Written by Jonathan Fernandez and Terry Matalas
Directed by David Livingston
In which Enterprise encounters a Vulcan vessel with a crew that has succumbed to the effects of the Expanse, and TíPol finds herself slipping into the same madness...
Synopsis - Analysis - Memorable Quotes - Observations
As the episode begins, a wounded Archer drags a demented TíPol into sickbay, where she is strapped down, screaming. Phlox confirms that TíPol is badly ďdamagedĒ, and she is finally knocked out when her ravings get too severe.
One day earlier...
Archer and Trip go over the Xindi database. Trip, noting that morale is getting low, suggests re-instating movie night. Archer is annoyed by the possible distraction, but he gives approval. Hoshi informs them and TíPol that a Vulcan distress signal has been received. TíPol recognizes the ship as the Seleya, a ship that entered the Expanse six months earlier.
Enterprise determines that the signal is coming from within an asteroid field that is teeming with spatial anomalies, causing the asteroids to collide without warning. Trip reveals that the asteroids are loaded with Trellium-D ore. Archer decides to take TíPol, Reed, and one of the MACOs named Hawkins to the Seleya using a shuttlepod.
TíPol explains that she once served on the Seleya before her assignment to the Vulcan consulate on Earth. The Seleya was studying the thermobaric fields on the perimeter of the Expanse when they were drawn in. The transmission that Ambassador Soval showed Archer before the mission began (ďThe ExpanseĒ) came from a Vulcan ship sent to find the Seleya.
Back on Enterprise, Trip and Mayweather try to transport rocks with Trellium-D onto the ship. But a spatial anomaly damages the transporter system. Mayweather suggests that he pilot the remaining shuttlepod onto one of the larger rocks, so they can mine for the Trellium-D. Trip approves, and he goes with Mayweather.
There is no response from the Seleya, so they dock with the Vulcan ship. Once aboard, they carefully begin searching the ship. They find one of the bulkheads partially lined with Trellium, but the work didnít progress far. Reed and Hawkins go in one direction, while Archer and TíPol go another. Reed finds Vulcan blood on one of the bulkheads. Archer and TíPol hear noise from behind a locked door, so they open it. Immediately, a deranged and apparently infected Vulcan attacks them. TíPol is forced to fire on the Vulcan, but it takes an additional shot from Archer to take the Vulcan down.
Before Archer and TíPol can take the brain-damaged Vulcan to the shuttlepod, they are attacked by others. Reed and Hawkins are also attacked, and Hawkins is chopped in the arm with a makeshift axe. Archer and the others regroup, and head for the shuttlepod. Hawkins wants to set weapons to kill, but TíPol objects. Archer sides with TíPol.
When they reach the docking site, two Vulcans are waiting. The Vulcans close the pressure doors, shutting Archerís team off from the airlock. As more Vulcans arrive, the team fights their way towards the sickbay to treat Hawkinsí arm. Along the way, they realize that they are unable to contact Enterprise. They realize that the only hope is getting to the bridge and using Seleyaís communications system. TíPol also admits that something is wrong; whatever is affecting the other Vulcans has begun to affect her. Meanwhile, Mayweather roughly lands the other shuttlepod onto one of the large asteroids.
In sickbay, the team is attacked by the Vulcansí chief engineer. They use the opportunity to analyze what has been happening to the Vulcans. TíPol begins to lose control, terrified by what she knows will happed to her. Focusing on raising the pressure doors, Archer gets TíPol to suggest possibilities. TíPol suggests the auxiliary control room.
While Archer and Reed move ahead, TíPol and Hawkins rest. Hawkins asks how the Vulcans could get out of control, when they arenít supposed to have emotions. TíPol explains that the Vulcans only control emotions, and that once, Vulcans were violent and homicidal. The Vulcans on the Seleya have reverted to that primal state. With the way clear, Archer calls them to catch up.
