Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Storm Front, Part I"

**1/2

Air date: 10/8/2004
Written by Manny Coto
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What's happening is beyond your comprehension." — Silik, describing the timeline plot

In brief: Watchable but nonsensical — and there's little here that you wouldn't have easily extrapolated from the ending of "Zero Hour."

The bad news is that "Storm Front" inherits so much nonsensical time-travel baggage from previous episodes (including last season's final 60 seconds) that the premise is all but indefensible.

The good news is that this episode sets up all the pieces to possibly end — once and for all — the Temporal Cold War and all its related, incoherent BS. Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Personally, I'm in favor of the end of the TCW in "Storm Front, Part II."

The other bad news is that ending the temporal war (or at the very least this two-parter) will apparently be accomplished with a Temporal Reset Button — of the sort found in Voyager's "Year of Hell." The idea goes something like this: Blow up something that's real big and controls time, and all of the "correct" timelines will be magically and instantly restored. The paradoxes are everywhere, but they all become irrelevant if you can blow up the device that has created (or has not yet created) all of the paradoxes and manipulations. Or something like that. (The new paradox becomes, how do you stop something that never was destined to be a by-product of a paradoxical event in the first place, and ... oh, never mind.)

The other good news is that this is all tolerable under the oh-just-forget-the-paradox-stuff writing of Manny Coto and the brisk directing of Allan Kroeker. It's not what I would call good, but it's tolerable and sometimes entertaining as nonsense.

I guess that makes this episode a real mixed bag. Reaching into World War II is a time-travel cliche, and alien Nazis are in concept no less goofy here than they were at the end of "Zero Hour." But at least now we can see how the writers develop and play out this Twilight Zone concept. Their approach is in the tradition of silly sci-fi fun, which is maybe the only workable approach, since the concept is too ridiculous to be worthy of social relevance.

In this rendition of an alternate 1944, World War II has taken a very different course because aliens have been helping the German war effort by supplying them with better weapons in exchange for the Germans helping the aliens build a temporal "conduit" (more on that later). This alliance has allowed the Germans to defeat Europe and invade the United States, the eastern portion of which they now occupy. There's an amusing shot of the White House adorned (defaced) with Nazi banners. It's amusing because it's simply impossible to take the image the least bit seriously in the context of this zany story. I'm not complaining that it's amusing, because I actually like the creators' audacity in showing it. (Later, we see a map that spells out the battle lines and the occupied U.S. territory.)

During an ambush, Archer escapes his captivity from the Germans and finds himself in a history that doesn't track with what he knows to be the actual timeline. He is rescued by American resistance fighters based in an occupied Brooklyn. Included among them is a young African-American woman named Alicia (Golden Brooks) and two Italian-American former loan sharks (read: mobsters) named Carmine (Steven R. Schirripa) and Sal (Joe Maruzzo).

If there's a message to be found in this episode (and it's mostly reduced to a non-point) it's that this version of 1944 America seems to have been forced, as a matter of survival to fight the Germans, to put aside more of its social and ethnic prejudices more quickly than its counterpart in the real timeline. It's a message the story does not insist upon or underline, but simply presents as a given. It's the only trace of social relevance in an otherwise nuts-and-bolts installment where dialog is mainly limited to exposition (there are a lot of characters who have to figure out just what exactly is going on here).

Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew, orbiting 1944 Earth and still believing Archer was killed when the Xindi weapon exploded, must figure out how to return to their own time. They get some clues into the mystery with the help of Temporal Nonsense Agent Daniels (Matt Winston), who shows up on the Enterprise but is practically unrecognizable. Phlox discovers that some sort of temporal cataclysm has caused various parts of Daniels' body to transform to differently aged stages, from infancy to elderly, turning him into a grotesque patchwork that we might as well call the Temporal Frankenstein Monster.

About here, Silik (John Fleck) shows up on the Enterprise, attacks Trip, steals a shuttlepod, and takes it down to the surface for reasons left unknown to us until part two. Trip and Travis beam down to find Silik but find only the abandoned shuttlepod, which the Nazis stumble across just after Trip and Travis have rigged it to explode. What's the only thing better than the writers blowing up a shuttlepod? Blowing up a shuttlepod full of Nazis, naturally. Unfortunately, Trip and Travis are immediately captured by another patrol, then held prisoner and threatened by Vosk (Jack Gwaltney), the leader of the time-traveling aliens.

