The Enterprise decides to check out a new planet and stumbles onto a minefield. One goes off and causes some significant damage. Another attaches itself to the hull, but doesn’t explode. Reed dons a spacesuit to try to diffuse it, but gets trapped when a mechanical leg from the mine goes through his leg and attaches itself to the ship. Then, a vessel decloaks, and identifies itself — audio only — as Romulan (thunderclap). After some warning shots, the Romulans move off, but the Enterprise is stuck in the minefield. Archer joins Reed on the hull to try to diffuse the bomb and save Reed — allowing the two some bonding time — but is unsuccessful. As the Romulans return, Archer has Trip detach part of the hull, allowing Archer and Reed to be beamed home and the ship to escape.
Why it’s important
This is humanity’s first encounter with the Romulans, even though they don’t see them (other than their ships) or get much information about the future enemies. Enterprise as a series often was criticized for not being enough of a prequel, but this episode is very much something that could lead to what we see in TOS.
Also, it’s significant that Enterprise is still dealing with the damage in the following episode, in which the ship is largely repaired by an automated space station (with nefarious motives). We won’t review that episode, but props to the creators for not going all Voyager on us. In this series, with much more limited technology, not addressing major damage to the ship would have been even more egregious.
What doesn’t hold up
Well, there’s the continuing issue of Archer and Co. knowing about cloaking devices when the technology was apparently only thought of as theoretical more than 100 years later by Kirk and Spock in “Balance of Terror”. Before this episode, Archer’s crew had only seen cloaks on Suliban ships — but now we know that Starfleet knew the Romulans had them. And we can infer that the Romulans probably used them in the war with Earth that took place a decade later. All that makes the dialog in “Balance of Terror” seem really odd.
Again, maybe this is more proof that Archer and Co. are living in an alternate timeline, thanks to all the time travel in previous series. Kirk did bring a cloaking device to 1980s Earth.
I guess the only other question is how the Vulcans don’t know more about the Romulans. Granted, you could pose the same questions about “Balance of Terror” — particularly when it comes to the Romulans’ likely exodus from Vulcan — but here, there’s direct interactions that seem like they’d provide T’Pol a clue as to who these people are. If nothing else, wouldn’t there be similarities in the languages?
Regarding this question for “Balance of Terror”, you could argue that Vulcans weren’t involved in the conflict in the 2160s, as dialog in that episode makes it sound as is the conflict was simply between the Romulans and Earth. However, the establishment of the Federation (or the precursor to the Federation) as shown at the end of this series makes one wonder how the Vulcans wouldn’t have received any information about such a conflict. After all, humans and Vulcans were allies at the time (based on what we know).
Finally, why would Reed’s knowledge of human explosives help him at all in efforts to diffuse the Romulan mine?
This is a solid episode providing for some good character moments between Archer and Reed. I didn’t care much for the opening breakfast scene — Reed was too awkward, considering how long he and Archer had served together — but the dialog on the ship’s hull was strong.
Oh, and some might wonder why we didn’t review “Carbon Creek”, as the episode depicts the first appearance of Vulcans on Earth, a century before the events of “Star Trek: First Contact”. Big picture, it doesn’t appear that the encounter had any lasting consequences — other than humanity’s introduction to Velcro — so it’s more of a footnote than a Tapestry-worthy episode. At least, that’s our take. YMMV.
Coming later this week …
Archer has to think real hard about being more careful when it comes to alien societies.