The Good: Backstory between Vulcans and Arkonians, Performances are generally all right
The Bad: Light on character development, Little purpose other than a basic survival story
The Basics: In “Dawn,” Trip and an alien struggle to survive, though their story is a surprisingly unremarkable one.
In the Star Trek franchise, there are a number of simple survival stories. The best ones are between two main characters that lead them to a greater personal understanding, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Armageddon Game” (reviewed here!) or Star Trek’s “The Galileo Seven” (reviewed here!). When it comes to alien encounters as survival stories, the gold standard might well be “Darmok” (reviewed here!) from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The whole purpose of “Darmok,” though, was to create an episode about how difficult communications could be between humans and aliens. Enterprise, sadly, does not make anything quite as smart, at least with “Dawn.”
“Dawn” is a very simple survival story that puts Trip with an alien who cannot understand him. Instead of making a bold statement on the nature of peaceful exploration, though, “Dawn” seems like a cheap excuse to have frequent fistfights and Trip in a sweaty tanktop. This is not stellar Star Trek and it is even somewhat ridiculous (for much of the episode, Trip’s arms and face are thoroughly sweaty, but his tanktop is dry!). At least the pretense disappears before the end and Connor Trinneer’s Tucker goes around fully shirtless. Even the basic survival/fight episode “Arena” from Star Trek had a deeper purpose to it. “Dawn” is just about surviving on a planet that will become inhospitable (for most of the episode, it is habitable and generally fine).
Trip is on his way back from exploring a gas giant with thousands of moons when he is attacked and his shuttlepod crashes. As the Enterprise moves into the system to find Trip, they encounter the Arkonians, who demand the StarFleet ship leave. On one of the Class M moons, Trip works to heal himself and fix his shuttlepod. Unfortunately, the Arkonian who shot Trip’s shuttlepod down is alive on the planet and steals his ship’s transceiver array, making it impossible for him to call for help or leave the moon. After luring his counterpart out, he tries to steal the transceiver back, but gets beaten up for his trouble.
Unable to understand one another, Trip and the alien Zho’Kaan try to figure out how to get off the planet together because dawn is coming and when it does, the planet will heat up beyond Trip’s ability to survive. After repeated fights, Trip and Zho’Kaan get their transmitter to higher ground to try to contact Enterprise. With dawn coming, Trip realizes the Arkonian’s inability to sweat might kill him and he works to keep both of them alive.
“Dawn” has remarkably little going for it. There is no real character development and no deeper revelations about Trip or the crew that searches for him following the loss of his shuttlepod. Given how there is virtually no plot, “Dawn” feels like it is stretched out needlessly with the physiological issue Phlox raises about the Arkonians. While it makes sense that Tucker would be ignorant to the endocrine issue of the Arkonians, the episode is virtually resolved by the time Phlox presents the new problem.
Similarly, Trip’s rather nihilistic view near the end is somewhat ridiculous. Tucker’s shuttlepod was attacked and the officer has managed to survive for a decent amount of time; why he thinks Archer would bust him down to steward is utterly baffling. If the exhaustion that Tucker finishes the scene with is supposed to be the point, then Connor Trinneer unfortunately does not land it with his performance.
Actor Gregg Henry manages to sell the role of Zho’Kaan effectively. Henry gets through all of the alien language of the Arkonians perfectly, making it sound like a real language that his character is entirely knowledgeable in. Gregg Henry usually plays heavies and in “Dawn,” he might not be memorable as Zho’Kaan, but he is credible.
Unfortunately, fans of the Star Trek franchise deserve more than such a basic, somewhat uninspired episode. While the make-up and visual effects are decent, they serve a story that it anything but original or even engaging. The result is an utterly forgettable episode of Enterprise.
[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 works with Gregg Henry, please visit my reviews of:
Star Trek: Insurrection
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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