[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Daedalus"
- Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
In brief: It ain't no "Visitor."
Plot description: Emory Erickson, the inventor of the transporter, comes
aboard the Enterprise to perform a risky experiment while harboring a secret
from his past.
Star Trek: Enterprise - "Daedalus"
Airdate: 1/14/2005 (USA)
Written by Ken LaZebnik & Michael Bryant
Directed by David Straiton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"When I materialized, the first thing I did was lose my lunch. The second
thing I did was get stone drunk. Trick I learned form Zefram Cochrane. Now
there was a man who knew the benefits of a little liquid courage." -- Emory
Erickson on the first human transport, performed on himself
To write a review of "Daedalus" is to extract small victories from an
overall failed episode. Here's a plot too transparent for its own good --
painfully inevitable by what seems to be intentional design -- yet with
characters who are invested with believable qualities. But even though we
may believe the central character is psychologically possible, his arc is
developed from ancient archetypes, and nothing in the plot can possibly
emerge as unexpected. The emotional payoff is so preordained, so inevitable,
that it carries very little impact. The show sinks because nothing is ever
For a sci-fi concept that evaluates the tragedy of losing a loved one to a
fate more complicated than death, you may find your mind going back to DS9's
"The Visitor," a show infinitely better than this one.
In "Daedalus," the brilliant scientific mind of Emory Erickson (Bill Cobbs),
the inventor of the transporter, comes aboard the Enterprise with his
daughter Danica (Leslie Silva) to conduct a scientific experiment for a new
type of extremely long-range transporter that could in theory beam a person
across light-years of space. In a line inspired by "The Ultimate Computer,"
Archer jokingly asks Emory if he intends to put starship captains out of
Emory was one of Archer's father's closest friends, and has been "like a
second father" to Archer. Danica is, by extension, like a sister. But
there's trouble quietly brewing. The first sign that something is wrong
comes when we discover They Are Hiding Something. Danica tells Emory that
she feels awful about lying to Archer about the real reason they are out
here. The real reason quickly becomes obvious, although the dialog takes its
time in getting to the scene where it's spelled out for us. It can be
frustrating to be so far ahead of the plot revelations. The revelations,
when they come, are more like confirmations.
The would-be experiment is being conducted in the Barrens, where "there's
not a star system within 100 light-years." To briefly nitpick the jargon, I
would like to point out that how far away you are from the nearest star
system would depend on, well, how far into the starless region you've
About this time, a strange anomaly begins appearing on the ship. In a scene
that is humorous in the way it pointlessly tries to be suspenseful, the
anomaly makes all the lights in the armory go out. Lt. Reed and a nameless
guy we've never seen before go walking slowly through the dark with their
flashlights, trying to find the cause of the disturbance. Honestly, if the
nameless guy hadn't died, the audience would've justly rioted. Obviously, a
situation like this is the reason that red shirts will be invented at some
point between Archer's time and Kirk's.
Cutting to the chase: Fifteen years ago, during a similar experiment, Emory
sent his own son Quinn (i.e., Icarus) through a transporter beam. Quinn
never materialized and was lost in transport. This experiment also took
place in the Barrens. No points for surmising that 2+2=4, and that the
anomaly is actually Quinn, trapped in some state of eternal transporter
limbo (Alive? Dead? Who knows?), and that Emory and Danica have actually
come aboard the Enterprise because they think they can rescue Quinn. Why
must this be a secret? Beats me, although the story concocts a halfhearted
reason. Why does the Quinn-anomaly seem to chase after people like a
creature in a monster movie? I couldn't say. I suppose being trapped in
transporter limbo for 15 years might piss you off a little.
The outcome of the story is never, for a moment, in doubt. We have no doubt
that Emory's deception must be exposed, that his obsession will lead to
urgent pleas to Archer, and appeals to his emotions (Quinn, go figure, was
like a brother to him). And we have no doubt that the rescue attempt upon
Quinn will end in failure, and that an old man's obsession to right a wrong
from 15 years ago will only end up destroying him.
