In the fourth episode of the second season of Enterprise, THIS IS SO MESSED UP. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For consent and body horror.
HELP. I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS TO BE A SEQUEL TO “MINEFIELD.” AND IT’S A LARGE REASON WHY IT’S SO GOOD. AND I’M SO DISTURBED. AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.
Just… holy shit. I love a mystery that is this compelling and unnerving and then COMPLETELY STICKS THE LANDING. That is so hard to do, especially when it felt like all the disparate pieces of this story did not seem to fit at all. For the life of me, I could not figure out what the catch was. Why was this Tellarite repair station so relatively cheap? Why the hell did this computer appear to have killed Travis? WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE ARCHER SO CREEPED OUT BY THIS PROCESS?
Until we reach that answer, this is a cleverly executed science fiction story, something that honestly felt like a novel more than a television show. That’s a common way of praising the writing for this medium, I know, but it’s a great method of conveying the depth that’s given to us in a relatively short time. The script for “Dead Stop” does not rush through the motions; instead, it moves at a slow pace, revealing each new facet of this repair station meticulously. Right from the start, instinct and savviness tells us something is wrong with this place, and thus, Archer becomes the avatar for the audience. Look, all of us know that this station felt too good to be true. A repair station in the middle of nowhere that perfectly adapted its docking bay to the shape and size of Enterprise? Surely, that’s not just a neat bit of technology, right?
Then, it’s revealed that there aren’t any people onboard the station, and I WAS READY TO NOPE OUT OF THERE RIGHT THEN. An abandoned station is the most stress-inducing trope for me because I always want to know why it’s so empty!!! The writers know this, and they knew that once we found out how much the repairs would cost, we would all be suspicious. That’s the brilliance of “Dead Stop,” though. This script isn’t condescending to the dedicated Trek viewer. Instead, it exploits our familiarity with many of the tropes deployed throughout, and it leaves us bewildered and uncertain. Is this all a trap so that the Tellarites can gain information about other ships and species? Is there a hidden cost to the repairs? See, I spent this whole episode waiting for the other shoe to drop, and THIS SHOW KNEW I WOULD DO THIS. I felt personally attacked by everything here!
I’m also glad I don’t have to write an essay about how fucked it up it was to kill off Travis. WE ARE ALL RELIEVED, HONESTLY. Yet even in that, you’ve got the same dynamic: the show wouldn’t really kill a main character in such a ridiculous and meaningless way, right? (It’s at this point that a certain character from The Next Generation and another one from Deep Space Nine screech at me from beyond the grave.) So why the hell had the computer on the station done that? If it hadn’t killed him, then WHAT THE FUCK ACTUALLY HAPPENED? None of this made sense to me!
Now, I could see someone feeling like the resolution of this episode was a bit rushed. It’s certainly a story with little closure, since Dr. Phlox is only able to make an educated guess as to why this computer kidnapped Travis and then duplicated his body and left it behind on Enterprise. Given what T’Pol and Archer found in the central core, I’d say that Dr. Phlox’s theory is correct. But the why is left out of all of this. Did the Tellarites deliberately construct a station to steal living beings to use their brain’s computing power? I’m more inclined to believe that the AI or computer system adapted in the absence of any living programmers. In order to survive, it “stole” the means to improve its abilities.
It’s a meaningless act, sure. The computer can’t really be evil in a way we could categorize it, and that makes this that much more disturbing. No one will probably ever get the closure they need, and certainly not Travis. That final image is so creepy, too, since it’s entirely possible that the station will continue repairing itself, and then the cycle will commence again. Y’all, this was like a Twilight Zone crossover, I swear. IT WAS SO GOOD.
The video for “Dead Stop” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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