Star Trek Enterprise (ENT) Season 1
Broken Bow -
Fight or Flight -
Strange New World - Unexpected -
Terra Nova - The
Breaking the Ice - Civilization - Fortunate Son - Cold Front - Silent Enemy - Dear Doctor - Sleeping Dogs
Shadows of P'Jem - Shuttlepod One - Fusion - Rogue Planet - Acquisition - Oasis - Detained
Vox Sola - Fallen Hero - Desert Crossing - Two Days and Two Nights - Shockwave I/II
April 16th, 2151: Chased by two Suliban, the Klingon Klaang is shot by farmer Moore in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Against the advice of the Vulcan Ambassador Soval, Starfleet Admiral Leonard decides to take the Klingon home, using the new Warp 5 ship Enterprise. Captain Jonathan Archer, whose father conceived the ship, gathers his crew, including Vulcan science officer T'Pol who is going to supervise the mission. They soon lose the Klingon patient to the Suliban. On Rigel X the crew learns that the Suliban are genetically altered and equipped by an unknown enemy from the future. They are supposed to cause a Klingon civil war, for which Klaang carries the proof. The crew tracks the warp trail of the Suliban ship to a space station inside a gas giant's atmosphere. Archer and Commander Tucker manage to free Klaang, but Archer has to stay behind. Using the newly installed transporter, Archer can be rescued from the station too. After successfully delivering Klaang to Qo'noS where the Klingons extract the information that was encoded in his blood cells, Starfleet approves of a prolonged mission of Enterprise.
Preliminary remark: I have already said a lot about the series premise that I didn't like from the very beginning, and about the design flaws of the "Akiraprise". Have I changed my mind about Enterprise having seen "Broken Bow"? Yes and no. Yes, it was definitely an enjoyable hour and a half of TV, the show was recognizable as Star Trek, and I largely managed to set aside my anger about its errors while it was running. No, because I never doubted that the series and especially its pilot would have their merits. My gripes with Enterprise were always very general, and in some ways those gripes were reaffirmed – rather than alleviated – on seeing the pilot.
Let me start the review with the characters. First of all we have Jonathan Archer, the only character whose background is explored to at least some extent. His feelings toward the Vulcans date back to the time when he, still a boy, noticed that his father's project wasn't going as fast as it could because the Vulcans were holding back important technology. As T'Pol herself said about the ship's sensors, "Vulcan children play with toys that are more sophisticated." Archer exemplifies the inferiority complex that many humans must have had in the 22nd century. Of course, there is Archer's pride for his father's – and his own – accomplishments; that they managed to build their starship on their own, even if it took over 30 years. Archer is of the opinion that the Vulcans are arrogant. Unfortunately they prove him to be correct on nearly every occasion. Archer's response is a sort of arrogance of his own; he always strives to provoke the Vulcans. I feel he takes pleasure in behaving just like the caveman the Vulcans expect him to be; in acting out of instinct and emotion, in using rude language, and in doing exactly the opposite of what they want him to do. He also likes to point out any mistakes the Vulcans make. Overall he is full of preconception and defiance and is the least skilled diplomat when compared to his successors on the captain's chair. While this is intentional and would fit into the timeline, I wonder whether or not I want to see him behave like that for seven seasons. There is clearly a lot of room for development.
I didn't like T'Pol either. Like her two fellow Vulcan characters in the episode she is overly arrogant, as opposed to Spock or Tuvok who were always very polite and respectful in everything they did or said. Although they always criticize each other, I feel she and Archer are far more alike than they would care to admit. They constantly strive to prove each other wrong, and they cannot see their similarities; or the fact that they argue for argument's sake. For instance, I simply don't think it would be logical to eat grissini with a fork and knife, but T'Pol nevertheless does it, because she feels she has something to prove. I can only criticize T'Pol and Archer's behavior as childish. It may be too early to judge, but I don't see T'Pol as the ship's darling in the tradition of Seven of Nine. Although there are certainly parallels (not only physically ;-)), it is unlikely that T'Pol will lose enough of her intrinsic Vulcan behavior to appear anything other than arrogant to us, whereas much of Seven's popularity arose from her trial-and-error approach to regaining her humanity.
Charles Tucker is the third most important member of the cast, but we don't really get an insight into his character; most of the time he only echoes Archer's opinion, especially in his disputes with T'Pol. Doctor Phlox is a disappointment. He has less potential than I thought he might, as he is too much a hybrid of our favorite EMH and Neelix. His wide smile when Archer leaves sickbay signals that he will be responsible for comic relief – I wonder if he will succeed. Hoshi Sato is the most pleasant character by far. She may become a fan favorite, rather than T'Pol. She is very human in every respect. Despite her relatively few lines she makes many important points, the most brilliant being, "You might think about recommending seat belts when we get home." The only thing I didn't like was when she made a completely unnecessary remark about standing too close to the warp core. "Space boomer" Ensign Mayweather didn't really seem to be prepared for the mission, although I would have expected and wished he was as it would have given him an opportunity to prove himself. On the whole his contribution to the story was only marginal. We have to wait and see if this will change. For the same reason I can't say anything about Malcolm Reed, who had only a few insignificant lines in the pilot. Anyway, I can't think of any TNG, DS9 or Voyager episode that gave all of the characters more good lines than "Broken Bow". There is, however, one thing that bothered me - there didn't seem to be any crew members besides the main characters. Yes, I know that a couple of people were running around in the corridor and in engineering, and one was attacked by the Suliban in sickbay. Nevertheless, taking into account that this ship is supposed to be more crowded than any other, the extras are completely unnoticeable compared to the other series - as if they were cloaked.
As was mentioned, the state of human-Vulcan relations left a very bad impression; especially the relationship between Archer and Tucker on the one hand and T'Pol on the other. It apparently wasn't enough that Archer got into arguments with the Vulcans in the beginning, at Starfleet Medical, which should have sufficed to establish that they don't get along with each other as well as they should. Rather, Archer/Tucker and T'Pol just couldn't keep off each others' backs. Nearly every exchange of words showed the cultural clash between humans and Vulcans, although there should have been plenty of more important and especially more pressing issues to talk about - their mission, for instance. The permanent dispute was even more annoying because it was so repetitive. T'Pol criticized the crude nature of humans again and again, while the double team of Archer and Tucker always complained about the arrogant attitude of the Vulcans. At some point, reasonable Vulcans and humans should have realized enough had been said on the issue. I don't know the reason why so much attention was paid to the human/Vulcan conflict. The lack of (or the fast disappearance of) permanent "character conflicts" or "group conflicts" is something that has been frequently criticized about Voyager. This is strange because Star Trek never needed them before. TOS had the famous arguments between Spock and Mccoy, which were rarely more than just a little personal gripe that was usually humorous; TNG unsuccessfully tried to revive it between Data and Pulaski. DS9 had so many intrinsic conflicts that none of them had the chance to become obnoxious - well, maybe, other than Sisko's obsession to get hold of Eddington in "For the Uniform". Voyager, finally, had nothing like a permanent conflict, although there was the Starfleet-Maquis rivalry in the beginning.
We are familiar with "bad Vulcans" from the final DS9 season when Captain Solok challenged Sisko to a baseball match only to demonstrate that Vulcans are superior in "Take Me Out to the Holosuite". In some way, the permanent verbal attacks between Archer/Tucker and T'Pol are the prelude to this abominable showdown of bad spirit (on both sides) 200 years later. I definitely don't appreciate this kind of "consistency". These are simply not the Vulcans I know, like Sarek, Spock or Tuvok, with their flawless logic and perfect manners. Star Trek shouldn't try to ruin itself by shedding a bad light on the two races that have made the Federation strong in its fictional world – and Star Trek strong in the real world. "Broken Bow" would have been better with less of the human/Vulcan confrontation.
The story of "Broken Bow" was not very cerebral yet quite convincing, but with a rather slow plot development. The episode had a lot of action but it was not always thrilling to watch. It was so repetitive because of the aforementioned Vulcan-human arguments and the frequent ray gun fights: first at Rigel X, then two more at the Suliban space station. I didn't like that many sets such as Rigel X, the space station, the corridors of the Enterprise herself, the decon chamber (yes, I too thought the scene was inappropriate), and finally Qo'noS were just dark, and that there were too many "scary" effects, especially when the Suliban entered the ship, briefly before Archer and Sato were captured and when Archer was alone with the Suliban. I also didn't like that there were aliens we have never seen before (or will never see again in Trek) on Rigel X, only to stress that everything is new to them (even though it shouldn't be new to us). "Broken Bow" It is the kind of "historical event" plot that a series can afford at most one or two times per season. This applies to "Broken Bow" much more than to any episode of any Star Trek series because it had so many "first times": contact with the Klingons and Suliban and many other species, the launch of the first Warp 5 ship, the first "phase pistols", the first use of the transporter, etc. As I anticipated, I was a bit annoyed that so much "new" material had to come at once. I expect historical "first times" in many episodes, in this case, at least as far as technology and alien encounters are concerned, it undermines rather than strengthens consistency. If everything important already exists in Archer's time (photon torpedoes and holotechnology are already on the way, and space anomalies are waiting in large numbers), this will leave nothing to do for the people in the 23rd or 24th centuries.
"Broken Bow" confirmed my apprehension that this new series would show "Americans in space", as opposed to the idea of a united humanity that explores the unknown together. Everything in the show from the characters and places to certain customs and habits were American, the only exceptions being the Amazon University and the fact that Malcolm Reed has a British accent. Speaking of accents, I have the impression that Hoshi Sato is yet another American. I wonder why "Starfleet" was not just called "US Space Navy", considering that the rest of humanity has to stay at home anyway. With the exception of the H.M.S. Enterprize the otherwise great opening credits showed exclusively American bias regarding human achievements, too.
Yes, I'm a sucker for the opening credits. When I first saw "Broken Bow", I rewound the media player a couple of times to watch the credits again. I understand that not everyone would immediately be accustomed to a Rod Stewart song instead of a classic, and rather more expected, instrumental theme, nor the impressions from the history of exploration instead of "spacy" scenes. Nevertheless, it is strange that, immediately after "Broken Bow" aired, so many fans were annoyed by the title song and demanded it to be replaced by a new theme, or at least an instrumental version, as if this were the most important issue about the series. Ironically, in July 2001 a lot of people were upset that I condemned the Akiraprise design (for many good reasons), and many of them told me not to care so much about superficial topics and get a life. I wonder why the title theme – that has nothing to do with the stories – should be more important than the design of the ship that will play a key role in the series. I admit that this time the main title is more than just a wrapping, since it tells a story. But despite or just because of the lyrics that, though they are probably not meant to, fit perfectly, Enterprise couldn't have a better title theme.
The conclusion of "Broken Bow" was anything but logical to me. The whole time Archer and T'Pol couldn't stop insulting each other, and suddenly after the mission proves successful, as if by magic, everything is fine. Archer admits that he may have been wrong in his estimation of T'Pol, and T'Pol becomes a lot more cooperative too, even expressing, eventually, her desire to remain on the ship. I doubt that either of them could have gained that much insight so fast. There was an illogical gap in the plot. It would have been better in all respects if they had come to terms much earlier.
"Broken Bow", thankfully, didn't betray basic principles of Star Trek. It showed how an adolescent mankind went out into space, critically monitored by their godfather civilization, the Vulcans - "Let's go!". It was nice to witness this historical event, just like it was to attend Cochrane's first warp flight in "Star Trek: First Contact". Unfortunately, there was an obtrusive Vulcan-human conflict that, at times, became more important than the mission the crew had to accomplish. Instead of showing just another action scene or yet another dispute, it would have suited the episode better if it had either been shortened, or supplemented with a few scenes that better show how the ship works (Where were the promised "hands-on for the crew"?), or maybe a little secondary plot giving characters like Mayweather or Reed a bit more to do. The implausible technology didn't spoil too much for now, but the "plot drive" of the ships that allows any speed and the many unknown aliens was annoying. Overall, "Broken Bow" had a fair plot, several dialogues to remember, and a couple of cute ideas. It was more enjoyable than I had hoped for – with less of a bad aftertaste than I expected. I wonder if the following episodes will be able to retain at least the "exciting" quality of the pilot, considering that they won't be able to profit from being the long-awaited first episode in which everything is still new and exciting for the crew of the ship as well as for the viewers.
- The most blatant error is that the Enterprise, at Warp 4.5, can reach Qo'noS in four days. This would mean that Qo'noS is only one light year away – impossible.
- New light is shed on the old Rigel problem. Sato says that Rigel must be a Klingon name for a planet, and Archer doesn't call it Rigel until T'Pol tells him about it, so we can safely assume that this Rigel is not the familiar star which coincidentally has the same name in Arabian, but which would be far out of reach of the NX-01 and even the NCC-1701. Case closed. Not solved, however, is the problem how the ship can travel the 15ly to Rigel, according to T'Pol, that fast, which should have taken 60 days at the current maximum speed of Warp 4.5 - basically the same distance problem as with Qo'noS. So Enterprise relies on the good old plot drive more than every previous series - every week a new inhabited planet.
- When attacking the Suliban, the Enterprise is firing from four locations in the bow where there is nothing that remotely looks like a beam emitter.
- Why does the capital on Qo'noS look so completely different from how it appeared 200 years later? I can only suppose that they must have moved the capital.
- A more definite violation of continuity, however, is the intensive contact that Starfleet and Archer have with the Klingons, and I'm not talking about ridged or ridgeless foreheads here. We know that in the times of TOS humans did know next to nothing about the Klingons and that in "The Undiscovered Country" their customs as well as even their anatomy were still a mystery to Starfleet. Even at the time of TNG many aspects of their culture were not yet known. Enterprise, however, shows how the Klingon Klaang gets intensive care at Starfleet Medical and that Archer's crew visits the Klingon Homeworld. Did Starfleet delete all records of that? Moreover, in TNG: "First Contact" (the episode, not the movie!), Picard says that first contact with the Klingons was disastrous and led to a long conflict. I can see nothing like that in "Broken Bow". Even if the High Council was not friendly to the strangers, they must have been very glad that Klaang and the proof were saved by the humans. I couldn't imagine a better first contact – especially with the Klingons!
