Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Shuttlepod One"

***1/2

Air date: 2/13/2002
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Does that sound modulated enough for you?"
"Modulated?"
"The radio. Or is it just the galaxy giggling at us again?"
"It can giggle all it wants, but the galaxy's not getting any of our bourbon."

— Reed and Trip

Note: This episode was rerated from 3 to 3.5 stars when the season recap was written.

In brief: A basic storyline made quite entertaining by good characterization and strong performances.

The storyline is fairly thin, the formula is by far not a new one, and there are a couple detours that don't work, but "Shuttlepod One" is an episode I liked a great deal. It's a triumph of acting over plot, and of characterization over foregone conclusions.

I find that Enterprise, surprisingly, often ends up being more character-oriented than I'd have expected before the series started. That's the case with "Shuttlepod One," whose approach is tried and true: Take a couple of actors and lock them in a room for the duration. If they're performed by good actors and they get some good things to say, then you have something worth watching.

The premise is an exercise in simplicity: Tucker and Reed are on a shuttlepod away mission, and they reach the location where they're supposed to rendezvous with the Enterprise and instead find debris strewn across the surface of an asteroid. From the evidence in front of them, they conclude that the Enterprise has been destroyed and they are now the ship's only survivors. Sound unlikely? Convenient how so many subtle details just happen to be the way they are to prompt this conclusion? Perhaps, but that's beside the point.

This isn't a great episode, but it's definitely a good one, elevated by performances that hit their marks. The premise is a contrivance based on a number of plot conveniences, but so what? This story has that secret ingredient — conviction — necessary to make the drama work and transcend the details of the plot. It's called suspension of disbelief, and the story sold it to me just fine.

The Enterprise, of course, hasn't really been destroyed, and the episode makes the right decision by showing us right up front that it hasn't — that this is indeed a convoluted misunderstanding. It also makes the right decision by spending little time on the Enterprise and instead keeping a vast majority of the episode inside the shuttlepod with Trip and Reed. This is their story and theirs alone.

To me, there's something innately appealing about this sort of basic nuts-and-bolts character story, which has roots in the subject of male bonding. It also has roots in the subject of real character development, where personalities start clashing, emotions threaten to boil over, and eventually guarded private selves give way to confessions and honesty.

The main problem here is that a shuttlepod is not a self-sustainable ship. With the Enterprise presumably destroyed, Trip and Reed have nowhere to go. They don't have warp engines, and I liked the sobering observations made through the hour about how slowly the shuttle moves compared to the Enterprise. The mission becomes reaching within range of a transponder so they can send a message that will eventually reach Starfleet and explain the Enterprise's tragic fate. The air supply is limited, and without warp speed there's really nowhere they can go. The only slim hope — if they're exceptionally lucky — is if a passing starship notices them and picks them up in the next few days.

The story comes up with a good way to add some atmosphere to the proceedings: It's determined that turning off the heat will allow better efficiency of the air system and buy Trip and Reed several more hours. So off the heat goes, turning the shuttle cabin into a veritable ice chest.

There's little else to do but talk. In Reed's case, he'd like to spend much of his remaining time talking to a recorder, tying up loose ends in his life with messages aimed at providing closure for whomever eventually hears them. Trip becomes annoyed. One argument I found interesting was the whole issue surrounding Reed's role as a pessimist/realist versus Trip's insistence in holding out hope for rescue. Both sides have a point. Reed looks at the numbers and does the math — the chances of being rescued are so slim that it would seem to be some sort of an act of negligence not to leave a record and tie up loose ends as a matter of personal emotional need. Trip is not ready to write his own obituary — not while there's even the slimmest margin of hope. If there's a way to prolong his existence in a doomed shuttlepod, he's going to do it.

There's a lot of dialog in this episode, most of which I don't feel the need to repeat in a review — not because it's bad dialog (a lot of it, in fact, is quite good), but because it's the dialog of real people in a specific situation, an observation on how two people talk to each another. Discussions about old girlfriends. Jibing over European versus North American attitudes ("If only Dr. Cochrane had been a European. The Vulcan's would've been far less reticent to help us. But, no ... he had to be from Montana," Reed laments.) Heated arguments over the subject of hope versus despair. Drunken confessions and camaraderie.

There are a couple moments that didn't work for me. Reed's dream about T'Pol reveals a latent attraction he has for her, which is fine — but the dream scene itself edges too close to the realm of "dumb," especially the whole thing about the nickname "Stinky," which really started trying my patience.

