Summary: When a group of alien deserters alert Enterprise to danger, they involve the crew in a dangerous situation.
Star Trek has done any number of episodes involving aliens trying to take over the ship. In part that’s because it’s a fairly economical way to do an action episode without having to leave the Enterprise. ENTERPRISE has done its share of such episodes and will undoubtedly do plenty more of them before its run is through and “Catwalk” is one of these. This time out the episode wisely focuses on the logistics of evacuating the crew into the nacelles and the dynamics of their interaction, rather than the fairly weak dilemma of the aliens and the other aliens who briefly take over Enterprise before Archer scares them off by threatening the destruction of the ship, the same gambit that Starship Captains have been using to scare aliens off their ship’s for decades now and happened as recently as the second season opener, “Shockwave 2.”
On “Catwalk” the aliens become almost an afterthought as the real focus is on the crew and the evacuation and it’s a smart choice because where the invading aliens storyline has been done before (and far more creatively too), previous shows were often a bit weak on the logistics and “Catwalk” is one of the better entries in dissecting how the crew handles an emergency since TNG’s “Disaster” or DS9’s somewhat overrated “Starship Down.” By contrast, even Voyager managed to put together far more creative versions of the ‘aliens invaders’ storyline such as “Displaced” and “Scientific Method,” which did a much better job of producing elaborate and original threats to Voyager and her crew. “Catwalk'”s threat is mundane, undeveloped and resolved before it even begins.
But then “Catwalk”‘s real strength rests in the crew interacting together in difficult moments. T’Pol fraternizing with the crew during movie night by pointing out plot elements, Reed’s digestive problems and Trip realizing he hasn’t thought of what the crew would use for a latrine. Enterprise has begun with the premise of a ship that’s more like a submarine than a 24th century starship and given us a ship that for all intents and purposes is just a slightly lower tech version of a 24th century starship; episodes like “Catwalk” do a good job of actually tackling the premise of what a crew in a low tech experimental boat unprepared for deep space might actually end up living like. An experience that’s less of a luxury hotel and more of a cramped military transport aircraft.
Danny Goldring as the alien captain also makes one of Enterprise’s stronger villains thanks to a hard edged performance and some solid dialogue with Archer that’s a bit more clever and well thought out than the kind of predictable exchanges we would usually see in this situation. The alien captain actively contemplates Archer and Enterprise and even relates to Archer and in doing so gains a certain amount of depth. His background as a corrupt military man, rather than just another alien of the week who dislikes the crew for no particular reason, is also a nice and realistic touch suggesting Voyager’s own “Workforce.”
Mike Vejar’s direction this week is competent, but not nearly as stylish and creative as Livingston’s work on last week’s rather miserable “Precious Cargo.” It’s a shame that the two directors hadn’t switched episodes or “Catwalk” might have been a lot more visually interesting. As it is, the installment is a watchable episode mainly for the crew interactions, if not a particularly extraordinary one.
Next week: Poor Reed is still out there stuck on that mine.