Jammer's Review

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.

Previous episode: Shockwave, Part I
Next episode: Carbon Creek

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15 comments on this review

Nolan - Mon, Nov 15, 2010 - 12:26am (USA Central)
i liked that one moment in the library, where Archer and Daniels are looking amongst the books and Archer is going to pik up the book, "The Romulan Star Empire... What's that?" Only to be shut down by Daniels.
Cloudane - Fri, Jul 1, 2011 - 4:39pm (USA Central)
I actually loved this. Probably the best of Enterprise so far.

But I found myself watching it for the characters more than the plot on this occasion (good thing really.. the plot was a mess!). Seeing them put through their paces, especially T'Pol.
Let's be honest, Trek part 2's are almost always a mess in terms of plot so I watched it with 0 expectations on that side of things.

Also it's great seeing glimmers of emotion appearing in T'Pol. I know "Vulcan gains glimmers of emotion because we're human and just HAVE to see them converted" is a bit cliché, but it's made her far more interesting and easier to relate to.

Also I think at this stage the actress (I get mixed up with who's who with the lack of proper opening credits) was doing a pretty good job keeping that cool Vulcan style while you can just about see this tiny tiny little almost-off-camera smirk when she's making a joke... or the brilliant performance (I thought) with her suffering just after being tortured. Oozing with emotion, yet somehow very subtly.

Also the speeches at the end were excellent, I loved those.

It's no DS9 that's for sure, but I enjoyed it. (My rating would be about *** / ***.5)
Nathan - Fri, Nov 18, 2011 - 12:32am (USA Central)
I thought this was pretty good - certainly better than the 2-star episodes from season 1. I was rather put off by the ease in returning to the present - it might have made more sense to send a message back that would restore the timeline and then have Daniels return Archer.

And for some reason I had been under the impression that the destruction of the colony was reset-buttoned. (I think this was the last Enterprise episode I saw in its original run.)
Steve - Tue, Feb 7, 2012 - 2:32am (USA Central)
I think it is better than 2 stars. I'd give it 3.

However the ridiculous ability to create a time travel device from a communicator and some copper gave me a good chuckle. Plus letting Silik go. Uh...he's clearly a threat, Captain Archer. You may want to take him back to Earth with you, or at least hand him over to the Vulcans.
Ashley - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
I also liked this episode very much. I was greatly relieved by the lack of "reset button" plot solution (as we had seen many, many times on Voyager) and enjoyed the character development, mostly with T'pol. Sure, it was all too easy, but after Voyager's "Year of Hell pt.2", this seems much more satisfying.
Captain Jim - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 10:14pm (USA Central)
I thought Jammer was much too harsh in this review. As he and others have said, it's not that unusual for the second half of a two-parter to not maintain the same level of quality as the first. Jammer's disappointment was so profound, I think it impacted his objectivity in this case. This episode was three stars at least.
Vylora - Wed, Aug 1, 2012 - 12:21am (USA Central)
I must admit I also felt this episode a bit harshly reviewed. I understand and agree with most reviews on this site (especially DS9 and BSG) but I just rewatched this two-parter and find myself on the fence.

The Voyager philosophy of "having its cake and eating it too" is readily apparent here but not to the extent said series was guilty of.

I agree there was a few things in this episode that could have been explained better and, yes, the writers did write themselves into a corner a bit but methinks that corner made a bit of sense with how events played out.

Voyager and Enterprise to me will always be red herrings in Star Trek canon albeit red herrings with standout moments. This isnt a standout moment for sure but worth to me at least 3 stars.
Zane314 - Sat, Sep 1, 2012 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
I feel compelled to finally comment on an Enterprise episode during my ENT re-watch/first-watch because poor Jammer is getting a lot of negative feedback for this review. To be fair, I didn’t watch this whole episode but more on that in a moment.

When Enterprise first aired I was very put off (disgusted?) by 2 things: the blatant sexual pandering with Jolene Blalock as T’Pol and the bad casting of a model who acts wooden all the time in a role that rarely employees emotion. An emotionless actress in an emotionless role = bore-ring! I’m a big fan of Vulcans and not showing emotioness does not mean acting/being wooden all the time - T’Pol really wrecks the cast for ENT. And the very obvious plastic surgery on Blalock is just so nonsensical for a Vulcan. At least with Seven of Nine she looked proportioned and was of a race that used implants anyway! :) The decontamination scene with T’Pol in s1 really started the clock ticking; I made it through most of s1’s first airings and gave up.