- More things I disliked:
- Even though the episode showed much more of it than the images released so far, the bridge design is as unoriginal as I expected. While the detail work, including the switches and monitors, is fine, the overall layout is like on every Federation starship 200 years later. It seems they have just recycled the Defiant command chair, the floor from the Enterprise-B, Tom's helm station and the overhead sensor thing from Voyager, and only changed the details. Essentially the same applies to sickbay.
- The Enterprise is just clumsy as viewed from below, as opposed to the cool "Akiraprise" top view. It almost looks like the bottom has been designed completely independently of the top, and they were just thrown together, not caring about how it would look in 3D.
- The phase pistol fires light bolts and is definitely a particle weapon, much more advanced than the lasers in "The Cage", and it already has the miraculous ability to stun people. The transporter doesn't seem to be any less advanced than the one on the original Enterprise; it was not slower, only its capacity seems to be limited to one person (the controls look even much more advanced, but I'm not complaining about that). The point is that phase pistols and transporter are two technologies whose operation is completely undistinguishable from what it will still be 100 or even 200 years later.
- Another one is the obvious FTL communication when the Enterprise, still near Qo'noS, receives a message from Starfleet.
- Rather small but nonetheless interesting details are the door opener buttons. Why isn't it possible to let the door open automatically, as they do already today? Moreover, why isn't the button located in the door itself, so that a person doesn't have to stretch one's arm out to reach it?
- Why does the Rigel system need yet one more inhabited planet? We already know that Rigel II, IV, V, VII, and XII have breathable atmospheres, and now we have to add - completely unnecessarily - Rigel X.
- More things I liked:
- Archer mentions a figure of 30 million kilometers per second which is about right since this would be a hundred times faster than light, or Warp 4.6.
- The shuttles appear less clumsy when the wings are extended. Many people complain that the shuttles look too modern compared to those of TOS, but it is only logical that a less advanced type which, of course, needs to enter an atmosphere, should be very streamlined to reduce air friction.
- Reed mentions the deflector as an important device that keeps particles from damaging the hull.
- T'Pol looks into a viewing box similar to the one Spock always used.
- The crew have flip-chirp communicators and there are comm stations in the ship's walls just like in TOS.
- I also like the labels that can be found on every console and hatch and which look like today's type labels on engines or other large machines.
- The corridors on the ship with their bulkheads are nice, although I didn't like the too dim lighting.
- I never cared that much about the uniforms, but to me the "new old" style is quite convincing. It reminds me much of today's Navy overalls, and when I see crew members in the corridors I really get the impression I'm watching a perfect series.
- One more positive surprise was the grappler, a completely mechanical version of the tractor beam. This is actually the only piece of technology that is visibly different from the 24th century.
- The "sweet spot" Mayweather showed to Tucker was another very nice idea. It is only plausible that the gravity generators wouldn't create a homogenous field.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Volatile? You have no idea how much I'm restraining myself from knocking you on your ass." (Archer, to T'Pol)
- "Today we're about to cross a new threshold. For nearly a century, we've waded ankle-deep in the ocean of space. Now it's finally time to swim." (Adm. Forrest)
- "Imagine it. Thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before." (Cochrane)
- "If you're going to try to embrace new worlds, you must try to embrace new ideas." (Dr. Phlox)
- Remarkable dialogue: "Chugdah heg:h, volcha va." - "I'll take that as a thank you." - "I don't think they have a word for thank you." - "What'd he say?" - "You don't want to know." (the Klingon Chancellor, Archer, and Sato).
- Remarkable scene: Reed tells Mayweather, "Didn't you read the profile report on these Klingons? - Apparently, they sharpen their teeth before they go into battle.", whereupon Mayweather smiles in disbelief, only to freeze his facial expression a second later.
- Remarkable decoration: There are images of the old sailing ship Enterprise, the aircraft carrier of the same name, the space shuttle and the NX-01 on the wall in Archer's ready room. Archer also has a statue of Zefram Cochrane (obviously a copy of the one that has been erected in Montana) and a water polo ball.
- Remarkable dog: Archer's dog, Porthos, is a beagle.
May 6th, 2151: After two weeks without finding intelligent life, Enterprise encounters an alien ship afloat in space and its crew dead. After leaving the scene on T'Pol's advice, Archer decides to turn the ship around. Further examination by Dr. Phlox yields the result that the crew have been killed to harvest triglobulin from them. When the attackers return, they discover the Enterprise crew as new worth while victims. Another ship of the attacked species arrives, and it is up to Hoshi to explain their situation with the few words of the alien language she has learned. She finally succeeds when she turns off the translator and talks to the captain of the androgynous Axanar directly, who then fires at the attacking ship that can be destroyed in a joined effort.
This would have been a routine mission in previous series of Star Trek but it obviously wasn't for the Enterprise or her crew. It is heartening to note that Berman and Braga kept their promise: the premise of space exploration being something new has consequences in Enterprise. The difference between the NX-01 crew and the TNG crew – who could usually rely on the superiority of their starship and two centuries of experience in space travel – couldn't be greater. I particularly like it as this is the fresh aspect of the show. But where "Broken Bow" took the Vulcan-human conflict too far, this episode gives us too much human weakness and uncertainty. It was, however, amusing that Reed didn't notice that the torpedo he fired was returning to the ship, and there was a good turning point – in a literal sense – when Archer suddenly ordered reverse course to further investigate the alien ship. I found it quite understandable that Hoshi was horrified when she saw the corpses hanging upside down. Perhaps, however, it would have sufficed to show Hoshi's uncertainty about her job on the ship. The high dose of such imperfection is the series' way to show off how different it is from everything previously shown in Star Trek, from the seemingly omniscient and omnipotent crews of Wonderworker Scotty to Borgblaster Janeway.
Their stories, on the other hand, may not turn out that different. On the contrary I am frightened by the idea that we will be shown standard situations seen in previous incarnations of Star Trek – like in "Fight or Flight" – the only difference being that the crew is caught between awe or horror. In this early episode it is still interesting. What is clear, however, is that the authors cannot go on like this. Furthermore, the large number of superficial horror effects in "Broken Bow" already bothered me, and here they play an even more important role. I only hope that they don't take over the whole series as Star Trek has done well without them so far. They may come in handy to cover up a possible lack of originality and suspense in the plot itself.
One thing I liked very much was the fact that the Enterprise didn't find any intelligent life for two weeks. If space continues to be that sparsely populated, the series will be able to maintain a degree of realism, at least within its own boundaries. On the other hand, how do the two weeks without finding intelligent life fit in with the fact that it's only four days to Qo'noS – irrespective of the ship's speed!? The episode had some realistic technology, too, like the docking arm on the Enterprise that pulls the shuttle in, the well-designed spacesuits, and most of all the attempts to open the hatch on the alien ship - something that never caused problems in previous series. I only wonder why the weapons of the Enterprise have to be called "torpedoes", as this suggests that they are essentially the same technology as photon torpedoes. While it wouldn't damage continuity too much if they already existed back then (after all matter and antimatter are already used in the warp core anyway), I think it would be nice to have two different names, even if only for a change. Another point: when the torpedoes hit the alien ship without effect I wondered why Archer didn't bother ordering the beam weapons to be fired. They obviously still have a lot to learn, which may excuse this mistake.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "We've been out here for two weeks and the only first contact we've made is with a dying worm." (Tucker)
- "My people don't share your enthusiasm for exploration." (T'Pol)
- Remarkable fact: According to T'Pol, only one out of 43,000 planets supports intelligent life.
Date not given: Enterprise arrives at an Earth-like planet. T'Pol, Tucker, Mayweather, Cutler and Novakovich are staying on the planet for the night when a storm forces them to leave their camp and seek refuge in a cavern. Soon they begin to hallucinate. Novakovich runs away, but can be beamed up and treated against the hallucinations that are caused by the pollen of a plant. In the meantime Tucker threatens T'Pol with the phase pistol, because he thinks that T'Pol is collaborating with the non-existent inhabitants of the planet. By claiming that this is actually true, Archer can move Tucker to put down the weapon, and T'Pol can treat the survey team.
After the promising start to the series this is an unremarkable episode. It seems to have been pieced together straight out of the "standard plot construction kit". A deceptive paradise! Thunderstorms! Caverns, pollen, and paranoia, crew members threatening each other! We've seen this all before, in various combinations. Unlike in last week's "Fight or Flight", the way the story is told is no different than it would have been in TOS, TNG, DS9 or Voyager. It simply doesn't justify yet another reissue. If this episode had been in a later season, I would have figured that the writers' imaginations were exhausted - but so early? There is no such excuse. Moreover, I am growing tired of the dim and scary tone that envelops Enterprise. Such a dark tone might suit a series about vampires, but not Star Trek. Another thing I find particularly annoying about "Strange New World" (and its dark tone) is that the suspense isn't even supposed to come from the meager plot, but rather from the blatantly superficial depiction of non-existent visions and voices. It didn't work. Star Trek never needed gimmicks like this before and shouldn't use them again, unless it wants to become Star Trek: The Vampire Slayer.
"Strange New World" didn't seem to have anything worth remembering - not even character development - due to the fact that no one of the survey team was acting of their own will anyway. In saying that, Tucker's gripe against the Vulcans resurfaced vigorously, but this is hardly something new. It wasn't interesting at all to see Tucker pointing a phase pistol at T'Pol for half of the episode. T'Pol, like Spock in the good old times of TOS, was the only one who was largely immune and saved the day. An interesting aspect of this episode: some of the lower ranks, namely Cutler and Novakovich, were given screen time. I also liked the few tantalizingly "bright" minutes at the beginning when the away team was joyous (but also criminally incautious) over their discovery.
- Continuity & nitpicking:
- In attempt to appease Tucker, Archer says: "Starfleet sent us here to make contact with a silicon-based lifeform." Exactly such a lifeform, however, was later said to be completely unknown in TOS: "Devil in the Dark". How can Archer simply make up such a lifeform if none is known yet? Is he a visionary?
- Another question: what the devil happened to Novakovich? According to Dr. Phlox, he was going to recover at first, then he was going to die, and in the end he was suddenly fine again. This may be how the situation appeared to Phlox, nevertheless it didn't make much sense - especially since it didn't play much of a role: the problem that was facing the rest of the survey team was a different one.
- Even worse, Phlox explains Novakovich's toxication with the words "stray neutron", as if he were a physicist and not a physician. This is completely unnecessary bad science.
- Remarkable quote: "Where No Dog Has Gone Before." (Tucker's comment regarding Porthos being the first survey team member to leave the shuttle).
- Remarkable facts:
- Inaprovaline is already in use as a multipurpose medicine.
- T'Pol has been to 36 Minshara-class planets before. This is a nice homage to what will become Class M.
- Enterprise has a crew complement of 82.
Date not given: The reason for several system malfunctions turns out to be a cloaked Xyrillian vessel with power problems taking a ride in Enterprise's warp field. Trip Tucker transfers to the Xyrillians to help them with repairs, and he befriends the female engineer Ah'Len. After the Xyrillian ship has left, a nipple begins to grow on his arm. Dr. Phlox' surprising diagnosis is that Trip is pregnant. Enterprise discovers the Xyrillian ship, which is now on the tail of a Klingon battlecruiser. The Klingon captain wants to kill the apparent parasites, but Archer and T'Pol manage to convince him to let the Xyrillians go in exchange for their holotechnology. Trip's child is implanted into a Xyrillian male host.
So "this is the first incident of a human male getting pregnant", according to T'Pol, if we do not count Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Junior". The episode could have turned out really silly, but fortunately the humor in "Unexpected" is subtle rather than slapstick. When Trip is astonished to learn about the pregnancy, when he suffers from mood swings, and when he shows his embarrassing condition to the Klingons, it can still be taken seriously. Who would have thought Tucker to have a "brooding mother" aspect to his character? What I like too is that Tucker is anxious about the decompression phase and the unusual atmosphere on the Xyrillian ship. He is probably nervous about meeting the aliens too. Here Enterprise proves itself different from Voyager once again: There is no intrepid Harry (no pun intended!) as in VOY: "Nightingale", to save the day without breaking into a sweat. As with every episode so far, however, there were a couple of scary effects, such as when Trip was exposed to the Xyrillian atmosphere. I think we've had more than enough of that for now. What this episode showed very clearly is that T'Pol is a real bitch. Instead of trying to find out what really happened or even comforting him, she is full of preconceptions about human behavior in general and, in particular, Trip's alleged affair on the Xyrillian ship. For once, though, her attitude is a really nice contribution to the story.
The interior of the "ship of the week" (Xyrillian) is really alien in every respect, for once. I especially enjoyed the idea of food growing all over the seemingly organic ship. It doesn't suit the series that its exterior is very much like the Species 8472 bioship, though. For such a small vessel I would expect a more compact shape, bioship or not. I only wonder how Trip can be of any help to them, considering how different the Xyrillian technology is. And why is Trip going to their ship all alone, when this is the first time Starfleet encounters these aliens? Talk about trusting behavior! And if their atmosphere needs a long and painful adaptation, why doesn't he simply take a spacesuit along? Why, why, WHY?
- Continuity & nitpicking: Although the episode is overall pleasant, two
seemingly unimportant details leave a bad taste.
