Sunday, February 19, 2012

Enterprise Season 2

Thanks to Netflix sending me an extra disk at random, my viewing of Star Trek: Voyager Season 5 got interrupted by a bit of Enterprise Season 2. As a result, I re-ordered my Netflix queue so that I can write my reviews of both seasons in alternatim, four episodes at a time, as the disks arrive in the mail...

Season 2 of Enterprise, still without "Star Trek" in the title, ran from the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2003. Since I quit watching regularly broadcast TV during the summer of 2002, all these episodes are new to me. Until now, the last episode of Enterprise I had seen was the finale of Season 1. So from here on out, these reviews are a personal log of my own voyage of exploration and discovery—into the great unknown. For those of you who tuned in, however, it may be a nostalgic look at a Trek you first took some ten years ago...

Shockwave, Part II is the sequel to Season 1's finale, in which a time-traveler named Daniels whisked Captain Archer to the 31st century, only to find Earth laid waste and history changed as a result of his boo-boo. Now Daniels and Archer have to find a way to get the latter back to the 22nd century without the benefit of 31st century technology, while the Enterprises struggle to take their ship back from the Suliban who have captured them. The guest cast is riddled with frequently recurring characters, so I won't bother, except to mention that Jim Fitzpatrick here makes his second of four appearances as Commander Williams, last seen in the series pilot.

Carbon Creek features Jolene Blalock in a dual role as T'Pol and her great-grandmother T'Mir, who (in an incident heretofore unknown to mankind) was among the first Vulcans to make contact with humanity. As T'Pol tells the tale over dinner with Archer and Trip, the main part of the episode dramatizes the aftermath of a crash landing from which three Vulcan survivors walk away. At first reluctantly, they leave the crash site and take up quarters and jobs in the nearby town of Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania, sometime in the 1950s. Even while forming relationships with the townspeople, they somehow manage to keep their cover. But as their sojourn stretches into months, with rescue delayed beyond all hope, the crew of three is divided over how close they should get to the humans. Which side T'Mir eventually lands on, or whether the story even happened, remains unclear until the very end. Guest stars include Ann Cusack (sister of John and Joan), J. Paul Boehmer (in the most sympathetic of his five Trek roles), a youthful Hank Harris (of TV's Popular), three-time Trek guest Michael Krawic, and four-time Trek guest David Selburg, whom TNG fans may best remember as Mr. Whalen in "The Big Goodbye."

Minefield depicts mankind's first contact with the Romulan Star Empire, if one can call it "contact" when you hear their voices over the comms, shouting at first incomprehensible threats and warnings, before being chased off by their armed and cloaked ships. Whoever these Romulans may be (and we're not supposed to know what they look like until TOS's "Balance of Terror"), they don't like strangers entering their territory. The Enterprises get an early hint of this when a cloaked mine explodes, leaving the saucer section looking like a cookie with a bite out of it. Another mine latches itself to the ship's hull close enough to the technobabble to do real damage if it blows up, and while trying to disarm it, poor Malcolm gets pinned beneath it. Which gives him and Archer a chance to bond while the latter tries to defuse the mine. The Romulans, meanwhile, are pressuring the crew to jettison the affected deck plate, along with Malcolm and the mine, and scram. The climactic moments of this episode are among the most intense in the series so far; plus, it always breaks up the monotony to see characters walking around the ship's hull.

Dead Stop follows up on the damage to the ship, to say nothing of Malcolm's leg, incurred in the previous episode. Limping along at a speed that would take them a decade to get home, the Enterprises jump at an offer to visit an automated repair station which, for a suspiciously reasonable price, agrees to make everything better than new in a fraction of the time it would have taken people to do it. Using transporters, automata, and advanced replication technology, the station goes efficiently to work, and even heals Malcolm's injury, while the crew watches from an observation deck serviced by food replicators way ahead of their own technology. If it all seems too good to be true, that's because it is. Travis finds this out when a fake comm signal lures him to an off-limits area, where his dead body is found a short while later. Actually, it's not his dead body, but an almost perfect duplicate of it; the real Travis has been plugged into the repair station's computer core, along with the bodies of dozens of aliens too brain-damaged to be unplugged. To make their escape, the Enterprises have to go a good way towards destroying the station—which is why the episode's concluding imagery of the wrecked station starting to repair itself is so chilling.

