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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Twilight"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Many familiar elements, but a very solid episode
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12, 2003
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Many familiar elements, but a very solid episode nonetheless.

      Plot description: Archer suffers a mental condition that thrusts him into a
      forgotten reality where humanity has been eradicated by the Xindi except for
      a single colony of survivors.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Twilight"

      Airdate: 11/5/2003 (USA)
      Written by Mike Sussman
      Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      "You'd make a wonderful nurse." -- Archer to T'Pol, a moment of ironic

      "Twilight" has a storyline that will be instantly recognized by anyone
      familiar with the film "Memento" (a masterpiece of narrative construction
      that you should rent immediately if you have not seen it), and then proceeds
      to add the sci-fi angles, taking on a "what if" parallel-timeline premise
      that can be instantly recognized by anyone familiar with TNG's "Yesterday's
      Enterprise" (among others) -- except with the stakes becoming nothing less
      than humanity's existence itself. If I were a cynic I might say that I've
      already seen elsewhere most of what "Twilight" has to offer.

      But "Twilight" repackages the material well, plausibly ties it into the
      current Enterprise story arc, and ups the action quotient to literally
      apocalyptic levels. All the while, it conveys an intimate character story
      that works in its own right. The Little Character Drama merges with the Big
      Action Spectacle and it all somehow holds together and seems justified and
      compelling. This is an episode that has something for everyone.

      The episode begins with the disturbing -- if perhaps overreaching -- image
      of Earth being destroyed by the Xindi while the crew of the Enterprise
      watches helplessly from orbit (a presumably very distant orbit). This is
      like the opening teaser of "The Expanse" taken to the nth power, with a
      massive Xindi sphere emerging from nowhere and swiftly obliterating the
      planet. The potency of this image is almost justification for its presence
      in the episode ... since, logically speaking, I don't see how it could
      actually happen this way. If you follow T'Pol's dialog that takes place 12
      years later, you might, like me, be at a loss to explain how the Enterprise
      could've possibly been anywhere near Earth to witness its destruction. (And,
      furthermore, you might wonder why the Enterprise was not the very next
      target after Earth.)

      But it's a hook that's probably necessary given the weight of the episode's
      central situation -- the last desperate gasps of humanity trying to
      survive -- so I suppose dramatic weight should take precedence over the
      technicalities of plausibility. The episode is told from the point of view
      of 12 years in the future, where Archer wakes up in a strange place and
      finds himself 12 years older than he last remembers. He's unable to recall
      anything after having been hit by an anomaly in the Delphic Expanse.

      This anomaly, T'Pol explains, left behind parasites that interfere with his
      brain's synaptic pathways. Thus, like the central character in "Memento," he
      cannot form any new memories. After a few hours, any memory formed after the
      accident fades away, even though he retains all memories from before the
      accident. The notion of being lucid and perfectly cognizant, and yet trapped
      by the logic of this situation, suspended in a state of life forever
      interrupted -- it's deeply disturbing to ponder, and hard to imagine how
      that would actually *feel*. Perhaps it would be like it is here for Archer,
      who experiences such a logical disconnect between his last memory and the
      current time that there's little opportunity for him to dwell on his
      condition; he's too busy learning that the condition exists and pulling the
      pieces together.

      Despite years of trying, Phlox was never able to remove the parasites,
      because they exist, like DS9's Prophets, in a different zone that somehow
      transcends space and/or time. The only known way to destroy them would be
      with a subspace implosion that would kill Archer in the process. Astute
      viewers may quickly identify this as the solution to the entire plot,
      cleverly hidden in plain view.

      Archer wakes up to find a very different -- and yet very much the same --
      T'Pol making breakfast in his kitchen. As she explains his condition and the
      highlights (or, more accurately, lowlights) of the past 12 years, we are
      supplied a flashback narrative that documents the key events following
      Archer's affliction. Archer was eventually deemed unfit for duty and
      relieved of command, and Enterprise continued the mission to find the Xindi
      under T'Pol, who was granted a Starfleet captain's commission. Closing in on
      the location of The Weapon, Enterprise was increasingly besieged by Xindi

      One particularly nasty attack forced T'Pol to ram the attacking ships, in an
      act that I find particularly interesting because it smacks of impulsive,
      un-Vulcan-like desperation, even if there is a logic that can be argued
      behind it. But don't bother trying to explain that logic to Trip ("What the
      hell were you thinking?"), who reports that the warp engine damaged in the
      crash will take him six months to fix. With the ship crippled, this makes it
      impossible to find the Xindi weapon before it is deployed.