- First of all, we see a fully functional holodeck on the Xyrillian ship. Only the creation of interactive characters is not possible, but I see this as a rather small step until the functions will be the same as we know from TNG. This holotechnology may be okay if it remains a secret of the Xyrillians, a race we won't see again (which in this case may be explained by the fact that their ships are cloaked). There is, however, absolutely no way that the Klingons should get their hands on holotechnology as early as in the 22nd century, while the Federation will need no less than 213 years until the first lifelike holodeck will be installed aboard the Enterprise-D. Remember how excited Riker was about it in "Encounter at Farpoint"? Or Picard in "The Big Goodbye"? Or Lwaxana in "Manhunt"? It is even more implausible considering that we have never seen a holodeck on a Klingon ship even in the 24th century. We may make up excuses in that it was just a personal enjoyment of the Klingon captain that was never commonly accepted by the Klingons, or that his ship was destroyed and the holotechnology with it. But why should we try to excuse the carelessness of the producers who couldn't wait longer than four episodes to show us the most typical of all 24th century devices, woefully inappropriate within their self-imposed series premise? What bothered me too is that the Xyrillians had no problem adapting the device to the Klingon power grid, something that was always made out to be a big problem in, say, Voyager. So the impression is that their holodeck technology is even more advanced than the Federation's of the 24th century.
- The other nuisance is the K't'inga-class battlecruiser, a design whose lifetime is now at least 225 years! The argument that Klingons are warriors and not engineers is a cheap excuse in my view. Warriors frequently need new weapons. Even the good old bat'leth may have been improved several times using new alloys, and the same should apply to ship hulls. The Klingons are not Hirogen, they want to win a battle and do not care much for the thrill of fighting a superior enemy with traditional hunting rituals. They are eager to get the new holotechnology, as they will also quickly adopt cloaking devices over 100 years later, but their ships always stay the same? There's also the fact that Klingons are waging war all the time. They frequently need to replace ships, far more often than an organization dedicated to peaceful exploration. No one can tell me the Klingons wouldn't come up with new designs, if they need new ships anyway. Also, in TOS the Klingons were clearly on the same technological level as the Federation, which makes a lot of sense since it was supposed to reflect the Cold War in the real world. At that time, the Soviets and the Americans kept the balance of power by developing new horrible weapons and countermeasures almost in parallel. It doesn't seem that the Klingons were very busy developing anything new from 2151 to the end of the Cold War, if they are still using their old rust buckets from the distant past. Finally, in DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach" Kor mentions the old D5 cruiser. Since the TOS cruiser and the K't'inga are different ships but share the designation D7 (VOY: "Prophecy"), what in the world could a D5 be, if not a really different looking (older) ship? [Note: We now know, however, that the inclusion of the K't'inga was due to a lack of production time, and that a new ship design had indeed been postulated. For posterity, the rest of the review shall reflect the view state of knowledge of 2001.]
- Remarkable quote: "Three days. You were there only three days and you couldn't restrain yourself." (T'Pol)
- Remarkable scene: The episode teaser where gravity fails in Archer's shower is just too cute.
- Remarkable facts:
- Archer's quarters are on E-deck.
- Trip Tucker entered Starfleet 12 years ago. He has known Archer for eight years, and, four years ago, Archer saved his life. The latter could refer to the training in spacesuits mentioned in "Strange New World".
Date not given: Enterprise arrives at the site of the first extrasolar human colony with which contact was lost 70 years ago. The seemingly indigenous "Novans" are found living in caves, but they are actually humans who have forgotten about their origin over two generations after an asteroid had hit the planet and released lethal radiation. They take Reed as hostage and refuse to believe that they are actually the descendants of the colonists. Phlox treats one of them, an old woman called Nadet, against lung cancer, and she can be convinced that she is actually Bernadette, the daughter of a settler family. The Novans agree to release Reed and allow themselves to be relocated to a region of the planet that is not affected by the radiation.
This is the second - and perhaps worse - disappointment of the series so far, as it has even less original ideas than "Strange New World". As previous reviews (from colleagues who were lucky to view it directly) have already pointed out, "Terra Nova" is very reminiscent of VOY: "Friendship One", only that this time the victims are human, rather than aliens. I would like to add TOS: "This Side of Paradise" as well as TNG: "The Ensigns of Command" to the list, as they both deal with forgotten Earth colonies that were affected by radiation and whose inhabitants somehow managed to adapt. If we count all "re-discovered colony that is in trouble or needs to be relocated" plots, we end up with about a dozen episodes based on pretty much the same idea. To be fair, though, Enterprise is just the right series to showcase a plot like this, but the idea is so exhausted that it would be better off without it. Hopefully it will be the last time we see such a story.
I didn't care very much for the "underside" Novans. They could easily have been just another set of "aliens of the week". I never expected a tearful reunion with humanity, but the level to which their problem was shown didn't strike me as very profound. Only Archer and T'Pol's discussion about how to help them was interesting in this respect. I don't quite understand how they suddenly seemed to switch sides in the course of their talk. First Archer is reluctant to relocate them by force as suggested by T'Pol. Then again, T'Pol has doubts about taking them to Earth, whereas Archer wants to bring them back at any cost, since it's their birth right as human beings. What I liked least about the episode was the completely unnecessary plot twist with the shuttle crash (we had enough of them on Voyager) and the rescue of the Novan who had fallen into the pit. This contributed hardly anything to the episode. I mean, what is this? "Lassie"? And how in the world could they salvage the shuttle from a depth of eight meters? This question remains unanswered, just like we weren't shown how Reed was freed and how the Novans were relocated. The episode ended abruptly with the usual captain's dinner and a few insignificant lines by Mayweather.
- Technical stuff & continuity:
- It was a shock to hear that Enterprise has no more than two shuttles. As a starship without a transporter as a regular means of transportation, Enterprise would have to rely heavily on the shuttle pods, each of which can transport only six persons. And what about the cargo? I doubt that they would beam large amounts of food supplies. So what happens if one shuttle is defunct and the other one is on the way?
- I anticipated that the phase pistol would have more than just the stun and kill setting, as opposed to what Archer said in "Broken Bow". Here it is used for cutting with a continuous beam. This alone is no error (after all, something like that would be even possible with a present-day laser), but I wonder in how far the phase pistol differs from a latter era phaser. Visually, there is no difference at all.
- A particularly troubling continuity error is that Terra Nova should be the only inhabitable planet within 20ly from Earth. This contradicts the idea that there is one in the Alpha Centauri system (4ly away), as mentioned a few times as a Federation planet (either a human colony or an alien civilization). There may be two possible explanations: Either Alpha Centauri was already known to the humans as the home of an alien civilization, and therefore it wasn't taken into account, or it was made inhabitable or terraformed later. In the latter case, however, it is unlikely that Zefram Cochrane ever lived there.
- Another strange thing is how the children of the Novans could inherit the obvious radiation poisoning from their parents (like Nadet). I would expect them to become like that after hundreds of years, but certainly not after two generations.
- Finally, there is a nitpicky error with the radiation which T'Pol gives as "800 millirad"; however the unit rad refers to a time-dependent dose and not an intensity, so it makes no sense at all. You'd think a Vulcan could speak science, surely.
- Remarkable language: The Novans use some really strange terms (very reminiscent of the Vori in VOY: "Nemesis"), such as "before families" = ancestors, "skyship", "overside" = surface, "underside" = underground, "belly hollow" = hungry, "rotting" = dying, "shale" = lie.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Terra Nova?" - "I'm surprised you've never heard of it." - "I'm not familiar with the early years of human space exploration." - "Really? Every school kid on Earth had to learn about the famous Vulcan expeditions." - "Name one." - "... ... History was never my best subject." (T'Pol, Archer, Tucker)
- Remarkable facts:
- The most important thing we learn here is that Phlox is a Denobulan.
- Terra Nova is the only inhabitable planet within a range of 20ly from Earth. The journey of the colony ship, the Conestoga, took 9 years. It was disassembled to form the foundation of the colony. After the first five years, contact was lost with the settlers. The reason is that an asteroid hit the planet and the dust cloud made communication impossible. Only the children survived the disaster and retreated to the caverns. That was 70 years ago.
- Remarkable ship: The Conestoga fits well into the design lineage, and it resembles the conjectural S.S. Valiant as depicted in the Star Trek Encyclopedia I.
Date not given: Archer, T'Pol and Tucker are taken hostages by violent Andorians, who have occupied the ancient Vulcan monastery of P'Jem. Their leader, Shran, claims that the Vulcans are spying on Andoria from there. When the Vulcan monks refuse to defend themselves, Tucker contacts the ship through an old Vulcan transmitter, and Reed beams down with a landing party. The Andorians retreat to the catacombs, where Archer discovers a gate to a modern outpost of the Vulcans. He allows the Andorians to leave with this information.
The episode title is far more suspenseful than the episode itself. Peaceful Vulcans and curious humans are taken hostage by violent Andorians. So far, so boring:, a conventional plot that would suit a mediocre crime TV series, rather than Star Trek. Half of air time is dedicated to fighting; it gets exceptionally cruel when Archer is beaten up by the Andorians three - yes, three - times. There are no intelligent plot twists, hardly any good dialogues, and despite the simplicity of the situation it doesn't really make much sense at all. Why, for instance, does Reed have to beam down and blow up half of the monastery rather than simply having the four Andorians beamed up, to takle them into custody? No need to mention that I'm a bit tired of dim lighting, people running around in caves and spooky effects.
Not even the fact that the culture and the mutual relationship of two races from the TOS Universe are explored can make the episode any more interesting. On the contrary, anyone who expected some profound insight into, and careful development of, the Andorians and Vulcans, or even tidbits for TOS fans, is left utterly disappointed after "The Andorian Incident". The way the Andorians and Vulcans are portrayed here is simply alienating (no pun intended, although it would have been great if it was). First of all, we have to keep in mind that only ten years later they would found the Federation together with humanity: something that seems very unlikely from what we see of them in the Enterprise Universe. Yet, the episode may not be all that detrimental to the Andorians - all we knew about these aliens was that they were blue-skinned and somewhat volatile - which they proved perfectly here. Jeffrey Combs as Shran, unlike in his previous roles on Star Trek, isn't offered a lot of potential here, considering that all he had to do was demonstrate the Andorian method of interrogation. Only his remark at the end: "We're in your debt", indicates that his character and the Andorian race in general will be further developed. There is hope.
The turning point of the story - when the gate to the Vulcan spy station is discovered - was probably meant to give the whole dumb shooting and fighting a more profound background and allow follow-up episodes in the tradition of the DS9 story arcs (The Dominion War, etc.). But from what I have seen here, I'm definitely not looking forward to more stories about two paranoid races struggling against each other. These are simply not the Vulcans I used to know. I would rather forget the last few minutes when their secret is discovered. I'm not saying that everything about Vulcans should be likable, but the way they are gradually being defamed since the seventh season of DS9 is obnoxious. Paranoid, xenophobic and dishonest people who misuse an alleged religious sanctuary to hide a spy outpost, like a villain in a James Bond movie? This episode takes it too far. This twist, that was supposed to make the episode more interesting, eventually completely ruined it. The worrying thing is that we can't simply forget about this episode, as was possible with "Strange New World" where nothing important happened anyway.
Captain Archer's behavior is irritating too. He hardly knows anything about the Vulcan-Andorian cultural relationship, and much less about the actual purpose of the Vulcan outpost. The Vulcans may keep unpleasant secrets, but they are Earth's only ally, and Archer is completely jeopardizing that. I simply cannot buy that his main intention was to reveal the truth for the sake of honesty, as Picard did it in a very similar situation in TNG: "The Pegasus". Archer never saw the Vulcans as friends (he also didn't try to defend them in his interrogation). In his opinion Andoria and Earth are suffering from the same problem, dominated and spied on by the Vulcans. Now he sees an opportunity to show the Vulcans their limits or even take revenge.
- Nitpicking and continuity:
- If the Vulcans and Andorians are supposed to live in neighboring star systems, how and why would the Vulcans use a sensor array on a remote planet to spy on them?
- Also, why doesn't anyone of the human Enterprise crew know anything about the Andorians who are neighbors and rivals of the Vulcans, although Reed and Sato are shown to have permanent access to the Vulcan database?
- Finally, I knew this would come. The "transporting device" isn't only as fast as 200 years later, it can also transport at least three persons at once. Let's wait and see how many more will fit on the platform...
- Remarkable quote: "So if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears. No offense." (Archer, to the Vulcans)
- Remarkable make-up: The new Andorian make-up looks great. It is a careful improvement of what we have seen in TOS, and the moving antennae are a fabulous idea. Only the forehead ridges are completely unnecessary.
- Remarkable building: The Vulcan monastery is actually the first Vulcan building we see in 35 years of live action Star Trek.
- Remarkable facts:
- "Pinkskins" is what the Andorians call the humans at times.
- The Andorians group call themselves the "Andorian Imperial Guard".
- T'Pol calls their homeworld "Andoria", although "Andor" was generally accepted. There may be two different versions, of which Andoria is the Vulcan name.
Date not given: Reed and Mayweather examine the surface of a large comet that is being observed by a Vulcan ship, theti'Mur. On Enterprise, it is discovered that T'Pol sent an encrypted message to the Vulcans. When he translates it, Tucker is embarrassed to see that it was private. T'Pol has to decide whether to stay on the ship or get married on Vulcan. In the meantime, Reed and Mayweather get into trouble when the comet rotates and its surface heats up because of a nearby star. A rift forms underneath their shuttlepod, and they can only be rescued when Archer asks the Vulcans to pull them out with their tractor beam. T'Pol decides to stay on the ship.
"Breaking the Ice" is, overall, an enjoyable episode with a lot of fun and trivia. The children's drawings are a cute idea. But I bet even T'Pol is not as embarrassed about her somewhat crude portrait as Picard was about "Captain Picard Day". ;-) It is a bit of a distraction from the other events - and yet it is nice to see how the crew answers the children's questions. As opposed to Tucker who calls the question about the ship's toilets a "poop question" (imagine that word in TNG), at least Dr. Phlox seems to have quite a lot of fun telling the children of germs in space. His manner of speech again brings to mind Voyager's Doctor. Reed and Mayweather have their share of fun too when they build a snowman with pointed ears (although I do wonder how they could have done it without melting the snow with their hands), and Reed is happy to be given something to blow up, again. It is, however, a negative point that we see a very similar shuttle accident to the one that occurred in "Terra Nova", but this time it is an important part of the story.
