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Star Trek: Enterprise – Storm Front, Part II (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II arrive at a transitory time for Star Trek: Enterprise.

The fourth season was almost certain to be the end of the show, with Brannon Braga stepping back from the writers’ room to allow Manny Coto the chance to the take the reins. Coto would use the opportunity to more firmly connect the show to its franchise roots, constructing a final season that would serve as something of a bridge between this prequel series and the rest of the canon. However, there was just one problem. Coto inherited a cliffhanger from Zero Hour, the third season finale that stranded Archer in the past with some evil!alien!space!Nazis.

Into the sunset...

Into the sunset…

Although the fourth season of Enterprise is widely praised by the few fans who remained watching until the bitter end, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II are often overlooked in discussions of the season. Much like These Are the Voyages… at the very end of the season, the opening two-parter is largely treated as a story foisted upon an incoming executive producer that does not reflect his own plans or desires for the season ahead. There is typically a sense of obligation to discussions of the two-parter as little more than a speed bump into the season.

This is a shame. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II were both written by Manny Coto. Although the producer inherited the basic premise and the brief from his direct predecessors, how Coto chose to approach the material is quite insightful and informative. In that respect, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II might be seen as an introduction to the Manny Coto era before it properly begins in Home.

"It's been a long road, gettin' from there to here... It's been a long time, but my time is finally near..."

“It’s been a long road, gettin’ from there to here…
It’s been a long time, but my time is finally near…”

In some ways, Manny Coto was a strange choice to succeed Brannon Braga at running the Enterprise production team. Coto had only joined the franchise midway through the previous season, making him a relatively fresh face at this point in the run. Although he only had a few months of Star Trek experience under his belt by the start of the fourth season, it likely helped that a significant portion of the writing staff (including Chris Black, Phyllis Strong, David A. Goodman) had left the show between the third and fourth seasons.

Despite the fact that Coto had relatively little experience on Enterprise by the time he became executive producer, the producer had served as creator and showrunner on the short-lived cult science-fiction series Odyssey 5. Coto had practical experience running a science-fiction show on a day-to-day basis, which made him perfectly suited to the task of overseeing the fourth season. More than that, Coto had proven himself fluent in the language of Star Trek, scripting some of the third season’s strongest episodes and making a strong impression.

Time's up.

Time’s up.

Coto had a very clear idea of where he wanted to go with the show and what he wanted to do. In the documentary Before Her Time, fellow writer Mike Sussman recalls breaking out stories with Coto before they even knew if there was to be a fourth season at all:

Manny knew Star Trek forwards and backwards. When he took over the writers’ room in season four, he had a lot of ideas about where he wanted to go, the ideas of shows he wanted to do. And I remember early on, there was a moment where we weren’t quite sure if the show was coming back for a fourth season, and I’d gone into the office with Manny. And we were just sort of sitting around, kicking some ideas around, and there was a white board on the wall. We came up with a bunch of log line for episodes and most of them – almost all of them – were his, because he’d been doing a lot of thinking about ideas. You know, a mirror universe show, a three-parter with the Vulcans where we get into Vulcan history and learn about Surak and why the Vulcans were as antagonistic as they were on Enterprise… we would sort of… not so much explain these things as explore them. And I remember thinking, because we still didn’t know if the show was going to come back for another year, ‘God, what a tragedy it would be if they did pull the plug and we didn’t get to do these episodes!’

According to Sussman, Coto had a strong sense that he wanted to do shows like The Forge, Awakening, Kir’Shara, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II before the season even entered production. Given that these were shows seven or eight months away from production at that point, it demonstrates remarkable vision.

"Hey! It's me." "Prove it!" "You're a dick." "Okay."

“Hey! It’s me.”
“Prove it!”
“You’re a dick.”
“Okay.”

