Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Carpenter Street

Enterprise, Season 3
"Carpenter Street"
Airdate: November 26, 2003
62 of 97 produced
62 of 97 aired


Captain Archer is recruited by Daniels to stop the harvesting of human blood in early 21st Century Detroit, Michigan.

 Also, they must stop the infamous Nighttime Street Lighting Supernova from consuming the Upper Midwest.




Matthew: So this is both a change of pace episode and a time travel episode. As a change of pace, it delves into the territory of police procedural and serial murder. I was kind of baffled by how a tricorder could unlock and start a car that clearly lacked computerized parts. Anyway, I liked the scenes in which Loomis sourced his victims, they resonated as being among the most true depictions of a time period. Why was everyone so desperate for cash? I don't know, early aughts Detroit I guess? As a period show, this had a certain verisimilitude and entertainment value. In this way it kind of reminds me of VOY 11:59.

Kevin: I was reminded, in a positive way, of the similar device in the Silence of the Lambs predecessor Red Dragon (or its film adaptation Manhunter) where the killer picks families from the photos he processes. That aside, I think my main beef here is that they picked a time and place, and then didn't do anything with it. There wasn't even a stock establishing shot of the city. I'm not saying I wanted a bunch of Lions fans grumbling about the failing car industry, but there was no personality at all to this place. Just a few blue-lit stretches of highway and some warehouses. Even the name of the episode feels like an afterthought. The random warehouse was on that street. Okay? Like at least name drop Eight Mile Road or tell us Mayweather or Cutler or even Chef lived there between the Academy and their posting. Something. Even in the admittedly uneven Past Tense, there was an attempt to portray then-futuristic San Francisco. Sure, that vision was very beige, but at least it felt like a place to a greater extent than 21st century Detroit, a place they had actual access to. Seriously. One helicopter shot. That's all I'm asking. And maybe I'm being a little touchy given how often my own fair city is referred to both snottily and inaccurately as a 'hellhole' but this felt like standard urban decay fare, and the lack of anything to anchor to the place they chose enforced a feeling for me that they picked a city (any city) so they could do a depressed urban area. I'm not saying Detroit of this era was doing just fine, but it's still a place where lot of people actually live and work and a little of that would have helped with my immersion in the story.

Matthew: Time travel stories, on the other hand, need to do some justification work. The justification provided here is that finding humans to serotype in this time period is more surreptitious somehow than doing so in the "present" of the show. I don't know.... if you can travel back to any period in human history, and your goal is to eradicate the species, why not just do something to Earth even earlier? You could nuke Africa circa 3 million BCE, for instance, without even getting off your ship. Now, many a fairly good episode has suffered the same sort of issue (e.g. TNG Time's Arrow). So the question becomes, is this story fun or informative enough to justify the lampshading? And on that score I'm kind of at a "meh" response. If more had been done to discuss how the flaws of human late-stage capitalism leave them vulnerable to this sort of attack, I would be more on board. T'Pol does say something like this with respect to Loomis, but I want a bit more commentary in my commentary. This episode also harks back to the Temporal Cold War of the previous seasons, with some fairly good Daniels scenes. But I think they should just s#%@ or get off the pot with this story, you know? Have Daniels just lay it out in a lengthy exposition scene. 

Kevin: My complaints on the mushiness of the motivations and mechanics of the Temporal Cold War are pretty well sketched out so I won't belabor them again. The Reptilian plot here is silly. Why not just steal six bags of blood? It would have the all the DNA and rhesus factors you could need to run whatever...scans?... you needed to. And at least in Time's Arrow, the ongoing nature of using humans as a food source helps paper over the choices. They don't want to destroy humanity, just feed off of it in a minimally disruptive way, so culling in a pandemic makes a modicum of sense. Here, this feels like a classic Bond villain plot. If you can build a base and laser on the moon, you already run the world. The technology and resources at your disposal make you God-King by default. Even if you wanted to avoid the paradox problem, just build the planet busting weapon at some other point in time and move it. All of this would be excusable if the episode weren't boring. It's pretty clear very early on what is happening and what will happen, and after about the third police brutality reference, I was kind of checking out. Maybe if they had shown T'Pol and Archer trying to interact with society a little more, it would have provided the glue to make the action scenes work, but as it is, it was pretty mediocre action fare with nothing to really jazz it up.