It is also a sort of "collective character-building episode" for Archer, Tucker and T'Pol. I find Archer barely likeable in this episode. While he is, admittedly, in character, I find it hard to believe he could ever have come so far with his defiant attitude. He still takes any opportunity to showcase his animosity toward the Vulcans. His awkward attempts to "impress" (or whatever) the Vulcan captain with his nonchalant and obtrusive talking reminded me of the awful "Guess who's coming to dinner" scene from "Star Trek VI". His only concern seems to be showing the Vulcans that he doesn't need to be patronized even after he has learned that T'Pol's secret messages were anything but spy reports. Archer even hesitates to accept Vulcan help in the end, even though refusing it would mean the loss of two officers. Tucker (yes, the very same Tucker who *loves* the Vulcans) and T'Pol have to remind him that the Vulcans would expect exactly this sort of arrogance from him. On the other hand, I wonder if a Vulcan captain who was in need of human assistance would have lowered himself to ask for it, or accept it if it were offered. This, however, doesn't excuse Archer's behavior, especially taking into consideration his soft spot for everyone but the Vulcans, which even includes the brutal Andorians.
In many regards this episode marks the departure point of Tucker's character from Archer's in terms of their previously shown like-minded opinions (their stances were different only in "Fight or Flight" so far). Trip Tucker is both a more realistic and a more sensitive person here. He feels the need to apologize to T'Pol, although Archer is just as guilty of spying on her, if not more guilty since he is the captain. The fact that T'Pol seeks his advice gives the title "Breaking the Ice" a second meaning. Trip also vouches for accepting the help by the Vulcans, and he is interested in their technology. Although it was quite clear that the help would be accepted, even though Archer was still reluctant, I was glad that in the end he finally broke the ice too when he allowed the Vulcan ship to help.
- Science and nitpicking:
- We finally learn how the protein resequencer (for food) and the biomatter resequencer (for waste) work, and it sounds a lot like the replicator in TNG, which also works on a molecular basis. At least the device on Enterprise doesn't seem to be able to handle inorganic materials.
- I also wonder how a comet can have an acceleration of approximately 1g. Its density would have to be enormous for that.
- It is also strange that this should be the largest comet ever encountered by humans. There should be a couple of rocks of this size in the Oort belt at the outer rim of our solar system, that fortunately don't come close to the Sun or the planets.
- The mineral eisilium is unknown to humans, but why have the Vulcans given it a Latin(ized) name?
- Another (minor) problem is why T'Pol is supposed to marry so late. According to the draft of Enterprise she is 65 years old. Spock was in his early 30's in TOS: "Amok Time", and even Tuvok who got married after his first Starfleet career, was under 40. So there must have been many deferments to T'Pol's marriage already.
- Remarkable quote: "Your inexperience and your arrogance are your enemies, not us." (Capt. Vanik)
- Remarkable facts:
- Dr. Phlox is from the star system Denobula Triaxa.
- Trip Tucker had three relationships prior to the episode (not sure if he counts in the one from "Unexpected" ;-)).
- T'Pol's fiancé is named Koss, and he's an architect.
- Remarkable starship facts:
- The Ti'Mur is a Surak-class ship. It has a top speed of Warp 6.5.
- Captain Vanik has been in command of this ship for 15 years. He has been serving in the space program for 76 years altogether.
- Archer has once been to a Vulcan vessel, the Maymora-class ship Yarahla, headed by Captain Tok.
July 31st, 2151: When Enterprise discovers a planet with a pre-industrial culture, neutrino emissions from an antimatter generator don't fit into the image. Archer's away team breaks into the house with the generator, where they meet Riann, who is investigating an illness spreading through the city. Shop owner Garos turns out to be a Malurian, who is mining viridium, ruthlessly taking into account a contamination of the ground water with a toxic lubricant, which is the cause of the illness. When Enterprise is threatened by a superior Malurian ship in orbit, T'Pol has the antimatter generator beamed up directly in front of the enemy ship and destroyed, thereby disabling their shields.
The story would have made an average episode in every Star Trek series so far, and it's not different with Enterprise. Certain similarities to TNG: "Thine Own Self" (the episode where Data inadvertently contaminated a pre-industrial village) are quite obvious, as well as to the many TOS stories of advanced civilizations exploiting a primitive culture. So the basic idea is not original, but at least it is no shameless plot recycling. Anyway, the difference to the familiar stories of this kind could have been more pronounced. In the beginning, we learn that Vulcan has some sort of "Prime Directive" while Earth has none, we see how Hoshi has to analyze the alien language and program the universal translator, we are shown how Dr. Phlox acts as a make-up artist, and we notice the uncertainty of the landing party when they are amidst the native population.
In the following, however, the episode does not live up to its potential. Instead of putting emphasis on technological problems, a cultural clash, ethical questions, everything that always makes Star Trek interesting and could have been in the focus here, it becomes a rather simple detective story with a two-dimensional villain. And even this plot is subordinated to Archer's and Riann's relationship, which doesn't work out as well as it could. The character of Riann does not strike me as very interesting. Her anxiety about and curiosity for the alien technology and her affection to Archer is just not sufficient to make a good story, and besides that her contribution to the plot is rather marginal.
- Science & technology stuff:
- How can sensors pick up voices from a planet's surface through the vacuum of space? While such a technology would have been problematic even in the 24th century (although I don't remember a particular occurrence), the "acoustic relays" used on Enterprise are just implausible.
- A technology that I liked in this episode was the transporter. After beaming it up from the surface, it was necessary to materialize the antimatter generator on the transporter platform first before it could be beamed out in space. For once, they have shown a really less advanced device.
- What was interesting too is that the alien look of the crew is seemingly just make-up and not (yet) some sort of plastic surgery. I only wonder why of all crew members Dr. Phlox should be an expert in this field. After all, he is a doctor, not a make-up artist.
- Remarkable quote: "Starfleet could have sent a probe out here, to make maps and take pictures, but they didn't. They sent us - so that we could explore. With our own senses." (Archer)
- Remarkable scene: When the translator fails and Archer hears Riann speak in her native language, he gives her a passionate kiss while trying to fix the translator. Although Riann seems to be pleased, he excuses his behavior. He claims that someone walked by and that he thought it would have been the best disguise to pretend they were a couple. Later, when Archer gives her a good-bye kiss, Riann ironically asks, "Is your translator broken again?" - obviously she is smarter than he thought.
- Remarkable facts:
- The planet is named A'kali and is inhabited by roughly 500 million people. The lack of EM emissions is a clear sign of a pre-industrial culture.
- Garos, on the other hand, is from the Malurian system. This may be the same system in which Nomad will wipe out all life (TOS: "The Changeling") 100 years later. Garos says that he came to A'kali 18 months ago. He appears to know the Tellarites, and it sounds as if Tellarites are involved in his mining project (and that we will see them later in the series). :-)
Date not given: Enterprise assists the Earth freighter Fortunate with repairs after a Nausicaan attack. Matthew Ryan, who is in command after Captain Keene has been hurt, has captured a Nausicaan. He refuses to release his prisoner. After trapping four Enterprise crew members in a jettisoned cargo container, Ryan leaves the scene with the Fortunate, eager to take revenge on the Nausicaans. However, the Fortunate is soon outnumbered by Nausicaan ships. When Enterprise arrives, Archer tries to negotiate that the Fortunate may leave in exchange for the Nausicaan hostage. Eventually, it is "space boomer" Ensign Mayweather who can convince his former colleague Ryan that revenge is not the right way.
I like this episode. It has a thrilling plot, a strong 22nd century background, lots of eye candy and a great deal of Trek spirit. "Fortunate Son" is the third key episode of the series, and it may be the beginning of another story arc.
The question may occur why there is such a great difference in my ratings between "The Andorian Incident" and "Fortunate Son", both of which were very well received by most other viewers and rank next to "Broken Bow". The first reason is that "Fortunate Son" is much more entertaining, with its many turning points and changing places. It is a sophisticated plot, worthy of a Star Trek series. In contrast, I was simply bored by the static hostage situation in the other episode, which didn't see any advancement until the very end. "Fortunate Son" has its deal of shooting and beating too, but I can much rather accept it here because it has some effect and is not simply used to fill time or to show how evil the villain is. Another reason is that "The Andorian Incident" was about a pointless conflict between two xenophobic and paranoid species, the humans being more enlightened than any of them. I don't want to deny that such an intolerance may exist, but the way it was shown was simply obnoxious. This is completely different in "Fortunate Son" where there is a reason for the aggression that the viewer can relate to. It is an actual controversy for the viewer too, and not a simple finding that neither of two positions is the right one. Archer has to make a decision how to save the Fortunate and at the same time appease the Nausicaans, and so has the viewer. Although the situation is much more pressing here, this time he doesn't precipitate the matter, and he doesn't simply impose his opinion on the viewer, like he did in "The Andorian Incident". What gave me a bad taste of Archer's character there, he can compensate here.
What I like too is the wealth of information in this episode. We learn a great deal about the lives and the attitudes of people that have to stay on their ships for years without shore leave. It is only logical that they would become some sort of closed community, mistrustful and disdainful of outsiders. Travis Mayweather, who grew up on a cargo ship but then decided to join Starfleet, is the obvious exception. It is nice to see more of this underused character, although he has only two important scenes. Travis has a hard time with Ryan, who is an especially unpleasant member of his community. This is in part because he doesn't really want Starfleet's help, after all they could discover his Nausicaan prisoner. But there is more to it. At first, Mayweather and Ryan still understand each other, but then the difference between Starfleet and freighter crew member gradually becomes more and more obvious. Ryan is still impressed with Enterprise's technology, but then they talk about reasons why Travis went to Starfleet that Ryan doesn't understand. In the engine room, he claims that to him Warp 1.8 is more than sufficient, obviously defying Starfleet's rationale for getting a faster warp drive. In the mess hall, finally, Travis inadvertently finds his weak spot when he asks Ryan about his parents, not knowing that they were killed on the North Star, in an accident (or attack?) that appears to be well known. Ryan's reaction is that he accuses him of abandoning his people, and leaves Travis who is very touchy in this respect with a bad conscience. Fortunately Travis is able not only to save the Fortunate's crew but also to return the "favor" by pointing out that Ryan detracts from his people's cause if he is out for revenge.
- Science & technology stuff: Now we have the confirmation. FTL communication between the ship and Earth is possible in real time. There is not the slightest delay when Archer and Admiral Forrest talk with each other. I am aware that TNG was very inconsistent about FTL communication speed (which was sometimes real-time and sometimes took hours), but this wouldn't have hindered the Enterprise producers to make at least a little concession to the 22nd century. The way it is, this technology is unnoticeably less advanced than what we know from the 24th century, just like propulsion, phasers and transporters are too.
- Remarkable quote: "They say that, for a split second, you can actually feel yourself at both places at once." (Ryan, about the transporter)
- Remarkable scene: While some children are playing hide-and-seek on the Fortunate, T'Pol finds one girl behind a hatch. When a boy asks her, "Have you seen Nadine?", she replies, "I'm sorry, I don't know which child is named Nadine." She just told him the truth. ;-)
- Remarkable starships:
- The ECS Fortunate is a Class-Y freighter with eight cargo modules, a crew of 24 and a maximum speed of Warp 1.8.
- The ship Ensign Mayweather was on, the Horizon, is a smaller Class-J ship. His parents, his sister and her husband are still on the Horizon. Ryan, on the other hand, lost his family on the freighter North Star that was destroyed. It is not revealed if it was an accident, or if the North Star was attacked.
- Remarkable fact: The Nausicaans are back, and they are as unpleasant as TNG: "Tapestry" has shown them. Their home planet is called Nausica.
Date not given: Enterprise is visited by a group of pilgrims. They are going to watch a neutron burst from a protostar, which is a spiritual experience to them. Among them is the surgically altered Suliban Silik on a mission to prevent a cascade reaction in the warp reactor that would have otherwise destroyed the ship. To Archer's surprise, Enterprise Crewman Daniels turns out to be a time traveler from the 31st century, and he demands that Silik be stopped. Archer reluctantly agrees. Silik, however, apparently kills Daniels and manages to escape, leaving Archer with the question what he was really going to accomplish.
"Have you learned how it works?" - "Not a chance." Scully and Mulder (aka T'Pol and Archer) obviously refer to the alien clock in the end, but the same perplexity applies to whole "Temporal Cold War" spy story. Archer has no idea who is fighting whom and why, neither has the viewer. We don't know what specifically is Silik's mission and what is Daniels doing on the ship; we can't be sure who of them is really the bad guy this time. Maybe Daniels is not even dead, considering that it doesn't look like he is blown to pieces by Silik's weapon, but rather erased like a hologram (Tucker was sure he was dead, though).
Usually Star Trek episodes have tied together some loose ends when the 45 minutes are over, but it is quite the opposite here. I'm not glad about that. I'm not even able to rate this drama based on criteria like plot advancement and logic, because this doesn't play much of a role (yet) and it would depend on a later episode if all this makes sense at all. The way it is, the characters stumble through an unfinished plot. It is obvious that the Temporal Cold War is a big story arc of the kind we have seen on DS9 for the first and so far last time in Star Trek. But I don't think that this would require open endings like in "Cold Front" and, a bit less pronounced, with another story arc in "The Andorian Incident". Even the DS9 Final Chapter had at least weak episode conclusions, and the episodes were aired in direct sequence. Considering that it will be several weeks until the whole story is continued (not to mention the Christmas break), to me it is like trying to catch up with a book I stopped reading weeks ago. With a book, I can at least be sure that there will be a conclusion.
Rather than the diffuse spy story, a couple of tidbits made the episode interesting. Tucker's talking about the warp core (after he didn't get the opportunity in "Breaking the Ice") was cute, as was Mayweather's careful occupation of the captain's chair and Reed's worries about his armory. What I liked too is how the alien ship docked to lateral docking hatches of Enterprise (well, although the interface was coincidentally compatible here). The scene when the airlock of the shuttlebay was opened was a highlight, although I doubt that Archer would stand a chance against an explosive decompression.
