Meet the New Season, Same as the Old Season?
Well, I did finally get to see the season premiere of Enterprise. And, well... it was OK. I know, I know, I find myself saying that about Enterprise a lot. Really, that sums up my feelings towards the series in general quite succinctly. When it's not using cliched third-hand plots, it's a likeable enough show, but it nevertheless just fails to spark anything in me. I mean, it's easy for me to understand why I find myself feeling ready to fall asleep in the middle of episodes like, say, "Rogue Planet," but I'm not sure why I often seem to have much the same reaction even when the story is something that, in the abstract, I find interesting, like this week's episode. Maybe I really have become a novelty junkie when it comes to TV SF, and Enterprise, even at its best, just isn't cutting-edge enough for me. Maybe it's simply that I really want it to be Farscape, and it's just not. Maybe I'm being unfair to it, but, hey, what can I say? My reaction is my reaction.
OK, I'm sure I can actually come up with something to say about the season premiere. I'm sure I can even come up with good things to say about it. The story wasn't actually too bad, even if it did suffer from the usual problem of wrapping up the messy situation left by part 1 far too quickly and easily. And playing around with time travel is always fun, if only because it does such interesting things to cause and effect and the language we use to talk about them. I must say, though, that this episode does serve to highlight one rather weird and disturbing fact about the Star Trek universe: time travel really is ridiculously easy. There are all kinds of ways to do it, even by accident. Slingshot round a star at high warp, cold-start the antimatter reactor on your starship, jump into an alien artifact, fly into a spacetime anomaly... And, apparently, by the 31st century kids are learning temporal mechanics in high school, and it's possible for someone who knows what he's doing to build a holographic temporal transmitter out of a 22nd century communicator and some pieces of scrap metal. Does that idea make anybody but me nervous? I mean, forget somebody like the Suliban using time travel as a weapon, all it takes is one Wesley Crusher type screwing up his high school science project, and bye-bye, recorded history! I'm beginning to suspect that Larry Niven had it right: if it is possible to change the past, the only reasonable outcome is a universe where nobody ever invents a time machine, because every timeline where someone does will just end up erasing itself.
Anyway. I'm supposed to be saying positive things about "Shockwave, Pt. 2," right? Or at least things other than "it was OK." Well, let's see, there's character stuff to talk about, I suppose. I have decided that I quite like that Suliban guy, Sulik or whatever his name is. The actor playing him does a good job of making him believable. I actually kind of felt sorry for him, all agitated as he was over the idea that his boss was going to kick his ass for screwing up. Also, I mentioned at the end of last season that it felt to me as if Scott Bakula and his character had suddenly clicked, and I do think that has carried through into the beginning of this season. I can't put my finger on anything specific that he's doing differently, but his performace suddenly seems much less artificial, somehow. And Hoshi is now being written the way she should have been written from the beginning. They've finally found the balance necessary to allow her to be reluctant and afraid without coming across as whiney and annoying.
T'Pol I'm still not sure about... She seemed to me to be acting rather oddly un-Vulcan in parts of this episode, but since whatever interrogation technique the Suliban were using obviously really screwed with her brain, perhaps that's not a reasonable criticism. I still wish I had a better handle on her as a character, though. They do seem to be intent on developing a strong bond between her and Archer, and this episode is clearly a major step in that direction. Now, I think that's fine, and that their relationship does have the potential to be fairly interesting if it's allowed to develop naturally. But I'm a little worried that the writers have set their minds on turning Archer and T'Pol into the Kirk and Spock of the 22nd century, and that if they try and force the relationship into that mold it's not going to work. Time, I suppose, will tell.
At any rate, I suppose the upshot is that our first glimpse at the new season hasn't in fact changed my opinion of Enterprise at all. I still think it has potential. There are still things that I like and dislike about it. And it still has me looking repeatedly at my watch and wondering if it isn't finally about to be over yet...