Star Trek: Enterprise: Cold Front
October 14, 2018 7:31 PM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

The Vulcan Science Directorate would like to remind everyone to stay calm, because there is definitely no such thing as time travel.

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Background information
> Robert Duncan McNeill directed Cold Front.
> This episode had the working title "Untitled Suliban" (as evidenced by the episode's script). > The episode's final draft script was submitted on 1 October 2001.
> The restrictiveness of the set for the service junction shown near the end of this episode made filming the episode's climactic fight scene, between Archer and Silik, a difficult task. "You've really gotta create some different types of choreographed sequences when you're in tight like that," Stunt Coordinator Vince Deadrick, Jr. said of the tightly confined area. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 42)
> According to dates given, this episode actually takes place a week after the next episode, "Silent Enemy".
> This is the Humanoid Figure's only appearance on the series in an episode which is neither a season premiere nor a season finale.
> This episode marks the first appearance of Daniels (Matt Winston) on the series.
> This episode also marks the first time that Silik's name is given.
> This episode marks the first mention of movie night. Ensign Mayweather gripes that out of 50,000 titles in the movie database, they could find no better movie than Night of the Killer Androids. It further implies that Reed and Sato frequent the event.
> This episode marks the first appearance of T'Pol's disbelief in time travel, based on the Vulcan Science Directorate's conclusions.
> Both the Temporal Observatory and the phasing device are lost in this episode, but Daniels' Temporal Database remains to be used in "Shockwave" and "Future Tense", the latter episode featuring its final appearance in the series.
> In ENT: "Dawn", Trip Tucker recalls seeing the Great Plume of Agosoria to Zho'Kaan while they are stranded on a moon together.
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 2 out of 5 arrowhead insignia. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 78)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 363) describes this outing as "a scrappy episode, but one that adds a new twist to the Temporal Cold War." The book goes on to say, "There are tantalizing hints, but nothing really meaty to get excited about."
> This is the first episode of the series not to feature a shuttlepod.

Memorable quotes
"You won't need enhanced vision where you're going. Proceed with the extraction."
- Humanoid Figure ordering a Suliban to remove Silik's visual enhancements for failing him previously

"Lieutenant."
"Ensigns. Enjoy the show last night?"
"Ugh."
"Heh, those were two hours of my life I'd rather have back."
- Mayweather enters the bridge with Sato while Reed asks their opinion about Night of the Killer Androids

"If you don't mind my asking, what brings you here?"
"A job. I'm escorting a group of spiritually minded men on a pilgrimage to the Great Plume of Agosoria."
"The – the what?"
"Every eleven years one of the protostars gives out a neutron blast. These gentlemen believe it's a sacred event. If you ask me, I think it's just another ball of hydrogen!"
- Archer and Captain Fraddock

"For you, Captain."
"It's beautiful. What, uh, exactly is it?"
"A clock! It charts time from the beginning of the universe."
- Prah Mantoos and Archer

"Aren't you going to take the chair?"
"What?"
"You're in command!"
"I'm fine right here."
"Haven't you ever wondered what it's like?"
"I can wait until I'm promoted."
"Okay…"
(Mayweather thinks about it, then takes his place in the Captain's chair.)
"Nice fit."
"The bridge looks a lot different from here. Think anyone would mind if I fired a torpedo?"
- Hoshi and Mayweather

"I see you already know a thing or two about starship engines."
"I'm a warp field theorist."
- Tucker and Sonsorra

"Trip, what's happening?"
"That last bolt struck the warp manifold! We've got an antimatter cascade, sir! If it reaches the warp reactor…"
(Everyone holds their breath as they await the inevitable.)
"I think we're alright Captain. The cascade stopped in its tracks."
"Good work, Trip."
"It wasn't me, Captain."
- Archer and Trip

"I'm sorry about the mess. Sometimes I think my bunk-mate majored in Chaos Theory."
- Daniels, to Captain Archer

"Are you Human?"
"More or less."
- Archer and Daniels

"I know this must seem a little overwhelming."
"Overwhelming… doesn't quite cover it."
- Daniels, while showing Archer through the Temporal Observatory

"You're from… 900 years in the future, and you need my help?"
- Archer, to Daniels

"You're asking me to capture someone who just saved my ship – why should I trust you?"
"You like your scrambled eggs soft. Have I ever brought them to you any other way?"
- Archer and Daniels

