Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Dead Stop

 Enterprise, Season 2
"Dead Stop"
Airdate: October 9, 2002
30 of 97 produced
29 of 97 aired


Seeking emergency repairs after their run in with space mines last episode, Enterprise doesn't look too hard at the mouth when a gift horse appears in the form of an advanced automatic repair station.

Hmmmm. I guess they haven't gotten to any Kubrick selections on movie night, yet.




Kevin: There's a lot to like in this episode. For starters, I love continuity. The fact that the ship, especially so far from home, couldn't simply fix major damage between episodes, is a nice piece of continuity, and helps build the sense that this is not the comfortable Federation we knew from TOS and TNG. It's something Voyager struggled with a lot. So I definitely award points to Gryffindor for resisting the use of the reset button. The setup itself actually achieves a bit of a hat trick for me too. You know, I mean, you know instantly and in your bones that the magic repair station is too good to be true because, of course, it is. I think the fact that the crew acknowledges it and is understandably cautious, essentially agreeing out of lack of any other options, keeps the crew from seeming too credulous. 

Matthew: I too was impressed by the continuity between episodes. I loved the scene in which they discuss the schematic of the ship's damage, referencing not only the last episode, but the pilot to boot. If you'll excuse the reference, this story follows pretty well the Dictates of T'Hain of Vulcan. It's not a bunch of random twists and "surprises," but all of the characters respond in accordance with their established characteristics, to a situation that has been established on screen.

Kevin: Once at the station, little touches like the berth changing size and the atmosphere reconfiguring did a nice job of conveying the capacity of the station without going overboard on effects. I'll get to this as much in the direction and production values below, but there's an overall restraint to this story that keeps the admittedly obvious set up from feeling too shallow. To the extent it's familiar, that's actually comfortable rather than predictable. And other choices like, even up to the last attempts, the station's set to beam the trespassers home rather than kill them keeps it from being too much. I also preferred the lack of over explaining the set up. It's clear the station needed the people it abducted to keep running or run better or whatever, and the implication of the scene of all the bodies carried that much more effectively than any exposition dump or finding some very old person living in the middle of the thing. Even the last shot of the station repairing itself was the pitch perfect horror ending.

Matthew: Yeah, this is a straight horror story in many respects (similar to Stephen King's Christine, and Kurbick's 2001) and it was written in such a way as to parcel out the revelations and to maintain the crew's intelligence and dignity. No one had to act stupidly for the plot to progress, and we were given enough information to understand things without a lot of exposition. Would I have liked to learn who built it? Probably. But did I need to learn it? Nope. About my only beef is the Tellarites recommending the place. Did they lose a crewman, too? Why would anyone recommend a repair shop that, even accidentally, killed one of your crew? I've got to think the Yelp reviews would reflect this.

Kevin: I think what also made the episode effective was all the crew effectively responded in keeping with their character. Everyone was suspicious but pitched that suspicion through the lens of their established character. I'm kind of repeating myself here, but the overall effect was a nice, competent, low key haunted house story, where the low key nature helped keep the tone more effectively than jump scares.

Matthew: Indeed, there was little need for disemboweling or eye gouging here. A creepy, too good to be true space station, effectively developed through scenes with good pacing, is enough.


Kevin: I made a comment last week about the ensemble beginning to gel, and I think it holds up here. In various combinations, on Enterprise and the station, everyone responds nicely to each other and the situation. I think Bakula is really settling in to the role, and I found his frustration at the prospect of a multiyear journey home with their tail between their legs to feel like actual frustration and loss, rather than the petulance it read as early in season one.

Matthew: I liked the way Bakula played his suspicions. You could see the conflict on his face and behind his eyes - his need to continue the mission but a feeling he can't put away. Linda Park had a real "Acting" scene this episode, indicating her sadness at Travis' apparent death. She pretty much nailed it. 

Kevin: Episode director Roxann Dawson did an uncredited turn as the computer, and like she did in Voyager's Dreadnought, she really is great at it. I recently watch both 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, so the notes of HAL came through loud and clear. And again, she was just creepy enough to ping the radar without making it foolish that they stayed.

Matthew: She definitely did a great job, for all the reasons you mention. I will say that the nagging "this is Roxann Dawson's voice" feeling did pull me out of the episode once or twice. 

Production Values

Kevin: The CGI was fine here, and particularly for the expanding berth scene, it was nice to see them use the CGI for something that would have been too difficult or impossible to achieve practically. I will forgive 90s video game CGI when it at least feels like they are taking advantage of the medium rather than just phoning it in.

Matthew: Yeah, I think the design of the station exterior was nice to look at, and the CGI on both the exterior reshaping itself, the equipment arms, and the devices working on the ship interiors were pretty good, really, especially the various force fields and materializing things.

Kevin: Other touches really worked. The all white of the interior again gave off very 2001 vibes without screaming the ending too loudly. I also loved that on the diagram, both the hull breach and the single missing starboard hull plate showed up. Just little stuff like that makes my nerd heart sing. And while I'm heaping praise on Roxann Dawson one more time, she is really a great director. There's just a quiet confidence to the staging and pacing that lets the story breathe. More modern cut and jump happy cinematography would really have killed this episode.

Matthew: The interior was great. It finally felt like a real but alien place, and not because they plastered the area with holo-foil. And you're totally right, that ship diagram was super cool. The Jeffries tubes of the station were less inspired, as was the corpse hanger (for lack of a better term), but at that point in the story we didn't need anything particularly detailed.  


Kevin: So, the story is pretty thin, I admit, and the ending was obvious a parsec away. But there are times where hitting the beats of a genre feels like an homage rather than a cop out. It's obvious that the station is some kind of EVIL, but they did enough work to make the choice to use it be forced by circumstance rather than the crew being stupid. A bunch of smaller choices in terms of pacing, tone, and staging kept the sense of dread moving well for me. In terms of how much I enjoyed it, I'm almost at a four, but I think the shallowness of the story keeps that from happening. This is a three for me, but the kind of three I like giving. This is a nice solid episode, and if the whole show were at this quality, I would be a happy camper for a long time.

Matthew: What would elevate this to a 4? I think a little more exploration of the other victims of this place would have done. Couldn't they have rescued some other captive beings? Did they feel guilty not doing so? Also, did the station abduct one of the liquid helium breathers? If so, how were they stored? Anyway, I'm with you on the 3. Solidly good, if not reaching the heights of challenging and mentally stimulating Classic Trek. That's a total of 6.


  1. Maybe it's Dawson's voice doing it, but I'm always strongly reminded of VOY's Prototype - the one with the two robot groups still fighting each other after they turned on their makers for trying to shut them down when the war ended. B'Elanna worked to allow one of them to reproduce.
    The station could be all that's left of its civilization. Over time, it could have lost some computer power, or found that its needs were increasing. So it turns to stealing people to enhance itself.

    But I'm glad we didn't get the explanation for the station's existence in the first place. Now we get to speculate, and more importantly, it adds an unknown that fits the horror genre very well, as you mention. In addition to the Kubrick, I'm getting Stephen King vibes from this one. :)

    Anyway, Trek is obviously in good hands with Dawson directing (and The Dictates of Poetics scrupulously adhered to). It won't be the last time ENT gets some steady hands from former Trek actors directing, and I feel it shows. I may be imagining it.

    1. I really like that Dawson, among other Trek alumni, has had a really nice career in directing. It really speaks to the quality of the behind the scenes work and atmosphere on their own shows.