On the asteroid, a spatial anomaly causes another large asteroid to move towards them. Mayweather and Trip manage to escape the collision, but their shuttlepod is badly damaged in the process. Back on Seleya, the team finds the bridge. When TíPol finds the transceiver damaged, her control slips. However, they manage to get a message out. Trip explains that the damage to the second shuttlepod will take a couple hours to repair. Archer sends medical data for Phlox to analyze, just in case a cure can be found.
When Reed makes a mistake while helping TíPol repair the override system, TíPol begins accusing Archer of undermining TíPolís work and wanting to kill the Vulcans for personal vengeance. TíPol pulls her weapon on Archer, prepared to kill. The standoff is interrupted when the other Vulcans begin pounding on the walls.
Phlox determines that Trellium-D actually acts as a neurotoxin to Vulcans. If TíPol doesnít get back to Enterprise, she might be lost like the other Vulcans. The transmission is cut off as the Vulcans begin flooding the command center with gas. As the Seleya begins to rip itself apart, the team drags TíPol with them to the airlock. They find a large hole in the deck, and fight off the attacking Vulcans as they carefully step across.
They get to the shuttlepod, but the docking clamps wonít release. Conveniently, Trip and Mayweather arrive with the other shuttlepod and blast them free, just before the Seleya explodes. By the time everyone is back on Enterprise, Archer informs Trip that the mined Trellium-D will have to be stored in a biohazard storage container until a way can be found to protect TíPol.
Phlox tells Archer that TíPol will recover in time, but the damage was fairly severe. Archer asks to speak with TíPol, who begs to be left behind so that the rest of the crew can use the Trellium-D for protection. But even after Archer promises that no one will be left behind, TíPol finds that recovering from her experience might be more difficult than she thought.
Most of the episodes this season have managed to put an original or at least continuity-laden twist on familiar concepts from Trek episodes past or popular culture. It was inevitable that a concept would be tapped that couldnít be made interesting again, regardless of the implications or the treatment. This episode is the first real failure of the new direction, and for once, the writing is not the only culprit.
Not that the writing deserves to be given a pass. The idea of Vulcan zombies, complete with lumbering gait and rotting facial features, doesnít work at all. Itís one thing to say that the Vulcans have all succumbed to some sort of mental degradation, slowly pushing them towards paranoia and violent tendencies. If that had actually happened, then this would have been a very different episode. Instead, the writers produced ďNight of the Living Dead VulcansĒ.
The problem with the interpretation of the concept is that TíPolís slow descent into madness is far more compelling. If the Vulcans had been less zombie and more sinister and amoral, it might have been more interesting. Of course, it also would have been a lot harder to write. Regardless, a demented and violent crew of aware Vulcans would have presented a much more difficult moral choice.
From the perspective of Archerís character, there seems to be a point to the episode. As one might have expected, Archer admits that he is constantly struggling to maintain his humanity while striving to save it. That inner conflict has been running beneath Archerís actions since the beginning of the season, and itís good to see him actually struggling with it. It means that the writers are aware that Archer has been making questionable choices, and suggests that he might eventually be forced to explain himself if he begins losing sight of his ultimate goal.
The implications are much more dynamic for TíPol. There were hints from the producers that TíPol might begin exploring emotions this season, and of course, that idea was widely panned by critics and fans. However, this episode provides a consistent and logical explanation for why TíPol would need to explore those issues.
TíPol has been touched by the same madness that every other Vulcan has experienced in the Expanse, and if the writers are going to be at all daring, they should avoid a quick resolution to the effects. The final scenes of this episode appear to address the issue by revealing that the seeds of emotional disarray are still present. As a result, TíPol might have to restore her emotional and logical balance over a period of time, without the benefit of other Vulcans to assist her. Hence, a struggle to understand and control her emotions would be a consistent direction for the writers to take.
