A Klingon is running through a cornfield. He’s pursued by some weird aliens with apparent shape-shifting abilities. After the the Klingon kills the aliens, a human farmer shoots him with some sort of gun. Turns out this all happened more than 200 years since last we saw Trek (when Voyager was last seen being illogical and goofy) and more than a century before Kirk was knocking boots with hot alien females. There’s no Federation yet, but Starfleet is close to launching its first deep-space mission on the starship Enterprise (NX-01), captained by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula). Archer is called to a meeting where Starfleet brass and their Vulcan advisers are discussing the the injured Klingon. Archer uses the opportunity to return the Klingon, Klaang (Tommy Lister) to his homeworld to launch Enterprise ahead of schedule, despite the Vulcans’ objections. In exchange for some Vulcan star charts, Archer takes on Vulcan T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) as his science officer. En route, the ship is boarded by more of the weird aliens (the Suliban, we learn) and Klaang is captured. Unwilling to give up, Archer takes some information passed on from Klaang (pre-capture) and heads to Rigel X. There, he learns that the Suliban, Klaang and others are part of a “temporal cold war,” and that the Suliban are trying to destabilize the Klingon Empire. Eventually, using information from Rigel, the Enterprise finds where the Suliban are keeping Klaang, rescue him and — after a short battle — take him to Kronos. With its first mission accomplished, Starfleet tells Archer that the Enterprise should keep going and begin its historic mission.
Why it’s important
Well, as this is humanity’s first step toward what we would see in the previous series and movies, it’s a huge, huge part of the Tapestry. It largely explains how humanity got from its first use of warp technology and encounter with the Vulcans in “Star Trek: First Contact” to its first step toward a new frontier (to quote another Trek captain).
It’s interesting, too, that we see humanity’s first dealings with Klingons (which will have huge, huge consequences) and the introduction of the Suliban, the main bad guy for this series over its first two seasons (notably Silik and his weird shadowy overseer, too). Plus, we see the strained relationship between humans and Vulcans, which is one of the major underpinnings of this series.
What doesn’t hold up
Enterprise did a nice job of trying to appear less technologically advanced than TOS while not forcing viewers to look at 1960s-era sets and effects. That said, there were obvious items where the creators were too lax — notably that Kirk and Spock were so puzzled by cloaking technology in “Balance of Terror” when Archer and Co. see it here and throughout the series.
Beyond that, it’s a little surprising just how close Kronos apparently is to Earth. Archer says it’s a four-day journey at maximum warp, which, at this point in time, is warp 5. So, in other words, a Klingon ship traveling at high warp could get to Earth in LESS than four days, possibly much less? Somehow, that seems off.
And, of course, there’s the big-picture question as to why we’ve never heard of this Enterprise before, or Archer, or the Suliban, etc. I sort of hate head cannon, but I always thought the easiest explanation was that some time travel in previous Trek (the events of “Star Trek: First Contact”, perhaps?) changed what would have been the history as it stood in TOS and after — and a similar method was used in J.J. Abrams reboot. Of course, the real answer is a lot easier: The idea for the prequel wasn’t around before 2000-01, so writing a mention of Archer et. al into any Trek filmed BEFORE then was impossible.
This is a pretty solid pilot with some nice nods toward continuity (despite the conceit mentioned above). It’s interesting to see humans who are less refined and not the galactic leaders that they would be in other series.
It’s worth noting that Enterprise, as a prequel could be arguably the most Tapestry-worthy series of them all. With respect to not reviewing every episode or every other episode, we’ll be extremely strict about our criteria and review episodes in bunches where appropriate (especially in the more serialized seasons three and four).
Coming next week …
Archer can’t get “My Blue Heaven” out of his head.
