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Brand New "Dawn" -- 2003 Starts With Episode That Hits All the Right Notes, Says Deus

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Posted: 08:48:57 on January 09 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: ENTERPRISE Reviews
Reviews Ex Deus

Written by O. Deus, edited by Steve Krutzler

"Dawn"

Summary: Trip is trapped with an alien enemy pilot on a moon where the climate gets rather toasty at daybreak.

With "Dawn" Enterprise returns to what it has done best so far: well told and suspenseful episodes grounded in classical science fiction plots like "Dead Stop," "Shuttlepod One" and "Singularity," rather than the sleazy antics of "Fusion," "A Night in Sickbay" or "Precious Cargo." "Dawn"'s proximity to "Cargo," an episode that also involved Trip and an alien crashing on a planet and waiting for rescue, is unfortunate in that it might color some people's judgement of the newest episode unfairly. But the similarities and disparities between the two episodes do an excellent job of demonstrating what works on Enterprise and what doesn't.

Ever since the day ST:TNG aired its pilot, one of the standard criticisms of a Star Trek episode and series has been its lack of originality. There are a distinct shortage of new ideas out there, even in sc-fi, which is thought to be the literature of the future. While science fiction is concerned with new concepts of technology, it still relies on many of the same plots that were old when Rome was young. Some science fiction shows have responded to this problem with bouts of extreme stylization and introverted storylines, but Star Trek has always been at its best when it commits itself to the core story and tells it with integrity and truth. "Precious Cargo" is what happens when your story rings false, "Dawn" is what happens when it rings true.

John Shiban, who previously wrote "Minefield," delivers a seemingly simple script that avoids the kind of false notes that would have had Trip easily befriending the alien or ending the episode on a purely positive note as many Voyager episodes did. Instead, Trip's demonstration of goodwill by tossing away his weapon and untying the alien and his speech on the importance of their cooperation just results in a vicious and brutal fight. Nor is there any quick-fix language solution. Trip doesn't jury rig a universal translator or learn the alien's language after a few phrases as Hoshi seems to every week. Rather, they get by on situational context with the words themselves being ambiguous so that even at the end with the universal translator back on line, Trip fails to realize what the alien wants.

Thus "Dawn" is a more realistic look at first contact in an Enemy Mine style reminiscent of TOS and TNG episodes like "Arena," "The Enemy" and "Darmok." Roxann Dawson has quickly proven herself as Enterprise's go-to Director and avoids the bells and whistles in favor of a clean rendering of the story. For once even Scott Bakula hits all the right notes in his performance, frustrated and tense during the search but quietly threatening during his encounters with the alien Captain. Although the alien Captain has few lines and little screen time, Enterprise follows through on the slightly more complex rendering of the alien antagonist commander in "Catwalk" by having the alien Captain be both threatening and diplomatic as Archer himself is; rather than just an Alien of the Week uttering standard canned threats, but is the alien equivalent of Archer, who is thinking in ways that we can relate to resulting in a three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional character for an even minor appearance.

Enterprise's makeup also improves from the rather bland 'humans with slightly facial ridges' we see every week or the shoddy Suliban makeup to the Jem'Hadar-looking alien makeup of "Dawn." While it is derivative of the DS9 villains, it still seems more natural and alien than a lot of what we've seen on Enterprise thus far. Having the aliens come equipped with some sort of poison-spitting sac is also a nice touch that doesn't cost much but emphasizes the alien nature of the character.

Other nice minor touches include revelations of more Vulcan diplomatic failures strewn about the quadrant. Phlox spending some time on the bridge, which aside from the EMH we've seen doctors do far more on other Star Trek series rather than keeping Phlox constantly locked up in his sickbay or confined to the mess hall. Trip's dazed recitation of his experiences in prior episodes and his concluding note that the alien undoubtedly had similar experiences. It's a little thing but it adds depth to a moment and a place we wouldn't naturally expect it since in the Star Trek universe the aliens of the week all too often seem to have no independent existence prior to this episode and aren't likely to have one after it. Dawn's scripts gets us to think about what the alien pilot might have been doing before Trip encountered him and the Alien Captain's dialogue with Archer causes us to wonder what his situation might be afterwards. And those are the little touches that develop a story and hit the right notes.