- Continuity: It is remarkable that, for the first time in Star Trek, human religions are explicitly mentioned as being still existent. Dr. Phlox says he has been to a Tibetan monastery and that he has attended a mass at St. Peter's Square.
- Treknology: "Gravimetric field displacement manifold" is probably the worst technobabble in a long time, I would have guessed anything but never that it could denote the warp reactor. What does the matter/antimatter reactor have to do with a gravimetric field? The following discussion about the positrons and how they are constrained, on the other hand, was quite fitting.
- Remarkable quote: "Tell the chef to prepare... something." (Archer)
- Remarkable facts:
- Engineering is located on C-deck.
- The Enterprise database has 50,000 movies, among them such masterpieces like "Night of the Killer Androids".
- At the time of this episode, Enterprise has been underway for four months, three weeks and six days.
September 1st, 2151: Archer is worried about his reserved armory officer, who will soon celebrate his birthday, and he assigns Hoshi to find out Reed's favorite food. When Enterprise is attacked and boarded by unidentified aliens, Archer orders the ship to head back to Jupiter Station to have the phase cannons installed. The engineering team around Reed and Archer tries to get the phase cannons online even sooner. In a test shot they inadvertently overload the weapon. When the aliens return and firing at nominal power doesn't help, they reproduce the overload and force the enemy ship to retreat. The captain surprises Reed with his favorite, a pineapple tart.
Watch this episode to learn more about Malcolm Reed than he would ever tell us in his whole life. In fact, everyone save Mayweather has a decent share of screen time and a few nice lines, like never before in this series and long ago in Voyager. It's B-plot and trivia time, whereas the main plot is much like a combination of "Broken Bow", "Fight or Flight" and a bit of "Cold Front" too. It is a déjà vu especially when the aliens crawl through the ship and when their device in the launch bay is found. Moreover, as threatening these aliens-of-the-week are in this episode, as insignificant they will be in the scope of the whole series. Considering that they only contribute to the enemy inflation in the 22nd century, I wonder why the authors didn't simply give the Suliban another appearance for this purpose or the evil aliens from "Fight or Flight", or perhaps the Romulans. I like the typical 22nd century aspects of the "superior hostile alien" theme in "Silent Enemy" though. Like in the three other episodes too, the Enterprise crew don't just pull a Treknological solution out of the hat, but really learn how to operate their ship and their weapons in particular.
The perhaps best scene is when Hoshi talks to Reed about his food preferences in the mess hall, and to him it sounds as if she were asking him out. I somehow knew that it would turn out this way, and this made it even funnier. Although everyone gets something to do this time, the most interesting character development is again conceded to Archer. At the beginning, he is excited as usual to meet another alien race, but this soon turns into the first serious doubts about the mission. He even accepts Vulcan help for the first time. Archer is rather late with that in my opinion. Anyway, when he visits Tucker in engineering, Archer admits that the ship (and maybe the crew too) was not yet ready to go out into space, and that he rushed that. It is obvious that his long-time friend is the only person who he could talk to about that. I just imagine how it would have turned out if he had confided in T'Pol. ;-)
- Treknology & Nitpicking:
- The most blatant problem is with the weapon energy, which seems way too high at 500 gigajoules, compared to figures of the 24th century. Moreover, the 500 gigajoules are called "*power* output". Some basic physics lessons for the writers should be mandatory! Considering this huge amount of energy (which would be released in at most a few seconds, yielding a power in the 100 gigawatt region), the phase cannons are quite small.
- I like the whole engineering and armory sets very much, though. In one scene there is a pipe labeled "liquid helium" which is obviously a part of a cooling system, although not explicitly mentioned.
- What I don't like is that, once again, Enterprise encounters a cool and advanced enemy ship. If the vicinity of Earth is so full of superior (potential) enemies, it is a miracle that Earth hasn't been conquered long ago, much less that Earth may become a major player in space within only ten years.
- Finally, there is a minor problem with the crew count. In "Strange New World", it was 82, Daniels left in "Cold Front", but now the crew consists of 81 humans, one Vulcan and one Denobulan (plus one dog). Maybe the figure was supposed to include only the human crew in "Strange New World".
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Maybe they checked us out and decided we were not very interesting." - "Us - not interesting?" (Mayweather and Reed)
- "This time we won't be leaving before we're ready." - "Are your ears a little pointier than usual?" (Archer and Tucker)
- Remarkable facts:
- Enterprise drops two subspace amplifiers, Echo 1 and Echo 2, and prepares to launch another one, probably closer to Earth, in the end. Enterprise is designed to have three phase cannons, two facing forward and one aft. Duval, a friend of Archer's and Tucker's, has been promoted to command the Shenandoah. Tucker's (ex?) girl-friend lives in Pensacola.
- Facts about Malcolm Reed: Malcolm's parents currently stay in Kota Baharu, Malaysia. His relatives include a sister, an uncle and two spinster aunts. Grandfather Reed served in the Royal Navy. Malcolm suffers from allergies to dust mites, oak, pollen, tropical grasses and various plant enzymes, including bromelin, which is found in pineapples which happen to be his favorite fruit.
Date not given: A pre-warp vessel with an ill crew is found adrift in space. The Valakians have left their planet in the hope of contacting an advanced civilization that could find a cure against the illness that is spreading on their homeworld. The Enterprise crew is surprised to learn that there is a second humanoid species on the same planet, the Menk, who are not affected by the illness that is actually a genetic defect of the Valakians. Dr. Phlox is about to develop a cure, but he expresses his doubts about interfering with the evolution on this planet that would doom the Valakians to extinction and give the Menk the opportunity to evolve further. Archer finally agrees with him and refuses to cure the Valakians or give them warp technology.
"Dear Doctor" has everything a good Trek episode needs. Especially the A-plot and B-plot are tied together very well. This means a great deal because the ethical dilemma Archer and Phlox are facing goes along with a cultural clash that is nicely represented by the Doctor's and Crewman Cutler's relationship. We have a good deal of character development, in particular we learn a lot about Dr. Phlox and the Denobulans - and, quite surprisingly, a lot about humans too. What I also appreciate, and if only for a change, is the diary-like way of storytelling that reminds me a lot of TNG: "Data's Day" (and which was probably supposed to be just like that). "Dear Doctor" definitely belongs into the "typical 22nd century" category like about half of all Enterprise episodes and it builds a bridge to the time of TNG like no other Enterprise episode before. The whole story would be a pleasure to watch - if only there were logic instead of the swift decision "we are not here to play god", and better science. The more as I think about it, the more annoying it becomes in retrospect.
My first problem is with the obvious insinuation that the Valakian dilemma could be the origin of the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive was always meant to protect civilizations that were little advanced and would have been impaired if they had learned of "gods" who were able to travel at warp speed and other miraculous things (just like the Mintakans in TNG: "Who Watches the Watchers"). In a broader sense, the non-interference would apply to all alien civilizations that didn't seek contact or ask for help, be they warp-capable or not (just like the Malcorians in TNG: "First Contact" and perhaps even the Klingons in TNG: "Redemption"). Neither reason to "protect" the inhabitants from Starfleet's interference applies here. On the contrary, the Valakians have gone into space for the only purpose to contact aliens and ultimately obtain exactly the help that Archer and Phlox deny them in the end. Of all people who have received or will receive help from Starfleet, the Valakians should not be worthy of it only because they are a few decades behind an arbitrary standard? The attitude that Starfleet shouldn't determine the destiny of the planet is extremely hypocritical, and it doesn't even apply here. As the incentive for the familiar Prime Directive the situation of the Valakians just doesn't work out. Well, at times TNG was hypocritical too. I'm thinking of the crew's behavior when they watched in awe how an entire planet died in TNG: "Homeward", only to obey the words of a law, instead of rescuing at least a few of its inhabitants. On the other hand, wouldn't the TNG crew have helped any other civilization, be it warp-capable or just about to develop warp, that asked for help in a crisis, be it man-made or natural?
In "Dear Doctor", the fact that there are two intelligent humanoid races on the same planet obviously serves as an excuse of Archer's and Phlox' attitude: If they wouldn't let one half of the population die, they would deny the other half, namely the Menk, their so-called "natural evolution". Evolution, however, is anything but an automatic, self-sustaining process. I am not an expert in genetics, but I am quite sure that there is nothing like "bad genes" that may be responsible for a species to become extinct, at least not if the population is large enough, which is obviously the case here. We know from Earth's natural history that species become either dominant or extinct because of changes in their environment that they can cope with or not, respectively. The only explanation I may have for the "bad genes" would be that the Valakians tampered with them or unconsciously obtained them through a war with nuclear weapons. The question may occur if Archer might have helped if the Valakians had been responsible for their misery themselves, because then he wouldn't have interfered with a "natural" process - how paradoxical and cynical! There is also no point in stating that it was predestined that another species, namely the Menk, was to become dominant. Actually, no one could have predicted whether the Neandertaler or the Cro Magnon human would survive, even if one had known of the climate changes to come. Ironically, it is stated in the episode itself that the development on the planet and therefore ultimately the evolution would be a matter of coincidences, but even this doesn't change anything about Phlox' opinion that the Menk are supposed to survive while the Valakians are not. Finally, and that's a statement I ran across lately, biologists say that there will probably be no evolution at all since we are dealing with a world-wide population of humans, as opposed to isolated groups and habitats. Special genetic markers that could lay the foundation of evolution would always average out. Well, this would invalidate quite a few other Star Trek episodes too. But overall, the twisted ethics along with bad science ruins this episode.
Phlox is annoying here in several respects. In the B-plot he is obviously playing with Ensign Cutler's feelings. We learn that he is married (with three women and two other men), but he doesn't bother to tell Cutler. On the contrary, he consults Hoshi and T'Pol about it as if he meant it seriously, but actually his only interest is to study human emotions. My feelings were a little bad about that already in the previous episodes, but this time he has gone too far. On the other hand, it's definitely a fitting contribution to the main theme of the episode, "Their culture is different. It's their way." That is how he still defends the Valakians when Hoshi criticizes their treatment of the apparently less intelligent Menk. It seems he is impartial about the situation on the planet. But then he finds out that the Menk have the "better genes", and he decides that he should let the Valakians be extinguished in their favor. His stance is totally misunderstood Darwinism and almost racism. The Prime Directive is on the way, but as good as it may prove later, I think it has the worst possible start if it is based on one doctor's personal ethics. The episode could have easily been the best of the first season, if it had not been for Phlox (and for Archer readily following him).
- Remarkable quote: "Some day, my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can't do out here, should and shouldn't do. But until somebody tells me that they have drafted that directive, I'm going to have to remind myself that we didn't come out here to play god." (Archer)
- Remarkable facts:
- The crew are watching "For Whom the Bell Tolls" with Ingrid Bergman (and even Trip has to weep).
- Dr. Phlox writes to Dr. Lucas, a human doctor who is working with the Denobulans. Denobulans use to have marriages with three men and three women. They need little rest, except for their hibernation cycle.
Date not given: Enterprise finds a disabled vessel in the atmosphere of a gas giant that turns out to be a Klingon ship. All of the crew are infected with a virus, except for the female warrior Bu'kah who steals the shuttlepod, leaving T'Pol, Sato and Reed trapped on the ship that continues to sink in the atmosphere. Bu'kah refuses to help retrieve the officers and the ship, which has descended too far to reach it with a shuttlepod. In a last effort before the hull is getting crushed, Reed explodes photon torpedoes below the ship whose shockwave lift it to a safe altitude. The Klingons are anything but grateful for the help, and Archer orders to leave the scene before their reinforcements arrive.
There is nothing very impressive about the episode, which merely shows some well-known plot ingredients along with some nice character interaction. At first, it looks like a remake of "Fight or Flight", only with a Klingon flavor. Hoshi Sato is a bit more self-confident here, and in this respect it may be good that the situation mirrors the one of the earlier episode. I also enjoy that T'Pol warms up a bit in this episode (although she would deny that). First she shows Sato a meditation technique, and in the end she more or less lies, only to spend more time in the decontamination chamber (which, as she says, is pleasant because of the missing smell).
The Klingons are like they were in "Broken Bow" and "Unexpected" too, meaning that they are not really allowed to play a role themselves, but are represented by details that are known from TNG, like targs and gagh, and by T'Pol's second-hand information. I think it would have been much better for continuity if the Klingons had remained more of a mystery. Alternatively, it would have been a much better drama if they had been given the opportunity to speak more for themselves. The Enterprise Klingons are presented in a similar fashion as the Voyager Klingons and not like in the good old days of TNG and DS9 when their culture was alive and was more than just a source for references.
- Remarkable ship: After the unsuited K't'inga-class cruiser we see a reasonably different Klingon ship. It may have been clumsier, though. What I can't quite understand is that T'Pol or anyone else doesn't even recognize this ship as Klingon, even if the class is not certain. Provided that the Vulcan database is available all the time (as it seems to be in "The Andorian Incident"), I also wonder why Reed, for instance, didn't bother to study what little the Vulcans know about their technology. I certainly would have done so.
Date not given: Archer's interference at P'Jem had the consequence that the Andorians destroyed the monastery along with the listening post. Now Vulcan Ambassador Soval announces the end of the common space project with the humans and calls T'Pol back to Vulcan. On their last mission, Archer and T'Pol are captured by rebels on the planet Coridan. When Tucker and Reed come to the rescue, they surprisingly meet the Andorians under their leader Shran. As he wants to repay his debt, Shran leads Tucker and Reed to the rebel camp, when a Vulcan assault team arrives too. The four factions face each other in a skirmish. Saving the Vulcan captain from a light pulse, T'Pol is wounded and taken back to Enterprise where she intends to stay for the time being.
