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Star Trek: Enterprise – Two Days and Two Nights (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

To be fair to Two Days and Two Nights, the episode itself isn’t a bad idea.

The stronger episodes of the first season have been those willing to allow the cast a bit of room to define their characters, luxuriating in the human side of mankind’s first real adventure to the stars. Episodes like Breaking the IceCold Front and Shuttlepod One were all built around character moments and interactions, featuring relaxed plotting that left room for the cast to develop their roles.

"So I'm coolin' at a bar, and I'm lookin' for some action.  But like Mike Jagger said, I can't get no satisfaction."

“So I’m coolin’ at a bar, and I’m lookin’ for some action.
But like Mike Jagger said, I can’t get no satisfaction.”

In theory, Two Days and Two Nights does the same thing. Essentially a “holiday episode”, the show features the senior staff of the Enterprise taking two days of vacation time on the surface of Risa. A series of loosely-connected adventures ensue, following members of the main cast as they try to take a break from it all. No points for guessing that very few members of the crew actually get the relaxing vacation they had hoped for.

The problem is that the plot threads all feel a little tired and awkward, coalescing into a Star Trek comedy episode that simply isn’t funny.

It all falls down...

It all falls down…

This isn’t the first time that Star Trek: Enterprise has attempted a comedy episode only to have it misfire spectacularly. Unexpected ranks as one of the most cringe-worthy episodes of the season, and the biggest problem with Acquisition wasn’t the way that it skirted continuity, but the fact that it didn’t contain enough laughs to sustain an hour of comedy. After those two episodes, you’d imagine that the show would be reluctant to place a comedy-heavy hour as the penultimate episode of the season.

And, to be fair to writer Chris Black, Two Days and Two Nights does try to hedge its bets. There are four plotlines going on here: Archer’s romance in the villa; Trip and Reed club hopping; Hoshi’s language training; and Phlox’s treatment of Mayweather’s accident. Only two of those (Trip/Reed and Phlox/Mayweather) are played as out-and-out comedy, with Hoshi’s subplot treated as a rather light holiday romance and Archer getting tangled in a hazily-defined spy story.

All Tuckered out...

All Tuckered out…

Still, there are a number of fundamental problems here, mostly to do with how the comedy plots fail out of the gate. There are a number of reasons for this. The most obvious is that the show struggles with how best to approach comedy. There’s always a sense that Star Trek takes itself a little bit too seriously, and that going for broad comedy might somehow undermine the integrity of the universe. As a result, Two Days and Two Nights never feels like it is swinging for the fences.

At the same time, the jokes underpinning these plots are very old and very familiar. In particular, Trip and Reed manage to find themselves in a story that seems very much like any number of tourist horror stories. Only the fact that they are regulars on the show prevents the punchline from being a sexually transmitted disease or the loss of their kidneys. There’s a healthy amount of trans- or homophobia heaped on tip, with the punchline amounting to how Reed and Trip almost made out with two guys.

Injecting some excitement...

Injecting some excitement…

There’s not anything wrong with the idea of Reed and Trip going clubbing for the purposes of a a one-night stand – seeking out their own “new life forms” – but there is something decidedly creepy about how the show presents it. Reed and Trip look like they are planning their own remake of A Night at the Roxbury, set in the most sterile futuristic dance club in the history of television. There’s a sense – as with a lot of Star Trek – that the show still has no idea how do “sexy” within the franchise framework.

This really shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the franchise has never really managed to make Risa work as a no-holds-barred sexual paradise, in a large part because the Star Trek spin-offs struggle with doing “sexy” within the confines of network television. Unable to be frank about such things, Star Trek has to resort to insinuation and innuendo. This often feels rather juvenile and awkward, like parents trying to talk about sex without their children coping on.

A dog's life...

A dog’s life…

This isn’t a problem unique to Enterprise. After all, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gave us Let He Is Without Sin… set on Risa. The result was one of the worst episodes in the history of the franchise. It goes without saying that Two Days and Two Nights is better, even if it struggles with the same issues. It is very hard to buy Risa as some sort of sexually liberated paradise. Instead, it seems like some sort of family resort. (Both Archer and Hoshi encounter married couples have a wholesome time together.)

That said, this isn’t the only time that Enteprise has brushed against the difficulty of making Star Trek seem “sexy.” From the decontamination sequences in Broken Bow through to Hoshi’s awkward shirtless scene in Shockwave, Part II, the series has struggled to walk the line between “creepy” and “sexy.” It hasn’t been entirely successful, and Reed and Trip’s subplot Two Days and Two Nights pushes the show rather firmly into the “creepy” category once again.

