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Star Trek: Enterprise – Impulse (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 August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Impulse is a Star Trek zombie story.

It might sound absurd, but it works very well. After all, the Star Trek franchise rooted in pulp space horror, with extended stretches of the original show portraying space as haunted. In some ways, Impulse could be seen as a logical extension of Regeneration from late in the second season. Both episodes are very much modelled on the classic zombie horror movie formula, both deal with how traditional Star Trek morality applies to that formula, and both are even directed by veteran Star Trek producer David Livingston, who brings a nice kinetic feel to the adventures.

Dead space...

Dead space…

Impulse works a lot better than it really should. There are some plotting issues created by the secondary storyline grafted into the episode, and the show doesn’t quite develop its Vulcan themes as well as it might. However, it compensates for these issues with an incredible sense of energy and momentum. The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise might be the first season of Star Trek to be seriously facing cancellation in decades, but it had an entirely new lease on life.

Impulse is a bold and exciting piece of television, one that feel vital and urgent. It recaptures some of the appeal of the new status quo that had been somewhat squandered by Extinction and Rajiin.

Reed shirt...

Reed shirt…

Zombies enjoyed something of a resurgence in the early years of the twenty-first century. As Peter Dendle observed in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia:

The last zombie movie with any reasonable budget or visible distribution had been Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, and the home videography efforts being distributed on VHS tapes in the 1990s – and then on DVD in the 2000s – did not seem to presage vitality for the mainstream possibilities for the creature as a whole.

All that changed in 2002 with 28 Days Later and Resident Evil. The appearance of a gritty horror hilm forsaking camp or comedy on one hand, and of a slick, visually appealing video-game rendition targeting broader audience on the other, opened the floodgates for a resurgence that no one saw coming. Those films did not cause the resurgence – too much zombie activity was going on in grassroots popular culture all around to reduce the phenomenon to such precise causality – but they certainly poured gasoline onto the fire. Then Max Brooks’ bestselling book The Zombie Survival Guide appeared, making the idea of apocalypse survivalism a fun, vivid and participatory exercise of the imagination. Shortly afterwards, the films Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead cemented the commercial and popular appeal of the creature, and this is when zombie movies again started appearing in droves.

Airing in October 2003, Impulse arrived quite early in that cycle – less than a year after 28 Days Later and five months before the remake of Dawn of the Dead and the parody Shawn of the Dead.

Running through corridors...

Running through corridors…

It is hard to imagine a pop culture landscape that was not saturated by zombies, but Enterprise was relatively quick on the draw when it came to spotting the trend and capitalising on that trend. To be fair, Impulse was not the first zombie story that the franchise had produced – one of the many takes on the Borg over the years had been “techno-zombies.” In fact, Star Trek: First Contact had found box office success by capitalising on that facet of the Borg. The influence of First Contact on Impulse is keenly felt – right down the “it’s a dream; it’s another dream” ending.

Indeed, Regeneration had enjoyed considerable success in exploring the idea of the Borg as zombies – as a relatively weak and low-key threat that had the power to consume and convert their enemies. It worked really well, helping to reinvent the Borg for the twenty-first century. Impulse could be considered something of a spiritual successor to Regeneration, an episode that realises the appeal of doing a more straightforward zombie horror thriller without all the continuity baggage that comes with using iconic aliens like the Borg.

Truly monstrous...

Truly monstrous…

Of course, Impulse belongs in an even broader context of Star Trek horror. Although the spin-offs tended to emphasise it a bit less, the original Star Trek show had a very strong and pulpy vibe to it. The Man Trap was the very first episode of Star Trek to air, essentially written as a space!vampire story. Indeed, the two pilots – The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before – portrayed space as a truly horrifying environment haunted by macabre monsters. Christopher Pike could not trust his perception, while James R. Kirk had to murder his best friend.

