In the thirteenth episode of the second season of Enterprise, Tucker once again suffers a lot, but this episode IS REALLY GOOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I admit that it’s hard not to compare “Dawn” to The Next Generation‘s “Darmok,” and the similarities are undeniable: a sole crewmember is stranded on a planet with a member of a species with whom they cannot communicate. No universal translator is available, and the two characters must understand one another through the language barrier in order to persevere. Obviously, the details and the context of both episodes set them apart, and there’s way more tension and violence here in “Dawn.”
I’m thankful for that, though, because the ending of “Dawn” makes it clear that this is not the same episode. Initially, I wasn’t sure. Tucker has been put into a lot of these survivalist stories, so… was he really the right fit? CAN’T TUCKER GET A BREAK AND GET A REAL VACATION. (Remember, his time on Risa wasn’t exactly relaxing.) But I can’t envision the events of “Dawn” with anyone else but him. In order for this to work, the most “volatile” member of the Enterprise crew had to be put alongside Zho’Kaan. There had to be an immediate and long-lasting friction between both characters so that the eventual respect that grew between them would be so meaningful.
I mean… let’s just get this out of the way. I am OBSESSED with the trope of two people who despise one another learning to get along or allying in order to combat a different problem. THAT IS THIS WHOLE EPISODE IN A NUTSHELL. But it’s not just the invocation of the trope that pleased me; it’s done so fucking well. Tucker and Zho’Kaan are stranded by accident, and yet there are a billion reasons why neither one trusts the other. Right from the start, it was easy to understand why Tucker believed that Zho’Kaan was going to kill him. He had fired upon Tucker without provocation, so why wouldn’t he finish the job he had started? Then, Zho’Kaan stole Tucker’s transceiver so he could get off the planet without Tucker, so… yeah. Why would Tucker trust him?
What was so fascinating to watch was the way in which both parties began to realize that survival would not be possible without the other person. It’s a slow burn over the course of “Dawn,” exacerbated by the heat and the desperation Zho’Kaan and Tucker felt. Even when it seemed like they were about to make a breakthrough, I wondered aloud if Tucker could trust Zho’Kaan when he freed him.
And then the two of them BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF ONE ANOTHER. It’s one of the most brutal fights in all of Star Trek, but it has to be. Even though they learned a few words from each other’s language, even though it seemed clear that they’d have to move to a higher point on the moon to reach anyone who could help them, Zho’Kaan still whooped Tucker’s ass. (Well, it was more of a mutual thing.) THEY FOUGHT UNTIL THEY WERE SO EXHAUSTED THEY COULDN’T EVEN HIT ONE ANOTHER ANYMORE. I JUST… I wasn’t ready for this episode, friends. It is so rich with character tension and then transforms into a study of understanding and hope, and every goddamn bit of “Dawn” that takes place on the face of that mountain is incredible. Tucker’s monologue about the beauty of exploration is not just written well; Conner Trinneer gives perhaps my favorite performance of his so far.
I’m also glad that this episode didn’t end things like “Darmok” did, though I began to worry that Zho’Kaan would perish during Tucker’s monologue. Instead, not only does Zho’Kaan survive, but we get that muted (yet powerful) final scene where Tucker and Zho’Kaan actually get to talk to one another. I FELT MANY THINGS DURING IT. Namely, though, I was impressed. I believed this episode and these performances. And after the whirlwind excitement of “The Catwalk,” I was pleased to get another stellar episode.
The video for “Dawn” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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