Stargazing...

Stargazing…

There are some mitigating factors here. The show does try to be an equal-opportunities offender when it comes to sexualising its characters. Trip got to save the ship in his underwear in Acquisition, while Desert Crossing features shirtless male sporting activities in the desert. Also, the “Reed and Trip try to get some” subplot is juxtaposed against the more romantic subplot involving Hoshi and her one night stand.

It’s a nice attempt, but it doesn’t quite work. While the Reed and Trip subplot confuses “creepy” with “sexy”, Hoshi’s subplot confuses “boring” with “romantic.” There’s also the rather unfortunate way that Two Days and Two Nights plays into gender stereotypes. Reed and Trip are stereotypically masculine men, eagerly seeking sex, while Hoshi is more traditionally feminine, seeking a more meaningful connection.

They're nightclubbing. Bright light clubbing.

They’re nightclubbing.
Bright light clubbing.

(Still, it is nice to have a Hoshi-centric subplot that doesn’t involve her having a crisis of self-doubt or running around on personal errands from the captain. Hoshi is the one member of the senior staff who manages to spend her entire trip on Risa without getting into any trouble, and the one person who returns from her holiday genuinely refreshed. It’s a nice twist for a character who has had a pretty rough season.)

Speaking of gender stereotypes, it is worth noting that Two Days and Two Nights continues the aggressive assertion of Malcolm Reed’s heterosexuality… well, mostly. To be fair to Chris Black’s script, there’s a sense that Two Days and Two Nights is being rather playful in its portrayal of Malcolm Reed. When they walk into the bar, Malcolm’s first instinct is to flirt with an androgynous alien. “I don’t think she is the right pronoun, but if you think it’s worth the risk,” Trip concedes.

"Remember, whenever you meet an alien that doesn't conform to your expectations... freak out!"

“Remember, whenever you meet an alien that doesn’t conform to your expectations… freak out!”

Similarly, the episode emphasises that Reed is just following Trip’s lead. “You think this is my fault?” Trip asks after the two are tied up. Reed responds, “You were willing to follow two strange aliens into a basement.” After defending his decision, Trip eventually points out, “I don’t remember twisting your arm.” It makes it clear that Reed is very much the follower rather than the leader. It seems like Reed is quite eager to blend in with his fellow officers, and much of his macho boasting can be read as nothing more than awkward posturing.

As such, it is telling that the first thing Reed is worried about after the mugging is how this will look. He’s worried about maintaining appearances and his reputation. “If we don’t make it to the loading zone on time, they’re going to start scanning for our biosigns. Do you want the Captain to find us like this?” With that in mind, Reed’s entire trip to Risa with Trip could be seen as an attempt to keep up appearances, over-compensating somewhat.

Sleeping on it...

Sleeping on it…

The episode’s other comedy subplot involves a jumble of characters not tied up in other plotlines. When Mayweather is injured while rock-climbing, T’Pol is forced to wake Phlox to treat the young navigator’s injuries. The results are entirely predictable – John Billingsley is given the freedom to go off the rails a bit, to play the broadest sort of comedy imaginable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as it might.

John Billingsley is a fantastic performer. He might just be the best member of the ensemble. That said, even he struggles as he attempts to navigate a collection of stock “mad doctor” clichés. Awoken from his hibernation early, Phlox becomes completely unhinged. He shouts inappropriate things, changes mood rapidly, and occasionally randomly collapses. These are stock physical comedy tropes, and – while Billingsley does the best that he can with the material – they ultimately feel a little tired.

Her bark is worse than her bite...

Her bark is worse than her bite…

It feels like a subplot constructed from left over bits and pieces, because Two Days and Two Nights was intended to be an ensemble showcase for the series. So Mayweather is reduced to a stock patient, with little real interest in his character or motivations. Tying him into the plot thread is just the most effective way of constructing an episode focusing on the ensemble. Any other character on the show – including a one-shot guest star – could fill that niche.

Which brings us, finally, to Archer’s subplot. The idea of a quiet mass-produced middle-class holiday villa on Risa sits rather awkwardly with the image of Risa presented in Trip and Reed’s subplot. It is as if Two Days and Two Nights is struggling to decide whether Risa should be presented as Florida or Ibiza. Despite the fact that this is a vacation episode, Archer spends most of the episode on the villa set – creating a sense that he has simply traded one cramped and confined environment for another.