Matthew: This was probably Leland Orser's best role in Trek, the final in a list of sniveling weasel side characters. I think his acting had a real, grounded quality that sold me on his being a person living in the world of this time period. That's important when you are trying to sell me on this really being said time (something DS9's "Past Tense" time travel arc failed at). I believed his desperation and therefore his resulting amorality. 

Kevin: I agree Orser did a good job with the material. I think his atrophied morality could have been made more the center of the story and given him a chance at, if not redemption, at least some more layering. He sold me on his motivations, but I don't think I would go so far as to say he sold me on the plotline. That's beyond any one person whose not the writer.

Matthew: Bakula and Blalock could believably helm a detective show, I think. Bakula has action chops, and Blalock totally possesses the quality of being able to pierce his masculine bravado with a withering glance or subtle barb.

Kevin: The highlight of the episode for me was definitely Blalock and Orser waiting in the car. Both handled the comedy well.

Production Values

Matthew: The costuming and set designs were pretty good. But why day old pizza in the bathroom? That's just a detail too far for me. The man has a functional refrigerator, and works in a field that requires an understanding of germ theory.

Kevin: I feel like a generation of filmmakers came of age watching movies set in 1970s New York and just never learned how to depict urban poverty in any more current or credible way. That was the set of a movie about a drug dealer in Brooklyn and they borrowed it for the episode.

Matthew: On the one hand, the location shots here were well done. The backdrops and vehicles all fit the tone they were going for. On the other hand, what in the heck was going on with the lighting? The night time street reflections were insane. Also, the final shot of the badly decorated police cars with the Detroit... mountains in the background kind of pulled me out of things.

Kevin: I was not a fan of the location work, actually. Everything was too dark and grey or vaguely damp. I get why the warehouse would be nondescript form a story perspective, but dingy brick cube does not make for scintillating television. And again, it was all so dark, and 'abandoned industrial' that it could have been anywhere. And yes, the fake Detroit cars. Eesh.


Matthew: Although this lacks the commentary or tight time travel plotting that would elevate this episode to the level of, say, Time's Arrow or City on the Edge of Forever, there is a baseline competence and entertainment value that has me not dipping below a 3. This is competent Trek time travel - nothing more, nothing less.

Kevin: This falls short for me, in a few key ways. The nonsense of the time travel plot is not covered by a fun romp in a new setting or a tight philosophical or science fiction story. Orser, Blalock, and Archer turn in good performances, and if this were a mid-budget crime drama from the 80s, I could see myself leaving it on the television one rainy Saturday afternoon. But even as an example of that genre, it shakes out as "fine" but not more. The finished product for me is just leaden. The plot isn't interesting enough and the episode doesn't take advantage of the setting enough to compensate for that. This was a lazy reliance on time travel to paper over a pretty light story, and it gets a 2 from me, for a total of 5.


  1. I'm struggling to come up with anything. Between being a Temporal Cold War episode and quite boring, I think it's over ten years since I last watched this. I vote get off the pot, because I don't really want to see where this leads, although I can't wait for it to be over.

    1. Yeah, I think the biggest sin was that it was just not that much fun to watch. I'm not saying that we need the fish out of water stuff of Voyage Home or Time's Arrow, but at least some flavor text to the time and place would have nudged this in a good direction.

      Also, the whole Temporal Cold War is so mushy and gray that it makes it hard to latch on to the stories generally. A couple of really good ones are coming in a few episodes, though.