There were points in the original Star Trek where Kirk seemed to be exploring the universe of H.P. Lovecraft, where the galaxy was nothing but an expansive graveyard haunted by the linger spectres of long-dead alien civilisations. The scripts of Robert Bloch – What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Catspaw and Wolf in the Fold – make this suggestion rather overt. However, unspoken cosmic horror lurks in episodes like The Squire of Gothos, Obsession and The Immunity Syndrome. The universe was often dark and full of terrors, to paraphrase George R. R. Martin.

"They're here..."

“They’re here…”

Although they were reluctant to embrace horror tropes as readily as the original show, the spin-offs would also attempt their hand at horror. Working on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, Brannon Braga was a huge fan of pulpy trashy horror – look at episodes like Schisms, Sub Rosa, Genesis, Microcosm, Darkling. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the production staff would offer up Empok Nor as a tribute to old-school slasher films. So Impulse is not unprecedented by any stretch of the imagination.

This brings up an interesting aspect of the third and fourth seasons of Enterprise. The show had struggled to figure out its relationship to the classic Star Trek series during its first two seasons. It often felt like a bridge between First Contact and The Next Generation, seeming a little uncomfortable with all the goofiness and kitsch associated with James Tiberius Kirk. As with Deep Space Nine, there was a sense that you could mention a lot more than you could show. The Tholians could be heard in Future Tense, but not seen.

Rocking his world...

Rocking his world…

The fourth season of Enterprise provides a number of clear bridges to the original Star Trek, with Borderland featuring an army of genetically-modified supermen and Affliction explaining the Klingons lost thier ridges. In fact, In a Mirror, Darkly not only rebuilds the iconic Star Trek sets, but also serves as a prequel to Mirror, Mirror and a sequel to The Tholian Web. However, while the fourth season provides a series of strong continuity ties to the original Star Trek show, the third season represents a clear attempt to reconnect with the nostalgic aesthetic.

This is arguably most obvious in episodes like North Star, which harks back to the “alternate Earths” featured on the original Star Trek. However, Impulse feels very much in keeping the pulpier aspects of the original Star Trek. Had the show been produced a couple of decades later, Kirk and Spock would likely find themselves wrestling with space!zombies alongside space!vampires and space!ghosts. The connection might be a bit less overt than references to Khan Noonien Singh or Colonel Green, but it is no less tangible.

"The High Command's new energy conservation policy is proving very popular."

“The High Command’s new energy conservation policy is proving very popular.”

Of course, given the context of the larger third season, the zombies featured in Impulse reflect broader changes in the zombie genre following the events of 9/11. As Nick Muntean and Matthew Thomas Payne observe in Attack of the Living Dead, there was a clear division between zombies before and after those terrorist attacks:

The most prominent change in the post-September 11 zombie disposition is the monster’s newfound speed and power. The new zombie tends to be a swift, powerful, and ferocious predator that makes direct, purposeful beelines toward the living; because of this, these zombies are dangerous individually, as well as collectively. …

While still incapable of symbolic language, this new species of zombie is also more emotive and committed to capturing its prey than the moaning, glassy-eyed walking dead of yore. Now, these reanimated bodies are transformed into enraged corpses, who scream and cry for the uninfected. In fact, in 28 Days Later, the blood-borne virus that causes the zombie outbreak is known simply as “Rage.” …

As the monstrous commoner, zombies are the domestic terrorists within one’s own private and public borders…

Some of these changes to the portrayal of zombies would become controversial to genre purists. Creators like George A. Romero and Simon Pegg have objected to the idea of “running zombies.” Nevertheless, these enhancements and revisions look to have become a genre staple.

"This is a dangerous mission, Hawkins. Almost certainly, one of us will not make it back alive."

“This is a dangerous mission, Hawkins. Almost certainly, one of us will not make it back alive.”

Impulse adopts a very high-energy approach to its zombie!Vulcans. They organise, they stalk, they run; they even try to jump. The sets are cleverly lit from the bottom and the lights flicker and strobe. To add a sense of dynamism to the action sequences, director David Livingston and producer Rick Berman trimmed every third frame from the footage. The result is a surprisingly raw and visceral action thriller that is a fairly accurate reflection of the zombie genre as it existed in October 2003.