Coto approached Enterprise from the perspective of a fan. He wrote episodes and pitched ideas that appealed to the fanbase. After all, Coto has lamented the fact that he never got a chance to write a fifth-season origin story for Stratos. For those without an in-depth knowledge of the “canon”, Stratos is the floating city that appeared in the oft-overlooked third season Star Trek episode The Cloud Minders. A pulpy take on the class conflict of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, it is hardly one of the most enduring or iconic elements of the franchise.

However, Coto made a conscious effort to tie Enterprise into the fabric of the larger Star Trek franchise and integrate it into the shared universe. Sometimes, those efforts could feel clumsy and unnecessary. At other points, those stories felt like the kind of stories that Enterprise should have been telling from the very beginning of its run. It is debatable whether Enterprise actually needed Affliction and Divergence to explain why the Klingons lost their ridges, but stories like Babel One and United pushed the show towards the origins of the Star Trek universe.

"We also have it on blu ray, if that's of interest?"

“We also have it on blu ray, if that’s of interest?”

As such, there is a tendency to romanticise the work done by Manny Coto. In particular, Brannon Braga has been effusive in his praise for his successor, going as far as to argue that Coto had the definitive vision of the show:

The other thing it was missing was new blood. I had been doing Star Trek for a long time at that point. It needed Manny Coto. I wish he had been there since season one. That fourth season should have been the first season. It was really what the show was always supposed to be and I didn’t until Manny came in and put his imprint on it.

That is not entirely fair to Braga. His work on the third season was impressive in its own right and represented a significant improvement over the show’s largely lifeless first two seasons.

Just looking for the right platform.

Just looking for the right platform.

Star Trek has always appreciated some solid myth-making. In certain respects, this can be traced back to Gene Roddenberry, who has very fond of twisting and embellishing the truth about television production in service of an entertaining yarn. Everything from the franchise’s production history through to its politics are subject to the sweeping narratives of history. One of the more interesting aspects of rewatching and exploring Star Trek is in detangling the mythology has developed around the show and its production. There are countless examples.

Gene Roddenberry’s fondness for stories about network executives who didn’t understand Star Trek tends to gloss over the fact that it was the network (rather than Roddenberry) who insisted upon the diverse cast. Gene Roddenberry would talk about how the network was uncomfortable about the idea of a woman in a position of authority on the bridge when it came to the decision to cut Number One after The Cage, ignoring the fact that the network was uncomfortable with Roddenberry casting his mistress in a prime role on his prime time show.

The News on Parade Corporation of America presents News on Parade.

The News on Parade Corporation of America presents News on Parade.

As such, it seems appropriate that the final season of Enterprise should cultivate its own mythology and mystique, its own legends and stories. For example, Before Her Time has Manny Coto explain that he actually worked in Gene Roddenberry’s office while overseeing production of the show’s final year:

One of the things that I’ll never forget was that my office was Roddenberry’s old office. That was the office I got. So, it was this big beautiful office where Roddenberry used to work. That was intimidating! But one of the great features was that he had a pedal under his desk, and there was a door that you would open and it would stay open on a magnet. When you wanted to shut the door, you would hit a pedal under your desk and the door would slam shut. I don’t know why that was there, but it was very ‘old-school Hollywood.’ I’ve never seen that again, but it was intimidating being in Roddenberry’s office.

There is something very charming and engaging about these sorts of little synchronous details, these anecdotes and urban legends that help suggest readings and interpretations. There are certain (very traditional) sections of Star Trek fandom who would think it fortuitous that Coto would inherit Roddenberry’s office.

Gripping stuff.

Gripping stuff.

In this romantic myth-making approach to the Coto’s tenure, there is a tendency to dismiss Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II as little more than baggage that the incoming executive producer inherited from his predecessor. It is the televisual equivalent of homework, something to be completed on a Friday night so that the rest of the weekend can be spent having fun. At worst, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II might be read as two episodes of filler that eat up a tenth of the total season order.