Such a character arc would also explain why a Trip/TíPol romance or relationship would be possible. TíPol has been instrumental in restoring a sense of balance for Trip, making slow but steady progress. Now it might be his turn to reciprocate, helping TíPol reconcile her more overwhelming responses. Handled properly, it could easily be one of the best elements of the season.
For all the interesting elements that are introduced or reinforced, the episode itself leaves much to be desired. Perhaps the most obvious flaw is not the writing, but a critical directorial error. The lighting choices for this episode were absolutely wrong. The strobe effects were overdone to the point that entire sequences were ruined, unable to be watched. Clearly the intention was to disorient, to make the audience feel more and more disturbed. It worked, but not in a way that helped the episode!
Not only was the strobe effect excessive, but it wasnít supported by the circumstances of the episode. There were several occasions where the strobe was obviously set behind one of the cast, with nothing in the background capable of producing that kind of effect. When the artificial nature of the lighting is plainly obvious, the effect is ruined. It would have been more effective to make the flashes of light less frequent and more logically applied.
Once again, this episode highlights one of the flaws of the franchise as a whole. The writers are obviously trying to give the cast material to work with, but in the process, the logic of running and maintaining an exploratory expedition is violated. Trip and Mayweather should never have gone to mine the asteroid, when the rest of the command staff was out of contact. Similarly, there was no reason for Archer, TíPol, and Reed to risk themselves by going to the Vulcan ship, especially in the middle of an asteroid field that was freely violating the laws of physics.
After all, there are dozens of MACOs on Enterprise, and this could have been the perfect situation in which to explore the command dynamics between Archer and the military. Archer is well aware of the tensions involved in boarding a Vulcan vessel, especially under such unknown circumstances. Would the MACOs be as careful and diplomatic? Itís unlikely, given the strain between Earth and Vulcan previous to the start of the mission. Open debate regarding the use of force and the treatment of the Vulcans would have given Archerís internal conflicts more heft.
Despite all the problems, there are some nice elements. The implications of the episode to the overall season arc continue to strengthen the series, eliminating much of the criticism about the dreaded reset button. The visual effects outside of the interior of the Vulcan vessel were absolutely stunning, and easily beat anything from ďVoyagerĒ. The realistic damage to the shuttlepods was a nice touch, as well as the delay in the rescue caused by that damage.
Ultimately, the failure of the episode can be attributed to the manner in which the Vulcan madness was handled. Turning the Vulcans into zombies was not the way to go. It would have been far more interesting and disturbing had the Vulcan intellect remained, with all of the emotional control and morality ripped away. So while the lingering implications of the episode show a great deal of promise, the episode itself doesnít rise to the same level.
TRIP: ďThisíll be a new one for the maintenance crew...Ē
TíPOL: ďThen use logic more quietly!Ē
- That had to be the worst teaser ever!
- Five episodes into the season, and Berman and Braga have written just one episode...what a change of pace!
- All of the asteroid shots are incredibly well done, rivaling even the effects from ďStar Wars: Episode IIĒ...
- Gotta love the application of rock formations onto the transporter pad!
- Nice shot of the severely damaged Seleya...
- If the Trellium was breaking down the Vulcansí neural pathways, what was making those ridges appear around their eyes?
- Maybe the Vulcan engineer recognized TíPol, and thatís why he was screaming!
- The first example of the ancestral Vulcan rage and emotional instability was seen in the original series episode ďAll Our YesterdaysĒ...
- It was nice to finally see the effects of a rough trip on the shuttlepods...
- That walk across the hole in the deck took bloody forever!
- Great effects for the destruction of the Seleya...
- At least this episode ended without a clean resolution for once!
Overall, this episode failed to find an original voice, and perhaps even worse, employed a visual style that made the episode extremely hard to watch. This is a case of an episode contributing to continuity but being utterly unnecessary on its own merits. Only the continuity references and the acting by the cast kept this from being the worst episode of the series.
I give it a 4/10.
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