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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Twilight

Synopsis: Archer loses his ability to form long term memories and flashes forwards through time when infected by Trans-temporal parasites.

Review: Time travel episodes have traditionally been STAR TREK’s strength, after all, the greatest episode of the franchise is generally

star trek enterprise twilight

This isn't the Twilight where he's a vampire

acknowledged to be “City on the Edge of Forever.” As STAR TREK has grown older and become more static, this has increasingly come to be the case as time travel episodes allow for a reset button that let shows do what they normally wouldn’t dare. Namely, disturb the status quo, bang up the ship, kill off major characters or have those characters carry out morally questionable actions, or confess their love for one another

VOYAGER’s “Year of Hell” had Voyager and its crew endure a number of drastic events that the show never allowed to happen and is a classic example of the mold “Twilight” closely resembles. “All Good Things,” TNG’s great finale in which a mentally degenerating Picard copes with the destruction of humanity and changes made in the future resonate in the past, also represents this fine tradition.

But “Twilight” is no worse of an episode even if it does walk (or warp) along a well-trodden path. In a season supposedly dedicated to revolutionary change, in which only one episode thus far (the increasingly aptly titled “Anomaly”), delivered on; “Twilight” helps shake things up. Like VOY’s “YOH,” “Twilight” suggests that things may not go all that smoothly and that there will be bumps in the road. Its vision of Xindi dedicated to wiping out every trace of humanity, to the last man, woman and child is shocking and harrowing in a way that “All Good Things…”‘s more intellectualized eradication of humanity never quite reached. Thusfar the Xindi haven’t been all that impressive of an enemy, certainly failing to aspire to the impressive stature of the Borg or the Dominion, but the thoroughness and ruthlessness they display brings them yet closer to credible and memorable foes.

Blending elements of “AGT…” and “YOH,” Mike Sussman‘s script summons up a post-history of humanity that combines the former’s eloquent vision of the mortality of one man juxtaposed with the morality of the human species as a whole, with the latter’s personal history of a ship and crew driven to the brink of destruction in stages of battering pursuit to annihilation. Scott Bakula gives one of his best performances as Archer and Blalock delivers another strong performance as T’Pol. She still, however, puts on emotional displays that seem a bit out of place, like the look of naked anguish on her face as Earth is destroyed. Despite the nature of the temporal parasites that infect Archer, his incapacity is more prosaic and natural than the time-hopping we might otherwise have expected in this type of episode.

Like MEMENTO’s main character, his inability to remember makes his problem natural enough to seem less of a science fictional trope and more of an authentic crippling disability. Indeed, towards the end Archer seems to be able to maintain his memories for a bit too long which raises some questions, but of course the same objection was made of MEMENTO. Nevertheless, the resolution is both natural and plausible. Unlike “All Good Things…”‘s or “Timescape”‘s or “Before and After”‘s emphasis on the mind-bending contemplation of the artificiality of time, ENTERPRISE takes the temporal mechanics for granted and focuses instead on the people.

“Twilight” was clearly a priority for producers simply based on the amount of money that must have gone into it. From the Xindi destruction star trek enterprise twilightof Earth, to multiple space battles with Xindi ships, to the Xindi destruction of the Enterprise Bridge, there are some great special effects here. And the image of the convoy, of the last six thousand humans seeking a place of refuge, goes beyond FX and becomes one of those memorable and moving FX shots in line with “Call To Arms”‘s shot of the fleet or “Year of Hell”‘s shot of Voyager’s hull being ripped away as the ship goes to warp. The budget has clearly been bent more than a little to make all of this possible and on occasion the makeup suffers with inconsistencies cropping up in T’Pol’s makeup and Hoshi and Reed having to make do with different hair styles to show their age.

Some may criticize “Twilight” as a ‘Reset Button’ episode whose events don’t actually affect succeeding episodes and are wiped clean by the end of the episode. But that’s not all together accurate. Reset Button episodes allow for things to happen that couldn’t happen on the show itself, such as the death of the entire crew and the destruction of Earth and the Enterprise. They also allow writers and producers to set up future storylines or explore some possible ideas they’ve been toying with to get viewer reactions.

