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…
It helps that [Jolene] Blalock has an actor of Fionnula Flanagan’s high calibre to play off of. Flanagan gives us in V’Lar a lovely character who is still very much a Vulcan, but not the stiff that far too many guest Vulcans do, nor does she go for the deadpan sass that Leonard Nimoy did so well and that Mark Lenard, Tim Russ, and Blalock all emulated. Instead, she shows a diplomat’s curiosity about other cultures—actually embracing IDIC overtly—and also never loses sight of her mission. She has a certain charm while still maintaining the repression of emotions. It’s a fantastic performance, showing a greater range of personality types among Vulcans that has been rare even on this show that has given us so many of them.
Plus all the main characters get something to do. While Archer and Tucker are indisposed for most of the episode, they still get some fun bonding moments, both over the water polo game and while captured. T’Pol does brilliantly in charge, as expected, and Sato gets to realize how much she’s actually appreciated by the taciturn Vulcan who gives her a hard time, not because she’s a hardass, but because Sato has proven that expecting greatness from her is not unreasonable.
Plus Reed gets to be all violent and stuff, Phlox gets to remind Reed that it’s his sickbay, thank you very much, and Mayweather gets to sincerely apologize on behalf of the entire crew for their eating in public. And Porthos is the first to detect the aliens, because dogs are awesome.
And, of course, Stockwell is never not wonderful. (Amusingly, I’ve been watching old episodes of Columbo on Peacock, and Stockwell appeared on a couple of episodes as a young man—I almost didn’t recognize him…) I love how Grat starts out reasonable, seeming like a bureaucrat who’s just doing his job, but with each scene he’s in, the fanaticism comes out, culminating in his ends-justify-the-means nonsense about how they’re “protecting” the Suliban by imprisoning them without due process. I particularly like the exchange where Grat insists that the Suliban are desperate and have nothing left and won’t be able to resist what the Cabal offers. Leaving aside the obvious—they only have nothing left and are desperate because Grat and his ilk threw them in jail because of what species they happen to be—Archer’s response is beautiful: “I haven’t been here very long, but I seem to know these people a helluva lot better than you do.”
The mystery of what happened to the Kantares unfolds rather nicely, and yes, it’s the exact same plot twist as “Shadowplay,” but it plays out very well. The chemistry between Connor Trinneer and Annie Wersching is very sweet, I love T’Pol giving Tucker shit about the events of “Unexpected,” and I like that Reed is the one who figures things out at first thanks to his tactical smarts. I would’ve liked more done with Mayweather’s apprehension regarding the “ghosts,” but that’s going to be a running theme on this show, sadly.
And the fact that it’s not original doesn’t bother me, mainly because it’s a riff on The Tempest. William Shakespare’s plays weren’t hardly original at all: either they were riffs on history or they were stories that were already familiar to the audience. Because originality is far less important than the execution of the idea. (Though, ironically, The Tempest was one of Shakespeare’s few wholly original plays…)
I don’t understand the logic behind even doing this episode. Some of the worst hours of Star Trek have been aggressively unfunny Ferengi episodes, from TNG’s “Ménàge à Troi,” Rascals,” and “The Perfect Mate” to DS9’s “Profit and Lace” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak” to Voyager’s “False Profits.” And while there are good Ferengi episodes, the bad ones all have one thing in common: the Ferengi are portrayed in the most caricatured manner possible, as cackling morons with the brains of a flea.
In other words, the bad Ferengi episodes all fail to take the Ferengi as a concept in the least bit seriously, focused more on what will get the most cheap laughs rather than what will make a good story or on considering that the Ferengi are a space-faring species and that the Ferengi Alliance has a considerable amount of territory in the Alpha Quadrant.
The Ferengi in this episode are so dumb that I find it impossible to credit that they ever even learned how to operate their ship, much less fly it through space safely and sneak gas grenades onto Starfleet vessels.
Unfortunately, there is precisely nothing in the story that requires it to be a rogue planet. In fact, after going to all the trouble of establishing that this is a planet without a star system, we get a bog-standard hunting story on a bog-standard jungle set, with three guest characters who are nominally alien, but may as well be three guys named Joe, Fred, and Billy-Bob from central Pennsylvania, given how they act.
Tolaris is a predator of the worst kind, but T’Pol is obviously intrigued by him and the others, no doubt “corrupted” by living among humans. But things go too far too fast, and when she tries to stop it, he refuses.
I must admit to being annoyed at first, because this was an assault, but then the very next scene was Archer telling Tolaris that he assaulted a member of his crew—
—except he uses this information, not to bring Tolaris to any manner of justice, but for a “gotcha” moment to prove that his emotional control isn’t as strong as he thinks it is, which results in Archer getting thrown across his own ready room.
And that’s it! Now while it’s true that Archer has no jurisdiction over a Vulcan civilian, he can, at the very least, report Tolaris to his captain in the hopes that Tavin might do something about it. As it stands, Tavin has completely disappeared from the narrative after the captain’s mess scene, which is a blown opportunity.