Star Trek: Enterprise
"Shockwave, Part II"
Air date: 9/18/2002
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
T'Pol: "I still don't believe in time travel."
Archer: "The hell you don't."
In brief: A disappointment. Intrigue and foreboding quickly give way to cavalier action scenes and silly turns of plot.
"Shockwave, Part II" begins with all the elements that were fascinating about "Shockwave, Part I," and then proceeds to run away from them as fast as it can. Certainly I was hoping for something more interesting, but deep down I suppose I should've expected something along these lines. When you have an impossible situation, there's a good chance any solution to that situation is going to seem manufactured and too easy.
Which is exactly how "Shockwave II" feels. Where part one was strange and wonderful and sold on performances of workmanlike precision, part two is a heedless cartoon with action that feels painfully recycled. The plot comes across as little more than a wind-up toy to warrant the action situations. In story thread A, the Suliban Have Taken Over the Ship. In thread B, we have Timeline Games explained away with non-answers and solved with Magic Technology, where Archer and Daniels play MacGyver to escape the 31st century.
What I find especially disappointing is that this resolution has none of the conviction the first part had. It becomes obvious early on as Archer asks Daniels questions about timeline manipulation and Daniels brushes him off with, "It's impossible for you to understand." Bah — this is the writers' way of letting themselves off the hook for painting themselves into a corner: If Archer wouldn't understand then naturally we wouldn't either, so we shouldn't bother looking for explanations and should simply accept that there are none. No, it's the writers who don't understand: Just because something happens on the screen — because the writers have said so — doesn't mean we'll buy it.
In the Suliban Have Taken Over the Ship thread, the crew members are locked down in their quarters while Silik tries to figure out what to do now that Captain Archer has gone missing. Silik's orders from the mysterious Shadow Man from the future, you see, were to capture Archer and destroy the Enterprise. But with Archer vanished, he no longer knows what to do and needs new instructions. Unfortunately, Silik now finds that he cannot contact the Shadow Man (why is left unclear; perhaps the timeline has been too muddled). So Silik tries to get information about Archer's whereabouts by torturing T'Pol, who in fact does not know where Archer is and persists in her belief that time travel is impossible because the Vulcan science directorate has said so.
While Silik desperately tries to figure out what to do next, Trip jury-rigs the comm-system wall unit in his quarters to contact other members of the crew, who together begin to hatch a Daring Plan to Retake the Ship [TM]. This all ties in with plot-line B (we'll get to that in a moment), and will require Hoshi to crawl around through tunnels on a Covert Operation and Stuff. This inevitably leads to Hoshi's shirt getting ripped off as she jumps from a ceiling vent, which I'm sure many people will think is funny, provided they are in the seventh grade. Subsequently, Reed must go on a Covert Operation (and Stuff) of his own.
Watching this stock-issued ship-takeover concept unfold, I felt like I myself had been thrown back through time. You know you're in trouble when you start having flashbacks to Voyager's "Basics, Part II" (among half a dozen other Voyager outings where the ship is taken over). Indeed, this episode feels exactly like a foray into Voyager writing — more so than any episode of Enterprise to date. Near the end we have the Enterprise under attack by a dozen Suliban attack pods, and the pyrotechnics are engineered just like a Voyager battle scene, with phasers firing like crazy and consoles on the bridge exploding. Of course, there's no regard for the consequences of the ship taking such damage, which only adds to the Voyager-like feel.
I'd also like to know how Trip can fake a warp-core breach to pave the way for Enterprise's Daring Escape. How brilliant he must be to engineer such a charade so quickly, apparently by pushing a few buttons. (I suppose it's no task that couldn't be accomplished with, say, a crew of special-effects pyrotechnic wizards.) What's funny is that in a subtle way I was fooled by the charade: I almost expected the ship to actually blow up, so it could later be reset by manipulations in the timeline from Archer's end of the plot. At least the writers dodged that bullet.
Speaking of Archer's story, let's talk about the MacGyver that Daniels is. Not only can he come back from the dead after being killed in "Cold Front," but he's a Time-Travel Expert who learned in high school how to send a transmission back through time nearly 1,000 years by using copper wire and a transmitter. How crafty. Archer uses Daniels' brilliantly concocted device to send a message directly to T'Pol's quarters; she then sets in motion the Daring Plan, which is able to bring Archer back to the 22nd century. It's clever trickery that only a writer could come up with — since only a writer would have enough information to manipulate chess pieces so neatly and conveniently. Silik ends up retrieving Archer through time by activating a device the Enterprise crew has fooled him into activating, because Silik thinks it may contact the Shadow Man. In short: I doubt it, folks.
I also doubt that once Archer is back in the 22nd century, he could single-handedly thwart the Suliban attack on the Enterprise by taking Silik hostage. (Either Silik is all-important or the Suliban are awfully quick to give up.) And after the crisis, the Enterprise crew simply lets Silik go, which makes me wonder if there's any sort of protocol for prisoners. The writers undoubtedly have no idea how to address such a troubling and significant question, despite the fact they've seen fit to drop the Enterprise into the middle of a timeline war.
This all feels hastily scripted and unconvincing. Although the episode is nicely paced and technically well directed, it comes across as a string of blatantly silly mechanics. Daniels' whereabouts by the end of the story are left completely open-ended, no doubt to leave him available for future storylines involving the temporal cold war.
I did find value in the almost-unrelated ending, which tries to look at questionable incidents from season one and lays them on the table as the Vulcans state their case for canceling the mission. I liked Archer's and T'Pol's speechmaking to Ambassador Sovral (even if these speeches were a bit hammy and pat) arguing that the crew should have a chance to learn from their early mistakes. And it's also a relief that the mining colony destroyed at the beginning of part one is not magically restored by timeline manipulation.
I was also mildly intrigued by some of the dialog in the 31st century between Archer and Daniels, where society was destroyed because something called the Federation had never existed, apparently because the Enterprise's mission failed after Archer was removed from the 22nd century. This, of course, is inevitably full of the usual time paradoxes — and I wonder if Daniels should be blabbing about a Federation that Archer knows nothing about — but I've always been a sucker for the theme of sprawling consequences because of individual contributions (harking back to my affection for TOS's "Tomorrow Is Yesterday").
These are moments, however, in stark contrast to a cartoon show that would rather pander to us with cookie-cutter action instead of thinking its way out of its dilemma with something original. If the temporal cold war is going to be interesting, the writers are going to have to come up with a way to sincerely sell it, rather than throwing us ham-fisted nonsense like this.
Next week: Vulcan first contact, circa 1957.