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

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: Watchable, nonsensical, predictable. At least it purports to be the end of the timeline wars. Plot
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2004
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: Watchable, nonsensical, predictable. At least it purports to be
      the end of the timeline wars.

      Plot description: Only the crew of the Enterprise stands between an alien
      and his plan to escape Earth of the year 1944 and tamper with the timeline
      in ways that could destroy the histories of countless civilizations.

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

      Airdate: 10/15/2004 (USA)
      Written by Manny Coto
      Directed by David Straiton

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

      "The building's about to blow up."
      "Gotcha."
      -- Archer and Trip
      -----

      The bad news is that "Storm Front, Part II" inherits so much nonsensical
      time-travel baggage from previous episodes (including last week's "Storm
      Front, Part I") that the premise is all but indefensible.

      The good news is that this episode appears to end -- once and for all -- the
      Temporal Cold War and all its related, incoherent BS. Personally, I'm in
      favor of the end of the TCW in "Storm Front, Part II."

      If the first two paragraphs of this review seem familiar, it's not because I
      copied and pasted them (naw); it's because this week's installment of the
      Jammer Review has become the latest front in the Temporal Cold War, and
      temporal agents have subjected you to a time loop. As you can see, history
      has been altered, because this review is now different. (Actually, it might
      as well be the same, since I'm going to say many of the same things.)

      But, you see, now I'm confused, because if the Temporal Cold War never
      happened, what about all those episodes where the Enterprise was involved in
      Daniels' temporal shenanigans? Did they also not happen? Or did they kind of
      happen in a reality that everyone remembers but no one cares about?

      And, for that matter, what about the Xindi? Were they ever really a part of
      the TCW? After Earth was attacked, Silik gave Archer information about the
      Xindi, implying that they were somehow manipulated by people who were
      involved. And yet the sphere-builders didn't seem to be a part of the TCW,
      and rather seemed to represent only their own independent interests.

      In essence, "Storm Front" represents about the only thing the writers could
      really do with the TCW -- namely, throw their arms up in defeat and admit
      that it made no sense and never would or could. That they have slyly
      packaged that sentiment inside a story that rewrites World War II and
      *pretends* to make sense is admirable, I guess. Obviously, we know better,
      but at least you can still fill an hour of television time with something
      that is halfway entertaining.

      "Storm Front, Part II" -- a very average outing -- works and fails along all
      the same lines as "Part I." Since everything was more or less explained last
      week in the setup, this week's installment pretty much just goes through all
      the motions we knew would have to happen in order to arrive at a payoff --
      although "payoff" is too strong a word for the overall experience of "Storm
      Front."

      About the only remaining question is what Silik is up to and why. It turns
      out that Silik's faction of the TCW also intends to stop Vosk, since Vosk is
      a madman who sees time-travel as just another technology to employ in
      improving the universe, to his own ends, no doubt. (In a war as convoluted
      as the Temporal Cold War, it stands to reason that Silik would eventually
      end up on our side for at least one episode.)

      My thinking is that if the timeline is something that can be changed at will
      at any point, then reality is meaningless. That's a dangerous storytelling
      through line, because it leaves us in the middle of nowhere. Besides, how
      could Vosk maintain any control over such a mess? I would think that at some
      point he would end up accidentally erasing himself with his own meddling. Of
      course, reckless sci-fi like this means that there are no answers. In this
      case, there probably aren't any questions, either.

      Well, there are questions of scripting logic, which are pointless to
      scrutinize but I'll try anyway. Why, for example, wouldn't Silik try to team
      up with the crew of the Enterprise from the outset? He always has so much
      information, so why wouldn't he know that the Enterprise was sent to stop
      Vosk? For that matter, wasn't it awfully convenient the way he was able to
      stow away on the Enterprise?