"The Vulcan Science Directorate has studied the question of time travel in great detail. They found no evidence that it exists, or that it can exist."
- T'Pol, to Captain Archer

"You may have endangered your future, Jon."
- Silik, to Archer

"Starfleet's in store for one hell of a report. I'm not quite sure where to begin."
"I'd be glad to help."
- Archer and T'Pol

"Mr. Reed, assign new quarters to Daniels' roommate and seal off cabin E-14. It's off-limits till further notice."
"Aye, sir."
"God knows what else is in there. Let's get back on the road, Travis."
- Archer orders Reed to close off Daniels' quarters after his confrontation with Silik (last lines)

Poster’s Log:
Okay, so that was mostly a hot mess, though there were some welcome details.

* Good character work in several spots.

Despite my overall feelings about the episode, some stuff did click for me. In particular, I liked the monks. Religion is not a topic Trek typically handles all that well, with the notable exception of Bajoran characters like Kira Nerys. As a result, I was surprised to see how ENT treated Prah Mantoos and his people: they’re kind, generous and smart. I loved that one guy was a warp field theorist. I also really appreciated how willing they were to bend their customs in order to accommodate new friends: breaking their fast to avoid insulting Archer, including Dr. Phlox to the point of letting him stay with them and do the big fancy invocation even though it was so important. This is unusual for Trek, where religion is, above all, usually depicted as unbending in the face of unexpected circumstances.

That was a nice surprise, and credit where it's due.

On a smaller note, I liked the bit on the bridge with Reed, Mayweather and Hoshi. That all felt pretty real and comfortable.

* There is a weird lack of curiosity to go around, here.

So Archer and Trip were friendly, which is good. It’s nice they cooked up a feast, and nice they wanted to give everybody a tour and a comfortable lounge to do their religious observation in and stuff. I do not want to criticize their overall etiquette too much. They weren’t awful or anything.

What's strange here is that they’re not really interested in getting to know these new people. First thing Archer does is explain a handshake instead of asking how Prah Mantoos normally greets people. Trip launched into an explanation of the warp reactor… to a bunch of people they met on a warp capable ship, without even asking what everybody already knew. They're very busy explaining themselves instead of learning about others. Last time, I talked about how these guys feel less like intrepid explorers and more like doofy kids on a road trip, and that’s definitely the vibe I got this time too. Like… I would’ve wanted to know the whole story behind the clock. Hell, I would’ve been asking about the booze, too.

Some of this is shades of VOY: wherever Voyager went, all they could talk about was Earth culture, but it made some sense for people who might not live to see home again. I'd expect them to get homesick, nostalgic, lose perspective. Here… I got nothing, you know? They’re not cut off from support, and their entire mission is to go forth and make friends.

Oh, and for my money, the weirdest detail here is Dr. Phlox. Phlox is the one behaving the way an explorer should, as far as I’m concerned: he doesn’t really explain Denobulan stuff to people unasked, he asks about *them* instead. He’s all ‘hey can I sleep over and learn the chants?’ ‘Hey can I visit your church?’ And he does it without judgment or talk of homesickness or anything else.

I find this strange because on Star Trek, it’s normal to have an alien on board questioning ‘why are you doing this?’ so that human characters can talk a little bit about why our values are important. It’s similar to why a lot of genre stories include an ‘everyman’ type, to let characters have an excuse for exposition. Indeed, T’Pol serves that function here, and I imagine it’s part of why the Vulcans are depicted as such sticks in the mud: it’s hard to have a conversation about ‘what does it mean to be human’ without someone asking. But Phlox is a better explorer than any human on the ship, and they should really be emulating *him*, and… it just feels like a first for the franchise, and I can’t imagine it’s intentional.

* I feel actively dumber for having seen the A-plot.

The more I think about anything that happened with Daniels and Silik, the less sense any of it makes. Just rattling off a few things: physical dislocation in time is reasonably well understood by the TNG-era, never mind the century that Future Guy is supposedly from, so it’s unclear why he is *unable* to go back in time in person rather than simply unwilling. (I can think of any number of reasons he wouldn't want to, but have no idea why it's not at his discretion.) Daniels breaks the Temporal Prime Directive over his knee then stomps on the pieces by telling Archer about things like the Temporal Accords, and it’s unclear why this is acceptable. Daniels’ story and rationale are so bad that Archer doesn’t come across very well for believing him. (Daniels can phase through walls but needs Trip’s overt help to find Silik?) It’s unclear to me how Enterprise was supposed to survive the plasma storm in an unmodified timeline where Silik never saved them. I can’t imagine why Archer would just seal Daniels’ quarters and not investigate them, (which also ties into the weird lack of curiosity on display).

I… I mean, seriously? This is so nonsensical that I feel a sense of vertigo trying to fit all of it together into my head at one time.

So, uh. That was fun. Last week, nathan_teske offered us an old link that explains some decisions behind the scenes of ENT S1 that puts this in some context I guess: per the AICN talk, the whole Temporal Cold War was a studio request that they weren’t too into on the actual show. That may account for why it was so terrible here.

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Daniels hands out a number of quests in Star Trek Online, but in a shocking twist, he has absolutely nothing to do with players attending the signing of the Temporal Accords.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans are much too logical to believe in time travel, thank you very much.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: This week’s would’ve been catastrophic, actually - as mentioned above, without Silik’s intervention, the ship would’ve been destroyed by a plasma surge.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Pretty mild this time, but it’s noteworthy that Captain Fraddock’s ship didn’t suffer any critical system damage during the same plasma storm, and that Archer didn’t even try to pursue the Suliban Helix ship even though questioning Silik would’ve been a pretty good idea.
posted by mordax (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Short Sunday evening comment: even though I agree that the Temporal Cold War story was kind of a mess, it tickles me that Matt Winston (Daniels) was on because he'd been one of the Thermians in Galaxy Quest. Sometimes I wonder if GQ was the Trekverse's Star Trek--which would mean, among other things, that Jason Nesmith played Buzz Lightyear, Gwen DeMarco played Ellen Ripley, and Alexander Dane played Severus Snape--and the movie was a sort of metafictional romp in which the actors played themselves playing their fictional counterparts... with Daniels slipping in as an unnamed Thermian, just for kicks.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:58 PM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Back when this first aired, I remember really liking it -- 'finally, we're getting back to the temporal cold war stuff from the pilot that they immediately dropped but must be an important part of the show!'

It did not, uh, hold up on re-watch, except for the Phlox bits which were quietly and unassumingly nice.

This is so nonsensical that I feel a sense of vertigo trying to fit all of it together into my head at one time.
...
Last week, nathan_teske offered us an old link that explains some decisions behind the scenes of ENT S1 that puts this in some context I guess: per the AICN talk, the whole Temporal Cold War was a studio request that they weren’t too into on the actual show. That may account for why it was so terrible here.

This is definitely fascinating context, because it helps explain why these Obviously Important Events were completely dropped after the pilot; it also helps explain why the writers seem so reluctant to actually write a time-travel plot. Because, trying to unpack this episode, there's not really much about it that requires time-travel. The core of the story is that Archer is confronted with a spy on board his ship who claims to be working with (essentially) starfleet (or at least not against starfleet) and needs his help to track down an opposing spy -- from a faction that has crossed Archer before, and who has impersonated a visiting monk. Can Archer trust this person or not? And will he be able to untangle all the conflicting interests and hidden agendas in time? (No pun intended.)

That the two spies happen to be informed by knowledge from the future and happen to have advanced technology doesn't significantly affect the arc of this particular episode because everyone is at pains to make absolutely sure not to question that or investigate it, right down to locking up the quarters at the end. Rather, it's Archer's knowledge of the past -- that he has crossed arms with the Suliban before -- that ends up foregrounding the dramatic finish. It's a very We'll Always Have Paris take on a time travel story, in the sense that it's 100% about time travel and alternate realities and causality also not very interested in thinking about time travel or alternate realities or causalities. But knowing how the last episode with the Suliban played out, it's hard to take the Both Sides-ing speech very seriously -- they're clearly trying to suggest the viewer might want to think about whether Daniels or Silik is the person to trust. It doesn't work, for a lot of the same reasons that some of the earlier episodes playing around with briefly suggesting that T'Pol isn't trustworthy didn't work: that's not something you can just bring out for one episode, half-heartedly.

