In the twelfth episode of the second season of Enterprise, a storm forces the crew into tight quarters, only for one of them to discover a conspiracy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
AHHHHHH, I LOVED THIS EPISODE SO MUCH. There are so many pieces at work here, and they come together in a deeply satisfying way, especially since this was not where I thought this story was going. LET’S TALK.
Part of the brilliance of this episode is that we are so convincingly shown what this experience was like for the crew. It’s a delicate thing to have to set up a new location on Enterprise, get us to believe it, and then pull off an entire story on top of all of that. But “The Catwalk” succeeds by jamming the full crew into a tiny space and demonstrating what that actually means. It’s a balancing act, y’all. How much of the script must be devoted to life in the catwalk? How much do you show of the Takret?
Here’s what I mean in the context of this episode. The audience, of course, is clued in early on that the Takret who have warned Enterprise are lying about who they are. Naturally, we suspect that this is all a trap of some sort, so once the crew begins to collect inside the catwalk, I ASSUMED THE WORST. What if they were doing this on purpose??? What if they wanted them all in one place?
And yet, the writers still give us this perspective. We still get to see the crew attempt to figure out how to make the catwalk livable. Well, as livable as such a small place can be. Given that Tucker and his crew had less than four hours to convert the space, he did a pretty good job. Toilets in lockers! A place for chef to work! Bunk beds! SHUSH, MALCOLM, YOU DON’T APPRECIATE WHAT HE DID. But that’s part of the way that this episode builds this world for us. Not only is this place claustrophobic, but there’s the storm itself that adds tension and stress for these characters, which is one reason why Malcolm is irritable.
God, it’s done so well!!! We’ve never seen so much of the crew within one single space, y’all, and it’s so CREATIVE.
I loved that the writers committed to this storm lasting over a week. Not only that, but the tiny space is exacerbated by the constant turbulence that the crew faced over this week. Halfway through “The Catwalk,” even I was tired of the shaking! Could you imagine how awful it would be to experience this at random intervals of time for over a week??? And if you’re like Malcolm, who deals with motion sickness, this would be a nightmare. (Which is why I at least sympathized with him when he lashed out at Tucker. I understood that he was possibly more upset by this predicament than others.)
The storm provides another important part of this story, though: an immutable time limit. Because of the radiation, each person has only twenty-two minutes within a suit to protect themselves from radiation poisoning. So when Tucker discovers that there are a bunch of aliens on Enterprise, he can’t take them out. Certainly not by himself, and CERTAINLY NOT IN LESS THAN TWENTY MINUTES. Thus, there’s a means within the construction of the story itself that provides tension for the audience. AND IT’S SO FUCKING BRILLIANT. Because even in that first discovery sequence, Tucker has to avoid being spotted and get back to the catwalk in virtually no time. So what happens when Archer finds out what’s really happening?
In the end, Archer chooses to believe the three stowaways he has, though it’s more out of convenience than anything else. At the very least, he just wants his ship back from the Takret military, and it just so happens that this option aligns perfectly with what the stowaways want. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ARCHER’S ABILITY TO BE THE MOST SPITEFUL CAPTAIN IMAGINABLE. Because oh my god, the bluff he pulls off here is SO FUCKING INTENSE. He pretends that his crew has died because of the radiation, then has the very-much-alive crew turn off the warp core while Travis flies the ship into an eddy. It gives the appearance that Archer is willing to sacrifice his ship in order to get rid of the Takret, and it is a spectacle, my friends.
It’s not easy to balance so many disparate parts, but bravo, Enterprise. This episode was a tremendous success.
The video for “The Catwalk” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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