Voyager finds an apparently uninhabited planet with some valuable resources and Torres prepares to extract them. Before she leaves on an away mission, Ensign Vorik (Alexander Enberg), a Vulcan we’ve seen in engineering a time or two, requests to mate with her, and the two fight after she rebuffs him. Turns out he’s going through the Vulcan 7-year mating itch Spock went through in “Amok Time”. Torres, Paris and Neelix head to the planet and Torres begins acting weird and bites Paris on the cheek. Somehow, Vorik’s condition has been imprinted on Torres, and now she has Paris in her half-Klingon sights. Meanwhile, the away team eventually meets aliens who still live on the planet after mastering a way to hide themselves from unnamed invaders. With Torres’s condition deteriorating, she and Paris are about to get busy when Vorik leaves the ship and demands Torres mate with him. At Tuvok’s suggestion, Vorik and Torres fight in ritual combat, extinguishing the blood fever (which is how Spock got over his thing back in the day). Back on the ship, Paris and Torres talk about what happened, with some hints that a relationship between the two might be around the corner. But the episode ends with Chakotay showing Janeway the skeletal remains of a Borg (!) on the surface — apparently the planet’s invaders and an indication Voyager is nearing or entering Borg space.
Why it’s important
The main plot to this episode isn’t all that important from a bigger-picture perspective. It is a nice bit of continuity with Trek as a whole and it does further the Paris/Torres relationship — which would become one of the show’s best nods to Voyager’s premise of an isolated crew.
But, really, the show’s final minute is the important thing here. Discovering that the Borg are close is a huge domino and would go on to be part of Voyager’s lasting legacy — with the debut of Seven of Nine in the fourth season and the ship’s repeated encounters with the Borg up through the series finale.
It was a tough call whether to review “Blood Fever” or the subsequent episode “Unity” — in which Chakotay encounters a group of freed drones who want to return to a lesser version of the collective. But this episode is the first time we see the Borg on Voyager, so it got the nod. And when Voyager encounters actual, real, live Borg, we’ll be on it.
What doesn’t hold up
It’s a little hard to believe that Vorik — in his messed-up state — would have been able to disable Voyager’s transporters, communications and shuttles before heading to the planet. It’s too bad the creators didn’t just chalk up the lack of help from Voyager — which is key, as it means letting Torres and Vorik fight is the best available option — to interference on the planet. But whatever.
I do wonder about Tuvok’s thinking in suggesting that Torres and Vorik fight. While it’s true that combat was preferable to the two of them dying from the fever, why not just just stun them or give them both nerve pinches and wait until Voyager fixes things? It’s awfully convenient that both Torres and Vorik end up being done with the blood fever at EXACTLY the same moment.
Big picture, this is pretty cartoony, even for Voyager. The cast pulls it off as well as could be expected, I guess (Roxanne Dawson and Robert Duncan-McNeil bring their A games). And I actually really liked the use of Chakotay in talking down the aliens on the planet. But the idea that Vorik’s condition could be transmitted is, well, goofy.
I give Voyager a lot of crap for lack of continuity. But it’s nice that we don’t meet Vorik for the first time in this episode and that he doesn’t go away after it. Although he mostly shows up in the third and fourth seasons, we see Vorik again in the seventh season. So, I’ll give the creators a mild pat on the back on this one. Plus, Enberg can do the Vulcan thing pretty well.
It is interesting that Voyager — much like DS9 in the middle years — was seeking to reinvent itself. After a second season that wasn’t well received, Voyager brought back one of Trek’s best baddies in the Borg, who were recurring villains the rest of the series. In a way, that decision made Voyager even more “TNG in the Delta Quadrant.” But given the bad execution during the Kazon years, it might have been the best choice.
Part I: Starfleet learns Spock is chillin’ on Romulus, and no one knows why. Hoping for some answers, Picard visits Spock’s dad, Sarek (Mark Lenard) who’s dying and whom Picard mind-melded with a year earlier to help Sarek fulfill his last mission as an ambassador (in “Sarek”). Sarek points Picard in the direction of Pardek (Malachi Throne) a Romulan senator Spock has known for years, and Picard and Data, masquerading as Romulans, head to Romulus on a cloaked Klingon ship. Meanwhile, Riker leads an investigation about some parts of a stolen Vulcan ship or something. Shortly after arriving on Romulus, Picard and Data meet Spock — and Trekkers’ pants everywhere got a little tighter.