Back on the Enterprise there are a couple scenes that seemed superfluous, in particular the whole subject of the "micro-singularities" that T'Pol says may be responsible for the accident that is now endangering the shuttlepod. The story makes a point of the fact that micro-singularities are myths the Vulcans haven't been able to prove scientifically, and Archer doubts her explanation. The issue of how this could be an incredible scientific discovery is sort of introduced and then dropped. I'd have recommended throwing the whole thing out completely.

There's also a drunk scene here, where Trip and Reed drown themselves in bourbon as a way of passing the hours and as a way of not feeling like they're freezing to death in this frigid cabin. Drunk scenes are often a matter of taste, but I thought this one worked pretty well, if for no other reason than for Trip's wonderfully delivered line, "It can giggle all it wants, but the galaxy's not getting any of our bourbon." I also liked the follow-up to the T'Pol dream sequence, where Reed admits to Trip his attraction to T'Pol while drunk — an admission he almost certainly would not make if he were (a) sober and (b) convinced he would still be alive in two days.

Important to the episode's effect is that we truly believe the shuttle cabin is freezing. To that end, the production delivers here by putting a layer of frost throughout the interior of the shuttlepod set and dropping the temperature down to where we can see the actors' breath in every scene. (This must be what they call "method acting.") It's simple but very effective; as the actors sit there shivering, we completely believe it.

What "Shuttlepod One" ultimately comes down to is acting — whether or not we feel for these two guys and their desperate situation. Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating deliver the goods, and it's enjoyable to watch them spar and see the moments where the camaraderie emerges from disagreements and fraying nerves. Trinneer I've come to like a great deal — he virtually saved the otherwise pedestrian "Strange New World" early this season — and he once again shows his ability to command a scene that needs him to get his message across with shouting. Keating is also very good, particularly in a scene where Reed acknowledges the distance he puts between himself and other people, even his own family. This is a nice character touch that builds on the examination of him in "Silent Enemy"; I'm mildly impressed.

Ultimately, this is story of survival, and when the two officers realize the Enterprise is in fact not destroyed, they have to work the problem from a whole new angle, realizing they still don't have enough air to wait for the rendezvous. Of course, the rescue itself is a foregone conclusion, but along the way are a number of choices where Trip and Reed must think on their feet — blowing up their only engine, leaving them adrift, as a signal to get the Enterprise's attention, and then a choice made by Trip to sacrifice himself to save Reed, and Reed's refusal to let him go through with it. By the end of it all, they've been through so much that they'll have become friends, something that indicates true character building. I'm reminded of O'Brien and Bashir in "Armageddon Game."

"Shuttlepod One" is a pleasant surprise. The plot is minimalist, but that's the way a story like this should be. The contrived nature of the premise can easily be overlooked. Enterprise may not yet be on the cutting edge of plotting given its promising backdrop, but I certainly don't have a problem with that if the characters can be drawn this sharply and acted so convincingly.

Next week: An inexplicable rerun during February sweeps. Go figure.

Previous episode: Shadows of P'Jem
Next episode: Fusion

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17 comments on this review

Marco P. - Thu, Sep 16, 2010 - 3:30am (USA Central)
Seems to me, you're trying really hard to find positive things to say in each episode review, you're willing to forgive all the negatives Jammer. I am not so forgiving.

For me, this episode was nothing more than annoying exchanges of rhetoric and uninteresting dialogue. The way Tucker and Reed found themselves in their predicament didn't even bother me: yes, the explosion of Enterprise etc. etc. seems unlikely and convenient, but suspension of disbelief is a MUST while watching this series.

Howeverm both characters were just so *unlikable* and so *annoying* during the whole time, Reed with his pessimism and Tucker with his irritability/yelling/stupidity, I spent more time laughing at the ridiculous lines/scenes (the wet dream topping them all) I was seeing than actually feeling sorry for them at any point in time.

I am not exaggerating when I say I found more substance during the final two acts of ST Voyager's "Day of Honor" (featuring B'Elanna and Tom getting stranded in space in their EV suits) than the full 45 minutes of this episode. Bleah.
Cloudane - Fri, Apr 29, 2011 - 9:37am (USA Central)
I thought this was one of the best so far. YMMV I guess.

It could be the contrast after watching Voyager, where with the exception of Doc and Seven, any idea of continuity and character growth and development was dropped like a stone with the non-serial style that came in half way through the series. See in this in ENT, I am lapping it up.

