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The Catwalk

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at December 19, 2002 - 9:21 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Catwalk' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Aliens from the Takrit system hail Enterprise to warn of an approaching neutronic wave front that will kill everyone on board with radiation if they can't escape. Taking the aliens aboard, Archer realizes that his ship cannot outrun the wave, but realizes that it may be possible to use the warp engines to shield the crew if they hide in the shielded catwalks of the warp nacelles. It will be very crowded, but everyone will survive. The entire crew and the three aliens all take limited provisions and move into the conduits, shutting down all power to the rest of the ship to avoid disastrous spikes.

After some initial problems like Reed's gastrointestinal difficulties and Sato's claustrophobia, the crew finds ways to pass time, although tempers are short and the aliens nearly cause a crisis by trying to cook food on top of plasma manifold. Then T'Pol discovers that the antimatter injectors have come online -- followed by the matter injectors. The odds against this happening by accident or being a sensor glitch are astronomical, so Tucker concludes that he must go to engineering to shut them down. On the lower decks he sees many uniformed Takrits manipulating the engines.

Questioning the refugees, Archer learns that they are deserters from a corrupt military force. Though he doesn't entirely believe them, he does accept that the Takrit force plans to take his ship and might execute his crew if they knew they were hiding on board. Archer sends T'Pol and Reed to disable the warp engines while he goes to the mess hall, hacking into the ship's comm system to send a message to the bridge saying that he is the sole survivor of the radiation but will blow up his ship to keep it from being seized. Then, on an isolated frequency, he orders Mayweather to fly straight into a plasma eddy.

Realizing that they can control neither the helm nor the warp drive, the Takrit militia packs up and leaves. Mayweather is able to turn the ship from the eddy at the last moment. The crew still must remain in the catwalk until they have cleared the radiation, but everyone is safe, including the alien refugees who leave after an apology. Everyone else goes to take showers.

Analysis: A neat spin on a bottle episode, 'Catwalk' creeps slowly in places and doesn't offer much in the way of dramatic tension -- it offers up too many secrets in the previews and plays its hand early during the story -- yet nice character moments keep it entertaining. Archer compares the tight quarters to a camping trip ('Row, row, row your boat...' The Final Frontier is on UPN this weekend!). And at times it does have that feel, though it also feels a bit like Run Silent, Run Deep and Deep Space Nine's 'The Siege' (itself reminiscent of several hostage movies) once the evil aliens show up. To me it seems quite devoid of action, but I should probably confess that I had just gotten back from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when I sat down to watch it, and absolutely anything would suffer by comparison. It is a high compliment when I say that "Catwalk" held my attention.

Archer's quite fun in this episode, which starts with him and Trip planning an actual camping trip if they go on shore leave after leading a survey party on a lush planet with two suns. Once he's stuck hiding on his own ship, he manages to keep content by keeping his dog in the command area and watching water polo, thus interrupting T'Pol's quiet time. I won't ask whose bright idea it was for Archer and T'Pol to share sleeping quarters. You'd think Archer could have shared with Phlox's Denobulan Slime Devils or whatever they were. Anyway, he's a lot friendlier than Tucker and Reed, who get all snipey over Tucker's failure to build a shower along with the jury-rigged toilet, which Malcolm apparently needs desperately due to some unnamed gastro-intestinal disorder -- guess Malcolm is this show's designated running toilet joke.

Anyway, Archer learns that his ship has been invaded due to his own gullibility, concludes that he can't risk exposing Tucker to any more radiation, and goes down himself to play-act with the aliens, offering the first known use of the self-destruct button, even though his ship hasn't gone one yet! I'm not sure whether Bakula intentionally plays it for laughs or whether his wheezing and splorting are just amusing, but the end result is quite a bit of humor, which is fine because the moment completely lacks tension, just like every other captainly 'I'll blow it up!' scene since Kirk's era. Okay, Kirk actually did blow up the ship once. Remember the good old movies? Have I mentioned that The Final Frontier is on UPN this weekend?

Speaking of classic Trek -- well, the animated classic Trek, in which Spock underwent the kas-wahn ritual, which T'Pol also underwent, as she explains to Archer when he asks about her experiences camping. I guess the events of 'Strange New World' don't count. And speaking of 'Strange New Worlds,' Mayweather gets his one real line of the episode telling Tucker about a terrifying experience from his youth in space, but since one of the two things we know about Mayweather is that he likes ghost stories -- the other thing being that he grew up in space, great Mayweather development, guys -- it's hard to tell whether this is actual background or Mayweather trying to give Tucker a scare. We learn from Phlox that the Denobulans have packed 12 billion people on a single continent, which explains a great deal about why the doctor prefers life on a spaceship even if he's the only Denobulan there.

It's too bad the aliens admit to one another that they're not really stellar cartographers, it would be more fun to trust them until the other aliens show up, thus leaving us in total confusion about who to believe. I'm not clear why Tucker didn't have a closed circuit communicator when he first went to fix the engines, since they had no reason to require silence and a lot of reasons to think he might need to talk to Archer when he found out what mechanical failure they might be experiencing, with only 20 or so minutes to effect repairs. Really really wondered why the ship couldn't fly vertically above the radiation, but hey, maybe it was just a cheesy visual representation of a much bigger threat. Got some giggles out of T'Pol predicting the terrible Western despite never having seen one before -- hell, she's seen Enterprise episodes -- and got a big howl out of the thought of the ship running out of water when everyone ran for the showers at the end. Maybe they all showered together. It's really too bad we didn't get those scenes, and so surprising...what, no decontamination gel to take the place of showers?

In conclusion, 'Catwalk' won't go down as a classic but I expect to run into a rerun of it someday and be amused. Of course some of that might be from the lovely post-Lord of the Rings haze that I expect to stick with me until at least, oh, next December. And no, I haven't seen Nemesis -- not when I could spend the same $9.50 seeing The Two Towers again. Enterprise may not be perfect...but it's free.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She is also a staff writer at Green Man Review. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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