The Cynics Corner


"Shockwave, Part II"

by David E. Sluss

21 September 2002

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And how about that new Twilight Zone? Any anthology series is certain to be a mixed bag, of course, but one would hope there would be choices in the bag other than “crap” and “worse crap.” The first tale in the series premiere, “Evergreen,” would be the “worse crap” of the week, with high school play quality acting, lame scripting, and a “twist ending” telegraphed so ineptly in the first couple of minutes that the payoff is laughable. The second story, “Stunt-Casting the KFC Guy,” fared somewhat better, but it features a moldy chestnut (“Death takes a holiday”) so cliched that it probably would have been rejected as a short story by the most amateurish sci-fi fanzine -- or even as a segment of Beyond Belief. I might watch one more week, but once the Law & Order Collective starts up again, I’m not going to have time for this stuff.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Having put themselves in an impossible situation in Part I, the writers go off the implausibility meter in hitting the reset button here.


NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: We knew going in that there would have to be some major hand-waving involved in returning Archer to his proper place in time, but even making allowances for that, the solution presented here defies even the most liberal suspension of disbelief level. Daniels and Archer construct a device capable of beaming a hologram of Archer's head 900 years into the past using a communicator, a tricorder, and a copper ladle, the goal being to get the Enterprise crew to trick Silik into activating Daniels' Laptop Time Portal, conveniently left in his quarters in "Cold Front." Now, one might give a pass to this notion, based on previous/future Star Trek episodes (the closest parallel, I suppose, being Data building a device to scan for temporal anomalies using 19th century parts in Next Generation's "Time's Arrow"), but this business makes absolutely no sense. First, Starfleet-issue communicators, in all timelines seen to date, are voice-only; so why should a communicator, even one enhanced with a spoon and pieces of a scanner, be able to (or, for that matter, need to) transmit an image of Archer rather than just his voice? Second, even if Archer can transmit a message to the 22nd century, how is it that T'Pol can respond using no devices at all? Silik's conversations with the Humanoid Figure from the future seem to require a special platform to work, which makes it unlikely that Daniels' jury-rigged device could handle two-way communications. Third, Daniels mentions that he "still has Enterprise's spatial coordinates." Oh? Why's that? At the end of Part I, Daniels admitted that he had been mistaken in his belief that the Suliban would not come after Enterprise. So how could he know where the Suliban took the ship after capturing it? Fourth, if all time travel technology was destroyed (or more accurately, never built in the first place), why does the Laptop Time Portal still exist? Oh, right, because time travel is real complicated, and rubes like us would never understand it. About the only thing that does work about this audacious plan is the manipulation of Silik, because, logically, the Humanoid Figure has been eliminated from the future timeline along with everything else, and Daniels rightly suspects that Silik must be desperate to communicate with his master. That much I'll buy; the rest is bunk.

By the way, here's my latest theory on the Temporal Cold War: The Humanoid Figure is a future version of Archer. He spent decades being manipulated by Daniels, the result being a seriously corrupted timeline. After realizing what he'd done, this future Archer made contact with past and recruited the Suliban to help undermine Daniels' agenda and prevent himself from hosing history. It's the Suliban we should be rooting for here, because without them Archer and his crew would be sabotaging Star Trek canon with every light year. The advantage to this scenario is that no matter how awful this series turns out to be, it's all a bastardization of Star Trek history that can be summarily and credibly reversed in the series finale! Who's with me?

NAME-DROPPING OF THE WEEK: The cutesy winks and nods at future Star Trek history continue unabated. Daniels' blather about a "Federation" is pretty obvious and predictable, and also probably ill-advised: Someone whose bungling just destroyed 900 years of history probably shouldn't be dropping any hints of this sort to the key player in restoring that history. I will admit that the Romulan name-drop was kind of fun. Let's just hope the writers take their own message to heart: "Maybe you shouldn't be writing that" rumored episode that exposes the Enterprise crew to the Romulans. Still, these references, like the brute force name-drops of "some kind of Directive" from last season, get old in a hurry. During Hoshi's crawl through the Enterprise's duct work, I half-expected someone to say, "Someday, someone will make these service crawlways taller. Some fella named Jeffries, maybe" and wink at the camera.

