Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Horizon"

**1/2

Air date: 4/16/2003
Written by Andre Bormanis
Directed by James A. Contner

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"To quote Dr. Frankenstein, it's alive." — T'Pol

In brief: Not bad, but not particularly good or conclusive, either. Just simply "there."

Here's yet another episode of Enterprise for the fence-squatters among us: an episode that does some things and does them reasonably, while at the same time not reaching a satisfactory destination concerning the issues it has raised. It's a family crisis story that ends up having the impact of some very routine drama.

Ensign Travis Mayweather, after nearly two seasons of Enterprise, looks right now to be this series' edition of the Harry Kim character, albeit for slightly different reasons. Harry annoyed me because through seven seasons of Voyager he didn't grow even one year's worth of experience. Travis doesn't annoy me the same way because he's scarcely given the chance to grow or to not grow; the writers have no idea who this guy is because they refuse to give him anything to do or any semblance of a personality. He's an empty shell of a character usually used as a tool of the plot.

It does not help that Anthony Montgomery — in his limited presence — usually plays Travis as a young, blank slate of a man, without a trace of insight or opinion. Bashir was young in the early days of DS9, but he had an amusing sense of brash, exuberant naivete, and opinions that could be revealed to himself as either right or wrong. Mayweather simply has no opinions, neither right nor wrong.

So imagine my relief that "Horizon" would be a true Travis Mayweather-oriented character show, which makes it the first Travis-centric storyline (whether it be a main plot or subplot) since "Fortunate Son" aired some 17 months ago.

The results here are mixed, giving us an hour of not-unpleasant storytelling and a few reasonable and relevant observations and details, but without being convincing at its emotional core. This needed to be an episode where we could feel Travis' plight and maybe walk in his shoes. Alas, I could not quite get there. There are barriers, the first being the script, which is incomplete in its arc from emotional crisis to resolution; and the other being Montgomery, whose performance is too wooden to draw us into the drama.

The general idea here is that the Enterprise's course puts them close to the cargo vessel Horizon, giving Travis a chance to visit home. He grew up on the Horizon, where his father is captain and his mother serves a dual role as chief engineer and medic. His older brother also serves on the ship. Travis hasn't seen his family in four years, and learns here that his father passed away of an illness just a few weeks earlier; he hadn't yet received the message informing him of the news.

This permits the story to explore some family dynamics aboard a cargo vessel, as Travis settles in for a rare visit that coincides with a family crisis. Naturally, lingering regret and guilt will find their way into the story, as Travis wonders whether joining Starfleet was tantamount to abandoning a family and ship that needed him.

The family dynamics are relevant but pretty routine. We've seen all this before: Protagonist visits home after long time away; protagonist is confronted with feelings of guilt concerning unresolved family issues; protagonist is given mildly cold shoulder by older brother, who feels protagonist abandoned family in favor of idealistic dream; etc. The problem with the arc of this story is not that it has bad ideas, but that it doesn't dig very deep into its ideas. This is simply not very challenging material.

Of course, even if not very challenging, it might've still worked by evoking our empathy for Travis' situation. In some ways it does, by supplying details of Travis' old home, taking him back to his old quarters on the Horizon, and introducing us to his mother (Joan Pringle).

What I liked best about "Horizon" was the simplified feel of the cargo ship and the episode's ability to escape from the confines of the ever-familiar Starfleet setting. This episode feels civilian rather than military, more recognizably human, with a sort of blue-collar, everyone-pitches-in mentality. And Travis' mom in particular is believable in scenes like the one where she inquires about the myriad of dangerous conflicts Travis has apparently faced aboard the Enterprise. Travis knowingly and wisely downplays all the danger of those encounters.

There's also the appearance of Nora (Nicole Forester), a young woman about Travis' age. The two apparently grew up almost like siblings, an apt detail for a story set in the confines of cargo ship (and which also made me curious about the onset of teenage sexual attraction in such confines). But the character has only the one scene and disappears after the initial visit.

