That Temporal Cold War Thingie

Written by Dan

Published July 14, 2004

Despite the fact that Enterprise has much improved in the past season, there are still some things about it that irk me. (Yes, aside from the Evil Alien Nazis.) Despite the fact that I find it quite entertaining — for the most part — I still consider it to be essentially a flawed show. Why? Because the series lacks an essential purpose and/or goal.

Now, I expect that many fans could argue that Enterprise does indeed have a purpose, and it's about Humans discovering their destiny as interstellar community-builders. We all know that, within the next seven years, the grand United Federation of Planets will be founded and herald in a new era of Peace and Understanding™ between the Humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites. But that's only half the story. The other half is the infinitely incomprehensible Temporal Cold War.

It's been nearly three years now since the Temporal Cold War was introduced, back in the series pilot, "Broken Bow". And aside from the fact that the future Federation is somehow involved in the conflict, we know practically nothing about it. That omission, in and of itself, is bothersome enough. But even more annoying to me is how the Temporal Cold War is used as an excuse to justify practically anything and everything that happens and is otherwise unexplainable. Suliban attacking the Klingons? Temporal Cold War. Suliban saving the Enterprise? Temporal Cold War. Tholians hunting for a mysterious derelict? Temporal Cold War. Xindi trying to destroy Earth? Say it with me: Temporal Cold War!

You get the idea.

Heck, even the very name "Temporal Cold War" makes little to no sense under any of the normal rules of logic. Based on what little we've seen so far, it seems that the conflict primarily involves clandestine movements by various factions scattered through time that are trying to alter the timeline in their own favor. But... merely by trying to alter the timeline, anyone runs the risk of erasing themselves or their enemies from existence completely (as the Sphere-Builders were actually trying to do through the Xindi as their proxies). Now sure, those actions may not involve the firing of conventional weapons, but I think that that would hardly qualify as a "cold war" — attempting erasing your enemies from existence seems pretty "hot" to me!

Let's take "Shockwave" as an example. Both Daniels' faction and "Future Guy" were both trying to manipulate the timeline through the Enterprise. Future Guy was trying to capture Archer, and obviously trying to remove him from the ship. Daniels removed Archer from the Enterprise to try to protect him from Future Guy. Without Archer, the timeline was altered, and apparently the Federation never came into existence. Not only that, but Future Guy himself also apparently ceased to exist (seeing as how Silik tried and failed to contact him throughout Part II). Therefore, it stands to reason that had Future Guy successfully captured Archer, he too would have changed the timeline to a similar extent — thus causing himself to cease to exist! (Heh. My philosophy professor would have a field day with the innate contradictions of that last comment.)

So, if any altering of the timeline causes one to cease to exist, then what's the point in this Temporal Cold War anyway? It makes no sense to try to alter the timeline, because your faction will no longer exist. This makes fighting an ultimately self-defeating course of action. (Hmm. There's probably a good Trekkian moral in there somewhere, but I doubt that's what the writers have in mind.)

Granted, there's still plenty of time for the writers to explore more aspects of this Temporal Cold War, and to develop a greater understanding of the causes and motivations for the conflict. After all, what's the point of understanding a conflict without understanding the motivations? And that, essentially, is what is missing from Enterprise — a decent treatment of the people behind the Temporal Cold War.

It's pretty clear that the opening episodes of season four will involve the Temporal Cold War. But will we get some real, concrete revelations, or just more Daniels ex machina? Only time will tell.