Lynch's Enterprise Episode Review
WARNING: Spoilers for the latest Enterprise episode are visible
over the "Horizon."
In brief: A very mixed bag.
Enterprise Season 2, Episode 20
Written by Andre Bormanis
Directed by James Contner
Brief summary: Travis Mayweather returns home to his parents'
ship, the Horizon, only to find that things have changed in his
"Horizon" is definitely out of the ordinary as _Enterprise_
go. It's not concerned all that much with life-or-death struggles or
strange new races -- for the most part, in fact, it's a character
Good character pieces can make for just as much drama as action-
oriented shows can -- look no further than TNG's "Family" for an
example of that, or even last season's "Dear Doctor," though that's a
somewhat different example.
The difficulty with character pieces, I think, is that the mood is
many ways all-important. In the middle of something heavy on
action and foreboding, you can have the occasional bit of silliness or
gallows humor as a way to blow off steam (both the characters' and
the viewers'). That's somewhat harder to do in a character piece -- if
you're snapped out of the emotional connection, it's not easy to get
That's one of the major things that gets in the way of "Horizon"
being a truly strong episode. I like Travis Mayweather (a sentiment
which I suspect puts me in the minority of viewers), and I like the
few glimpses of "boomer" culture we've been shown up to this point.
As such, the idea of Travis going back to deal with a family tragedy
is something that's got a lot of meat, since he personalizes the clash
of cultures that's happening as boomers deal with the new reality of
space travel. Unfortunately, at the same time we get a B-plot that's
well, for want of a better word, dreadful in its attempt to lighten
mood. It really winds up just killing whatever momentum the
episode's built up to that point.
The setup for the show is simple, if somewhat difficult to swallow.
The Enterprise is asked to reverse course to investigate a planet
undergoing neat geological effects. Since that reversal of course will
put the Enterprise fairly near Travis's old ship, the Horizon, he asks
for a few days' leave to go visit his family: he hasn't seen them in a
few years, and would like to. Archer agrees.
The only plausibility problem I have here is that the planet's
mentioned as being 30 light-years behind their current position. On
the one hand, that's a *huge* detour just for a cute geological
phenomenon -- probably a month's journey or more even at warp 5.
On the other, that still puts them awfully far out from Earth, which
makes it difficult to believe that a warp-2 ship like the Horizon
be out that far. It's not a story-killing problem by any means, but it
bugged me. (It would've been a lot easier if Travis's bad news had
been the catalyst for the trip and Starfleet were to respond with
something like, "oh, if you're headed back that way how about
checking out that planet over yonder?")
That said, however, Travis gets bad news while the ship is
backtracking. His father, who's been ill for some time, apparently
died a few weeks back -- his mother had sent him the news, but it
never reached him. As his father was captain of the Horizon, then,
the ship's likely to be in some turmoil -- but Travis is going through
a fair bit of turmoil himself, especially since his father disagreed
his decision to join Starfleet. Archer tries to cheer him up as best
he can by telling him how proud Travis's father was of his abilities,
even if he disagreed with some of his choices.
I quite liked that scene -- the "sweet spot" bit is neutral, but
chose a good counseling approach. I've had many difficulties with
Scott Bakula's portrayal of Archer from time to time, but he does
quite well playing a lot of the softer scenes, and this was a textbook
case. Both actors did well, and the idea of Archer contacting the
CO's of possible helm officers makes a good deal of sense. Kudos.
The real story begins when we reach the Horizon. Travis heads
aboard, talks to his mother about a few of his adventures, and begins
to settle in. Everyone seems glad to see him, but when it comes to
his brother Paul there's also a clear undercurrent of tension. Paul's
acting captain now, and while he's happy to see Travis, he's also
going out of his way *not* to ask him for any help. His stated
reason is that since Travis is on leave, he doesn't want to "put him
work," but one gets the distinct sense that there's more to it than
Paul also suggests that before dinner, Travis change out of his
Starfleet outfit into "something a little less conspicuous." One's
to wonder -- is there a lot of anti-Starfleet sentiment on the ship?
At this point, there are many possible explanations for Paul's
concern. One is that he's worried Travis will want the captain's chair
for himself, especially since he's been groomed for it. Another is
that he blames Travis for his father's death somehow, and a third is
that he's got some agenda of his own that he's worried Travis is
going to stumble on. (Anyone who doesn't think that's likely, go
watch DS9's "Prodigal Daughter" again -- but I'm not paying for the
therapy bills.) All three are fairly common reasons for shows like
this, but the first two are common because they're *real* -- many
people would have emotions in at least one if not both of those
categories under similar circumstances, and so I think Paul's
problems being a mixture of the two make sense.
