Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Twilight"

***1/2

Air date: 11/5/2003
Written by Mike Sussman
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You'd make a wonderful nurse." — Archer to T'Pol, a moment of ironic whimsy

In brief: Many familiar elements, but a very solid episode nonetheless.

"Twilight" has a storyline that will be instantly recognized by anyone familiar with the film Memento (a masterpiece of narrative construction that you should rent immediately if you have not seen it), and then proceeds to add the sci-fi angles, taking on a "what if" parallel-timeline premise that can be instantly recognized by anyone familiar with TNG's "Yesterday's Enterprise" (among others) — except with the stakes becoming nothing less than humanity's existence itself. If I were a cynic I might say that I've already seen elsewhere most of what "Twilight" has to offer.

But "Twilight" repackages the material well, plausibly ties it into the current Enterprise story arc, and ups the action quotient to literally apocalyptic levels. All the while, it conveys an intimate character story that works in its own right. The Little Character Drama merges with the Big Action Spectacle and it all somehow holds together and seems justified and compelling. This is an episode that has something for everyone.

The episode begins with the disturbing — if perhaps overreaching — image of Earth being destroyed by the Xindi while the crew of the Enterprise watches helplessly from orbit (a presumably very distant orbit). This is like the opening teaser of "The Expanse" taken to the nth power, with a massive Xindi sphere emerging from nowhere and swiftly obliterating the planet. The potency of this image is almost justification for its presence in the episode ... since, logically speaking, I don't see how it could actually happen this way. If you follow T'Pol's dialog that takes place 12 years later, you might, like me, be at a loss to explain how the Enterprise could've possibly been anywhere near Earth to witness its destruction. (And, furthermore, you might wonder why the Enterprise was not the very next target after Earth.)

But it's a hook that's probably necessary given the weight of the episode's central situation — the last desperate gasps of humanity trying to survive — so I suppose dramatic weight should take precedence over the technicalities of plausibility. The episode is told from the point of view of 12 years in the future, where Archer wakes up in a strange place and finds himself 12 years older than he last remembers. He's unable to recall anything after having been hit by an anomaly in the Delphic Expanse.

This anomaly, T'Pol explains, left behind parasites that interfere with his brain's synaptic pathways. Thus, like the central character in Memento, he cannot form any new memories. After a few hours, any memory formed after the accident fades away, even though he retains all memories from before the accident. The notion of being lucid and perfectly cognizant, and yet trapped by the logic of this situation, suspended in a state of life forever interrupted — it's deeply disturbing to ponder, and hard to imagine how that would actually feel. Perhaps it would be like it is here for Archer, who experiences such a logical disconnect between his last memory and the current time that there's little opportunity for him to dwell on his condition; he's too busy learning that the condition exists and pulling the pieces together.

Despite years of trying, Phlox was never able to remove the parasites, because they exist, like DS9's Prophets, in a different zone that somehow transcends space and/or time. The only known way to destroy them would be with a subspace implosion that would kill Archer in the process. Astute viewers may quickly identify this as the solution to the entire plot, cleverly hidden in plain view.

Archer wakes up to find a very different — and yet very much the same — T'Pol making breakfast in his kitchen. As she explains his condition and the highlights (or, more accurately, lowlights) of the past 12 years, we are supplied a flashback narrative that documents the key events following Archer's affliction. Archer was eventually deemed unfit for duty and relieved of command, and Enterprise continued the mission to find the Xindi under T'Pol, who was granted a Starfleet captain's commission. Closing in on the location of The Weapon, Enterprise was increasingly besieged by Xindi attackers.

One particularly nasty attack forced T'Pol to ram the attacking ships, in an act that I find particularly interesting because it smacks of impulsive, un-Vulcan-like desperation, even if there is a logic that can be argued behind it. But don't bother trying to explain that logic to Trip ("What the hell were you thinking?"), who reports that the warp engine damaged in the crash will take him six months to fix. With the ship crippled, this makes it impossible to find the Xindi weapon before it is deployed.

(Digression: Why was Travis not piloting the ship, you ask — or perhaps you don't? Because he was apparently KIA, which I find amusingly pathetic. It's like the writers intentionally steer him out of scripts at every possible turn. In the case of alternate timelines like this one, all they have to do is have him lie dying on the floor early in the proceedings, without needing so much as a line of dialog addressing it. But never mind my tired Travis-is-a-cipher speech, blah, blah, etc.)