SULIBAN UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK: Silik's just a stooge; even his aide practically said so to his face and suggested that Silik was not carrying out the Humanoid Figure's mission properly. Silik also jeopardized Suliban soldiers and the Helix itself by refusing to help get Enterprise towed out of the nebula. So why would the Suliban abandon their pursuit of Enterprise just because Silik has been taken hostage? He's a dead loss and the other Suliban know it. It doesn't make sense...

SULIBAN UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK FIRST RUNNER-UP: Dialog found on the cutting room floor:

SILIK: We need to torture one of the Enterprise crew members for information.
SILIK'S LACKEY: Which one?
SILIK: Bring me the Vulcan.
SILIK'S LACKEY: But a Vulcan's mental discipline might make her more resistant to torture than anyone else on the ship.
SILIK: But she'll look good in a tank-top. Bring her!

SULIBAN UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK SECOND RUNNER-UP: Reed opens the special lock to get into Daniels' quarters. But wait... doesn't that mean that either the Suliban never searched those quarters when they were looking for Archer or they did search it and then put the special lock back on for some bizarre reason? In any case, it seems that if Suliban scanners can detect "temporal signatures," they ought to be able to detect the "tesseract" or whatever Reed reached into to get the Laptop Time Portal out of Daniels' closet. But then again, the Suliban are so lazy, incompetent, or both, that they don't bother using Enterprise's own sensors to keep tabs on the crew's biosigns, to see if, for instance, somebody's crawling around in the duct-work.

STARFLEET UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK: "By the time Silik wakes up, we'll be long gone." They just let the guy go?! A fellow who engineered the deaths of 3600 colonists and the frame-up job of Enterprise's crew? A guy with insider knowledge of the Temporal Cold War? Like Nixon said, "Expletive Deleted." This is history in the making, folks: We might never see the founding of the Federation, but now we know that centuries of sloppy Starfleet security and intelligence procedures began right here...

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: If Daniels is telling the truth, the Humanoid Figure is from the 28th century, where only virtual time travel is possible. Yeah, right -- in a universe in which anyone with high warp capability can travel through time using the "slingshot effect," if nothing else.

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Daniels and Archer find the library, but find books made of paper rather than bits and bytes. What paper, left on a shelf untreated and without any care at all, would actually be intact after 900 years? Iso-paper, perhaps?

EXPOSURE OF THE WEEK: I guess there's a quota of half-naked characters for Enterprise, and Hoshi drew the short straw this week. But aren't there bras in the 22nd century? In any case, while the exploitation has been "equal opportunity" in nature over the last year, it's usually pretty silly and gratuitous, and this was no exception. I wish they'd just do an episode about the ship getting contaminated with deuterium radiation that quickly eats away fabric and get it out of their systems...

DISTURBING TRENDS OF THE WEEK: So, Enterprise's mission has been de-cancelled. Hooray! I still don't see why people, particularly the Vulcans, would accept Archer's evidence at face value, but there's a larger issue that is more troubling. As I've noted before, the Temporal Cold War plot has all the makings of an X-Files-like debacle, in which the writers have no clue where the story is leading, and end up convoluting it to the point that it can't be resolved in any satisfying way. "Canceling the Enterprise's mission" could become this series' version of "Closing down the X-Files," and T'Pol could maintain her illogical Scully-like disbelief in time travel for years, despite tons of evidence; come on, T'Pol, why would a "temporal signature" appear, if not for "temporal displacement?" I don't think anyone wants another X-Files. Oh, and we don't want another Andromeda either, so let's stay away from the "ship being boarded" stuff for a while...

Next: "Carbon Creek" NEXT WEEK: Not content to screw up future history, Enterprise goes back to the 1950's and screws that up too. Great...



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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
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