A Night in Sickbay opens with a "teaser" segment that accurately foreshadows just what a boner this episode is. Back from the Kreetassan homeworld after another diplomatic disaster, the Enterprises are cleared through decon... except (zoom in, cue suspenseful music) the captain's beagle Porthos, who seems to have contracted a virus. I am loath to say more about what happens in this disappointing installment. Played for comedy, it shows the captain behaving in a spoiled, juvenile, unprofessional manner, unbecoming a Starfleet officer. Scott Bakula delivers an annoyingly petulant performance while, in perhaps the episode's only redeeming feature, Dr. Phlox exhibits more and more of his bizarre physiology and quirky behavior—from toenails to tongue to goofy grin, and more—but it just isn't enough to save an episode in which the only jeopardy (besides the fate of a cute dog) has to do with whether Archer can swallow his pride (engorged by a dollop of sexual frustration) in time to undergo a ridiculous ritual of repentance. Why? So the ship can have a spare piece of technobabble to keep its engines in order. It is so hard to care that the effort hurts.

Marauders is another adventure in which the Enterprises get entangled by their ship's maintenance needs. This time the maguffin is deuterium, a hot-burning substance farmed by a small group of alien colonists, who pump it out of the ground, refine it, and sell it for a living. Though the ship's scanners say the colonists have plenty of deuterium to sell, the colonists themselves initially claim that they can't spare a drop. The reason: for the past five years, a Klingon protection racket has laid claim to the first umpty-thousand barrels of the stuff, after which the locals can barely produce enough to make a living. And wouldn't you know, the Klingons arrive ahead of schedule, right on top of the unsuspecting Enterprises! Moved in part by their need for deuterium and in part by the goodness of their hearts, Archer & Co. train the colonists to fight back, sending the Klingons away with a bloody nose. Visiting cast members include three-time Trek guests Bari Hochwald, Larry Cedar (pictured), and Robertson Dean.

The Seventh features Bruce Davison of the X-Men films in his second Trek role. Here he plays a deep-cover Vulcan agent who refused to come home after completing his assignment. Suspected of "going native" as an alien bio-weapons smuggler, Menos is the last of seven rogue agents T'Pol was supposed to apprehend during her previous assignment under the Vulcan Security Ministry. When a report of Menos' whereabouts comes to the Security Ministry's attention, T'Pol is recalled into service to catch him and complete her assignment. But the closer she gets to her seventh fugitive, the more T'Pol is unsettled by repressed memories of killing the seemingly innocent sixth, and by doubts as to Menos' guilt. These doubts are fed by the freshly-caught Menos' convincing appeals and the evidence in his ship's hold, which corroborate his claim to be nothing more than a hauler of radioactive junk. Luckily, T'Pol brought Archer and Travis along on the mission, because when she can't trust herself, she can still trust her Captain. It's a cool, cloak-and-dagger episode with some nifty twists and background cast of impressive-looking aliens.

The Communicator finds the Enterprises scrambling to fix a mistake that could contaminate the development of a pre-Warp culture. When Malcolm loses his communicator at a political rally, similar to one of Winston Churchill's speeches on the eve of World War II, getting it back proves to be more difficult than he and Archer imagined. First the local military types capture them and interrogate them as suspected enemy spies; then they find out the prisoners aren't even the same species. Gambling that it would do less damage to "confess" being genetically enhanced super-soldiers than to tell the truth, Archer and Malcolm face an executioner's noose while their shipmates frantically launch a crazy rescue attempt. This rescue happens to involve a cloaked Suliban cell-ship (captured in the pilot episode); which is why, somehow or other, Trip ends up with a wart of invisibility on his hand. Archer and Malcolm are saved, of course, but in a thoughtful epilogue to anotherwise intense adventure, they realize that they've done serious damage to the planet's progress. Among the alien faces in this episode are three-time Trek guest Francis Guinan and four-timers Tim Kelleher and Dennis Cockrum.

