Star Trek: Enterprise: Future Tense
May 12, 2019 10:52 PM - Season 2, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Enterprise is involved in a salvage dispute.

Memory Alpha has a number of details, including beating me to the punch about some of the Star Trek Online connections:

Background information
> A working title for this episode was "Crash Landing". It is also the episode title used by Sky in the UK.
> This episode is the first appearance of the Tholians in almost 35 years, since their debut in TOS: "The Tholian Web", though no Tholian is actually seen, only heard.
> An involvement of the Tholians into the Temporal Cold War had already been hinted at in "Broken Bow", as one of the proper nouns uttered by Klaang was Tholia, which many reference works consider to be the name of the Tholian homeworld.
> Behind the captain while Reed is cutting into the timeship on a counter sits the exocomp prop device from TNG that was modified in "Dead Stop" to repair Reed's leg.
> An early pitch for the story that became "Future Tense" had the USS Defiant (which likewise appeared in "The Tholian Web") appearing instead of a timeship from the 31st century. This was deemed impractical at the time for story (by seeing the Defiant, Archer would know too much about the future) and production reasons. The Defiant later appeared in "In a Mirror, Darkly" and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" (both also written by Mike Sussman), dragged into Tholian space in the mirror universe as well as the 22nd century, where Archer's counterpart had no such scruples.
> This episode alludes to TOS: "Metamorphosis", in which Zefram Cochrane is discovered alive and well living with a non-corporeal lifeform.
> The time-ship is run by organic circuitry, a 31st century descendant of Bio-neural circuitry, first used by the Intrepid-class starship.
> The ending of the episode was not exactly what co-writer Mike Sussman had hoped for. In an earlier version, a time traveling character from the 31st century (similar to Crewman Daniels) appeared on the bridge at the end of the episode. He claimed the time ship and the body inside, revealing to the crew that the corpse was actually his. This unnamed character also gave Archer some additional clues about the Temporal Cold War and the Tholians' role in it before departing.
> Among the images in "Daniels' database" are schematics for a Klingon Raptor-class ship, an Intrepid-class starship (possibly USS Voyager), an Intrepid-class aeroshuttle, the Mir space station, the US space shuttle orbiter, a Nygean ship, a 24th century Romulan D'deridex-class warbird, a Nova-class ship from the same era, the unnamed ship that attacked Enterprise in "Fight or Flight", and an upside-down Suurok-class starship.
> Also in the database is a news article on President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address for 2003.
> This is also the last time "Daniels' database" is seen.
> The timeship in this episode was partly inspired by the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Both timeships are considerably bigger on the inside than the outside. Mike Sussman noted: "my idea of the ship morphing into a police call box was immediately nixed by the producers!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 108)

Apocrypha
> The time travel pod and its pilot are revisited in the Star Trek Online featured episode "Stormbound", in which the pilot's name was revealed to be Kal Dano. His ship was damaged by a Tholian attack in the year 2410, causing his temporal drive to malfunction and send his ship back in time to an unknown date. Just before he is sent back he sends a temporal distress signal, which is picked up by another timeship. After the player helps the timeship's captain lock onto the timepod's temporal coordinates, the ship manages to recover Kal Dano's corpse, ship, and all related objects once the device had been activated on the Enterprise. It is also stated that Kal Dano had been dead for centuries by the time he was recovered, which means it's unknown how long that ship had been there when the Enterprise came across it.

Special Bonus Star Trek Online Connections:
Future Tense shaped a bunch of content in the MMO. Kal Dano is a recurring character who turns out to be the creator of the Tox Uthat from Captain Picard’s Risian holiday on TNG. They establish that his ancestry is also part Lukari, a race invented for the MMO. He’s returned to the past to save that planet as part of a stable time loop.

Immediately prior to his death, he is involved in a story arc where the 25th century Tholians are attempting to steal the Tox Uthat for their own purposes. Future Tense is also directly responsible for establishing a Tholian interest in future tech and other anomalies, which drives most encounters with them in-game. Tholians are a pretty big noise in Star Trek Online, the second major big bad after the Borg got overexposed in the early days. Like the Borg and Species 8472, the Tholians have an entire reputation track and special zone.

If that all sounds like fanfic, then I am accurately conveying game content here.

The Tholian ships depicted are a rare loot box drop, and pretty decent to fly. They are also available as pets for the much more expensive Tholian carrier, and are among the most dangerous pets in the game. (Both my favorite combat pets in STO mostly came from Enterprise, the other being based on the Romulan drone ship from the conclusion of the Bad Vulcans arc on the show.) There are also some 31st century ships in game, but they bear very little resemblance to Kal Dano’s pod, nor do any of them seem to be bigger on the inside. It is hinted that the pod is a unique invention even in that era, possibly to establish why the find is of particular importance in this story.