After all, Coto finds himself tasked with handling a whole bunch of pre-existing characters within a pre-existing plot thread. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II find the incoming executive producer assigned the job of wrapping up the temporal cold war. Given that his predecessor could hardly be bothered to define or outline the specifics of that conflict, it is the very definition of a thankless task. Coto’s first job as a showrunner is not only tidy up an inherited mess, but to force it to make sense before tidying it all up.

"Time is the fire in which we burn. Also, you know, fire."

“Time is the fire in which we burn. Also, you know, fire.”

Coto himself has acknowledged his misgivings about devoting the fourth season premiere to the temporal cold war:

I felt that everything that had been said about the Temporal Cold War had already been said. I felt a heavy reliance on time travel at the beginning of Enterprise. I wanted season four to be a relatively time travel free season and that’s why I debated writing it into season four.

Of course, Coto’s appreciation of continuity suggests that he would likely have been reluctant to try to get out of it.

Silik, we hardly knew ye.

Silik, we hardly knew ye.

However, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II are very clearly Manny Coto episodes. They fit quite comfortably within the writer’s aesthetic and tone, reflecting his own tastes and interests. Although the actual plot that drives the episodes might be a loose thread inherited from the previous three seasons of the show, the way that Coto chooses to tell that story is very much in keeping with how he chooses to approach the rest of the fourth season as a whole.

It is a subtle distinction, but it is quite clear in how Coto handles the events of the third season. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II keeps the MACOs at the centre of the action, making it clear that Coto will not be making any dramatic reversals. The MACOs remain as part of the crew throughout the fourth season, even though the Xindi mission has come to a close. Coto will not be avoiding any of the storytelling decisions made by his direct predecessor. However, he puts his own slant on things.

"So, I take it your men haven't installed the fuses yet, then?"

“So, I take it your men haven’t installed the fuses yet, then?”

Watching Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II, it is quite clear that Coto is uncomfortable with some of the decision that were made with Archer as a character during the fourth season. This had been suggested in Coto’s script for Azati Prime, which seemed to suggest that Archer considered self-sacrifice as penance for his transgressions. It will be more thoroughly explored in Home, when it becomes clear that Archer is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of some of the actions he took during the Xindi mission.

In Storm Front, Part I, Coto has Archer explicitly refuse to torture an alien captive. When Sal shoots the captive for refusing to answer, Archer vehemently objects. “You want answers, don’t you?” Sal demands. Archer responds, “Not like that.” There is a sense that Coto is responding to some of the extreme measures undertaken by Archer in episodes like Anomaly, including the brutal torture of a captive. Given the use of a similar torture by the Augments in Cold Station 12, it seems like Coto is firmly rejecting that interpretation of Archer.

Dude's really been working out.

Dude’s really been working out.

Over the course of Storm Front, Part II, Silik and Archer make repeated allusions towards the compromises made during Archer’s mission to save Earth. Locked in the same cell that held that prisoner tortured by Archer, Silik observes, “You’ve changed, Captain.” Archer seems to take the observation to heart. “And not at all for the better,” he concedes. However, instead of brutalising or torturing Silik, he decides to trust the Suliban and releases him from the prison cell.

Silik suggests the compromises made in the third season were a step backwards for humanity and a betrayal of the utopian ideals espoused by the Star Trek franchise. “One thing is clear,” he reflects. “When necessary, humans are fully capable of reverting to old methods.” Coto has a much more optimistic and idealistic interpretation of Star Trek, and goes out of his way to make that clear in a number of small touches scattered across this two-part season premiere.

Boy, Trip does not tan well.

Boy, Trip does not tan well.

Coto has a very traditionalist view of Star Trek. After all, his first big multi-episode story is essentially an extended homage to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that happens to guest star Brent Spiner. Coto’s fandom and appreciation for the massive shared universe and its intricate connecting history is part of what defines him as a showrunner, and which perhaps explains why he has been so enthusiastically embraced by the franchise’s fandom. Coto has a deep and abiding love of Star Trek as an institution, a love that saturates every story of his tenure.

Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II might not have been Coto’s original idea, but they do reflect his own stylistic leanings. In particular, the two-parter is crammed full of nods and references to various corners of Star Trek history. The sequence of Archer and Alicia discussing the existence of war in the future while looking down over the planet is very clearly a nod to a similar sequence between Picard and Lily in Star Trek: First Contact. The basic plot of the episode feels like a more action driven reference to The City on the Edge of Forever.

"Australia. New Guinea. Solomon Islands. Brooklyn will be up soon, but you may want to hold your breath - it's a long way down."

“Australia. New Guinea. Solomon Islands. Brooklyn will be up soon, but you may want to hold your breath – it’s a long way down.”

Storm Front, Part I even finds a small role for J. Paul Boehmer as an SS officer tasked with transferring Archer into custody. Boehmer is a Star Trek veteran, part of the franchise’s recurring troupe of strong guest performers who tend to pop up across a variety of different series in a number of different roles. Boehmer had previously appeared in Carbon Creek playing the role of Mestral. However, his very first role was that of an unnamed holographic SS officer in The Killing Game, Part I. His casting in this tiny role is a sly in-joke.

Indeed, the cast of Boehmer seems to invite all sorts of speculation from continuity-minded fans. Those looking to tie the whole Star Trek universe together might legitimately wonder whether the anonymous holographic SS officer featured in The Killing Game, Part I was based upon a “real” SS officer. If that is the case, might the changing of history in Storm Front, Part I have led that officer to be reassigned from France to the United States? Of course, the alternative is that Boehmer’s performance style just lends itself to playing sinister Nazi characters.

History is rewritten by the victors.

History is rewritten by the victors.

The casting of Boehmer is not the only casting gag in the two-parter. The central guest star of the two-part season premiere is Golden Brooks. Brooks was one of the lead actors on Girlfriends, a popular UPN sitcom that had premiered a year before the launch of Enterprise and which would survive the transition from UPN to the CW. There is no small irony in the casting. Enterprise was a failing show, but it had higher ratings than the more successful and longer-running sitcom. (Of course, Girlfriends was cheaper and more in line with UPN’s target market.)

Similarly, Storm Front, Part I introduces Joe Maruzzo and Steve Schirripa as mobsters Sal and Carmine. Both Maruzzo and Schirripa are veterans of The Sopranos, David Chase’s television-redefining mob drama. Premiering on HBO in 1999, The Sopranos changed audience expectations for television drama. It represented a dramatic leap forward in production and storytelling on television, a leap that left many contemporary network programmes in the lurch. When Enterprise premiered in 2001, its storytelling model was already outdated.

"You think I survived six seasons on The Sopranos by being trusting?"

“You think I survived six seasons on The Sopranos by being trusting?”

The casting on Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II reads as a commentary on the state of the franchise at this point in time. The casting of Boehmer is a nod towards the franchise’s own history and its legacy. The casting of Brooks is an acknowledgement of the difficulties facing Enterprise as a show airing on UPN, introducing a performer from one of its more successful contemporaries airing on the same channel. The casting of Maruzzo and Schirripa is a concession to the seismic shifts in television drama that left Enterprise (and the Star Trek franchise) behind.

Of course, the casting of Maruzzo and Schirripa is also a very effective piece of pop culture shorthand to signal that both Sal and Carmine are stereotypical mobsters, in the same way that casting Boehmer in a Nazi uniform is a very quick way of signalling that these are cartoonish Nazis. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II serve as an effective demonstration of Coto’s tendency towards pulpy adventure narratives, a fondness for broadly-drawn science-fiction tropes. At it heart, the two-parter amounts to “mobsters vs. Nazis.” Which is not a bad pitch.

"You come to me on this, the day of a Nazi invasion of America, and you ask me to do murder...?"

