Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Daedalus"

**

Air date: 1/14/2005
Written by Ken LaZebnik & Michael Bryant
Directed by David Straiton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"When I materialized, the first thing I did was lose my lunch. The second thing I did was get stone drunk. Trick I learned form Zefram Cochrane. Now there was a man who knew the benefits of a little liquid courage." — Emory Erickson on the first human transport, performed on himself

In brief: It ain't no "Visitor."

To write a review of "Daedalus" is to extract small victories from an overall failed episode. Here's a plot too transparent for its own good — painfully inevitable by what seems to be intentional design — yet with characters who are invested with believable qualities. But even though we may believe the central character is psychologically possible, his arc is developed from ancient archetypes, and nothing in the plot can possibly emerge as unexpected. The emotional payoff is so preordained, so inevitable, that it carries very little impact. The show sinks because nothing is ever in doubt.

For a sci-fi concept that evaluates the tragedy of losing a loved one to a fate more complicated than death, you may find your mind going back to DS9's "The Visitor," a show infinitely better than this one.

In "Daedalus," the brilliant scientific mind of Emory Erickson (Bill Cobbs), the inventor of the transporter, comes aboard the Enterprise with his daughter Danica (Leslie Silva) to conduct a scientific experiment for a new type of extremely long-range transporter that could in theory beam a person across light-years of space. In a line inspired by "The Ultimate Computer," Archer jokingly asks Emory if he intends to put starship captains out of business.

Emory was one of Archer's father's closest friends, and has been "like a second father" to Archer. Danica is, by extension, like a sister. But there's trouble quietly brewing. The first sign that something is wrong comes when we discover They Are Hiding Something. Danica tells Emory that she feels awful about lying to Archer about the real reason they are out here. The real reason quickly becomes obvious, although the dialog takes its time in getting to the scene where it's spelled out for us. It can be frustrating to be so far ahead of the plot revelations. The revelations, when they come, are more like confirmations.

The would-be experiment is being conducted in the Barrens, where "there's not a star system within 100 light-years." To briefly nitpick the jargon, I would like to point out that how far away you are from the nearest star system would depend on, well, how far into the starless region you've actually ventured.

About this time, a strange anomaly begins appearing on the ship. In a scene that is humorous in the way it pointlessly tries to be suspenseful, the anomaly makes all the lights in the armory go out. Lt. Reed and a nameless guy we've never seen before go walking slowly through the dark with their flashlights, trying to find the cause of the disturbance. Honestly, if the nameless guy hadn't died, the audience would've justly rioted. Obviously, a situation like this is the reason that red shirts will be invented at some point between Archer's time and Kirk's.

Cutting to the chase: Fifteen years ago, during a similar experiment, Emory sent his own son Quinn (i.e., Icarus) through a transporter beam. Quinn never materialized and was lost in transport. This experiment also took place in the Barrens. No points for surmising that 2+2=4, and that the anomaly is actually Quinn, trapped in some state of eternal transporter limbo (Alive? Dead? Who knows?), and that Emory and Danica have actually come aboard the Enterprise because they think they can rescue Quinn. Why must this be a secret? Beats me, although the story concocts a halfhearted reason. Why does the Quinn-anomaly seem to chase after people like a creature in a monster movie? I couldn't say. I suppose being trapped in transporter limbo for 15 years might piss you off a little.

The outcome of the story is never, for a moment, in doubt. We have no doubt that Emory's deception must be exposed, that his obsession will lead to urgent pleas to Archer, and appeals to his emotions (Quinn, go figure, was like a brother to him). And we have no doubt that the rescue attempt upon Quinn will end in failure, and that an old man's obsession to right a wrong from 15 years ago will only end up destroying him.

Fifteen years ago, Emory knew — but was in denial about — the possible risks, and that he could theoretically even lose his son. He went through with it anyway, because of his need to further advance transporter technology. The story's argument is that great minds are clouded by their own need to top themselves. Emory was relatively young when he invented the transporter, and from that point "there was nowhere to go but down." I wonder why it is people like this feel so much pressure to top their own breakthrough. Isn't it enough to revolutionize transportation in your society? Is it pure narcissism that drives a man to need this much achievement at any cost?

