There are some isolated moments that are good, like Tucker and Reed’s conversation about time travel—with Tucker not wanting to know the future, and Reed eager to know it—Archer and Forrest speculating about Cochrane, Phlox and T’Pol’s conversation about time travel and interspecies breeding, and the time loops that Tucker, Reed, and Archer get stuck in.
Then there are moments when I wanted to throw my shoe at the screen, particularly watching them examine the ship in their uniforms with no gloves or masks or protective gear of any sort, and without things that you know the other shows that take place in the future might have like sterile force fields and the like. Plus the stuff about humans and Vulcans interbreeding is a bit too wink-at-the-viewer considering the most popular character in the franchise is a human-Vulcan hybrid…
They even manage to come up with a running gag for Kira and Shaxs that works. Kira and Shaxs know each other from their days in the Bajoran Resistance, because of course they do, and the running gag is each of them insisting that they owe the other one for saving their life, with a constant stream of reminding each other of life-saving events while fighting the Cardassians. (“That one didn’t count, we were both locked up!”) It’s still true to both characters, without diminishing their lives as terrorists or what they were fighting for, and still funny as hell.
Both [Gary] Graham and [Jolene] Blalock play their one scene alone together very nicely, also, with Soval prodding her and T’Pol giving near-constant pushback on Soval’s attempts to get her to stop fooling around with the humans and come back to work for him like a sensible Vulcan. Chris Black’s script is particularly strong here, with Soval using lots of clever rhetorical tricks to try to manipulate T’Pol, and T’Pol magnificently deflecting all of it. Credit also to Black for having both Soval and Tarah use the same reductive propaganda about each others’ side. (Vulcans always lie and can’t be trusted! Andorians are always violent and can’t be trusted!)
When Tendi realizes that Rutherford isn’t himself, she calls security on him, and Shaxs eventually tracks him down and stuns him. The conflict between Rutherfords combines with the stun blast to cause Rutherford’s body to lapse into a coma. They confront each other in a mindscape where they decide to settle who gets to keep the body (with the other one basically going to oblivion) by each building a ship and then racing it in the Devron system, which involves going through the Romulan Neutral Zone. Young Rutherford builds himself a fancy-ass hot-rod ship called the Sampaguita, which looks like Anakin Skywalker’s pod in The Phantom Menace with Trekkish nacelles. Current Rutherford constructs a duplicate of the Delta Flyer, complete with the dorky racing outfits from “Live Fast and Prosper.” Young Rutherford dismisses the Flyer as a shuttlecraft with a paint job, while Current Rutherford dismisses the Sampaguita as a chair attached to an impulse engine.
T’Pol’s decision not to report that she was assaulted by Tolaris is one I struggled with both while watching this episode and especially thinking about it afterward. T’Pol’s point is a good one—Tolaris’ act would just be used by people like Oratt as another club to use against the melders—but that also enables Tolaris to get away with what he did, which still, twenty-three episodes later, rankles. And ultimately I keep coming back to this: T’Pol is being punished for having been raped, and that’s reprehensible.
This plot is so much better than the A-plot, because it grows out of the Trek universe—and indeed, out of engineers in particular. Every engineer we’ve seen in the franchise—Scotty, La Forge, O’Brien, Barclay, Torres, Rom, Nog, Tucker, Stamets, Reno, Pog—has been like this, and so is every engineer I’ve ever met. I don’t know if it was a direct influence, but one of the best engineer portrayals in Trek history was how David Gerrold wrote Scotty in “The Trouble with Tribbles” on the original series. First there was Kirk seeing Scotty reading technical journals, and Kirk admonishing him to relax, and Scotty says, “I am relaxin’!” And then when Kirk confines him to quarters (after starting a bar brawl with some Klingons, which he only did because they insulted the Enterprise, not because they insulted Kirk), Scotty is thrilled, because he can catch up on his technical journals!
The B-plot of “Room for Growth” is a wonderful extension of that bit with Scotty. It works beautifully, because it grows out of character and out of the setting. It’s still a silly plotline, but it works in the Trek universe, as we’ve seen so many engineers like this over fifty-six years.
“Dawn” is very much the least of Trek’s forays into Hell in the Pacific territory. It’s not that there’s anything actively wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about it. Even the 1985 film of Longyear’s novella—which was mostly awful—had some magnificent performances from the two leads to keep it going. Connor Trinneer and Gregg Henry are both fine actors, but they’re given nothing here but the most rote of story beats, and absolutely no kind of characterization. We don’t really learn anything about Tucker in this hour that we didn’t already know, and Zho’Kaan doesn’t create much of an impression. (Hell, Brad Greenquist’s Arkonian captain evinces more personality, though with him I was mostly wondering why he sounded so much like Jeff Kober…)
One of my least favorite tropes of Trek, particularly some of its older tie-in fiction, is the tiresome notion that the Enterprise did all the cool stuff. No other ship had as many talented people on board, nobody else in Starfleet did the weird-ass missions, no other ship had as great a captain as Kirk, as fantastic a science officer as Spock, as talented an engineer as Scotty, as magnificent a pilot as Sulu, etc., etc. TNG didn’t really do anything to change that, just extended it to the twenty-fourth century. The debut of Deep Space Nine and further spinoffs finally succeeded in steering the franchise away from that nonsense, with Station Deep Space 9 as well as the starships Defiant, Voyager, Discovery, Cerritos, Protostar, and La Sirena all encountering their share of weird-ass shit, too. So I resist the notion that the Cerritos crew is special. Indeed, the very notion contravenes what makes LD such a fun show in the first place—that this craziness is actually pretty mundane in Starfleet generally.
They arrive in the nick of time, as the Dulanians, as ordered by their co-leaders, a telepathic baby and a sentient computer, are about to sacrifice the engineers to their volcano god. (Mariner’s comment: “Wow, psychic baby, evil computer, and a volcano? You guys never heard of overkill?”) But Ransom saves the day by ripping his shirt off and showing off his washboard abs to the Dulanians—who, as previously established, are wellness-based.
I’m enjoying the hell out of Ransom fulfilling the stereotype of the white-guy leading man action-hero-type, embodying the worst aspects of Kirk, Riker, Paris, and Archer and turning them up to eleven. Him saving the day with his mighty mighty pecs is just perfect.
It’s funny, I was watching this episode and really grooving on it, but when I wrote it up, I was having a hard time remembering why I liked it so much. I think part of it is how dreadful “Precious Cargo” was than anything, but also the script and direction were brisk and top-notch. I also have to admit that the episode sold me when Mayweather mentioned the need for a latrine in the catwalk. Trek’s aversion to even acknowledging that bathrooms exist is often fodder for humor (justifiably so), so this was a welcome reminder of one of the many difficulties of cramming everyone into an access walkway for a week.