He's sleeping on it...

He’s sleeping on it…

To be fair, there are budgetary reasons for this. Towards the end of the first season, Enterprise did need to save money. That was the reason that the show produced so many bottle shows like Vox Sola or Shuttlepod One or even Fallen Hero. This budget issue explains why Risa looks so generic. Even within the episode, it seems like most of the budget was spent on Trip and Reed’s club-hobbing, leaving the other subplots short-changed.

Still, even with that in mind, Archer’s subplot is incredibly uneven. It feels like a tribute to the very first Risa episode – Captain’s Holiday from Star Trek: The Next Generation – with our hero trying to enjoy a quiet holiday only to get entangled with a mysterious and beautiful woman. Although hamstrung by the fact that it plays out on a single set, there is potential here for an interesting little story. Archer may not be as unconventional a romantic lead as Captain Picard, but he could use a romantic adventure story.

"Yep, it's definitely a plot contrivance..."

“Yep, it’s definitely a plot contrivance…”

Unfortunately, things get muddled rather quickly. It is revealed that the beautiful woman in the villa next door is just pumping him for information about the Suliban. The sequence is ridiculously and gloriously unsubtle, as it elevates from mild flirtation to attempted info-dump quite quickly. “I want you to tell me what you know,” Keyla insists. “Where are their Helixes? Where do they live?” There’s a sense that the plot thread might work with a slower boil, but it just goes from zero to crazy too fast.

Again, it’s nice to have a continuity link to Detained. It is good to know that the writers haven’t forgotten about those earlier adventures, and it’s interesting to see that Archer’s decisions may have consequences beyond what he intended at the time. There is a healthy sense of internal continuity here. The problem is that the delivery is somewhat ham-fisted and the show struggles to offer any real dramatic pay-off to the plot.

T'Pol goes by the book...

T’Pol goes by the book…

Black’s teleplay creates a sense of mystery around Keyla and her motivations. Is she a government agent? Is she pursuing a personal vendetta? Does she actually know Grat? It’s nice to have a few unanswered questions hanging over the end of the episode. However, it just draws attention how poorly developed the Suliban and the Tandarans actually are – how little the audience knows (or even cares) about them at this point in the run of Enterprise.

“How do you fight something you can’t even see?” Keyla asks during her rambling rant. “I was told that they take their orders from the future.” She clarifies, “All their genetic enhancements, they were taught to do that by someone from the distant future.” When Archer asks how she knows this, she replies, “It’s no secret. They’ve attacked dozens of ships, settlements. But where do they come from? Where do they live?”

Reach out and touch somebody...

Reach out and touch somebody…

These are all good questions, and the audience actually has no real answer to these. We know very little about Suliban culture outside the fact that they are nomads who took to the cosmos following the destruction of their homeworld centuries ago. We have no idea of their traditions or their heritage. The same is true of the Tandarans. We have no idea about who the Tandarans are, outside of their hatred of the Suliban.

So the revelation that Keyla is a Tandaran feels clunky. Like Mayweather’s injury, it’s a specific detail that doesn’t really add anything to the plot beyond filling a gap in the plot. After drugging Archer, Keyla responds, “I’m sorry. You’ve been very kind to me. I’m going to check out now. I can’t have you interfering.” Interfering in what? We never see Keyla or the Tandarans again. Two Days and Two Nights teases the idea that the Tandarans might become a more important race, but it ultimately feels rather pointless.

Let him sleep it off...

Let him sleep it off…

It is rather interesting that Risa was chosen as the location of choice for Two Days and Two Nights. According to an interview with writer Chris Black in The Star Trek Communicator, the writers had considered using Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet for the story. Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet had been mentioned a few times in the original Star Trek show, and might have made for a nice continuity connection.

Ultimately, it was decided to use Risa, which would become another example of how Enterprise seemed to connect more readily with The Next Generation than with the original Star Trek. Ironically enough, there is some internal continuity that suggests Risa makes sense. In Captain’s Holiday, Riker mentions Risa is on the way to Starbase 12. In Power Play, it is revealed that Starbase 12 existed in the twenty-second century, suggesting the region may have been reasonably well-charted. (Ah, continuity porn!)

Bedfellows...

Bedfellows…

Despite the problems with Two Days and Two Nights, there are some nice touches. Connor Trineer and Dominic Keating play well off one another, even if the subplot itself is terrible. It’s also great to get a sense of the support staff working on the Enterprise, with Two Days and Two Nights featuring a couple of recurring junior officers like Cutler and Roslov. Given the relatively small crew compliment on the ship, it would be nice to develop some familiar faces to round out the supporting cast. Although Enterprise already has a pretty rich selection of supporting characters, none are on the ship itself.