Meanwhile, some friction arises between Archer, Sal, and Carmine, when the Nazis start storming through the neighborhoods looking for the escaped Archer. Sal and Carmine want to know how Archer figures into all this. Archer, for that matter, wants answers to his own questions. Eventually they work together to arrange a meeting with one of their informant's contacts, rumored to be a gray-skinned, red-eyed, inhuman Nazi collaborator. This alien believes Archer is a temporal agent sent through time to stop them from building their temporal conduit. Archer gets some crucial information before Sal shoots the alien to death.

Later, there's a shootout when the Nazis try to recapture Archer. This scene is an effete, bullet-riddled action sequence that's allowed to go on too long, but it's ironic that Schirripa's character ends up killing more people in a single scene on Star Trek than in four seasons on The Sopranos. Archer contacts the Enterprise with a stolen alien communicator, and Archer and Alicia are beamed up in perfect transporter ex machina fashion.

Daniels, at death's door, explains to Archer that Vosk is the leader of a dangerous, radical faction waging a full-throttled temporal war, and is responsible for all the shifts in the timeline, and who has put himself on 1944 Earth to rewrite history — and that 1944 Earth is the one time/place he can truly be stopped, because to stop him here is to stop him from ever having tampered with the timeline in the first place. Daniels tells Archer that he must find and destroy Vosk's conduit (read: big time machine), before Vosk can escape to ... somewhere/somewhen.

Daniels then expires right on cue. The guy always was a master of convenient timing (and probably will be again; you never know with those temporal loopholes).

This plot is a transparently obvious concoction, but on those terms it moves from beat to beat and engages our attention. The story invites us to embrace its absurdity and works as entertainment. It basically breaks down the entire temporal war (at least I think it does) to a single battle in Earth's past, that revolves around a single sci-fi MacGuffin: Vosk's conduit that the Nazis are constructing for him. The episode ends on an intriguing image that contains an effective Raiders of the Lost Ark echo — a massive time machine being built in a warehouse where Nazi banners hang from the ceiling.

But the biggest problem with "Storm Front" is its apparent, inherent meaninglessness. There's just something frustrating about a plot where none of the guest characters matter because they're all phantoms in a timeline that's going to be erased. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and should wait for part two, but if you listen to what Daniels has to say, it practically plays like the writers' confession that all this temporal nonsense has gotten so out of hand that they simply have to wipe the slate clean in one bold, contrived stroke.

Then again, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, because then we can get back to stories that matter and make sense.

Next week: The Enterprise battles to save its own future. Bet you've never heard that line before.

Previous episode: Zero Hour
Next episode: Storm Front, Part II

Season Index

15 comments on this review

David - Fri, Jan 4, 2008 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
Like so many Enterprise episodes, I enjoy them on their own terms. I do not require that every TV show known to man be relevant socially, politically, etc. This is well-executed entertainment and I'd rate it higher than your 2 1/2 stars.

However, as always, I enjoy your reviews. They depict a highly intelligent mind. Keep writing!
Conor Worley - Tue, Feb 3, 2009 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
Having more or less disregarded the Temporal Cold War since its inception at the beginning of Season One, this is the first episode connected with that concept that I actually enjoyed. I also saw great social relevance in the way it depicted even supposedly backward mid-20th century humans putting aside their prejudices and vices in order to serve the greater good. It was a fun season opener that receives far too much negative publicity from the Trek community.
Marco P. - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 10:20am (USA Central)
Believe or not... I LIKED this one!!!!!!!!

Unbelievable as it may, if one makes total abstraction of the CORE of this episode which contains the utter ridiculousness that is the Temporal Cold War (in all its convoluted mess requiring at last a resolution), "Storm Front, Part I" is actually a well-executed, well-acted Star Trek outing. Worthy I'd say of any of the Star Trek series.

Yes, keep scratching your eyes but it's true. Get rid of Daniels and all his lines of dialogue, the mysterious re-appearance of Silik, and any further reference to the Cold War BS (do keep some time-travel elements in, because you have to explain how the crew finds itself in the middle of WWII) and all the ingredients are here:
• a well-written script,
• meaningful dialogue (minus one or two corny lines, but that's per usual Star Trek standards),
• a hint of social relevance (albeit very diluted),
• good acting (when captain Archer returns to the bridge for the first time I even saw a glimpse of emotion in T'Pol's eyes, one I actually *believed*)
• ever-present high-quality production values

I am surprised you're giving this one just 2.5 stars Jammer. You have been way more forgiving of much worse material in your reviews before. For my part, I consider the inheritance of the Temporal Cold War a crux writer Manny Coto dealt with admirably.