In fact, quite like Regeneration before it, David Livingston’s tight and controlled direction brought Impulse in a little under time. According to the blu ray commentary with Livingston and Goodman, the episode was originally supposed to end with the conversation between Archer and T’Pol in Sickbay. The entire “nightmare-within-a-nightmare” coda was grafted in at the last minute. It plays quite well to the horror sensibilities of Brannon Braga, recycling the effective scare from the opening sequence of First Contact.

A close scrape...

A close scrape…

The production design on the episode is nothing short of astounding. Even the little details are stunning. Star Trek has featured countless asteroid fields over the decades, but none have seemed quite as tempestuous and as violent as the asteroid field featured here. “The asteroids are moving in a chaotic fashion,” T’Pol informs the bridge crew. “Their paths are unpredictable. It may be the result of some spatial anomalies.” There is a genuine sense that space is hostile and random in a way that it hasn’t been for a while on Star Trek.

Even the soundtrack to the episode is impressive and dynamic. During the nineties, Rick Berman was resistant to loud or dramatic music cues, favouring a soundtrack that could blend elegantly into the background of the episode in question. Here, Dennis McCarthy is able to have a bit of fun on the Vulcan ship. He even features a number of sharp strings as T’Pol talks about her mounting feelings of “anxiety.” Michael Westmore does some wonderful work with the zombie!Vulcans, and the stunt team are fantastic.

In space, everyone can hear you scream...

In space, everyone can hear you scream…

Livingston himself is very fond of the episode, citing it as his favourite of the episodes he directed for Enterprise:

I’d say Impulse, the zombie episode, was, from a directing standpoint, my favorite episode of Enterprise. To me, it’s the best directing I did from a visual standpoint, of any of my Trek episodes. I was doing a zombie movie. Everybody got it, all the departments, especially Marvin Rush. We were all on the same page. We said, “OK, what are we doing here? We’re doing a zombie movie. So let’s do a zombie movie.” Everything fit into that and we pulled it off. So, from a pure technical directing standpoint, it’s the best job I did because it really does look and feel like that.

This makes a great deal of sense, as it plays to Livingston’s sensibilities as a Star Trek director.

Terror is off the charts...

Terror is off the charts…

Even the episode’s teaser plays into the rapid-fire pace of the episode. The teaser runs only eigtheen seconds, possibly the shortest intro in the franchise. According to writer and producer David Goodman on the episode commentary, he originally pitched a very different introduction to the story:

I had tried to convince Brannon, for the teaser… and the teaser here is great, it’s much more emotional and I don;t know that mine was a better idea. It was more of a different idea. I pitched him the idea of doing the teaser several months before, on the Vulcan ship – showing them going about their daily lives and the captain going to sickbay and the doctor not being able to handle this sickness. I thought that would make a great… one thing we’ve never seen is life aboard a Vulcan starship and I thought it would be fun to watch – as you see in those horror movies – “what’s going on here? how it we deal with this? we can’t deal with it?” Brannon said, “So, write it.” And so I worte it, and he liked it, but I think he thought that – and rightly so –  starting with T’Pol and that craziness gives an energy to the episode.

Television shows have a tendency to abuse in media res openings, treating them as a way to alleviate the pressure of creating a compelling introductory hook. The Star Trek franchise itself has been guilty of this – look at Singularity, for example. However, this snippet is short and exciting enough to really work.

Get your rocks off (this asteroid)...

Get your rocks off (this asteroid)…

However, despite this frantic energy and dynamism, Impulse manages to retain a very traditional core. At its heart, Impulse is an old-school zombie horror story told with all the energy and vibrancy of a more modern zombie horror story. The tropes are all very traditional and very familiar. As in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the threat manages to infiltrate the group of survivors through an infected individual. As in Day of the Dead, an infected individual is restrained and kept captive for study.