Earth is consequently destroyed, as is every human colony the Xindi can hunt down. Less than 6,000 humans remain, and they journey to settle on Ceti Alpha V — a planet whose ear-dwelling indigenous life, unseen here, makes you wonder whether those 6,000 survivors have a new problem to deal with on their new home.

This is a very bleak scenario, and an interesting one worth watching. Since obviously Earth won't actually be destroyed and the Xindi will at some point have to be stopped, "Twilight" permits us an imaginative look at the story arc's hypothetical worst-case scenario. The flashback structure of the "what if" future sometimes reminded me of DS9's "The Visitor" — although it must be said that "Twilight" is a substantially less poignant take on hypothetical material. (The loss of a parent evokes emotions we can understand, whereas Earth getting blown up is clearly reaching over the top into fantasy.) You don't quite get a real sense here that Earth's destruction is a cause for the unbearable anguish that it should be, because there's simply too much story to tell to dwell on people dealing with unimaginable despair. (Notably, Soval's matter-of-fact attitude toward humanity being wiped out seems awfully devoid of regret, even for a Vulcan.)

Rather, the emotional/character selling point resides less in humanity's destruction than in the nature of the relationship between Archer and T'Pol, after a decade of her serving as his caretaker. "Our relationship has ... evolved," T'Pol explains. Indeed. After 12 years, you would expect it to, even if Archer doesn't remember one minute of it. The nature of T'Pol's feelings for Archer are never explicitly stated, and it's left ambiguous as to exactly how deep they run. I think that's the right choice. Part of her feelings certainly stem from a sense that she owes it to him, since she was indirectly responsible for him being afflicted by the anomaly. But it's clear that there's more to it, and that she has grown attached; after 12 years, being with Archer has become a normal part of her life. Jolene Blalock and Scott Bakula find the right notes for their parts in this strange routine: T'Pol long accustomed to it, while Archer finds it brand-new every morning.

It can't be easy, and you can sense in Mike Sussman's script the allegory for people who have mental illnesses and the people who care for them (Alzheimer's Disease being the most obvious parallel) — there's a human toll in maintaining patience, dedication, and making daily sacrifices.

Of course, this being sci-fi, there's ultimately a cure here, and this cure also can change history. Because of the odd space/time properties, eradicating the parasites in the present also turns out to eradicate them in the past, which means an alternate timeline would emerge if the parasites were destroyed, thus having never incapacitated Archer. On this particular day, Phlox is arriving with a possible treatment he's been working on for the past decade. Archer returns to the Enterprise to undergo treatment. But, of course, this being an action episode, Phlox's solution is not carried out before an all-out Xindi assault that spells the certain end of the last remaining human colony, as the Enterprise is pummeled and hammered and boarded and the bridge is blown up and the officers are sucked into space.

The final act crescendos into escalating disaster, like "Yesterday's Enterprise" ramped up to our current decade's action standards. Eventually, all the characters are blown up or shot by Xindi soldiers, and humanity's fate lies in T'Pol and Archer setting off a subspace implosion in engineering while being shot at from all sides. The whole ship goes up in a big fireball, which serves as the biggest explosion able to set timelines right since Voyager's "Year of Hell, Part II."

In story theme and sometimes in method, "Twilight" invokes a long list of its older siblings' classic predecessors: "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and "The City on the Edge of Forever" from TOS; "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "All Good Things..." from TNG; "The Visitor" from DS9; "Timeless" from Voyager. It betters none of those examples (which comprise some fine company), but it does work as another iteration on the material, and it finds a workable balance between its extreme disaster scenarios and more personal moments. I tend to prefer these shows when they have a witness in the story that remembers at least some of what happened (or could've happened), but that's by no means mandatory. After all, we in the audience are the witnesses that count.

Next week: The good, the bad, and the Enterprise.

Previous episode: The Shipment
Next episode: North Star

Season Index

32 comments on this review

urfriend - Thu, Sep 20, 2007 - 1:36am (USA Central)
this one reminds me of that final episode of tng. Also, it really makes me think about that episode where Sisko started skipping through time, and gets to see Jake as an old man. (one of my favorite episodes). This is probably the best episode of Enterprise so far. And it's probably the only one so far that's made me sit up and watch.

