Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Dawn”

Written by John Shiban
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Season 2, Episode 13
Production episode 039
Original air date: January 8, 2003
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Tucker is testing the new autopilot on a shuttlepod by taking it through a mess of 62 moons that orbit a gas giant. There’s also a lot of interference from selenium isotopes in many of the moons.

That latter proves a problem when a) an alien ship fires on the shuttle, b) communications go blooey, and c) both ships crash land on one of the moons, the selenium having wiped out the power in both.

Tucker wakes up and tries to effect repairs on his transceiver so he can call for help. Zho’Kaan, the pilot of the other shuttle, then shows up and steals the transceiver at gunpoint. Tucker makes a recording of his voice to use as a distraction to get Zho’Kaan away from his own crash site to steal the transceiver back. However, Zho’Kaan returns from his investigation faster than Tucker expected, and Zho’Kaan shoots him—luckily, set on stun.

Enterprise encounters an Arkonian ship. Khata’n Zshaar, the shipmaster of the other vessel, orders Archer to leave Arkonian space—he’s also pissy that there’s a Vulcan on board. (Vulcans tried the same we’ll-guide-you thing they did with humans when Arkonians developed faster-than-light travel. It did not end well.) Archer explains that he’s missing a crewmember and a shuttlepod, and Zshaar allows as how one of his scout ships is also missing. Archer convinces him to help Enterprise in a joint search operation.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Dawn"

Screenshot: CBS

Tucker wakes up to see that Zho’Kaan is struggling with the repair work, which is probably why he left Tucker alive. Zho’Kaan convinces Tucker to take a shot at repairing the transceiver—which, of course, is what he wanted to do in the first place…

At one point Zho’Kaan offers Tucker what the latter thinks is water—it really really isn’t—and when Tucker cuts himself, Zho’Kaan spits on the wound, and it heals.

Unfortunately, Tucker needs components from the shuttlepod, but he can’t communicate that to the alien. So he tricks and subdues him, ties him up, and brings him to the shuttlepod.

On Enterprise, T’Pol reports that many of the moons have brutal daylight periods of 170 degrees. (On the one hand, she doesn’t specify if that’s Fahrenheit or Celsius. On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter much, as that’s disastrously hot regardless of scale.)

Tucker manages to repair the transceiver, but the same interference that borked ship’s systems are also keeping a signal from getting out. They need to get to higher ground. The language barrier prevents Tucker’s attempt to convey this to Zho’Kaan properly, and so when the former unties the latter, the Arkonian attacks the human.

Fisticuffs ensue, but all they do is wear each other out, and Zho’Kaan belatedly realizes that cooperation really is the smart move here.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Dawn"

Screenshot: CBS

Dawn starts to break as they climb the mountain, and they get a signal through. But both are suffering the effects of the high temperatures, especially Zho’Kaan who does not appear to have sweat glands. They get through to Enterprise, but there’s a problem: it’s been established that neither ship’s support craft will be able to land safely, and Phlox reports that the transporter’s not an option for Zho’Kaan, as he won’t survive it in his current state. Tucker refuses to abandon him. He also saw enough of Zho’Kaan’s ship to be able to figure out a solution: an Arkonian shuttle can be modified to not be damaged by the selenium. Zshaar orders the modifications to be made to a shuttle, and they’re rescued.

Phlox treats both Tucker and Zho’Kaan, and the two finally get to talk for realsies.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, if you transport someone with acute cellular breakdown, they’ll die. So, y’know, don’t do that.

The gazelle speech. Archer is able to work with the Arkonians and manages better relations with them than the Vulcans managed after a hundred years. Which probably says more about the Vulcans than it does Archer…

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol is suitably impressed with Archer’s ability to make nice with the Arkonians.

Florida Man. Florida Man Collaborates With Former Foe!