“You come to me on this, the day of a Nazi invasion of America, and you ask me to do murder…?”

It should be noted that the structure of the story is very clearly derived from Coto himself. The “news on parade” teaser that opens Storm Front, Part II is one of the most striking and ambitious teasers in the history of the franchise. It is perhaps the most memorable aspect of the entire two-part episode, playing news reel footage of a visit by Hitler to a conquered New York City. It demonstrates a willingness to play with the form and structure of a Star Trek episode in a way unlike any other producer. It paves the way for the intro to In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I.

More than that, the decision to resolve the cliffhanger to Zero Hour over the course of a two-parter hints at the structure of the season to come. Rick Berman had reportedly considered doing the story as a full season-long arc, while it might have been simpler to resolve the thread in one single crammed episode before moving on to the plans for the rest of the season. Coto’s willingness to split the difference and build a multi-episode arc around the story thread hints at the structure that would come to define his tenure as executive producer.

Just a crazy bunch of guys and dolls...

Just a crazy bunch of guys and dolls…

Coto’s scripts are full of old-school science-fiction clichés. “Human leaders often speak of destiny, the conduit will hold,” Vosk reflects at one point, stopping just short of falling into the whole ‘what is this thing you humans call love?’ trope. Teaming up with Archer to fight the aliens, Carmine sarcastically wonders, “What are we going after this time? The Loch Ness monster?” It is a line that is more cheesy than funny, but it has a delightfully silly charm to it. Carmine seems to have wandered off the set of Oscar rather than Goodfellas.

Storm Front, Part II even features an extended riff on the whole “alien applies an overly literal interpretation to human conversation” schtick as Silik comes face to face with Carmine. When Carmine threatens the Suliban in a typically colourful manner, Silik takes a moment to register the comment. “Hey, give the man a prize,” Carmine sarcastically responds. Silik innocently responds, “Why would you do that?” It is a very weird sequence that does not fit with any early interpretation of Silik, but exists because putting Carmine and Silik together justifies the gag.

The resulting property damage hit the New York property market more significantly than any event until the Chitauri invasion.

The resulting property damage hit the New York property market more significantly than any event until the Chitauri invasion.

In this respect, it is important not to overstate the differences between Brannon Braga and Manny Coto in terms of aesthetic. Braga is just as fond of pulpy science-fiction hokum as Coto, as demonstrated by scripts like Schisms, Genesis, Threshold and Microcosm. The entire third season of Enterprise is filtered through a dime-store paperback aesthetic, complete with evil lizard men and doomsday weapons, with even the aquatic!Xindi borrowed from the pages of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Coto does not introduce (or even reintroduce) pulp to Enterprise.

The biggest difference between Braga and Coto is in how the two writers choose to frame their pulp. Coto tends to like his classic science-fiction tropes filtered through the lens of particular classic science-fiction, whereas Braga’s preference leans towards a broader tone. When the third season attempted a “seductive alien princess” narrative in Rajiin, it was a pulpy science-fiction premise drawn in the broadest possible terms. When the fourth season attempted that same basic plot in Bound, Coto made a point to explicitly position it in the Star Trek mythos.

"With a face like this and a Nazi uniform, I was never going to be a complex antagonist."

“With a face like this and a Nazi uniform, I was never going to be a complex antagonist.”

On the surface, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II are very clearly an homage to the alternate history genre. Perhaps the most obvious point of reference is Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Given that the basic idea for the two-parter originated with Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, this makes sense. Dick has been a massive influence on Braga’s writing; Frame of Mind, Projections and even Flashback are all the sorts of psychological science-fiction that Dick wrote so well.

However, Coto’s interests are slightly different. The alternate history premise of Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II becomes an excuse for a gigantic mash-up of all sorts of references. Girlfriends meets The Sopranos meets Enterprise. More than that, it becomes a collection of familiar Star Trek tropes. It is The City on the Edge of Forever meets A Piece of the Action meets Patterns of Force, where all the characters feel like they are drawn in the broadest possible manner. The horror of a Nazi-occupied America gives way to laser dogfights over New York.

