Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: The Catwalk

Enterprise, Season 2
"The Catwalk"
Airdate: December 18, 2002
37 of 97 produced
37 of 97 aired


An approaching storm forces the crew to hunker down somewhere very uncomfortable - like the back of a Volkswagen.

Look at that... a Royal Fizzbin!




Kevin: This episode is really quite good. It's a nice anomaly of the week that impacts our crew in an interesting way. We just did the "lone crew member" with T'Pol in Singularity, so I was happy the solution was not a Voyager-style "put everyone in a coma." The use of the nacelle housing as a shelter was novel, and, as always, it's nice to see a different part of the ship. The basic stressor is also a great one, story-wise. The stress of living communally in a small space is one we can understand, but the sci-fi set up allows some fun exploration of it. If anything, I think the episode could have done a deeper dive into this. I like Phlox mentioning that Denobula is a crowded world and he is more accustomed to bunking up. I get that given that T'Pol and Phlox are the only aliens on board, that limits a sci-fi culture clash clash angle, but even across human cultures, views on personal and communal space vary, and that could have been a nice exploration of what life on Earth looks like, and how variously cultures exist in the 22nd century. I want to clarify that this critique is less a dig at the episode, but more of a "I want more of this episode I enjoy." 

Matthew: Yep, this is a really nice character building episode. As far as the setup goes, I do have one or two questions. If they are at a planet teeming with life, then clearly the planet can shield the crew from this approaching storm. Why not shelter there and have the ship remain in orbit remotely? It would be a slightly different episode, but could have some similar elements, especially if they have to retake the ship from intruders. Anyway, I found the scenes of Trip quickly jerry-rigging quarters in the catwalk to be fum in the "competent people doing things quickly" sort of way.

Kevin: The basic build of tension and everyone getting tired of the food and the compounding stress of lack of hygiene all worked well. And I liked that no one went completely off the rails. They were stressed and getting more so, but no one forgot they're friends and colleagues. I think a bottle episode that started in media res in the nacelle and stayed there would have been a fun idea. Also, in the plus column was the movie night stuff with T'Pol. It's a fine line figuring out how to portray a Vulcan bonding with their crew, but I liked this one.

Matthew: The slice of life scenes were very good. Seeing the crew weather adversity in this way helps us to empathize with and admire them. In addition to the catwalk scenes, I liked the interplay of Archer and T'Pol sharing a room on the "bridge" (which featured a nice bit of fan service with T'Pol mentioning her Kahs-wan ritual, a la Spock in TAS). I also liked T'Pol dealing with Phlox and his need to allocate space for his creatures. This was a pretty strong episode for T'Pol overall, with the bonding theme that Archer mentioned and that culminated in the movie scene.

Kevin: The aliens were an okay plot, but I will say it still led to some fun moments. I liked that the three guys they picked up were not actual bad guys, since that's been the case a lot, in Trek generally and Enterprise. I don't think we quite got enough time with the three aliens on the ship to care they were running from compulsory military service, but they didn't drag down the story either. The scene of the cop listening to the logs was a nice touch and helped accentuate the feeling of invasion. The solution was nice and Starfleet. They drove off the invaders rather than slaughtered them, and that was just nicer to watch.

Matthew: Yeah, it wasn't my favorite plot, and the leader read too much like Annorax to be a convincing pirate. But Trip maneuvering around the ship, hiding from the aliens, and the overall action beats of the crew retaking the vessel were all really entertaining. I didn't understand why the fugitive aliens didn't help, since they were immune to the cloud's radiation. That could have deepened their story a tad.


Kevin: I think everyone did a nice job of acting stressed without acting like they were Acting Stressed. It was like watching a college dorm slowly get worse, and the vibes worked. I've come down pretty hard on a fair bit of season two, but credit where it is due, I think the ensemble has gelled pretty nicely.

Matthew: The aliens weren't given enough dialogue or story to really pop. But every single member of the main crew really shone. I would say Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock really excelled. I loved Trip's exasperation at Reed's complaints about the facilities, and his physical acting when sneaking around the ship. T'Pol's restrained but present emotional development was excellent. About the only bum note I could detect was when Archer was talking with the alien captain. Was he acting sick, or constipated, or something?  Running out of air? It wasn't clear in the story why he was talking so strangely.

Production Values

Kevin: The nebula work was pretty soupy, but I'm only really going to complain about the plasma eddies. It was lavender on lavender. It just didn't pop. Even a few years earlier, DS9's Badlands did a much better job of showing a chaotic part of space.

Matthew: I quite liked all the space shots. The planet looked good, the alien ships looked good, and the cloud looked good.

Kevin: The set design for the catwalk was really good. They did a good job filling it with people and stuff to make it feel like a too-lived in space. It was a nice set and it made sense both as the nacelle housing it was supposed to be and the makeshift crew quarters. It did a good job of underscoring the story elements. Like looking at it, you could tell it was a little ripe in there.

Matthew: Very much agreed on the catwalk. They straddled the line between "actual cramped space" and "filmable set" well. It made the ship feel like a real place - isn't it nice when something like this isn't turned into a brewery or a yawning dimensional rift like Discovery's turboshaft? There was also some really nice music in this episode, especially a heroic brass theme when the crew was hurriedly evacuating.


Kevin: I'm stuck between a 3 and a 4. I really enjoyed this one, and the grounded story we got with the crew being under pressure was nice and led to some fun moments. I think the alien invasion should have been dispensed with to let the drama and stakes stay with the crew trapped in essentially a U-boat for eight weeks. Star Trek loves a good WWII parable, so just go full on Das Boot for this one. I think the somewhat disposable alien invasion is keeping this at a 3, but it's a high 3. An enthusiastic 3. The three I will point to when I tell Brannon Braga what is and isn't working and what he should focus on. More episodes like this, please.

Matthew: I think on entertainment value and character development this just squeaks into a 4. I was unfailingly entertained. With a bit more of an ethical debate angle, it might have even been better. But I give credit for never being bored, and sticking to the brief of acting like members of the Starfleet I know and love. That's a total of 7.


  1. Staying on the planet and the aliens helping out were also two question marks I had. Sure, they had learned in Strange New World that just going down there could be dangerous. But they were talking about pulling proverbial straws for a proverbial ticket to Sickbay. A quick sentence from someone could have handwaved the issue away.

    I hadn't thought about how letting the aliens help would have given them some time to flesh out. I like that.

    I wonder if this Enterprise can land and take off in an atmosphere... Anyway.

    I think Reed came dangerously close to acting out of character. He supposedly eats whatever is put in front of him, but when he gets stressed he starts complaining about the food? And it surprised me that he and Trip couldn't fall back on their experience in Shuttlepod One to deal with each other. I didn't get the impression they were emotionally scarred after that, so if anything they ought to do better than most. Maybe they were going for the 'Out of Character is Serious Business' trope?

    Anyway, a nice return to proper form from Precious Cargo.

    1. I almost kind of like that no one has commented on that one. Like it's not worth it.