“Dead Stop” – ENT 2X4

I picked “Dead Stop” in my list of top Trek episodes directed by women (yay Roxann Dawson!), because, as I said there:

It certainly had an interesting atmosphere (sound and visual) that made it stand out from other episodes. The music felt toned-down compared to other episodes, particularly those from previous series. In addition, there’s a really neat visual contrast between the super sleek and white Apple-store-esque public rooms of the repair station (pictured at top) and the gritty and metallic access corridors they have to climb into.

But I thought it deserved my usual feminist treatment as well.

Starting out, Enterprise is in a dire situation: heavily damaged by the Romulans and, without repairs, ten years from home. Archer, far less cranky than usual, makes the eminently sensible decision to send out a distress call.

When a ship responds, their damage makes it hard to get a clear message but they manage to get the coordinates of a repair station.

Archer talks to T'Pol at her bridge station

When they get to the station they find, surprisingly, that it seems to be entirely automated. Beaming down, Archer, Tucker and T’Pol get to a control room where all the damage on the ship is displayed and a trade proposed by the computer (nice special effects and creative camerawork here).

Archer, T'Pol and Trip looking at a diagnostic

The station also detects Reed’s damaged leg and T’Pol figures out it can treat him too, with its advanced technology. With a deal reached, the station gives them a repair schedule and lets them know those sections of the ship will need to be evacuated. The door then opens to the “recreation room”, aka the IKEA cafeteria of the future (the pic below is from later in the episode, but shows what I mean).

Trip and Reed eat in the futuristic cafeteria

T’Pol, who’s playing a significant role this episode and not being snarked at by other people for once, realizes the tables are food replicators. Tucker orders catfish, and the table creates it. T’Pol explains it likely accessed the ship’s recipe database.

When they get back to the ship, Archer expresses his suspicions about the whole thing to T’Pol:

Archer expresses skepticism to T'Pol

Archer: These repairs are one hell of a bargain at only two hundred litres of warp plasma, don’t you think?

T’Pol: Not every culture is based on the acquisition of wealth. The station’s builders could simply have been interested in helping others.

Archer: What happened to them? They could have at least left a message. Thanks for stopping by.

T’Pol: Perhaps they prefer anonymity.

Archer: Don’t you find that a little suspicious? I know you don’t put a lot of faith in your feelings, but I’ve learned to trust mine. Something doesn’t smell right.

I didn’t mind this scene because it lacks the same kind of pure contempt we see in earlier episodes from Archer for T’Pol and Vulcans.

In the recreation area, a recuperated Reed hangs out with Tucker. They decide to try and break into a conduit to get a look at the computer running the station.

As this is happening we cut back to the ship, where a shirtless Mayweather is summoned from his quarters to Launch Bay 1, apparently by Archer, even though the area was off-limits.

On the Station, an alarm goes off and Tucker and Reed are transported by the station to the bridge of Enterprise. 

Trip and Reed find themselves beamed to the bridge

As this is happening we cut back to the ship, where a shirtless Mayweather is summoned from his quarters to Launch Bay 1, apparently by Archer, even though the area was off-limits.

In the Launch Bay, Mayweather sees a wall rippling with energy.

As Archer lectures Reed and Tucker in his ready room, T’Pol hails him and says he has to report to Launch Bay 1. There, Phlox is examining Mayweather’s corpse. It seems he died of burns.

Cranky Archer comes back at this point. I guess it makes sense, since he thinks a crewmember is dead, but I guess I’m just more of a fan of the leader being dignified in grief, at least in front of his crew (see Kirk in the end of Wrath of Khan or Picard when Yar meets her black, gooey end).

Hoshi comes to Sickbay to say a tearful goodbye to Mayweather. It’s not a bad scene in and of itself, because it’s an understandable reaction, but it does reinforce the overall depiction of her character as more emotional and weak than the others.

Hoshi grieves for Mayweather

Suddenly, Phlox notices something on the monitor – the body isn’t really Mayweather. Archer and Trip try stalling the end of the repairs by arguing with the station computer. Anyone who remembers the days of Windows blue screens of death can empathize with their frustration at the computer’s obtuse responses.

Reid, Archer and T’Pol get into the access tunnel and find a whole whack of humanoids, including Mayweather, unconscious. Their brains have been integrated into the computer, helping to account for its tremendous power.

Archer and T'Pol rescue Mayweather

The station gets upset at them trying to take Mayweather back and it grabs onto the ship. They break out by blowing up their warp plasma and firing a close-range torpedo at the arm that’s still holding them. 

I was wondering why no one tried to save the other aliens, especially given all Archer’s concern for the dead aliens in “Fight or Flight”. But at least they wrote in a line where Phlox explains most had been there too long for the damage to their brains to be reversible.

So overall, I’m a fan of this episode. The direction and visual effects are especially nice. What made the big difference for me in terms of my overall impression, though, was the improved T’Pol/Archer dynamic. Although Archer is ultimately right to trust his gut, T’Pol still had highly valuable input throughout the episode, without anyone needing to make snarky comments about Vulcans in response.

Bechdel-Wallace Test: I would argue this episode fails. Technically, Hoshi and T’Pol have back-to-back lines on the bridge, but it seems more like they’re both talking to Archer than talking to each other.

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