Archer decides to take the Enterprise to an ancient Vulcan monastery along the ship’s course. He, T’Pol and Trip beam down and discover that the monks are being held hostage by a group of Andorians, a species humans have not yet encountered that often quarrels with the Vulcans (and whom Trek fans first met WAY back in “Journey to Babel” and were referenced only a few times in second-generation Trek). Andorian Commander Shran (Jeffrey Combs) tells Archer that he believes the monastery is a front for a Vulcan spy station. Archer and Co. must deal with the condescending Vulcans and the aggressive Andorians, and eventually learn that the monastery IS a spy station. Archer (and a stunned T’Pol) let Shran take evidence of the station back to his government — setting a course for more interactions with Shran and his people and continued tension with the Vulcans.
Why it’s important
This episode sets the stage for one of Enterprise’s lasting legacies — that humans would become part of a larger galactic community, in fact, leaders of one. Archer’s relationship with Shran, which begins here, is hugely important through the rest of the series.
We also learn here that the Vulcans and Andorians don’t like each other very much, and that they’ve been squabbling for two centuries. This is an interesting choice, given that we know — because of TOS — that Vulcans and Andorians would go on to be allies. However, the dialog in “Journey to Babel” that the delegates aboard Kirk’s Enterprise aren’t BFFs sort of fits with what we see here and later in this series.
And, of course, there’s more of the Vulcan condescension toward humans, a staple of early Enterprise.
What doesn’t hold up
One of the biggest gripes about Enterprise (evident here) is that for the first couple years, the series was kind of aimless. After the pilot and basically until the (literally) Earth-shattering season-two finale, much of the series is just Archer finding something along the ship’s course, going to see it and running into bad guys or anomalies. That’s not completely objectionable. But it’s too bad that the ship’s original mission wasn’t more targeted — i.e. exploring a nearby region. I know that the idea is that Starfleet is an exploratory organization. But the exploration on Enterprise seems like a lot of meandering, especially when 22nd-century Earth would have had the ability to at least study space from a distance and to provide some direction to Archer. It’s interesting that the years in which the series is stronger (seasons three and four) include very little exploration but have clearly defined missions. More about that in later reviews.
There’s also some goofiness about how Archer and Trip comport themselves on the planet. In particular, Archer letting Shran and his thugs beat him up so he could test his theory that the monastery is more than it appears — a process I won’t describe here, as it’s not that important — was pretty silly. Archer getting captured was to Enterprise what shuttle crashes were to Voyager. And there were other ways Archer could have tested his theory.
Also, just where was the monastery? It must be pretty close to Vulcan, given that the Andorians are said to be the Vulcans’ neighbors and the monastery is close enough to Andoria for surveillance. And yet, the monastery is on the Enterprise’s course and there’s no mention of how the ship is close to Vulcan. Hmmm.
This isn’t a bad episode, but it sort of fits into the “blah” category of Enterprise showings (and there were a lot of them, especially early in the series). It’s obvious why after a couple seasons the creators really mixed things up later in the series’ run.
Coming later this week …
We meet the pesky Crewman Daniels.