Twilight (S3, E8)
To some extent, ‘Twilight’ is Enterprise‘s version of episodes such as TNG‘s ‘The Inner Light’ or DS9‘s ‘Hard Time’, which place characters in a science-fiction gambit allowing them to live a life separate from the one they do week to week. It’s the turn of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) here who, after being inspected by ‘subspace parasites’ (we’ve all been there), ends up relieved of command and the Enterprise’s third season mission–to destroy the Xindi super-weapon (more on that in a minute)–fails. Earth is destroyed and the Trek future we know never happens.
Becoming essentially an alternate-timeline story with an inevitable silly reboot button pushed at the end, ‘Twilight’ nonetheless inventively imagines a future where an ageing Archer is cared for by his former first officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) and becomes something of a character piece, despite the big science-fiction ideas and timeline elements. In a neat little call back to The Wrath of Khan, Archer and the survivors also end up living on Ceti Alpha V. Hope they watched out for eels!
The Expanse (S2, E26)
If ‘Broken Bow’ was one of the best pilot episodes of the Trek shows, then ‘The Expanse’ is easily one of the strongest season finales. Rarely has a show managed to pack so much into one hour and make it work, both tying off half a dozen plot threads that had rippled across the first two seasons, while also teeing up a massive directional change for the series in its third season; indeed its practically a prequel for S3 as much as a finale, designed to breathe life into a show many believed was already ailing, straining under the weight of feeling like a watered-down TNG amidst an evolving television landscape.
‘The Expanse’ begins with a massive attack on Earth by a probe from the Xindi, an unknown alien race who Archer later finds out (via the mysterious Future Guy who had menaced the Enterprise in the bizarre Temporal Cold War since the pilot) believe the Federation will destroy their race in the 26th century and are pre-emptively planning to destroy Earth with a super-weapon they’re building. Problem is, they can only be found in the ‘Delphic Expanse’, basically the Bermuda Triangle in space, so the Enterprise not only has to undertake a desperate mission to find & stop the Xindi but also traverse an area of space where all manner of weirdness goes down.
Before the Enterprise can set off, mind, you not only have Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer) mourning the death of his sister in the attack, the creepy Suliban lurking about, T’Pol questioning whether she should stay on the ship and even disgraced Klingon commander Duras seeking vengeance on Archer. Just a blistering hour which kicks off a strong, serialised third year which did just enough to keep the show going…