After "The Andorian Incident" I thought the story arc with the Andorians couldn't become still worse. Silly me. Actually, I had to improve the rating for the latter episode to two points to fit "Shadows of P'Jem" into the scale (I still reserve the option of zero points for future episodes). It is always a nice idea to establish intra-series continuity and pick up some issues that have been featured before, and we couldn't necessarily expect that from the staff who made Voyager. So far, so good. But rather than continuing the story, "Shadows of P'Jem" unnecessarily extends the conflict, now also involving the Coridans whose motivation is even less apparent than that of the Vulcans and Andorians. We may have expected an exciting story idea to compensate for lacking evolution of the story arc, but what we got with the shuttle crash, hostage crisis and rescue attempt was actually the least interesting plot in the whole series so far. The episode neither answers any questions nor poses new ones (as "Cold Front" did in the other story arc). It is just annoying and pointless.
Actually, I still had some hope at the very beginning when Admiral Forrest discussed the recent events with the Vulcans. I would have liked to see if, for once, Archer would have had to face the consequences of his unwise and short-sighted actions. But neither did something like that happen, nor did he show real remorse by himself. Even his attempt to protect T'Pol from the hidden reproaches from the part of her superiors (as he recognized that she would serve as a scapegoat) were rather half-hearted. He wouldn't have gone as far as taking the responsibility towards the Vulcans himself. In this respect, he has learned nothing. Alternatively, I was hoping for some situation that would give Archer and T'Pol the opportunity to prove themselves to their superiors, but almost ironically they had to be passive all the time - until the very end when, again ironically, she saved the life of the Vulcan captain. As I think more about it, the rest of the crew played even much less of an active part. The whole action was left to the trigger-happy Vulcans, Andorians and Coridan rebels.
"Shadows of P'Jem" casts a shadow on the series and on the idea of Star Trek. I already said enough on what I think about paranoia, xenophobia and violence in Star Trek, especially if it is presented without any reflection about the reasons, without showing an option to overcome it and without any message to the viewers. Once again, the Vulcans were all depicted in the least likable way, to put it mildly. I'm getting sick of the writers' "Evil Vulcan" syndrome. I think they have gone even one step further this time, as Soval was really getting angry and the Vulcan captain and his crew clearly had a violent nature, not to mention the impression that the Vulcans are supporting a possibly repressive government against rebels (I wonder if this could be even a hidden criticism of US policy). Once again, we get our weekly dose of unmotivated violence. Once again, the mere presentation of a conflict serves as a surrogate for an intelligent plot. Once again, there is gratuitous comical relief and sex ("Archer and T'Pol in Bondage") instead of true character development. On the other hand, it was ironically this scene (which alone was over five minutes long) that will always be most memorized of the whole episode. In any other episode the "bondage session" would have been awful, but I'm sad to admit that here it was the only highlight (well, the shots of Starfleet Headquarters and of Archer's ready room from outside the ships were very good, but visual effects can't save a story).
And this takes me back to "The Andorian Incident", an episode that had at least the return of the Andorians with their moving antennae and other surprises (even if they were negative), but except for the second appearance of the Andorians (which, like most everything, was unmotivated, if not far-fetched) there was absolutely nothing of relevance here. The whole dumb story culminates in a battle between no less than four different factions who all would gladly kill each other. This was definitely something for the fanboys who could see four different colors of light bolts at once, but I was just appalled.
One pleasant finding is that the episode seems to be largely free of continuity errors. But one question remains. What happened to the shuttle? Could it be salvaged?
- Remarkable facts:
- Coridan is home to the largest ship yards of the sector, and Coridan ships are supposed to have reached Warp 7 (at least that's what Archer tells Tucker ;-)).
- Aside from the ones on the shuttlepod, there are 15 phase pistols on Enterprise.
- Remarkable aliens: I still have no idea of the spelling, therefore I am not sure if these are really *the* Coridans from TOS: "Journey to Babel".
November 9th, 2151: Tucker and Reed are on a mission to align the targeting scanners on Shuttlepod One, but their sensors and communication fails. When they return, they find debris of Enterprise on an asteroid. Under the impression that the ship has been destroyed, Trip demands that course is set to open space, in the hope of reaching the subspace amplifier Echo 3. Enterprise, however, has suffered only damage to the launch bay door after a failed docking maneuver with an Tesnian vessel, and is now transferring the aliens to their homeworld. With only air for one day left, Enterprise wouldn't find the shuttlepod before the air supply is exhausted. Tucker and Reed eject and detonate the impulse engine, thereby signaling their position to Enterprise, and they are rescued in time.
In a typical character episode Tucker and Reed are in a typical standard situation, essentially a rehash of TOS: "The Galileo Seven" and its many follow-ups. At times it was amusing or touching, but one thing that annoyed me a lot was Reed's dream sequence with T'Pol. Briefly after the infamous "bondage scene" she is again used to fulfill certain expectations. Even more than Seven of Nine, the character of T'Pol is frequently exploited as being subject to the hidden desires of the male crew, and perhaps of certain viewers likewise. Voyager too was lacking taste here and then, but I think it is just becoming too cheap here, especially since the kiss scene in question was not even a typical casual and ironic dream sequence, but embedded into a quite serious context. Only the fact that the same scene, only without T'Pol's "special care" for Malcolm, repeated in the end reconciled me a bit. Anyway, I would have liked to see some subtler revelations of Malcolm's character. At least his interaction with Trip was fine, and this is the only merit of the whole episode.
While the situation was credibly presented in detail, the almost total absence of plot logic is annoying and ultimately ruins the episode for me. To repeat the course of events, Tucker and Reed were going "at least 60 million kilometers" away from Enterprise to align the targeting sensors of the shuttle. This means they must have been very close to the asteroid field the whole time, as 60 million kilometers is no distance, even with impulse only. Now the first strange thing happens. Enterprise suddenly encounters the Tesnian ship (T-Race alert, BTW). Maybe the aliens passed by the asteroid field, found the Starfleet ship and thought it would be nice to make first contact. Still, it seems a bit unlikely. We don't know if the accident during the docking maneuver or the failure of the sensors and communication of the shuttlepod happened first (both of it, as well as the later hull breach in the shuttle, may be because of the microsingularities T'Pol mentioned). Anyway, why in the world does Archer, after picking up the Tesnians, head for their homeworld without caring for the shuttlepod at all? They were only a matter of minutes away, and Archer just decides to leave them alone for a couple of days, although he must have known that they have breathable air for at most ten days? When Archer, while Enterprise is already on the way to Tesnia, realizes that the shuttlepod may be in danger of hull breaches near the asteroid field, he still doesn't reverse course, but only tells Hoshi to hail them. And this is the ultimate error, as it means they not only haven't been in contact for a few days, but they haven't even tried to establish contact although this is obviously still considered possible after traveling away from the asteroid field at warp for some time!
In addition, there is not necessarily an error, but a failure to show us a crew that is concerned about Tucker and Reed. The ship is still on its way to Tesnia when Archer first tells Hoshi to hail the shuttlepod, but the call Tucker and Reed eventually receive tells them to rendezvous with them in two days which seems too short for a two-way flight. So we may assume that communication attempts failed for almost the complete way to Tesnia and back, or several days, but the episode just didn't show us a concerned crew.
I may already have complained enough about it, but the American chauvinism reaches a new climax here when Tucker clearly states that exclusively Americans have built the warp drive, "no Brits, no Italians, no Serbocroatians". I wonder if the makers of Star Trek have only the faintest idea of how the scientific community is collaborating already today and how many foreign scientists contribute to projects that the Americans tend to claim for themselves. Having worked in research & development myself, I know what I'm talking of. Something that is especially odd too is that Tucker mentions "Serbocroatians". Not even while the old Yugoslavia still existed (until 1991), its inhabitants (or at least the Serbs and Croatians) were called so, but it was only referred to as their language. It is unlikely that, of all European peoples, these two should become a common nation as of 2151, and it is insulting especially for Bosnians (or Bosnian Muslims, to be precise) who would be a disrespected minority among the "Serbocroatians". As a noted German webmaster recently suggested to me, I suspect that B&B who wrote the episode still have a European atlas of 1983, even some odd special edition in which a country called Germany (which is not quite unknown for its scientific achievements, at least in the real world) is missing. I know that many Americans just don't want to hear that, but from a European viewpoint the selective ignorance of parts of the world in Star Trek is always becoming stronger.
- Remarkable fact: The maneuver to explode the impulse drive as a beacon is a clear homage to the "Spock Maneuver" in TOS: "The Galileo Seven" where he ignited the remaining fuel to get the attention of the Enterprise.
Date not given: While charting the Arachnid Nebula, Enterprise encounters the Vulcan vessel Vahklas, whose crew have abandoned the practice of suppressing their emotions. One of them, Tolaris, develops an interest in T'Pol. He suggests, as an experiment, that she not meditate before going to sleep, after which she has an unsettling dream of living out her emotions in a night club called "Fusion". When Tolaris mind-melds with T'Pol, a technique that is unknown to most Vulcans, she collapses. Archer is upset. He provokes Tolaris to exhibit his violent nature, upon which the Vulcans are told to return to their ship.
Well, the bothersome and pleasant aspects somehow cancel out each other here. Something that is particularly interesting, also with respect to the previous "Evil Vulcan" episodes, is how they are treated here. For once, we have some nice Vulcans, only to learn that they are actually outcasts, something like space hippies with pointed ears, totally untypical of their kind. Eventually, however, it is ironically the old order that prevails. Of all people, it is Archer, who is usually full of prejudices of the Vulcan establishment, who uncovers Tolaris' violent nature, thereby coming to the conclusion that T'Pol's and other Vulcans' mental discipline cannot be that bad after all. Not that they would grow more likable in his view (it might even reinforce his grudge against the species as a whole), but seeing the Vulcans that could have been he might also develop more respect for the way of living most of them have chosen.
On the other hand, this is exactly the problem with the episode too. As we already know since TOS, the Vulcans once had self-destructive tendencies that they learned to overcome. According to "Fusion", Vulcans have to work on themselves, to go through sacrifices and inconveniences to become the peaceful and more or less likable persons as we know them. It is suggested that, without all this, they would be more violent than the wildest Klingon. I don't like at all how this is presented in the manner of one more "dark secret" about them, and how the difference between the "good" and the "evil" Vulcans is exaggerated. In other words, Vulcans are suddenly shown as wolves in the fold. In contrast, humans, although they also behave somewhat differently in Star Trek than they do today, have not needed punishment, exercise, maybe drugs or whatever - they have seemingly achieved peace without any "tricks". Ironically, the whole series so far and even the course of the episode itself contradicts the bottom line of the episode that Tolaris' way must be wrong because it necessarily leads violent tendencies to resurface. Only two episodes ago we could see an aggressive captain, who was obviously a respected person. On the other hand, at least one of Tolaris' comrades, Kov, was a really nice guy (for what we know), whose only flaw were his hard feelings toward his father. This character and his very nice interaction with an often embarrassed Tucker has actually reconciled me with the story as he compensates for the impression created by Tolaris. Still, if Tolaris is only a single case of violence, why is Archer again generalizing things? Finally, why was Archer so sure at all that Tolaris would become violent? If T'Pol has told him what the viewer could witness during the mind meld, it was at most something like harassment, not really a mental rape. It may have been unpleasant to T'Pol and may have caused physical and psychic damage, but it would still have to be proven that this was intentional and because of his violent nature.
The fascinating part of the episode was how T'Pol's struggled with her emotions which was shown as something both enjoyable and unsettling. I found Jolene Blalock very convincing since the very first day, a real surprise even among the very good cast, but this episode is definitely a highlight and deserves extra praise for acting. For once, the recent tendency to show her in all kinds of weird situations for the pleasure of especially many male viewers was appropriate, even the first unmistakable sex scene in Star Trek (even if it was only a dream). It is only sad that the whole issue couldn't be resolved without stigmatizing her seducer as a diabolic villain who only misused her for his sadistic games (for which a proof is missing). Aside from its impact on the Vulcans' reputation, we have seen something very similar already in TNG when Deanna suffered in TNG: "Violations".
- Continuity: Something remarkable with regard to continuity is that T'Pol doesn't know mind melds. If only dissenters have continued to perform this practice for centuries, it is no wonder why it will be still fairly unknown until the 23rd century when humans obviously first witness a mind meld in TOS: "Dagger of the Mind". Maybe Spock was some sort of a rebel too that he propagated mind melds for all of his life, and he may even have contributed to make them popular again. Only Voyager's Doctor was still skeptical in the 24th century. This is not completely satisfactory, but an intelligent trick to show us a mind meld in Enterprise. If the authors don't want to strain continuity too much, it should be the first and last one, though. Another, possibly minor point is that Tolaris rejects T'Pol's objections against a life with emotions as "propaganda from 5000 years ago", although Surak's teachings date back only 2000 years. There may have been an earlier movement, maybe one that led a sect to erect the monastery of P'Jem 3000 years ago.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Where'd you hear that?" - "A Vulcan anthropologist told me he'd seen the ritual during an Earth expedition." - "They're not trying to kill the quarterback. They're just trying to keep him from throwing the ball and running with it. It's only a game. Not a... fight to the death." - "I see." (Trip and Kov)
- Remarkable facts:
- Archer has the book Laura Danly - Cosmos A to Z since his eighth birthday. The book lists a diameter of 6.5 billion km for the Arachnid Nebula, but it is actually 8 billion km.
- Nearly a third of Enterprise's crew are female, according to Tucker.
Date not given: On a "rogue planet", a planet that has left its orbit, an Enterprise landing party encounters a group of hunters of the Eska. Archer believes to see a young human woman on the planet, but the hunters tell him that this is only an illusion. The truth, however, is that the Eska are actually hunting shapeshifters, of whom one has made contact with Archer by assuming a female form he has imagined in his childhood. To protect the shapeshifters, Archer has Phlox develop an agent that disturbs the Eska's sensors.
