Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Awakening

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: November 26, 2004
83 of 97 produced
83 of 97 aired


Archer must deal with the alien presence within his mind, and search a long lost Vulcan artifact in the midst of an aerial bombardment.

Turn around, bright eyes!





Kevin: Now that we spent an episode setting up some action, it's time to watch it play out, and it does a nice job of it. Between Archer, T'Pol, T'Pau, and T'Les, everyone has an agenda and they all bounce off each other nicely and organically. Everyone disagrees with just about everyone else, and all without shouting. I particularly liked T'Les this week, since she does such a good job of selling her character's journey. Normally having a lead character's relative be at the center of this would feel like the 'small world problem' but tying it explicitly to P'Jem and losing her position, it feels earned, and the conflict with T'Pol was nice and juicy. Even better, it played out with Vulcan reserve that underscored rather than smothered the conflict. T'Pau has a ruthless streak and is not a saint, but she her point of view is certainly understandable.  

Matthew: I 100% agree with you. Every character here was written perfectly and three-dimensionally - up to and including Administrator V'Las, who wants power because he thinks he is best equipped to wield it, his nervous toadies, who enjoy access to power but get squeamish when it comes to violence. T'Pau absolutely read as a firebrand who will eventually become a calm, confident leader. T'Les and T'Pol's relationship really grew here, and it's too bad this is the last we'll see of it. I was surprisingly affected by their parting scene, which was well constructed to economically give us the feeling of a decades-long tension between them.

Kevin: The Enterprise side of things is pretty good. Trip and Soval work nicely together. There's a nice mutual respect, but not affection certainly, that gives the planning a little crackle. I liked that there was dissension inside the High Command to V'Las actions as they escalated. I do think the plot is a little more complex than it needs to be. Why bother with the false flag operation if the Syrannites are this weak and few in number? I know they want to invade Andoria, but I don't see how the Syrannites were in a position to stop or even meaningfully object to that, and bombing Earth only got Starfleet involved, the very actor that would foil it. Still, that's a small complaint. Inside the runtime, I enjoyed the story and it moved well.

Matthew: I took blaming things on Syrannites as being akin to the Nazi party using a nearly non-existent communist insurgency as a foil for cracking down on civil rights and justifying a move to "hot" war with the Andorians. But yes indeed, the Soval Rehabilitation Tour continues apace in this episode. His scenes were a lot of fun to watch.

Kevin: I will say that as good as this story is, and as good a fleshing out of Vulcans it is, I think this does still suffer from the same problem that all prequels do. This arc will have an explicit and obvious impact on the Vulcans. This can't be "Discovery-ied" away. Given that another captain of the Enterprise literally held the katra of Surak, Kirk should be a little more aware of the idea by the time Search for Spock rolls around.

Matthew: Whether or not Archer possessing the katra of Surak reaches Starfleet records is a question that doesn't animate me. I find it easy to believe that something experienced directly by only 2 members of Starfleet could easily fall out of public knowledge (as opposed to literally thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands when you include family members and acquaintances, pinky-swearing that Discovery never existed for nebulous reasons). What does animate me, as you know Kevin, is science fiction about nuclear war. The scenes of Archer and Surak conversing were absolutely thrilling to me. We are given a vivid (yet still tasteful, I'm looking at you Picard Season 1...) portrayal of Vulcan's descent into war. The brief few seconds of seeing a nuclear blast across the horizon, and the gentle "snow" of fallout, totally evoked that dread that I grew up with, and instantly made sense of how Vulcan could have evolved along the lines that give us the culture we see today. 


Kevin: Joanna Cassidy is just the best. The Syrannites could easily have been cookie cutter "nice peaceful rebels" since that's all the story really needed them to be, but she just brings it in every scene. Her scenes with T'Pol really shine. They feel weighted with their history and a sense of regret. She spars well with T'Pau. In two appearances, she has really nailed a "Vulcaness" that has eluded many other good actors. Apparently the decision to kill her off was simply being unable to afford her for another episode, which, I get budget realities, but you couldn't have figured out a different way of getting the character off screen? Foxworth gave a good performance, but I don't know that it felt "Vulcan." He was scheming human pretty much the whole time. Maybe I'm importing Admiral Leyton, but yeah...this felt like Admiral Leyton.

Matthew: Absolutely agreed on Joanna Cassidy. The way she indicated her love for T'Pol under the restrictions of Vulcan emotional affect was really something to behold. I really liked Kara Zediker as T'Pau, too. She overcame her character kind of looking like an 80s rock musician (I'm thinking The Bangles) and really delivered the feeling of being a young leader with vision. Although I will say that her line readings during the attempted Fal-tor-pan ritual were a bit over the top.