Livingston even homages the iconic “zombies forcing a door sequence” as the zombie!Vulcans lay siege to the control room. The zombie!Vulcans move with the disjointed shuffle associated with Romero’s zombies, but can also move as quickly as Boyle’s zombies. The opening sequence of Impulse even unfolds late at night on the Enterprise, adding a nice atmospheric touch to proceedings. It is clear that absolutely everybody working on Impulse has a deep and abiding affection for the source material.

Exploiting an opening...

Exploiting an opening…

The use of Corporal Hawkins is also interesting. Joining an away team to a space ship full of zombies with three members of the primary cast, Hawkins should be dead meat – particularly since the show killed off its first crew member in Anomaly. The death of Crewman Fuller makes it possible that Enterprise will kill off guest and supporting characters, adding a bit of edge to proceedings. However, the fact that Corporal Hawkins makes it to the end of Impulse is a pleasant surprise. The show is capable of killing him off, so its restraint is compelling.

As with any classic horror story, there are even shades of social allegory to be found here. Most obviously, Archer finds himself facing the same dilemma that he confronted in Regeneration; he has to accept that he cannot save everybody. Even as the zombie!Vulcan hordes bear down on the team, Archer makes it clear that core Star Trek values remain in place. “Stun isn’t working,” Hawkins reports. “We should set our weapons to kill.” T’Pol replies, “These are Vulcan officers and we’re on a rescue mission.” Archer orders, “Keep your weapons on stun.”

"Exploring a tight confined space? What could possibly go wrong?"

“Exploring a tight confined space? What could possibly go wrong?”

It is telling that – even though Archer is unable to save anybody on the ship – the decision not to kill the Vulcans indiscriminantly is validated by the episode. At the first opportunity, Hawkins apologises to T’Pol. “I apologise for the way I reacted before,” Hawkins tells her. “You were right, this is a rescue mission.” Later, Archer’s reluctance to murder the Vulcans gives T’Pol pause when she accuses him of plotting to murder everybody on the ship. Archer takes advantage of T’Pol’s resulting hesitation to disarm her. If he had killed them, T’Pol may not have hesitated.

Impulse goes to great lengths to make sure that Archer remains as heroic as possible under the circumstances. Even after everything that has happened, Impulse seems to suggest that Archer is not jaded and numb to the possibility of death. “We’re going to transmit some biodata,” Archer informs Trip. “Tell Phlox to start analysing it. See if there’s anything we can do to help these people.” Ultimately, Phlox helpfully assures the audience that the zombie!Vulcans are too far gone, which is rather convenient; nevertheless, the episode works hard to keep Archer sympathetic.

Engineering a solution to this problem...

Engineering a solution to this problem…

Indeed, the final conversation between Archer and T’Pol makes it clear that Archer has not been too hardened by his experiences. When he discovers that the trellium-D has a negative effect on T’Pol, he locks it away until Phlox can be sure there is a way to make it safe. There are no “needs of the many” justifications here. He assures T’Pol, “We’ll find a way through this, but I won’t leave anyone behind. Not if I can help it. I can’t try to save humanity without holding on to what makes me human.”

This feels like a rather nice balance between the extremes on display in Anomaly and Extinction. In Anomaly, Archer tortures a pirate for information. In Extinction, Archer preserves a potentially devastating virus because he doesn’t want to destroy the last of a civilisation. Impulse seems to figure out something of a happy medium for the character – presenting a version of Archer who wants to help as many people as he can, but who accepts that there are limits to what he can do.

Journey into terror...

Journey into terror…

More than that, the final conversation between Archer and T’Pol in Impulse is beautifully subverted in Damage. The biggest problem with Archer’s torture of Ogroth in Anomaly is that it comes too early in the season – it comes at a point before Archer has tasted true desperation. The torture seems a little sensationalist and gratuitous in the larger context of the opening episodes of the third season; it would feel more logical and organic had it occurred later in the year. It is hard to reconcile the Archer in Anomaly with the Archer in Impulse.