Singularity is the episode in which everybody but T'Pol goes slightly crazy, obsessing over something trivial to the exclusion of all other duties or priorities. The Captain can think of nothing but writing the preface to a biography of his father; Hoshi, volunteering for duty in the galley, keeps making the same soup over and over; Trip focuses on improving the Captain's Chair; and Doctor Phlox can't wait to dissect Travis's brain. All this poses a deadly danger to the crew, since the cause of their insanity is radiation from a trinary star they have approached to survey, and if they can't get their heads together enough to change the ship's course, they will all die. Luckily Malcolm's obsession (programming the ship for a "tactical alert") proves effective in a pinch, enabling T'Pol and a barely functioning Archer to navigate the ship through the debris field pictured above.

Vanishing Point shows another hesitant step toward the crew's gradual acceptance of travel by transporter beam. In this installment, Hoshi and Trip are surveying ruins from an extinct alien race when severe weather forces them to beam back to the ship. Trip makes it OK, but Hoshi arrives feeling as if her molecules have gotten discombobulated. Soon afterward she starts suspecting that she is turning invisible, and when she finally does go see-through, nobody can hear her voice either. So while her shipmates grieve for someone who is still alive and well (believing that her molecules collapsed into a puddle of goo), Hoshi is the only one on the ship who can prevent aliens from the supposedly uninhabited planet from planting a bomb on the ship. Only, she really can't. What a relief it is for Hoshi to find that all this happened in her mind while her molecules were (briefly) caught in the technobabble! The episode features two-time Trek guest Morgan Margolis as the unlikely crewman who, in Hoshi's paranoid delusion, replaces her as the ship's linguist.

If Precious Cargo reminds you of the TNG episode "The Perfect Mate," it's no wonder. The 24th-century "peace bride" of TNG and the 22nd-century "first monarch" of this episode both come from the same planet, Krios Prime. In this instance, the beautiful-woman-on-ice is a sovereign ruler who has been kidnapped for ransom while en route to ascend her throne. The Enterprise gets involved when her alien abductors ask for help repairing her cryostatis unit, supposedly so that their "passenger" will arrive in comfort and on schedule without using up the ship's air supply. Naturally, as the go-to guy for fixing things, Trip is the one who spots Kaitaama's exotic beauty and who, when she wakes up, develops warm feelings for her. Of course, in the spirit of TOS's "Elaan of Troyius," the romantic tease is prolonged by the young woman's arrogance and stubbornness, to say nothing of violent instincts; but after a spell together in an escape-pod-built-for-one, followed by a survival ordeal on a mangrove swamp planet where Trip is forced to bare his manly physique, things proceed in a very "Original Series" fashion until the Enterprises catch up. It's a cute episode, featuring Food Network host Padma Lakshmi (who happens to be married to Salman Rushdie), as well as two-time Trek guest Scott Klace (previously a Malon gremlin on Voyager) and three-timer Leland Crooke (previously a Vorta on DS9).

The Catwalk is, in a sense, the ultimate "bottle show," taking the principle of confining the action to the ship to such an extreme that, for much of its length, it's like one of those miniature bottles that come in hotel minibars. Forewarned of the approach of a grandmother plasma storm and its flesh-melting radiation, all the Enterprises (plus three alien guests) cram themselves and a month's worth of supplies into the radiation-shielded catwalk running the length of one of the ship's warp nacelles. Even this is only possible after the warp engines have been shut down, where ordinarily the catwalk would be heated to a flesh-cooking temperature. But with only a week or so left in their confinement, the Enterprises realize that somebody is running around the decks of the ship, turning things on again... things that, eventually, will include those flesh-cooking warp engines. Then the alien guests confess that they are deserters from the Takret militia, which has a piratical practice of capturing neutral ships, killing everyone on board, and (ahem) executing deserters. Fighting back proves to be impractical, when the aliens can walk around the ship freely while the Enterprises must rely on space-suits to protect them from radiation exposure, and for only a few minutes at that. It is finally a game of chicken with a plasma eddy (which looks like a planet-sized tornado of pure energy) that forces the Takret baddies to withdraw, allowing the parboiled Enterprises to shut down the reactors just on time. The guest cast includes two-time Trek guests Scott Burkholder and Aaron Lustig, three-timer Brian Cousins, and Danny Goldring (pictured) in his fifth of five Trek roles.

