Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 1/8/2003
Written by John Shiban
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Watch out, Travis. These modifications are working so well, pretty soon we won't need pilots anymore."
— Trip, demonstrating how Mayweather's status as resident cipher has already reached the point of a writer's inside joke
In brief: Not bad, but "Darmok" it certainly ain't.
In my review of "The Catwalk," I mentioned that the biggest threat facing this series was its inability to transcend average. "Dawn" plays like the case-in-point confirmation of that theory. Here is an agreeable but derivative outing that is reminiscent of TNG's "Darmok" ... except without the truly interesting linguistic puzzles and the push for higher-minded understanding that made that show a classic. "Dawn" is the simplified, mainstreamed version of "Darmok" — the junior-high edition rather than the collegiate one.
How far we have fallen. Or should I say, how far it has fallen: that of the producers' respect for the intelligence of the average Star Trek audience member. Are they wrong to underestimate us? Possibly not. Just look at the ratings for Joe Millionaire.
To be fair, "Dawn" is an okay show with some aspects to recommend. If the creators' respect for their audience's intelligence has eroded over the years, they at least still believe the audience is open to the idea of looking for peaceful solutions to problems, even when the aliens seem awfully quick on the trigger.
In "Dawn," Trip's shuttlepod is shot down without warning while orbiting one of many moons of a gas giant. He crashes on the moon's surface, and realizes that the enemy ship that shot him down — from an enigmatic and not particularly friendly race called the Arkonians, with whom the Vulcans have not had great luck — also crash-landed on the moon, also with a lone pilot on board. So it's just Commander Tucker and the apparently hostile Arkonian and their weapons and ingenuity, in a premise that at first looks like it's going to be TOS's "Arena" before the two enemies meet face-to-face and the show begins to more closely resemble a low-rent "Darmok."
Since both Trip and the Arkonian are conveniently (and inexplicably) without a Universal Translator, they can't understand each other's languages, which makes the show an hour about difficult and often failed communication. The Arkonian's name is Zho'Kaan (Gregg Henry), and for the first half of the show there's little trust to be found, as first Zho'Kaan holds a weapon on Trip and forces him to make repairs to his shuttle, and then Trip gets the upper hand and in turn holds the weapon on Zho'Kaan.
Meanwhile, the two try — sometimes futilely — to get their points across to each other. The story's approach is to show two people faced with a situation where neither trusts the other while communication must be achieved with tone of voice and gestures. While the idea is appealing on bare-boned Trekkian terms, I must again go back to "Darmok," which conveyed a communication barrier with so much more originality.
It doesn't particularly help that Trip goes to such pains to talk loudly and slowly, as if that will make his words more understandable. The episode might've been better off had it focused on the way people communicate with universal gestures. But "Dawn" isn't really serious about analyzing language or communication the way "Darmok" tried to; it's simply the framing device to set the story and action, which is more interested in explicit friction (before, thankfully, turning a 180 and being about working together and having compassion).
To prove my point: At the center of "Dawn" is a prolonged fight scene between Trip and Zho'Kaan where the two hammer away at each other until neither has the strength to stand. Part of me, I guess, can understand the feelings being expressed here — two frustrated guys who have reached the limits of their patience for each another and need some sort of explosive release. But, come on — is this really necessary? Is Zho'Kaan sufficiently motivated to attack Trip during what is Trip's biggest gesture of trust? It's as if the scene is saying: Yeah, these two guys are going to work together toward that cooperative Star Trek ideal, but not before they beat the living crap out of each other for the audience's visceral delight! (At the very least, I'm glad to say the violence here looks like it actually hurts and takes a physical toll on the characters, whereas on some other shows it would be depicted as an unbelievable cartoon sequence.)
Eventually, these two characters are no longer at the mercy of each other but instead the extreme heat as the sun rises and the temperatures head toward deadly levels. This week's Ticking Clock™ is that the Enterprise and an Arkonian vessel must track down our marooned duo (searching dozens of moons) before they perish in the hot sun. You'd think two people about to die from heat exposure would search for shade, but apparently a cave or a ledge casting a shadow wasn't in the episode's budget. (I also wonder, if it's true as Trip suspects and Zho'Kaan cannot sweat, what would cause him to become dehydrated. Perhaps a biology expert — Arkonian or otherwise — could educate me.)