There are other elements of social commentary to be found in Impulse. The episode fits surprisingly well in the context of the larger arc. The third season is very much about Enterprise responding to the War on Terror, so it makes sense that Impulse would emphasise the volatile emotional states of the zombie!Vulcans. In fact, T’Pol explicitly classifies their behaviour as “paranoid.” She tells Hawkins, “There was a time in the past when we were an extremely violent race. We nearly destroyed ourselves. Paranoia and homicidal rage were common.”

Letting off steam...

Letting off steam…

Indeed, T’Pol’s first response to trellium-D exposure is not murderous rage. Instead, it is intense paranoia. She accuses of Archer and Reed of trying to keep her out of the loop, of conspiring to kill the Vulcans on the ship, of plotting against her. “I should have been watching him. You didn’t want me to see.” T’Pol describes the initial onset of the poisoning as a feeling of “anxiety” rather than any other emotion. In the context of an arc built around the War on Terror, this feels rather pointed.

It is also telling that show presents us with zombie!Vulcans rather than zombie!Klingons or zombie!Suliban. The Vulcans are the Star Trek race most closely associated with Earth and mankind, becoming a founding member of the Federation. As in Shadows of P’Jem, there is a sense that the Vulcans are being used as stands-in and allegories for a certain facet of the contemporary United States; a side of the country that is less romanticised and idealised now than it would have been in the past.

First season Archer would have loved this...

First season Archer would have loved this…

The War on Terror is an emotional subject. Studies into the psychological response to the 9/11 attacks have suggested that the raw emotional reaction to those attrocities quite likely informed the way that America conducted its foreign policy in the years that followed:

On the one hand, anger might have been helpful for regaining a sense of control over the tide of events on an individual and collective level.

On the other hand, anger is known to predict moral outrage and a desire for vengeance, which — once aroused — seem to require an outlet. This might help to explain individual acts of discrimination following the attacks, as well as societal responses such as political intolerance and confrontational policy.

The War on Terror created a climate of paranoia and fear. As with any event of that magnitude, emotions seemed to govern the way that society responded to those horrors. It is possible to argue that military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan were driven more by raw emotion than cold rationality.

"You know, maybe it's not a bad thing if Major Hayes wants to go on the next mission."

“You know, maybe it’s not a bad thing if Major Hayes wants to go on the next mission.”

For all that the Xindi arc is a constructed as a response to the War on Terror, the story is much more interested in how that political and social climate affects the United States than in any larger global context. Most of the season’s larger metaphors have little to do with terrorism itself, and more as a reflection on the contemporary response to terrorism. (There are exceptions, of course; Chosen Realm comes to mind.) In their own ways, both Enterprise and the Xindi serve as stand-ins for the United States during the War on Terror.

Impulse doesn’t delve as deeply into the idea of emotional Vulcans as it might. The crew of the Seleya are lost long before the Enterprise picks up the automated distress sequence. The franchise has teased out the idea of powerful Vulcan emotions before – in episodes like The Naked Time, Meld, Gravity and Fusion. However, it feels like the episode is much more interested in zombie!Vulcans than emotional!Vulcans. Are the crew of the Seleya self-aware? Do they feel any emotions beyond paranioa and rage? The episode never quite explains. But that’s not a real problem.

"You take my self, you take my self, you take my self-control..."

“You take my self, you take my self, you take my self-control…”

The biggest problem with Impulse is the subplot that features Trip and Mayweather mining some trellium-D from the surface of an asteroid. According to the commentary, David Livingston was similarly unimpressed with the plotline:

My preference would have been…

… to lose this piece?

Yeah. The B-story to me took away from the intensity of the episode. I would have loved to just stay on the ship and just dealt with that. I felt that things just got dissipated here. But a lot of times there is the b-story and you gotta get the trellium thing entrenched in the audience’s mind. I guess the writers felt – you guys felt – that you wanted a relief from the ship. But I didn’t want relief from the Vulcan ship.

He makes a very convincing argument. Impulse works very hard to build a tense and claustrophobic atmospher on board the Seleya. It would be a much stronger episode if it did not leave until it absolutely had to, if even the communications were shot from one side only.

