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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Shuttlepod One"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise s Shuttlepod One. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A basic storyline
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 18, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise's
      "Shuttlepod One." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: A basic storyline made quite entertaining by good characterization
      and strong performances.

      Plot description: Tucker and Reed embark on a doomed mission in a shuttlepod
      after they mistakenly believe the Enterprise has been destroyed and its
      entire crew lost.

      Enterprise: "Shuttlepod One"

      Airdate: 2/13/2002 (USA)
      Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
      Directed by David Livingston

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "Does that sound modulated enough for you?"
      "The radio. Or is it just the galaxy giggling at us again?"
      "It can giggle all it wants, but the galaxy's not getting any of our
      -- Reed and Trip

      The storyline is fairly thin, the formula is by far not a new one, and there
      are a couple detours that don't work, but "Shuttlepod One" is an episode I
      liked a great deal. It's a triumph of acting over plot, and of
      characterization over foregone conclusions.

      I find that Enterprise, surprisingly, often ends up being more
      character-oriented than I'd have expected before the series started. That's
      the case with "Shuttlepod One," whose approach is tried and true: Take a
      couple of actors and lock them in a room for the duration. If they're
      performed by good actors and they get some good things to say, then you have
      something worth watching.

      The premise is an exercise in simplicity: Tucker and Reed are on a
      shuttlepod away mission, and they reach the location where they're supposed
      to rendezvous with the Enterprise and instead find debris strewn across the
      surface of an asteroid. From the evidence in front of them, they conclude
      that the Enterprise has been destroyed and they are now the ship's only
      survivors. Sound unlikely? Convenient how so many subtle details just happen
      to be the way they are to prompt this conclusion? Perhaps, but that's beside
      the point.

      This isn't a great episode, but it's definitely a good one, elevated by
      performances that hit their marks. The premise is a contrivance based on a
      number of plot conveniences, but so what? This story has that secret
      ingredient -- conviction -- necessary to make the drama work and transcend
      the details of the plot. It's called suspension of disbelief, and the story
      sold it to me just fine.

      The Enterprise, of course, hasn't really been destroyed, and the episode
      makes the right decision by showing us right up front that it hasn't -- that
      this is indeed a convoluted misunderstanding. It also makes the right
      decision by spending little time on the Enterprise and instead keeping a
      vast majority of the episode inside the shuttlepod with Trip and Reed. This
      is *their* story and theirs alone.

      To me, there's something innately appealing about this sort of basic
      nuts-and-bolts character story, which has roots in the subject of male
      bonding. It also has roots in the subject of real character development,
      where personalities start clashing, emotions threaten to boil over, and
      eventually guarded private selves give way to confessions and honesty.

      The main problem here is that a shuttlepod is not a self-sustainable ship.
      With the Enterprise presumably destroyed, Trip and Reed have nowhere to go.
      They don't have warp engines, and I liked the sobering observations made
      through the hour about how slowly the shuttle moves compared to the
      Enterprise. The mission becomes reaching within range of a transponder so
      they can send a message that will eventually reach Starfleet and explain the
      Enterprise's tragic fate. The air supply is limited, and without warp speed
      there's really nowhere they can go. The only slim hope -- if they're
      exceptionally lucky -- is if a passing starship notices them and picks them
      up in the next few days.

      The story comes up with a good way to add some atmosphere to the
      proceedings: It's determined that turning off the heat will allow better
      efficiency of the air system and buy Trip and Reed several more hours. So
      off the heat goes, turning the shuttle cabin into a veritable ice chest.

      There's little else to do but talk. In Reed's case, he'd like to spend much
      of his remaining time talking to a recorder, tying up loose ends in his life
      with messages aimed at providing closure for whomever eventually hears them.
      Trip becomes annoyed. One argument I found interesting was the whole issue
      surrounding Reed's role as a pessimist/realist versus Trip's insistence in
      holding out hope for rescue. Both sides have a point. Reed looks at the
      numbers and does the math -- the chances of being rescued are so slim that
      it would seem to be some sort of an act of negligence not to leave a record
      and tie up loose ends as a matter of personal emotional need. Trip is not
      ready to write his own obituary -- not while there's even the slimmest
      margin of hope. If there's a way to prolong his existence in a doomed
      shuttlepod, he's going to do it.

