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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Shockwave, Part II"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A disappointment. Intrigue and foreboding quickly
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 20, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A disappointment. Intrigue and foreboding quickly give way to
      cavalier action scenes and silly turns of plot.

      Plot description: Captain Archer, trapped in the 31st century with Daniels,
      must figure out how to restore the timeline by returning to the Enterprise,
      which has been taken over by Silik and his Suliban soldiers.

      -----
      Enterprise: "Shockwave, Part II"

      Airdate: 9/18/2002 (USA)
      Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
      Directed by Allan Kroeker

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      T'Pol: "I still don't believe in time travel."
      Archer: "The hell you don't."
      -----

      "Shockwave, Part II" begins with all the elements that were fascinating
      about "Shockwave, Part I," and then proceeds to run away from them as fast
      as it can. Certainly I was hoping for something more interesting, but deep
      down I suppose I should've expected something along these lines. When you
      have an impossible situation, there's a good chance any solution to that
      situation is going to seem manufactured and too easy.

      Which is exactly how "Shockwave II" feels. Where part one was strange and
      wonderful and sold on performances of workmanlike precision, part two is a
      heedless cartoon with action that feels painfully recycled. The plot comes
      across as little more than a wind-up toy to warrant the action situations.
      In story thread A, the Suliban Have Taken Over the Ship. In thread B, we
      have Timeline Games explained away with non-answers and solved with Magic
      Technology, where Archer and Daniels play MacGyver to escape the 31st
      century.

      What I find especially disappointing is that this resolution has none of the
      conviction the first part had. It becomes obvious early on as Archer asks
      Daniels questions about timeline manipulation and Daniels brushes him off
      with, "It's impossible for you to understand." Bah -- this is the writers'
      way of letting themselves off the hook for painting themselves into a
      corner: If Archer wouldn't understand then naturally we wouldn't either, so
      we shouldn't bother looking for explanations and should simply accept that
      there are none. No, it's the writers who don't understand: Just because
      something happens on the screen -- because the writers have said so --
      doesn't mean we'll buy it.

      In the Suliban Have Taken Over the Ship thread, the crew members are locked
      down in their quarters while Silik tries to figure out what to do now that
      Captain Archer has gone missing. Silik's orders from the mysterious Shadow
      Man from the future, you see, were to capture Archer and destroy the
      Enterprise. But with Archer vanished, he no longer knows what to do and
      needs new instructions. Unfortunately, Silik now finds that he cannot
      contact the Shadow Man (why is left unclear; perhaps the timeline has been
      too muddled). So Silik tries to get information about Archer's whereabouts
      by torturing T'Pol, who in fact does not know where Archer is and persists
      in her belief that time travel is impossible because the Vulcan science
      directorate has said so.

      While Silik desperately tries to figure out what to do next, Trip jury-rigs
      the comm-system wall unit in his quarters to contact other members of the
      crew, who together begin to hatch a Daring Plan to Retake the Ship [TM].
      This all ties in with plot-line B (we'll get to that in a moment), and will
      require Hoshi to crawl around through tunnels on a Covert Operation and
      Stuff. This inevitably leads to Hoshi's shirt getting ripped off as she
      jumps from a ceiling vent, which I'm sure many people will think is funny,
      provided they are in the seventh grade. Subsequently, Reed must go on a
      Covert Operation (and Stuff) of his own.

      Watching this stock-issued ship-takeover concept unfold, I felt like I
      myself had been thrown back through time. You know you're in trouble when
      you start having flashbacks to Voyager's "Basics, Part II" (among half a
      dozen other Voyager outings where the ship is taken over). Indeed, this
      episode feels *exactly* like a foray into Voyager writing -- more so than
      any episode of Enterprise to date. Near the end we have the Enterprise under
      attack by a dozen Suliban attack pods, and the pyrotechnics are engineered
      just like a Voyager battle scene, with phasers firing like crazy and
      consoles on the bridge exploding. Of course, there's no regard for the
      consequences of the ship taking such damage, which only adds to the
      Voyager-like feel.

      I'd also like to know how Trip can fake a warp-core breach to pave the way
      for Enterprise's Daring Escape. How brilliant he must be to engineer such a
      charade so quickly, apparently by pushing a few buttons. (I suppose it's no
      task that couldn't be accomplished with, say, a crew of special-effects
      pyrotechnic wizards.) What's funny is that in a subtle way I was fooled by
      the charade: I almost expected the ship to actually blow up, so it could
      later be reset by manipulations in the timeline from Archer's end of the
      plot. At least the writers dodged that bullet.

      Speaking of Archer's story, let's talk about the MacGyver that Daniels is.
      Not only can he come back from the dead after being killed in "Cold Front,"
      but he's a Time-Travel Expert who learned in high school how to send a
      transmission back through time nearly 1,000 years by using copper wire and a
      transmitter. How crafty. Archer uses Daniels' brilliantly concocted device
      to send a message directly to T'Pol's quarters; she then sets in motion the
      Daring Plan, which is able to bring Archer back to the 22nd century. It's
      clever trickery that only a writer could come up with -- since only a writer
      would have enough information to manipulate chess pieces so neatly and
      conveniently. Silik ends up retrieving Archer through time by activating a
      device the Enterprise crew has *fooled* him into activating, because Silik
      thinks it may contact the Shadow Man. In short: I doubt it, folks.

      I also doubt that once Archer is back in the 22nd century, he could
      single-handedly thwart the Suliban attack on the Enterprise by taking Silik
      hostage. (Either Silik is all-important or the Suliban are awfully quick to
      give up.) And after the crisis, the Enterprise crew simply lets Silik go,
      which makes me wonder if there's *any* sort of protocol for prisoners. The
      writers undoubtedly have no idea how to address such a troubling and
      significant question, despite the fact they've seen fit to drop the
      Enterprise into the middle of a timeline war.

      This all feels hastily scripted and unconvincing. Although the episode is
      nicely paced and technically well directed, it comes across as a string of
      blatantly silly mechanics. Daniels' whereabouts by the end of the story are
      left completely open-ended, no doubt to leave him available for future
      storylines involving the temporal cold war.

      I did find value in the almost-unrelated ending, which tries to look at
      questionable incidents from season one and lays them on the table as the
      Vulcans state their case for canceling the mission. I liked Archer's and
      T'Pol's speechmaking to Ambassador Sovral (even if these speeches were a bit
      hammy and pat) arguing that the crew should have a chance to learn from
      their early mistakes. And it's also a relief that the mining colony
      destroyed at the beginning of part one is not magically restored by timeline
      manipulation.

      I was also mildly intrigued by some of the dialog in the 31st century
      between Archer and Daniels, where society was destroyed because something
      called the Federation had never existed, apparently because the Enterprise's
      mission failed after Archer was removed from the 22nd century. This, of
      course, is inevitably full of the usual time paradoxes -- and I wonder if
      Daniels should be blabbing about a Federation that Archer knows nothing
      about -- but I've always been a sucker for the theme of sprawling
      consequences because of individual contributions (harking back to my
      affection for TOS's "Tomorrow Is Yesterday").

      These are moments, however, in stark contrast to a cartoon show that would
      rather pander to us with cookie-cutter action instead of thinking its way
      out of its dilemma with something original. If the temporal cold war is
      going to be interesting, the writers are going to have to come up with a way
      to sincerely sell it, rather than throwing us ham-fisted nonsense like this.

      --
      Next week: Vulcan first contact, circa 1957.

      -----
      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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