‘Reset Button’ episodes should also make the writers and producers ask themselves whether perhaps they shouldn’t be pushing the limits of what can happen in regular episodes as well. In that sense, “Twilight”‘s success also points out the need to break a lot of the unwritten rules that STAR TREK series have become saddled with. “Anomaly” and “Twilight” are both useful steps in this direction and it needs to happen more than only in these rare moments.

Next Week: Go West, young man.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Anomaly

Summary: Archer’s morals are tested as he enters a dog-eat-dog section of the Expanse.

star trek enterprise anomalyMerging material from great STAR TREK episodes like DS9’s “In The Pale Moonlight” and VOYAGER’s “The Void,” “Anomaly” is the first episode of the third season that actually begins to deliver on its premise. And while “Anomaly” is not the equal of either of those episodes, it is a strong story that demonstrates a notable improvement over last week’s “The Xindi.” While ENTERPRISE has been billed as a series about Earth’s first Starship that would recreate the Original Series’s sense of isolation in deep space, it has rarely done so. Instead Archer and Co. have often come off as casual and carefree adventurers guided by a belief that no problem was ever any more than just a temporary inconvenience. “Anomaly” is one of the few ENTERPRISE episodes (though really the only one since season 2’s “Minefield” arc) that actually shows Enterprise alone and vulnerable in deep space while struggling to survive.

Like in “The Void,” this area of the Expanse turns out to be a trap for ships that they can enter but can’t escape, leaving them with the choice of becoming either predator or prey. Unlike Janeway, however, Archer doesn’t have plenty of time to befriend every other alien and win their friendship and trust. He’s running against a deadline tied to the destruction of Earth and as in “Pale Moonlight,” this forces him to test his morals against the consequences of failure. In doing so, Archer finally seems to grow up, moving past his petty displays of self-righteous nobility and towards becoming the pragmatic commander his crew and his world need. And he does this without ever losing sight of the personal price he’s paying to do so. His Osaarian captive, a capable performance in a small role, plays both a killer and a fallen man taunting Archer to prove that he is really no better than him. His apathy and his contempt for his victims is driven by the self-knowledge of his own ruin.

The Expanse, too, is also beginning to come into its own as a place with cloaking fields, anomalies and mysterious giant spheres, all of which helps create a dog-eat-dog environment of trapped ships that can’t get out and can’t go any further. This comes closer to fulfilling the promise of the Expanse as a mysterious place full of strange things, rather than just another train stop on the Alien-of-the-Week express. Mike Sussman‘ss script is generally solid and workman-like with no weak spots aside from Phlox and Trip’s awkward referencing of last week’s topless grief counseling session. This really isn’t his fault so much as it is Berman and Braga’s, who wrote it and now seem to insist on tainting other episodes by having them reference it.

While a lot of the cast really doesn’t have much to do in “Anomaly,” with Porthos getting more lines than some of them, including surprisingly T’Pol, Reed seems to be finding a new voice playing the rational, constrained Spock to Archer’s impulsive driven Kirk, particularly during the airlock scene. And of course there’s a gratuitous action scene for Trip in which by some miracle of restraint he doesn’t find any reason to take his shirt off. Hoshi is given something useful to do in hacking the Osaarian’s computers, which helps broaden her specialties on the ship as well as making for a better battle scene in which the conflict works on multiple levels. Still, “Anomaly” is very much an Archer episode, just as “Pale Moonlight” was very centered around Sisko, and Sussman might have even considered including that episode’s framing device of Sisko’s narration with Archer’s starlog.

Of course as with season 2’s “Minefield” arc, it will be up to future episodes to carry the ball and we’ll see if it manages to hit as high a note as “Dead Stop” did during last year. “Anomaly” has already raised the stakes by killing a crewmember who will be rather difficult to replace this far from Earth and showing the impact this had on the crew including Archer, Reed and Trip. The MACO’s themselves are of course here because unlike the cast members, who have long-term contracts, they can die tragic deaths. Archer has shown that he’s willing to use desperate measures and write his own rules to get results. Enterprise itself is alone, vulnerable and far from any help or repairs. This has the potential to create some intense and dramatic situations. We’ll see if the series manages to make use of them as the season goes on.

Next week: Starfleet Werewolf .

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