The Seleya was beginning to feel a little lived-in...

The Seleya was beginning to feel a little lived-in…

The subplot saps momentum out of the story. There is a crazy point where the episode decides that “Trip and Mayweather find themselves in a shadow” is a more intense act break than “Archer and company are surrounded by zombies.” It speaks to a very strange set of storytelling priorities, one that feels rather like filler. Impulse would work a lot better without that recurring plot thread. Luckily, the episode devotes the bare minimum amount of time to Trip and Mayweather’s adventures, but it is still distracting.

That said, the subplot does demonstrate that the writing staff are at least committing to the idea of serialisation. Trellium-D has been a recurring motif through the first stretch of the season. The mine in The Xindi mined trellium-D. It was revealed in Anomaly that trellium-D could protect the ship from strange phenomenon in the Delphic Expanse. Trip and T’Pol attempted to synthesise homegrown trellium-D in Rajiin. So having Trip and Mayweather mine some of the precious material continues that particular thread.



At the same time, it does feel little bit like ticking a particular box. It seems like the show is going through a set of motions, rather than tring to figure out how a particular episode is best served by the larger arc. Impulse would be a stronger episode without the subplot about mining trellium-D. Perhaps that plot point could have shunted forward into Exile or The Shipment. Even if the plot is to be treated as filler rather than substance, that filler would detract a lot less from Exile than it does from Impulse.

Indeed, the insertion of a trellium-D subplot into Exile might improve the episode, in the same way that Rajiin was marginally improved by all its attention to the larger storytelling arc. After all, any plot point that takes attention away from the central stroy of Exile cannot be a bad thing. There is a sense that the writing staff are still figuring out this whole long-form plotting thing. They are adapting quickly and effectively, but there are a few speed bumps along the way. The staff are still figuring out how to make plot points serving the larger arc also serve individual episodes.

Never too far a(steroid)field...

Never too far a(steroid)field…

The subplot in Impulse also provides another tangible link back to the first season of Enterprise. There is a sense that the third season is something of a “do over” for the show, and a number of episodes have clear connections back to episodes of that first year. Anomaly references Fight or Flight and Strange New World. Extinction nods towards Terra Nova. The sequence of Trip and Mayweather landing on an asteroid in Impulse harks back to a similar sequence of Reed and Mayweather landing on a comet in Breaking the Ice, another Vulcan-heavy episode.

That is not the only connection. T’Pol’s paranoia represents something of an inversion of Strange New World. In that episode, Trip threatened T’Pol with a phaser, accusing her of plotting to murder the crew of the Enterprise. Here, T’Pol points the phaser at Archer and accuses him of plotting against her. However, while Trip’s paranoia was largely unfounded, T’Pol has some basis for her concern about Archer. She goads him about his first season characterisation. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten. You blamed us for holding you back, for undermining your father’s work.”

It's just a phase...

It’s just a phase…

It is a nice touch, making T’Pol’s paranoia cyclical. T’Pol does not trust Archer because Archer did not trust T’Pol. So much of the third season of Enterprise is built around these ideas of cycles of violence. Even the key imagaery of the arc – the spheres and the weapon – are designed to be circular. The third season suggests that violence and paranoia are self-sustaining and enabling. The Xindi homeworld was destroyed; they plan to destroy Earth so that their new homeworld is not destroyed. These patterns feed into one another. The circle must be broken.

Arguably the biggest problem with Impulse is only a problem with the benefit of hindsight. Impulse retroactively becomes ground zero for the “T’Pol drug addict” character thread that runs through a significant portion of the third season. It is a character decision that seems highly questionable, particularly in light of the problems that the show has had with T’Pol in the past. It is a bit much to blame Impulse for these problems later in the year, but it is worth flagging that they really begin here.

She's alive!

She’s alive!