The story is very simple in essence, which alone isn't bad. I only wasn't fond of how it was again spiced up with the mystery factor, massively supported by the darkness of the planet. Enterprise heavily relies on this fashionable surrogate for real suspense, more so than any other Trek series so far. On the other hand, the romantic touch to it was nice this time, as Archer was enchanted by the woman, not as a simple sexual fantasy but as a subconscious childhood memory. Nevertheless, I see "Rogue Planet" rather as a below-average episode in the tradition of "Strange New World", "Terra Nova" or "Civilization", which all had rather tedious passages in which the plot progressed at a snail's pace.
The Hirogen vs. the Founders. The parallel was so obvious that I found it frustrating. Instead of the mere citation of clichés I would have liked to learn more especially of the Eska and what may make them different from the Hirogen. Their motivation was explained to some extent, but they remained very unremarkable. In the end, the Eska were eluded with ease, and they were not given the opportunity to make their point, and if only to utter some threats. On the other hand, for once there was a really peaceful solution, even if it was contrived (Janeway wouldn't have mastered this situation without using three or four photon torpedoes ;-)).
- Continuity: Continuity is impaired once again, as we see yet another different species of shapeshifters. In Star Trek it was never a problem that shapeshifters were always shown as something totally unknown, but predating the whole phenomenon by 100 years does everything but make shapeshifter appearances (or better, humanoids' reactions to them) since TOS more credible. This is exactly the kind of "soft continuity errors" I have been criticizing ever since the very first announcement of Enterprise, and which will become a "hard error" in their accumulation. Speaking of errors, I wonder if the authors have ever heard of *photo*synthesis without which no plant life could exist. Although the jungle looks almost exactly as on Earth, we are supposed to believe that biology is completely different here, in that trees have leaves just for fun and grow away from their geothermic energy source in the soil. Considering that it was not necessary for the story to take place on a "rogue planet" (except for giving the episode its title), this error could have been avoided.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- Archer: "Do Vulcan captains have their portraits hanging at the High Command?" - T'Pol: "Vulcans are revered for their accomplishments, not for the way they look." - Tucker: "Except for the really important ones - who get mummified."
- Reed: "Follow me." - Archer: "Why don't you let me play Captain for a while, Malcolm?"
- Remarkable behind-the-scenes fact: The mysterious woman was played by Stephanie Niznik. She also appeared as a Trill named Kell Perim aboard the Enterprise-E in "Insurrection".
- Remarkable prop: Tucker is using a digital camera, which doesn't look any more advanced than the ones we have today.
Date not given: A group of Ferengi plunder the ship after they have rendered the crew unconscious - with the exception of Trip, who has been in the decon chamber. While Archer is talking the lowest-ranking Ferengi, Krem, into mistrusting his comrades, Trip and T'Pol are preparing a trap. In the ship's alleged "vault" where the Ferengi expect large amounts of gold they can finally be overpowered. After taking the stolen goods back to Enterprise, Archer leaves Krem in command, warning him never to come too close to a Vulcan or an Earth ship.
"Vulcan Love Slave" - how it all began! So this episode preserves continuity only because the word "Ferengi" is never uttered? Bullsh*t! It is a ludicrous theory that the Ferengi should be identified as late as 213 years later when the Enterprise-D has the first official encounter with them. Even if their whole civilization had heeded Archer's threat for a full two centuries, this wouldn't have prevented Starfleet from finding out about them. It may have been a bit more acceptable, still very contrived, if the Ferengi of this episode had said, in a side note, that they were a long way from their home planet. On the other hand, only a few weeks ago in "Dear Doctor", they have already been explicitly mentioned to be in contact with the Valakians. Although it was probably supposed to be one and the same ship in both episodes, it would suggest that Ferengi are already notorious within the (rather narrow) range of Enterprise. Moreover, one of the other Ferengi mentions a "Bolian female" to Krem in the end. So they already know the Bolians, but the Bolians won't report about them when they join the Federation? Finally, the fact that the Enterprise crew prevails and would be able to scan their databanks gives the death blow to all awkward attempts to excuse the continuity breach, because this should reveal everything important about them (at the very least what they are called). "Admiral, you need to warn all Starfleet ships of these, err, guys with big ears whose race name I neglected to find out."
<rant> Must I be grateful now because they at least attempted to preserve continuity by avoiding the "F" word? B&B don't bother to stick to their own series premise, and after giving us a taste of their interpretation of continuity with the look of the Akiraprise design and her 24th century technology, the K't'inga, the holodeck or the shapeshifters they now open a door to allow just everything. But who among the writer staff (especially now that external script submissions are not possible any longer) would still care for a different premise in a different time if it is so convenient to exploit all the common Trek clichés? The Trek Universe is about to become a static universe as the series fails to show us a development. Always the same stories, the same adversaries, the same technology. Whom will we see next along these lines? Definitely the Romulans, but perhaps also the Borg, Q or maybe James T. Kirk? I wonder how much credibility TPTB will still throw overboard, only for the sake of easy writing, and to please a few fanboys.</rant>
There was a good deal of fun in the episode, but it was once again annoying how the Ferengi were depicted (which is not a particular fault of Enterprise, of course). I may still understand why they could be interested in the dedication plaque as a trophy, but what in the world could they want with the helm seat? Or the food? Considering how gullible they were when Archer told them of the gold or Tucker led them in circles around the ship, the only thing I missed was someone telling them about the "firomactal drive". Honestly, I have no idea how the Ferengi could have ever come so far if the ones we know (of whom only very few were as clever as Quark and his family) are like the Ferengi stereotype perpetuated here. The only scene I really liked was when Archer and Tucker got into an argument about the value of a wife. ;-) The rest of the story (which may have been intentionally reminiscent of TNG: "Rascals") was a bit too contrived. How could only one probe with the gas contaminate the air in the whole big ship? How could the four Ferengi find and empty all fourteen weapons lockers so quickly? Why was exactly one dose of hypospray left for T'Pol (and why didn't Trip try to wake Dr. Phlox instead?). I also didn't like how unhurriedly, almost reluctantly the crew attempted to regain control of the ship. Especially when Tucker first opened Archer's handcuffs and then tightened them again, they accomplished almost nothing. Tucker only learned that there was a hypospray in engineering.
I liked a couple of scenes because they were a bit ironic. For instance, when Krem tried to open the door with two boxes in his hands, he demonstrated how impractical the door openers are. On a funny note, we may regard T'Pol's encounter with him as the foundation of "Vulcan Love Slave, Part I". These little tidbits, like the Vulcan nerve pinch, the Ferengi whip and some other good ideas too, are the reason for my still gracious rating.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "What's a wife worth? Five bars of gold, maybe six? Let them take Hoshi and I'll give you ten." (Archer, to Tucker)
- "If you come within a light year of any one of our ships, you won't know what hit you." (Archer)
- Rules of Acquisition:
- "Never allow family to stand in the way of profit." (#6)
- "Nothing is more important than your health - except for your money." (#23)
- "Expand or die." (#46)
- "A man is only worth the sum of his possessions." (no number given). There are only 173 rules altogether at the time.
Date not given: A landing party discovers a group of survivors on a ship that was allegedly attacked and crashed on a planet three years ago. While Tucker is spending a lot of time with the young Liana, Reed's investigation of the ship yields several inconsistencies - there was no attack and the ship is on the planet for over 20 years. Upon their return, Tucker and T'Pol are taken hostage by the survivors and forced to repair the computer system. Liana finally reveals the truth to Tucker. She and her father, Ezral, were the only survivors when the ship depressurized. Ezral created holographic images of the dead crew for her. Archer can eventually convince him to get the ship running again and head back to their homeworld.
"Oasis" may not have been quite the worst, but was the least remarkable episode so far, as it is the most blatant case of plot recycling, much more so than "Terra Nova" or last week's "Acquisition". The extent of originality in the episode amounts to zero. Nearly every aspect of the story, every piece of dialogue and every facet of the guest characters is something that we have seen several times before. In addition, the plot is being developed extremely slowly. Nothing of any significance happens in the first ten minutes when the landing party is running through dark corridors (like almost every week) until the airponics bay is discovered. The next twenty minutes are a bit more eventful, but the destiny of the survivors and Tucker's interest in Kes aka Liana (isn't there an old movie like "Liana, the Girl from the Jungle"?) fail to catch my interest.
The final fifteen minutes are just appalling. Not only couldn't the authors resist featuring the *defining* technology of the 24th century for the second time in the season, even with a perfection Starfleet holograms will still not have 220 years later (I'll spare you of my rant this time). Even the conclusion is exactly the same as in DS9: "Shadowplay" where Rurigan created a holographic village with the same motivation. The little bit of suspense that has been created in the middle of the episode is blown away in an instant when the holographic crew members vanish one after another, maybe already when Trip examines the optronic relays that almost leave no other explanation than a holodeck. I may have expected any resolution of the inconsistencies Reed discovered, but this was easily the least interesting and most frustrating idea they could have come up with (although I admit it is hard to conceive something original because shipwrecked people in Star Trek *always* hide a secret).
Ezral, played by René Auberjonois, who couldn't save the boring story, was the usual stereotypical stubborn old character, like Rurigan or Mullibok in DS9: "Progress" for instance. Liana, on the other hand, reminded me so much of Kes (not only because of her haircut and the fact that she worked in the airponics bay) that I thought I was watching Voyager at times. Well, plot-wise the parallel to Vina of the "The Cage" is obvious too. As for the Enterprise characters, it may at least have been an opportunity to give some of them (most of all I had hope for Mayweather) something to do again. However, it turned out as yet another Archer-Tucker show.
There was only one scene I liked in the whole 45 minutes. Characteristically of the episode, this was not a serious contribution to the story, even if it may have been intended so, but only a funny side note. When T'Pol notices that Tucker holds Liana in high regard, she can't resist to remind him of his "affair" on the Xyrillian ship: "I'm simply noting that last time you found someone this competent you wound up carrying her child." Liana walks in and asks, "Am I interrupting?" T'Pol: "Not at all. Commander Tucker and I were just discussing his previous repair experience." Last week Archer still claimed T'Pol had no sense of humor. ;-)
- Remarkable ship: The crashed ship is the good old "hammerhead" freighter that appeared several times in TNG, very often as a Bajoran ship in DS9 and also in the Delta Quadrant. Now there seems to be even a CGI model of it and we will probably "enjoy" it several more times in Enterprise too.
Date not given: Archer and Mayweather find themselves arrested in a detainment camp of the Tandarans, together with a number of Suliban. Archer soon finds out that obviously none of the Suliban imprisoned there is genetically altered or guilty of any crime. Colonel Grat justifies their imprisonment in that it would be for the Suliban's own security, to avoid them being made soldiers in the Temporal Cold War. Archer, however, decides to free the prisoners. With help from Enterprise, the Suliban escape to their ships.
Although "Detained" does not really put an end to the recent lack of innovation and inspiration in Enterprise, it is an overall positive surprise because it proves that even cookie-cutter plots may be turned into something special. With yet another hostage-taking and yet another interference into internal affairs of a planet, the episode is somewhat reminiscent of "The Andorian Incident" and "Shadows of P'Jem"; still the course of the story is quite different this time. "Detained" creates suspense through acting instead of action and spares us of endless beatings and shootings until the culmination in the last five minutes. I like how the episode critically comments on Earth's own history, namely the repression and imprisonment of people only because of their racial or national descent. In this resgard it also shows the Suliban in a different light and, moreover, tells us a great deal about them. Archer needs to change his mind about them, and unlike it was with his previous premature actions, I think he now makes the right decision. It may seem exaggerated to attempt to free all the Suliban with force, as many may have been killed. But I think that the "wiser" Starfleet captains of later centuries would have supported the prisoners likewise in one way or another. What I like too is that the authors have finally used the opportunity to concede Travis Mayweather a few decent lines after he had been window dressing for most of the season.
The Tandarans (yet another T-Race...), however, were rather uninspiring. Their military was depicted too stereotypical - as just the willing helpers of a racist regime. In an effort to render them as familiar as possible, they were only given Bajoran-like noses and Romulan-like uniforms. "Al" Dean Stockwell as Colonel Grat didn't impress me very much either, although it's not his fault. I appreciated that he was shown as sinister instead of openly hostile, but the writer made his motivation and the justification of his actions too vague to turn him into a formidable opponent. He and Archer didn't really have any business.
- I was surprised to see that the shuttle is suddenly armed with what appears to be a phase cannon, judging from its continuous beam.
- The oddity of the week, however, is that the Tandarans obviously have a racist slogan with a rhyme even in the English translation. ;-)
- Remarkable fact: The Suliban homeworld became uninhabitable 300 years ago.
Date not given: After a cultural misunderstanding, the insulted Kreetassans leave the ship in a haste. Unnoticed by the crew, a creature with tentacles slips through the airlock and hides aboard Enterprise. When crewmen investigate malfunctions aboard the ship, they are caught by the creature and spun into a web. With Archer, Tucker and three more crewmen trapped like this, the rest of the crew attempt to free them with force, but they would endanger their crewmates' lives by that. Finally, Reed devises a forcefield to get close to the creature without danger, while T'Pol and Hoshi develop a method to communicate with it. The lifeform, actually part of a huge organism, has taken the crew members as a surrogate for the lost contact with its own kind. It agrees to release the crew in exchange for being transferred to its home planet.
"Archer to Lieutenant Ripley. We could use your help down here." Not only in the "Alien" series, but also in Star Trek itself, we have already seen plenty of stories with non-humanoid creatures that endanger the crew, most notably in TOS: "Devil in the Dark" or TOS: "Operation: Annihilate". Considering that I expected almost nothing from watching yet another episode like that, "Vox Sola" ("single/solitary/lonely voice") turned out a positive surprise. It presented a Trek-like variant of the "Alien" theme in that the alien lifeform was not killed but released after communication had been established. It was also extraordinary that the first choice would have been to kill the creature indeed, something that for once successfully distinguishes Enterprise from the three Star Trek series set in the 24th century. Another interesting aspect is that the creature didn't suck out the lives of its victims as we have seen it so often in science fiction, but was actually lonely and seeking for company. Although I was prepared to see the most trivial scary effects so far, they were surprisingly reduced to a minimum here. Instead of that, the episode had a great deal of character interaction, and everyone of the crew played an important part. Especially the conflicts between T'Pol and Hoshi and between Reed and Phlox worked out well. Even Mayweather had a part in the story again when it was up to him to negotiate with the Kreetassans, which he did with palpable stage-fright.
- It is bothersome that Reed casually invents the forcefield and therefore introduces yet another technology that better should not exist for another one hundred years or at least a couple of decades. As with the transporter too, the remark that the improvised device still needs refinement does not excuse that it is already indistinguishable from the advanced routine technology used 200 years later.
- Something that I don't understand is that the creature is said to be "highly photosensitive" on one hand, but the concentrated light pulse of a phase pistol does not have any effect on it.
- Finally, I am surprised that suddenly a phase rifle shows up (with the same visual effect as the phase pistol) that has never been mentioned before and probably didn't exist so far, as especially "Blow-it-up" Reed should have preferred this more powerful weapon over the pulse rifle.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Why don't you stay for the movie tonight?" - "What's playing?" - "Uh... 'Wages of Fear'. Classic foreign film." - "Hmm." - "You'll like it. Things blow up." - "Hmm. Sounds fun." (Travis and Malcolm)
- Remarkable fact: The Kreetassans don't eat in the presence of others which they consider equally indecent as mating in the public. This was the actual reason why they took offense when they came to Archer's usual captain's dinner. This cultural peculiarity may also explain why their words for "eat" and "mate" are similar, as Hoshi found out.
February 9th, 2152: Enterprise is ordered to take the noted Vulcan diplomat V'Lar, currently ambassador to Mazar, to a rendezvous with a Vulcan vessel. On Mazar, V'Lar has been accused of several crimes, but she refuses to make a statement about the charges against her. At T'Pol's request, Archer agrees to carry on with his mission, although Mazarite ships demand the extradition of V'Lar. With Mazarite ships attacking Enterprise, Archer has to buy himself time until the arrival of the Vulcan ship. Finally, the Mazarites can be defeated, and V'Lar may be transferred safely to the Vulcan ship. Her actual mission was to uncover corruption in the Mazarite government, but she did not reveal it because of her lacking trust in humans.
The old spirit is back in this episode, which reconciles me to some extent with the overall negligence and the many conscious errors that were made before in the series, in particular the questionable pleasure of frequently seeing Vulcans with evil hidden agenda or aggressive behavior. 89 years after "First Contact", it is actually the first time in the series at all that there is a positive development of the human-Vulcan relations - in general as well as between Archer and T'Pol. This alone makes the episode a pleasure to view. V'Lar's little speech in the end may be a bit too solemn, but with regard to continuity, it is finally a step into the right direction. Aside from that, the story is quite exciting. Only that I would have wished to see something more elaborate than Enterprise running away from the Mazarite ships all the time.
The dermal regeneration that Phlox mentions to the Mazarites is definitely a ruse, since we know the tomography unit may not be used for that purpose. I hope the authors will remember that too. As for the mention of Risa in the episode, I always thought that it was a fairly unknown place at the time when Riker recommended it to Picard in TNG: "Captain's Holiday". On the other hand, Picard may be the type who just doesn't care where ordinary people go on vacation just to relax and/or have sex.
- Remarkable quote: "I sense a great bond between you. A bond of... trust and respect. But also... a bond of friendship. I think it bodes well for the future relations of our two people." (V'Lar)
- Remarkable facts:
- The Vulcan ship Sh'Ran has a top speed of Warp 7.
- Enterprise, on the other hand, reaches Warp 5 for the first time.
February 12th, 2152: After the successful repair of his shuttle, Archer and Tucker are invited by Zobral to visit him in his desert camp. Enterprise is warned by the planet government that Zobral is a terrorist and that the two officers are regarded as his helpers. Meanwhile on the planet, Zobral tries to persuade Archer and Tucker in vain to join his cause. When the camp is attacked, the Starfleet officers escape to the open desert. After a long walk, they are finally rescued by a shuttle, after T'Pol has convinced Zobral to support them because he was responsible to get them into trouble in the first place.
"The galaxy could use more people like you." This is what Zobral thinks of Archer and Tucker. This statement gains a completely new significance when he attempts to recruit the two officers for his cause, not knowing that Archer is not a great leader but just a Starfleet captain who strives to do the right thing (or what he thinks is right). The intra-series continuity in the episode is great, as it shows the consequences of Archer's actions in "Detained". His reputation proceeds him, and this is only plausible in a region of space which is smaller than at the time of TOS or even TNG. As for the plot itself, Enterprise is caught in the middle of a civil war yet another time, and we have seen similar struggles for survival several times before in Star Trek.
The episode may have been intended as a way to cope with the present-day phenomenon of terrorism. But as such, it doesn't work out quite well. Like several times before in Enterprise, the conflict parties fail to make their points and their motivations remain rather vague. In this respect, "Desert Crossing" reminds me a lot of "Shadows of P'Jem" where shooting, beating and bondage games were a poor surrogate for the lack of a real plot. Fortunately, there is a tad more development in "Desert Crossing" besides the mere action, and the open-air desert scenes are definitely a highlight, also because they make Archer's and Tucker's desperate situation palpable.
- Concerning the technology, I wonder if someone made up their mind about the shuttle's weapon. After it (erroneously?) had a phase weapon in "Detained", it is now equipped with what looks like a pulse cannon.
- But the question of the week is what happened to the shuttlepod that Archer and Tucker abandoned. Even more so than on Voyager, it should be hard to replace shuttles, and Enterprise allegedly has only two of them.
- I also wonder why they went into the desert in the first place when they could have used the shuttle to escape. It obviously had not been hit in the long artillery bombardment, and I think they would have had a good chance to outrun the slow projectiles.
February 18th, 2152: Part of the crew are finally taking their deserved vacation on Risa. Trip and Malcolm are seeking for company in a bar, but the two attractive girls turn out to be thieves. Hoshi meets an alien man, and they soon find more interesting activities than only learning each other's languages. Travis engages in rock climbing and gets hurt, so that Dr. Phlox has to be interrupted in his hibernation. Captain Archer, finally, meets a woman, but he eventually finds out that she is a surgically altered Tandaran spy.
This reads like a "Love Boat" episode, and it is one. The setting is only slightly different, and the way of storytelling is much the same. It is a fun episode overall, something for the viewer to relax, quite as the characters intended to do. Irony is in all the plot lines. Our brave crew is looking for relaxation but is getting excitement and/or trouble. Hoshi is irritated by Trip's and Malcolm's apparent intentions to meet aliens of the opposite sex, but in the end it is her who ends up in bed with an alien. As nothing with serious consequences happens here, everything should not be taken too seriously. Nevertheless, the episode with its countless references to previous heroic deeds or mishaps may have the best intra-series continuity. Unfortunately, this applies to the plot vehicles likewise. Even though it has an ironic undertone here, seeing that everyone of the crew is being knocked out in one way or another adds to the overall awkward and naive impression that has been created of them over the first season. I don't even need to comment on crewmen once again being fettered or running around in underwear. I think that, beyond some point, it is getting too ridiculous to take them seriously as characters any longer. The potential that may have been in a one-time ironic look at the crew's misfortunes here has already been wasted throughout the season. If anything, it is rather a self-ironic look at the series as a whole.
Another drawback is that, except for Hoshi's long conversations in alien languages (I don't remember any sub-titled scenes that long in Star Trek), Risa was not very alien. Well, there were (at least) two moons and Horgahn-shaped door buttons. But there were not any specific problems of the place. Looking back, I would rather have liked to see the crew getting into trouble because of the special customs, laws or environmental conditions or anything else intrinsic to the planet, but the way it was the episode could have taken place in Florida as well. On a side note, who else thought that especially the bar scene with Trip and Malcolm borrowed a lot from the 1980s? The synthy-pop music, colorful hairstyles and finally Trip's and Malcolm's Crockett & Tubbs outfits. Speaking of misfortunes, when Cutler and T'Pol wake up Phlox, I can fully understand his disorientation. I feel like that every morning!
- Remarkable dialogues:
- Reed: "Well, supposedly Risa is very cosmopolitan. There are species visiting from all over." - Tucker: "Malcolm and I, uh, plan to broaden our cultural horizons." - Hoshi: "Is that all you two think about?" - Tucker: "Well, how we choose to relax is our own business."
- Tucker: "I saved the captain's life." - Alien "women": "I thought you were the captain." - Tucker: "We rotate." (pointing at Reed) "He's captain next week."
- Mayweather, to T'Pol: "Have you ever been to an alien hospital?" - T'Pol: "Yes. In San Francisco."
- Quote of the week: "Malcolm, bearing 1-8-0." (Tucker, when he spots the two women behind him)
- Remarkable facts:
- Dr. Phlox usually hibernates six days per year, but two should suffice.
- Hoshi had learned 38 languages before she left Earth.
- Earth is 90ly from Risa. This is the farthest any human being has ever gone, according to Archer.
Date not given: An Enterprise shuttle seemingly causes the ignition of gases in an atmosphere, costing thousands of lives on the planet below. Admiral Forrest has no choice but to cancel the mission and call Enterprise back to Earth. Daniels, the time traveler from the 31st century, however, knows that the Suliban are responsible for the disaster by planting a device on the shuttle's hull. He sends Archer on a mission to track down a Suliban stealth cruiser, disable it and steal the evidence. But on the way back Enterprise is surrounded by Suliban vessels. In an attempt to correct history once again, Archer is transferred to the 31st century, but his absence triggers a development in which Earth is being devastated. Without any time travel equipment, Archer and Daniels are trapped in the 31st century, while Enterprise is facing a battle against a fleet of Suliban ships... Daniels and Archer find out that the Federation never existed in the current version of the 31st century, and that it must have to do with Archer's disappearance from the 22nd century. Searching for Archer, the Suliban have boarded Enterprise and confined the crew to their quarters. Archer and Daniels manage to send back a message through time to the Enterprise crew. Reed finds a time travel device in Daniels' former room, but Silik takes it, and Archer is returned from the 31st century to the Suliban Helix. In the meantime, having faked a warp core breach, Enterprise breaks free from the Helix. Archer manages to take Silik hostage and get back to Enterprise. The mission is allowed to continue.
"And now the confusion...". I usually don't review two-parters separately, but this one would receive 8 points for part one and only 3 for part two. The first part of "Shockwave" makes several promises the conclusion doesn't keep. While the cliffhanger leaves several options as to how the temporal mess may be explained and fixed later on, the second part absolutely fails in doing either of that. The time travel aspects are discussed on a separate page, but they are not the principal problem. Among many weak points about the logic I am especially annoyed that there is no other interpretation possible except that Daniels must have abducted Archer against better knowledge that this would necessarily change history and might lead to exactly the disaster that happened. How stupid of him! The successful attempt to fix the whole situation by creating a temporal transmitter with a few extremely simple modifications to Archer's communicator and scanner is another major annoyance. The device suddenly even has a holographic imager! As if it would only take a good 21st century engineer to turn a 19th century telegraph into a modern cell phone. This is the most ludicrous engineering nonsense in Star Trek in a long time! Without any change to the plot, Daniels could have taken one of his own advanced devices or modified parts of his protection suit to send the message, which may have already been difficult enough.
There are several more errors and plot holes, which show up massively in the second part. Was it part of the plan that Silik would take away Daniels' device from Reed and that Archer would be trapped on the Helix upon his return? It almost seems so since no one backed Reed while he broke into Daniels' quarters. And did Silik really think he had any chance to contact Future Guy with a device he had not the slightest idea how to operate? Silly Silik! Why is Silik so awfully important that his soldiers stop the attack when he is taken hostage? Why didn't Archer simply keep Silik as a prisoner? And finally, since when can Enterprise fire phase cannons at warp?
The second part also compares badly to the first one in that some of the tasteless Enterprise clichés show up again. T'Pol tortured in underwear, Hoshi losing her shirt, Reed beaten until he bleeds by Silik. Braga and Berman should finally start thinking about which kind of audience they are aiming at. But what I actually like least about the second part is that everything said about Archer's mission in particular and human-Vulcan relationships in general exactly echoes what has been stated so many times before. Especially the final five minutes with the stereotypical statements by Archer, Tucker, Forrest, Soval and T'Pol are perfectly interchangeable with "Broken Bow", "The Andorian Incident" or "Shadows of P'Jem". Of all people involved, only T'Pol may have changed her mind, but this became apparent as soon as in "Broken Bow". I really wonder when the whole human-Vulcan story arc will finally see an advancement. While it is certainly realistic that such things don't fundamentally change in the course of only one year (I would be the last person to contest this), I simply expect more from a story arc than hearing the same statements and discussions all over again.
There are certainly a number of things I really like in both parts of the episode. First of all, the disillusion of the crew in the first part is quite credible. The failure of Archer's mission in one case may have endangered the whole space program and the future of the human race. Once again, Enterprise establishes a palpable difference to the saturated and secure 24th century. The crew's efforts to regain control of the ship are quite witty, including Tucker's modification of the comm system (which was a lot more credible than what Daniels did with Archer's communicator) and the faked warp core breach. What an improvement compared to the half-hearted actions in "Acquisition"! The special effects, like the explosion in the planet's atmosphere or the battle between Enterprise and the Suliban, are outstanding.
One interesting observation (thanks, Martin!) is that, while the future was in ruins, Silik had no possibility to contact the guy from the future. This may be taken as a hint that this guy is actually human, or that his future was affected as well, so he either didn't exist or had no interest in waging a "Temporal Cold War".
- Remarkable quote: "As I told you, the Vulcan Science Directory has concluded that time travel is impossible." (T'Pol)
- Remarkable dialogue: Archer, looking at a book in the shelf of the derelict library: "The Romulan Star Empire? - What's that?" - Daniels: "Maybe you shouldn't be reading that."
- Remarkable fact: Archer reads "Romulan Star Empire" on a book. This may be a predestination paradox, in that he may give the Romulans their name based on that. We'll have to wait and see.