      (Digression: Why was Travis not piloting the ship, you ask -- or perhaps you
      don't? Because he was apparently KIA, which I find amusingly pathetic. It's
      like the writers intentionally steer him out of scripts at every possible
      turn. In the case of alternate timelines like this one, all they have to do
      is have him lie dying on the floor early in the proceedings, without needing
      so much as a line of dialog addressing it. But never mind my tired
      Travis-is-a-cipher speech, blah, blah, etc.)

      Earth is consequently destroyed, as is every human colony the Xindi can hunt
      down. Less than 6,000 humans remain, and they journey to settle on Ceti
      Alpha V -- a planet whose ear-dwelling indigenous life, unseen here, makes
      you wonder whether those 6,000 survivors have a new problem to deal with on
      their new home.

      This is a very bleak scenario, and an interesting one worth watching. Since
      obviously Earth won't actually be destroyed and the Xindi will at some point
      have to be stopped, "Twilight" permits us an imaginative look at the story
      arc's hypothetical worst-case scenario. The flashback structure of the "what
      if" future sometimes reminded me of DS9's "The Visitor" -- although it must
      be said that "Twilight" is a substantially less poignant take on
      hypothetical material. (The loss of a parent evokes emotions we can
      understand, whereas Earth getting blown up is clearly reaching over the top
      into fantasy.) You don't quite get a real sense here that Earth's
      destruction is a cause for the unbearable anguish that it should be, because
      there's simply too much story to tell to dwell on people dealing with
      unimaginable despair. (Notably, Soval's matter-of-fact attitude toward
      humanity being wiped out seems awfully devoid of regret, even for a Vulcan.)

      Rather, the emotional/character selling point resides less in humanity's
      destruction than in the nature of the relationship between Archer and T'Pol,
      after a decade of her serving as his caretaker. "Our relationship has ...
      evolved," T'Pol explains. Indeed. After 12 years, you would expect it to,
      even if Archer doesn't remember one minute of it. The nature of T'Pol's
      feelings for Archer are never explicitly stated, and it's left ambiguous as
      to exactly how deep they run. I think that's the right choice. Part of her
      feelings certainly stem from a sense that she owes it to him, since she was
      indirectly responsible for him being afflicted by the anomaly. But it's
      clear that there's more to it, and that she has grown attached; after 12
      years, being with Archer has become a normal part of her life. Jolene
      Blalock and Scott Bakula find the right notes for their parts in this
      strange routine: T'Pol long accustomed to it, while Archer finds it
      brand-new every morning.

      It can't be easy, and you can sense in Mike Sussman's script the allegory
      for people who have mental illnesses and the people who care for them
      (Alzheimer's Disease being the most obvious parallel) -- there's a human
      toll in maintaining patience, dedication, and making daily sacrifices.

      Of course, this being sci-fi, there's ultimately a cure here, and this cure
      also can change history. Because of the odd space/time properties,
      eradicating the parasites in the present also turns out to eradicate them in
      the past, which means an alternate timeline would emerge if the parasites
      were destroyed, thus having never incapacitated Archer. On this particular
      day, Phlox is arriving with a possible treatment he's been working on for
      the past decade. Archer returns to the Enterprise to undergo treatment. But,
      of course, this being an action episode, Phlox's solution is not carried out
      before an all-out Xindi assault that spells the certain end of the last
      remaining human colony, as the Enterprise is pummeled and hammered and
      boarded and the bridge is blown up and the officers are sucked into space.

      The final act crescendos into escalating disaster, like "Yesterday's
      Enterprise" ramped up to our current decade's action standards. Eventually,
      all the characters are blown up or shot by Xindi soldiers, and humanity's
      fate lies in T'Pol and Archer setting off a subspace implosion in
      engineering while being shot at from all sides. The whole ship goes up in a
      big fireball, which serves as the biggest explosion able to set timelines
      right since Voyager's "Year of Hell, Part II."

      In story theme and sometimes in method, "Twilight" invokes a long list of
      its older siblings' classic predecessors: "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and "The
      City on the Edge of Forever" from TOS; "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "All
      Good Things..." from TNG; "The Visitor" from DS9; "Timeless" from Voyager.
      It betters none of those examples (which comprise some fine company), but it
      does work as another iteration on the material, and it finds a workable
      balance between its extreme disaster scenarios and more personal moments. I
      tend to prefer these shows when they have a witness in the story that
      remembers at least some of what happened (or could've happened), but that's
      by no means mandatory. After all, we in the audience are the witnesses that

      Next week: The good, the bad, and the Enterprise.

      Copyright 2003 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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