Travis, unfortunately, doesn't really clue into much of this for a
while. He starts making upgrades and talking about all the great
improvements he's learned from Trip and other folks on board
Enterprise, heedless about what that's looking like to his old
shipmates. Paul calls him on it after one particular upgrade, asking
him what happens if they break down after "you're back on your
Starfleet ship out of comm range," but there's a distinct undercurrent
of "gee, thank you for bringing all your wonderful toys to impress
the rubes, but we were fine before you came back and will be fine
after you leave."
To make matters worse, later on Travis is visited by Nora, an old
friend (and possibly more?). After various small talk, she lets on
morale isn't great: they've fallen behind on cargo runs, are low on
deuterium, and there's a lot of worry that Paul's just not quite ready
for the job. Travis reassures her that he just needs some time, but
clearly a source of concern for him as well ...
... and then the ship falls under attack. It's random pirates, but
give the ship a proper rattling, then leave behind a beacon attached
the hull. Word from another ship is that this group's M.O. is to
leave behind that beacon (which isn't removable), then come back a
day later and demand all the cargo.
Despite their low-power weapons, Travis thinks he might be able to
upgrade them enough to have a good chance of disabling the
cruiser's engines, which has a design he's beaten before. Paul,
however, considers that far too big a risk, and decides to jettison a
little bit of cargo, increase to top speed and hope they reach their
destination in time. If not, he'll give them what they want.
To some extent, the episode's chief flaw here is that once this is
established, you know that he's going to wind up needing Travis's
help later, and that it'll serve as a way to bridge the gap between
at least partially. "Horizon" did in fact do exactly that, but for the
most part all the reactions felt real -- people aren't so much acting
stupid as acting realistically single-minded and slightly oblivious to
how their own actions are perceived. That's much more natural than,
say, people spontaneously losing brain cells in "Canamar."
In this case, Travis tries to make the upgrades himself
only to have Paul catch him at it and threaten to confine him to
quarters. What comes out, however, is that Paul feels Travis has no
business claiming he's doing things for the benefit of the whole
group, because he's no longer *in* that group any more. He barely
talked to his father for years, people like him are making it
for cargo ships to find willing crews, and he wasn't even around
when his father died. (I very much liked Travis's quiet "that's not
fair" in response to the last -- rather than get loud, this argument
quiet and icy. I've had "discussions" like that myself, albeit not in
such a life-and-death situation.)
After those accusations, Travis begins questioning his own choices,
enough that he considers requesting an extended leave to spend time
on the Horizon for "as long as [he's] needed." His mother, who has
only a few scenes but is fairly key, convinces him otherwise: Paul's
no greener than their father was when he started, she notes, and
everyone on the ship is so proud of what he's already done that
turning back now makes no sense. Not a lot of particularly
revelatory statements, no -- but honest and realistic, which can be
In the end, of course, Travis winds up being right: the ship not
comes back early, but demands the Horizon itself rather than just the
cargo. Paul quickly reactivates Travis's upgrades, and thanks to
some fancy flying and good shooting, the pirates are disabled. Paul
and Travis are reconciled, at least enough -- it's telling, I think,
they part on a handshake rather than a hug.
As I said -- the show's not breaking a lot of ground or giving us
many surprises. It's also, however, avoiding a lot of cliches a story
like this can often run into (among other things, the two brothers
never get into a fistfight, which I'd expected almost from the moment
we met Paul), and giving us more of a sense of where Travis came
from. As one of the seven people who truly enjoyed the look into
boomer culture we got in "Fortunate Son" last year, I appreciated the
return visit this year, and would like to see a bit more about how
society adapts in the face of faster and easier space travel.
And now, the bad sides.
Within the main plot, my big issue is that many people on board
Enterprise seem to be taking insensitivity lessons. When Travis asks
for leave, for instance, he and Archer get into a conversation about
how many jobs his mother holds on board. Archer comes out with,
"guess needs to wear a lot of hats in order to keep those old ships
going." Gee, Jon, couldja be any *more* condescending? I don't
think Travis feels sufficiently inferior yet. (And yes, I realize that
Travis unconsciously carries some of that with him over to the
Horizon, which is nice -- but it would be nice if he bristled a bit
or realized how much superiority he'd already assumed.) Later on,
just as he's leaving for the Horizon, Trip keeps badgering him about
wanting to see the engines. Yo, Trip, the man's just lost his father
could we keep an eye on the bigger picture for a moment?
