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Where Few Have Gone Before: “Breaking The Ice”

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…


  • CraigM

    Enterprise had a lot of problems. Most of the characters (Reed, Mayweather, Hoshi) didn’t get much development at all, and the first two seasons were spent doing the same stories over again that had been done in TNG and the other shows (Oh! This will be the first time we meet the Romulans…but not really. This will be the first time we meet the Ferengi…but not really. Oh, there’s a bunch of people that are actually all holograms of dead people…which our guest-star Rene Auberjonois should know because he did it on DS9). Season 3 was an attempt to make the show more serialized (like DS9). Season 4 I didn’t bother to watch.

  • George Mitchell

    I enjoyed the heck out of Enterprise despite of all of its flaws. I geeked out at all the subtle references to the future. (The whole Time War metaplot was overdone the first go around). I thought the fourth season was its weakest because they couldn’t keep the stories within one episode. However, the Mirror Universe bit was several cups of awesome.

  • Anonymous

    My problem with Enterprise was that everything was so freaking cerebral!  I loved Next Generation but it was too pacifist and then DS9 and Voyager both satisfied the good story itch as well as seeing action.  I expected Enterprise’s time on the new frontier, basically the Old West with phasers, to be even more of the same and we got so much talk, talk and backing down from anything that might get a pulse going!  Enterprise was mercy killed…

  • percane

     it’s too bad you skipped season 4, it was the best serason by far. the season they finally started doing what the show was advertised to be: show the actual pre-classic star trek federation. the 2 mirror mirror episodes were brilliant!

  • sandwich eater

    I think every show is better when the schedule is controlled by the viewer.  It’s so much more satisfying to watch marathons of a show until the end.  I watched BSG recently, and I probably enjoyed it a lot more than the people who watched it in real time and thought Season 4 was too slow.

  • sandwich eater

    Season 4 was the best.  I think Reed and Hoshi had a fair number of episodes that centered around them, but I can only remember one or two episodes about Mayweather.  He was definitely the most underdeveloped character.  In fact I can’t remember anything about him other than the fact that he grew up on a freighter.

  • Guy Smiley

    An ongoing Enterprise feature, huh? Can’t really see the point of that… Things started to improve in season 3, and season 4 was their best (not perfect, but much better than how it started), but it was far too little too late. And the series finale was abysmal. Oh well, better ENT than Voyager I guess.

    I’d love another place to have DS9 discussions though. As it is, AV Club has been posting series recaps/comments for the past few weeks and will continue to do so through the remainder the series every Thursday afternoon. Worth checking out!