would have served the story just as well to have it be their ship's reserve of Platinum or Francium or  whatever precious materials might have been used in their devices. I guess I can see an argument for T'Mir choosing it because it would not harm human society to be given the invention. Anyway, I really liked what it represented, that T'Mir had come to care about Billy's college prospects. It humanizes the Vulcans, and not in a bad way. They're still aliens, and their values have a different emphasis than hours, but clearly they must have the capability for charity and care, even if they try to strip these of their emotional undercurrents in the service of stoicism and equanimity.

Kevin: Also, I didn't get why the episode had T'Pol be cagey about the veracity of the story and then immediately confirm it with the purse. I almost wished one of the crew had simply noticed it in her quarters and asked about it. It would have felt more organic. Also, again, I'm not sure if the T'Pol we've known thus far would invest so much in this keepsake to have it around. I haven't shaken the idea that it feels slightly odd to give T'Pol such a larger more personal connection to Earth that hasn't really manifested before now. Again, the overall tone and story are nice and it was nice watching it, but like 11:59, it felt like it stopped at 'pleasant.'

Matthew: The purse did seem like a bit of a retcon. Like, I guess it could be in her personal effects, and she had it transferred to Enterprise.... it just strains my credulity slightly. I don't mind her having a heretofore unknown affinity for Earth, I just wish they had connected the dots a bit more, tying this to her sojourns in San Francisco and her ability to last on a human vessel for so long. Clearly, some Vulcans are more amenable to human friendship and extended contact than others. Offering some explanation for this by way of this story makes sense - it just wasn't done explicitly.


Kevin: Blalock was good, but I think she read as too much as herself. I'm going to double down on the idea that T'Mir as the slightly rebellious cheerleader for humanity would have been the better choice just to give her something else to do. Her performance was fine, but it was also basically regular T'Pol.

Matthew: It's a real challenge to differentiate Vulcans without making them seem out of place, isn't it? I will say this - it was nice to dress her differently, and to not have her striking those bizarre poses in her chair on the bridge. The script also gave her interesting acting challenges, to indicate charity and fellow feeling without breaking the Vulcan facade. I think she did this pretty well.

Kevin: J. Paul Boehmer takes a break from playing a Nazi several times in Star Trek to be Mestral and I liked him overall. I don't think he or Anne Cusack really had any chemistry with each other, but I admit I got a chuckle over his I Love Lucy line. Hank Harris' Jack was a bit of a bum note for me. He wasn't bad, exactly, but he felt kind of flat.

Matthew: I think J. Paul Boehmer and Ann Cusack make this episode what it is. Boehmer is of course being Vulcan, which dampens his natural theatricality (both his Nazi and his Borg drone very very flourish-y characters). Either way, I have thoroughly enjoyed every Boehmer appearance in Trek, and this is no different. But boy, does Ann Cusack have natural charisma. What is it about an actor that instantly makes us want them to succeed? It's not that she is super attractive (she is a nice looking woman to be sure), it's just something in her mannerisms, her eyes, her line delivery - I just want her to make it, you know? That casting did a lot for this episode.

Production Values

Kevin: The actual small town they shot this in was nice, since it made it feel like a small town quite credibly. And congrats on finding a town in California that didn't read immediately as southern California. The costumes were all nice and period appropriate, but given the setting were a little on the plain side. Just once, I want them to get marooned somewhere fun, like Paris in the court of Louis XIV or in the reigns of one of the really opulent Tsars. 

Matthew: The location shoot was a boon to the series, after sooooo many bottle shows in the gray, steely corridors of the ship. The locations, costumes, and extra work were all really rich. They did a pretty good job of avoiding anachronism..... EXCEPT when T'Mir stuffed the fifties in the money jar and a big fat high visibility "50" from the recent redesign of the currency was visible. Come on, people! I do feel I must point out the gratuitous nipple sillhouette when they were changing clothes. Sigh.


Kevin: This is a 3 for me. T'Pol told us a story that enjoyably diverting. It doesn't reach for anything more, though I do wish it had. But still, as field trips go, this was certainly a nice one. I'll also add that the main three in the dinner scene had a nice rapport and its nice to see the cast really settling into that.

Matthew: I liked this a lot, and think the overall package slides into a 4, for a total of 7. I cared aboud the characters, I was never once bored, I wanted more when it was over, and I felt like I had gained a deeper appreciation and affection for Vulcans, after a lot of Vulcan-negative stories in season one.  The setting was uniformly enjoyable, and a lot of little touches like the shot of Sputnik were low-key alt-history fan service.

1 comment:

  1. I think the first time I saw this episode, I thought the meaning of the purse was that T'Mir actually was T'Pol. As you point out, the two are not just physically indistinguishable. But that would make T'Pol well over two hundred, so it doesn't make sense.

    A charitable reading on the purse would be that T'Pol's mother gave it to her when T'Pol was first posted to Earth. To inspire her or encourage her to strength amongst these trying humans. "Your foremother dealt with them under far more dire circumstances and she came through the experience the wiser for it." Then it would make sense to bring the purse with her on the Enterprise.

    I guess the interpretation of exactly what actually happened is left open to us. Which is not a bad choice when going with the unreliable narrator trope.