The Cynics Corner

Enterprise

"Silent Enemy"

by David E. Sluss

26 January 2002

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: There is some good material here, but overall it plays like a case study in how not to do an A-B story episode.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 7.0 (C-)

PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: I've noted before how thin the characterization of Reed has been. The B-story, while not especially enjoyable, did seem to suggest that the writers – gasp – planned it this way? "See, Reed was supposed to be an unknown all along! It wasn't just poor characterization." Or it could be one of those "chimpanzees and Shakespeare" things…

PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: In an unusual move, someone on the writing staff did some actual research. Bromelin is a real substance, which really is found in pineapple, and which is in fact a known allergen. See, it's not so hard – you didn't have to subject us to that deuterium business in Voyager...

CLICHE OF THE WEEK: Reed/Hoshi: "Oh my, you thought I was hitting on you. How awkward!" [Cue canned laughter]. That was probably the low point of the "Birthday dinner for Reed" story, but the whole subplot played like filler, and it tended to sabotage whatever suspense the A-story was able to generate. It seemed so out of place; after a couple of increasingly violent attacks, Hoshi is still working on the problem of what to feed Malcolm. Hello! The ship is under attack! We may not be able to take time out for a birthday party!

CLICHE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Any number of variants of "We knew the risks when we signed on."

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: Archer is so troubled by his vessel's generally poor record against alien threats that he turns back, but his confidence in ship and crew is restored thanks to their improbably victory over this week's aliens. This strikes me as a bit odd, since they only won because they blew out half the circuits on the ship improperly boosting the phasers. I'm afraid I don't see why it's better for Enterprise to damage itself in battle than to take damage from superior alien vessels. In a related story...

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: The idea that Enterprise has had phase cannons sitting around in crates all this time is a bit hard to swallow. It seems like Archer and company should have had plenty of occasions before now to think about installing them (e.g. "Fight or Flight," "Fortunate Son").

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEEK: According to Archer's dialog in this episode, Enterprise has been out for nearly five months, and has traveled 100 light years. Now, Enterprise turns around and heads back to Jupiter station after Archer realizes, however belatedly, that having a fully equipped vessel would be a Good Thing. However, the episode never conveys a real sense of just how much time Enterprise's mission would have lost if they had gone back. It's reasonable to think that the trip back, plus the refit time, plus the time it would take to get back out to their current position, could have taken nearly a year. Instead, everyone acts as though the trip back would take just a couple of weeks, and a few days of travel back toward Earth is portrayed as a significant chunk of that distance. Bleah.

NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: The new technology of instantaneous subspace communication was overshadowed by the new phase cannons perhaps, but it's a lot more troublesome in the grand scheme of things. Subspace boosters or not, I don't think this is appropriate for this series. And the two boosters are both so far away from Earth (and so close to one another), with one at roughly 100 light years from Earth and the other just a couple of days travel closer, that it's hard to imagine why they should be effective. And then, of course, not having instantaneous subspace would have prevented the interminable filler scenes of Hoshi quizzing Reed's family and friends...

STARFLEET UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK: We report, you decide:

  • Starfleet sends its prototype Warp 5 vessel out into unknown space without all of its weapons online ("Don't tell me – Tuesday").
  • The Enterprise crew fails to inspect the cargo bay after the alien boarding party departs; even if they weren't specifically searching for gadgets the aliens left might have left behind, you'd think they'd be interested in finding DNA or other trace evidence about this totally unknown enemy.
  • Archer turns around and (potentially) leads a hostile and technologically superior alien race back to Earth.
  • Archer phasers the alien device, after being told that it was connected to all of the ship's systems.

ALIEN UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK: We're going to monitor and subdue that primitive vessel by planting a device that enhances their weaponry ten-fold. For good measure, we'll make the gizmo as big as a basketball, place it in plain view, and not bother to use our shielding technology to protect it from weapons fire. Yeah, that's the ticket...
  

Previous: "Cold Front"
Next: "Dear Doctor"
NEXT WEEK: With no Prime Directive to follow (or ignore), how will Archer handle an alien disease-of-the-week epidemic?

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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
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