That insensitivity wasn't just in the main plot, however. What
for the B plot this time involves movie night: since observing this
planet is going to be a lengthy and automated process, Trip's finagled
it so that every night is movie night for a while, and wants T'Pol to
start getting acquainted with horror films. Specifically,
"Frankenstein" is showing shortly, and he badgers her repeatedly
into going. (In another truly sensitive moment, he says it'll be right
up T'Pol's alley: "Reanimated life-forms and science run amok."
For the most part, the B plot's oppressively dumb rather than
annoying -- I don't think we need to see T'Pol looking for a medical
excuse for avoiding the film, for instance, or to have Trip shoot down
her idea of a dramatic reading of the book rather than something
more passive like a film. The one particularly offensive bit, however,
comes when Archer gets in on the act: in an attempt to persuade her
to come, he suggests that "we make a night of it. Dinner in the
captain's mess, then the movie. You'll be my date."
Um. Pardon me, Archer, but given that you've already implied you're
attracted to her, *and* you're her superior officer, that's harassment
- in a big way, especially since you imply "no" is not a valid answer.
I don't care how much you joke about "being a perfect gentleman,"
it's an exceptionally stupid thing to say. It soured me on the whole
The one thing about the B story I did like was T'Pol's final
of the film. Rather than focusing on Dr. Frankenstein himself, she
focuses on his creation, and concludes the film's an interesting
depiction of how humans fear what is different. She feels that it in
some way predicted humanity's response to the arrival of the
Vulcans, and decides to recommend the film to Soval. *That*'s
fairly entertaining (especially if followed up), and had we dealt more
on her reaction to the film than on everyone conspiring to get her to
movie night, I'd have been a lot happier. As it is, the phrase "too
little, too late" comes to mind. (I also could have done without T'Pol
saying, "to quote Dr. Frankenstein, 'it's alive.'" when they discover
some life forms on the planet below. That's not her style.)
As I said at the outset, then, "Horizon" is a mixed bag. The
a bit slow in parts, but generally engaging and quite realistic. The
plot's mostly a waste of time and serves mostly to make everyone on
the Horizon that much *more* likable by comparison.
-- Science nitpick: so the planet's core is superheating because of
two gas giants' gravitational pull? I'm having difficulty with the
wording here -- I think Bormanis was probably thinking of Jupiter's
moon Io, which undergoes a lot of tidal heating due to Jupiter, but
"superheating" is not a phrase I'd use. Not a big deal -- just a
-- If anyone ever doubted that "hull plating" is just the new
for shields, there's this gem: "divert all power to the hull plating."
It's really tempting to shoot back, "okay, we just did. It melted. Any
other bright ideas?"
-- So this planet's about to become a sea of active volcanoes.
discovers that there's microbial life on it. Does anyone worry about
saving it or somehow keeping an eye on it? Not really -- Archer
wants to learn about it, but is clearly more intrigued by "the show."
-- The Reed/Travis conversation about "we really should have
families on starships / well, if so, we'll need a psychologist as
seemed written with way too much of a knowing wink. It's a fair
enough sentiment, but there was too much of a smirk to it for my
-- There's a certain ambiguity about Travis and Nora -- were they
childhood buddies, or was there a romantic component to their
relationship at one point? There's a lot of obvious warmth between
them, but we're not really told what their past was -- and I don't
we needed to know either. I like it.
That pretty much wraps it up, I think. "Horizon" could have been
more than it was -- I wouldn't have minded more of a sense of the
boomers' day-to-day life, for instance, or heard a bit more about what
prompted Travis to join up with Starfleet in the first place -- but it
was more than serviceable.
So, summing up:
Writing: I'm not happy with most of the regular characters.
Everyone on the Horizon (Travis included) was basically
fine, and the story was adequate if not wondrous.
Directing: Nothing particularly stood out either way.
Acting: Not "Judgment" by any means, but not bad.
OVERALL: A 6.5, I think -- would've been in the 7's, except for
Phlox faces an unwilling patient.
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
"If you want to be an effective captain, you've got to set your
personal feelings aside, and listen to what other people have to say."
"More words of wisdom from Starfleet?"
"No. Your father."
-- the brothers Mayweather
Copyright 2003, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free
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