In brief: Pleasant. Fairly amusing and entertaining as lightweight shore-leave episodes go.
One lesson that seems to emerge in "Two Days and Two Nights" is that the nookie is awarded to those who aren't trying so hard. Or maybe it's not awarded in two cases because Trip and Malcolm are overly typical males being overly obvious and trying too hard at it.
But, hell — at least hooking up is actually on the minds of members of the crew. In previous Star Trek series it was almost as if human beings were above the very notion of having a sex drive, let alone expressing it. That's not saying "Two Days and Two Nights" is the least bit sophisticated when it comes to the topic, but when Trip and Malcolm get decked out in their nightlife threads and head out to a club to look for women ... well at least that's something that's socially recognizable in our own century. And when they fail miserably ... well, that's recognizable too.
The shore-leave episode is not a new concept in Trek, but this proves to be one of the better examples because it keeps things simple and observes regular human behavior. We follow a few characters through their separate adventures in (attempted) relaxation, as they shuttle down to renowned pleasure planet Risa.
Based on evidence here, Trip and Malcolm are destined to become the best-buddy partners-in-crime a la O'Brien and Bashir. It's nice to see that "Shuttlepod One," like DS9's "Armageddon Game," firmly solidified a friendship. Their storyline hardly has anything resembling depth (hanging out at a club, doing a fair amount of imbibing, trolling for dates), but something about it rings true. The actors bring a relaxed, unforced believability to light material; I found myself not thinking about the plot and just settling back and watching two people trying to have some fun. The emerging Trip/Malcolm repartee is adequately amusing. My one complaint is that the two thieves had to be shapeshifters. That's taking the Venus-flytrap routine just a little too far over the top; the two (non)women that rob Trip and Malcolm didn't have to be morphing shapeshifters to be criminals.
Another plot — less silly — involves Archer settling into a beach resort with Porthos and some books. A woman named Keyla (Dey Young, last seen in Trek in DS9's "A Simple Investigation") is checked into a room with a nearby terrace. Inevitably, Archer and Keyla meet and go out for a casual dinner. Somewhat initially confusing is the fact that Keyla looks so completely human to the point that I began wondering if she was a civilian who somehow got from Earth to Risa. Dialog reveals that's not the case, but it raises the point of aliens that are human almost to a fault.
Archer's storyline turns out to be an effective example of taking a lightweight premise and adding some fairly meaty larger-plot implications in an appropriately low-key way. It turns out Keyla is a Tandaran operative (the Tandarans were those who had imprisoned innocent Suliban in "Detained"). She was sent with a cover story to get close to Archer and convince him to reveal more information about the Suliban. The way she goes about doing this is sneaky and very believable given what we learned about the Tandarans in the earlier episode — a people who take the concept of "we need to know what you know" very seriously, to the point of monomania.
In a third storyline, Travis falls while rock-climbing and must be shuttled back to the Enterprise. Kellie Waymire reprises her role as Crewman Cutler, Phlox's medical assistant, but she encounters the unexpected in subbing as ship's doctor. This results in Phlox having to be brought prematurely out of hibernation to treat Travis for a medicinal allergy. Lesson of the week: Don't wake a Denobulan from hibernation and expect him to be clear-headed. Played for laughs, Phlox's drowsy/insane antics are milked for all they're worth, which is to say the results are mixed: Billingsley is game for these scenes but they're hit-and-miss — sometimes amusing, other times too broad and obvious.
In a fourth storyline, Hoshi meets a friendly man named Ravis (Rudolf Martin), who comes from a planet that's unpronounceable and probably even more unspellable. Ravis and Hoshi connect instantly on linguistic levels, and I must again express my approval at the use of subtitles in lieu of the universal translator, and the pleasant, easygoing chemistry between the two characters that ensues.
It serves as some sort of justice — or anti-justice — that Hoshi is the one who ends up getting bedroom time while not being the one who had set out looking for it. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Trip spend a night tied up unconscious in the basement of a bar in their underwear, because thieves have stolen their clothes. Whoever said "nothing ventured, nothing gained" was apparently not one who was shot, robbed, and left unconscious in the basement of a bar in their underwear.
It's a small miracle of sorts that these four unrelated plot threads manage to end up being not only watchable but fairly entertaining. Michael Dorn, who directed one of Trek's all-time best comedies, DS9's "In the Cards," brings a similar sense of restraint and straightforward humanity to the material. Admittedly, none of these plots on their own would be sufficient to sustain an episode, or even half an episode. But together they manage to work adequately for a low-key vacation episode.
And in the end, during the shuttle ride back to the Enterprise, everyone is content to forgo conversation about vacation. What happened on Risa stays on Risa. I like that.
Next week: A catastrophic accident suggests an end to the Enterprise's mission. (Season finale.)
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