The irony of the situation is Emory's attempt to right a wrong by committing yet another wrong — lying to Archer — which indirectly causes the death of the crew member. Obviously, the writers are setting this man up for an inevitably tragic downfall (reckless actions are rarely rewarded in these types of stories). At times, Emory's sadness and regret approaches a poignancy, but the story can't carry the notions through to the end.

The problem is that this all comes across as going through the motions, and Emory, while a character whose flaws and obsessions we come to understand, and who is nicely performed by veteran character actor Bill Cobbs, is a man we pity more because of his own inability to turn the mirror on his own actions than because of his dilemma and obsession. His hope is that he can redeem himself by rescuing his son. Part of me thinks a man this brilliant should be incapable of such blindness. (But then ultimately the whole reason for his deception feels contrived.)

Then there's Archer. He reluctantly agrees to see the rescue attempt through, even despite all the initial lies and the dead man lying in sickbay. Trip challenges Archer on this decision, accusing him of letting personal feelings get in the way of the ship's safety. I certainly can't say Trip is wrong. And Archer laying down the chain of command and making these kinds of questionable decisions without consequences is getting a little old.

Still, there are good things to find here. I liked the overall familiarity between Archer, Emory, and Danica — and Danica's dilemma of putting her life on hold to take care of an elderly parent. Despite the fact these are invented characters inserted retroactively into Archer's backstory, the actors do a good job of making the relationships believable. I also liked the credible notes in Trip's hero-worship of Emory. Trip is initially in awe of this man, and there's a scene early on where Emory tries to use this against Trip to get him to surrender control of the experiment. Trip tries to remain gracious even as he senses the old man trying to strong-arm him into something. Later, after the deception is revealed, Trip feels bitterly disappointed and betrayed, in scenes of equal believability.

In the periphery, it's also good to see that T'Pol is still reeling after all the Vulcan upheaval as a result of "Kir'Shara." She finds all of her beliefs being challenged by the newly unveiled writings of Surak. While the sweeping changes across Vulcan seem a little swift in their depiction, it is nice to see the storyline followed up.

Less successful is the Trip/T'Pol "breakup" scene at the end, which seems as clueless as the rest of their "relationship." I find it amusing that the writers think they need a scene like this when considering that after the "relationship" supposedly began with the sex in "Harbinger," T'Pol has since been married and divorced — and only now feels that Trip needs an explanation. (I suppose what happens here is more of an answer than a breakup, but still — the whole thing is just silly. Perhaps now we can move beyond the will-they-or-won't-they question.)

The emotional payoff, in which the rescue of Quinn is attempted and (inevitably) fails, is too much acting for what is not nearly enough story. Simply put, I never knew Quinn as a human being, and I just didn't care about him. And it seems to me that Emory's character arc ends up being too soft. Something like this, which has consumed the last 15 years of his life — should be crushing when it ends in failure. But the episode wants to let us off the hook by dodging anything too depressing. (And I don't even want to ask all the logical/tech questions about how Quinn survives 15 years in a transporter beam, but only now, conveniently, does Emory theorize that his signal is on the verge of degrading.)

Bottom line: This show is too dead at its core, as opposed to a show like "The Visitor," which was a lyrical journey that was alive and vibrant.

Next week: Aliens study the Enterprise crew.

