Saturday, January 7, 2023

Enterprise, Season 3: Countdown

Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: May 19, 2004
74 of 97 produced
74 of 97 aired


Lt. Reed and Major Hayes plan a rescue for Hoshi, while Archer, the Enterprise, and a fleet of allies must try to stop the Xindi weapon.


That's no moon...




Matthew: For me, this episode was the "fireworks factory," not the last. I felt like the pacing here was a lot tighter and lots of things finally "happened." We finally got the debate we wanted, in which the aquatics were convinced. We also got Hoshi's capture and brainwashing, a conclusion to the Major Hayes story thread, a big deal space battle, and even some movement on Trip/T'Pol. With respect to the council, I think it was really helpful to finally have the aquatic speak in their "own" voice, which gave them a bit more personality. Their reticence felt rational and their coming around did, too. I liked the insectoids losing faith mid battle as well, which makes the "villains" of the episode feel more three dimensional.

Kevin: I see what you're saying, but I suppose I view this, if not as falling action, really the fallout of the failed negotiations of the last episode, so it's good action, but less meaty in terms of the kinds of story. The chase, the titular countdown, the firefight to rescue Hoshi are all good, but a little predictable for me. It's all well done action, and certainly the best of the action stories told in an action season, but not more than that for me. I agree that the insectoids clocking the deception and reacting was a nice piece of writing that adds some more depth. It does make me wish we had gotten more of this in the buildup as well.

Matthew: I am hesitant to have a story in which a female crew member is held captive, for reasons that should be pretty clear by now on Enterprise (though to be fair, there have been a fair number of squicky stories in TNG as well). But this abduction and torture is for a specific, story-appropriate goal, and it doesn't trade on any prurience due to Hoshi's being female. I liked when she tried to jump down the shaft instead of being used to activate the weapon, which made sense for her character and the story.

Kevin: Yeah, I'm almost impressed that they didn't rip her uniform or something. It was pretty horrifying in a way that felt justified by the story and Hoshi as a character really got to show some growth. I will even say the obvious callback to the Ceti Alpha V eels from TWOK felt like a good reuse of a Trek idea rather than a stale one. Overall, I wish more of the episode could have focused on this. Maybe an inverse bottle show, were we stay with her the whole episode and the rescue is planned and executed offscreen. I know that's not realistic given everything else this episode has to set in motion, but it's the juiciest plot and I wish it got even more screen time.

Matthew: Did I want Major Hayes to buy the farm? No. But was his story well done here? Yes. His disappointment at his subordinate's death on the sphere was good, and his tension with Reed felt real, but not over the top. The rescue mission story was well executed and exciting, and his sacrifice made sense (albeit being precipitated by a dramatic transporter malfunction). The accompanying space battle was well executed, and had some cool scenes, such as Enterprise being carried within the aquatic ship, the aquatic ship breaking up, and the Sphere builders using anomalies as a weapon.

Kevin: Major Hayes dying was a well executed version of an extremely old and familiar story. That's not a dig, per se. Some stories stick around because they continue to be effective. The last couple of episodes have certainly found a way to pitch the natural conflict of Reed and Hayes' positions in a more real way, rather than just macho verging on homoerotic undertones. To the extent I have a complaint, it's that we got rid of Hayes right when we figured out how to use his presence effectively. I know there's not time to do it in this episode obviously, but I'm almost certain it won't happen in season 4, but I would have really liked some acknowledgment from Reed that his two closest relationships on Enterprise are with Tucker, where that relationship was forged in the trauma of believing their crew was dead and they would soon die, and with a man he fought to the point of bloodshed and then after achieving a modicum of rapport, also died. Coupled with the joke version of that (being upset that no one marries him in the alternate timeline), we have really reached an inflection point where Reed needs to acknowledge he is lonely and the reasons for that and begin the work on fixing it. 


