63: Carpenter Street
Blahh, yawn. Here we witness Enterprise slinking into the gutter for no apparent reason.
Somehow, Berman and Braga must have thought that taking the latest skirmish with the Xindi and
setting it in Detroit of 2004 was a good idea. Hmmph. I don't know what the appeal of that was supposed
to be, but it sure doesn't come across on screen. The setting is messy, depressing, and ugly,
littered with run-down city architecture and vice-filled character motivation. A narrative that seems
to want to stretch over several days bizarrely only gives us scenes at night.
Only one indigenous local character gets significant screen time, and he isn't any kind of
draw for our interest in the story. Only Archer and T'Pol come back to this time from our crew
of Enterprise regulars, and they don't manage to be much of a compelling team for the adventure,
which is quite short on humour and bulldozes through any possible fish-out-of-water interactions
without much charm or care. The whole thing is rather wet and insipid, featuring none of the
bright clean futuristic visuals and optimistic philosophies upon which Star Trek had built its
popularity. The audience shows up for a gourmet meal, and gets a greasy burger stuffed into their
And yet this stinker of a setting MUST have been Berman and Braga's primary thought,
since the time travel aspects are tacked on afterwards with NO thought behind them other than
to facilitate the setting. Daniels shows up spouting all kinds of rubbish designed to try and treat
all events at any point in time as if they're all just happening now. But, he can't let go of the
concept that history and the present can magically change, making up tons of foolishness about
how he could have witnessed it without it actually happening yet. Is anyone still convinced
that he knows what he's talking about, what Berman and Braga are talking about through him?
He says something along the lines of the change in the past "needing time to catch up with
the present". Yeah, it needs a couple of centuries, which..... Oh look! It has already had
a couple of centuries! It's clear that B. & B. don't want to think through their premise,
and Daniels' speeches are a lame attempt to get the audience to not think them through either.
For those that do think it through from the reptilian Xindi's point of view
using my model of time, the only way they could succeed in making a difference is
if they deploy their virus in the present. Deploying it in the past would spawn
a branching line of history that would have no effect on the present of the Xindi
we have seen. But if they stay in the present and deploy their virus in 2153,
it definitely will have an effect on the timeline in which those same Xindi have
their physical presence invested. Whether or not the Xindi reptilians understand this is a separate
point - antagonists can certainly still work well without understanding time/choice dynamics,
and in fact might be antagonistic primarily BECAUSE they don't understand it. Protagonists
and writers won't get away with it so easily though.
Daniels also has a couple lines about how the entire Xindi conflict is not supposed to
be happening either. My guess is that this is meant to only indicate that Daniels will not
be of much help in solving the season arc, but such comments may in fact contribute to bleeding away
audience interest. Are we heading towards the history of Kirk and company that we know? Many Trek fans
don't care to invest emotionally in anything else, and the franchise wasn't much good at building
acknowledgement of alternate paths that can continue to co-exist with the one most fans wanted.
Were Berman and Braga indicating that they would erase the entire season's narrative in another
bone-headed time re-write? Do we dare stay invested while trusting them to play a smarter game?
Hindsight says they did lose audience members as they went, and this episode features one of the
bigger dips down in the ratings.
Technically, the events of this story still hold up under the branching history
model of time which all of our protagonists and "time experts" remain ignorant of.
One can also go with the motivation of Archer and T'Pol in chasing the Xindi from their own
time wherever they go and putting an end to their machinations, if you think it through.
But with that as the story's backbone, you really don't need to set the story in the past,
and since Berman and Braga can't think through a temporal model very effectively anymore,
it would have been better if they hadn't gone there. But even doing this one in the present,
it would remain kind of useless.....
The story's opening is drab enough that one may almost mistake it for one of a million
other crime/cop shows on TV, and a less interesting episode of same at that. It makes you
want to stop watching or change the channel. The one saving grace is the reveal of the
Xindi reptoid in the hook. Though this "backyard alien of the week" format is an all-too-common
standard twist for a Doctor Who story, it isn't done all that often on Star Trek. More importantly,
it signals to those of us who are invested in the big season arc that this episode may be one of the
really important ones, and so we reluctantly sit it through to see what develops.
But the actual plot afoot here exists as a tangent from the main season arc, and one that reaches
a predictable dead end as Berman and Braga reach for the reset-button to clean the adventure up
at the end in a tidy bow. But what was the point of it in the end? I'm thinking the season
won't really do anything significant with the developments here. It felt like a less-inspired
redundant repeat of the episode "Rajiin", which had been a more relevant and interesting way
of achieving the same end from the villains' point of view.
In the end, this seems like an episode that followers of this season could easily skip,
and perhaps should skip. Only "Extinction" ranks lower than this one amongst ALL the episodes
I've seen up to this point. "Carpenter Street" was a real waste of celluloid, brain power,
and attention span.
Read the next In-depth Analysis Review:
"Azati Prime / Damage / The Forgotten"