TNG and DS9 had better equivalents, but for the standards of late Trek shows this was pretty darn good.
Tamerlane - Tue, Sep 27, 2011 - 9:37pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this, though I found the "Enterprise has crashed/no, it hasn't really crashed" element confusing. My fault for heading in and out of the room while this episode was on, I suppose.

A couple of quibbles, though:

- I didn't really buy the idea of Reed as a ladykiller. I know he's meant to have intimacy issues, hence the casual relationship thing, but he just hasn't (so far, anyway) struck me as a love 'em-and-leave 'em kind of guy. The notion of him composing letters to a whole bunch of ex-girlfriends seemed a bit laboured.

- Like Jammer, I though Reed's T'Pol fantasy was dumb but I was willing to go along with it, until it got to the point where I wished he'd either just shut up about the 'Stinky' thing, or wake up.

Anyway, I wonder if this is (was) meant to be the start of a beautiful friendship between Reed and Tucker a la O'Brien and Bashir.
Tamerlane - Tue, Sep 27, 2011 - 11:52pm (USA Central)
One more thing that bugged me: Trip mentioning as fact the myth that hair and fingernails keep growing after you're dead. What the hey? Just as well for the Enterprise crew that he's the Chief Engineer and not the Ship's Doctor, I guess.

Still liked this episode, though.
Michael - Fri, Nov 4, 2011 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
Sweet Jupiter, what a GODAWFUL episode! Verily, an abomination unto the lord. How on EARTH can this get a positive score, let alone almost the perfect one, beggars belief.

It is three quarters of an hour of pretty much unremitting yammering and relentless drivel... - about nothing. Reed with his irritating snotty accent (who the hell talks like that?!?), doomsday resignation, and self-pity, and Trip with his redneck impulsiveness. I regret this, I fondly remember that, I wish I could have done the other... Who GIVES a !@#$?? I know there's no accounting for taste but how can any aficionado of the sci-fi genre find Reed's declaiming for minutes on end about his past relationships to be remotely insightful or interesting?!?!?

Those bleating on about characterization: Battlestar Galactica is the epitome of how characters' profiles can be built and developed without turning the whole thing into a snooze-fest.

No action of any kind. The most exciting scene was Reed stuffing the hull ruptures with mashed potatoes. Static and monotonous. In a word: BOOOOOOOO-RIIIIIIIIING!

By far the most reprehensible episode of Enterprise so far, right up there with Voyager's Barge and all those Irish village simulations.

Zero stars. And that's being highly munificent.
Keiren - Tue, Apr 24, 2012 - 8:30am (USA Central)
@Michael... I find Trips(?) accent more annoying...hated watching any show with lots of him :P

(Shallow...i know... :O )
Paul York - Sun, May 13, 2012 - 11:15am (USA Central)
This was one of the better episodes, not for action (obviously) or alien cultures, but for the fact that it portrayed what Enterprise is very good at: depicting realistic situations that early space-farers might encounter. Like Apollo 11, which this resembled, a totally plausible scenario on a space mission is being trapped in a shuttle craft, running out of air and freezing, alternating between hope and hopelessness. If humans ever really get into space, this sort of thing will undoubtedly happen. Far less plausible is time travel, sentient computers, aliens who look like us and speak English, and so forth. This was what they call "hard sci-fi." I thought it was good.
Scott of Detroit - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
I found this episode to not be very entertaining. I understand that certain episodes will focus more heavily on certain characters to build them up. However, character building should be done WITHIN a plot, not in absence of one.

The tight shots of Reed's face were disturbing, he looks too much like Michael Jackson.

The episode was tolerable for the first half, but the second half just became very redundant. We get, Reed had a bunch of people he never really connected with that he wanted close with. We get it, Trip won't give up until the end, despite the odds.

Reiterating it over and over almost seemed condescending to the audience; especially since based off the character building in the episode alone we knew that those characters would not be disposed of.
CeeBee - Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
@Tamerlane even worse, as the chief engineer he's a dumbass as well. He claims that after firing the engines they'll have one run and then they will be "dead in the water". Did this guy learn about warp technology and all without touching the basics of inertia? They would be flying with the same speed forever.