...
FRADDOCK: Can I help you?
ARCHER: My name is Archer. I'm Captain of the starship Enterprise. We're from Earth. We thought we'd introduce ourselves.
FRADDOCK: Pleased to meet you. What do you want?
ARCHER: Nothing. We're new to this region and we're eager to make contact with other species.
FRADDOCK: Oh.
Very much liking the theme running through Season 1 of how often the people the Enterprise meets are mildly bemused and somewhat put off by friendly and outgoing humans. It's a weird kind of humans-as-basically-American-space-tourists thing that Bakula sells well, and it's an interesting if not particularly deep take on what the early days of Starfleet exploration looks like.
posted by cjelli at 8:52 PM on October 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Do we want to have the spoileriffic conversation about who Future Guy was supposed to be? Brannon Braga revealed his identity a few years ago and it makes even less sense than what the show presented.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:13 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I doubt if Future Guy's identity had been revealed in the show he would have been who Braga says he was. That seems like the sort of thing you come up with a decade after the fact when the details of the show have faded in your mind.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:22 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


It is always a bad sign when the B-plot of an episode is more interesting than the A-plot. I was curious about the monks and their beliefs and the pilgrimage. I was even curious about Fraddock. His "what do you want" upon meeting them was hilarious.

Daniels and Silik on the other hand, were boring. This was not a good spy vs. spy story because the main characters and the audience have no idea of what the stakes are in this weird little fight they are having. Some weird device that does something we don't really understand? And we're not supposed to be sure which side to trust? Silik saving the ship only makes sense as an attempt to leave the audience confused as to who to trust, and it doesn't work because of the past experience with the Suliban.

Anyways, loved seeing Phlox be the curious and enthusiastic explorer. Hated seeing Trip give the condescending "how warp drives work" lecture to a group of obviously very knowledgeable aliens and then fail to follow-up and ask them some questions that might improve his understanding of warp engineering.
posted by nubs at 8:05 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Do we want to have the spoileriffic conversation about who Future Guy was supposed to be? Brannon Braga revealed his identity a few years ago and it makes even less sense than what the show presented.

My reading of Braga's comments is less that Future Guy was supposed to be anyone specifically, and more that they had a few top contenders by the time the show ended and Braga voiced the one he thought they would go with had the show gone for another season or two; from other interviews, it's clear that they hadn't gotten that far by this point in season one.

And so, the spoiler-part of that which is worth bearing in mind here is that, when Cold Front was written, the writers and producers were writing for Future Guy Doing Future Stuff and not for any actual, specific person with an identity and a plan: he or she isn't 'really' anyone disguising themselves, they're a writerly conceit to keep their options open down the line. The entire back-and-forth of the spy drama is McGuffins all the way down: Silik is doing mysterious stuff for the sake of being mysterious, as is Daniels. It's mystery-box writing that doesn't hold up well now that we know the box was empty to begin with.

(That said, Future Guy is obviously Porthos, evolved using super-science, because that would be exactly in line with how evolution seems to work on Enterprise.)
posted by cjelli at 8:18 AM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Of course! The entire Temporal Cold War began because Future Porthos wanted more cheese in the past and he needed to change the timeline to be sure Archer gave it to him.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:46 AM on October 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm agreeing with what other people have said, that the Temporal Cold War storyline is a not-so-hot mess and the B-story came off better than the A-story. I kind of dig the aspect of the Starfleet crew being somewhat more genteel Ugly Americans, and the alien doctor who was onboard almost by accident showing them how it should be done. And Fraddock, whose attitude is just, hey, I'm just driving this tour bus.

WRT the Temporal Cold War, I get that Berman and Braga may not have been crazy about the idea, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't or shouldn't have worked with the concept and done a solid job. To make the inevitable DS9 comparison, when Worf came on board, I think that not everybody thought it was a good idea--I remember Avery Brooks being distinctly chilly in a TV Guide interview about it--but the showrunners leaned into the idea, with Worf at first butting heads with Sisko and Odo, and even after he's adjusted (and they've adjusted to him), he's still the guy who wants to run out and curb stomp some dudes all the time. Plus, the show got a lot more Klingon content, much of it from the presence of Martok, the Klingon's Klingon. It may not have been to everyone's taste, but I dug it.

