Reviews Sans Deus
Editor's Note: O. Deus remains unable to be with us this week so TrekWeb's book reviewer and contributor Bill Williams is filling in once again.
Written by Bill Williams, edited by Steve Krutzler
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
Synopsis: When the crew rescues injured survivors from a Denobulan
colony on a distant planet, one of the scientists turns out to be an
enemy of the Denobulan race, forcing Phlox to confront his own long-time
Review: From the moment I saw the original preview for this episode, I
felt that it had something special, a strength that
would force the character of Dr. Phlox to the forefront. I was also fearing,
at the same time, a redux of the classic TNG episode "The Enemy", in
which Worf had to confront his bigotry toward the Romulans. Thankfully,
this is one episode that comes off much stronger in the final execution than originally thought.
"The Breach" showcases John Billingsley in his strongest effort to date,
bringing out the best and even the worst in the character of Dr. Phlox.
The script by co-executive producers Chris Black and John Shiban, from a
story by Daniel McCarthy, is tense in all the right places and shows the
viewers a side of Phlox that we have always suspected lay dormant in the
character. Thanks to the script, Billingsley's acting, and the direction
by Robert Duncan McNeill (VOYAGER's Tom Paris), we now see Phlox as
more than just the comic sage.
McNeill, Black, and Shiban have brought wonderful little touches to "The
Breach," even in the prologue, which brings back the return of a
long-time fan favorite alien species we have not seen in the past seven
years on STAR TREK. Who would have suspected that one of the alien
lizards in Phlox's "kennel" likes tribbles for snack food? Perhaps Phlox
has a Klingon lizard in his lab. A nice touch that brings out both shock
and comic value in the opening moments of the episode.
But the potential of "The Breach" really begins to kick in during the
first act. As the Enterprise crew intercepts a decaying freighter
departing a planet that has been home to a group of Denobulan colonists,
one of the survivors of the freighter accident, an Antaran scientist
(played by Henry Stram) is brought into Sickbay, much to the dismay of
Phlox. Archer has to convince Phlox that the Antaran patient has to be
treated for his injuries, and during this exchange we begin to see the
volcano within Phlox's past start to simmer. Either he abides by his
medical training, or he winds up in the brig. At this point the episode
seems to hint at a suggestive nod to TNG's "The Enemy," but luckily, not for
Phlox reluctantly agrees to treat his patient and during the second
half of the episode we see the bigotry between Denobulans and Antarans
surface once again. We know sooner or later that Phlox had to have a
major breaking point underneath the surface and the Antaran patient
brings it out of Phlox. Does he go against his captain's wishes and let
the patient refuse medical treatment and die, or does he go first and
foremost with his medical training in doing the right thing? Thus lies
both the internal conflict with Phlox's commitment to the Hippocratic
oath, and the equally internal bigotry he has been raised with ever
since his childhood. This sense of bigotry, of training one race to hate
another simply because "they're not like us," has been an eternal issue
since the dawn of mankind, and the attempt to overcome it has been a core struggle often explored in fiction. That has been part of what made STAR TREK successful in the 1960s, that man would overcome his hatred and
bigotry and reach for something higher. This philosophy is embraced once again with this episode, as Phlox shows both the
Antaran scientist and himself that sometimes it takes one bold step away
from the past to reach for the future. Phlox admits, "There are still
Denobulans who fear Antarans," and this fear has caused a rift between
him and one of his sons with whom he hasn't spoken in ten years. Both
men make a decision that hopefully will show promise for both races, a
decision that will hopefully be explored again in the future.
The B-story, focusing on the rescue of three Denobulan
scientists trapped underneath the planet's surface, carries an equal
amount of tension, as Trip and Malcolm fight to convince the Denobulans
to leave the planet before the Xantorian government discovers and
executes them. The scientists are reluctant to leave; all that matters
to them, over their lives, is their research. This rescue
attempt causes further tension between Archer and the Xantorian governor
who is willing to break his own agreement and have the scientists
executed. It's good to see Archer not back down one inch in this
episode, both with the Xantorian governor and with Dr. Phlox. Much
better acting this time around from Scott Bakula; this is what Archer is
capable of and what he can become if given smarter scripts that allow
him more action than being the weekly "whipping boy" of the show.
The only downside to this episode is its the brevity. At only 40 minutes, this episode could have run longer if the
B-plot been removed, had it been 45 or even 50 minutes, and had it been
a two-person drama between Phlox and the Antaran scientist, a la one of
the finest DS9 episodes ever, "Duet." It was reported in a
recent interview that McNeill had to fill out the
episode's original running length by a good eight minutes, and in a rare
case this actually benefits "The Breach," as the B-plot possesses just as much
drama to it as the A-plot. Had this been a longer episode
with just the single story, this would have still been a winner. But the
B-plot holds it own ably well throughout.
Able direction, smart scriptwriting that harkens back to the goals of
the original STAR TREK, and a solid performance from John Billingsley
that transforms Dr. Phlox into a richer character, makes "The
Breach" a sorely needed success for ENTERPRISE.
9 out of 10
Next week: "Cogenitor" - The crew meets a multi-sexual race that brings
out close encounters of the sexual kind.
ENTERPRISE "The Breach" Poll
How do you rate the latest episode in comparison to the best and the worst of all previous STAR TREK episodes?
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.