Star Trek: Enterprise "Dawn"

Screenshot: CBS

Optimism, Captain! Phlox puts the kibosh on transporting Tucker and Zho’Kaan back—or, at least, Zho’Kaan—because of how bad off he is in the heat.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Tucker spends most of the episode in either a tank top or topless, which is especially amusing for a guy whose catch phrase is, “Keep yer shirt on.”

I’ve got faith…

“Trip, when I fired at your vessel—I’m grateful I didn’t destroy it.”

“That makes two of us.”

–The first conversation between Zho’Kaan and Tucker in which both can fully understand each other at the end of the episode.

Welcome aboard. The two Arkonians are played by the great character actor Gregg Henry (Zho’Kaan) and Brad Greenquist (Khata’n Zshaar). Henry previously played a Son’a in Insurrection, while Greenquist previously played the beleaguered new autarch in Voyager’s “Warlord” and an alien thief in DS9’s “Who Mourns for Morn?” and will later play a Rigellian kidnapper in the fourth season’s “Affliction.”

Trivial matters: This the only significant on-screen appearance of the Arkonians, though some have been seen on Lower Decks.

When Tucker is heat-strokedly reminiscing about what he’s experienced to Zho’Khaan, he mentions seeing the Great Plume of Agosoria (“Cold Front”), riding in a Suliban cell ship (“Broken Bow” and “The Communicator”), spending the night with a princess (“Precious Cargo”), getting pregnant (“Unexpected”), and several other items that haven’t been chronicled on screen. One of the latter was seeing the ringed moons of Matalas Prime, named after Terry Matalas, at the time executive producer Brannon Braga’s assistant, and currently the show-runner for Picard.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Dawn"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “The encounter was less volatile than I expected.” In 1968, Hell in the Pacific was released, starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. Taking place during World War II, it chronicled the story of an American soldier and a Japanese soldier stranded on a deserted island in the Pacific, being forced to work together despite not having a common language.

In 1979, Barry Longyear wrote a science fictional version of that plot in a magnificent novella called Enemy Mine about a human and an alien whose nations were at war stranded alone on a planet and having to work together despite not having a common language—or common species. It won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and was adapted into a not-so-magnificent film in 1985 starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr.

The influence of these two stories has been tremendous, and similarly themed stories have been told throughout Trek, from TNG’s “The Enemy” and “Darmok” to DS9’s “The Ascent” to Voyager’s “Gravity.”

“Dawn” is very much the least of Trek’s forays into Hell in the Pacific territory. It’s not that there’s anything actively wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about it. Even the 1985 film of Longyear’s novella—which was mostly awful—had some magnificent performances from the two leads to keep it going. Connor Trinneer and Gregg Henry are both fine actors, but they’re given nothing here but the most rote of story beats, and absolutely no kind of characterization. We don’t really learn anything about Tucker in this hour that we didn’t already know, and Zho’Kaan doesn’t create much of an impression. (Hell, Brad Greenquist’s Arkonian captain evinces more personality, though with him I was mostly wondering why he sounded so much like Jeff Kober…)

John Shiban’s script mostly is concerned with making sure all the Hell in the Pacific boxes are checked and not really anything beyond that. Roxann Dawson’s usual good direction is nowhere in evidence, either, though I will give her credit for the hilariously ridiculous fist fight that Tucker and Zho’Kaan indulge in before the latter finally agrees to cooperate. Both participants are, um, tuckered out (sorry…), and it’s a good example of two people who are a) bad at fighting and b) exhausted flailing at each other badly.

But overall, this episode just sits there.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido is involved with two Kickstarters that are launching soon: One is for three fantasy novels—Keith’s Phoenix Precinct, the latest in his fantasy/police procedural series, as well as Aaron Rosenberg’s Yeti Left Home and Ef Deal’s Esprit de Corpse—from eSpec Books. The other is for the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers’ anthology Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups, featuring meetings between classic characters, edited by Keith and Jonathan Maberry, and featuring nifty team-ups by Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Cox, Delilah S. Dawson, Nancy Holder, David Mack, Scott Sigler, Dayton Ward, and many more. More information at this blog post of Keith’s.


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