Part II: Spock tells Picard he is on Romulus to try to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan peoples, as they share common ancestry (see “Balance of Terror”). Picard is skeptical, but Pardek is apparently making some inroads for Spock with Neral (Norman Large) the new Romulan procounsel. We then learn that Neral is working with Sela (Denise Crosby, reprising her role from “Redemption”) on some sort of nefarious plan (thunderclap). Their idea is to send an alleged peace delegation to Vulcan that really is an invasion force. Picard, Data and Spock foil the plan and a warbird destroys three stolen Vulcan ships — one of which was the one Riker was trying to find — carrying the invasion force in front of the Enterprise. Despite the setback, Spock stays on Romulus to continue the reunification efforts — but not before mind-melding with Picard to share Picard’s connection with Sarek.
Why it’s important
Interestingly, the effects of this episode don’t really show up again aside from one other episode (“Face of the Enemy”) until the rebooted “Star Trek” in 2009. Spock’s actions to bring peace to Romulus led to the planet’s destruction, which causes renegade Romulan Nero to alter history in that film. But you could argue that Spock’s actions here pretty much negate everything we saw on TOS, the movies, TNG, DS9 and Voyager (and this site). Only Enterprise and the two JJ movies would not be erased.
This episode is important as it (sort of) explains the Vulcan/Romulan backstory. Some of it really doesn’t make sense, as we’ll discuss. But some of it does — and we at least understand more of the differences between the two races. We also see more of the Federation-Klingon-Romulan triangle here. Interestingly, Spock references his role in the peace treaty with the Klingons — something that Trek viewers didn’t know about yet. These two episodes premiered in early November 1991, while “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” — which details the peace process — premiered in early December of that year. That didn’t tip things about the Federation being at peace with the Klingons — we’d known that since at least season one of TNG — but it was a small reveal about what the final TOS movie would cover.
Probably most importantly, though, is the fact that this episode is really the first big-time crossover between different Trek franchises — and it spurred many, many others.
Between fall 1987 and fall 1991, the only real crossover between TOS and TNG was DeForest Kelley’s appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint”. No other episode, or “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”, which came out in 1989, was a crossover — and only a few episodes featured any connections between the two series, other than the basic premise that underlies Star Trek. Maybe, after “The Naked Now” was such a dud, the creators were gunshy?
But that all changed after this episode (and, to a point, in “Sarek”). Michael Dorn shows up in “Star Trek VI”, playing his grandfather (and Kirk and McCoy’s lawyer during their trial). The first episode of DS9, which aired about 14 months after “Unification”, involves a handoff from TNG, and the first episode of Voyager in early 1995 involved a handoff from DS9. DS9 had episodes about the mirror universe, first seen in “Mirror, Mirror” and even visited the original Enterprise in “Trials and Tribble-ations”. Voyager featured a flashback episode to the events of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and on and on.
In other words, this episode was most important as a creative launching point than within the Star Trek universe — which is amazing considering what it actually covered in the Star Trek universe.
What doesn’t hold up
Part I is mostly fine. It’s hard to believe that if it’s so easy to get into Romulan space, that the Klingons wouldn’t just send a cloaked armada in and start destroying everything. There are later mentions of how groups of cloaked ships can be somewhat detectable — and how there are listening posts that might detect cloaked vessels or something — but I think the whole thing is just sloppy writing. And I’ll avoid the whole Universal Translator discussion.
Part II is really the problem.
The subplot with the Enterprise was honestly pointless. The business with Riker and Worf at the bar and dealing with the Zakdorn bureaucrat, etc., was needless filler. The Enterprise’s awareness of the stolen Vulcan ship really didn’t advance the story. But whatever — maybe they needed padding because Nimoy didn’t have time to be in more scenes.
The stuff on Romulus while more significant, was pretty implausible. Here’s a quick list of the problems:
1) Why did Picard and Data remove their Romulan disguises when they knew they’d likely return to the surface? Still looking like Romulans could have really been helpful.
2) How did Spock, after his first meeting with Neral, just walk out of the procounsel’s office without an escort? It seems like he’s just planning to stroll through the government offices — despite the fact that he’s on enemy soil! Spock wouldn’t have had ill intentions, but some out-of-the-loop guards have thought he might.
3) Why did Sela (in typical, bad-villain style) explain the entire plot to Picard, Data and Spock — and why didn’t she kill them (or incapacitate them) when Spock refused to cooperate? Why did Sela even leave an accessible computer in the procounsel’s office?