Previous episode: Kir'Shara
Next episode: Observer Effect

Season Index

21 comments on this review

Murphy - Mon, Dec 22, 2008 - 12:15am (USA Central)
Yep. The premise is bad. There really is no reason to keep the mission to 'locate his lost son' a secret to anyone. Any reasonable person would be sympathetic for that cause. A man of his clout could certainly put a bona fide rescue mission together. Why now? Why the secrecy? What makes the episode worse is that a member of the crew dies for no reason, and no one really cares (or sees any irony of the trade-off). I'd only give this episode a half star. I don't see why this story even got to the production level. It was a major let down after the last few episodes and story arcs. Reasonable acting, but bad writing.
navamske - Thu, Sep 17, 2009 - 7:16pm (USA Central)
"And I don't even want to ask all the logical/tech questions about how Quinn survives 15 years in a transporter beam."

Hasn't it already been established in the Star Trek universe (though of course not known to the characters in "Enterprise") that a human can survive in a transporter buffer for at least 75 years? I don't think this question needed to be addressed in the episode, and I'm glad it wasn't.
Bill T. - Mon, Dec 7, 2009 - 5:16pm (USA Central)
Augh. Emory seems like a terrible actor. Really bad reads on much of his dialogue. Was the transporter at the end based on voice command? He sure didn't bother to like, push any buttons, or even look at the control panel...
Jeffrey Bedard - Thu, Jul 8, 2010 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
While I like the idea of a getting a little more info on the creation of the transporter (almost as equally important piece of starship technology as warp drive) I didn't care for how it was presented here. As usual Archer makes reference to Emory being like a second father to him, but we never hear about it until now. So I don't buy the connection.

Also, it just seems a general stretch. I can buy Archer knowing Cochrane 'cause Cochrane and his father were warp specialists. But why would they necessarily become buddies with a man working on creating transporter technology? Oh well. It's not that big a stretch and in lieu of other logic gaps in the ST franchise this one almost doesn't register.

I guess I just don't buy the time line as it's presented here. In "Broken Bow" Mayweather comments to Reed that the transporter has only just recently been approved to for in beaming lifeforms. But would Emory still be alive at this point when we meet him? You would think the time needed to make transporting humans safe would be a lot longer than it seems to presented here.

I could be off on my timelines here, but it's the impression I have. ST manages to jam in a lot of tech advancement in 400 years.

I don't think it's a bad episode, but not the truly revelatory origin of the transporter story I would have liked.

I would recommend reading the TNG graphic novel "Forgiveness" which gives an alternate version and creator of transporter tech. Much more interesting.
Kavatar - Thu, Oct 28, 2010 - 8:05am (USA Central)
This episode is just DS9's 'The Visitor' meets Voyager's 'Jetrel' - both of which were superior episodes because I felt I knew the charaters of Jake and Neelix. I really couldn't care about Emory or his son, mainly because the acting was cardboard and I knew I'd never see them again.
Chris - Fri, Nov 26, 2010 - 11:32am (USA Central)
Upon re-watching, it occurred to me that this episode is downright lethargic. The production - especially the lighting - is so low-key that the episode practically drowns in itself. There is just zero "set-energy" or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually directed "Daedalus" opposed to putting up a camera and going for lunch.

Also, the Emory character takes "acting uppity" to an absurd level and his devotion to save his sun comes across as phony instead of tragic, leaving the viewer with no one to root for (unless one counts the poor son). Quite frankly I cared more about Scotty's lost friend in "Relics" after 20 or so seconds ("He was a good lad!") than I did about Quinn after 45 minutes.
Carbetarian - Sun, Jan 2, 2011 - 5:37pm (USA Central)
While this episode was mostly a snooze fest, I did enjoy Archer's "don't fail." line. That actually did get a good laugh out of me.
Grumpy - Tue, Apr 26, 2011 - 6:29pm (USA Central)
"Lt. Reed and a nameless guy we've never seen before go walking slowly through the dark with their flashlights, trying to find the cause of the disturbance."

Perhaps the clearest example of Reed's singular character trait: the solution to any problem is to point a gun at it.

Problem with the "Barrens" -- even if you were in the middle of the region, real stars can still be seen from 50 light years away.
Marco P. - Fri, Jul 22, 2011 - 4:46am (USA Central)
Pretty much dead-on review, a very stale episode.

