Monday, May 20, 2013

Enterprise Season One Goes Out With A Bang (And A Whimper) With “Shockwave”

The Good: Decent plot, Moments of character, Performances are fine
The Bad: Most of the characters do not develops, Special effects are decidedly mixed
The Basics: When the Enterprise is responsible for a planetary disaster, the ship is recalled until Archer gets fully invested in the Temporal Cold War.

One of my favorite guest stars from the Star Trek franchise once made a pithy remark that her character had been killed on the show . . . so it only guaranteed her two more appearances on the show. I thought that was hilarious, but true. In the Star Trek universe characters seldom stay dead. Enterprise carries on that noble tradition and it is somewhat unsurprising that the first resurrected character is the character who was not native to the Enterprise timeline anyway. Daniels, killed back in “Cold Front” (reviewed here!) reappears in “Shockwave” and his reappearance is one of the least surprising returns in the entire franchise.

“Shockwave” is a Temporal Cold War story that completes the first season of Enterprise and, to be fair, it does it with flair, if not sensibility. In fact, I was thrilled when Captain Archer asks Daniels the sensible question when he finds himself returned to a moment in the past, though the answer is thoroughly disappointing (and makes no real sense). Archer is returned to the past after a key event and it is a moment he remembers from being in it (the day before “Broken Bow,” reviewed here, began the series), but while there, the version of himself from the past is not in the bed he wakes up in. It was remarkably unsatisfying. That said, most of the episode is entertaining and an engaging action adventure episode that is enough to keep watching.

The Enterprise arrives at a Paraagan colony where the crew is given very specific directions on how to enter the atmosphere because the mining colony there creates an elemental byproduct that has the potential to ignite the colony’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, such an ignition does occur, which baffles Reed and the crew because Reed followed all of the procedures he was required to and there were no malfunctions in the vents that might have allowed the plasma to vent and ignite the atmosphere. Archer begins to feel sorry for himself and he is shocked when Admiral Forrest recalls the ship to Earth. The implication is that the ship will be decommissioned and the Vulcans will use the 3600 deaths on the colony to keep humans away from space exploration for the next two decades.

Despite the protestations of T’Pol and Trip, Archer complies with Forrest’s orders . . . until he wakes up back on Earth in the past and meets with Crewman Daniels. Daniels gives him the tools to uncover the truth; that the colony had a cloaked Suliban vessel that caused the colony’s destruction in order to discredit Enterprise and stall human movement into the galaxy. Reacting to that revelation, the Enterprise returns to the colony and goes on the offensive, knocking out the Suliban facility. This, however, draws the ire of the Suliban and their handlers from the future and put the Enterprise into its most dangerous situation yet.

“Shockwave” is notable on the character front in that it systematically gives and takes character from Jonathan Archer. Archer is portrayed well as deeply human in the episode. He is shocked and hurt by the destruction his crew caused and he is legitimately horrified. Unfortunately for him, the only way out of the situation is the plot-based convenience of Crewman Daniels. This undermines Archer in a serious and somewhat debilitating way. Archer is not a cunning captain who pushes the boundaries of what humanity can do or who we are in a crunch: he is a guy who is given all the answers from the future who knows how events are supposed to play out. This makes his part in “Shockwave” particularly unsatisfying.

Similarly, the return of Daniels and the menace of Silik are met with mixed results. Daniels has little purpose other than delivering massive amounts of exposition and actor Matt Winston does that well. The ending to the episode makes little temporal sense, but when talking time travel, there is some element of that to be expected. Winston does fine, but his character in “Shockwave” is not much of a character.

In a similar fashion, the mysterious stranger from the future who is using Silik is undermined some in “Shockwave.” After all, at some point it makes sense to replace the operative who continues to fail you and Silik’s success rate is approaching zero in “Shockwave.” Silik, while he appears appropriately menacing, comes across as little more than a thug middleman in “Shockwave” and that is getting harder to watch. Actor John Fleck does fine with the role he is given, though.

Jolene Blalock, as she usually does, emotes far more as T’Pol than a Vulcan ought to – she plays the Subcommander surprised when Archer agrees to essentially surrender early in the episode and that is an unfortunate performance. Similarly, Connor Trineer plays Trip Tucker as unfortunately dumb and while he has that down pat, it does weaken the character quite a bit.

Scott Bakula emotes well as Archer for the character’s intended range and “Shockwave” is watchable and does what a season finale is supposed to do; it makes the viewer want to know what comes next. The set-up for season two from “Shockwave” is more than adequate to that task.

The three biggest gaffes in “Shockwave:”
3. As a basic element of temporal mechanics, it is utterly absurd that none of the characters – not Daniels or Archer – talk about preventing the destruction of Paraaga II. The moment Daniels acknowledges that the colony was not destroyed in the original trip through the timeline, it is stunningly unimaginative and problematic that none of the characters make that a priority.
2. Yet another new alien race is referenced in Enterprise at what would be the core of the Federation. The Paraagans are not mentioned in any of the subsequent incarnations of Trek, yet here they are at the core of what will become Federation space.
1. The Enterprise crew makes a big deal about the matriarchal society the Paraagans have. Matriarchal societies might not be a particularly big deal, but they are treated as an exceptionally rare anomaly in “Angel One” (reviewed here!). It seems odd that it would be such a novelty to the Enterprise crew (then) if in the past early humans encountered them so early.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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