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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Storm Front, Part I"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: Watchable but nonsensical -- and there s little here that you wouldn t have easily extrapolated from
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 12, 2004
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: Watchable but nonsensical -- and there's little here that you
      wouldn't have easily extrapolated from the ending of "Zero Hour."

      Plot description: The crew of the Enterprise finds itself in an alternate
      version of 1944 where Germany, assisted by an alien influence involved in
      the Temporal Cold War, occupies the eastern United States.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Storm Front, Part I"

      Airdate: 10/8/2004 (USA)
      Written by Manny Coto
      Directed by Allan Kroeker

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

      "What's happening is beyond your comprehension." -- Silik, describing the
      timeline plot
      -----

      The bad news is that "Storm Front" inherits so much nonsensical time-travel
      baggage from previous episodes (including last season's final 60 seconds)
      that the premise is all but indefensible.

      The good news is that this episode sets up all the pieces to possibly end --
      once and for all -- the Temporal Cold War and all its related, incoherent
      BS. Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Personally, I'm in favor of the end of the
      TCW in "Storm Front, Part II."

      The other bad news is that ending the temporal war (or at the very least
      this two-parter) will apparently be accomplished with a Temporal Reset
      Button -- of the sort found in Voyager's "Year of Hell." The idea goes
      something like this: Blow up something that's real big and controls time,
      and all of the "correct" timelines will be magically and instantly restored.
      The paradoxes are everywhere, but they all become irrelevant if you can blow
      up the device that has created (or has not yet created) all of the paradoxes
      and manipulations. Or something like that. (The new paradox becomes, how do
      you stop something that never was destined to be a by-product of a
      paradoxical event in the first place, and ... oh, never mind.)

      The other good news is that this is all tolerable under the
      oh-just-forget-the-paradox-stuff writing of Manny Coto and the brisk
      directing of Allan Kroeker. It's not what I would call good, but it's
      tolerable and sometimes entertaining as nonsense.

      I guess that makes this episode a real mixed bag. Reaching into World War II
      is a time-travel cliche, and alien Nazis are in concept no less goofy here
      than they were at the end of "Zero Hour." But at least now we can see how
      the writers develop and play out this "Twilight Zone" concept. Their
      approach is in the tradition of silly sci-fi fun, which is maybe the only
      workable approach, since the concept is too ridiculous to be worthy of
      social relevance.

      In this rendition of an alternate 1944, World War II has taken a very
      different course because aliens have been helping the German war effort by
      supplying them with better weapons in exchange for the Germans helping the
      aliens build a temporal "conduit" (more on that later). This alliance has
      allowed the Germans to defeat Europe and invade the United States, the
      eastern portion of which they now occupy. There's an amusing shot of the
      White House adorned (defaced) with Nazi banners. It's amusing because it's
      simply impossible to take the image the least bit seriously in the context
      of this zany story. I'm not complaining that it's amusing, because I
      actually like the creators' audacity in showing it. (Later, we see a map
      that spells out the battle lines and the occupied U.S. territory.)

      During an ambush, Archer escapes his captivity from the Germans and finds
      himself in a history that doesn't track with what he knows to be the actual
      timeline. He is rescued by American resistance fighters based in an occupied
      Brooklyn. Included among them is a young African-American woman named Alicia
      (Golden Brooks) and two Italian-American former loan sharks (read: mobsters)
      named Carmine (Steven R. Schirripa) and Sal (Joe Maruzzo).

      If there's a message to be found in this episode (and it's mostly reduced to
      a non-point) it's that this version of 1944 America seems to have been
      forced, as a matter of survival to fight the Germans, to put aside more of
      its social and ethnic prejudices more quickly than its counterpart in the
      real timeline. It's a message the story does not insist upon or underline,
      but simply presents as a given. It's the only trace of social relevance in
      an otherwise nuts-and-bolts installment where dialog is mainly limited to
      exposition (there are a lot of characters who have to figure out just what
      exactly is going on here).

      Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew, orbiting 1944 Earth and still believing
      Archer was killed when the Xindi weapon exploded, must figure out how to
      return to their own time. They get some clues into the mystery with the help
      of Temporal Nonsense Agent Daniels (Matt Winston), who shows up on the
      Enterprise but is practically unrecognizable. Phlox discovers that some sort
      of temporal cataclysm has caused various parts of Daniels' body to transform
      to differently aged stages, from infancy to elderly, turning him into a
      grotesque patchwork that we might as well call the Temporal Frankenstein
      Monster.

      About here, Silik (John Fleck) shows up on the Enterprise, attacks Trip,
      steals a shuttlepod, and takes it down to the surface for reasons left
      unknown to us until part two. Trip and Travis beam down to find Silik but
      find only the abandoned shuttlepod, which the Nazis stumble across just
      after Trip and Travis have rigged it to explode. What's the only thing
      better than the writers blowing up a shuttlepod? Blowing up a shuttlepod
      full of Nazis, naturally. Unfortunately, Trip and Travis are immediately
      captured by another patrol, then held prisoner and threatened by Vosk (Jack
      Gwaltney), the leader of the time-traveling aliens.

      Meanwhile, some friction arises between Archer, Sal, and Carmine, when the
      Nazis start storming through the neighborhoods looking for the escaped
      Archer. Sal and Carmine want to know how Archer figures into all this.
      Archer, for that matter, wants answers to his own questions. Eventually they
      work together to arrange a meeting with one of their informant's contacts,
      rumored to be a gray-skinned, red-eyed, inhuman Nazi collaborator. This
      alien believes Archer is a temporal agent sent through time to stop them
      from building their temporal conduit. Archer gets some crucial information
      before Sal shoots the alien to death.

      Later, there's a shootout when the Nazis try to recapture Archer. This scene
      is an effete, bullet-riddled action sequence that's allowed to go on too
      long, but it's ironic that Schirripa's character ends up killing more people
      in a single scene on Star Trek than in four seasons on "The Sopranos."
      Archer contacts the Enterprise with a stolen alien communicator, and Archer
      and Alicia are beamed up in perfect transporter ex machina fashion.

      Daniels, at death's door, explains to Archer that Vosk is the leader of a
      dangerous, radical faction waging a full-throttled temporal war, and is
      responsible for all the shifts in the timeline, and who has put himself on
      1944 Earth to rewrite history -- and that 1944 Earth is the one time/place
      he can truly be stopped, because to stop him here is to stop him from ever
      having tampered with the timeline in the first place. Daniels tells Archer
      that he must find and destroy Vosk's conduit (read: big time machine),
      before Vosk can escape to ... somewhere/somewhen.

      Daniels then expires right on cue. The guy always was a master of convenient
      timing (and probably will be again; you never know with those temporal
      loopholes).

      This plot is a transparently obvious concoction, but on those terms it moves
      from beat to beat and engages our attention. The story invites us to embrace
      its absurdity and works as entertainment. It basically breaks down the
      entire temporal war (at least I think it does) to a single battle in Earth's
      past, that revolves around a single sci-fi MacGuffin: Vosk's conduit that
      the Nazis are constructing for him. The episode ends on an intriguing image
      that contains an effective "Raiders of the Lost Ark" echo -- a massive time
      machine being built in a warehouse where Nazi banners hang from the ceiling.

      But the biggest problem with "Storm Front" is its apparent, inherent
      meaninglessness. There's just something frustrating about a plot where none
      of the guest characters matter because they're all phantoms in a timeline
      that's going to be erased. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and should wait
      for part two, but if you listen to what Daniels has to say, it practically
      plays like the writers' confession that all this temporal nonsense has
      gotten so out of hand that they simply have to wipe the slate clean in one
      bold, contrived stroke.

      Then again, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, because then we can get
      back to stories that matter and make sense.

      --
      Next week: The Enterprise battles to save its own future. Bet you've never
      heard that line before.

      -----
      Copyright 2004 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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