So what if, as you say, "all this temporal nonsense has gotten so out of hand they simply have to wipe the slate clean in one bold, contrived stroke"? It is actually the most graceful thing to do, because nothing they could ever imagine to *rationally* explain everything would sound "logical" to anyone. Swipe it under the rug and pretend it never happened (kinda like this series, but I digress and don't want to be negative today; I actually *did* like this episode -here's to hoping part 2 will be just as good).
Milica - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 10:52am (USA Central)
I hate these indefensible time travel paradoxes, including the plot hole - why didnt Daniels take them a few years back, because the timeline with Nazis in the USA is already different from the normal one. The whole point of STar Trek is for us to imagine the future, and if you take it back into the past, the magic is gone.
Of course, as a really loyal Trekkie, Ill enjoy any episode Im served... but still - they could have been more creative in this episode.
Cloudane - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 2:07pm (USA Central)
I have no idea what is going on. So I'll watch the next one with a pancake on my head.
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 10:54am (USA Central)
What?! 200 years in the past? I've just started watching the episode - I'm 5:47 into it - and I'm supposed to believe that Enterprise went to the past?!

This show is just nonsensical drivel to me. The Aquatics just dropped off Enterprise to earth in the last episode! Were they also 200 years in the past? How on earth did Enterprise get to the past? Is there a temporal shield around the Sol system or something that prevents that keeps everyone else in normal time, but Enterprise is 200 years in the past? What the hell?

Last season's finale was simply awful when it came to the ending, but let's forget how stupid that was. There was nothing to make the audience believe that Enterprise had traveled to the past once the Spheres and the Xindi weapon were destroyed. Yes, we saw Nazi's, but it appears to be an alternate timeline - albeit one where technology didn't progress as quickly and the Nazi's had won with alien assistance. Now it's the past?

I give up.
David - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 11:38am (USA Central)
Ken - This 2-parter was Manny Coto's attempt to wrap up the ill-conceived Temporal Cold War. He did as good a job with it as was possible, in my opinion. Please just stick with it and you'll see how everything is explained. There "are" some cool FX action scenes in part 2 that are worth watching. I just try to enjoy the shows on their own terms and it goes easier that way.
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
Heh, I don't blame Manny Coto for trying to clean up the mess created by B&B. Ending the 3rd season with time traveling Nazi aliens was a huge misstep for the series, and really ruined the tempo of what the previous shows were going for.

I learned later in the episode that Daniels sent Enterprise to the past. While we've seen Daniels transport people and small things to different time periods, I didn't even think he could send entire ships to a new time period. I wouldn't have a problem with this story-telling device if the switch happened in a similar way to the other time travel visual devices.

When the weapon was destroyed, why don't we see space station, dry docks, and other ships around Earth? Why not a few Vulcan ships orbiting the planet as well? Are we to believe there's nothing around earth at all, so it's impossible to tell that we've traveled 200 years in the past? There should have been a transition, and sensors should have picked it up. The crew shouldn't have been so stumped as to what happened. This is what sensors are for - they should have thought to use them.

The whole temporal cold war arc is just confusing. The Sphere Builders, on their own, would have been enough - but to ham-fist them into the TCW arc with the other factions makes it appear like the entire arc has no direction and is completely unplanned (because it probably was).

And who is Vosk anyway? Who are these aliens? As far as I can recall, I haven't seen them until this episode. If they were such a threat, why not show them earlier? Why introduce an entirely new race at the end of the TCW arc? It reminds me of the ending of Mass Effect 3 with the stupid star-child. And what about Future Guy?

*Claps to complement the competency of Enterprise's writing staff*
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
I'm also aware that the Reptilian Xindi destroyed one of the stations orbiting earth, but as we know from past shows, there are more than 1 station orbiting the planet, and there should be more ships on any given day.

But even if we assume that was the only station orbiting Earth, surely the sensors could have detected the debris, only to not detect it anymore once the ship traveled 200 years in the past.

And I gotta hand it to the writers too. In Season 3's E2, Travis states he can tell something is wrong "because the stars have moved". This is how they figure out that they've been pushed back 100 years in time.

If that's the case, why can't Travis or anyone on Enterprise tell they've been sent *200* years in the past? Wouldn't they also check the stars, or does that gimmick only work once?

Sigh. The more I think about the episodes, the more problems I find with them :(
auralgami - Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - 5:09pm (USA Central)
To continue with what Ken is saying, there's a difference between this episode and a "well-written script".

