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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Carpenter Street"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Did you enjoy this turkey for your day before
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2003
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Did you enjoy this turkey for your day before Thanksgiving?

      Plot description: Archer and T'Pol are sent back to the year 2004 to thwart
      a Xindi plot unfolding on Earth at that time.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Carpenter Street"

      Airdate: 11/26/2003 (USA)
      Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
      Directed by Mike Vejar

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "This gonna take long? I don't want to miss Conan." -- Guy in apartment (a
      programming alternative far better than this episode)
      -----

      There's only one thing I demand in a story that claims to tie together the
      Xindi arc and the Temporal Cold War plot, and that's an hour that commands
      my interest. No such luck. "Carpenter Street" is a mediocre time-travel bore
      with barely enough plot for me to accuse of not making sense.

      And to be sure, the little bit of plot we do get here *doesn't* make sense.
      It's more of the same Temporal Cold War wave-of-the-hand nonsense, where
      logic and motivation take a vacation and we're supplied explanations that
      pretty much go like this: We don't know how the Xindi went into the past or
      where they got their information or what they're intending to do, but don't
      worry about any of that because all that matters is that we stop them now,
      now, now!

      I don't know about you, but my patience with some of this temporal nonsense
      is wearing thin. I'd like at least an inkling of (1) where the Xindi are
      getting their information about humanity's supposed future attack upon them,
      (2) why they believe it, (3) how the Xindi have access to time travel, and
      (4) why they are dead-set on destroying all of us. These are questions that
      go to the heart of Xindi motivation, and you'd think a story that delves
      back into this morass of timeline goofiness would at least *try* to tackle
      these questions, but "Carpenter Street" doesn't have a clue about any of it.
      The Xindi, as a result, ring as hollow here as ever.

      Also, this comic-book notion of Archer basically saving the human race week
      after week (or at the very least the stakes of such being invoked in dialog)
      is really starting to get old. Are Berman and Braga convinced that the only
      way this series will hold our attention is if humanity's entire existence
      (ostensibly) hangs in the balance every week, while Archer chases the
      villain across rooftops? Star Trek is supposed to be about ideas, not about
      whether or not the captain can save the world.

      Then there's time-traveling Daniels, who represents the ultimate contrivance
      when it comes to Those Crazy Timelines. He can see just enough to know that
      timelines are being altered in a direction away from where they "should" be,
      but not enough information to be particularly useful to Archer. According to
      Daniels, three Xindi have traveled back to Earth in 2004 where they are
      doing ... something. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Something
      Bad.

      (Wouldn't it be interesting to have our assumptions proven wrong for a
      change? What if Archer went back in time to find the Xindi doing Something
      Good that was actually preventing some other Xindi from doing Something Bad
      in a future timeline? But I suppose that's one original idea that might
      prove too difficult amid a time-travel plot that already makes so little
      sense.)

      Let's just say that Daniels' level of knowledge strikes me as less than
      convincing, to say the least. It's too simultaneously/conveniently complete
      and incomplete to come across as anything more than an obvious device to get
      Archer and T'Pol into the year 2004 with no information about what they need
      to do, other than look for the Xindi bad guys. (This series makes about as
      much sense of its timelines as "The X-Files" made about possible alien
      conspiracies -- which is to say, none at all.)

      My dissatisfaction with the lack of new insight into the Xindi role in the
      Temporal Cold War might've been mitigated had the plot in 2004 been
      interesting or fun, but it's not. It's bland and perfunctory, and ends with
      a painfully routine action climax. The plot holds just enough of our
      interest to keep us from changing the channel leading up to the story
      destination. To be fair, the story is able to build a reasonable sense of
      mystery surrounding the human collaborator, Loomis (Leland Orser), who is
      being paid to kidnap people who have donated at the blood bank where he
      works. The Xindi are using these victims, who all have different blood
      types, to develop a bio-weapon, which they intend to take back to the
      future, I guess. Archer and T'Pol must track down the Xindi and stop them.

      Of course, if you really stop and think about any of this, you will see that
      this is clearly a Swiss Cheese Plot.

