Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “The Catwalk”

“The Catwalk”
Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 2, Episode 12
Production episode 038
Original air date: December 18, 2002
Date: September 18, 2152

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is preparing for a detailed survey of a new world when a Takret ship shows up warning them that a neutronic storm is approaching, and it’s coming faster than Enterprise can travel. The three aliens ask for sanctuary as their vessel won’t be able to withstand the storm.

Unfortunately, Enterprise isn’t likely to fare much better. The hull can take the damage, but the people can’t: the radiation will penetrate the hull and kill everyone. Phlox suggests sickbay as the best-shielded part of the ship, but Tucker has a better suggestion, one that all eighty-plus people on board can fit in: the catwalks in the nacelles. The nacelles themselves have stronger shielding than the rest of the ship, so they can survive there. But since the temperature in there is three hundred degrees normally, they have to shut down the warp engines completely.

Tucker and Mayweather scope out the nacelles once the power goes down. Mayweather rather smartly reminds Tucker that there needs to be a latrine of some sort. They also set up a command post, to which bridge functions will be routed.

The three Takret, who value their privacy, and who claim to be stellar cartographers, get a curtained-off area for themselves, while Phlox has to convince T’Pol to let him bring all his animals along.

Once the entire crew and the Takret, as well as Porthos and Phlox’s menagerie, are safely ensconced in the catwalks, Enterprise turns into the wavefront to ride it out. Mayweather is able to keep the ship stable.

As the days pass, T’Pol spends almost all her time in the command center, though Archer urges her to try to mingle with the crew and maybe get to know them better. Archer himself checks on everyone (Sato comments that this gig will cure anyone of claustrophobia; Archer also helps another crewmember with her crossword puzzle). Phlox says these cramped quarters remind him of home, as Denobula is a fairly crowded planet. Reed at one point approaches Phlox for treatment for motion sickness. Mayweather also reports that there are plasma eddies that are incredibly dangerous, but he can avoid them with his mad piloting skillz.

Star Trek: Enterprise "The Catwalk"

Screenshot: CBS

At one point, a card game turns contentious, as Reed is going stir crazy, and also objects to the lack of bathing facilities. Tucker counters that he’s lucky there’s a toilet. The Takret cook their food on a plasma manifold, which is incredibly dangerous. Tucker gets them to stop and promises to have Chef prepare something they can eat.

Tucker is then summoned to the command post. The antimatter injectors have come online, which is not good. It might be a glitch, but Tucker puts on an EVA suit to check it out. Phlox reminds him that he only can be out there for twenty-two minutes before he’s in danger from radiation poisoning.

To Tucker’s surprise, he finds several uniformed Takret, who are wandering around the ship without any kind of protective gear. He manages to stay hidden, and quickly learns that they’re also on the bridge. There’s a ship docked with Enterprise. They don’t seem to know that the crew is in the catwalk, and Tucker high-tails it back there to report to Archer.

The Takret captain is listening to Archer’s logs while waiting for his crew to get the engines up and running. He’s concerned that Archer’s crew will return once the storm passes, assuming they abandoned ship temporarily.

Phlox examines the three Takret, who reluctantly admit that their species is immune to the radiation from the storm—however, their ship was in no shape to weather the storm, so they did need to board Enterprise. However, they aren’t stellar cartographers, they’re conscientious objectors (or deserters, depending on how one looks at it). They ran away to avoid serving in their corrupt military, which makes a habit of commandeering ships and murdering their crews.

Star Trek: Enterprise "The Catwalk"

Screenshot: CBS

The Takret are trying to start up the warp engines, which they would only do if they wanted to take possession. And if they’re successful, the nacelles are gonna be too hot to survive in.

They’ve got about twenty minutes before the warp coils charge up, and they also have the advantage in that the helm controls are still in the catwalk. They only have three EV suits, so Archer, Reed, and T’Pol suit up (Tucker is benched due to already having too much radiation exposure).

Reed and T’Pol work to shut off the warp injectors. Meanwhile, Archer talks to the Takret captain, who informs Archer that they’re harboring fugitives and the Enterprise is being impounded. Archer counters that he doesn’t recognize Takret authority, and he’ll blow up the ship before letting it fall into their hands. The Takret captain snidely counters right back that he doesn’t believe that Archer will destroy the ship that was built with his father’s engine design. Archer then proves he’s not bluffing by ordering Mayweather to turn into a plasma eddy.

Unable to regain helm control, and with T’Pol having shut the warp engines down again, the Takret captain reluctantly orders his people to abandon ship. Once the Takret ship has disengaged from Enterprise, Archer orders Mayweather to steer away from the eddy.

T’Pol joins the crew in watching an old episode of Kung Fu, where she figures out the twist in the episode before everyone else does. Then Archer announces that Mayweather’s mad piloting skillz have gotten them out of the storm sooner than expected, and they can all leave the catwalk to shower, change clothes, and sleep in their own beds, finally…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The nacelles are, understandably, the best-protected part of the ship. Of course, it’s also three hundred degrees when it’s in use, which is why we don’t usually see people wandering around there…

The gazelle speech. Archer watches water polo on his padd, which is way too noisy for T’Pol. So he shuts it off and goes to sleep.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. But Archer can’t sleep, because T’Pol is working on her padd, and its beeping is way too noisy for Archer. So she shuts it off and goes to sleep.

Star Trek: Enterprise "The Catwalk"

Screenshot: CBS

Florida Man. Florida Man Stumbles Over Alien Incursion!

Optimism, Captain! Phlox’s first suggestion is for everyone to crowd into sickbay, which is the best protected part of the ship (best-protected habitable part, anyhow), and it’s a good thing they didn’t do that, as a rerun of “A Night in Sickbay” isn’t something anybody wants….

 Good boy, Porthos! Phlox pretty much guilts T’Pol into giving him enough room on the catwalk to house all of his animals in separate crates. (Guilting a Vulcan is no mean feat…) 

More on this later… This is humanity’s first encounter with a neutronic storm, though T’Pol says that Vulcans have encountered them, and Phlox’s dialogue indicates that he’s had some experience with them as well (or at least has read up on them). Two centuries hence, Voyager will encounter a neutronic storm in the Delta Quadrant in “Fair Haven,” though ships will be tougher in two hundred years and Voyager will weather it far better. 

I’ve got faith…

“You knew we’d be stuck in here for over a week. You might have given a little thought to making it tolerable.”

“I only had four hours, Malcolm—you’re lucky we’ve got a toilet.”

–Reed pissing and moaning and Tucker refusing delivery of same.

Star Trek: Enterprise "The Catwalk"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. The three fugitives are played by Scott Burkholder (last seen as a Starfleet commander in DS9’s “When it Rains…”), Aaron Lustig (last seen as a Banean doctor in Voyager’s “Ex Post Facto”), and Zach Grenier. Two of the alien officers are played by Brian Cousins (last seen as a Romulan in TNG’s “The Next Phase” and a Borg in TNG’s “Descenttwo-parter) and Sean Smith, while the alien captain is the last of five Trek roles for Danny Goldring, who has played a Cardassian legate (DS9’s “Civil Defense”), a human Starfleet soldier (DS9’s “Nor the Battle to the Strong”), a Hirogen hunter (Voyager’s “The Killing Gametwo-parter), and a Nausicaan captain (“Fortunate Son”).

Trivial matters: This is the only real appearance of Chef, though we only see him from the waist down, thus keeping his true identity secret. (He was played by Richard Sarstedt, one of the regular background actors/stand-ins.

T’Pol mentions once doing the kahs-wan ritual, a desert survival challenge on Vulcan first seen in the animated episode “Yesteryear.”

The Takret captain listens to a couple of Archer’s logs. The first that we hear is from “Fallen Hero,” referencing the Mazarites and Ambassador V’Lar. We don’t hear enough of the second to nail down when and what it was.

Based on dialogue, the episode of Kung Fu the crew was watching was “The Tide,” which is the episode that Sheriff Boggs (played by Andrew Duggan) appeared in. However, the bit we saw on the screen was not from that episode…

Star Trek: Enterprise "The Catwalk"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “You’re proposing we take refuge in a crawlspace?” It’s funny, I was watching this episode and really grooving on it, but when I wrote it up, I was having a hard time remembering why I liked it so much. I think part of it is how dreadful “Precious Cargo” was than anything, but also the script and direction were brisk and top-notch. I also have to admit that the episode sold me when Mayweather mentioned the need for a latrine in the catwalk. Trek’s aversion to even acknowledging that bathrooms exist is often fodder for humor (justifiably so), so this was a welcome reminder of one of the many difficulties of cramming everyone into an access walkway for a week.

The plot is pretty straightforward, but the conversations among the crew, the Takret captain listening to Archer’s logs and using the information therein against him (though wouldn’t those things be password-protected or something?), and a rare opportunity for Mayweather to show off his piloting chops all combine to make it enjoyable. I’m less convinced by Archer’s driving the ship into an eddy. Of all the Trek captains to date, Scott Bakula is the second least likely to go completely batshit. That’s a scene that Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, or William Shatner would’ve nailed. (In fact, Mulgrew did nail it in “Scientific Method.”)

It’s popular among certain Trek fan circles to slag Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, and it’s mainly because Enterprise was a) their creation and b) the only Trek spinoff to fail in the marketplace. Indeed, the show was regularly ripped apart in online forums through the first five years of the millennium. (Which is why I’m less than impressed with the people slagging the current crop of Trek shows, who talk about how they miss when Trek was good from 1987-2005. Suddenly, Enterprise is part of the “good” Trek, when two decades ago, it was the shitty new show that wasn’t as good as the old stuff. Nothing changes…)

I always thought that the vitriol directed against those two was overdone, but I never really focused on how much writing the two of them did for the show. They wrote or co-wrote 18 of the 26 first-season episodes, and this is only the fourth episode of this season so far that they don’t have a writing credit on. Given that they wrote at least the story for just under 70% of the episodes so far is, if nothing else, an indication that these two are responsible for most of what the show has given us thus far.

It’s certainly telling that this episode—which is pretty standard stuff, all told—feels like an even stronger tale than it really is, mostly because a lot of what came immediately before (not just “Precious Cargo,” but also “Vanishing Point,” “The Communicator,” and “Marauders”) was so very meh.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido is a guest at Dragon Con 2022 this weekend in Atlanta, where he’ll be doing panels, workshops, readings, autographings, and more. His incredibly crowded and insane full schedule can be found here.

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