Monday, November 11, 2013

Straightforward, Pointless, Action Time Travel Is Found On “Carpenter Street”

The Good: Not boring, Special effects are fine, Leland Orser
The Bad: Simple problem/simple solution for the plot, No character development, Most of the acting is unimpressive
The Basics: “Carpenter Street” breaks the trend of Star Trek episodes doing time-travel episodes that are complicated, smart, and popular with the fans.

In the history of bad ideas, chief among them for Star Trek has got to be time travel stories that contradict Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. Roddenberry’s future was hinted at several times and episodes in the modern canon have largely failed to live up to that, most notably the Star Trek: Voyager two-parter “Future’s End” (reviewed here and here!). “Carpenter Street” continues Star Trek: Enterprise’s disregard for established Star Trek history as it occurs largely in 2004. Given the serialized nature of most of the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, the inclusion of time travel episodes – this is the second in the last four episodes, following “Twilight” (reviewed here!) – in the arc muddies the intensity of the story being told.

“Carpenter Street” has fish out of water elements that Star Trek fans will find familiar, though Captain Archer driving a contemporary automobile lacks the level of charm of Kirk driving in “A Piece Of The Action” (reviewed here!). And social notes, like about how the Earth’s fossil fuels are almost entirely exhausted, feel much more forced as they come in the form of asides as opposed to vital components of the episode.

In the past on Earth, a Xindi-Reptile facility is being supplied by a lone man, Loomis. Loomis knocks out a prostitute and abducts her for the Xindi, without knowing what the Xindi need her for (though he knows the victim’s blood type from a clinic at which he worked). Temporal Agent Daniels appears on the Enterprise to inform Archer that three Xindi have appeared in Detroit, Michigan, one hundred fifty years in the past. Archer and T’Pol use a device given to them by Daniels to teleport back in time and space to Detroit. There, they steal a car and money from an ATM to get around to find the Xindi-Reptiles and bring them back to the future.

Loomis, meanwhile, is rounding up people with different blood types for the Xindi. The Xindi offer to pay the suddenly cautious Loomis double for the last three humans they need and his hunt for the other people is interrupted by Archer and T’Pol finding his apartment. Archer, eager to get into the facility to find the Xindi, volunteers to be Loomis’s B negative blood donor. Archer has to chase the Xindi down to get the weapon (a virus, he believes) the Xindi are building and return them to Enterprise and the future.

“Carpenter Street,” named for the location of the factory the Xindi are using for their medical experiments, has Loomis terrified that he might be aiding “terrorists” and the post-9/11 America is accurately embodied by Loomis. There is a mild amount of comedy to be had from T’Pol and Archer visiting a fast food restaurant (not a brand name one), but it is very dated (super sizing and a lack of vegetarian options are only mildly amusing in the long-term).

The fundamental flaw with “Carpenter Street,” though, is that it lacks a sense of menace or sensibility. The Xindi’s plan is not immediately evident, so there is no ticking clock in the episode. The Xindi appear to be hiding in the past while building their secondary weapon alluded to in a prior episode. But that plan seems needlessly complicated; the Xindi Reptiles could more easily have swarmed Enterprise for the biological samples they needed from humans with far less risk (plus the added benefit of ridding the Expanse of the force that is intent on stopping them. But, just as Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) has a fundamentally flawed time-travel aspect, the existence of Xindi time travelling technology means that the Xindi, if they failed to accomplish their mission in “Carpenter Street” could just as easily return to an earlier time period and try again.

In fact, why the Xindi go back to 2004 is ridiculous considering there is an ample blood supply in, say 1200 B.C.?!

On the acting front, the episode is dominated by Scott Bakula and Leland Orser. Jolene Blalock unfortunately emotes quite a bit of disgust as T’Pol and Bakula is too busy being an action hero and hothead (Archer beats Loomis for information, which is ridiculous). Leland Orser, on the other hand, plays a junkie and slimeball exceptionally well and it is unlike any other role he had in the Star Trek franchise. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who was masterful in Watchmen (reviewed here!), is terribly underused as a Xindi in “Carpenter Street.”

“Carpenter Street” has no real character development. T’Pol shows revulsion for meat and Porthos, but that’s long been established.

In the final analysis, “Carpenter Street” is a contrived excuse to deliver a time-travel episode (usually a sure ratings boon) that does not expand the Xindi story well and enhances the characters in no meaningful way.

The three biggest gaffes in “Carpenter Street:”
3. Archer beats Loomis up for information. How does he not know that torture has never been a reliable means of getting information, as Picard very powerfully illustrated in “Chain Of Command, Part 2” (reviewed here!),
2. Temporal Investigations is monitoring Earth with timeships, like in “Future’s End.” The StarFleet timecops should have been all over the Xindi on Earth problem before Daniels and his people ever got Archer involved,
1. According to “Space Seed” (reviewed here!) and subsequent Star Trek lore, “Carpenter Street” occurs during the period between the Eugenics Wars and World War III. By this point, Earth’s governments should have basically been collapsed and technology should have been more advanced, which is not evident in the episode at all.

[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 works with Leland Orser, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Alien Resurrection
Star Trek: Voyager - "Revulsion"
Excess Baggage
Independence Day
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - "The Die Is Cast"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - "Sanctuary"


Check out how this episode stacks up against others Star Trek episode and movies, by visiting my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment