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The Trek Nation - Horizon

Horizon

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 26, 2003 - 2:23 AM GMT

See Also: 'Horizon' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Travis Mayweather learns that his family's cargo vessel, the Horizon, will be nearby when Enterprise approaches a system with two gas giants that Admiral Forrest has sent them to study. The ensign asks permission to go for a visit, which the captain grants, but before he can leave, he hears from his mother that his father has passed away. On the Horizon, Travis' brother Paul Mayweather has become acting captain since their father's death, but things have not gone smoothly and they missed an important rendezvous with the Orions.

Travis offers to make modifications to the Horizon's engines and guidance systems but Paul is wary and resentful, fearing that his brother will disappear for another four years, leaving them with systems that are of no use to them. When unknown aliens attack the ship and leave a mine behind on a nacelle, Paul believes that they should turn over their cargo and run, but Travis insists that the aliens will just victimize other cargo vessels if they capitulate without a fight. He wants to make modifications that would allow the Horizon to disable the aliens, but Paul refuses to let his prodigal brother put their ship and crew in danger, threatening to confine Mayweather to his quarters when he begins work on the ship without permission.

Meanwhile, back on Enterprise, Tucker has arranged for consecutive showings of the Frankenstein films to avoid boredom while traveling to the gas giants. He invites T'Pol, who is at first reluctant to subject herself to horror movies, but Archer asks her to have dinner with him and then accompany him to the first film and she agrees. Afterwards both men are a bit sorry that they dragged her to the movies, for T'Pol sees the oppression of Frankenstein's creation as a metaphor for human fear and persecution of difference; she says that she will recommend the films to Ambassador Soval.

When the Horizon is attacked by an alien captain determined to capture the ship as well as the cargo, Paul asks Travis to bring his modifications online and help fight the threat. The alien vessel is disabled and Paul asks for a subspace postcard from Mayweather's future travels. When Archer asks Mayweather how his family is doing, Mayweather says, "Never better."


Analysis: It's a terrible thing to admit, but we've seen so little of Travis Mayweather over the past two seasons that I was starting to wonder whether there was a problem with Anthony Montgomery's acting. "Horizon", however, proves that that isn't the case; he gives a powerful, emotional performance weeping over Mayweather's father's death and he generates nice chemistry with both Joan Pringle, who plays his mother, and Corey Mendell Parker, who plays Paul. Montgomery's posture and gestures subtly indicate that Mayweather is a military officer, not civilian cargo crew. He plays a conflicted mix of nostalgic and out-of-place in Mayweather's childhood quarters.

So why do we still know next to nothing about Mayweather, even after an episode largely focused on him and his family? We see at the start that he likes to hang around in Zero-G...well, we knew that last season. We learn that he always dreamed of exploring, that as a child he made star charts, and that he feels guilt over his father's wish that he remain on a cargo vessel when he went off to Starfleet...well, we knew all of that too. Now we see the rather predictable development that the brother who stayed behind resents him and doesn't want his enthusiastic help. There's a momentary tease when it looks like we might learn that he once had a girlfriend, or at least a female best friend, but it turns out to be a tease, for we only learn from her things already suggested by the events of the episode.

If Mayweather is meant to be the Sulu of Enterprise, since Sato is evidently its Uhura most weeks, it would be a pity. But if that's the case then why do episodes focused on them at all? There's a real chance to show what Mayweather's childhood was like -- to see him interacting with admiring kids on the Horizon, to learn about the people he grew up with and fought with and dated, to have his mother act not as a strong stereotype for her son but to see the unhappiness and guilt she must surely feel, as the ship's medic, at her inability to have saved her husband of many years and to have failed to prepare her son for the difficult job he has had to accept. These people are barely characters, and it's certainly no fault of the actors.

It doesn't help that Mayweather's story is interspersed around a meant-to-be-witty B-plot that needles me in all sorts of ways, from the pathetically simplistic interpretation of Frankenstein to the fact that Tucker reduces the novel's author to the wife of a famous British poet (quick survey of Trek Nation readers: how many of us read Mary Shelley before we knew about Prometheus Unbound, even English majors like me? Most, I bet). Then there's the uncomfortable pressure from both Archer and Tucker as they vie to escort a reluctant T'Pol to the movie; the engineer asks first, but her commanding officer all but orders her to have dinner with him before experiencing the joys of the horror flick.

At least T'Pol enjoys the movie enough to tell Phlox to shut up and stop analyzing the medical technology at use in the fantasy, the only laugh-aloud moment in the episode. And she certainly puts the men in their place by offering a simplistic yet clever analysis of the underlying theme of human fear of the unknown, using her interpretation to bait Archer and Tucker as she threatens to have Soval judge humanity by Frankenstein's standards. It's really not a bad idea.

"Horizon" is very frustrating, because it seems to have all the elements in place to be a good episode...a main plot involving an under-used character that should teach us something important about him, a subplot about pop culture with the potential for wit and insight, a scientific mission ordered by Starfleet that barely gets addressed in the end. Ironically the most character-defining quirk of the episode is Tucker's interest in photography, which comes out when he sends Mayweather home with photos for his mother and offers to help T'Pol set up equipment to record the volcanoes that are the ostensible reason for all the events that follow. It seems unfair to me that in Mayweather's episode I'm still given more reason to notice Tucker.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.