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The Trek Nation - Daedalus

Daedalus

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 15, 2005 - 4:13 AM GMT

See Also: 'Daedalus' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Emory Erickson, "the father of the transporter" and an old friend of Archer's family, beams aboard with his daughter Danica to test a new subquantum teleportation system that Emory says could send people from Earth to Vulcan or much further, making starships obsolete. While Emory was himself injured and partially paralyzed in an early experiment, he says he's living proof that such tests are worthwhile. Though excited about the experiments, Tucker is unhappy that Emory wants to modify ship's systems without letting him oversee the work; he is also unhappy that T'Pol has shut him out since her return from Vulcan, focusing her energy on studying the Kir'shara rather than letting people help her come to terms with her mother's death.

During the energy transfer preceding the tests, Enterprise encounters an anomaly that disrupts the lights and power systems. A mysterious distortion appears on the ship and kills a crewman who comes into contact with it, distorting his cellular structure. After Emory tells Archer that he has never seen anything like this phenomenon, Danica is furious with her father, claiming that he lied and they are responsible; during the course of the conversation, she reveals that Emory is really on board not to test a new transporter but to try to retrieve his son Quinn, lost in a subquantum transporter test fifteen years earlier. When he studies the energy being drawn from the warp reactor, Tucker realizes that Emory is up to something besides the tests and notifies Archer, who has T'Pol scan for more anomalies. Soon she finds another on the ship and goes to study it with Archer. The anomaly makes contact with T'Pol's skin and injures her but not before she scans it, allowing them to see that the tightly focused energy of the anomaly is surrounding Quinn.

When confronted, Emory admits that he lost Quinn in a previous test of a subquantum transporter, which he knew all along would never function: the concept was flawed. He is not there to make it work but to retrieve his son. Because the region of space around them is curved, creating a node in space-time, Quinn's signal is trapped and reappears there at certain intervals. Though Archer is furious that Emory lied and a crewman is dead because of it, he agrees to help save Quinn, who like Danica was a childhood friend. Tucker is also furious and argues strongly against risking any more lives, particularly when a reapparance of the anomaly nearly kills Archer and blows up the ship's torpedos.

Finally Emory is able to get a lock on Quinn's transporter signal and attempts to confine the beam, but the pattern is disrupted and Phlox says that Quinn's life signs are failing. Though Emory wants to keep trying cross-circuits and secondary buffers, Archer and the others insist that he cannot bring Quinn aboard safely. Rather than allowing the transporter signal to remain in limbo within the spatial node, Emory completes the transport and brings the dying Quinn onto the ship, where he begs for forgiveness before closing his son's eyes. Aware that he will face prosecution for his crimes, he tells Archer he hopes that Danica will now be able to make her own life instead of taking care of him.

Phlox examines T'Pol, telling her that she shows no sign of having had Pa'an Syndrome and that all over Vulcan, people suffering from the condition are reporting the same thing now that the stigma is gone. He notes that she seems more certain of herself, but T'Pol says she has never felt less certain. "You are examining your core beliefs, something that most people never do," Phlox observes. Visiting Tucker in engineering, T'Pol tells him that she is learning for the first time what it means to be Vulcan, which is not something she can share with him or anyone else until she understands it herself. He concedes that he expected this, but at least his engines still need him.


Analysis: Considering that it's derivative of more Star Trek episodes than I'm going to remember to name in this review, "Daedalus" feels surprisingly fresh, even innovative. It's so nice to see the crew working on a scientific development, even if it ends up not working out. In the Augments arc they were working against the practical and ethical implications of cutting-edge science, and for most of last season scientific developments were only relevant as they applied to warfare, so even though "Daedalus" borrows from or at least has a great deal in common with the original series' "The Ultimate Computer" and "The Tholian Web," The Next Generation's "Realm of Fear" and "Silicon Avatar," Voyager's "Jetrel" and a number of non-Trek science fiction sources, it feels more progressive than many other Enterprise storylines.

We know two things before "Daedalus" gets underway. Since there has never been a subquantum transporter on any Star Trek series - the closest anyone got to beaming across light years was in Voyager's "Prime Factors," and that planet's technology was incompatible with Starfleet's - we can guess that Emory Erickson's transporter is never going to work. And anyone who knows anything about mythology will realize from the title that things are likely to end badly for a child of Erickson, for the ancient Greek inventor Daedalus lost his son when the boy flew too close to the sun while wearing a pair of wings designed by his father. Any drama therefore must come from the characterization, not the plot: how Archer will react when he learns that he's been deceived, how far Emory will go to get his son back, how much Tucker and Danica's sense of betrayal will interfere with the objectives of those directing the mission. From this standpoint, the episode is a great success. Bill Cobbs as Emory and Leslie Silva as Danica give superb, sympathetic yet balanced performances; Connor Trinneer has perhaps his finest moments all season as Tucker forcefully confronts Archer about whether his emotions are clouding his decisions while forcing himself to remain detached enough to let T'Pol work out her own problems; Scott Bakula gives one of his better performances, as well, portraying Archer's conflicted emotions in a script that doesn't always make a lot of sense.

Because when Emory admits that he knew the subquantum transporter wouldn't work, yet let his son test it anyway because he feared that his reputation would decline if he wasn't perceived as an innovator? He's crazier than Dr. Daystrom imprinting his own engrams on the M-5, crazier than Dr. Marr blowing up the crystalline entity that killed her son, and if Archer had any brains at all, he would have regretfully but firmly declared that such a man simply could not be trusted with the safety of the lives on a starship. Instead Archer barely hesitates, telling Tucker that this time he believes Erickson is telling the truth, and who can blame Tucker for a bout of insubordination? A man who'd let his son take such a risk for his own reputation is probably not going to risk his personal mission of salvation to save the son of a friend with whom he was competitive, let alone the crew of the starship that son commands. This isn't casual slacking like we know Zefrem Cochrane was capable of, nor great risks for potentially great breakthroughs like Dr. Soong, but a whole different order of selfishness. It's really hard to like Emory after that revelation and Cobbs does one hell of a job making his pain matter in the end, when Quinn - a character we really don't know, and therefore can't care about as a person - dies without ever really understanding what happened.

We're supposed to excuse Archer's blind spots because Emory was such a huge figure in his life as a father, and though it's hard to see that in their interaction now that he's a captain, his relationship with Danica is lovely. They're believably comfortable together as friends from childhood, talking about things they don't share with anyone who hasn't known them and their parents since way back. She seems quite certain that Archer will make the decision he ultimately does to try to save Quinn while Emory refuses to trust him. This is more what I thought he needed when Archer was getting it on with Erika Hernandez - the comfort of someone who really knows him well and can remind him of who he is, not because they've been sexually intimate but because they know so much about one another's lives. I wish they had had more time to talk, since Archer spends most of his time with Danica being concerned about her instead of telling her what his life has been like.

The other thing that makes this episode work is a beautifully understated B plot involving Tucker and T'Pol, woven in at spare moments since it's never directly relevant to the A storyline. Tucker, who is arguably the person most capable of understanding Emory's pain after what he went through when his sister died last year, has no tolerance for putting so many more lives at risk. The dead Ensign Burrows isn't a redshirted crewman to him, he's a person lost because of someone's irresponsibility, and he can't forgive Erickson for that. Also because of his suffering over his sister, Tucker seems to believe that he and T'Pol should be growing closer because he can understand what she must be feeling at the loss of her mother...except that she isn't feeling it, or at least that's what she claims. His offers of movie nights and sympathetic shoulders aren't what she needs right now, and he finally gets that.

It's hard to tell whether T'Pol is presently in denial about the trauma of all her experiences or whether the combination of the Kir'shara and being cured of Pa'an syndrome via mindmeld has genuinely altered her mind. When she speaks to Tucker at the end, it sounds like she's grasping for excuses, yet when she tells Phlox that she's never been so uncertain, she certainly seems to be in touch with her mental and psychological condition. That she needs time either way makes perfect sense, but is T'Pol going to end up putting aside the very emotions that might allow her to understand Tucker and vice versa? I'm not even sure what I hope for where she is concerned: I wanted her to be more "Vulcan" all along as I understood the culture and the mindset, but she is who she is, and she wouldn't be on Enterprise in the first place if logic and dispassionate responses to discovery were her dominant traits. Also, because of my human bias, I'm inclined to believe that she might be happier with Tucker (as a friend if not a lover) than without him, even if she's reaching for a place where happiness is irrelevant.

Next week: "Scientific Method" redux, or so it would seem. Evil aliens experiment on the crew! Now where have I heard that before?


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.