4) Why did the Romulans send the stolen Vulcan ships through the Neutral Zone at Warp 1? They might have made it to Vulcan in about five years at that speed — unless the Neutral Zone is really, really small, which would seem to defeat its purpose.
5) Why did the Romulans think that a few thousand Romulan troops would have conquered a planet with (presumably) billions of inhabitants? Couldn’t a ship in orbit have keyed in on all Romulan life signs and beamed them into holding cells?
6) Why did the Romulans steal the Vulcan ships at all? It’s not as if doing so disguised the fact that the ships were coming from Romulus. As far as I can tell, the Vulcan ships are part of the story just to give the Enterprise something to do while Picard and Data go to Romulus.
7) For a society as paranoid as the Romulans, how did Picard and Data avoid being scanned and detected while on the planet? And how did Spock walk around for weeks (maybe longer) without the normal Romulan forehead ridges? How did the Klingon ship use its transporters while cloaked when the Defiant (later, on DS9) never could?
Probably my biggest gripe, though, is the idea that Spock would have enough interest in and knowledge about unifying the Vulcans and Romulans considering that the Federation isn’t supposed to know much at all about the Romulans. How would he have the basic understanding to determine whether reunification was possible — or even worthwhile? Even if you throw out “The Neutral Zone” and all its talk about the Romulans being absent for decades — which the creators basically threw out after that episode — the idea that Spock could have much of a relationship with the Romulans (through Pardek) is laughable. We’re talking about an empire blocked for more than two centuries from the Federation by a large area of neutral space. And by all indications, the Romulans left Vulcan hundreds of years earlier. So, it’s unlikely that Spock would have records of anything to form the basis of reunification or a desire to reunify. Did he just figure it was a good idea? Doesn’t seem very logical.
If it sounds like I’m being harsh about a couple episodes that are sort of cornerstones of TNG and some of Trek’s most celebrated moments, it’s because I think they’re so deeply flawed (especially part II) and, most importantly, that they didn’t need to be. A few lines of dialog about Spock’s thinking (which could have easily taken the place of the filler with the Enterprise’s investigation) and better writing regarding the Romulans’ plan (maybe Sela wouldn’t have known about the Klingon ship, and Picard, Data and Spock could have beamed there and tapped into the recorded Spock message?) and this episode would have been great BEYOND the nice crossover moments.
As it is, this episode only really gets by on those moments.
After encountering Abraham Lincoln (Lee Bergere) floating in space (for realz) the crew beams him aboard. He sort of seems like the genuine article and he vaguely tells Kirk that the answers about him are on a nearby planet the ship was exploring. Upon beaming down, Kirk, Spock and Lincoln are joined by Surak (Barry Atwater), the father of the Vulcan people. Then, some weird rock things who live on the planet tell our heroes that they have to fight recreations of four evil figures from history. The bad guys include Genghis Khan (Nathan Gung) who really likes to throw rocks; some weird witch woman, Zora (Carol Daniels) not to be confused with a witch-ay woman; Kahless the Unforgettable (Robert Herron) essentially, the Klingon messiah who apparently doubles as a voiceover actor; and Colonel Green (Phillip Pine) a notorious figure from 21st-century Earth. All the historical figures are recreations (I guess?) and the rock creatures want to examine the difference between good and evil. After a bunch of by-the-numbers fight scenes where Kirk and Co. win, but don’t kill the bad guys, they learn that it’s mercy or something.
Why it’s important
As goofy as this episode is — it seems like something straight out of The Animated Series — it introduces two (possibly three) key figures in the history of Star Trek. Both Kahless and Surak appear in second-generation Trek (Kahless in TNG’s “Rightful Heir” and later references and Surak in the fourth-season Vulcan arc in “Star Trek: Enterprise”). Colonel Green, while certainly not a messiah figure, is an important guy in Earth’s history. He pops up in a recording in “Terra Prime” at the end of the fourth season of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and it turns out he’s a sort of hero to the Earth-for-humans movement because he euthanized a bunch of people deformed by radiation during World War III. Yay!
Now, I’ll give the creators props for sticking with some continuity. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a character like Surak or Kahless to be introduced (particularly in the waning days of TOS) only to be forgotten. Garth of Izar, was introduced in TOS’s third season as the “model” for starship captains and an important historical figure. But we never hear of him after that episode.
