The B-plot here is Pike and Spock down on the planet, and not only does it continue to solidify the Pike-Spock dynamic that would lead to Spock breaking dozens of regs to help Pike a decade hence in “The Menagerie,” but it’s also a master class by Ethan Peck in continuing the character of Spock. Every line of dialogue is delivered in a manner that is at once very Leonard Nimoy-like, and yet totally Peck as well. (Credit also to screenwriters co-executive producer Akela Cooper and supervising producer Bill Wolkoff for penning very Spock-y dialogue.)
The use of actors who were already under contract is one of many ways in which Matalas, et al seem to be focused more on keeping the show under budget than telling the story they want to tell. Most of the sets are either ones that were already created for season one (the Château Picard mansion, La Sirena) or in contemporary L.A. where the show films and don’t require much alteration to work, since it’s only two years in the future. And roughly three-quarters of the season takes place in the same setting as the filming location, leaving only the first two episodes and the very end of the last one to take place in the future.
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.
And [Anson] Mount continues to be absolutely magnificent as Captain Daddy. Every moment with him is perfection. We start with his reaction to Uhura’s dress uniform, which is simple laughter at the prank and then moving on without comment. There are his delightful asides, from the line I used for the headline of this review to his “I love this job” to Number One to his revealing to Ortegas that he knows her rep to that fine old Trek tradition of taking a moment during a crisis to make fun of Spock (in this case, backing up Uhura’s complaint that Spock spends a lot of time reminding people of deadlines).
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…
I love pretty much everything about this episode, and more to the point, I love the feel of the show. The production design is superb, a perfect mix of what we got in the 1960s with what a 2020s audience would expect from a science fiction show. It’s a tough needle to thread, as the Enterprise we saw fifty-plus years ago looked like what people thought the future would look like back then, but in truth the Enterprise that Jeffrey Hunter and William Shatner were in command of was—once you remove the transporter and warp drive—less technologically sophisticated than my house. It is to the great credit of the production designers and art directors and visual effects folk that they’ve found a way to make the Enterprise look like what we think the future will look like now, while still being true to the general ambience from 1964. (I’m sure this show will look just as dated when people watch the reruns in 2086…)
The last scene is Picard back at his winery trying (and presumably convincing, though she never actually says yes) Laris to not bugger off but stay behind and make sweet nookie-nookie with him. This is worth mentioning for a number of reasons, mainly because it’s the first thing Picard actually does in the second-season finale of the show named after him. He spends plenty of time being lectured at, mind you. First there’s Tallinn, reminding him that she is a grownup who can make her own decisions about how she’s going to live her life and do her job, and won’t be talked out of a self-sacrifice by some old fart from the future that she’s only known for a couple days. Then there’s Q, explaining his motivations and declaring his love for Picard (which will probably prompt at least as many Picard-Q slashfics as the scene with the two of them in bed in TNG‘s “Tapestry” did). And then there’s Guinan doing the “where are they now?” coda for Rios, et al.
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.