I hate to keep pointing this out, but Travis is quietly missing AGAIN. When Archer goes back to Enterprise, EVERYONE is there to greet him. It was a very nice reunion. But why is Travis missing?


stallion - Wed, Sep 26, 2007 - 11:58pm (USA Central)
I think this episode deserve a four star rating.
HipsterDoofus - Sat, Dec 22, 2007 - 12:14am (USA Central)
One of the few completely acceptable uses of the Reset Button. As in All Good Things, Yesterday's Enterprise, or The Visitor, the *goal*, pressing that button, was intricately built right *into* the story in a clever and thought provoking way, rather being a tacked-on treknobabble gimmick that allows the writers to go nuts and then be able to dismiss it.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Thu, Oct 30, 2008 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
"...and the bridge is blown up and the officers are sucked into space." - To put it with our most beloved android: Correction, Sir: That's blown out!

I really enjoyed last weeks "shipment" and this episode, because they go in the right direction for me. They are thrilling without abandonig a certain Trekkian ethos!
Stefan - Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - 4:35pm (USA Central)
I think this episode is closest to DS9's "The Visitor." Both involve a Captain being as close to dead, without being dead, as possible, with the result being catastrophic. Additionally, the solution was simple, but hard to see, and resulted in a reset to the point in time when the problem began with a very different result.

BTW, Travis was killed in the scene where T'Pol crashes Enterprise into a Xindi ship. That's why you don't see him for most of this episode.
stallion - Fri, Jul 17, 2009 - 12:59am (USA Central)
Battlestar: Enterprise?

I hear the writer of this episode was able to check out a bootleg copy of Battlestar Galatica miniseries.
Vincent - Thu, Oct 1, 2009 - 3:20pm (USA Central)
Best episode of Enterprise, I thought it was great.
GusF - Tue, Jan 19, 2010 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
One of the series' very best and, for me, the highlight of Season Three.
RussS - Thu, Nov 11, 2010 - 2:24am (USA Central)
I loved this episode.

I disagree on the anguish. Earth being destroyed and Archer's reaction was gripping. T'Pol's loyalty and affection was convincing. Her season 3 look is softer and her acting is better.

I loved the theme of loyalty, the dedication to something greater than yourself.

Best episode so far.
Shandy8 - Wed, Dec 8, 2010 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Jolene Blalock's subtle performance was excellent. This is one of the best of the 'Xindi Arc'.
Carbetarian - Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - 6:06pm (USA Central)
I really enjoyed the interaction between T'Pol and Archer I'm this one. It was actually kind of touching. I too was reminded of DS9's The Visitor. This episode isn't quite as good as that episode. But, The Visitor might be my favorite hour of Trek ever. So, that isn't to say that this wasn't a great hour of tv too.

Also, on a shallow note, does anyone else think T'Pol looks a little like a Vulcan Angelina Jolie in this episode? I think this is the prettiest she's looked so far in this series. I'm glad they finally let her wear different colored clothing and grow her hair out a little. It makes her look less like the angry Vulcan fembot she was bordering on in the first two seasons.

And, my last thought on this one... Poor, poor Travis. This poor kid can't get a break, huh?
Carbetarian - Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
Correction: IN this one. Darn iPhone autocorrect....
Grumpy - Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
Zack Handlen's pulling ahead of your TNG reviews again, but he had this to say about "Cause & Effect" which exactly sums up the feeling I had while watching "Twilight":

"In a very real sense, that's where the suspense comes from; not in whether or not the Enterprise will eventually survive, but whether or not the writer (Brannon Braga) will provide that resolution fairly." www.avclub.com/articles/the-outcastcause-and-effect%2C54522/

In fact, the only surprise about "Twilight" is that it *wasn't* personally written by Braga. That, and the fact that it trod much of the same ground covered by the revamped BSG, which debuted a month later.
Greg - Mon, Jul 25, 2011 - 12:55am (USA Central)
Quite honestly, that ending part where Archer survives three shots is one of the lamest, stupidest scenes in Trek history that I can remember. It's just arbitrary, especially since T*Pol and Phlox can't even survive one.