More problematic was the unbelievable way Archer and company left them behind for some MacGuffin reason. Unbelievable.
Rosario - Thu, Nov 8, 2012 - 10:38am (USA Central)
I didn't find the jibing over American vs. European attitudes quite as fun. Probably because Malcolm certainly seemed dead serious about his opinion of it to me. Trip's responses I found generally amusing but he also wasn't looking at Malcolm's face and I think that if he was, that arguement might have gotten hotter. I do agree with Trip's pessimism/realistic way of looking at things but it seemed like they took it to an extreme. I'd leave a log, yes 1 log, to everybody and then get to work so I wouldn't have to leave the log. On the flip-side, Trip's optimism was a bit overmuch - unless I concede that he was optimistic about sending the signal, not optimistic about being rescued.
Rach - Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
Alcohol is a vasodilator and accelerates the lowering of core body temperature, and ultimately hypothermia. While it would potentially have a palliative effect on anyone in such a hopeless situation (as it did in this episode), it diminishes physical and mental capabilities (obviously), and increases probability of death.
Patrick - Fri, Apr 19, 2013 - 8:22am (USA Central)
I wanted to like this episode. Desperately.

I've been soldiering on through the series hoping for a hidden gem and really the closest has been "Dear Doctor", "Observer Effect", "In a Mirror Darkly" two-parter. But, back to this episode. My hopes were raised by the initial dialogue between Trip and Reed. It was fun and revealing. But, that hope tumbled down the stairs as the episode devolved into pedestrian dialogue (one of the biggest banes of Enterprise) and that it really gives us superficial insight into these characters. I kept hoping for repartee and character reveals the likes of Spock/McCoy or O'Brien/Bashir. No such luck. Because underneath the pedestrian dialogue is just uninspired writing (the biggest bane of Star Trek Enterprise).

@Jammer

I don't know if you have ever watched the SF comedy series, Red Dwarf. But, there's an episode called, "Marooned". It's essentially the same premise--and it smokes this episode. The character interaction between its two protagonists, while comedically-based, has more verve and more substance than the writers of Star Trek Enteprise could have ever hoped to write.
FoS - Sun, Apr 28, 2013 - 12:45am (USA Central)
I've seen this episode on TV, on DVD and now Blu-ray. I just thought it was okay all three times. But I only noticed it when I viewed it on Blu-ray: Although the men are near freezing due to hypothermia, their bourbon is still flowing and swishing around in the bottle as if it's a nice 80-degrees out. Shouldn't it have been more of a slushy bourbon? Maybe they warmed it up. :-)

I'm sorry, I don't read any of the Trek stuff online, so if this has been discussed/debated many times before, I apologize!
Michael - Thu, May 30, 2013 - 3:44pm (USA Central)
I was waiting and hoping for them to make out at some point. As it is one and a half stars.
Nancy - Sun, Sep 8, 2013 - 12:52pm (USA Central)
I thought this was a good episode, but one thing confused me: why did the Enterprise push back the rendezvous time so far? Didn't they realize the shuttlepod's air was limited and would run out before they got back? I feel I must have missed some essential dialog but didn't hear an explanation on rewatch either.
NoPoet - Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - 3:02am (USA Central)
Patrick makes a point I agree with completely: the Red Dwarf episode Marooned is probably the best example of the "two people in peril" that I've seen. It conveys a great deal about the characters using humour, wit and sarcasm. The character are diametrically opposed, yet they start to bond towards the end (even if Rimmer doesn't realise what Lister has done to his prized possession). It's an episode I can watch again and again.

Shuttlepod One does indeed pale next to that, but saying so is actually doing a dis-service to the episode, as it is easily one of the best-acted and best-written episodes from ENT's run. If anything is the problem with ENT, it's how the characters usually talk like they're from the Voyager era, lacking the passion of the Original Series crew. What went on there? Shuttlepod One addresses this to an extent by getting the characters drunk so they lose their formality.

I first saw Keating in Desmond's where he was hip, cool, the girls all loved him but he came across as gay, even though he wasn't. I guess this has followed Keating ever since as people seemed to speculate about Reed's orientation. I am a fan of Keating, I wish he had more to do, a pity ENT stuck to the three character triangle rather than allowing the rest of the (supposedly) ensemble cast to do something.
Cloudane - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 7:18pm (USA Central)
Ohh I hadn't thought of Marooned. Good shout. I'd pay to see Trip chow down on some dog food :)
"Hey Malcolm... now I know why a dog licks its balls"


As for Michael's comment about Reed's accent, it's called British. I'm glad to hear we're irritating :P

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