ENTERPRISE - "Shockwave" - Mania.com

TV Show Season Finale Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Reviewed Format: TV Show First Season Finale
  • Network: UPN
  • Original Airdate: May 22nd, 2002; 8:00 p.m. EST
  • Cast: Scott Bakula, Connor Trinneer, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park, John Billingsley, John Fleck, Matt Winston, Vaughn Armstrong
  • Creators: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
  • Writers: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
  • Director: Alan Kroeker

ENTERPRISE - "Shockwave"

Cliffhanger accomplished

By LEO WALSH     May 23, 2002

Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula, left) is visited by former crew member Daniels (Matt Winston) as they travel through time in the ENTERPRISE season finale.
© 2002 UPN
UPN's ENTERPRISE, the latest incarnation of the STAR TREK franchise, launched last fall with a wave of gushing media attention and has won over at least some of the dedicated TREK fan audience with its laid back ensemble of prequel characters - a crew of Earth spacemen and women who predate the old Kirk and Spock era by a hundred years. The fact that their starship and technology look light years advanced of anything seen on the classic '60s TV show is an issue best argued over in discussion message boards across the Internet; what's less arguable is the uneven level of storytelling that has plagued the series during its first season. ENTERPRISE started strong, but by midseason some of the tingly "exploring strange new worlds" excitement had dissipated and the show began feeling a little bit like the much disrespected STAR TREK: VOYAGER - a hopelessly laid back space mission that too often explored plot devices (like shapeshifters, alien illusions and time travel) left over from earlier TREK shows.

In fact, time travel is a core element of ENTERPRISE's concept, as a mysterious "future guy" is manipulating the evil, shape-changing Suliban to muck around with humanity's "past" (i.e. ENTERPRISE's present), and centering all their efforts on Captain Jonathan Archer and the Enterprise NX-01 - Earth's first Starfleet vessel. The Suliban time travel plot was laid down in ENTERPRISE's debut episode "Broken Bow" and expanded on in the midseason "Cold Front," in which Archer hooked up with a mysterious crewman (Matt Winston) who turned out to be a human agent from the future who was also checking up on Archer and trying to subvert the Suliban's evil plans.

As the season finale, "Shockwave," opens, Archer and his crew are preparing to land one of their shuttlepods on a colony world whose atmosphere is filled with unstable gases. Somehow the shuttle releases a plasma discharge that ignites the atmosphere - and kills all 3600 colonists. ENTERPRISE, much like VOYAGER, has become fixated on the "cold opening" - opening scenes which establish a casual atmosphere in which not much of importance occurs. This is the polar opposite of the original STAR TREK's "teasers" - openings which shocked the viewer with an unexpected death, a moment of violence or the bizarre behavior of a series regular in order to hook audiences into staying tuned through the first commercial break. In other words, the original TREK didn't take its audience for granted. After a full season of mostly cold openings, it's refreshing to see the ENTERPRISE crew jolted by apparently causing the deaths of an entire population of space colonists.

(Left to right) Trip (Connor Trinneer), T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) and Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula), in the ENTERPRISE season finale.

Scott Bakula's Archer is haunted by guilt and his superior on Earth (Vaughn Armstrong) informs him that the Enterprise is to be returned to its home base - its mission cancelled. Archer is determined to get to the bottom of the accident, and he eventually uncovers an apparent Suliban plot - with the help of the mysterious future crewman, presumed dead since "Cold Front."

In the grand tradition of all post-classic TREK, "Shockwave" ends with a cliffhanger - not only is the Enterprise surrounded by Suliban vessels poised to destroy it, but Archer is flung into a far future tableau and given a glimpse at the terrible ramifications of the "Temporal War" that has been centered around his vessel's actions. As TREK cliffhangers go, it's reasonably compelling - but as we've learned from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, DS9 and VOYAGER, the proof of a cliffhanger is in the execution of part two - which we won't see until the fall. TNG set up several stellar cliffhanger part ones in its latter seasons (think "Time's Arrow" and "Descent") only to see them end in bitter disappointment the following fall. It's a lot easier to put the ENTERPRISE crew in a terrible fix than it is to find an original way to get them out of it, and since the solutions to the cliffhangers usually aren't conceived until well after the first parts have aired, there's no guarantee the creative energy that made the first part great is going to follow through into part two. In fact, the odds are against it - even NEXT GENERATION's revered "Best of Both Worlds" is generally considered to have a better part one than part two.

That having been said, at least ENTERPRISE has made the effort to grow some teeth in its season finale. Here's looking forward to a season two with more Andorians, better Vulcans, fewer shapeshifters and no visits to the holodeck.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.


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