Friday, November 1, 2013

Entirely Derivative, But Exceptionally Entertaining, “Twilight” Is One Of Star Trek: Enterprise’s Best.

The Good: Good acting, Decent effects, Good (temporary) character development
The Bad: Plot is an amalgam of other episodes! The resolution is utterly unsatisfying.
The Basics: Despite having some clever twists on the story told in “Future Imperfect,” “Twilight” is little more than a rewrite of that episode for Star Trek: Enterprise!

One of the advantages of producing heavily-serialized television is that the creative team of the show can do long arcs for a character. The worst serialized television is just plot based, the best uses the continuing storyline to develop the characters and larger themes that the producers are trying to create. Unfortunately, Star Trek: Enterprise, in its serialized third season, went with the plot-based focus and “Twilight” emerges as the critical point where that becomes truly unfortunate. “Twilight” is another episode where Archer is having the crap kicked out of him in the Expanse and if Star Trek: Enterprise was a character-based show, this would be leading to a climax of the season where Captain Archer could commit an act of sacrifice to save humanity and, in the process, find relief from the ass-kicking he has been getting. So far since entering the Expanse, Archer has gotten into a number of physical altercations, was turned into an alien lifeform in “Extinction” (reviewed here!) (which, I swear, I only just now realized was a pathetic rewriting of “Identity Crisis,” reviewed here!), and in “Twilight,” he is infected with the brain worms. At some point, death has to be a relief for a character and the heroic demise of said character becomes more of a relief to the fans than watching them suffer.

But that is the premise of well-constructed serialized television. Instead, though, “Twilight” ends up as a rewrite of “Future Imperfect” (reviewed here!) and the fact that it is combined with the plot conceit of 50 First Dates (reviewed here!), does not improve the premise. It’s too bad because if “Twilight” were not a thoroughly derivative episode, it might actually be all right. “Twilight” blends “Future Imperfect” with “Resolutions” (reviewed here!) and 50 First Dates. The net result of the episode, though, for fans of the Star Trek franchise is that this is nothing new.

After having a vision where Archer, no longer the Captain of the Enterprise, bursts onto the bridge during a battle and witnesses the destruction of Earth, Archer awakens on a planet. There, T’Pol tells him that his last memories – walking down a corridor chatting with him – were twelve years old. In that memory, the Enterprise hits the usual anomalies within the Expanse and when part of the corridor collapses, T’Pol is trapped under a beam. When Archer rescues her, another anomaly hits and he is knocked unconscious. He awakens in Sickbay and is told he has brain parasites that prevent him from forming new long-term memories.

T’Pol tells Archer the story of her command of the Enterprise; from Admiral Forrest relieving Archer of duty and T’Pol taking over to a disastrous encounter with two Xindi ships to the failure of Enterprise’s mission after the Xindi wiped out all but six thousand humans. T’Pol tells Archer that they have settled on Ceti Alpha V. Phlox visits to tell Archer that he may have finally found a way to eradicate the parasites and Archer, T’Pol, and Phlox visit Enterprise to remove the parasites.

Writer Mike Sussman deserves a lot of credit, despite how he cobbled together “Twilight” from other Star Trek episodes and concepts. Sussman has a decent sense of irony; he has Archer infected with brain parasites shortly before he reveals that T’Pol and Archer have settled on Ceti Alpha V, where Khan’s people were killed off by brain worms in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (reviewed here!). Sussman has a nice sense of Star Trek history and he can write, but “Twilight” asks far too much of the viewer and sets up an obvious reversal early on.

Like “Future Imperfect,” “Twilight” plays with how the crew of the Enterprise would change over the course of twelve years. In the penultimate act, the viewer is delighted with seeing how the crew has aged and been promoted, much like seeing Ambassador Picard and the scarred Worf in “Future Imperfect.” The obvious ending to “Twilight” forces the timeline to be restored and Sussman has to do so with a temporal anomaly, which becomes obvious the moment the episode features scenes that have nothing to do with Archer in the future. Until that point in “Twilight,” the episode could be a horrible dream of Archer’s that is forcing him to see things like the destruction of Earth (if it were a dream, the destruction of Earth would not need to be undone).

Even knowing that the reversal is coming (because it has to!), the timeline of the resolution is entirely unsatisfying. Given the level of damage to the Enterprise, there should not have been enough time to resolve the episode the way it does.

What saves “Twilight” from damnation is the fact that the acting is wonderful and writer Mike Sussman and director Robert Duncan McNeill use the time to explore the characters, better than almost any other episode of Star Trek: Enterprise! T’Pol and Dr. Phlox both grow in the alternate timeline exceptionally well. T’Pol is subtly emotional and that plays well given how much she would have been “contaminated” by the constant emotionalism of Archer and her feelings of indebtedness to him.

Jolene Blalock gives one of the most subtle performances of her run on Enterprise in “Twilight.” “Twilight” gives her the chance to play emotional without breaking the character of T’Pol. Scott Bakula manages to play Archer without stiffness or a confusion that is offputting. Instead, he seems realistically shaken, but it plays to the character’s problem as opposed to being an issue of acting. Even Connor Trinneer plays Captain Tucker well enough to convince viewers that he has actually been in command for some time.

“Twilight” is a bottle episode within a heavily-serialized season and it uses some of the same conceits as the episode upon which it was based (Ambassador Soval shows up at almost the same time as Ambassador Tomalak in “Future Imperfect!”), but it is enjoyable, entertaining, and has enough (even temporary) character development to satisfy fans.

The three biggest gaffes in “Twilight:”
3. Archer and T’Pol are shot by the same weapons in the episode’s climax. Archer is able to shrug off the effects of the blast while T’Pol is either killed or stunned; this contrary to everything previously established about Vulcan and human endurance levels,
2. The Xindi are wearing uniforms clearly recycled from the Reman costumes from Star Trek: Nemesis (reviewed here!),
1. The Enterprise in Star Trek was on a five year mission exploring out beyond where anyone had ever been when it found Khan’s ship in “Space Seed” (reviewed here!). As a result, the NX-01 Enterprise should have been nowhere near Ceti Alpha V to settle there!

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