Was no one else bothered by the oh-so-convenient loss of communicator signal because of the shuttle explosion? Despite all the vehicles converging on the area, no one thought to, you know, make a plan?

What was the deal with Silik? First he wants Trip in the shuttle, then he stuns him and leaves him behind. If he just wanted the shuttle, why couldn't he steal it with no one looking. If he wanted Trip, why didn't he take him? For that matter, how did Silik get aboard and why doesn't he have his own ship? No matter how you look at it, Silik's an inept idiot and the scene makes no sense.

Let's think big picture for a minute, too. Until Daniels expositions everything, nobody is quite sure what is going on except that they are in an altered past. Shouldn't the characters think twice before shooting *humans* and abandoning Trip and Wallpaper with their contaminating technology? *We* know there will be a Temporal Doodad with a reset button, but they don't, not until Daniels tells them. Every human killed could be generations worth of future ancestors paradoxed out of existence. Archer himself takes aim at some Nazis.

Stuff likes this makes our *main characters* look like idiots. They don't think about anything. They just react, stimulus response. Note that the Enterprise crew does jack -- no one seems to be doing anything productive, planning, analyzing, or working to solve the predicament. Why? Because Archer will show up and tell everyone what to do. They all have to wait around until that happens.

It's plot-by-numbers -- setting up the pieces and then writing around what's needed, without bothering to make sure any of it holds together. The explosion causes communication interference because we need Trip and Wallpaper to be captured. Silik really doesn't need Trip at all, except to exposition to him and appear cryptic and threatening.

I'm all for junking the Temporal Cold War in as short a time as possible. What I am not wild about is that instead of any sort of emotional catharsis from the Xindi season we get Evil Alien Nazis and time travel nonsense. We just completed a season unlike any in Star Trek and now we have completely disposable Reset Button episodes. The only thing that separates it from a schlocky Voyager episode is the lack of either holodecks or nanoprobes.

The episode has terrific visuals, decent acting, great pacing (except for deadly dull gun battles -- just what we all wanted to watch on Star Trek), and is a generally fun if eye-rolling ride. But, once the mystery of What Is Going On is solved -- heck, once we know we're in an altered timeline -- we know it's all essentially meaningless.

Like it or not, the Temporal Cold War has been a bad idea for three seasons. I guess it's only fitting it goes out in the same underbaked, nonsensical way it has shuffled along. However, even if you are handed a parting middle finger with the Evil Alien Nazis, that doesn't mean Enterprise and the viewers should be subjected to two more hours of pointless, plotless, characterless bubblegum.
David - Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - 5:21pm (USA Central)
For resolution to the Xindi arc, you have to look no further than to the 3rd episode "Home". It's an excellent episode IMO.

Yes, they shouldn't have gone here for 2 episodes, but I always like alternate timeline episodes, exploring a "what if" scenario. The reasons for landing here were contrived, but what they did with it was pretty good.
Ken - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 6:33pm (USA Central)
I don't mind "what if" situations, but I tire of these episodes that go into Earth's past, use Earth history on another world, and/or use the Nazi's. We had two Voyager episodes that were very similar to this one, and the original series also had an episode that dealt with the Nazi's.

Episodes like "Tapestry", "All Good Things..." and "The Visitor" do the "what if" scenario a lot better. You don't have to go into Earth's recent history and re-create a show about Alien Nazi's for the 4th time just to create exciting and impacting "what if" story at all. It just comes off as bland and formulaic.

What they should have done was found a way to deal with Future Guy instead, and just never introduced Vosk and his species at all. I just don't see the point. It would have cleaned up all of the lose ends of the TCW arc a lot better, and it may have made a more fulfilling episode. As is, I just don't care about it. It does not matter.
Nebula Nox - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
I agree that the alternate realities feel meaningless ... but I don't understand why. It's not as if the non time travel Enterprise episode are any more real than the time travel episodes. None of them ever really happened.
Teejay - Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - 4:02am (USA Central)
@ Auralgami: Travis=Wallpaper? That made me chuckle!

One other thing I'd like to point out: although the outside of the ship still looks like hell, the interior shots look like everything has been repaired. When did that happen?
Kyle - Sun, Mar 9, 2014 - 1:34am (USA Central)
Really enjoy the perspectives in these reviews, but I find it a little odd that one would be looking for social commentary with such determination. If there is no discernible commentary, episode fail. I don't think that's what the series was attempting at all.

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