Dawn features two-time Trek guest Gregg Henry (late of Payback) and four-time ditto Brad Greenquist (of Pet Sematary) as two members of a repto-humanoid race known as the Arkonians, who are vehemently territorial and have a particular distrust for Vulcans. One of them (you can't tell, but it's the one played by Gregg Henry) takes an ill-advised potshot at Trip's shuttlepod, resulting in a shortened version of Enemy Mine: two adversaries marooned together on a moon where daytime temperatures reach a balmy 170 degrees, and forced to become buddies by the slow but inexorable rising of the sun. With echoes of TOS's "Arena" and TNG's "Darmok," the episode teaches us enough about the weird and (non-) woolly Arkonians to make us sorry that they are never seen again.

Stigma seems to be Star Trek's comment on the AIDS crisis, revealing that (at least up to T'Pol's lifetime) those capable of performing a mind-meld are a small and despised minority in Vulcan society, persecuted into secrecy and afflicted by a disease transmitted by its forbidden intimacies. Worst of all, the Vulcan scientific and medical establishment takes no interest in finding a cure. Unluckily, T'Pol (who had a mind-meld forced on her in Season 1, remember?) has the disease, and Dr. Phlox is running out of treatment ideas. At an Interspecies Medical Exchange conference, Phlox tries to reason with some Vulcan physicians, but they clam up. No—actually, they get Phlox kicked out of the conference, and (having put two and two together) they deduce that T'Pol has the syndrome, and take steps to curtail her career. Luckily for her, a "melder" medico sacrifices his career to broach the secret that T'Pol was mentally raped, which she had meant to keep as a stand against the prejudice. This ethically thought-provoking episode features four-time Trek guest Michael Ensign, two-timer Bob Morrisey, and two-timer Jeffrey Hayenga as the Vulcan doctors, and Melinda Page Hamilton (best known for playing an amorous nun on Desperate Housewives) in her television debut as Phlox's sexually liberated wife Feezal (pictured), whose advances make Trip deliciously uncomfortable.

Cease Fire has a guest-cast bristling with frequent Trek guests, including Christopher Shea in his fourth Trek role and Suzie Plakson in her ditto. It brings the icy Vulcans and the suspicious Andorians (oh! those squirrelly Andorians!) to the brink of war. And it forces Archer, Trip, and their shipmates to throw themselves between the two combatants, regardless of daggers drawn, to try and stop the bloodshed. It all has to do with a strategically-positioned planet which the Andorians terraformed and colonized, and which the Vulcans annexed and de-colonized, and which the Andorians have now re-colonized with a vengeance. Good old Shran wants Archer to negotiate a cease-fire, because as pink-skins go he's a straight-up kind of guy, but Vulcan Ambassador Soval foresees disaster. And you have to admit, when the shuttle carrying Soval, Archer, and T'Pol to the negotiating table is shot down, disaster seems very likely.

Future Tense is the one in which the Enterprises discover a space capsule containing the desiccated corpse of a human who at first seems to be the answer to the mystery of Zefram Cochrane's disappearance (see TOS's "Metamorphosis"). Later, however, the mummy's DNA shows that he has Vulcan, Terellian, and other alien species in his family tree. So, obviously, he is not a missing person from the past, but from the future. As soon as the Enterprises figure this out, things start to happen. Trip and Malcolm discover that the space pod as more room inside than on the outside, and hidden inside it is a transmitter which (if only Trip can make it work) could dial up the 31st century. But with the Suliban chasing the ship one way, and the Tholians (in their first appearance since TOS) chasing it the other way, phoning home is the only way all this future tech can stay out of the hands of temporal-cold-war villains. And thanks to loopy time anomalies that make the most essential jobs take, like, forever, this is one trunk call that could cost, like, the world.