This episode is effective in that you don't need to be following the Xindi thread at all to enjoy it, and it has plenty of intriguing "what if' moments, especially the notion that T*Pol or anyone else can't do this mission. (Though I note that is a cliche itself in fiction; that the predestined leader can only be the leader and no one else).

You made it clear in the recent "Inner Light" (great episode worth the 4 stars) review of TNG that Picard should be a changed man after the events that occurred in that episode. Similarly, Archer should be a changed man after witnessing the cataclysmic events seen in this episode (kind of hard not to be emotionally scarred when humanity is closing down on its last few numbers).

Of course, it's all too wrapped up to obviously with Archer clearly dodging the irregularity rather then trying to make sense of its purpose, (you know, if it all meant something).

If you're wondering if I am for or against this episode, I'd give it 2.5 stars- large and cinematic in scope but not really making up for it in any way in the larger picture.
Jeremy Short - Mon, Aug 1, 2011 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
You mention the ear-dwelling indigenous life forms on Ceti Alpha V being a potential problem. I also think the fact that Ceti Alpha VI is going to explode in 120 years and knock Ceti Alpha V out of orbit could also be a problem. : )
Tinker - Mon, Sep 5, 2011 - 3:44pm (USA Central)
Am I the only one who really loved the hairstyles everyone got? Malcolm and Hoshi looked great, and Archer ended up being Harrison Ford!
Jasper - Tue, Nov 8, 2011 - 4:48pm (USA Central)
I would like to mention another episode that this felt like for yet has not been mentioned: Voyager's Year of Hell.
Both this and that story present a what if story in which things go so wrong that from very early on you know time travel is going to be involved to fix it, as they would never allow the show to take such a turn.

I also would like to add that this was actually one of the instances with technically the most interesting way of time travel. Sure, something from outside our time-space continuum may be something of a hack, but with just one line of explanation, they make a rather consistent time travel theory.

@Greg: How should this have changed Archer, if from his perspective it has never happened?
Steve - Sun, Mar 4, 2012 - 3:49am (USA Central)
How crappy are the Vulcans in this? They don't bother to defend Earth from the weapon and just let Earth get destroyed. Then it seems they refuse to protect the convoys. On top of that T'Pol's former boss all but blames it on the humans and tells T'Pol to come home and abandon them.

What d-bags! I'm glad humans dominate them in the future.
Fido - Mon, Apr 16, 2012 - 4:36pm (USA Central)
And...what happened to Porthos in the alternate timeline? :(
Paul York - Mon, May 14, 2012 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
What the Xindi are trying to do the human species in this fictional story - wipe them from existence - humans themselves do to about 200 species in real life everyday. But in this fiction the Xindi - who all appear to be similar to Earth animals (marine, insect, reptile) - not only kill the humans but also all life from Earth, non-human as well. For the lab rats and factory farms animals that is probably a mercy, however. Wouldn't it be far easier to engineer a virus that kills only humans and leaves everything else intact - including the Xindi's distant cousins? Even Men in Black explored this humourously (the cockroaches) - why does ST lack the imagination to do so? The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is another good example: humans destroyed but all the non-human flora and fauna left intact.
Paul York - Mon, May 14, 2012 - 11:32pm (USA Central)
p.s. correction: in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien threatens to kill humanity but doesn't.

On another matter, Jammer is right -- this episode is much like Momento and Year of Hell Pt. II. Well, at least it does it well. The image of the last humans in existence living as refugees on a distant planet, constantly under attack, was quite compelling.
Zane314 - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
Though Twilight was a one-off that probably will have no lasting impact and it featured a lot of T’Pol, I liked it quite a bit. I’d say 3 stars. It was so good that I lowered the setting on my T-Pol Auto-Skipper so I actually caught her scenes as captain and towards the end of the episode. It was so refreshing to see Blalock in a normal uniform and non-skin tight casual clothes. That and her acting a bit more really improves T’Pol. I will try to give her scenes a chance more often though her writhing in heat with Phlox is still burned in my memory.