(In another example, Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet the immortal human Flint — who had been Solomon, Alexander the Great, Merlin, da Vinci, Brahms and possibly others — in “Requiem for Methuselah,” arguably the weirdest episode of TOS. We won’t review it as it’s not part of any additional Star Trek lore. But it’s worth a watch because its premise surrounds a very, very interesting concept. Unfortunately, the creators decided to take it in a bizarre direction, in which the immortal Flint builds an android to be with him and tries to use Kirk to get her to learn to love, or something. Kirk and the android fall for each other, Flint and Kirk fight over her, the android dies and Spock later removes Kirk’s memories to help with his heartbreak! Oh, and all of this happens in the span of THREE HOURS as Kirk, Spock and McCoy work with Flint to get a drug from his planet to save a dying Enterprise crew. Even stranger, there appears to be no effort after this episode to contact Flint. Given Spock’s statements in other episodes about the opportunities for research, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine” or the weird aliens in “Catspaw”, it’s odd that they just walk away from Flint. Of course, they did something similar in “Metamorphosis.”)
Of course, Surak, Green and Kahless are all very different the next time we see them — with a special emphasis on Kahless …
What doesn’t hold up
Surak sure looks different (and dresses differently) than he does in Enterprise as does Green. But that’s really not a big thing. The transformation of Kahless, however, is kinda nuts. Here, he dresses like the 23rd-century Klingons we see in TOS, he doesn’t have forehead ridges or long hair (undermining the genetic experiment explanation for Klingon foreheads from Enterprise) he can mimic voices in the stylings of Lt. Commander Data and (probably most importantly) he’s characterized as an evil dude who inspired all the “tyrannies” the Klingons would go on to commit. Oh, and he’s totally subservient to Colonel Green. Weird.
By the time we see Kahless in TNG — or, rather, a clone of Kahless who is made to act like the genuine article — he’s not an evil guy, he has forehead ridges and dresses in garb that’s not out of a 23rd century JC Penney on Kronos. And he has no (apparent) ability to be the Klingons’ very own Mel Blanc. This is actually a case example of how Klingons went from mostly evil, treacherous bastards in TOS and the movies (think Kruge in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”) to honorable warriors in TNG and DS9 (Worf, Martok, etc.). There were some tweeners over the years, like Kang, Gowron and Gorkon. But retconning a character previously equated with Genghis Khan into a mostly good dude? It’s pretty laughable.
I’ve heard the theory that the rock dudes in this episode generated Kahless from what Kirk thought Kahless would be like — which means Kirk heard the name and drew his own conclusions or read a very biased history on the Klingons (does D’Nesh D’Souza write about Klingon history?). But writing the Kahless inconsistencies off as a flaw in Kirk’s version of him is weak sauce, especially because the rock dudes generated Surak, someone Kirk had never heard of (which, by itself, is pretty ridiculous, as it makes Kirk look like a real idiot). Did they pull Surak from Spock’s mind but everyone else from Kirk’s?
Well, we say it in our About Us page. Reviewing an episode doesn’t mean we endorse it. “The Savage Curtain” certainly isn’t the worst episode of TOS and it’s arguably not even in the bottom five of TOS’s infamous third season. As hokey and goofy as some of it is, it has some zip to it and some decent dialog. It’s not dreadfully dull AND preposterous like “The Lights of Zetar” or “And the Children Shall Lead.” It’s really just preposterous.
Why did the creators decided to put Lincoln in a chair IN SPACE to start the episode? Why did the creators allow a recreation of the father of Vulcan logic to get killed and Lincoln to be impaled by a spear? Oh, and in another ridiculous moment, Kirk tells Lincoln that the Enterprise can “convert” to minutes. WTF? Was Kirk making a really lame joke at the expense of one of his personal heroes and a key figure in Earth history? Kirk and Co. have used minutes since the very first episodes of the series. They use HOURS later in this episode!
This episode also features the really stupid cliche where the bridge crew watches some fight to the death along with the audience — complete with (groan) the same camera angles. This only happens a few times in TOS (“Arena”“The Gamesters of Triskelion” and here) but it’s one of my least favorite TOS devices. Naturally, it shows up in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” the worst of the Trek films.