Star Trek Team-Up.

Star Trek Team-Up.

All of this feels somewhat hollow, which is a shame. There is a lot of power to be found in the idea of a Nazi occupation of the United States. It sounds like a ridiculous premise, but in reality it is quite a horrifying thought. The Man in the High Castle offers a very bleak and moving examination of what life in the United States might have been like had the Axis powers successfully invaded. It is not anywhere near as pulpy as the plot description might make it seem, and is all the more effective for that.

Storm Front, Part I was broadcast in early October 2004. A month earlier, Phillip Roth had published his own alternate history novel about the Second World War. The Plot Against America was not the tale of a literal Nazi occupation. Instead, it was a story about how dangerously the nation flirted with populist fascism during the thirties and forties, the shameful history of antisemitism that existed within the borders of a country that has always believed itself to be a bastion of freedom.

"Whoa."

“Whoa.”

The “news of parade” montage that opens Storm Front, Part II incorporates footage from the American Nazi rally that was held in Madison Square Garden in 1939, an oft-forgotten chapter of American history in the lead-up to the Second World War. There were Nazi summer camps organised in New Jersey and Long Island during the thirties. Consider journalist Raymond Swing’s anxieties about the possibility of American fascism in 1935:

Given a land in which the great majority are in want or in fear of it, in which democracy has not produced wise leadership or competent organs to conduct public affairs, in which ‘big interests’ have more than their share of power, the easiest sacrifice that society seems ready to make, if only its prejudices can be stirred, is of its democratic freedom.

It is worth noting that many of the factors that Swing cites as fodder for an American fascist movement still apply today. In fact, Philip Roth acknowledges the rise of George W. Bush as an example of the themes he was playing with in The Plot Against America. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump is running on a platform opposed to “big interests” and ominously threatening to shut down the free speech of those who oppose him.

"Do you think I could get away with a cheap shot about how you'd think the South would be welcoming us?"

“Do you think I could get away with a cheap shot about how you’d think the South would be welcoming us?”

Even ignoring any contemporary resonance to a story about a fascist occupation of the United States, there is something rather disingenuous about the way that Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II tackles its central premise. After all, it is not as if African-Americans had a particularly charmed life in the United States during the thirties and forties. To pick one example, only three percent of Southern African-Americans were registered to vote in the 1940 presidential election.

This particularly tied into the Second World War. Between 1932 and 1942, African-American soldiers were only admitted to the messmen’s branch of the United States Navy. In 1941, the Navy had pointedly refused to play an integrated lacrosse game at Harvard. In 1944, unsafe working conditions at Port Chicago resulted in a horrific explosion that killed over 300 people and injured almost 400 others. 258 African-American soldiers working at Port Chicago refused to go back to work unless proper safety procedures were implemented.

Communications difficulties...

Communications difficulties…

However, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II paint an overly idealistic vision of what life was like in the forties for an African-American. As Billie Holiday plays over the block, Alicia tells Archer, “Germans outlawed coloured music. Some of the neighbours pass a phonograph from house to house every night, so the Germans can’t find it.” It’s a sweet story, but it glosses over the fact that Holiday faced racism on her home turf; Columbia records had refused to record Strange Fruit and Holiday was subject to investigation and persecution.

None of this is to equate the systemic prejudice and oppression experienced by African-Americans with the industrialised genocide under way by Nazi Germany. However, it does demonstrate that the situation was not as clear-cut as Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II would make it seem. The two-parter ultimately feels shallow and generic, sacrificing potentially powerful themes and ideas for a stock pulpy run-around. For all the criticisms levelled at Patterns of Force, it at least offered some level of commentary or engagement.

Red eyes in the morning, a time traveler's warning...