      In this episode, Silik has complete shapeshifting abilities, allowing him to
      look like anybody. There's a point where he assumes Trip's identity and then
      gets aboard the Enterprise when Archer negotiates the release of "Trip" and
      Mayweather from Vosk. The whole business involving the data disc Silik
      retrieves is a somewhat flimsy device that takes Silik down to Earth, only
      for him to return to the Enterprise under a subterfuge that obviously
      wouldn't last five minutes. Just how did he intend to carry out his mission?
      He's able to do the highly unlikely, and yet still inept.

      In a story that is all plot and virtually no characterization, the one
      interesting character moment comes when Archer throws Silik against the wall
      in the brig, and Silik tells him, "You've changed, captain." Indeed. It's a
      notion worth its own episode.

      Silik and Archer subsequently team up to infiltrate Vosk's facility so they
      can disable the shield generator and the Enterprise can swoop down and
      destroy the building. Of course, no infiltration would be complete without
      bringing in the American resistance fighters established in part one to keep
      the Germans busy. Ensuing are a lot of lackluster shootouts between the
      Americans and the Germans, which is often laughable in its depiction of
      German ineptitude (they can't hit the broad side of a barn even with machine
      guns). I'm pretty sure the only non-German casualty in all the shooting is
      Silik. The Germans can't even hit Carmine when he's standing in the middle
      of an alley with no cover. (If people are going to get hit with bullets,
      can't we at least get some body squibs?)

      One thing I liked in the episode was Vosk. As demented (and ridiculous) as
      his notion of unlimited timeline manipulation is, he brings a sort of calm
      rationality to explaining it. In the negotiation with Archer, Vosk is so
      convinced of his own righteousness that he thinks Archer might actually buy
      into his proposal. Jack Gwaltney is interesting as Vosk, who is a calm and
      confident villain who speaks precisely but with no uncertain menace beneath
      the surface (in one scene, he threatens to erase a Nazi general from
      history).

      Archer and Silik are successful in shutting down the shield generator, but
      of course you knew that. Silik is shot and killed in the process. There are
      some nifty FX shots of the Enterprise flying over Manhattan (right between
      the Empire State and Chrysler buildings) and being shot by German fighter
      planes equipped with plasma cannons. Not quite as nifty is the destruction
      of Vosk's facility (at the Last Possible Moment, naturally), which showcases
      the latest in CGI artistry that also looks like an exploding Styrofoam
      cooler. I'm not sure that's what they had in mind.

      "The timeline's resetting itself," Daniels helpfully informs Archer, in a
      line of dialog that actually uses the word "resetting" to invoke a Reset
      Plot. "It's almost ready," Daniels says. Just how "long" does it take for a
      timeline to reset itself and become "ready"? Do such terms apply? Never
      mind, because I'm with Archer: "I'll take your word for it."

      Being the Timeline Inquisitor that I am, I must ask if Silik is really dead.
      Couldn't he be alive in some other time period? After all, Daniels, who died
      last week, is alive in the 29th century because of the reset timelines.
      Shouldn't this go for Silik? Is there some Timeline Law that says Silik must
      stay dead in a timeline that never existed simply because he wasn't from
      that timeline? Not that it matters, because the Timeline Laws are probably
      just Timeline Suggestions.

      In a story free from all notions of cause and effect, the only net effect is
      that my brain hurts. I'm probably focusing too heavily on goofy logic. Let
      it be said that "Storm Front," while positively absurd, is workable as an
      exercise in predictable absurdity. More importantly, it marks the end of all
      this temporal nonsense, which is as crucial a quality as any. (Shadow Man or
      Future Guy or whatever he's called does not make an appearance here, so I
      guess we'll never find out who he was/is. I can live with that.) May the
      timeline no longer be this series' playground.

      The final shot of the Enterprise's homecoming is nice. I just hope that next
      week we get a breather and a coda to these two big storylines being wrapped
      up in the course of three episodes. Now that we've seen the end of the Xindi
      and Temporal Cold War arcs, let's at least find out what it means to the
      characters who carried out the missions.

      --
      Next week: You are cordially invited to a Vulcan wedding.

      -----
      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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