Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving Forward By Alluding More To Star Trek, “Future Tense” Is One Of The Better Enterprise Episodes!

The Good: Decent concept, Good allusions
The Bad: Clunky writing, Unrealistic odds of victory for the Enterprise.
The Basics: “Future Tense” might be a little lighter on the character front than fans would want, but it is an engaging action-based science fiction episode that keeps the viewer engrossed for the entire hour!

Fans of the Star Trek franchise have long awaited the return of the Tholians to the franchise. The Tholians were an obscure crystalline species seen only in “The Tholian Web” (reviewed here!) where they sparked the imagination of the fans. In Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Tholians are mentioned periodically, but never show back up, despite the fact that those series were set in the same general areas of space as Star Trek. So, given how infrequently the Tholians were actually encountered in the future, it seems somewhat ridiculous that they would appear in Enterprise.

Even that, though, cannot fully mar “Future Tense.” “Future Tense” has very tight continuity within Enterprise, if not the rest of the franchise. Outside some awful writing (in the space of less than thirty seconds, events and objects are described as “unusual” three times!) and Archer making patently false statements (“This is the first opportunity we’ve had to get some answers.” Really? You can say that in a scene after you’ve already used the database from the 31rst Century that has all of the answers to every question you could ask but usually avoid asking?!), “Future Tense” is pretty engaging.

The Enterprise discovers a small pod adrift in space. When they bring the unpowered ship aboard, Reed and Archer cut it open and discover there is a human body aboard. Dr. Phlox discovers that the body is more of a mystery than it initially appears; it has DNA from several other species, including Vulcan. As Reed and Tucker explore the pod – which is bigger on the inside than the outside – the Suliban arrive to lay claim to it. Easily repelling a Suliban cargo ship, the Enterprise is hailed by a Tholian ship which also comes to claim the pod.

When Archer and T’Pol identify the pod as being from the 31rst Century, T’Pol’s absolute belief in the Vulcan Science Ministry’s denial of time travel is challenged. When the Enterprise tries to get aid from a Vulcan ship, they inadvertently get the Vulcan ship crippled. The Enterprise finds itself caught between the Tholians and a Suliban squadron, all of whom lay claim to the mysterious vessel!

“Future Tense” is the first really big space battle for Enterprise. If for no other reason, that gives viewers something more than the appearance of Tholian ships for fans to get excited about. Director James Whitmore Jr. handles the space battles well and the look and feel of the battle is very tense. The battle could have been a real flop given that it is broken up by recurring time loops, much like in “Cause And Effect” (reviewed here!). Instead, though, those scenes are used to add additional tension to the conflict.

The big character conflict in “Future Tense” comes from T’Pol. T’Pol is exposed with direct evidence in the form of the technology and records stored in Daniels’s quarters (there’s a McGuffin that’s never going to get old!), yet she seems to truly still want to believe that time travel is not possible. While she never explicitly comes to believe in time travel, she seems to accept Phlox’s findings that the corpse has both human and Vulcan (among other) DNA. The scene between Phlox and T’Pol in the mess hall is one of the better character moments of the series so far and the show seems to be working at a realistic pace. Much like Scully not abandoning her long-held beliefs, T’Pol does not simply accept the first or second apparent bit of evidence in revising her beliefs. Even so, in “Future Tense,” it is clear that she is opening to the possibilities of time travel.

“Future Tense” does not include any exceptional moments of performance, but the truth is that it does not have any truly poor performances either. Instead, all of the actors seem comfortable with the material they are given and the reality of the situation is maintained without any serious detractions on the performance front.

Ultimately, one of the biggest issues with “Future Tense” is that it makes no greater statement on the universe or humanity than it presents. Instead, this episode is simply a “this is what happens” type adventure. While it is good, it does not rise above the good to be in any way extraordinary.

The three biggest gaffes in “Future Tense:”
3. The ships seen in “Future Tense” appear to be the same configuration as the ones in “The Tholian Web.” Given the power of those ships, the NX-01 Enterprise should not be able to withstand as many shots as it does from the squadron of Tholian ships,
2. The Tholian language includes some horrible screeching which was not a component of their language in “The Tholian Web,”
1. In “The Tholian Web,” only Spock knew about the Tholians, which insinuated that the Vulcans had some contact with the reclusive race outside of StarFleet. However, in “Future Tense” a StarFleet ship encounters the Tholians. How, then, are the Tholians not a known species when so much more of the Alpha Quadrant is explored by the time of Star Trek?!

[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!

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