Kevin: The main cast was good again. Trinneer did good work with Graham and Bakula did another nice job of a stressed but not shouty Archer. I'll also compliment Blalock for holding her own in the scenes with T'Les. Nice week all around for the cast.

Matthew: As I have indicated in the writing section, I was really wowed by the scenes between Archer and Surak. I think this owes as much to the acting as to the writing. Bruce Gray (who played Admiral Chekote in DS9) really gave us the definitive Surak. There was a warmth to the character that gave us what is perhaps an intermediate stage of Vulcan cultural development. I believed his sorrow over his planet's wrenching conflicts. And Scott Bakula really gave us a good, solid Starfleet captain in those scenes, too.

Production Values

Kevin: Sometimes a limited budget can be a blessing. The scenes with Surak were blessedly light in their touch. Aside from being a little overexposed and the audio a little tinny, they lack any of the tedious hallmarks of the gauzy Prophet visions or generic dream sequences. Just two actors having a conversation. I'm sure the choice was mandated by a small effects and set budget, but it helped keep the focus on the story.

Matthew: Those scenes were the highlight of the episode for me, and you're absolutely right that they were sparse. Of course, we have had good Star Trek in which they couldn't even build more than 2 walls of an Old West saloon. So there is precedent. But indeed, I can imagine how a bigger budget and a greater hunger for CGI might have actually dampened the effectiveness of the scenes. Ont he other end of the spectrum were the Vulcan committee room, which was decorated richly and looked pretty darn good.

Kevin: I think Star Trek needs to have a serious conversation with itself about letting Leonard Nimoy go as the ur-Vulcan, at least when it comes to wigs. The severe bowl cut flattered the lanky Nimoy and the regal Mark Lenard. Several Vulcan actors, particularly on Enterprise, have not been flattered by that haircut, and sadly, I think Foxworth is on that list. On a rounder face, it just looks silly, and it pulls me out of the moment. There needs to be one other simple, severe haircut that doesn't make actors with round faces look silly. T'Pau and T'Les' wigs are a nice compromise. I get T'Pau's supposed to be a little disheveled, but the length and movement help flatter the actress rather than fight her. 

Matthew: Although I am not as moved by hairpieces as you are, I did note how organic T'Pau and T'Les looked, and that it added to my enjoyment of the characters and the episode. This was true of Syrann last episode, too. This episode really did a lot with a little. The Vulcan patrols were just contrails in the sky, but that was more effective than showing a new ship design.


Kevin: This episode is a little less grand in its ambitions than last week, but that's to be expected. We showed your Rivendell and we gave Frodo the ring, now there's a middle bit where they walk with the ring for a while. My few logic problems aside, I think this episode works since it's just well described characters talking about things and responding to the things other well defined characters said. I could watch T'Pau and T'Les have a civilized disagreement for ages. On the balance, I think this keeps the 4 I gave out last week. 

Matthew: It's hard for me to dampen my enthusiasm for "cold war sci-fi," but I will not let it sway me unduly. I think the first part was a brisker story, while this one slowed down a bit to really deal more deeply with the motives and emotions of the characters. This episode has the classic Trek hallmarks of "people whose positions are essentially well founded, yet are still in conflict." And it has a good emotional story, too, with T'Pol and her mother. So really, my only beef is with some hokey line readings during the ritual. Ultimately, I think this does squeak into the top decile of Trek for me, so I give it another 5 for another total of 9.


  1. Hard agree that it's a crying shame we don't see more of T'Les and Cassidy.
    You may also find it rather unsurprising that I have a small crush on T'Pau. Furthermore, it tickles me that not quite all Vulcans are statuesque or willowy. Her stateliness comes from something else.

    Hard spoiler ahead. If you have not seen the next episode (Kir'Shara) yet, don't read on.

    It makes all the sense in the (fictional) world that Foxworth comes across un-Vulcan as V'Las. He is not one. His plans indeed ARE overly convoluted, because that's just how the Romulans roll. And kudos for spotting it when you didn't know!

    1. I think the implication next episode is that he's in league with the Romulans, not that he is one, since they have not ditched the forehead appliance for them yet (that comes in [[hurk]] Picard).

    2. Fair enough. To be generous to Foxworth's performance, V'Las could merely be influenced by Romulan culture and philosophy. Though a little cosmetic surgery is also a possibility, as is hybridism.

      Looking him up, it turns out there were several suggestions for exactly who he was and how he got there.

  2. I don't usually comment on the captions, but maybe I should throw in a 'lol' now and again? Anyway, I gotta ask: "Turn around, bright eyes" is (I think) from Total Eclipse of the Heart. Is it that T'Pau's hair that looks like Bonnie Tyler's in the 80s?

    I've been chuckling about it, but I have no idea if I'm at all on the right track.

    (I've been trying to post this additional comment for a while now. I guess being anonymous makes me suspicious to the guardian algorithm.)