      (1) Why does Daniels send Archer and T'Pol back in time to a point where the
      Xindi have already been working on Earth for two months? Why not send them
      back earlier, at a point where the Xindi are not as close to completing
      their mission? For that matter, why does Daniels say that the Xindi have
      "already" been working on Earth for two months? In time-travel terms, hasn't
      this "already" happened centuries ago? Maybe the passage of time in past,
      present, and future all moves forward simultaneously, like different people
      in different time zones. Or maybe Daniels needs to go back to Time Travel
      School. (Daniels says it "takes time" for changes in the timeline to "ripple
      through the timeline" and reach his century. Huh?)

      (2) Just why do the Xindi need to run tests on all these different people to
      create a virus capable of killing all of us? Since when do bio-weapon toxins
      have to be coded to your blood type to be lethal? Surely the Xindi have
      enough information to know how to kill everybody with a single toxin/virus.
      And why would they have to develop this toxin from scratch? Lethal
      substances can be found anywhere.

      (3) If you're going into the past, why pick 2004 as your place to "hide"?
      Humans would be a lot more likely to discover aliens hiding in 2004 than in,
      say, 1404. Granted, the obvious answer is that so we can use a current-day
      backdrop for the setting, but the Xindi have no reason to pick this year.
      Then again, maybe they didn't pick it. Maybe it was picked for them by the
      Timeline Gods who obviously are in charge of this whole Temporal Cold War
      thing.

      (4) And just who are the Xindi "hiding" from if they are indeed using Earth
      in 2004 as a hiding place? And what about the events of "Rajiin," where it
      was implied that the Xindi had everything they needed to make the
      bio-weapon? Are these Xindi working in conjunction with or separately from
      those who decided in "Rajiin" to create the bio-weapon? Or are these the
      same guys? Does it even matter since the Xindi seem to be capable of being
      wherever and whenever a given episode needs them to be?

      Again, logical scrutiny is less important if I'm having a good time. The
      main problem with "Carpenter Street" is that it's tired, predictable, and
      unimaginative. It's about as by-the-book as these things can be. Basically,
      if you've seen the trailer, you've seen what this episode has to offer.
      There are no twists and no particularly entertaining fish-out-of-water gags.
      When Archer and T'Pol steal a car to drive around the city, for example, one
      would expect a comic payoff (or perhaps a payoff of any kind). Nope. The
      "wry" observations on 21st-century human greed aren't wry enough. Even the
      parody on the fast-food drive-thru is lame and obvious. Wasn't that joke old
      a decade ago? (Time to break out the DVD for "Star Trek IV," incomparably
      better than this.)

      The one thing I did like was T'Pol's dry contempt for Loomis, which was
      Vulcan disdain done well and aimed at an appropriate target.

      All this eventually brings us to the literal run-and-jump climax, which is
      mostly yawn-worthy, as Archer and T'Pol chase down a Xindi ("He has the
      virus!" ["And we have a trailer line!"]), who goes running and jumping
      across rooftops, etc., trying to release the virus and wipe out half of
      Detroit, etc. Archer jumps and clings desperately to the pipes on the side
      of a building, etc. (Will he fall and be killed? Now *that* would be a
      twist.) Sometimes I wonder if television producers can watch scenes like
      this and *not* see them as the hopeless cliches they so obviously are. If
      so, it's time for retirement. Forced retirement.

      The consolation here, I guess, is that Archer gets three Xindi prisoners (or
      corpses -- I'm not sure, to be honest) out of this adventure, no doubt to be
      the source of future stories in this Xindi arc -- stories that, no doubt,
      will continue to make no sense and offer no conclusive direction or meaning.

      Interestingly, the hopelessly tepid "Carpenter Street" comes on the heels of
      the surprisingly ambitious, if misguided, "Similitude." I wasn't exactly a
      fan of "Similitude," but I respected its spirit. As a story, at least
      "Similitude" put up a fight. "Carpenter Street" is waving a white flag.

      -----
      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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