I'd also add that unlike Jammer, I felt Bill Cobbs's portrayal of Emory was average at best. I've seen the actor do much better in other roles, but here he doesn't show the necessary range of emotions to make us empathize with his character. I had an initial bad feeling right in the opening scene, when Emory laughs at Archer's joke ("You're going to put us out of a job") just before the musical score plays... and it felt so fake! No surprise then to see the rest of the show follow suit.

This is really a time where the use of flashbacks to show Quinn & Emery interacting (perhaps even with a young version of Archer) was necessary. If anything it would have made us care about these characters' fates and feelings for one another. I guess the episode chose to focus on sci-fi events (the mysteriousness of the anomalies, the damage to Enterprise, etc.) rather than emotional background, but alas the final result makes for a pretty weak whole.
Jay - Fri, Sep 23, 2011 - 6:32pm (USA Central)
If the Barrens is "100 ly from any system", then it is well over 100 ly from Earth...how did Emory get there (and then back) twelve years before the first Warp 5 vessel launched?
Elphaba - Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 7:11pm (USA Central)
If no one will speak for this episode, I will. I do agree that the writers should have put flashbacks and more scenes establishing the relationships between the characters instead of the sci-fi scenes showing the damage to the ship and the transporter effects on Emory's son. However, I felt the emotional weight of the characters here. Especially Emory's daughter.

I can understand why he would think he would need to keep it a secret. Why would Starfleet divert their most powerful and fastest ship on a mission to save one person who they would presume to be dead? Maybe in a recover the body situation, but they wouldn't use their flagship to recover a dead body.

This isn't a The Visitor, everyone's right on this point. But I don't think it tries to be. I honestly think it's trying to be its own episode with its own emotional weight and it works on that level.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
I didn't dislike it like most seemed to. It was fine, average stuff but fine.

I'll just take the opportunity to comment on something I kept meaning to comment on during S3: I really like how they ended up going from using shuttles everywhere - with the transporter being something they used only for the most dire of emergencies and even then not always remembering it - to putting their faith in its use day to day.

The catalyst for this change of course was the war. In a way, it's depressing: progress is always the fastest during mankind's darkest hours, even on Trek. But it felt very real and believable that they would end up using the transporter by necessity several times a day and eventually end up accustomed to it. Very good.

Now then, quantum teleportation? I do believe they've achieved that. With some sub-atomic particle at least, and it's about transmitting data not matter. Still, interesting.
Wisq - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 12:01am (USA Central)
Would have been a lot more interesting if Trip had actually refused the order the second time around and temporarily relieved himself of duty, the way they were always taking their badges off in TNG when given a ridiculous order by a blustering CO. Would've been a good way to point out that Archer really _was_ going too far and being irrational.

Instead, he meekly goes along with it, perpetuating this incessant notion that "Archer always knows best" even when he's obviously being a moron.
John TY - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 6:44am (USA Central)
What was with the dumb scene where Danica stabs Emory's deformed back with a giant syringe? Maybe Phlox should introduce them to a hypospray.

And some of the direction during the failed transporter shenanigans was awful.
Arachnea - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 12:31am (USA Central)
A very disappointing episode after a good start in this season. I started to warm up a little to Archer, seeing him become more reasonable. Well, they did it again !

I was with Trip all the way. I couldn't emphasize with Emory, he surely didn't seem to care about a dead man and watching him smile and joke at the end didn't help. And Archer shouting at his team, then at Trip for presenting reasonable arguments was the cherry on top. I'm not sure if I must blame S. Bakula or the writers. His lines could have been told very differently, softly with feelings instead of rage.