The drawback to this material isn't that it's unworkable or misguided, but that it simply pales in comparison to a concept like the 11-year-old "Darmok," which made a considerable effort to break down words and syllables and metaphors. The problems and solutions in "Dawn" are not without merit, but they do not engage the mind or imagination in a way that gives one much optimism that Star Trek has not already exhausted everything it can see and do.
It's probably worth noting that "Dawn" is a good fit for Commander Tucker insofar that "Darmok" was a good fit for Captain Picard; the heroes perhaps get the stories they are worthy of. Picard was diplomatic, patient, and cerebral. Tucker is ordinary and pragmatic — the perpetual everyman with good intentions. And "Dawn" is in turn the everyman's "Darmok" — simple, decently presented, but without challenge or vision.
Trip helps save Zho'Kaan's life while barely reaching the understanding of words like "food" and "bad." At one point, Trip notes how Hoshi would be proud of him for learning some new alien words. Some of us in the audience will simply think back on more subtle times, remembering how once upon a more cerebral storytelling era, Picard reached that point where he understood the significance that was "Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra."
Trip could take some lessons from Picard. For that matter, so, probably, could Hoshi. And this series.
Previous episode: The Catwalk
Next episode: Stigma
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57 comments on this post
Mon, Oct 22, 2007, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
One cannot always expect the universal translator to work as perfectly as it does in most episodes, and it is very realistic to explore and examine situations where it does not.
Sun, Jan 20, 2008, 6:45am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 27, 2008, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 16, 2008, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 7, 2010, 9:09am (UTC -5)
My first time watching this, on its UK broadcast première, I thought, "If the alien turns out to be pregnant, i'm turning over" because of all the Enemy Mine references.
Thu, Jan 20, 2011, 9:43pm (UTC -5)
I... I... cannot believe my eyes.
Enough said )
And "Darmok"? Sigh... how I miss TNG.
Mon, May 9, 2011, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
Vrey little happens in this episode. It is formulaic and pedestrian..... and for some reason, it moves SOOOO slowly. That would not have been such a problem had there been a compelling storyline to be found, but since there was none to be found, the episode just plods...
I also never believed that Trip and the alient were REALLY able to communicate with each other. One or the other managed to pick up on a few "choice" words spoken by the other, but it was astoninshing that Trip kept speaking in English over and over and somehow hoped the more vociferous he became the more likely the alien was to hear it.
In Darmok, we believed that the characters gradually came to understand each other. The "understanding" in this episode is a pre-ordained plot contrivance.
That, plus the fact that most ofmthe episode was a thudding bore, makes this a 1 and 1/2 star entry in my book
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 6:32am (UTC -5)
On its own though it's not bad, and it's nice to see what was originally looking like a Voyager style "hard headed alien" turn into a friend through gestures of trust. Could be far worse and well, in some of the episodes before it, it has been.
Also I liked the continued struggling with transporters and universal translators. It was looking towards the end of S1 like the UT had been forgotten about, and I appreciate the continued difficulties that reinforce this as not just another high tech Trek series.
Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Yes, this episode "pays homage" to TNG's Darmok, and I feel it's got a bit of TNG's "The Enemy" in there too. I've not seen the film "Enemy Mine" yet but I know that much of the plot is similar.
This episode moves along well enough and avoids some of the cliches so often seen in Voyager and Enterprise. It's acted well enough and the makeup on the Arkonian looks good. Thankfully the Arkonians weren't just surly forehead aliens that refused to cooperate with the Enterprise even though they committed the ultimate sin of having a Vulcan onboard! I expected the Enterprise to find Tucker and his new friend only just at the very last moment, perhaps as the surface of the planet catches fire or something, thankfully they were able to make contact with plenty of time to spare.
Unfortunately where this episode of Enterprise avoided some common flaws it's still a stupid show. The transporter can beam up Tucker but he doesn't want to leave behind the Arkonian, how noble. Okay, so, why didn't the Enterprise beam down something like um...water? Maybe medical supplies to help the Arkonian? Maybe they could have gotten a supply of the Arkonian's liquid to him? Or how about transporting a shelter? I imagine by the 22nd century we'll have some high tech camping tents with built-in airconditioners!
