Archer is asked to mediate a dispute between the Vulcans and Andorians over a small planet both species claim. The request comes from Shran (our buddy from “The Andorian Incident”) and is opposed by Vulcan ambassador Soval (whom we first saw in the pilot as a thorn in Archer’s side). Despite some firefights on the planet, some infighting among the Andorians and a tense standoff in orbit, Archer is ultimately successful at getting the two sides talking, paving the way for a greater role for him — and humanity — in interstellar events.
Why it’s important
Although this episode has a lot of forgettable action sequences, it’s probably one of Enterprise’s most important pivot points. Archer, in a scene with Phlox, discusses how Starfleet’s mission might be about more than just “charting comets.” He begins to realize that his ship’s time in space might be about being part of a bigger community. This, of course, is a huge focus in season four, when the Federation begins taking shape, led by Archer’s efforts. And Earth’s neutrality between the Vulcans and Andorians (and later, the Tellarites) is extremely important.
Also, this episode furthers Shran as the main point of contact among the Andorians and shows Soval’s (very slowly) growing respect for Archer. It’s also interesting to watch T’Pol here, as she’s clearly rooting for and trying to help Archer and growing further apart from Soval and the Vulcans generally.
What doesn’t hold up
Well, the action sequences (as noted) were fairly routine. But the biggest annoyance is the way this episode (like a lot of early Enterprise) paints the Vulcans. Their disdain for humanity is actually quite emotional. Granted, the creators clearly realized they needed a way to explain why 22nd-century Vulcans were such jerks so different than 23rd- and 24th-century Vulcans and did so in the fourth season, as we’ll discuss. But, the condescension is really over the top in a lot of Enterprise, particularly here.
The last quibble pops up in a lot of Trek — when aliens use Earth time increments. Often, this is for the smooth flow of an episode. But here, when an agreement between Vulcan and Andoria is called “the treaty of 2097” by Soval, it really stands out as being awkward and unnecessary. Enterprise wasn’t the only series in which aliens used Earth time measurements, (DS9 was probably the worst, with references to Klingon blood wine of vintages measured in Earth years) but this was a particularly egregious example. There was just no reason a time/date needed to be mentioned in the treaty.
This is about as B+ of an episode as Trek can produce. It’s not bad and it’s entertaining at points, but there’s a definite feeling of “been there, done that,” even if it was a key moment of foundation for Trek and for the series. I can imagine there were times in Enterprise’s second season when the creators wondered why episodes like this didn’t resonate the way they would have 10 years earlier. Realizing that TV was changing and that fans were going through some Trek fatigue likely led to the drastic change in tone that we’ll address in our next review.
Archer’s line about comets is also interesting, in that Enterprise really doesn’t do much exploring for the rest of its run. There is even some meta-ish dialogue in the third and fourth seasons about this — but I think it came down to the creators realizing that they couldn’t make exploration (on its own) that interesting, either because TV had changed or this particular series did better with action-oriented stories. Instead, Enterprise’s best showings usually focused on conflicts with aliens, coalition building or both.
Coming later this week …
It’s the second-season finale and some major, major stuff happens. Hold onto your butts.