Canamar finds Archer and Trip being shipped off to a penal planet after first contact with the Enolians turns into a miscarriage of justice. At first it looks like it may become a replay of Season 1's "Detained," but the Enolian official (played by Holmes R. Osborne of Donnie Darko) proves surprisingly quick to admit a mistake has been made. It looks like the adventure may be ending early as the guards inform Archer that he and Trip are being released... but two of the prisoners, including the villainous Kuroda (pictured), choose that moment to liberate themselves and take over the transport. Archer makes himself and Trip useful to the escapees through piloting and engineering expertise, but it's a close-run thing whether they can prevent a brutal career criminal from sacrificing the lives of the other prisoners to cover his trail. Three-time Trek guest Mark Rolston, best known for playing mostly villains on stage, film, and TV, does much to make this episode interesting to watch.

The Crossing became my favorite episode of the season the instant I saw it. Even before the opening credits, when a gigantic spaceship swoops down on the Enterprise and swallows it down its gaping maw, I was totally down with Malcolm Reed's concise observation: "What the hell is that?!" But then it gets even weirder, in a deliciously creepy way, as the noncorporeal aliens inside the ship start to "cross" (i.e., change places) with members of the crew, taking over their bodies while letting their minds explore the effing ineffable. The aliens' calm, friendly explanation of the service they are providing is so convincing that Captain Archer's objections seem brutish and unenlightened. But as more and more people get taken over, and as their possessed bodies engage in increasingly threatening weirdness, it becomes clear that the Enterprises have to protect themselves. Hiding out in the shielded catwalk isn't going to solve the problem; they have to drive the aliens out before they take over the entire ship and leave the crew marooned as drifting wisps of who-knows-what. What they finally do to the aliens may be a bit shocking, but you have to admit that there doesn't seem to be any other way out of the dilemma! Mostly a bottle show—with a guest cast limited to Joseph Will in his third and last appearance as Crewman Rostov—this episode is remarkably atmospheric and exciting.

Judgment revives the striking imagery of the Klingon justice and penal system created for the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country for scenes in which Captain Archer is tried for crimes against the Empire and, eventually, sentenced to life (of the "nasty, brutish, and short" persuasion) in the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe. You're thinking, "Dude gets transported to an alien penal colony in every second episode!" Then you're thinking, "This Klingon tribunal is just like the Cardassian one in the DS9 episode 'Tribunal!'" And yes, the two episodes have much in common—particularly where the defense lawyer's practice of not defending his client is concerned. What makes this episode different is the way Archer stirs up the conscience of Advocate Kolos, inspiring him to risk a prison sentence of his own in the hope of making a difference in Klingon society. His recollections of a time when every Klingon wasn't a soldier provides a fascinating glimpse into the dynamic history and complex structure of a society that already so richly exists in the cultural consciousness formed by Star Trek. Guest stars donning Klingon prosthetics include John Vickery, who had previously played a Betazoid on TNG and a Cardassian on DS9; soap opera star Granville Van Dusen, who later played an Andorian; four-time Trek guest Daniel Riordan in his first of two appearances as Duras; and J. G. Hertzler, easily recognized as one of Trek's most frequent guests, in one of at least seven roles he played for the franchise, including some two dozen appearances as Klingon General Martok.

Horizon is one of the boringest episodes of the year. It is (to borrow a behind-the-camera nickname for DS9's "Prodigal Daughter," in turn based on the classic Western series "The Big Valley") one of Star Trek's occasional "Audra Goes Home" episodes. It takes the series' least interesting character (Travis) and follows him on a furlough to the cargo ship Horizon, where his mother is both medic and chief engineer, and where his brother Paul (pictured) has succeeded their late father as captain. Paul resents little brother for taking off to explore the galaxy, while Travis chafes against Paul's resistance to all the bright ideas he brings back from Starfleet. Paul makes the valid, though coldblooded, point that improvements should only be made where there are people who know how to maintain them. Naturally, they figure out how to work together in time to fight off a band of pirates. Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise (because even when Travis Goes Home, everyone else doesn't get a vacation), T'Pol's response to a screening of Frankenstein proves an even more interesting topic of study than a planet being torn apart by gravitational stresses. I found myself longing for the scenes of T'Pol, Trip, and Archer bantering about horror movies, which says all that I really need to say about the "A-story" in this disappointing installment. The guest cast includes 1970s TV star Joan Pringle (The White Shadow, General Hospital) as Travis's mom, and Guiding Light actress and previous DS9 guest Nicole Forester as Nora.

