I’m disappointed that they contrived for Chef to be sick so it’s Sato doing the crazed cooking thing, mostly because this would’ve been a great opportunity to finally see Chef. (That’s a personal thing—I’ve never been fond of the person-always-mentioned-but-never-seen trope.) Still, Linda Park has fun with it, as does Connor Trinneer with his goofy-ass add-all-the-things mien which makes him sound—well, like an engineer, truly. Still, both of them don’t go nearly as far as they could with it. Dominic Keating’s a bit too over-the-top as the obsessive Reed, where Scott Bakula is to under-the-top with Archer’s trying so hard to do justice to his old man.
Jolene Blalock does fine trying to hold the ship together, as she really is the only grownup on board this time, but I wish we’d gotten a bit more of the sass that we often saw from Leonard Nimoy and Tim Russ when the humans were human-ing a bit too much on the original series and Voyager.
The only performance that hits the bullseye is, as usual, John Billingsley. Phlox never entirely loses his friendly affect, which makes his experimenting on Mayweather way scarier.
Ye flipping gods, what a boring episode. Trek has done this type of story many times before, where the crew has to deal with a pre-warp society and do their best not to influence it (not always successfully) and remove their technology (again, not always successfully), from the original series’ “Tomorrow is Yesterday” to TNG’s “First Contact” to SNW’s “Strange New Worlds,” and “The Communicator” is by far the least interesting iteration of this particular plot.
One of the things these rewatches have done is make me appreciate certain aspects of the shows that I didn’t really get when watching them the first time through when they initially aired, whether good (a greater appreciation for the characters of Riker and Chakotay) or bad (liking the character of La Forge a lot less, frustrated by several choices made by DS9’s writing staff in the later seasons).
In the case of Enterprise, it’s a much greater appreciation of both the character of T’Pol and the actor playing her. Jolene Blalock does excellent work here, showing T’Pol’s anguish and confusion and anger. I particularly like a more realistic look at the downside of emotional control: when something emotional does happen, most Vulcans aren’t equipped to deal with it. And I appreciate that the act of killing someone—which is so often treated cavalierly by dramatic fiction—is sufficiently traumatic to affect T’Pol this badly, which is as it should be.
In general, this is actually a decent reworking of the premise, but writers Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and David Wilcox are a little too painstaking in their homages to both samurai movie and Western to the detriment of the actual genre they’re working in.
Here’s the problem: the Klingons have a) a ship in orbit, b) disruptor pistols, and c) transporter technology. Yes, they’re bullies, and yes, bullies tend to back off when their victims fight back, but this isn’t a fair fight by any stretch. There’s nothing stopping Korok from beaming back down outside the ring of fire Reed created and shooting everyone. For that matter, there’s nothing stopping him from firing on the colony from orbit, and Enterprise—hiding as they are on the other side of the planet—wouldn’t be able to stop them in time.
We’re in trouble from the first scene with a decon gel scene that looks for all the world like it’s the opening to a scene in a particularly absurd porno flick, with Sato rubbing down T’Pol, T’Pol rubbing down Archer, and Archer rubbing down Porthos, the humans all in their underwear. And it never gets any better. The whole thing of Archer offending the Kreetassans while worrying about his pooch would, at best, make for a silly disposable B-plot, but it’s all there is to this episode.
But the real thing [writer John] Shiban brings to the table is an understanding of how commercial television works. For what seems like the first time in twenty-nine episodes, we have a script that ends acts on a gripping, cliffhangery note, starting with the teaser. Where most episodes limp toward Russell Watson crooning the theme song, this episode has an actual exciting teaser that makes you want to suffer through “Where My Heart Will Take Me” to find out what happens next, a vanishingly rare occurrence on this show.
Nothing earth-shattering, and it’s Yet Another Alien On Earth Before Official First Contact (latest in a series! collect ‘em all!), but Boehmer and Jolene Blalock do good work together. The former’s curiosity is very well-played—not inappropriately emotional, but simply logical by his own lights—and the latter does a fine job of showing T’Mir undergoing the same journey in an hour that T’Pol has been going on over the last year. Ann Cusack is fun as Maggie, and I especially like Hank Harris’ low-key Jack. Usually when you have someone that thirsty for knowledge portrayed onscreen, they’re overly enthusiastic and nerdy, but Jack is calmer about it, which makes it more likely that T’Mir would come to like him more than most of the other yucky humans.
Half-hearted attempts are made to show humans stumbling toward a Federation, but there’s little coherency, many inexplicable decisions, and a consistent portrayal of humans as racist, impatient, and stupid even as the scripts insist they’re being bold and daring. And the Vulcans, whom the scripts insists are a bunch of big meanies, are actually acting like grownups.
The biggest problem is that it’s just furthering the tired Temporal Cold War storyline, and it’s impossible to be in any way invested in it. I’m even less invested in the tired fakeout of cancelling Enterprise‘s mission, which we know isn’t really going to happen because the show’s called Enterprise, and they’re hardly going to spend the rest of the show with humans staying on Earth being lectured by Vulcans on being doofuses.
Also, the show is still trying to catch that original series vibe without actually understanding it, in this case having Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker do the commando raid. It’s a scene that’s entire people shooting at other people and throwing stun grenades around. There’s nothing in it that requires these three characters, and there isn’t even hardly any dialogue. Why not have Reed and two extras do this, so it actually makes sense?
Then again, making sense doesn’t seem to be a priority here.
Reed and Tucker’s plotline is by far the worst of the four. The moment they walked into the club in their jackets I was just waiting for Haddaway’s “What is Love?” to start playing and the two of them to bop their heads to it. While their getting rolled by shape-changers was played for laughs, I mostly just thought it was what they deserved after watching their sleazy behavior, and I was rooting for the thieves. And rooting for Enterprise to leave without them…