Star Trek 688: Twilight

688. Twilight

FORMULA: The Visitor + Future Imperfect + Memento + Battlestar Galactica

WHY WE LIKE IT: Practically everything.

WHY WE DON'T: The romance angle.

REVIEW: It stands to reason that the season cannot possibly end with Earth's destruction. That's where Twilight comes in, not only giving us a first look at the weapon, but showing the destruction of Earth and subsequent Xindi genocidal campaign. I thought I was pretty much immune to the charms of "undoing the future" episodes after Voyager used and abused the concept so much, but it's a really, really effective story, one that shows the consequences of Enterprise's failure (they really can't afford to), and Archer's pivotal role in that mission's success. This is very much "What if Archer wasn't on the mission?"

The means to this end is a kind of space Alzheimer's that afflicts Archer in the present day, making it impossible for him to make new memories. Every day he is reset to the day of the accident and someone must explain everything to him all over again. Though the framing tale is told in the future, it allows us to return to crucial times, like Earth's destruction as well as a Xindi attack in which Archer stabs a reptilian with his statue of Zefram Cochrane (eep!). It's the same day T'Pol crashes a docked ship into a free-flying one. Cool as hell, but cripples Enterprise. T'Pol's story from there is a sad one, with humanity whittled down to 6000 refugees and a few ships, forced to settle on Ceti Alpha V (the planet Khan was dropped on, so we know it's doomed as soon as Ceti Alpha VI blows up). The crew is just a little bit older, so we don't dwell on the changes as other shows of this type usually do.

Now, the day the episode focuses on is important because Phlox is arriving with a possible cure for Archer's out-of-phase brain parasites, and he finds that destroying them destroys them in all timelines. In others words, it's a reset button (I'm not saying that in a bad way, it's necessary in these kinds of stories). However, the episode ramps up the tension in a couple ways. First, the Xindi, hot on Phlox' tail, attack the Ceti Alpha system, and second, Captain Tucker doesn't quite have the power to hand over the warp core to Phlox to finish the cure. Cue big action sequence.

Just to get more of the eye candy these kinds of episodes are known for, the bridge is destroyed rather spectacularly and the Xindi board the ship. With all the medical equipment destroyed, Archer, T'Pol and Phlox attempt to destroy the parasites by creating a subspace inversion, which will destroy the ship but reset history. Maybe Archer gets a few too many dying breaths in which to push buttons, but it's still an exciting, desperate sequence. Twilight isn't as emotional as The Visitor, but it's just about as satisfying. My only misgiving is with the idea that T'Pol falls in love with Archer through her devotion to him. That whole relationship has always been a dead end, and is not even justified by her becoming his nurse. Still, it's at its most convincing here.

LESSON: If you haven't seen it, it's new to you.

REWATCHABILITY - High: By plugging it into the Xindi arc, they've probably made the most relevant "alternate future" episode in all of Trek. Now we know what Enterprise is fighting for.


De said...

It was nice seeing Jolene Blalock wearing a more natural-looking wig rather than the short, cropped one she normally wears.


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