The story's primary conflict is between Travis and his older brother, Paul (Corey Mendell Parker). Paul has taken over as captain since the death of their father, and word around the ship is that Paul may not quite be ready. Paul also is a bit uneasy with Travis around, especially when Travis starts suggesting Starfleet weapons upgrades upon the appearance of the episode's threat of alien pirates. Eventually there's a scene where Paul accuses Travis of abandoning them for the wonders of exploration promised by Starfleet.

These scenes constitute quiet character drama, but even on that level they don't quite come to life, and I think the reason for that is Montgomery's far-too-understated performance. He's too wooden. In the confrontation scene between Paul and Travis, for example, you can clearly see that Paul, as played by Parker, is the stronger screen presence. We can understand his emotions and point of view, even if they come across as forced under the circumstances (why not accept the weapons upgrades in a case where you clearly need them?). But I never felt that way with Montgomery's performances in these scenes. He needed to carry this show, but from what I see, most of the guest actors end up carrying him.

I also felt the story's conflicts are left largely unresolved. Paul has a comment to Travis that I found interesting in its aggressive tone: "Our problem is Starfleet and people like you." A strong statement. But the episode never really deals with the state of these cargo runners in what will someday undoubtedly become a sprawling Starfleet space arena. "Fortunate Son" last season was better at looking at that question.

Instead, we get another one of those action conclusions, which substitutes for an actual resolution between the two brothers and the issues between them. The pirates attack, and by working together Travis and Paul are able to fend off the threat. The story mistakes this resolution of action/jeopardy as a resolution for the rest of the character drama, which as a result is left unfinished. Does Paul understand why Travis went to Starfleet? Does he still hold resentment for it? Are cargo runners really part of a dying breed because pilots like Travis decide to join Starfleet instead? Is Travis really okay with the decisions he has made? The answers are perhaps implied with a happy ending of smiles and reassurance, but these are not answers of any depth.

There's also a slight-at-best B-story involving T'Pol's reluctance to attend movie night, despite being specifically asked by both Trip and Archer. The movie: 1931's Frankenstein. I thought this worked okay as lightweight filler material, but it doesn't really set out to accomplish much of anything. It certainly does not go out on a limb in any way, or try to build into an actual comedy on the concept of "Vulcan goes to horror movie." If there's a joke here, perhaps the punch line is "T'Pol becomes a movie critic," as she waxes analytical on the plight of Frankenstein's monster, comparing it to the plight of Vulcans among humans in the apparently tumultuous years following First Contact. Meanwhile, there's a visit to an uncharted planet that builds into ... well, nothing. I guess the plot revelation is that they chart it. This plot exists, I suspect, merely to give the story an excuse to cut back to the Enterprise.

Which is perhaps too bad, because the story aboard the Horizon might've benefited from being fleshed out some more. An episode like "Horizon" reveals Enterprise as an almost amazingly low-key series that seems unwilling to break free of its low-key shackles. I have nothing against low key (in fact, I tend to prefer it over ultra-action or melodrama), but what we need are some energetic performances, conclusive arguments and ideas, and characters whose problems aren't so neatly resolved with generic action scenes. In short, we need more episodes like last week's "Judgment" — something that looks and feels like real drama. "Horizon" is relevant enough, but does not emerge as compelling.

Next week: Phlox refuses to treat a man on moral grounds. Now that could be interesting.

Previous episode: Judgment
Next episode: The Breach

Season Index

8 comments on this review

stallion - Sun, Apr 27, 2008 - 2:27am (USA Central)
It's true that the characters of Maywether and Kim never got that much developement but we know more about them than we will ever know about Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and to an extent Scotty.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - 12:49am (USA Central)
Yes, stallion, we DO know more about them - but do we care more about them? I do not think so!
David - Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - 12:50am (USA Central)
The scene in which Archer, Trip and T'Pol discuss 'Frankenstein' over dinner, and T'Pol makes the connection between how the monster was treated and how Vulcans were treated when they first arrived on earth, was expertly played and one of my favorite "little" moments in the entire series.
LWG - Wed, May 12, 2010 - 5:05am (USA Central)
Right on, David. That was a memorable scene for me as well. I thought the idea of "movie night on the Enterprise" seemed a bit silly, but that conversation made it worthwhile.
Jeff - Thu, Nov 18, 2010 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Rather than including an action subplot with the space pirates, I was hoping for more scenes with the Mayweather family. It's disappointing that we have no scene with the mother and her two boys at dinner. I also would have liked to hear Travis's mother's thoughts on being the Horizon's medical officer and not being able to save her husband. Some untapped potential.