ENTERPRISE "Dawn" Opinion Poll
How do you rate the latest episode in comparison to the best and the worst of all previous STAR TREK episodes?
10: Excellent 5: Average
9: Great 4: Below Average
8: Very Good 3: Mediocre
7: Good 2: Poor
6: Above Average 1: Bad
Current Results
About the Author
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 and columns for TrekWeb for over two years.

Past Reviews
  • "Dawn"
  • "The Catwalk"
  • "Precious Cargo"
  • "Vanishing Point"
  • "Singularity"
  • "The Communicator"
  • "The Seventh"
  • "Marauders"
  • "A Night In Sickbay"
  • "Dead Stop"
  • "Minefield"
  • "Carbon Creek"
  • "Shockwave, Part II"
  • Season One Re-cap (Deus)
  • React to this story below and see what others are saying at the STAR TREK BBS.
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    TREKWEB TALKBACK
    (31 comments)
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    Dawn, Hmm! I had a little problem...
    By Kilroy ( ) at 17:10:20 on January 16 2003
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    Maybe I'm being to picky, but if Enterprise can beam Trip up, why can't we help him out by beaming down a nice glass of water, medical supplies, and some shade, etc.?

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Nice job
    By Noxmagic ( ) at 21:47:45 on January 10 2003
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    Deus' review is right on with Dawn. I agree with every point that he makes, although, unlike Deus, I am disappointed that Dawn has basically been done before on TOS and TNG. While Dawn was a solid, entertaining episode with a strong classic sci-fi feel, it was nevertheless a story that has been done many times before. This is perhaps part of the problem with Trek. I understand that there is rarely anything new under the sun, but it often seems as if TPTB behind those things Trek refuse to take any real chances and try anything new. DS9 was the last time they really took a risk with Trek. But I'm getting off topic here. Deus made a good point about Roxann Dawson (B'Elanna Torres?) directing Ent. Her episodes always seem to be the better ones.
    I found it interesting that yet another Trip episode has been done. Its obvious that Trip is Ent.'s break out character, but I wonder if Mayweather would have been a better fit for Dawn. Now don't get me wrong, Trip is my favorite Ent. character, but he doesn't need the extra help getting over with the fans. Mayweather (and Dr. Phlox) on the other hand has been shortchanged so far as far as air time and being fleshed out as characters is concerned. Wouldn't Dawn have been a great, logical way to showcase Mayweather? After all, Trip was out there testing a new automated piloting system. It would have made perfect sense to have Mayweather out there. Nevertheless, Dawn was a good, above average episode. I do have a question, however. Were the aliens in Dawn ever seen before in Trek, or was Dawn their first appearance?
    To get a little off target here, I recently read an article about Farscape's upcoming last season. That will mean their producers and writers will be looking for new gigs. Hmmm...

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Blah
    By Edzo ( lordedzo@hotmail.com) at 11:18:11 on January 10 2003
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    I'm going on record with "dropdeadnelix" in voicing my indifference to "Dawn."

    I honestly can't understand why most of you are "breathing sighs of relief" at this mostly "by the numbers" story. Is that what you've become used to with Star Trek? You're all welcome to your opinions, of course, but I was wholly underwhelmed by this effort. I refuse to become so complacent, and will hold out my felicitations for eps like "Carbon Creek," "Dead Stop" and "The Catwalk" that actually shake things up a bit.

    My problem, I think, is with Connor. Something's changed for me since S1. On paper, Trip is a character who's a good engineer and an eager explorer. However, I don't see that coming through Connor's performance, not ever. Sorry for the stereotypical generalization, but Trip on-screen is nothing more than a "good ol' boy" who likes to hang out with his buddies and mouth off. That's all Connor brings to the table for me. I don't see him as a guy who either likes his job, is good at it, or who is even vaguely interested in exploration.

    "Dawn" wants so much to be "Darmok" but it doesn't have a prayer. We've been hearing this story a lot lately (e.g., Nemesis/TWOK).

    Deus, who is a competent reviewer, seems to have reviewed an episode I did not see. He seems to have *really tried* to find something he liked. I'd even say he read too much into things just to cling to something meaningful. I didn't see that show, however. I was just as bored with "Dawn" as I was with "Precious Cargo."

