Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Vanishing Point

Enterprise, Season 2
"Vanishing Point"
Airdate: November 27, 2002
35 of 97 produced
35 of 97 aired


A rough transport during an atmospheric strorm has Hoshi wondering whether her body is coming apart molecule by molecule. 

Never compete with the ghosts of workouts past, Hoshi. It's a losing game.


Kevin: Inside the four walls of the episode, I think this is a pretty good one. It gives an underused character a chance to shine, and I think Hoshi does a good job of being brave and resourceful rather than just scared. The psychological aspect of the story is definitely there and it builds well. The little things like feeling overlooked ramping up to literally disappearing all move nicely and it created the appropriate sense of dread. I also liked watching Hoshi do the things that scared her because she understood the stakes. That's effective storytelling. So, in terms of watching this character navigate this story, the basics are definitely there, and entertaining.

Matthew: Yup. Things moved well, and I was never really bored throughout the run time. I liked the little vignettes of life on the ship that her story afforded us, as well - showering, eating, working out, and the like.

Kevin: The problem arises a little in terms of how it slots into the broader canon. I know TNG "Realm of Fear" did it first, and we flagged it there too, but the idea that you remain conscious in some nether space in the transporter is just silly. You're brain is literally not in one place for a moment. Whether you are being disassembled and reassembled or transmuted to energy and back to matter, or being scanned, deleted and copied in a new location, your brain's atoms are just not in one place in the shape of a brain. Another problem is we've already done the "Will it work?" episode for the transporter....and it worked. Brannon Braga talked about this in an interview where a bunch of plot threads were introducing Star Trek technology and 'isn't that cool?' but the moment you do that, it's done, and it's not interesting any more. We saw the phasers get installed and now they are there, so there's no real narrative lift per se from using the phasers anymore. We know the transporter is basically functional so it's not quite the looming threat it was before the last time we used the transporter for the first time. Lastly, and this is probably the one that nags me the most is the 'it was all a dream' ending. There's enough character work in the fantasy to be enjoyable, but maybe if they had a button that showed that Hoshi was permanently a little different from the experience, it would have helped keep the story from feeling like it was undone by the ending.

Matthew: With respect to the philosophical ramifications of remaining conscious in the transport buffer, I have a few thoughts. One is that Scotty in TNG "Relics" reported no flashes of consciousness. Another is that the conscious experience could have transpired in the moments before or after real dissolution, sort of like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." But really, if you want to go here with a story, just do it. Have the characters talk about just what it was of Hoshi that had the experiences she had. Was it the information contained in the buffer computer? Was it some sort of soul or consciousness that could survive the dissolution of her body? There is a way to ask these questions without coming down definitively on one answer (unlike Discovery's Soul Tears in the Mushroom Universe - why yes, I am still annoyed by that). As far as the "It was all a dream" problem, I think one of two things should have happened to ameliorate the feeling of  "why did I watch this if it didn't happen?" Either they should have amped up the creepiness and surrealism of the dream (Hoshi sure has a boring subconscious!), in the vein of TNG "Remember Me" or "Frame of Mind." Failing that (or in concurrence with it), the dream should have lasting repercussions upon the character. Dreams have influenced people profoundly in the past, especially if they are as realistic as this one is portrayed.  If they could have definitively established that (preferably) Hoshi has overcome all of her fears, that would be great - they could of course decide to have Hoshi become even more paranoid. I could even envision their ending the fantasy portion of the episode earlier and having Hoshi require psychotherapy to deal with a dissociative state brought on by her ordeal.

Kevin: One other moment I was not happy with was Archer making the call to Hoshi's father. I'm not sure if it was the writing or the acting or what, but it was the weirdest, most stilted scene. Was it supposed to be that way because it wasn't real? Does this reflect some emotional distance between Hoshi and her parents? Not sure, and I'm not sure if the writers know the answer either.

Matthew: I do think some of it is the acting, but it is a strange scene to be sure. Hoshi is the person in whose mind this takes place, so it must reflect either her father's true social awkwardness, or her perception of him. It would be better for the episode if they had just gone further with it. He could have asked Archer how their family dish went over with the crew when Hoshi took over the kitchen.


Kevin: Park turned in a good job, and hey, look at that: two weeks in a row where a woman gets a story that has nothing to do with the decon chamber. I bought Hoshi's fear and loss and her eventual resolve. I'll say it this way. My annoyance at the 'dream' solution is that it dilutes this good performance and character growth.

Matthew: Linda Park definitely gets an A for this one. Just her scene of checking out her birthmarks was restrained but effective. I especially liked her visits to Dr. Phlox - she asked good questions, wasn't unhinged, but portrayed a creeping unease. I would have liked post-vision therapy scenes with her for this reason. Billingsley did a great job with Phlox's humor and empathy.

Kevin: Like I said above, I'm not sure what the problem was, but that consolation call was so weirdly stilted, it almost felt like parody.

Matthew: The dialogue was weird to be sure, but I think different performance choices could have saved the scene. So some of it has to be on the actor.

Production Values

Kevin: I liked that we got to see a lot of the ship. Crew quarters, the gym, etc. Again, I wouldn't mind some accent walls on the Enterprise, but it does help sketch the ship as a real place. The aliens of the week were solid enough, and the fading effects work was solidly done as well.

Matthew: I was annoyed by the aliens, perhaps unreasonably so. I don't know if alien languages are writing or production values, I assume that the writers do not spend their time coming up with phony languages, so I think it happens elsewhere in production - but every alien language besides Klingon sounds the same, and it all sounds fake. Every single goddamned one has syllable constructions like "sookat" and "voorash." I know I'm not making this up, because we've really been cranking out these reviews and I've thus been watching the sows in quick succession. I will therefore renew my vigorous objection to portraying alien or fantasy languages in filmed media. I don't want Trekkie alien blibber-blabber, I don't want High Valyrian, I don't want Elvish, Black Speech or Dwarvish. Just speak English in entertainment made for English-speaking audiences. Even the better developed of these languages should be restricted to ONE SENTENCE per episode or movie.


Kevin: This is another happy 3 for me. It's kept from a higher score by the set up that muddles what the transporter does again, and the hand-wavy ending. Those issues aside, this was a really nice outing for Park, where she got to act like a grown-up, just one in an incredibly stressful circumstances. The result was a nice, entertaining story. More of these, please.

Matthew: Yeah, a solid, workmanlike 3 for a total of 6. Amping up the creepiness or terror, or high concept sci-fi (as in the all-time classics "Remember Me" and "Frame of Mind") would have propelled this higher. Braga, the co-writer of this episode, was responsible for "Frame of Mind," which really has me questioning his energy level. I know he is capable of probing more deeply with his stories, and it's a shame that his role on this show seems to have blunted his writing. This keeps being a criticism in these two seasons: the basics of the story are there but it didn't follow through to a more interesting place. I wonder what the absence of a Michael Piller or Jeri Taylor in the writer's room does to the overall atmosphere.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed and agreed.

    Pulling back and looking from a larger perspective, having Hoshi gradually fade out of existence and lose contact with the crew is sadly metaphorical for what they end up doing with the character - precious little.

    The only way it could have been more on the nose in this sense is if it had happened to Mayweather.

    I'll just have to appreciate Park's work when it does get prominently featured.