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"The Breach" Boosts ENT With Thoughtful Story Harkening Back to Classic TREK, Says Guest Reviewer Bill Williams

PROMENADE





Posted: 00:38:14 on April 24 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: ENTERPRISE Reviews
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

"The Breach"

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 hatred.

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 long.

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.

Rating:

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?
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
  • "The Breach" (Williams)
  • "Horizon" (Williams)
  • "Judgment"
  • "The Crossing"
  • "Canamar"
  • "Future Tense"
  • "Cease Fire"
  • "Stigma"
  • "Dawn"
  • "The Catwalk"
  • "Precious Cargo"
  • "Vanishing Point"
  • "Singularity"
  • "The Communicator"
  • "The Seventh"
  • "Marauders"
  • "A Night In Sickbay"
  • "Dead Stop"
  • React to this story below and see what others are saying at the STAR TREK BBS.
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    TREKWEB TALKBACK
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    Is it me?
    By Captain Chris ( ) at 12:28:06 on April 28 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Is it just me, or has no one else noticed that the only person on board the Enterprise experienced in rock climing is a "boomer"? I would expect that the first time Travis Mayweather ever even saw real dirt would have been when he joined Star Fleet and went to the acadamy on earth, as an adult.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Disagree. "Breach" another superficial ENT
    By Steve Krutzler ( s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 15:54:29 on April 27 2003
    URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
    Finally watched my "Breach" tape. After all the positive buzz I certainly didn't find the episode at all above the usual, predictable ENT fare. The episode screams of mediocrity for several reasons. First of all, the two plots have no thematic link. They are only tied together in plot and in the end the two storylines do not merge and do not help bring about any larger meaning for the episode. The TNG model, obviously "The Enemy," is an example of doing this story properly. In that case, the sideplot of Worf and the Romulan needing his DNA (or whatever) paralleled the Geordi/Romulan plot on the planet. While Worf and the Romulan in Sickbay could not put apart their hatred, Geordi and the Romulan on the surface had to put their hatred aside to survive. In the end we are not left with simplistic situation in which all the hard problems have been resolved, but rather a dual situation in which understanding is possible but hatred is still very potent.

    Yet here the story of the geologists had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the story between Phlox and his Antaran patient. Furthermore, the conflict b/w Phlox and his patient was reduced to mere talking heads. In "The Enemy" the script SHOWED differences by noting that Geordi, a blind man, would have been terminated if born a Romulan, and yet it was his visor technology that allowed them to escape the planet. But here we are simply treated to some standard lines about preconceptions (even bluntly using the word itself twice) and blind hatred. Also, there is never any reason given why Phlox managed to see beyond his grandmother's tales of "evil Antarans." Phlox speaks of his son Metis being "seduced" by those who would hate Antarans, yet he never explained how he himself escaped the teachings of his elders and learned that Antarans shouldn't be judged unfairly. This is the first Antaran that Phlox has ever met, so on what basis did he know better than to heed his "archaic" upbringing?

    Additionally, in the end Phlox gives his patient a speech, which easily convinces the man to let Phlox operate. This is utterly pedestrian and uncompelling. In "The Enemy," Worf lets the Romulan patient die and this builds Worf's character because it is something many humans (of the 24th century) would never have done and considered illogical. Picard was most unhappy. But this built Worf's character as a Klingon and it let the story end in a way that was both unpredictable and compelling.

    Why not have Phlox realize the err in his ways and decide to set an example by operating on the patient according to Archer's orders and WITHOUT the patient's consent? Then save the conversation with the Antaran about "setting better examples" for when he wakes up, expecting to have died the last time he went to sleep. Have the Antaran scream about being violated and then have Phlox say something like, "The decision was not your's to make. I am a doctor, I heal the sick, and I wanted to set a better example for my children. Maybe you can do the same, but if not, at least I will not bear the fault of having never tried to heal the wounds between our peoples."

