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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Daedalus

Synopsis: When an old friend of Archer’s family, who also happens to be the inventor of the Transporter, comes on board, Archer endangers his ship and crew to try and help him save his son.

star trek enterprise daedaleusReview: “Daedalus” is in some ways an inverted version of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE’s classic and beloved episode “The Visitor.” Where “The Visitor” was the struggle of Jake Sisko to recover his father at great sacrifice, to end in reunion and relief, “Daedalus” inverts this story in more ways than one by portraying it as the struggle of a father to save his son and a struggle that is ultimately misguided and hopeless.

The episode also contains elements from such classic STAR TREK episodes as “The Conscience of the King” and TNG’s “Too Short A Season”, though in quality it is closer to the latter than any of the aforementioned. While “Daedaleus” is a competent episode, it is ultimately not a great one, which it could have been. Still, in this and a number of ways “Daedalus” reflects ENTERPRISE’s closeness to the original series.

Through Archer’s conversations with Emory we have a better picture of the men who helped pioneer the early rough and tumble days of Starfleet and the sacrifices they made. The transporter takes on a different tinge when we begin to consider that men and women had to die to create it. As with many great inventions, there are great sacrifices to be made and Emory represents the Promothean fate of those who try to bring the fire of science to man.

STAR TREK has not had good luck with geniuses who come on board to test new experiments. Consider Daystrom of the Original Series’ “The Ultimate Computer”, which this episode also draws from in some ways. Then we have “Where No One Has Gone Before”, in which the Enterprise-D ends up discovering all sorts of distant galaxies full of pretty lights. And already this season ENTERPRISE’s three-episode encounter with Dr. Soong does not end on a particularly high note. All in all, it seems as if the next time a scientific genius tries to come on board Enterprise they should strongly consider blasting him out of space before it’s too late.

Science and scientific invention are often abstract qualities. An inventor, a central inventor, as increasingly outmoded as such things may be, helps personalize the invention as a human product rather than an abstract mechanical one. The machine, the computer, the technology is given certain human qualities or at least made more personal by attaching a human story to it. And while STAR TREK is science fiction, it is often light science fiction that can slip into the conventional Luddite attacks on science. “Daedalus” is fortunately not such an episode and while Emory is not particularly moral, he is human rather than villainous. Like many great Original Series episodes, the character of Emory is worked out and defined and made human and his failings make him all the more fallible when playing god. Indeed “Daedalus”‘ greatest failing as an episode may be the miscasting of Emory in a role that required a greater and far more capable actor in it.

To have been truly great, “Daedalus” needed its own Tony Todd, who played the adult Jake Sisko on “The Visitor.” Sadly it had Bill Cobbs, an actor better known for sitcom roles and playing cranky old men cliches in TV and film than in serious acting. Here, he is simply not up to the part which required an actor with a strong theatrical background.

Additionally the episode suffers from occasional abrupt editing that may be caused by reduction in allowed episode running time. The entire device of Emory’s son appearing as a ghost is a potentially interesting one and was used to great effect in “The Visitor.” However having him appear as a dangerous formless being who kills and in poltergeist style destroys equipment and walls was a far more dubious choice. It provided the element of danger and suspense but it’s not altogether certain that these elements were needed or had to be created in this way. While it made both Emory and Archer’s choices more difficult and controversial, in some ways the danger distracted from the core of the story by turning Quinn into a roving danger prowling the ship. Had the danger come from the Barrens themselves and Enterprise’s exposure to a dangerous area of space, that might have made the moral dilemma less cartoony and put the focus back on Emory.

Ultimately, like the Augments three-part episode, “Daedalus” is about the tragedy of a genius falling through his own conscience and the decisions he makes.

Next week: Crew members are experimented on and PETA never leaps to object.

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