Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Impulse

“Impulse”

Overall episode score: 7.0
Performances: 6.5
Writing: 5.0
Direction: 8.0
FX and Production Values: 8.0

Summary: ENTERPRISE does EVENT HORIZON with Vulcan zombies. Fortunately there’s a method to the madness.

star trek enterprise impulseThus far s three has not exactly been T’Pol’s year. Her primary role on the show seems to have been to serve as Trip’s unclad masseuse and in the last two episodes she’s hit a particularly low point. In “Extinction” she was reduced to helplessly scrambling away from the mutated crewmembers like an extra in a slasher movie with no trace of the specially trained operative with Vulcan strength her character is supposed to be. In “Rajiin” she was reduced even lower to a psychic rape victim. This week she’s back in sickbay again but at least there’s some character development in it for her.

EVENT HORIZON substituted a spaceship for a haunted house and a mysterious faster than light space drive for an Indian burial ground, but essentially the material was the same. Ever since the Vulcan ambassador tried to frighten Archer with grainy green videotape of psychotic Vulcans running amok in the expanse, the resemblance to the movie’s data log was unmistakable. And since ENTERPRISE’s early season episodes tend to be better on continuity, Vulcan zombies was a concept that a Brannon Braga-produced series could never pass up; it was almost inevitable that Enterprise would run into them sooner or later. Once it does the resulting plot is a predictably formulaic series of zombie chase scenes not significantly different from most horror movies or for that matter STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, except that the Vulcan zombies are never scary. The results are more reminiscent of season two’s “Sleeping Dogs,” in which characters scramble around a rundown broken Klingon ship with a Klingon stalking them. The one thing STAR TREK has never really done well is horror and “Impulse” is no exception. Still, veteran Trek director David Livingston goes all out to do some great work right down to the flashy, final horror movie-style nightmare sequence and if “Impulse” never manages to be disturbing, it’s not his fault. Even the FX are well directed with dramatic pans across an asteroid field roiling with tumbling rocks.

Vulcan zombies are just hard to take seriously and horror is premised on the idea that the characters are in a situation beyond their control and in which some of them will not survive. On STAR TREK, on the other hand, the situation is almost always under control, even if it’s via Deus Ex Technobabble, and we know the cast members will survive. The franchise simply doesn’t do horror well because TREK episodes are too afraid to let go of their control. The only out-of-control element involves T’Pol’s growing instability but at this point seeing crew members go wonky is nothing special. Archer, Reed, and Hoshi did it two episodes ago and the last time T’Pol lost her sanity was during last season’s “Bounty,” not to mention “The Seventh” or “Strange New World.” Fortunately, unlike “Bounty”‘s abysmal T’Pol B-Plot, T’Pol’s instability here serves to allow some character development.

“Impulse” also features a long overdue look at how the crew has been coping with their mission and the Expanse. A look that should have been part of the arc and developed episode by episode instead of giving us Archer as an alien werewolf, T’Pol’s massage parlor, the obnoxious alien of the week or any of the other nonsense that has sidelined season three’s promising storylines. It’s nice to see a return of movie night and a discussion about morale as ENTERPRISE picks up on season two material right down to T’Pol silencing Phlox at the screening. That’s the kind of thing that lets us see Enterprise as a single entity, a ship and a crew, rather than the cast wandering around through empty hallways while battling the alien of the week or a virus of the week whom we’re certain to never see again. Like TNG’s Ten Forward or DS9’s Promenade or Voyager’s Holodeck, it’s important to emphasize rituals that bind the crew together outside emergency and duty situations. It’s what makes the setting of the ship, and by extension the show, three-dimensionally believable.

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