The Breach is the one in which Dr. Phlox's Denobulan people ask the Enterprises to rescue three of their scientists from a planet whose government has threatened to kill or imprison any "offworlders" still on their soil in three days. Trip, Malcolm, and Travis spelunk their way to three Denobulan geologists who, when finally found after a day and a half of cliffhanging thrills and chills, prove so indifferent to their rescue that they have to be threatened into joining it. Meanwhile, Archer has to rattle the phase-cannons in order to keep the planet's government from bombarding the site of the rescue. But at the heart of this episode is Dr. Phlox's dilemma when a member of the Antaran race, long the sworn enemy of his people, refuses life-saving treatment rather than be beholden to a Denobulan. This triggers an ethical conflict for Phlox, who has tried not to be ruled by his government's anti-Antaran propaganda, and in a low-key way it proves to be a moving lesson about setting prejudices—even justifiable ones—aside.

Cogenitor guest-stars Andreas Katsulas, who played the Romulan Tomalak in four episodes of TNG as well as G'Kar on Babylon 5. It also features F. J. Rio in his third Trek role, including recurring crewman Muñiz on DS9; Laura Interval, who also played Seven of Nine's human mother on Voyager; and Becky Wahlstrom, of Joan of Arcadia fame, as a member of the Vissian race's third gender. While Archer works overtime to make man's first contact with this remarkably friendly, open race a positive one, Trip pulls a Will Riker à la TNG's "The Outcast," interfering in the values of an alien culture in such a reckless way that at times, I felt I almost couldn't watch any further. It is all but unbelievable that anyone who had earned Trip's position on a ship like Enterprise could be such a stupid bastard. It made me furious. And the worst thing about it, besides how totally nice the Vissians were all the way to the end, was that the person Trip thought he was helping was inevitably, and predictably, destroyed by it. The only thing saving the episode from being totally unbearable was the ice-cold feeling of satisfaction one takes away from the final scene in which Trip, after taking the verbal beating of a lifetime from his best friend, leaves the captain's office looking like a kicked puppy.

Regeneration risks violating franchise continuity by giving the 22nd-century Enterprises a foretaste of a 24th-century nemesis—the Borg. All the assimilatin' badness begins when a science team discovers wreckage of the Borg sphere that crashed in the 21st century Arctic during the events of Star Trek: First Contact. In fact, the ill-fated scientists get so much screen-time that the Enterprises don't come in until the second act, giving the episode an unusual structure. Pictured here is Dr. Phlox, administering to himself a radical cure for Borg nanoprobes which, for some reason, no one else ever used. Archer wrestles with his conscience while deciding to kill the Borg without mercy, while Trip tries to figure out how the cyborgs assed up the ship and how to unass it, and Malcolm works out ways to penetrate their enemy's adaptive shielding. Playing one of the doomed scientists, and later a drone, is Bonita Friedericy, who happens to be John Billingsley's wife.

First Flight joins "Carbon Creek" as the season's second "as told by" episode, dramatizing Capt. Archer's reminiscences of his main competitor and colleague in the warp-drive test program that led to the Enterprise. Shortly before he and T'Pol survey what may (or may not) be the first observed dark-matter nebula, Archer gets word that A. G. Robinson (played by special guest Keith Carradine) has been killed in a mountain-climbing accident. Archer tells T'Pol how Robinson flew the first Warp 3 test flight and was lucky to survive; how the two driven pilots formed a close friendship through fighting a TOS-style bar brawl; and how, with the help of a fresh-faced engineer named Trip, they stole the other test ship and showed Starfleet and the Vulcans that their warp program was worth continuing. Though it nicely fills in some of the show's backstory, it's a somewhat melancholy episode, even for the string of relatively downkey stories of which it is a part. It also stars three-time Trek guest Michael Canavan as the Vulcan adviser to the NX test program, four-timer Victor Bevine as a flight controller, and Brigid Brannagh (late of Army Wives) as the bartender Ruby.