      There's a lot of dialog in this episode, most of which I don't feel the need
      to repeat in a review -- not because it's bad dialog (a lot of it, in fact,
      is quite good), but because it's the dialog of real people in a specific
      situation, an observation on how two people talk to each another.
      Discussions about old girlfriends. Jibing over European versus North
      American attitudes ("If only Dr. Cochrane had been a European. The Vulcan's
      would've been far less reticent to help us. But, no ... he had to be from
      Montana," Reed laments.) Heated arguments over the subject of hope versus
      despair. Drunken confessions and camaraderie.

      There are a couple moments that didn't work for me. Reed's dream about T'Pol
      reveals a latent attraction he has for her, which is fine -- but the dream
      scene itself edges too close to the realm of "dumb," especially the whole
      thing about the nickname "Stinky," which really started trying my patience.

      Back on the Enterprise there are a couple scenes that seemed superfluous, in
      particular the whole subject of the "micro-singularities" that T'Pol says
      may be responsible for the accident that is now endangering the shuttlepod.
      The story makes a point of the fact that micro-singularities are myths the
      Vulcans haven't been able to prove scientifically, and Archer doubts her
      explanation. The issue of how this could be an incredible scientific
      discovery is sort of introduced and then dropped. I'd have recommended
      throwing the whole thing out completely.

      There's also a drunk scene here, where Trip and Reed drown themselves in
      bourbon as a way of passing the hours and as a way of not feeling like
      they're freezing to death in this frigid cabin. Drunk scenes are often a
      matter of taste, but I thought this one worked pretty well, if for no other
      reason than for Trip's wonderfully delivered line, "It can giggle all it
      wants, but the galaxy's not getting any of our bourbon." I also liked the
      follow-up to the T'Pol dream sequence, where Reed admits to Reed his
      attraction to T'Pol while drunk -- an admission he almost certainly would
      not make if he were (a) sober and (b) convinced he would still be alive in
      two days.

      Important to the episode's effect is that we truly believe the shuttle cabin
      is freezing. To that end, the production delivers here by putting a layer of
      frost throughout the interior of the shuttlepod set and dropping the
      temperature down to where we can see the actors' breath in every scene.
      (This must be what they call "method acting.") It's simple but very
      effective; as the actors sit there shivering, we completely believe it.

      What "Shuttlepod One" ultimately comes down to is acting -- whether or not
      we feel for these two guys and their desperate situation. Connor Trinneer
      and Dominic Keating deliver the goods, and it's enjoyable to watch them spar
      and see the moments where the camaraderie emerges from disagreements and
      fraying nerves. Trinneer I've come to like a great deal -- he virtually
      saved the otherwise pedestrian "Strange New World" early this season -- and
      he once again shows his ability to command a scene that needs him to get his
      message across with shouting. Keating is also very good, particularly in a
      scene where Reed acknowledges the distance he puts between himself and other
      people, even his own family. This is a nice character touch that builds on
      the examination of him in "Silent Enemy"; I'm mildly impressed.

      Ultimately, this is story of survival, and when the two officers realize the
      Enterprise is in fact *not* destroyed, they have to work the problem from a
      whole new angle, realizing they *still* don't have enough air to wait for
      the rendezvous. Of course, the rescue itself is a foregone conclusion, but
      along the way are a number of choices where Trip and Reed must think on
      their feet -- blowing up their only engine, leaving them adrift, as a signal
      to get the Enterprise's attention, and then a choice made by Trip to
      sacrifice himself to save Reed, and Reed's refusal to let him go through
      with it. By the end of it all, they've been through so much that they'll
      have become friends, something that indicates true character building. I'm
      reminded of O'Brien and Bashir in "Armageddon Game."

      "Shuttlepod One" is a pleasant surprise. The plot is minimalist, but that's
      the way a story like this should be. The contrived nature of the premise can
      easily be overlooked. Enterprise may not yet be on the cutting edge of
      plotting given its promising backdrop, but I certainly don't have a problem
      with that if the characters can be drawn this sharply and acted so

      Next week: An inexplicable rerun during February sweeps. Go figure.

      Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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