Red eyes in the morning, a time traveler’s warning…

The racial politics of the Nazi party are touched upon only fleetingly. Vosk ruminates on the possibility of designing a virus that would efficiently eradicate those who do not meet the Nazi standards of “racial purity” while Alicia and Archer encounter a pair of Nazi grunts who joke about sending Alicia “back to Africa.” However, these lack any real visceral impact. There is none of the horror of the industrial-scale genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime, and no exploration of the culpability of civillian populations in those horrific policies.

Even this alternate reality feels somewhat half-formed and ill-considered. What about Imperial Japan? If Washington has fallen to the Nazis, have the Japanese made any advance in the Pacific? More than that, how are the Germans maintaining an alliance with the Japanese without sharing advanced technology? If the United Kingdom has fallen in this alt!1944, why is Churchill delivering the same speech he made at Harvard in 1943? He may be governing from exile, but surely the content of his speeches should change, right?

Rallying the troops...

Rallying the troops…

(This is far from the only aspect of the two-parter that seems under-developed or under-explored. The mechanics of what Silik is trying to accomplish also seem strange. He is able to sneak on board Enterprise, sneak down to Earth, infiltrate Vosk’s operation to the point he can replace (and hide) a captive Trip, and then sneaks back to Enterprise. Why not just sabotage Vosk’s operation while replacing Trip? Why not approach Archer in the first place? The internal logic feels somewhat loose.)

That said, despite the fact that his alternate version of the Second World War feels shallow and generic, Coto’s enthusiasm for world-building bleeds through into the rest of the episode. Most obviously, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II do a much better job of explaining the actual mechanics of the temporal cold war than any earlier episodes. Coto seems to take a great deal of pleasure in sketching out the workings of this imaginary conflict across all of space and time, peppering the dialogue with allusions and suggestions.

A whole new meaning to the 'White' House.

A whole new meaning to the ‘White’ House.

Silik offers some background on Vosk and his people, “They’re only a means to an end. To him and his followers, other species exist only to serve their needs.” This leads to some tangential exposition that serves to explain Silik’s relationship to Vosk, “His faction once tried to eradicate the Suliban. They travelled into our past, altered it to prevent our species from attaining sentience.” It is arguably more detail than the plot actually needs, but Coto has a great deal of fun elaborating and expanding. It very much sets the tone for the season ahead.

In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of the two-parter is the way that Coto goes into a great deal more depth than is necessary to explain this chaotic alternate timeline. It is not simply that Vosk showed up one day and volunteered to help Hitler. Instead, Coto suggests a rippling distortion of twentieth-century history. Reed traces it back as far as Lenin, an act that exists separate from Vosk. T’Pol reflects, “Daniels said that different factions in the temporal war are changing history throughout the timeline. Maybe this assassin was working for one of them.”

Flying the flag.

Flying the flag.

In a way, this minor detail helps to confirm that Enterprise is still a post-9/11 show. The Xindi arc might have wrapped up the show’s big metaphorical exploration of the War on Terror, but the series is still informed by the shifting politics of the twenty-first century. This complex web of competing agendas and rival factions rejects the sort of clear-cut symmetrical warfare that defined the Dominion War. There is no clear “us” or “them” in the quagmire that is the temporal cold war. There are lots of different factions with their own objectives and agendas.

This reflects the realities of post-9/11 warfare. Alliances are temporary, existing at the convenience of both parties. Interests may temporarily align before disentangling, with future rivals sharing short-term goals. The War on Terror makes for strange bedfellows. Much has been written about the strange alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia, despite Saudi Arabia’s hostility to democracy in the Middle East. Russia and the United States might both oppose ISIS, but they harbour very different plans for Syria.

"See you on the CW..."