What's interesting is that if you watch Anthony Montgomery on the DVD special features, he's engaging and dynamic. Yet, as Jammer points out, he plays Mayweather like a blank slate. Reminds me of Garret Wang as well. I think if Montgomery and Wang had been allowed to put a little more of their own personalities into Mayweather and Kim, we'd find the characters more enjoyable to watch.

And I also agree with Jakob, that while we do have more onscreen background info on Mayweather and Kim than we do the supporting main characters of the original series, Nichols, Takei, Koenig and Doohan played their characters with energy. We may not have seen as much of them as we would have liked, but I've never once groaned when Uhura, Sulu, Chekov or Scott were given a key line or scene. They were able to lift what would have been characterizations (eg Mayweather and Kim) into characters. We may not have known what made Uhura what she was, for example, but Nichelle Nichols clearly knew and that made all the difference.
Kate - Sat, Sep 24, 2011 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
I wanted to point out that we got to see a side of Mayweather that we haven't seen before. That was during the argument between him and his brother. When his brother laid down harsh words on him, he got upset, and uncharacteristically showed a little retaliation- "Do it yourself!" he replied to his brother's request to take his upgrades offline.

I thought he acted this pretty well. Also, the scene where he was upside down with remnants of tears was another side we didn't get to see. I feel he was fairly convincing here too, for about a minute.

Unfortunately most of the time he does seem "wooden." He has this boyish smiley face and an eternal non-confrontational attitude (which sit strangely on his totally ripped body).

I feel that Mayweather's character could be enhanced with some different type of inter-character or situational conflict. Something which forces him to break out of his mold and show some gumption.

Anyway, I enjoyed seeing some background on this character and getting a real feel for the cargo ship. (I was surprised with how small it was when it disconnected from the cargo!) I actually thought the writing was pretty good. I was impressed by the acting and wisdom of his mother's comments about accepting that it would take her son time to grow into his role, and the prior mentioned argument scene. I liked how the conflict between Mayweather and his brother was subdued at first. Unfortunately though, I don't think that whole lot is going to come from this character in this series.
Cloudane - Tue, May 29, 2012 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
I liked it well enough. It didn't go into extremes of examination and thinking, but it wasn't all action either. The resolution of an implied realisation and implied apology from the brother was quite befitting two proud brothers who are clearly more the "classic male" (less talking about feelings and more just implying them and reading between lines). I was satisfied that it was "resolved enough", but open for future re-exploration if they choose to.

I have a bone to pick with the Enterprise crew in grumbling about getting set off-course to go and explore something happening in space. Isn't that what they're there for? Come on guys, you're out there to explore, not to race to the other end of the galaxy, so enjoy the detour!
mark - Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
By this point in my viewing of the series I have come to the conclusion that Anthony Montgomery is simply not much of an actor. The paucity of Mayweather scenes throughout the series strikes me as the writers and producers having come to the same conclusion: Montgomery is the weak link in this cast, his performances are always shallow, and the more screen time he gets, the more the show suffers. He's essentialy being written out of the series, but within the limits designated by his contract. I know the character survived to the end, but killing him off in season two would have been a nice way to shake up the show and harden the Enterprise crew. Kirk hated losing a crewman; imagine how Archer would feel, having never experienced it before?

For me the real gems in this episode were T'Pol's scenes. For the first time since the series began I feel like Jolene Blalock finally has a handle on T'Pol. Her wit is still dry as desert sand but it's there. Her body language and facial expressions no longer seem haughty and contemptuous. Jolene has finally found a way to express T'Pol's logical detachment without coming across as arrogant. It's certainly strange that Jolene's moment of finally figuring out T'Pol should come in an episode in which she has very nearly nothing to do, but there it is.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer