While the Suliban prepare a captured Enterprise for destruction, Archer and Daniels attempt to find their way out of a ruined 31st Century in which the Federation never existed.
ENTERPRISE begins its second season in the time-honored STAR TREK tradition, by wrapping up an intriguing cliffhanger in the least troublesome manner possible. "Shockwave, Part II" is fast-paced, full of action and generous with its character showcases (with the continuing exception of Anthony Montgomery's Travis Mayweather, who's beginning to make the Original Series' Sulu look like a masterpiece of character development)but it also fails to address the epic questions brought up by "Part I."
The episode cuts back and forth between T'Pol dealing with the takeover of the Enterprise by the shape-changing Suliban, and Archer and time-traveling nerd Daniels (Matt Winston) attempting to make sense of the ruins of a 31st Century civilization which Daniels somehow determines is bereft of technology. When Archer helpfully suggests that they just find the local library, they locate one in no time and begin boning up on 31st Century history by reading books. One of the fillips of time travel is that the time travelers themselves literally have nothing but time, so as far as we know Archer and Daniels can hang out in the library for months reading up on every fact they require, since if they have the ability to travel back into the past they can arguably arrive any time they want to.
The situation on the Enterprise plays not only to some hoary TV adventure clichés (we actually get treated to the at least 40-year-old "crawling through the air vents" routine), but to ENTERPRISE's continuing determination to get the most T & A out of its two increasingly humiliated female leads. T'Pol and Hoshi both spend around a quarter of the episode not only in tank tops, but in cut-off, belly-revealing tank tops for the appreciation of male viewers. Taking this exploitation that one extra step, the episode has Hoshi, after crawling through the ship's "EPS shafts" to retrieve a crucial piece of technology, fall through a grate and emerge at the bottom completely topless. After last year's "Two Days and Two Nights" I've seen enough of the Enterprise crew in their underwear to last a lifetime. All this leering exploitation would be a lot more palatable if the attitude of the show weren't so consistently toothless; the sexism on the Original Series seemed to fit into an overall adult, sometimes edgy tone, whereas in ENTERPRISE it seems a jarring anomaly to the program's otherwise timid, family hour mindset.
"Shockwave, Part II" attempts to wrap up not only the time travel disaster posited in "Part I" but also the season-long story arc that has the Vulcans (led by Gary Graham as the snooty Soval) trying to shut down the Enterprise's first mission. Unfortunately, the Vulcans are paper tigers: arrogant, deceitful and patently unfair, they're obviously in the wrong and we get little satisfaction from Soval stomping off in a snit after T'Pol defends her Captain to him. Bakula's imploring speech (likening the Enterprise mission to a baby gazelle just learning to walk) likewise falls flat: it's an obvious nod to the old Kirk oratory, but there's little poetry in the speech itself and Bakula's delivery is far short of Shatner's old fireworks.
ENTERPRISE continues to be a thorn in the side of Original Series fans hoping for something with strong connections to the STAR TREK they liked best: ENTERPRISE has all the ingredients, but the delivery is still more along the laid back lines of VOYAGER and the STAR TREK Reset Button (validated by the low ratings of DEEP SPACE NINE and of other serialized shows in syndication) is as active as ever. It's a little late to complain about ENTERPRISE's "retro" look, but the producers continue to eradicate anything that might hearken back to the look of the Original Series (which ENTERPRISE is supposed to predate). Case in point: "Shockwave, Part II" features a newly-designed Vulcan starship that will evidently replace the sleek but simple lines of the cruiser introduced in the first season. The new ship is a cool design, but like everything else in ENTERPRISE, it looks like something that would be more at home in the era of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE or even THE NEXT GENERATION than something that takes place a century before the Original Series. With next week's "Carbon Creek" rehashing DS9's "Little Green Men" and positing Vulcans visiting Earth in the '50s, it looks like ENTERPRISE's rewriting of STAR TREK history is far from complete. Let's just hope it's all proven to be part of an alternate timeline when it's over...