Reed’s goatee was very Mirror Mirror, Hoshi’s super-side bangs were cool, and Phlox was, well, awesome as always. But the real eye opener for me in Twilight was Captain Tucker - he we great! The accent was almost gone and he really cranked it up in the battle sequence. He was very convincing interrogating the Gollum/Goblin looking trader and he was powerful in command. His losing the accent and having a different role made all the difference. Now I wonder about Trinneer being cast as Archer instead of Bakula. Anyway, good episode.
Tiarfe - Sun, Oct 21, 2012 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode too and I will remember.
Cloudane - Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - 10:26am (USA Central)
Brilliant stuff. Now the series is on fire!
Yes we'd seen this kind of thing before, there are only so many story ideas that can ever be thought up and by now Trek had exhausted them - but it carried them out in an exciting, plausible and unique way. I like it a lot.

Not sure about Reed's beard. He's no Riker.

And I grinned at seeing Bakula staring at himself in the mirror seeing what he looks like - it was just missing a cheeky "Oh Boy.."
Wisq - Wed, Jan 2, 2013 - 4:14am (USA Central)
Great episode, minus one logical flaw: why didn't Archer just start keeping a more regular log?

All it would take to avoid wasting time and embarrassment by saying and doing things over and over would be to transcribe his memories to the log instead of to his broken brain. This could include a to-do list of things he wants to accomplish in future days, too. Certainly, the log would eventually get too large to read in a day, but that's when you devote a day to consolidating it and deciding what to do next.

Considering everyone already keeps logs rather religiously in the Trek universe, this seemed like an odd oversight.
John the younger - Wed, Jan 2, 2013 - 10:21pm (USA Central)
I would generally agree with everything you've said Jammer.

Something no one has mentioned yet: What do temporal brain parasites have to do with the anomolies being zapped out by the spheres in the Expanse? It felt like a bit too arbitrary a contruct for me.

I also felt the action escalated too much and they tried too hard (as usual) to make the action take front and centre. Eg. Humaity has survived 12 years post-Earth and yet coincidentally, just now, as Archer is trying to effectively go back to his time, humanity is finally being wiped out for good.

It's this focus on action, when the characters are doing a great job on their own and should remain the focus, that keeps this from being truly first rate for me.

Having said all that, I'd still rate it as one of the better episodes of the series to this point.
Wisq - Sun, Jan 6, 2013 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
John: I think the spatial anomalies are basically just used as magical plot device factories by this point in the series.

Frankly, they make no sense in any case. There are four logical outcomes for the parasites:

1. The parasites are intentionally killed by a medical procedure;
2. The parasites are killed when the host dies in a subspace implosion or similar event;
3. The parasites are killed when the host dies of other causes and can no longer sustain them;
4. The parasites find another host.

Outcome #4 just loops back to the same list of possibilities when the new host dies.

As such, we can assume the parasites will eventually die in all possible timelines. And when they die in the future, they die in the past. Ergo, their existence is a logical impossibility.
John the younger - Tue, Jan 8, 2013 - 12:13am (USA Central)
Nice one.
Arachnea - Wed, Feb 13, 2013 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
That was an excellent episode !
I hadn't been that entertained in a long time. It had a good balance between quiet and hell moments.

I just have a (very small) quibble: I can't believe for one second that Starfleet gave a vulcan - even a trusted one - the command of the ship supposed to save humanity. On a mission like this, logic is an asset, but like Kirk said many times, emotions and gut feelings must be taken into account. And whatever the intents, you'll fight differently when it comes to save your own kind or another race (I'm not talking about racism, but self-preservation).

Logically, Tucker should have taken command even if the chief engineer taking command isn't very effective. Saying that, it strikes me that there aren't many experienced officers on this ship. Only one (young) commander, one (trigger-happy) lieutenant, a vulcan subcommander (who wasn't intended to remain there) and many many many young ensigns ? No wonder Archer is shown as the only one able to complete the mission.
Nebula Nox - Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - 12:32am (USA Central)
I've had a virus this week and so have been spending a lot of time with Netflix and watching this series for the first time. This episode was very enjoyable, even if it borrowed from 50 First Dates. That was two in a row!

And I like Archer with gray hair.
Nancy - Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
Interesting episode (despite some plot holes) and they did a great job aging the characters. For the first time, T'Pol looked really attractive. Also, I agree with an earlier poster that the new Capt. Tucker, with a trace of an accent rather than an overblown one and a powerful command presence, is much more appealing.
Tass - Thu, Apr 3, 2014 - 2:48am (USA Central)
For the record, this episode was released before 50 First Dates was.

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