This Week In:
* Vulcans Are Superior: Averted. Vulcans do not believe in time travel, a puzzling choice in the Trek ‘verse.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Reed and Trip confuse the wreck’s emergency beacon for a data module and accidentally send a signal which precipitates the loss of the wreck in the finale.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Everyone. Suliban have future tech. Vulcans are previously established as much more technologically advanced. The Tholians wipe the floor with the Suliban.

Poster’s Log:
This is a frustrating episode, especially in retrospect. A lot of smaller elements hold up: the action’s okay. The time-looping near the TrekTARDIS is funny, and used for dramatic tension effectively in the last battle. Reed and Trip’s conversation was actually interesting for a change: I think this is the first time I would’ve liked a longer scene with them bullshitting.

However, there’s a bunch of stuff going on here that I don’t like.

* More with the Bad Vulcans.
This episode establishes that Vulcans don’t believe in time travel, with a side of ‘T’Pol is not curious about the ship.’ The Vulcan ship they’re headed for is also described as a combat ship. Of all the things that happened to Vulcans on Enterprise, the idea that they are not scientists and take stuff on faith is the one I find most troubling. (Vulcans being petty assholes? Long established. Vulcans not scouring the universe for more knowledge? Unheard of.) So this episode runs with a plot point I hate, and gives T’Pol further characterization I am unhappy with.

* We still don’t know anything about what’s going on.
The Suliban are henchmen. Their patron remains mysterious, not merely in terms of identity but motivation. We also don’t know anything about the Tholians: why they care about this, how they’re clued in, what it would mean if they got the wreck. Being mysterious was always sort of the Tholian hat, a trait that extends into the MMO as well.

So despite some decent action set pieces, this is bad drama because we don’t know anything about the rules or stakes, nor do we learn anything from the events of the story. Of course, this was inevitable since the Temporal Cold War was a hot mess from start to finish, but this episode is a good example of precisely how that creates failure within individual stories.
posted by mordax (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm frankly finding it a bit difficult to focus on this episode, given the (literally) devastating episode of Game of Thrones that dropped last night; whatever else you can say about Peak TV, it goes large. (Although ENT will have its own moment of going large at the end of this season.) But I'll second your points, with some additional observations:

- The Bad Vulcans are especially bad because, in the person of T'Pol, they're still insisting that they don't believe in time travel. That the Vulcans generally are insisting that time travel is impossible (because it ruins cause and effect, maybe?) is problematic; that T'Pol, who has witnessed its effects and spends time this episode looking at 29th-century Wikipedia, is going along with this, is just bizarre. Unless a) the current Vulcan orthodoxy is really super-bad, worse than Soval just showing up a couple times a season and talking trash, and b) T'Pol thinks that the Vulcan High Command may be spying on her while she's on the ship, somehow, which is actually a really interesting premise, or would be if they did anything with it.

- I can get behind the Tholians showing up and trying to grab the pod, since their interest in peculiarities of space and time makes sense of "The Tholian Web" and their interest in defending that patch of space from other investigators at all costs. (ENT will come back to the Tholians in S4, in a very interesting way.) What makes less sense is, not the Suliban's interest in it, but how they approach it. Given the general unpopularity of the Suliban, and Enterprise's previous engagements with the Cabal, why did the captain of the first ship think that the crew would accept their assertion to rights of salvage according to the law of the seaspace? If they just rolled up in their modular ships and went for it, they probably could have gotten it before the Tholians showed up.

- Instead of having T'Pol be a Bad Vulcan about the idea of crossbreeding with other species, maybe a better tack to have taken would have been for the humans to assume that the future guy was genetically engineered, and for T'Pol to have been the one to say, well, uh, it's not something that any Vulcan really wants to consider, but... yeah, we can do that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:23 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I'm frankly finding it a bit difficult to focus on this episode, given the (literally) devastating episode of Game of Thrones that dropped last night

Heh. Yeah. I won't get to see that until tonight, but it's completely understandable. ENT didn't really offer anything to miss this time.

that T'Pol, who has witnessed its effects and spends time this episode looking at 29th-century Wikipedia, is going along with this, is just bizarre.

This is a very good point, and now I'm thinking about another possibility they could've run with: the Vulcans could've also been embroiled in the Temporal Cold War in one way or another and been lying as part of their responsibilities.