    I live and hope for better Trek. I keep watching ...

    ---

    Edzo!

    "I suck 'em down like Coca-Cola."

    --Kramer, "Seinfeld"

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    • RE: Blah by O. Deus @ 23:58:26 EDT on 11 Jan
    Dawn a welcome relief
    By Steve Krutzler ( s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 09:41:52 on January 10 2003
    URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
    Well this is probably my first post to these reviews in a while. I posted disappointment with Catwalk on the BBS before Xmas. I didn't watch Vanishing Point or Cargo and frankly had little hope for Dawn, which I thought from the spoilers would be pretty much a paint-by-numbers buddy story. While in the end the script doesn't take many chances and it certainly didn't challenge your expectations for a buddy plot, I find myself mostly satisfied with the episode. Deus sums up my thoughts pretty well in his review and I would agree that it's the little things that go a long way.

    One of these is make-up. The Arkonian make-up was very well done and a nice change from the almost-human-but-for-a-nose-ridge aliens. Make-up is important in establishing the suspension of disbelief and is necessary to believe that an alien is really, well, an alien. Here I think the make-up did the trick, so as Zo-kahn (whatever) was speaking his alien tongue, you could believe that, hey, this really is an alien and he really can't communicate with Trip. The healing vomit was also a nice touch, adding that bit of "otherness" necessary to sustain the illusion of an alien species.

    It's no surprise that this episode focuses on ENT's strongest character and actor and thus is a pretty good installment. Come to think of it, I don't think Mayweather was in the script or on screen at all. Trinneer is the show's best actor and he certainly had a lot of screen time here. I like how this show portrayed him as the competent engineer he's supposed to be and not the hot-tempered, awkward, south-cliche-spouting character he often turns into--like in Catwalk when he complained about the aliens living next door to him.

    There was also a lot of action here, in the vein of TOS. Frankly, I was waiting for the tambourines to kick in during that fight and that fact that the fight was so well choreographed and directed only draws attention to the horribly boring music accompanying it. Imagine the music of the Kirk/Gorn fight during this scene, though modernized for contemporary sensibilities.

    I was somewhat disappointed in the end as just what I predicted came to pass, the buddy story was fulfilled and the two men came to respect each other and cooperate to get out of the situation. I wish there had been some other twist, something to have it end in a way different from every other buddy story. In that manner, I'd say TNG's "Darmok" did a much better job, by having the Talarian captain die before the episode ends. But I would also like to note that while some call "Dawn" a retread of "Darmok," I don't consider it as such. First of all, the buddy story predates "Darmok" by decades if not centuries, so that "Dawn" uses this trope is more a reliance on classical storytelling than TNG rehash. Secondly, the communication aspect of "Dawn" echoes that of "Darmok" but serves an entirely different function. While "Darmok" was about communication, "Dawn" is about the adversity and the situation itself. "Dawn" is simply a story about Trip getting out of these dire circumstances and having to deal with a belligerent alien foe to do that.

    Despite the fact that the script didn't take an interesting left turn in the end, I was surprisingly moved by the final Sickbay scene b/w Trip and the alien. Although I think it would've been wiser to have Hoshi act as an intermiary to compensate for what should be a still-faltering universal translator. But the story works in the end and as Deus says in his review, it's believeable and makes sense, even if it isn't terribly creative.

    The show also gets bonus points for original starship design, probably one of the best alien cruisers we've seen since the prequel-era Vulcan starships. Keeping Archer's portion to a minimum was also good, since Bakula is still one of the weaker acting links on the show and the "we have made a new friend" thread is a little tired. Hopefully the Arkonians will show up again later, since they invested some good effort into their make-up and ship design.