Matthew: Linda Park hasn't been asked to do a whole lot this season, with only one spotlight episode under her belt. But she is clearly capable of more. I believed her duress. I think on our main crew the other standouts were Dominic Keating and Steven Culp, who gave us perhaps the best version of the Reed/Hayes contretemps. Poor Major Hayes, we hardly knew ye!

Kevin: Sadly the first time I really saw the potential of the character was the episode he died. Culp managed to give the character an internal life and point of view that elevated it beyond being a trigger happy Neanderthal, and even ignoring what I still argue is fertile ground for depicting a gay relationship, he and Keating did great work on having a real rapport this episode. Park did a great job of making me scared on her behalf. She acted like she was acting brave, and it was well done.

Matthew: Tucker Smallwood and Scott MacDonald nailed their turns as the good Xindi and bad Xindi, respectively. The more we get to know these characters, the more I want to have learned more about them. Alas, this is the penultimate episode of the season, so I know we're not going to.

Kevin: I renew my complaint that Smallwood's character doesn't have a name, not even apparently in the script that is never spoken aloud. That just feels like writing malpractice. But to focus on the acting, yes, they are both actors who know how to fit in to the tone of the show and work through the makeup, no small feats.


Production Values

Matthew: The interior of the weapon sphere was.... meh. I thought the neon lights looked kind of cheap, and the spinny thing in the middle of the room was kind of hokey. It also looked too much like the Sphere Builder's spheres for dramatic coherence - it had me wondering if they had given the Xindi technology or something, even though this is not indicated at all in the story. This is a situation in which I think filming inside a particle accelerator would actually have been appropriate.

Kevin: It looked very much like a 'science fiction' set, something almost like a Doctor Who villain of the week. That's not bad, exactly, but Trek works best for me when the settings feel like real places. Even if the place is situated somewhere fantastic or weird, that setting still dictates what a room in that world needs, and when they land that, it helps with my immersion. I concur in your 'meh.'

Matthew: The space battle was really well done, with good ship designs, good fight choreography, and good explosions. The aquatic ship's destruction was particularly good, with water escaping and freezing in space. The exterior of the weapon sphere is nice looking. Why do we need such a big Death Star analogue? Who knows. But at least it looks pretty good.

 Kevin: Yeah, the whiz-bang quotient is definitely satisfied this time. I continue to not like the look of the aquatics themselves. The way they grafted humanoid faces on them is weird. But the ships and the battle were super cool.


Matthew: I think this is a 4. Lots of interesting things happened, the acting was strong, and most of the visuals were on point. If more of this season had been at this level, or they had just condensed the story into a 5-6 episode arc, things would have been stronger. But there's no denying the entertainment value and execution of this episode, regardless of what came before.

Kevin: Maybe I am dinging this episode for action story fatigue, but here I am. This is definitely the best version of the action story we've gotten. It is well acted and briskly executed, but I wasn't really surprised at any point. Once I knew Hoshi was abducted last week, I could have written this episode on the back of a napkin in the intervening week. Hoshi will rescued (maybe kill the recurring guest star?) and lots of cool explosions. All those things happened and were very well done, but I think I'm stuck at 3. It's a good, solid three, not one of my 'default' ones. A little more insight or innovation into Reed or Hoshi's emotional stories would have elevated it for me. That said, this is still a very respectable 7.

1 comment:

  1. After McKenzie getting the nod from Hayes, I'd have hoped to see her when Reed gave the MACOs the bad news, perhaps even being on the team going to the sphere. I guess it couldn't be finagled behind the scenes.

    I kept wondering why it was so important to badger Hoshi and even take her along - 'because she'd been on the sphere'. Can't they call up the full, technical readout of that thing if they want to? Degra built the thing, after all.
    A sentence about something the Reptilians had installed or altered could have done it.
    But it is clasically dramatic, and drawing Hoshi and Park into the story is obviously very welcome.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Phlox' osmotic eel adds another notch to its belt - undisputed winner and still champion!