If they just rolled up in their modular ships and went for it, they probably could have gotten it before the Tholians showed up.

Right? They never should've made the Suliban so powerful in the first place. It always led to 'but they could just do whatever if they actually wanted to. Do they not want to succeed for some reason?'

(ENT will come back to the Tholians in S4, in a very interesting way.)

Yeah. I'll be curious to see how that holds up in particular. (ENT's trip to the Mirror Universe was probably the series high point for me, and I'm hoping it's still half as fun this time. The sad thing about all these weaksauce ENT offerings is that I remember liking this show better than VOY by the end.)
posted by mordax at 10:47 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


It was impossible for me not to immediately read this episode as "Enterprise finds the Doctor's corpse", and that's such a laughably fancficky premise that it was hard to take the episode seriously. The whole thing has a vaguely false, non-canonical feel to me because of this.

The time looping was good. I wish they doubled down on it and made it more of a focus of the episode. It felt like the kind of high concept that would have been the basis of a TNG episode. Come to think of it... that's Cause and Effect.
posted by painquale at 1:08 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


There are no stakes in this episode; what happens if the Suliban get the ship? We don’t know. What happens if the Tholians get the ship? We don’t know. Who was the person on the ship and what was the significant of their mission? We don’t know. And who snatched the ship back through time? We don’t know.

Makes it really hard to care. And T’Pol’s continued stubborn resistance to the idea of time travel doesn’t make her logical, as she insists in conversation with Phlox, but creates an appearance of irrationality; Phlox is the one who appears logical, by contrast. I want to assume that is being done deliberately, but I don’t feel the show has earned that level of benefit of the doubt.
posted by nubs at 8:52 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Anybody else notice that Hoshi looked bored out of her skull?

the idea that they are not scientists and take stuff on faith is the one I find most troubling. [...] So this episode runs with a plot point I hate, and gives T’Pol further characterization I am unhappy with.

I feel like they wrote themselves into a corner, due to two obvious impulses:
1- Give Archer lots of moments of doubt, made evident via arguments with another lead character.
This makes perfect sense given the show's concept, and it's one thing they were pretty consistent about, but it really should've been Trip more often, because
2- Establish sexual tension between Archer and T'Pol
is a much worse idea, and it compels the writers to use T'Pol in the foil role for #1. Which means sometimes she's an iffy Vulcan, or even (as here) she seems to establish traits about Vulcans as a whole that are iffy.

I don't remember exactly when they gave up on #2, but I'll be glad when it happens, and curious to see whether ENT-Vulcans start making more sense after that point!

Given the general unpopularity of the Suliban, and Enterprise's previous engagements with the Cabal, why did the captain of the first ship think that the crew would accept their assertion to rights of salvage

Something about the actor's performance suggested to me that this might not be one of the ace captains of the Suliban fleet. Maybe his was "the only ship in the sector." That might be overly forgiving retconning on my part.

Instead of having T'Pol be a Bad Vulcan about the idea of crossbreeding with other species, maybe a better tack to have taken would have been for the humans to assume that the future guy was genetically engineered, and for T'Pol to have been the one to say, well, uh, it's not something that any Vulcan really wants to consider, but... yeah, we can do that.

That would definitely have been preferable, but that would mean leaning away from a not-so-subtle reference to Spock, and leaning toward DS9. We all could've guessed which way they'd lean there.

So despite some decent action set pieces, this is bad drama because we don’t know anything about the rules or stakes, nor do we learn anything from the events of the story. Of course, this was inevitable since the Temporal Cold War was a hot mess from start to finish, but this episode is a good example of precisely how that creates failure within individual stories.

Yes, and it makes the anticlimax that much more anticlimactic, which is a weird thing for even this writer's room to overlook.

What I did enjoy about the episode was that it had a bit of that hangout vibe mentioned here by Automocar, yet it was also busy and fast-paced. When this show gives us the crew plugging away at problems, it's at least mildly fun. (Somehow, it might even be better at that than VOY was—something about the energy level? The camerawork? Less reliance on dubious Treknobabble? Not sure.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:47 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I don't remember exactly when they gave up on #2, but I'll be glad when it happens, and curious to see whether ENT-Vulcans start making more sense after that point!

Yeah, we should definitely keep an eye out.

When this show gives us the crew plugging away at problems, it's at least mildly fun. (Somehow, it might even be better at that than VOY was—something about the energy level? The camerawork? Less reliance on dubious Treknobabble? Not sure.)

One thing I'll say for the NX-01: there's no conference room to talk in. I'm not sure if that's the entire difference, but I do believe it helps.
posted by mordax at 12:16 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


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