Similarly, there are a whole bunch of possibilities here that could both be spun out into any number of stories, and contribute to the series arc, if they're properly followed through on... which they often aren't, as they aren't in this episode. It doesn't make a lot of sense for Daniels to be stationed undercover on the Enterprise if it's supposed to blow up, prior to Silik's intervention, so it's likely that Silik also created the original problem that he "fixed." But, if they had managed to make the idea of Silik saving the ship more plausible, it would have both introduced the idea that, even if Daniels was on the side of the "good guys", that didn't necessarily translate into good outcomes for any particular person, or even the entire crew--this is basically the entire plot of Trek's most popular time travel episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever"--and also would have made Silik more of a potential ally, especially given Future Guy's willingness to withdraw or suspend the gifts to the Suliban depending on how well they do. The bit from the link above about how the Future Guy was analogous to the devil--that his "gifts" always came with strings attached--would also make Silik sort of a sub-demon, maybe trying to tempt Archer with potential enhancements for humanity that would put them more on a par with the Vulcans or Klingons. (There's something kind of oily about how Silik would address Archer as "Jon" that sort of hinted that they were going that way.) And that's not even getting into the idea that I had about how the show could have had Daniels and FG enlist people from just about any era for the TCW, meaning that you could have guest stars from other series, even if they'd died--I think that that would be the rationale for having Shatner guest-star. Not digging further into some of these possibilities--and the problems listed with this particular episode--point toward Berman and Braga still having the "ten percent problem" that cropped up regularly on VOY: not quite working through a particular idea all the way.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


The entire Temporal Cold War began because Future Porthos wanted more cheese in the past and he needed to change the timeline to be sure Archer gave it to him.

FUTURE GUY: The time has come for belly scritches. You will scritch, and you will do it now.

Some weird device that does something we don't really understand? And we're not supposed to be sure which side to trust?

And yet we are fairly sure, due to the casting and performances. John Fleck is never the heroes' ally.

Although I suppose there's a bit of tension (not really on rewatch of course) about Daniels. The casting there is suspiciously bland and milquetoast, like Eddington. (And it must also be said that it's creepy how accurately STO re-created that actor's face.)

WRT the Temporal Cold War, I get that Berman and Braga may not have been crazy about the idea, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't or shouldn't have worked with the concept and done a solid job. [...] there are a whole bunch of possibilities here that could both be spun out into any number of stories, and contribute to the series arc, if they're properly followed through on [...] the show could have had Daniels and FG enlist people from just about any era for the TCW, meaning that you could have guest stars from other series, even if they'd died--I think that that would be the rationale for having Shatner guest-star.

This was my thinking when the show first came out: that the Temporal Cold War was going to be used by the writers as either (A) a safety valve for keeping the audience interested in a prequel series by freeing themselves up for timey-wimey shenanigans, (B) an excuse to do a number of "Trials and Tribble-ations"/"Flashback"-style travel through Trek's past/Archer's future, which the concept of the show seems to cry out for, or (C) both. It kind of makes the Temporal Cold War that much more disappointing when you realize how many cool, nerdy, wacky, or even bleak and disturbing storylines they could have hung on it. It's not like it was ever gonna make any sense anyway, so why not have some fun with it?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:41 AM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think the actualization of the temporal cold war was sort of strike one for me back in the day. Strike two comes later. Oh, so you're going to completely obliterate all the future history that we already know? Either you have something moderately cool up your sleeves or you know it's going to end up with no impact...

Had I known that in the end the TCW would be like what, 13 episodes? And at least one or two of them weren't completely terrible. But still, that was 7% of the series, dedicated to a thing they were sort of making up as they went along. Good jaerb, guys.
posted by Kyol at 6:47 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Like others I really liked the monks and the Great Plume and found the TCW plot confusing. Don't care for Daniels as a character at all. His I've never you done you wrong at breakfast so trust me line is a big WTF moment for me about his character.

As usual, the show strives to show that Archer and Trip can be complete assholes at times. Trip is at this point a sort of Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to his personality. At times supportive and explorative at other times condescending. I have no issue with character variance as not one of us has not put our foot in our mouth in our lifetimes but with Trip it's more often that the plot needs him to be an ass for comedic or dramatic purposes that seem to be outside of his overall character.

Archer is more consistently a miserable grumpy captain so no surprises there.

I'm a big fan of Phlox though they wildly vary his character, particularly in terms of ethics, throughout the series but whereas the entire televised crew were super excited to explore new planets in Strange New World and Civilization few of them seem excited about the Great Plume and their guests except Phlox.

As for the TCW, there are a mix of nonsensical plot lines like this and some really good episodes coming up to a laughable conclusion.

I think that that would be the rationale for having Shatner guest-star.

They were going to do a 2-part episode with Shatner but apparently (accounts vary, this is from the Enterprise extras) Shatner's asking price was to high.
posted by juiceCake at 7:09 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


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