    THAT would have demonstrated to both the audience and the patient that indeed Phlox is different from what is expected. The Antaran expects Phlox to let him die to adhere to his own ethical principles. But if he wakes up to learn that Phlox defied his principles to save his life, then it may have been believeable that the Antaran would start to change his notions about Denobulans. Or better yet, as someone on the BBS mentioned, why not have the Antaran attack Phlox after being operated on and Phlox have to kill him in self-defense? That would've tied in with Phlox's earlier discussion about how he had never killed anyone and wasn't personally responsible for past war deaths, AND with the patient's line that "now was his chance" to finally kill an Antaran. Imagine the angst for Phlox in a final conversation with T'Pol after having resumed a 300-year old war through no fault of his own and having Antaran blood on his hands... but yet again, ENT has to deliver a peachy, talking-heads, easy resolution with no chances, no daring, no surprises and nothing to compel the viewer.

    Even within "The Breach"'s utterly simplistic plot progression, things like Trip threatening to carry out four (or three?) Denobulan adults hogtied through caves and up cliffs was just laughable. Not to mention how easily Trip convinced them to come. Why not use a phase pistol to make the point?

    For me "The Breach" is just yet another example of how ENT has a lot of potential yet squanders it at nearly every opportunity. The writing just simply lacks any sort of depth or conviction. On ENT, everything is exactly as it seems and there is no heavy thinking required. There are rarely multi-faceted connections between events, plots or actions. "The Breach" had the potential to be very powerful but in the end, as with most ENT eps, it amounts to little more than a 5th grade-level after school special preaching morals with simple language and poop jokes.


    ---

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

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Good, but...
    By Noxmagic ( ) at 00:01:23 on April 27 2003
    URL: | User Info
    ...I'm still somehow disappointed with The Breach. While for the most part I agree with Bill Williams' review, I found this episode to have a rushed feel overall. This seems to be happening a lot lately with Ent., and I guess it has to do with, from what I've read at this site, Paramount giving each episode only 40 minutes of actual airtime. There were two areas where I found The Breach to be especially rushed. The first instance was how quickly Trip was able to convince the Denobulan scientists to abandon their work and leave the cave where they had been working. In one scene we go from the leader of the scientists insisting that they would rather risk death than leave what they believed to be the best chance they would ever have to fulfill their life's work, to, in the next scene after a commercial break, agreeing to leave their work behind, perhaps forever, because Trip verbally abuses them a little. The second instance where The Breach feels terribly rushed are the scenes where Phlox and the Antaran quickly move from A) total shock at being the first of their respective species to see someone from the other race in generations, and B) totally hating eachother, to deciding they can get along after all. While it was wonderful to finally have another Phlox episode (due in no small part to John Billingsley's acting talent) I found it unrealistic for the Antaran to accept him as quickly as he did (keep in mind he was initially willing to die before allowing Phlox to treat him).
    Overall, however, The Breach was a quality episode, definitely one I would rate at least a little above average. Besides seeing more of Phlox, it was nice to see Mayweather really prove his worth (somehow, in the limited amount of airtime he had in The Breach, he came off better than he did in his own episode a few weeks ago...go figure). I just wish TPTB would realize two things. First, churning out an episode or two a season showcasing the usually ignored characters isn't enough to make Ent. fans care about them, and secondly, 40 minutes per episode isn't enough time for what is supposed to be an hour long drama to truly unfold. Even an extra 5 minutes would probably do wonders.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Saw it; loved it!
    By Hbasm ( ) at 15:48:36 on April 25 2003
    URL: http://home3.inet.tele.dk/huas/st_enterprise/ENT-page1.htm | User Info
    This was a very pleasing episode.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Denobulan scientists???
    By Locutus ( ) at 14:24:50 on April 24 2003
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    While the A-plot was absolutely superb, I found the Denobulan scientists to be absolutely abysmal. Both in how they were characterized by the writers and how they were acted.