At the bare minimum, why was Tucker dumb enough to sit out in the sun when the mountains were casting shadows which could have provided at least some protection from the light and heat? I was also annoyed that when there was a lack of understanding between him and the Arkonian, Tucker simply spoke slower and louder than before. I agree with previous posters that it would have been nice to have the show try and explore alternate methods of communication.
So, in closing, this isn't the worst of Enterprise by any stretch but it's definitely lacking compared to other sci-fi. It does make me long for the glory days of TNG.
Sun, Jun 10, 2012, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 12, 2012, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
In both episodes, the characters had to carry the communication equipment to the top of a mountain, because something was blocking transmission on the surface level. In this episode, the temperature was ungodly hot; in the other it was ungodly cold. Quark and Odo didn't come to blows, but they at least claimed to loathe each other. And before the episode was done, they had to work together to meet their common goal. Yep, sounds pretty similar to me.
I guess the one thing everyone can agree to is that the episode was derivative. It certainly wasn't a bad episode, but it was nothing to get really excited about either.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
I need an extended bar brawl if I bump into an alien.
That's what civilization is all about.
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
Also, must have been nice working on ST Enterprise. You get to lift a story from an 18-year-old movie and get paid for it. And did you see all those producer credits in the opening titles? Sweet kickbacks working on this show!
Even through the flaws in this ep I still find it enjoyable enough. I like the character of Trip and Connor Trinneer is a decent actor. Better than most things on TV.
Sun, Feb 10, 2013, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
Comparing it to Darmok is impossible:
- Picard is smart, educated and trained in the art of diplomacy. Trip is good in his field, but has never been depicted as the brightest of the team.
- Darmok never had hostile intentions towards Picard, Zo'Kann did - hence the fight.
- The UT worked in the case of Picard, what he had to understand was the metaphor behind the sentences (which is much more interesting for the viewer than trying to grasp words and grammar). Trip is faced with a totally alien language; in his situation, I don't believe Picard would have understood more words than Trip: you can't pick up vocabulary just snapping your fingers.
Darmok was brilliant and Dawn was average, I'll grant you that (but not one character has come close to the brilliance of Picard in all Trek), but you can't compare the two episodes, they are too dissimilar in theme. However, I can say that Enemy Mine was by far superior to this (but it was a very long movie).
I also would have liked Trip trying more to communicate with gestures. But then again, it's very much in character with who trip is. And I dare anyone here to think they could have grasped more than 10 words in less than a day with a hostile alien. For example, take a foreigner, he asks you to speak slowly, nine times out of ten, you will speak slowly and loudly, it's an unconscious reflex. In this episode, the louder comes mostly out of frustration.
Having said all that, I agree with the rating, but maybe not for the same reasons.
Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 8:27am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 14, 2013, 4:06am (UTC -5)
If the alien had died, Trip would be partly to blame for being such a goofball and spilling so much of the guy's sustenance.
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Not everyone can be Picard and not every alien can be Darmok.
I think the admiration from T'Pol at the end was a good moment, and the chat between Trip and the alien.
Let's remember that we're not super-enlightened humans yet and some aliens are aggressive.
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 7:28am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 31, 2015, 12:37am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 25, 2015, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
I remember watching these mid-season 2 episodes in the first-run, and it's when I started skipping weeks if the previews looked trite and predictable. I gave up after another round of alien nazis, the Xindi, were introduced but I'll stick through the entire series this time to the end of season four for completeness since it doesn't look like we'll be getting another Trek television show again.
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 25, 2015, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
As for the comparison to "Darmok" this was far superior to that dreck as are 98% of all Trek episodes.
The whole premise of Darmok, a people who communicate only in metaphors, is mind numbingly stupid and an insult to the intelligence of viewers.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to communicate strictly in metaphors as without plain language to create and explain the metaphors, nobody would have the slightest clue what the metaphors mean.
Mon, Nov 9, 2015, 10:44pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 4:04am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 22, 2016, 4:40pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 6:04am (UTC -5)
Probably the one saving grace was the impressive character design on the aliens. Nice job there. 2 stars.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
But while 'Darmok' is one everyone's tongue, it is only good because of the outstanding performances of Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield. I still can't believe a species that can only communicate by metaphor can be a space faring race.
