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Icy Hot: TrekWeb's Founder Steve Krutzler Reviews Last Episode Before Repeat-Hell: "Cold Front"

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Posted: 08:28:24 on November 29 2001
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: ENTERPRISE Reviews |

Icy Hot

Written by Steve Krutzler

“Cold Front” desperately tries to win with the X-Files formula of crisscrossed conspiracies and ambiguous endings. While doing this well, it's unable to spin its web in a suspenseful, dramatic, hour of television.

Nothing is more telling than that the entire episode takes place against the backdrop of a serine quasi-religious ceremony. After 15 minutes of wondering when it's going to pick up, we’re expected to get excited when a seeming-accident puts the ship in jeopardy but Silik mysteriously prevents disaster. Shouldn't Trip have shouted "I have to disconnect the anti-matter flow or we're gonna go up in smoke!" and then run to the conduit, have it blow up in front of him, and when the smoke clears see that it's already been severed? Another opportunity to demonstrate Trip's competence as an engineer is wasted at the precise point when some excitement is needed to pick up the pace.

Almost as suddenly, this horribly-cast Daniels guy appears and starts blabbering about the future. At first you’re thinking, even in the 29th century there are laws against telling people in the past about the future, so why would this guy just come ask Archer for his help and tell him all about it? Obviously that criticism doesn't hold water because Daniels turns out to not be who he said he was so of course he was telling Archer all of this for his own purposes.

There's nothing wrong with the show’s ultimate premise, in fact it's great and perfectly in the X-Files tradition. Who do you trust? Which faction is good? Even Silik doesn't know who he's fighting for or what his purpose is. This week he's sent to stop Daniels from, ostensibly, destroying THE Enterprise and his next mission may put him at odds with Archer yet again. But there’s little thoughtful exploration of this complexity aside from an on-the-nose turbolift discussion between T’Pol and Tucker. The flaw of the episode is that there’s little or no jeopardy involved.

“Cold Front” reduces all of its most interesting aspects—discussion of the temporal cold war—to two major talking-heads scenes between Archer and Daniels and later Archer and Silik. The first avoids seeming action-less because we're apparently immersed in this holographic/astrometric-like time map, which while certainly one of the most impressive visuals ENT has offered in its first half season even if I think they could've slipped a mini-shot of the Enterprise-E or a Borg cube in one of those passing "time spheres" we witnessed (but then again, since Daniels may have been deceiving Archer, a supposition seemingly confirmed by his less than human-like disintegration at the hand of Silik's weapon, they may not have wanted to lend credence to Daniels's claims of time travel), the time-globe does little more than provide a hefty “gee-whiz” factor while the characters blather away. The conspiracy is whittled down to the conspirator revealing a bunch of stuff to Archer/Mulder. The same thing happens later with Silik pleading his case and finally knocking Archer out in his quarters.

Where is the suspense of a classic X-Files episode? Where is the chase? Where is the investigation that turns up mysterious clues and bits of information? Where is the “T’Pol! Archer! No! [cue explosion]”? Kidding aside, “Cold Front” simply throws a lot of temporal cold war jargon at the Enterprise crew and the audience, expecting the “coolness” factor to sit in for a lack of any major plot action. The conclusion attempts to set up a chase, giving Archer dubious futuristic technology to combat Silik; but there isn’t much chasing and there isn’t much fighting. When they finally get to the shuttle bay, you have to ask yourself why Archer doesn’t just stun Silik so he can be interrogated later; after all, he had no such qualms about doing the same to Archer earlier. Instead we have a surprisingly anticlimactic denouement with our captain hanging from the shuttle bay door into open space and only having a couple blood vessels on his forehead pop rather than what seemingly would be a lot more if that room were depressurized like it was (but I’m no scientist). Silik’s escape is believable because his genetic enhancements must immunize him from the effects of a vacuum—I guess.

We appreciate the dilemma: who is telling the truth, how much of what Daniels said is true, why trust Silik? But the jeopardy has already passed. Whether or not Archer decides to trust Silik or Daniels is ultimately immaterial to the outcome of the episode. Rather than utilize this situation and make Archer choose in a critical moment, when THE Enterprise is in peril, who to trust and who to put his faith in—just as the visiting aliens put their faith in the great plume—“Cold Front” was over for the regulars as soon as the anti-matter cascade was avoided. All that remained was for the conspirators to deal with each other and sufficiently misdirect Archer in doing so. In the end, Archer’s pursuit of Silik is pointless because catching him isn’t necessary; the notion that he must prevent Silik from escaping with Daniels’ device is weak at best because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that Silik could be just as “good” as Daniels and trying to choose sides in this whole affair is futile right now.