    They should have given the scientists position more merit. "This is my life's work! and I'm not going to leave it now." or else, "My research here could save thousands of lives on Denobula and for that I am willing to risk everything!". A little more emotion would have been warranted. I felt as if they acquiesced a little too quickly. Instead their conflict was reduced to a couple of annoying scientists who are too anal about their work--"Leave me alone! I need to collect more rock samples!".

    The A-plot by far compensates for my nitpicking though. Great job!

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Better
    By NAFF ( NATHANGSHARP@HOTMAIL.COM) at 11:53:19 on April 24 2003
    URL: | User Info
    A better episode. Phlox proves once again he is the best thing about this show.

    There was high excitement in my household as Trip, Mayweather and Malcolm (three of the worst characters in Trek history) looked like they would plunge to their deaths. Sadly, they survived.

    There was also great pleasure at the Tribble guest-spot. A pity it could not have stayed on as Captain.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Good episode. Good review.
    By Akita1999 ( ) at 08:47:31 on April 24 2003
    URL: | User Info
    I thought that "Breaches" was an excellent episode. Although there were similarities to some past Trek episodes, namely "Enemy" and "Duet," "Breaches" had plenty of gravitas to stand on its own merit. As the review points out, the performances (particularly Billingsley), script, and direction were world class. Enterprise could be a very satisfy Trek experience if more episodes were like last night's.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Travis
    By dropdeadnelix ( ) at 08:45:41 on April 24 2003
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    I learned more about Travis in this ep than I did in Horizons. I really felt tthe B plot fleshed out his character a good deal more...not to mention he showed a great deal of toughness and courage.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    40 minutes??
    By Yorik ( ) at 04:53:02 on April 24 2003
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    Are Enterprise episodes only forty minutes long? The original series had episodes of about fifty minutes, didn't they? So that's a whole act less to tell a story!

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Feeding Phlox's Pets
    By Snails ( ) at 04:42:31 on April 24 2003
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    Now if only Phlox's pets ate people who's last names began with the letter B

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    The only...
    By Rat Boy ( ) at 00:11:26 on April 24 2003
    URL: | User Info
    ...highlights of this episode were Billingsley and that damn tribble. The rest of it was pure Voyager dreck. It seems like the past month of episodes were "Been there, done that" sort of events. And next week doesn't promise anything new and exciting.

    Score: 5

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    I agree
    By Avilos ( ) at 23:56:39 on April 23 2003
    URL: | User Info
    What I really liked was we see Phlox's personal history. That his Grandmother told him how awful Antarans were and differences of opinion on this issue caused him and his son to stop talking. I belive there was some previous mention of his bad relationship with his son in "Stigma" too. It was also very unique that on his planet, doctors will only help patients with their consent.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Finally
    By Hunter ( ) at 23:39:57 on April 23 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Now that's more like it!

    I have to admit it - the preview didn't have me eager to tune in to this one. Of course, I always try to watch anyway, I just wasn't expecting anything special. Man, was I wrong. The acting, the plotlines, even the music - it was all right on the money. I loved this episode. It felt like Star Trek again. Real Star Trek.

    John Billingsley is never disappointing. Sometimes the material he has to work with is - but he never misses a beat. He and Trineer are the best things to happen to Star Trek in a while. But I have to give it up for the rest of the cast this week too - everyone did an exceptional job. McNeil - when I was watching I had no idea who had directed this episode but the pace and the editing and the camera angles were just fine. Looks like the Voyager team (Dawson/McNeil) are very good at piloting the Enterprise. The writers, of course, did a great job bringing both a great A AND B plot together in the same show, the way it should be. Keep it up guys and - to everyone behind the scenes (aka, the guys at desks), take note, this is good TV and good Trek - bookmark this episode for future reference.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    • Here Here by Willieboy65 @ 09:56:21 ET on 24 Apr