All that said, I did kinda like the moment where Lincoln says Kirk reminds him of Ulysses S. Grant — and equates Grant with drinking whiskey.
The Enterprise transports a group of dignitaries to a conference regarding Coridan’s admission to the Federation. We meet the Vulcan representative Sarek, Spock’s father (Mark Lenard) who travels with his human wife and Spock’s mother, Amanda (Jane Wyatt). Spock’s relationship with Sarek and Amanda is strained, an important point when it’s learned that Sarek needs a blood transfusion from Spock to live, as he’s been hiding a heart condition. Meanwhile, a Tellarite dignitary is found dead and Kirk is stabbed by what appears to be an Andorian (really, an Orion agent cosmetically altered). With Kirk in sickbay, Spock refuses to yield command and commence with the transfusion, so a wounded Kirk heads to the bridge to relieve Spock, hoping to fool him into undergoing the procedure. Spock leaves and McCoy begins the operation, while a weakened Kirk must command the Enterprise through a battle with unidentified aliens (who turn out to be Orions with mining interests on Coridan). Kirk’s tactical genius saves the day once again, and McCoy completes the operation, saving Spock and Sarek.
Why it’s important
Well, with a summary like that, you can see where there was a lot of plot and a lot of foundation. We’re introduced to the Tellarites and the Andorians — who, as a result, are later shown to be early members of the Federation — the Orions (beyond the slave girl stuff in “The Cage”) and, of course Spock’s parents. D.C. Fontana’s scripts were often written with continuity in mind as she commonly brought back an earlier enemy and fleshed them out (“Friday’s Child” and “The Enterprise Incident”). The Tellarites’ argumentative tendencies and the Andorians’ warrior traits are first shown here, too, and define both species in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” That relies on the somewhat hoary sci-fi crutch that all members of a race pretty much act the same (not to mention that they look the same and dress the same). But this is one of only three times Andorians appear in TOS and one of two times Tellarites do — and it’s the only episode where they’re not just sort of personality-less background dudes or henchmen.
Meanwhile, Spock’s estrangement from his family is established here. It’s (ahem) a fascinating bit of backstory for one of Star Trek’s cornerstone characters, even though it’s not Earth-shattering (galaxy-shattering, Vulcan-shattering?) in what it means to the rest of the franchise. In other words, Spock’s backstory wouldn’t have, say, changed Federation history or anything. But it is good stuff.
What doesn’t hold up
Not a lot of issues here. The Tellarite mask is pretty terrible, but whatevs. It is interesting that Spock won’t yield command when lower officers have been left in charge before (e.g. Sulu in “Errand of Mercy” or Scotty in like half of the third season). But that can mostly be explained by Spock’s sense of duty/logic with his pops around. Oh, and I wonder if Spock ever mentioned to Sarek that his identical twin happened to be a Romulan commander? Eh, it’s not their way, I guess.
Now, there was that scene way back in “The Corbomite Maneuver” that made it sound like Spock’s parents (or, at least Amanda) were long-since dead. She WAS a very happy Earth woman, remember? Interestingly enough, the same thing happens with Sisko’s father in DS9. And, of course, there’s that line in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where Spock says one of his ancestors was human. I suppose an ancestor could be his mother, but that seems like a stretch.
This episode really is the only time in TOS when the Federation appears (with visual evidence) to be much more than humans and Vulcans, so it’s extremely important. There’s some dumb-looking background aliens who could have been straight out of “Buck Rogers,” but it’s cool that the Andorians, Tellarites, Coridanites (not seen here) and Orions (not really seen here, either) all pop up later.
This episode isn’t the first time the United Federation of Planets is mentioned. The first reference was in “A Taste of Armageddon,” after a smattering of terms like the United Earth Space Probe Agency, “Space Central” or just mentions of Earth for much of season one. But “Journey to Babel” is the first time we see the intergalactic community that’s taken shape with humans at or near the center of it. We’ll learn in “Star Trek: Enterprise” just how pivotal Earth was in the founding of the Federation.
What if a site focused on the really important Star Trek episodes, explained how they were important and how they tied together — while tossing in a healthy dose of snark?