“See you on the CW…”

In an increasingly uncertain world, it can be hard to keep track of alliances and objectives from moment to moment. In some respects, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II provide an effective juxtaposition of the moral simplicity associated with traditional portrayals of the Second World War against the more complicated tableau of the post-9/11 world. The temporal cold war is a much more contemporary conflict, without the clear-cut black-and-white morality that many associate with the historical narrative of the Second World War.

That said, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II feels too engaged with its pulpy science-fiction tropes to grapple with any of the big ideas that bubble away beneath the surface. The two-parter is distracted by the images of stereotypical mobsters fighting stereotypical Nazis or of aliens in Nazi uniforms or of the Enterprise flying over New York City. There is a sense that the season premiere follows the path of least resistance when it comes to resolving the cliffhanger at the end of Zero Hour.

Feels like going home...

Feels like going home…

In many respects, Storm Front, Part II closes with a scene that might have made for a fitting end to Zero Hour. Archer and his crew return home to be greeted by a fleet of friendly ships welcoming them back to the planet they saved. It seems like the bulk of the two-parter could easily be edited out; that the closing shot of the season-opening double-length story might as well have been the closing image of the third season as a whole. It is tempting, then, to dismiss the two-parter as an unnecessary and distracting detour on the road to Manny Coto’s vision of Star Trek.

That is an over-simplification. Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II are both very clearly Manny Coto episodes. If the two-parter is ultimately disposable, that as much a result of the choices made in breaking and plotting the story as it is in the decision to end the third season on that particular cliffhanger.

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  1. I will be critical of the Coto episodes going forward. His heart was in the right place, and he did more to court fandom. Like the off mentioned JFK he was struck down in his prime, leading many of us to gloss over a flawed tenure.

    Since you bring up fascism, I’ve been research the topic since this election cycle and was interested to find that the third column of American fascists never really left us. Some of them formed libertarian think tanks in the Deep South, others went to work for Nixon’s dirty trick division, a lot of them congregate on social media. They’re there, and I suspect the tendrils exist in much of Europe and it’s nationalist parties. It is very likely that we are looking at a repeat of 1930s.

    • Fascinating stuff about the American fascists. I’m digging into the whole neoreactionary movement as well, fascinating (and horrifying) stuff.

      I hope I’m going to be reasonably critical of Coto going forward. I don’t hate the guy, or his work, but I feel like he gets something of a free pass from fans. I hope to treat him the same way I treat Braga; recognising his talent while acknowledging his missteps. With Braga, that means I seem a lot more sympathetic to him than most. With Coto, I worry that I’ll seem unduly harsh. But a large part of why the fourth season works is because the show was effectively already dead. Doing something like this while there was any real chance of a fifth season would have been unconscionably indulgent and alienating.

  2. Speaking as someone who loves the alternate history genre, (the point that I made videos of an alternate Battle of Waterloo and Trafalgar where the French win on youtube) and I feel this episode was total flop. The idea of a partially Nazi occupied America is a fascinating one, but once red-eyed even aliens show up in Nazi uniforms, the whole thing rapidly becomes a cartoon where nothing can be taken seriously anymore. America was an industrial super-power, even with souped up advanced weapons, the Nazi’s would have a hell of a time try to hold onto any territory in North America. I feel that the Nazism is a very serious topic, and whenever it’s used cheaply or in pulp, it greatly diminishes any message the work tries to make, and this being Star Trek, it just doesn’t fit to include cartoon time-traveling space Nazis. At least Voyager’s Killing Game carefully walked the line by having the aliens act as avid cosplayers, and that the Nazi theme was only temporary, as their next cosplay theme would be Wolf 359. I don’t know what would be more amusing, the aliens dressing up as Borg assimilating the Voyager crew, or the crew being Borgified, and the aliens dress up as Starfleet.

    • I don’t have a problem with cartoon Nazis in principle. I really like The Killing Game, as you note. Not to mention Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the problem with Storm Front is that it doesn’t really do anything worth doing with the idea. Where are the collaborators? What will people do to survive?

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