    When you look at a show like TNG's "The Enemy," however, you do get a different level of sophistication. The sideplot there was Worf and the other Romulan survivor hating each other enough to prevent a transfusion that could've helped the Romulan survive. While I suppose you could say it's upsurd that a Klingon would be a comptible donor for the green-blooded Romulans, that nonetheless was an excellent opposing sideplot to the Geordi story on the surface, which also dealt with the issue of Geordi's blindness being the ultimate savior of the two, something he would've been terminated for before birth in Romulan society. That's at least two more levels than what "Dawn" provides. But in and of itself, "Dawn" is a good prequel story, capitalizing on the fundamentals of the perils of space travel. In the end, I'd say this episode will pay off more if the Arkonians become regular alien visitors and Trip grows out of this experience, to be perhaps a little less naive when it comes to accepting alien species. In many ways, Trip represents the average audience member. He calls the alien's healing spit "vomit" and in previous episodes has not been shy to admit a standoffishness toward "weird aliens." I think that's an excellent prequel characterization, and one worth developing to show us how humanity eventually becomes so evolved and accepting of aliens, no matter how "weird" they are.

    ---

    -Steve Krutzler
    ==V/-/== Rocks

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Dawn of Hope
    By B'Jem ( ) at 02:45:31 on January 10 2003
    URL: | User Info
    To quote a well known source, "In the beginning was the word ..." EVERYthing begins with the writing, and I've come to believe that when B&B are involved, we get "Precious Cargo." When they leave the writing to the pros, we get "Dawn."
    In far too many episodes, Brannon and Braga have made Trip and Archer into adolescent, immature buffoons. Trip was fast becoming one of my least favorite characters. But in this ep, I can believe that he is, indeed, a chief engineer, someone who can THINK his way out of a situation. In the hands of competent writers, Trip and Archer are beginning to redeem themselves.
    Yeah, Deus, I liked this ep, too. One thing, though. Since they're on the metric system, wouldn't they have measured the temperature in celcius?
    .

    ---

    B'Jem

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Good job, Deus
    By Beamer ( ) at 18:48:02 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Good, honest, review (and that's not because you "liked" the episode) that demonstrates the thinking-persons approach that most Trek fans bring to the tube for that one hour of "Boy, I hope tongiht they do it right!".

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    A sigh of relief
    By lemmiwinks ( ) at 18:27:35 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    I have been visiting this site for a few months now, but this is my first posting.

    My sigh of relief comes from the fact that I have been a strong Enterprise supporter, throughout the good times and the bad. But our gallant little ship has been disappointing me so much lately... what with all the easily solved situations, the phenomena that just don't make any sense at all (i loved Catwalk, but c'mon, to avoid the wave, all they had to do was turn the ship vertically and go "down," but alas, i've learned to deal with this problem in logic as all the trek series have had episodes with this flaw), and the sporatic character development. I was never going to give up on this series, but my faith in it was becoming shaken.

    And then God said "let there be light"... and Dawn came... and God saw that it was good... and i was entertained. I was so ready for this episode to suck. How many times have we seen this senario? But Enterprise capitalized on what i think is one of their greatest assets... communication. What makes this series the most different from the others is the inability to communicate with other species. They used this dynamic to the fullest. You could not only sense, but FEEL the frustration between these two strong willed individuals as they battled each other until they both collapsed in exhaustion. AND THEN TRIP THREW THE GUN AWAY AGAIN! I just wanted to stand up and cheer... he's really becoming my favorite character.

    Hey, i don't care if they rehash an old story, as long as they do it well. Hamlet has been through DOZENS of film and stage incarnations, and some of them have been pretty bad, but a lot of them have been good and sometimes a different take on the same story can keep a viewer engaged in ways that an original story never could. I would, though, like to see a lot more original tales from the Enterprise writing folks. Contrary to what a lot of people feel, i think Carbon Creek was one of the top three episodes this show has come out with, and it was a very original story line, so i know the writers have the ability to crank out something good.

    One more thing... i really wish they would go back to the relationship that seemed to be developing between Trip and T'Pol early on in the series (did anybody else notice that?) I don't want to see them immediatly start ripping each other's clothes off, but they seemed to really be intrersted in learning about one another before someone (probably one of the B's) decided that there should be a sexual dynamic between Archer and T'Pol (blech). It was a nice touch to the series, a story arc that had (has) a lot of potential, and would give us a chance to see something develop that wasn't so forced, as the T'Pol/Archer thing feels.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    I agree with Deus...
    By CahnMan ( m2cahn@mindspring.com) at 17:57:37 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    ...this was a great episode, right down to my wife and I shouting back at Trip to stop antagonizing the Arkonian. (After all, that's what we expected out of this show, right?)

