Saturday, June 1, 2013

Uninspired Opening: Enterprise Kicks Off The Second Season With “Shockwave, Part 2”

The Good: The special effects are adequate?
The Bad: No character development, Lousy plot, Bland acting, Terrible dialogue, Irksome resolution
The Basics: “Shockwave, Part 2” returns Enterprise in one of the least tense, worst-performed, mediocre episodes of the franchise that makes one wonder why the show bothered to return for a second season.

Between the first and second seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise, I found myself in a very odd place. I was a dealer of Star Trek trading cards, making a living off of going to Star Trek conventions and selling Star Trek merchandise, yet I loathed the only active television component of the franchise at that point, Enterprise. But, before the second season premiered, Rittenhouse Archives released its Enterprise Season One trading card set (reviewed here!). I sat and read the backs of all of the trading cards in that set and something weird happened. The trading cards made me feel like I was missing out on something, like perhaps I had given up on Enterprise too soon. So, I decided to go back and give the season premiere of Enterprise’s second season a shot. Sadly, the moment one of the characters opened their mouth to speak, I recalled easily why I had given up on the show. The writing was terrible, the performances defined the word “bland” and the plots were either dull or made no sense in the larger context of the Star Trek franchise.

So, enter “Shockwave, Part 2,” obviously a direct sequel to season one’s cliffhanger “Shockwave” (reviewed here!). The biggest gripe I have about “Shockwave, Part 2” in the context of being a sequel episode is that it fails to resolve the plot that was set up in “Shockwave” in a fundamentally meaningful way. For sure, Captain Archer, who was off the ship at the climax of that episode finds his way back to Enterprise, but how and the way the episode fits into the Temporal Cold War makes no rational sense. The devil, as it always is, is in the details. In “Shockwave,” the time traveling Crewman Daniels notes that the destruction of the colony that triggers the recall of Enterprise was not supposed to happen. The timeline was altered by the Suliban in “Shockwave.” However, rather than restoring the timeline, “Shockwave, Part 2” blithely accepts that the timeline has been altered and simply, in the most mediocre way possible, accepts the consequences of that. So, in analogous terms, “Shockwave, Part 2” is not about punishing the bully on the playground, it is an entire episode focused on whining to the principal about the playground bully. Sure, the bully is stopped, but the behavior is not fundamentally changed.

And really, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, what the hell does it take for StarFleet in the future to go from a Cold War into an active war if not destroying a colony and most of StarFleet on Earth?!

“Shockwave, Part 2” picks up where the first episode left off. Captain Archer has been pulled into the distant future where Daniels gives him plenty of exposition about the way the timeline has been altered. Nothing in the ruins of StarFleet has power, so Archer appears stranded in the distant future. Back in the 22nd Century, Enterprise is surrounded by the Suliban pods and the Suliban commander, Silik, is outraged when Archer – who was to surrender himself to him – does not arrive within the time limit. The Suliban invade Enterprise and discover that Archer is not aboard, but there is an anomalous temporal signature coming from the turbolift Archer took to the shuttle bay.

While the Suliban torture T’Pol for information on Archer’s whereabouts and she steadfastly denies the existence of time travel, Trip, Reed, Phlox, and Hoshi find themselves in lockdown. Using Archer’s communicator, Daniels creates a device that allows Archer to send a hologram of himself back into the past to communicate with T’Pol. Following that, Hoshi is sent on a mission with little obvious purpose save to get her shirt off and Reed recovers a device from Daniels’ quarters before getting captured and tortured, and the inspiring teamwork of the Enterprise crew climaxes in everything returning to the status quo and Enterprise continuing with its mission.

For sure, the purpose of most season premieres is to restore the balance to a show in a way that provides viewers with something familiar and popular. Unfortunately for “Shockwave, Part 2,” Enterprise restores the status quo in the least compelling way possible. First, viewers are asked to believe that with only a communicator from the 22nd Century, Daniels could create a device that could communicate with the past. Second, Silik is undermined as being a villainous badass when he spends almost the entire episode whining about how he has been abandoned by the mysterious stranger from the distant future. Third, the retaking of Enterprise makes the Suliban seem like some of the dumbest villains in the Star Trek franchise . . . so much so that it seems more like a comedy of errors that Enterprise would have been lost to them in the first place. Say what you will about the Kazon in Star Trek: Voyager and Tuvok’s ineptitude at anticipating why they focused their attacks in “Basics” (reviewed here!), but there was at least one badass suicide bomber, a manipulated member of the command staff, and a cunning enemy (Seska) who knew the tactical soft points of the ship. Enterprise is simply surrounded by superior numbers and in “Shockwave, Part 2” we learn they could have gotten away and that the Vulcans are just too damned lazy to care about the ship’s fate.

As for the character development, “Shockwave, Part 2” has none. Daniels tells Archer that he will be important to the Federation, but none of the characters actually develop. T’Pol continues to deny the existence of time travelers, even when she is tortured in a vague but unpleasant way (is she being exsanguinated? Are her bodily fluids being replaced with something else? All we know is there are fluids in clear tubes and after the Suliban’s procedure, she is exhausted. For all we know, they filled her with a high glucose solution and her exhaustion afterwards was her coming off the immense sugar high to crash.

The performances are similarly without note and Jolene Blalock fails to present T’Pol in a convincing manner and Anthony Montgomery regrettably steps on his line early in the episode so badly it is amazing the director did not ask for another take. For an episode that involves a fight to take back a ship and to make sure that Enterprise is allowed to continue on its mission, no one seems particularly invested. It is almost like the cast came back so well rested from their summer hiatus that they slouched through the first episode back and it shows in the worst possible ways with their lackluster acting.

So, in the end, “Shockwave, Part 2” only has special effects that are marginally interesting presented as space battles (the virtual sets or set extensions look worse than some of the original Star Trek’s matte paintings!) that create more tension than any of the actors manage to. This is one of those episodes that is utterly unsatisfying and for fans who waited an entire summer to be returned to their beloved show . . . well, they have my pity.

The three biggest gaffes in “Shockwave, Part 2” are:
3. The Vulcans continue to deny any culpability in their lie about the Vulcan Monastery housing a spy complex in “The Andorian Incident” (reviewed here!). To deny the obvious is illogical; to make Vulcans into liars who shirk any sense of responsibility is just criminal,
2. Daniels and the Temporal Investigations unit of StarFleet do not prevent the Suliban actions that effectively make the Temporal Cold War into an active war,
1. Daniels said that the destruction of the colony did not happen in history as it happened. There is nothing in “Shockwave, Part 2” that undoes the destruction of the colony, so it should have been recorded. This is a huge problem.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page where reviews are organized from best to worst episode/movie!

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