After intimation by reviewers that the episode ended in a tantalizing visual, it’s somewhat of a letdown to see only a close-up Daniels’s door, especially when Archer was just in there a few minutes earlier and the room didn’t seem as spooky as the final shot tries to suggest. I was expecting some impressive FX shot of a resurrected Daniels reporting to his higher-ups in a distant future or of somebody perhaps arriving inside the room via time travel unbeknownst to the crew. The shot as is doesn’t quite have the effect of, say, the alien-in-a-jar being placed on a shelf in an endless warehouse, but it is easily argued that this was the more subtle and correct choice, especially so early in the mythology plotline; my disappointment may have been the result of artificial expectations due to aggrandized episode previews/reviews.

This show really highlights time travel and in its pseudo-action/adventure format, “Cold Front” seems to have introduced plenty of things that on the surface seem to confirm that ENT may be dealing the concept of time travel its ultimate death. The hand-held phase discriminator (my “Time’s Arrow” vocabulary serving me well) that allows Archer to pursue Silik through the ship instantly comes to mind: Archer puts his hand through the bulkhead and then firmly grips the phase pistol Reed sticks in his hand; and I wonder why, if he’s phased slightly away from the Enterprise’s time, we can see him at all and (as usual) he doesn’t fall through the floor? This isn’t a truly fair criticism because the workings of this device were not explained so it may be some other technology about which there are no pre-established “rules” that the writers are obliged to follow. The prospect of Archer reporting all this to Starfleet is precarious, suggesting that the Starfleet in all the previous series had records of these events; obviously not, so we’re left to wonder how these events are erased from “known” TREK history (perhaps Section 31 is an outgrowth of the individuals who know about these events?). These examples point out the fact that since they’ve decided to make time travel their bed, sleeping in it is going to become prickly without some innovative ideas to make it all “work” beyond the shallow eye-candy phase.

In the end, “Cold Front” proves more interesting than its recent peers because it at least deals with something substantive, sets up enormously for the future, and clearly establishes that this Enterprise will be a somewhat serialized show from the beginning—so far the only clear difference from previous TREK series. The possibilities of the temporal cold war are fascinating and it goes without saying that the type of ambiguity introduced here is exactly what made X-Files so popular and it may work for ENT if they can find a more suspenseful and innovative way to work it into 42 minutes of television.

“Cold Front” also bookends this series’ first half-season (even if we’re not quite at the half-way point) along with the premiere “Broken Bow,” and reveals that ENT is certainly at its best when dealing with those aspects unique to it and not churning out rehashed shows-in-a-bottle. Much like X-Files, fans will clamor to find out when the next mythology episode will be and it is likely to dominate the Sweeps months, premieres, and finales. Grade: C+

About the Authors

Steve Perry is not the former lead singer of Journey. He is, however, a long time fan of all Trek, yes, even Voyager. He is currently in law school.

O. Deus has been a TrekWeb visitor since the site's 1996 inception. Along with being an ardent poster, he is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Deus has written reviews for TrekWeb for over a year and shares the duties with Steve Perry.

TrekWeb Reviews

  • "Shockwave" (Deus)
  • "Two Days and Two Nights"
  • "Fallen Hero" & "Desert Crossing" (Deus)
  • "Vox Sola" (Deus)
  • "Detained" (Deus)
  • "Oasis" (Krutzler)
  • "Acquisition" (Williams)
  • "Rogue Planet" (Deus)
  • "Fusion" (Deus)
  • "Shuttlepod One" (Deus)
  • "Shadows of P'Jem" (Deus)
  • "Sleeping Dogs" (Deus)
  • "Dear Doctor" (Deus)
  • "Silent Enemy" (Deus)
  • Mid-season 1 (Deus)
  • "Cold Front" (Krutzler)
  • "Fortunate Son" (Perry)
  • "Civilization" (Perry)
  • "Breaking The Ice" (Perry)
  • "The Andorian Incident" (Perry)
  • "The Andorian Incident" (Deus)
  • "Terra Nova" (Deus)
  • "Unexpected" (Perry)
  • "Unexpected" (Deus)
  • "Strange New World" (Perry)
  • "Fight or Flight" (Perry) Mission Logs

    Season Two (2002-2003)
    Prod #Title
    128 Shockwave, Part II
    127 Carbon Creek
    129 Minefield
    Season One (2001-2002)

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