Sadly, it is the last appearance for both Cutler and Roslov, as the show falls back on anonymous crew members and familiar extras for the next year or so. This is a rather unfortunate choice, as it forces the show to build up a developing recurring cast from scratch during the third season. However, it’s arguably just one example of how the second season of Enterprise seems to throw away some of the solid groundwork developed during the first season of the show.

A little tied up...

A little tied up…

Two Days and Two Nights is a misfire of a show. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but it’s an episode where the execution isn’t up to scratch.

You might be interested in our other reviews of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise:

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6 Responses

  1. Aha, an ENT episode covered by The Agony Booth. In fact I think it was one of the first.

    This is an easy target: a Risa episode. I think Trek has a similar relationship to sex as those old daytime soap operas. They’ll acknowledge the existence of it… and maybe even muster up an innuendo or two… but at the end of the day, they still refer to it as “making love” and only allow it under ritualized conditions. Candelabras are mandatory.

    • It’s weird. Two Days would not be my default pick for Worst Enterprise Episode. It’s no Unexpected, Terra Nova, Precious Cargo, Bounty, Extinction, Exile or Bound.

      Funny though. While A Night In Sickbay has a lot of serious problems, I actually appreciate that it tries to talk about sex – even in an awkward “your dad trying to be cool” sort of way. But it’s weird how Enterprise tries to up the sex content while still being irrationally terrified of sexuality.

      • Looking at it in the context of previous Risa episodes… I think Gene was the only writer interested in talking about sex! 😀 (A stopped clock moment for Gene! ‘Attaboy.) You’ve seen this for yourself, of course. In every Risa episode, the crew flies over for some cheap sex and thrills and ends up being humiliated in some fashion.

        Actually, now that you mention it, “Let He Who Is Without Sin” is another punching bag. I actually like that episode quite a lot! Worf is portrayed as being behind the times, and the villains are “Essentials” who frown on the rampant polyamory (and yes, even pansexuality) going on around the beach.

      • On paper, Let He Who is Without Sin… should be the best Risa episode ever. On paper a lot of it works quite well – sexual freedom, liberation, tolerance. Even the idea of Worf having learned repression from the fact that humans are very easy to break makes sense. It is the execution of those ideas that doesn’t work. “Worf joins a bunch of stupid terrorists on vacation” is the point at which that idea needed to go back to the drawing board.

  2. Ah, geeze. “Naive tourists get rolled” is a story so old that trilobites used to tell it to one another during the Early Cambrian era. They send the crew to a planet that’s the meeting place of many different cultures, and THAT’S the best they can come up with?

    I realize that this episode is (supposed to be) a comedy, but surely they could have come up with something more interesting — and more Trekkian — than “naive tourists get rolled.” I can imagine a variety of local customs that could make Our Heroes very uncomfortable, if you want the kind of broad humor that this episode indulges in. Or I could imagine local customs that could teach a variety of lessons, if you want to go for morality play kind of Trek.

    And really, if these people are the ones who made it through Starfleet Academy, what are the REST of Earth’s people like? Is Starfleet Academy a discredited institution that only gets the dregs? Did those Eugenics Wars kill off all the smart people? But that doesn’t explain the writers, does it?

    *sigh*

    It was nice to see Hoshi getting to practice her languages and to talk with someone about languages. I really didn’t care for the “humor” with Phlox — just who on the writing staff thought this would be funny?

    I’ve been trying not to blame the actors for deficiencies in the scripts, so I’ve been assuming that Anthony Montgomery is bland and boring because the scripts give him little to do. But in this episode, he got to enthuse about climbing mountains and got to be very ill, and he was STILL bland and boring. I imagine if Trip had had the exact same lines that Travis did, Connor Trinneer would have made those lines sizzle.

    • Yep. Montgomery… is not the strongest actor. Which I feel kinda bad saying, because every interview with the guy makes it seem like he was really into it and was really energised and really trying. He seems like a genuinely nice person.

      And Enterprise at this point really needs a stronger set of writers, or at least somebody with whom Brannon Braga can share script editing duties. That said, I think the third and fourth seasons do have a much stronger writing bench. But, yeah… it doesn’t have a Coon or a Fontana, or the TNG braintrust or the DS9 writing room. It doesn’t even have a Bryan Fuller or a Michael Taylor.

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