Fifteen years ago, Emory knew -- but was in denial about -- the possible
risks, and that he could theoretically even lose his son. He went through
with it anyway, because of his need to further advance transporter
technology. The story's argument is that great minds are clouded by their
own need to top themselves. Emory was relatively young when he invented the
transporter, and from that point "there was nowhere to go but down." I
wonder why it is people like this feel so much pressure to top their own
breakthrough. Isn't it enough to revolutionize transportation in your
society? Is it pure narcissism that drives a man to need this much
achievement at any cost?
The irony of the situation is Emory's attempt to right a wrong by committing
yet another wrong -- lying to Archer -- which indirectly causes the death of
the crew member. Obviously, the writers are setting this man up for an
inevitably tragic downfall (reckless actions are rarely rewarded in these
types of stories). At times, Emory's sadness and regret approaches a
poignancy, but the story can't carry the notions through to the end.
The problem is that this all comes across as going through the motions, and
Emory, while a character whose flaws and obsessions we come to understand,
and who is nicely performed by veteran character actor Bill Cobbs, is a man
we pity more because of his own inability to turn the mirror on his own
actions than because of his dilemma and obsession. His hope is that he can
redeem himself by rescuing his son. Part of me thinks a man this brilliant
should be incapable of such blindness. (But then ultimately the whole reason
for his deception feels contrived.)
Then there's Archer. He reluctantly agrees to see the rescue attempt
through, even despite all the initial lies and the dead man lying in
sickbay. Trip challenges Archer on this decision, accusing him of letting
personal feelings get in the way of the ship's safety. I certainly can't say
Trip is wrong. And Archer laying down the chain of command and making these
kinds of questionable decisions without consequences is getting a little
Still, there are good things to find here. I liked the overall familiarity
between Archer, Emory, and Danica -- and Danica's dilemma of putting her
life on hold to take care of an elderly parent. Despite the fact these are
invented characters inserted retroactively into Archer's backstory, the
actors do a good job of making the relationships believable. I also liked
the credible notes in Trip's hero-worship of Emory. Trip is initially in awe
of this man, and there's a scene early on where Emory tries to use this
against Trip to get him to surrender control of the experiment. Trip tries
to remain gracious even as he senses the old man trying to strong-arm him
into something. Later, after the deception is revealed, Trip feels bitterly
disappointed and betrayed, in scenes of equal believability.
In the periphery, it's also good to see that T'Pol is still reeling after
all the Vulcan upheaval as a result of "Kir'Shara." She finds all of her
beliefs being challenged by the newly unveiled writings of Surak. While the
sweeping changes across Vulcan seem a little swift in their depiction, it is
nice to see the storyline followed up.
Less successful is the Trip/T'Pol "breakup" scene at the end, which seems as
clueless as the rest of their "relationship." I find it amusing that the
writers think they need a scene like this when considering that after the
"relationship" supposedly began with the sex in "Harbinger," T'Pol has since
been married and divorced -- and only now feels that Trip needs an
explanation. (I suppose what happens here is more of an answer than a
breakup, but still -- the whole thing is just silly. Perhaps now we can move
beyond the will-they-or-won't-they question.)
The emotional payoff, in which the rescue of Quinn is attempted and
(inevitably) fails, is too much acting for what is not nearly enough story.
Simply put, I never knew Quinn as a human being, and I just didn't care
about him. And it seems to me that Emory's character arc ends up being too
soft. Something like this, which has consumed the last 15 years of his
life -- should be crushing when it ends in failure. But the episode wants to
let us off the hook by dodging anything too depressing. (And I don't even
want to ask all the logical/tech questions about how Quinn survives 15 years
in a transporter beam, but only now, conveniently, does Emory theorize that
his signal is on the verge of degrading.)
Bottom line: This show is too dead at its core, as opposed to a show like
"The Visitor," which was a lyrical journey that was alive and vibrant.
Next week: Aliens study the Enterprise crew.
Copyright 2005, 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@...