    Seriously, though, I was happiest with Dues' review when he mentioned "Enemy Mine". He's right, this episode was right in line with that 1985 movie. If you've never seen it, rent it. It is one of the best science fiction movies I've ever seen precisely because it deals with character development and a relationship similar to the one forged between Trip and the Arkonian.

    If you want to know more about "Enemy Mine" go here. It's a short review, but will fill you in on the major plot points.

    Anyway, "Dawn" was definitely one of the better ones this season. It leaves with some hope that, as time goes by, the show will improve and we'll end up really seeing how the Federation came to be.


    ---

    Martin L. Cahn

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Boy, do I wish I could agree. . .
    By Michaelj ( ) at 14:12:10 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    . . . but if I were bringing a case to court suggesting that the Trek franchise has been depleted of every drop of creative juice at the script/story level, I would present "Dawn" (along with just about every other second-season Enterprise offering) as exhibit A. What was it that led an entire writing staff to believe that this pointless rehash was worthy of airtime? Even with Deus' review, I still can't imagine.

    If Enterprise's producers want to see how this hoary old plot of "two antagonists learn to work together to overcome adversity" can be made at least marginally interesting, they can watch TNG's "The Enemy" (which at least had the virtue of being uncompromising when dealing with Worf's racism). Then they can check out "Darmok"--a truly wonderful, classic episode featuring a high-concept SF premise and moving performances--and really hang their heads in shame.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    .. great episode ..
    By mooseday ( ) at 13:44:12 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    .. especially after the pathetic writing from most of this season. With this one and Catwalk maybe the season is heading towards ending on a high. Just hope is doesn't end on a crap 2 parter ( why can't they write a decent part II? ).

    This episode managed to avoid most of the cliches I was expecting from the preview ( like making gunpowder :) ), and the fight after Trips speech was great. I also loved the Mary had a little lamb part with the voice recording, and the fact the transported wasn't used as a cheap get out clause. SFX were good, music was good and the direction was excellent.

    Sure there were one or too plot holes but if the story is gripping or involving enough, who care? ( Though why they didn't transport water or shelter down did bug me a bit )

    ---

    "He dipped his toes in the pools of normality, then went back to bask on insanity beach" - Aquafibio

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    shrug
    By dropdeadnelix ( ) at 13:34:57 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info

    While I find Deus' review generally on the nose. I just can't work up the enthusiasm for this ep that others have. I feel that it was just okay.

    I was encouraged by some marginally more interesting writing, decent acting and solid direction...but other than that, I guess I just have to say shrug and say, "It was okay."

    PS

    Wasn't Trip's near death speech about what he has seen on his voayages something of a Blade Runner rip off?

    ALSO

    Why were they on Enterprise at the end? Didn't Trip give them the modifications for the aliens shuttlecraft? Why would the alien be on the Enterprise at the end and not on his own ship?

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Dues hits it on the head again
    By Tbar ( tbar@divertigo.com) at 09:41:18 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    I agree with Dues in every way on this review. I thought this was a great episode, reminicent of TNG and even TOS. I was very impressed with the fact that they didn't let Trip and the alien become friends on the planet or find a way to communicate. The fighting was an excellent addition to really show the lack of established understanding between the two and above all the addition of water that Trip couldn't drink and food that the alien wouldn't eat was a nice touch. Too often Trek aliens have too many human nuances.

    This episode is what I expect from Enterprise.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    another quality episode
    By Weyune ( ) at 09:20:40 on January 09 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Well, after waiting since Tuesday night to read this review, I am pleasantly surprised. O.D. I msut congradulate you on a steller review. I could not agree more with your thoughts on "Dawn".

    I really enjoyed this episode in every way. You hit the nail on the head with your analysis. Great directing, great writing, there was no quick-fix solution, and of course with Trip there was great acting.

    All in all, I would rate this episode a 10. There might have been other episodes that I may have enjoyed more, but due to the quality in every aspect of this one, it has to be a 10.

    ---

    "This man thinks like me"

    -- Rico the Columbian Drug Lord, in "Crocodile Dundee II"

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]