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One of my favorite traditions of the superhero comics that I grew up on was the “breather” issue; the one that came after some epic storyline or another and showed everyone having something resembling a normal day afterwards, as everyone tries to calm down and go about their daily business. No wonder, then, that I was a sucker for Enterprise‘s take on the same idea, “Breaking The Ice.”
I’ve made no secret of the fact that many of the parts of Enterprise that I’ve enjoyed the most so far have been the day-to-day scenes, where we learn a little bit more about what it’s like to actually live on the ship and experience all of these strange new worlds for yourself – It’s something that humanizes the characters and makes them more easy to identify and empathize with – so having an episode that pretty much centers around a bunch of these scenes was always going to be a winner for me; that we get answers to where everyone’s poop goes after they flush their toilet as part of one of those scenes (Exposition disguised as answering school kids’ questions about the mission! I love the simplicity of that idea; it’s such a graceful solution, I’m sad that they didn’t use it earlier to help bring viewers up to speed on who was what, where and why) is just a peculiar type of gravy.
Of course, we got more than just charming insights into the world and characters of the series in this episode; there was also a B, C and D plot as the crew investigated a comet – with no discernible results, other than a couple of moments of faux danger to keep a potentially bored audience watching – while T’Pol had to deal with a crumbling relationship and the Vulcans were apparently spying on the Enterprise for reasons unknown and also possibly nonexistent beyond “Those guys aren’t to be trusted” (Frustratingly, but unsurprisingly, while there were call backs to earlier episodes of Vulcan-untrustworthiness, no mention was made to the pretty big discovery in the very last episode about their breaking a treaty to spy on the Andorians; you’d think that would still be on people’s minds, but apparently space travel makes one very forgetful). It’s understandable why these various subplots would be brought into this episode, but it’s at least one subplot too many; none of them really get developed enough to be anything more than potentially interesting, and each would have benefited from whatever time was freed up by getting rid of one of their brethren. The T’Pol subplot in particular – which deepens the relationship between Tucker and herself – feels as if we’re seeing a synopsis of something else, as opposed to seeing the story itself unfold in front of us, and I would’ve much rather have seen more meat given to that (or some foreshadowing to the fact that T’Pol was engaged, for that matter) than sit through another helping of “Those Vulcans, man, I don’t trust their ears” again.
But even with that uneven-ness to the storytelling, this episode was just… oddly winning. This might be one of those occasions where my format of watching – this is my second episode this week, as I swap scheduling because of a trip so that I can get this done and do my Fringe recap on Monday – impacts my take on the quality of the show, though; if I’d been waiting all week for a new episode, perhaps I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly to something that is, at its heart, pretty much filler, albeit well-made, enjoyable filler. Maybe if Enterprise had debuted as a show where the schedule was controlled by the viewer, people would have enjoyed it more…