The episode wasn't complete crap, but wasn't very good either. Though I liked Danica and could feel for her, actually, I pitied her whole ordeal, being transparent to her father, forced to mourn her brother for years and coerced to lie to a near friend. And I liked T'pol's struggle with new beliefs being recognized.
Eric - Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
I didn't get why they tested the sub-quantum transporter with his son instead of an inanimate object.

mark - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 12:52pm (USA Central)
A boring redo of "The Ultimate Computer", except, unlike the renowned inventor of the M-5, who was actually interesting, Emory Erickson comes across as insufferable. Add to this the fact that Archer's decision to allow the experiment to continue even after he's lost a man is ludicrous, and you not only have a boring episode with a lousy guest character at its heart, but also a borderline offensive episode in which Archer's character is profoundly damaged. Simply put, Archer's actions here should warrant a court nartial. He did indeed put his personal feelings before the safety of his crew.

Trek episodes where the captain is at odds with his senior officers can be compelling stuff when done well--look no further than TOS's "Obsession" as proof of this. But the captain needs a justifiable reason to be putting his crew at risk: Kirk was hunting a creature that had killed scores of people. Archer, meanwhile, is merely doing an old friend a favor and hoping the ship doesn't explode.

Awful. There's nothing here I enjoyed, I was both bored and offended, and Archer's character has been damaged. Zero stars.

Markus - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
What is that on Archers right cheek in the end?!
Jack - Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 5:13pm (USA Central)
They're 100 ly from anywhere, but they're going back to Earth on the "Sarajevo"? That isn't an NX Warp 5 vessel, so how long is that trip going to take?
Andy's Friend - Mon, Dec 2, 2013 - 11:20pm (USA Central)
@Jay, and Jack, and all:
Regarding the Barrens being "100 light years from everywhere":

You shouldn't normally take that kind of information in Star Trek literally, unless:
a) It is a statement of fact, as in "It will take us 8 hours at Warp 4.5" or "We are 600,000 km from the unknown vessel", etc., or
b) It is provided by the likes of Spock, Data, or Seven of Nine, who famously tend to be quite accurate in their communication. But then again, none of them would have made such a vague, imprecise statement as this one, would they?

In most other cases, this kind of information seems to be the usual hyperbole we all know from our daily lives: "I spent a year working on that project" - even if it was only nine months, etc.

Taken literally, the Barrens being "100 light years from anywhere" can only mean that at its centre, that region is actually that distant from any other star system, effectively meaning it must be a region some 200+ light years across. But it's more probable that those "100 light years" is a typically inaccurate, casual human statement - as when a 43 minute television show, or train ride, is said to be about an hour long. It could actually just as well mean that the Barrens is something like a hundred light years across - being in the middle of it would still be pretty far from anything.

This doesn't change the fact that even then it would still be at a considerable distance from Earth for say, a Warp 2 vessel, which was Jay's and Jack's point. My point is quite simply, that all too often I see commenters here taking bits and pieces of such information far, far too literally. Quite often this is just more or less casual dialogue - nothing to merit such literal interpretatons. Let's not nitpick.

@mark
"Archer's decision to allow the experiment to continue even after he's lost a man is ludicrous".
---R.: Couldn't agree more. Enough said.

@Elphaba
"If no one will speak for this episode, I will."
---R.: I personally don't care much for this episode. But I am honestly and sincerely happy that you did.

I think that the revelation of Erickson's dishonesty having caused the death of a crewman should have stopped his experiment right then and there. There is no way a responsible captain wouldn't feel betrayed and disgusted by such behaviour. Think Picard and Galen ("The Chase"), if the latter had done anything similar: "Professor, your experiment ends here! This far, no further!"

It would have been far more interesting to take it from there, I think, than to play out the wholly predictable rest of the episode. This could actually have been an intriguing exploration of the price of technology and technological research, of crime and punishment (think "The Drumhead", and "The First Duty"), and the obsession and fall of a great scientist - true tragedy, instead of technobabble in order to boost the pattern buffer, or enhance the pattern cohesiveness, or whatever. But having said that, I read what you wrote, and I'm glad that you liked this episode. After all, we don't all need to think alike.


Elliott - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 1:52am (USA Central)
Second Sight + The Visitor + Jetrel + Imaginary Friend. This is one Frankenstein's Monster of an episode.

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