Back to this dribble. It's just not good at all. As folks have said, Enterprise could have beamed down water, food, shelter. They could have beamed up the alien's canister and Phlox might have been able to concoct a suitable substitute.... I could go on.
No hand gestures at all?
Every time I watch season 2 I'm just flat out frustrated with this stretch of episodes. I consider the 1st 4 episodes in this season fantastic, then it appears Braga & Berman started smoking pot on a daily basis.
I gave 1 star to 'Precious Cargo' so I guess I need to award the same here.
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 2:37am (UTC -5)
Enterprise is feeling really uninspired this season. I wasn't even crazy about Season 1 and I am feeling like that season was more solid than this latest stretch of episodes.
Tue, Apr 11, 2017, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
I suppose those with a Trip crush enjoyed all the topless sweating. Well it goes a little way to make up for hours of Seven and T'Pol in catsuits I guess.
Mon, May 8, 2017, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
I did like the bit about Trip looking out for the Arkonian toward the end as well as doing a bit of reflecting on his own time with the Enterprise.
And also, finally Archer comes out looking good after getting better relations with the Arkonians than the Vulcans did. Probably one of the better ENT episodes of Season 2 so far, which is not saying much for the series overall.
I also rate this 2.5 stars out of 4.
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
But I did!
An enemy takes Trip's ship down and makes him a prisoner, which slows down the urgent repairs needed to get help.
And brilliantly, this time we don't have the typical Star Trek's lazy-writer's deus-ex-machinas: "well-intentioned understanding alien, magical universal translator, teleporting devices".
Trip is in a more realistic sci-fi situation, from my non-Trekkie point of view: words and even hand gestures don't work, the alien mind doesn't magically share the human instinct of cooperation, and he needs to work hard.
He learns words (shabala=ship), he learns gestures (i.e. "yes" is not a vertical nod,neither horizontal, but a diagonal mix), he teaches swearwords, and he earns respect the only way these aliens understand: with a good fight. When they finally cooperate, they do the job, send the distress call, manage to talk and joke and they really care for each other in the end.
Ships would be a good shelter if they knew about the noon temperature, but they don't, and when they realize it's too late to walk all the way down: Zho-Kaan is already staggered. Lizards can't sweat, but this means their temperature will rise like a lethal fever sooner than Trip's. Teleporting water is not done on-screen, but probably because Trip can wait a few minutes yet, while Zho-Kaan can't.
The touching moment? When Trip reviews his life to Hoshi or to himself: he's lived wonderful things, even if this is the end, the journey has been worth it.
After watching the last episode 98, I remember this a lot. When Archer prepares to sign the first Federation regulations and sadly confesses: "now he's dead and I am suppossed to say it was worth it"...
Yes. Tripp would have agreed. A life of wonders, even at the cost of being shorter, is worth it.
3 stars for me. And not 4 because Enemy of mine already exists.
Sun, Oct 29, 2017, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 12:22am (UTC -5)
Dull. A poor man’s TNG “The Enemy”
Sat, Mar 24, 2018, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 1, 2018, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 2, 2018, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 10, 2018, 11:49am (UTC -5)
The act of sweating is one that reduces your body temperature, through the fact that hot energetic molecules composed of mostly water evaporate off of your skin. Trip misspoke slightly with his statement. It's true by not sweating your body would retain more water, hence you would become dehydrated slower. However by not sweating you also retain more heat within your body. As your internal body temperature rises biological catalysts called enzymes begin to work more slowly and eventually stop altogether without these enzymes our body simply can't function and we would die as all process would happen to slowly. So yes Trip is correct he is struggling more becuase he can't sweat but not because he is dehydrating faster but becuase his internal body temperature is rising quicker than Trip's as he can't release any heat through sweating.
I hope that makes sense!! If not I can explain further
Wed, Nov 7, 2018, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
"Darmok never had hostile intentions towards Picard"
That's an excellent point; however, Darmok was the guy in the legend that Paul Winfield's character was trying to tell Picard. Winfield's character was Dathon.
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 10:39am (UTC -5)
The episode established very explicitly after sunrise the temperature was going to get to ~170 celsius. The Enterprise couldn't have beamed down water. It could've beamed down steam, but i ain't sure Trip would've liked it.