Bounty updates the look of another Original-Series alien race—the Tellarites—depicting their first contact with humanity as a somewhat sketchy incident. Skalaar, pictured here, cons his way on board the Enterprise and swiftly captures Captain Archer, eluding the starship's defenses and setting course for a rendezvous with the Klingons. Skalaar reveals himself to be a freighter captain by calling, a bounty hunter by necessity, while trying to raise enough "darseks" to buy his beloved ship out of hawk. Of course, Archer is wanted by the Klingons because of his unprecedented escape from Rura Penthe a few episodes previously; the fact that his recapture will most likely lead to his execution does not seem to rattle Skalaar very much. This doesn't seem like a very promising beginning for relations with one of the founding races of the Federation. But when he realizes that the Klingons are cheating him, and that his ship has been stripped to its bones, Skalaar gives Archer the technobabble to escape from the Klingons, but makes no promises that the Captain is safe from being hunted. In a kinky subplot, an alien microbe causes T'Pol to go into heat; Dr. Phlox, trapped in sickbay with her, has to run fast to elude her sexual advances. The only mystery is why the writers insisted on having Phlox, very emphatically, cross his legs. Except, I suppose, that a sex scene starring John Billingsley would be a little icky, and perhaps unintentionally funny. The episode features Jordan Lund in his third Trek role, and Robert O'Reilly (better known for his recurring role as Gowron in TNG and DS9) as a competing bounty hunter.

The Expanse closes the season with a cliff-hanging teaser for Season 3's serialized story about the Xindi threat. Exactly who the Xindi are, we don't know yet. But the weapon they use to gouge a crease in the Earth's surface from Florida to Venezuela, killing seven million people including Trip's sister, is only a test for a bigger weapon with which the Xindi mean to wipe out the human race. It's a case of "get them before they get us," courtesy of the Temporal Cold War, and in this instance the shadowy Future Guy and his Suliban minions are on Earth's side. They warn Archer that the Xindi are gunning for Earth because another faction in the TCW warned the Xindi that they were going to be wiped out by mankind 400 years further on. Will anyone on Earth buy this story? Will T'Pol choose her career with the Vulcan High Command or her place on the Enterprise? Will the ship be able to handle the dangers of the Delphic Expanse (home of the Xindi), in which the laws of physics are all catawampus, and from which few ships have returned without getting seriously messed up? And will Archer's Klingon pursuers head them off at the pass? All these questions and more liven up what, at times, nevertheless seems like a rather slow-paced and talky episode. The final act, at least, is full of tension, thrills, and explosive action, leaving us in suspense as the Enterprise, fitted with its first photon torpedoes and a few other nifty gimmicks, enters the Expanse in which so much will happen in Season 3. None of which I know about, because (at this writing) I haven't seen it yet. Allan Kroeker, director of the series finale of three (3) Trek spinoffs, gives this episode a feature-quality look, noticeable particularly in the lighting.

I don't know what happens next. As a lifelong Trekkie, I find that a weird feeling, especially considering that this show aired roughly a decade ago. I almost dread finding out, knowing that the show lasted only two more years after this, and the seeds of its eventual demise may have already been sown. I see the Trek mythology veering into darker territory in this season, though it's also been clear from the beginning that part of the concept of this "prequel" series is to show the rough and stumbling beginnings of the more idealized society in which Captain Kirk took part. Current events may have had something to do with this. The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster took place shortly before the episode "First Flight" was aired. The War on Terror, triggered by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, was just getting off the ground; a real-life situation that resonates in the season finale and the story arc that grows out of it. In addition, the show deals with issues such as hate, injustice, gender roles, military brinkmanship, and the stigma of AIDS (albeit about 15 years late). It had a lot on its plate. But I think Season 2 of Enterprise comes off, for the most part, looking pretty good.

For more on spaceship-based TV series, see my reviews of Star Trek: TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of Voyager seasons one, two, three, four, and five; and of Enterprise season one. See also my review of Farscape seasons one, two, three, and four; of Firefly; and of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, four, and five.

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