The Cynics Corner

Enterprise

"Breaking the Ice"

by David E. Sluss

11 November 2001

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: This episode features some laudable character-building and actual humor, but it's saddled with filler, weird science, and a contrived Crisis Situation.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 7.5 (C)

FILLER OF THE WEEK: As enjoyable as much of it was, the "answering letters from home" scene seemed out of place, and it brought this week's story to a screeching halt for several minutes. It played as if it was a script fragment laying around the office that was just waiting for a script that needed a bit of padding. As to the content of the crew's answers to the schoolchildren's questions, I was a bit troubled by Archer's claim that "protein resequencing" allowed them to "replicate" food. That's dangerously close to saying that there are replicators on the ship, when that technology shouldn't be available yet. On the other hand, Tucker's primer on waste recycling gives us a reasonable (if somewhat distasteful) explanation for where the source material for the protein resequencer comes from, and also serves as a useful metaphor for Star Trek's writing process in recent years...

ENTERPRISE CLICHE OF THE WEEK: I think that we can christen this series' first original cliche: A variant of Star Trek's venerable Shuttle Crash which we'll call Shuttle Falling into a Hole, seen just a couple of weeks ago in "Terra Nova."

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: A comet 85 km in diameter would have less than one percent of Earth's gravity, regardless of the technobabble mineral buried inside. That makes most of the antics on the comet, including simply walking around on it, pretty much impossible. Most egregious, of course, are Travis' knee-busting fall and two rapid descents of the shuttle pod into an ice hole, neither of which could happen as shown in such low gravity.

WEIRD TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: Enterprise's printer/fax, which can produce drawings that have the crayon texture of the originals.

WEIRD VULCANS OF THE WEEK: As I noted in last week's review of "The Andorian Incident," deconstructing Vulcans seems to be one of this series' primary goals, and the portrayal of the Vulcan captain this week is further proof. I can accept and even appreciate some of what's been done with the Vulcans so far; they're a bit more condescending, self-serving, and - yes - cynical than what we're used to, but that's okay. But where is the logic in Vanik deliberately behaving like a complete prick?

Another problem on the Vulcan front is the handling of Vulcan mating practices. Enterprise unfortunately seems to be following the revisionist "Pon Farr Lite" approach of Voyager. Pre-Voyager, when the time came for a Vulcan male to hook up with his designated woman, he had to do so or die; post-Voyager, we can assume that it's no big deal for T'Pol to delay her wedding, and that her fiancee can "take the problem in hand," as his health and well-being didn't seem to concern T'Pol in the slightest.

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: After last week's rather daring feat with the transporter, this week's script apparently demanded that the gizmo not work. While we were told that the transporter couldn't beam up a core sample from deep within the comet, there's doesn't seem to be a good reason Enterprise couldn't have beamed Reed and Mayweather from the surface as soon as Travis broke his knee, or even after the shuttle pod fell into the chasm.

MISSED CONTINUITY OF THE WEEK: I'm not surprised, but there's really no excuse: Enterprise's discovery of a giant Vulcan spy operation in "The Andorian Incident" last week should have been mentioned here. It's relevant to Archer's belief that the Vulcans were spying on them, and it could have been used to explain the Vulcans' concern about Enterprise, since Archer basically sold them out to the Andorians. Oh, well...

PRODUCTION VALUES OF THE WEEK: With its big budget, Enterprise generally brings top-notch special effects to the table, if nothing else. Most everything in this episode looks good, but it seems no one has mastered the "ice cracking under their feet" digital effects. Especially when the comet's surface first started to crack, it had that Roadrunner cartoon look, no better really than when Andromeda tried it in "Exit Strategies" a few weeks ago with a lot less money.

LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: In a problem of delivery more than the line itself, after Reed reports that he could find no record of the comet in the databases, Hoshi says, "That means we discovered it!" in a charmingly simple-minded way. Just wipe up the drool before you try to use the translator...
  

Previous: "The Andorian Incident"
Next: "Civilization"
NEXT WEEK: Archer does the Kirk thing.

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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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