Wed, Oct 9, 2019, 8:29am (UTC -5)
I didn't think of that whilst I was watching but I did think they could have tried to find some shade. The peak they were on didn't look very big and they only had to get behind it. Maybe it was meant to be bigger than it looked.
This episode is maybe a bit stupid but I liked it anyway. I like Trip a lot. He's probably the nicest of the Enterprise crew (Travis and Hoshi are equally pleasant but not so thoughtful or patient - T'Pol is thoughtful and patient but not at all warm, and so on), and there are times like in this episode that you see it's a real conscious effort he's making. I don't know how much this is explored later in Enterprise, but he seems to me to be a really sarcastic and perhaps even bitter person who is trying and generally succeeding to be pleasant and friendly. Characters are often either rude/cold/whatever but loveable or some kind of saint who never gets annoyed at anything or anyone, so it's interesting to see something a little more nuanced.
Sat, Feb 15, 2020, 11:41pm (UTC -5)
When it was all said and done, with the new frenemy picking them up from the planet, why did their shuttle go to the Enterprise? Just as the human shuttle would have gone home, so would theirs. It would be Tripp in their sickbay, or beamed back from their ship. It made no sense to me having their shuttle take both of them to the Enterprise and leaving their pilot to be treated by Flox, who it seems can make an educated guess on how to treat him, but their medics would know exactly what to do. Their shuttle would've taken him home.
Just my thoughts... RT
Fri, May 22, 2020, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 24, 2020, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 4, 2020, 4:30pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 4:09am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
I also like how this shows how well-rounded the Federation is. Humans have their moments-they aren't as tech savvy as the Vulcans, nor as logically centred, but they still were able to establish relations better with not just these guys, but Andorians and others
Sun, Mar 7, 2021, 7:38am (UTC -5)
Where's Captain Kirk! as Spizz Energi would say.
Wed, May 19, 2021, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Hasn't it been a mystery throughout Star Trek why the humans are so politically successful, when the Vulcans are a much more advanced species both technologically and evolutionarily? The whole series Enterprise seems to be attempting to explain that, one step at a time. How the Federation came to be. How the Star Trek ethos came to be. But in our need to grumble we miss the forest for the trees.
Wed, Dec 1, 2021, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 2:49am (UTC -5)
Mostly predictable, but lots of little grace notes that I appreciated. Not a lot of ground was gained, but none lost.
Missed opportunity: Dawn without Tony Orlando is like ice cream without sprinkles. Get with the program, Enterprise - drop in 5 second musical quotes for the sheer anarchic fun of it.
Sat, Jul 23, 2022, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Not a great episode unfortunately. The obvious problem is that it borrows so heavily from Enemy Mine that it borders on plagiarism. But even if I hadn't seen that movie it still has a lot of little problems that should have been corrected by the writer or director. Like the scene near the end where Enterprise is about to beam Trip up but he refuses to leave the Arkonian. I try not to nitpick things like this, but if they can beam Trip up couldn't they just as easily beam down some water, or some of those tin foil looking heat reflective blanket things things that you see runners use? Or the scene near the beginning where Trip first raids the Arkonian's camp - what is taking him so long? There's nothing shown on camera to explain why he's dawdling until the alien returns. It's a minor thing, but it's a scene that demands to be shot in a way that is suspenseful.
RandomThoughts asked: "... with the new frenemy picking them up from the planet, why did their shuttle go to the Enterprise?"
Good point. I understand that they wanted a final scene between Trip and the alien, but it isn't very logical. It would have been interesting if the alien and Trip had switched roles near the end. Have the alien be the one to contact his people and be the one to rescue a dehydrated Trip. Have the final scene take place on the alien vessel without any universal translator.
I've said before that North Star would have worked better as an episode of season two or three. Dawn would have fit nicely as a season three Xindi episode. Have a Xindi Reptile replace the Arkonian and that would give the writers a chance to flesh out a fairly two dimensional species.
Or, to avoid ripping off Enemy Mine, you could make it an action packed Reed episode. Have Reed crash on the planet and play a deadly game of cat and mouse with members of one or more Xendi species.
Mon, Jan 9, 2023, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
I figure enterprise offers the services of Phlox who might be a more qualified doctor than their own
Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
Enterprise needs some more original ideas. Did they cheap out on the writers?
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