Still, future problems aside, Impulse is a fantastically-constructed forty-five minutes of television, one that manages to be highly enjoyable while still remaining connected to the big ideas of the season and the franchise around it. It is a prime example of how the show seemed reinvigorated as it entered its third year, committing to stories that could easily seem trite or cynical and turning them into early-season highlights.

13 Responses

  1. T’pol: You father was the hero, y’know! He DID things! You, you’re just some test monkey who screwed up his first experiment!!

    Archer: Oh that’s good! That is FAN-tastic, coming from a frigid, flat-butted Vulcan skank!!

    (ftfw, Brannon)

  2. This was one of the funner episodes of season 3, though in retrospect, I’m curious why the Vulcans on the Seleya didn’t attack each other, as the crew of the Vaankara did in “The Expanse”. What exactly were they doing in the months before Archer and co. showed up?

  3. Great episode, very intense and scary.

    My one and only criticism is that the cause of the Vulcans turning into homicidal zombies is an allergy to trellium-D. That just seems like such a mundane explanation. I really feel like it would have been much more effective to have the cause be one of the mysterious anomalies. That would have been something intangible, something that you weren’t quite sure *why* it was occurring, and that would have been far more unsettling.

    It feels like the writers settled on the allergy to Vulcans as a convenient excuse for why Archer didn’t have the Enterprise coated with trellium-D so that the ship would remain vulnerable to the anomalies of the Expanse.

    • That’s fair, I think. But it’s a genuinely thrilling piece of television. Given who tedious and boring most first and second season episodes were, the shot of adrenaline is more than welcome.

  4. As zombie episodes go, I preferred the Borg one. Somehow the concept of ‘zombie Vulcan’ was too silly for me to take the stakes in the episode seriously at all. Though I WAS hoping they would be able to save the crew of the ship, since that would have been a cool way to develop future allies in the season.

  5. Worst episode to date.

    I just did not find anything redeeming in this zombie episode. Nothing about this episode moved the story arc forward. And the strobe lighting gave me an enormous headache.

    I assumed maybe this was a Halloween episode, like Catspaw in TOS. But it was apparently aired three weeks before Halloween, so no soap.

    You’ve discussed your Lovecraftian view of the first season of TOS, and I find that an intriguing and well supported argument. But that was the first season of a brand new show. There is no excuse for a stand-alone zombies episode decades later into the ST universe’s well-documented existence.

    The one neat thing about this episode, which you also pointed out, was the fact that Hawkins, an obvious Red Shirt, survived to the end. I loved that plot twist.

    Otherwise, this was an enormous waste of time.

    • Interestingly, I really loved the episode.

      It’s trashy, pulpy, and very silly. But I kinda appreciated that after nine years (although only four unaccompanied) of “everything is mostly clean and competent” in the seven seasons of Voyager and the first two seasons of Enterprise. The third season of Enterprise felt like the franchise was at least pushing itself again, in weird directions.

      (I have a soft spot for weird Star Trek; I’m one of those demented Star Trek fans who loves Masks.)

  6. This episode redeemed the two that came before it. Mostly due to the cinematography and very different pacing and aesthetic than we saw at all in the first two season. This episode shows the possibility for the sort of action/adventure potential of Enterprise. While I am the first to criticize modern Trek for moving too far to action at the expense of dialogue and conceptual musing, the show clearly needed serious shaking up.

    I do think the B plot should have been shelved. I get that the writers love Trip at this point, but I think they should have used this space to build Reed out more. He fades into the background of this episode as almost just another supporting character. The new soldier dude has almost as many lines as Reed. We need to see why Archer recruited him. Like on DS9 when we see Worf smash Jem’Hadar in hand-to-hand combat, or Odo solve mysteries. What is Reed’s talent? Well it seems to be weapons technology. He is a firearms freak. I would have added some sort of scene of him solving the zombie issue not with frantic physical combat, but by setting up some sort of auto turret or something. They continually neglect the character. This episode should have been an action-hero vehicle for him. I would even have written in that he had in-depth knowledge of Vulcan phasers and security tech because of his weapons nerdery.

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