But years pass and I finally decide to try Enterprise again as long as I skip most T’Pol scenes and the blech intro song. I enjoyed the parts of s1 I watched recently and really like Hoshi (a natural beauty) who has a comfortable ease at playing her academic-in-space rookie role. Phlox is also excellent, a nice twist on a ship’s doctor. Everyone else is fine though I wish Trip didn’t have a (fake) southern accent or they cast a different actor with a natural southern twang: his acting the accent is noticeable to me.

With all this skipping, my watching all of Shockwave part1 end to end was a testament to Jammer’s 4-star review. That was an excellent episode indeed and I was excited for part2 despite 2nd parters rarely living up to a great 1st part. Well, Shockwave part2 stunk IMO. It was pretty ridiculous that a communicator and copper wire equals a time traveling comm device. And what could have been a very intense, gritty scene of Hoshi being gripped with fear in the confined space and overcoming it was actually very tame and ends with a juvenile shirt torn off / Hoshi holding her breasts shot with a supposedly funny quip. What a letdown in the middle of a weighty two-parter for Breman & Braga’s writing to morph (again!) into Beavis & Butthead style schlock. Remember in DS9 By Inferno's Light, Garak, who suffers from claustrophobia, had to work in a confined space in the Jem'Hadar prison? We saw an outstanding performance by (IMO) the best actor in the series bar none and with no silly comedy/sexuality thrown it. Now imagine those scenes ending with Garak stepping out of the tiny space and tearing his pants off revealing his butt (maybe just hip for TV). That’s how I think they ruined what could have been a great scene with Hosi by having her top rip off. And can someone tell me why T’Pol needs to be tortured with the top half of her cat-suit off to show off her Vulcan issue a-shirt? Nuts!

I’m not 100% against this epi, it has some good moments a great effects, but I think 2 stars is about right. I haven’t always agreed with Jammer’s ENT reviews but I think he nailed this. +1 for you sir!
Rosario - Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
When the Suliban are beating Malcolm they ask something like, are you thinking of yourself and the information you want to tell us. Just once, in a torture scene when that stock question is asked I would just love the tortured person to respond with, "No, I'm thinking of all my shipmates and what the information I give you will mean for them!" Malcolm just kinda... whimpers.
Nancy - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 6:11pm (USA Central)
That shirtless Hoshi moment was too lame for words, but despite the plot contrivances that are typical of time travel shows, I enjoyed this episode much more than most of the prior ones. I too would give it three stars.
Mahmoud - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 12:26pm (USA Central)
I wanted to come here and post "at least we finally have an admiral who isn't a) 200 years old and b) always has the captain's back" as I have been pretty impressed with how easy-going and understanding Admiral Forrest has been with Archer this past year, stolidly in his corner as he is, but the ending to Shockwave II had Forrest in the traditional not-my-problem, you've-broken-too-many-rules Admiral role. Oh well.
Buck - Mon, May 12, 2014 - 4:45am (USA Central)
I really liked the timing of T'Pol's last line. And Archer's response was perfect. Nice scene overall, but especially because T'Pol can't resist the urge to get the last argument in ... only to have it acknowledged!
NCC-1701-Z - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 12:25am (USA Central)
Archer made a monumentally stupid decision in letting Silik go, and abandoning his cell ship to boot. I mean, seriously? Wouldn't Starfleet appreciate having a second specimen to dissect?

That has to be the dumbest tactical move by a Starfleet captain since Janeway got her ship captured while chasing after a half-Kazon infant on the off chance that Chakotay was the father. (Although, since it's technically in the past, it sets a bad precedent for the future, wink nudge!)

Did I mention that the Hoshi shirtless scene was lame? For a better example of overcoming claustrophobia to accomplish a mission, see DS9's "In Purgatory's Shadow"/"By Inferno's Light".

The ending scene where T'Pol defends Archer was nice though. And I liked the in-joke to future shows with Archer stumbling on a book about the Romulan Star Empire. Hee hee.
Dave - Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - 3:49pm (USA Central)
Really disappointed with the scene where Hoshi's clothes fall off. And then the next episode has T'Pol stripping off in silhouette. I'm not saying there can never be nudity but this is just tacky, sexist and exploitative.
Ian Fleming - Mon, Dec 1, 2014 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
Ah, Shockwave Part 2. The episode that made me fall out of love with Enterprise. I came back later on but the damage was already done. This episode wastes so much potential and is a harbinger of what was to come in Season 2. It's no secret that writers set things up in the first instalments of two parters without knowing how they are going to resolve them (Best Of Both Worlds being the most famous example) but Shockwave Part 2 is made of the purest "Handwavium" with stuff just happening because the writers needs them to - in order for the show to be reset to the status quo. Gah.

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