Category Archives: 2002

“The Communicator”

“Are you telling me that this is another episode where I’m taken prisoner?”

Archer, Reed and Sato return after going undercover to observe a pre-warp culture. Unfortunately, Reed has left his communicator behind. Worried about cultural contamination, he and Archer return to the surface, but eventually are apprehended by one side of a brewing conflict. Quickly, they are identified as aliens and their other technology — hand scanners, a phase pistol and two more communicators — fall into their captors’ hands. Knowing they can’t reveal their true identities, Archer (ridiculously) tells the captors that they’re genetically enhanced spies from the other side of the conflict. He and Reed are set to be hanged, but T’Pol, Trip and Mayweather — using the cloaked Suliban ship captured way back in “Broken Bow” — rescue them and Archer is able to recover the technology. Back on the ship, Archer acknowledges to T’Pol that they still likely did major damage to the planet’s culture.

“Oh, please. We used to leave these behind on primitive worlds ALL THE TIME.”

Why it’s important

Like the far superior “Dear Doctor”, this episode addresses humanity’s early thinking about interactions with primitive cultures. Clearly, the events here make Archer do some major soul searching. That’s a good idea, as was T’Pol acknowledging that Archer was willing to let himself and Reed be killed to prevent further contamination …

Insert lame joke here.

What doesn’t hold up

Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t come out well for a ton of reasons.

For one thing, there’s a rather obvious solution to the entire ordeal that the crew doesn’t even discuss. Why not simply beam the communicator up, eliminating the need to send a second landing party to a planet that might already be aware of some weird happenings and be on the look out for suspicious individuals? Sure, it might not have been possible — and even it it were, it might raise alarms if the device just vanished. But wouldn’t that be preferable to sending more people down to the planet? Beyond that, it’s simply crazy to think that Archer and Reed would return to the planet with two communicators, two scanners and a PHASE PISTOL.

Of course, the Enterprise trope of Archer being taken prisoner pops up here, and then he decides to try to address the situation by providing fodder for a BREWING CIVIL WAR. Essentially, he guesses that telling his captors that the other side has advanced significantly is better for the planet than letting them know that alien life exists. Granted, neither option is good, but I’ve got to believe that giving his captors a reason to start a war was the absolute worst way to go.

Then there’s the rescue plan by T’Pol and Trip. They opt to use the Suliban ship captured more than a year earlier (and not mentioned since) to minimize exposure. But in so doing, they give the aliens more reason to think the other side is tactically advanced, by way of stealth technology. Honestly, using the transporter to beam down a rescue party probably made more sense — and it’s not even mentioned as an option. I know that the transporter was still something that freaked the crew out at this point, but they had used more than a few times.

Oh, and, as we’ve discussed before, it’s ridiculous that Kirk and Spock knew so little about cloaking devices when Starfleet actually knew about them in episodes like this.

Finally, it’s awfully convenient that amid a firefight during the rescue, Archer is able to get to all the technology that the captors confiscated. The door could have been locked, there could have been a guard, one of the devices could have been in another location …

Final thoughts

Blech. This is a prime example of Enterprise’s early struggles. The episode isn’t AWFUL and its heart is in the right place. But it’s not well conceived and inserts some rather dull subplotting — in this case, part of Trip’s hand being cloaked — that undercuts the main action. Subplots, IMO, really hurt early Enterprise and helped create the idea that the series was dull and behind the times. If “Dear Doctor” was a strength of the first season, “The Communicator” is arguably the biggest misfire (though not the worst episode) of the second. It paints the crew, and through them, humanity, not just as inexperienced when it comes to space exploration, but as sort of incompetent.

Coming later this week …

Archer and the creators tacitly acknowledge that charting comets is kind of boring.


“Somehow, my plan to detonate a totally alien mine using my knowledge of Earth explosives didn’t work that well. Huh.”

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.

Enterprise suffers some major damage and it’s not gone the next week! Gold star to the creators.

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.

“At last! We can test our new weapon that erases any knowledge of cloaking devices from humans and Vulcans!”

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?

Final thoughts

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.


“This probably isn’t the best time for an ‘Oh, boy’ joke, is it?”

Part one: The Enterprise apparently destroys an entire mining colony — killing thousands of people — in an accident involving a shuttlepod. The crew is horrified, and then is recalled to Earth where the Vulcans are using the incident to convince Starfleet to delay the ship’s mission for 10 or 20 years. A guilt-stricken Archer initially accepts the decision, but then our buddy Daniels (who didn’t actually die in “Cold Front”) shows up and tells him someone in the temporal cold war faked the whole thing. He gives Archer a way to get evidence of the scheme, which was perpetrated by Silik (from “Broken Bow” and “Cold Front”). Archer’s plan is successful and he brings proof of the con back to the ship, but the Enterprise is then pursued and trapped by Silik’s forces. Archer agrees to surrender himself and then, finds himself 900 years in the future on a post-apocalyptic Earth with Daniels. Silik’s forces then capture the Enterprise.

Part two: Archer and Daniels visit a library on a wrecked Earth and learn that Archer’s disappearance from the timeline disrupted things, apparently causing Earth to basically be destroyed and something called the “Federation” to never exist. The two work to find a way to communicate back in time (hmmm) with the limited resources they have while Silik — who has lost contact with his unnamed boss from the future — interrogates T’Pol for Archer’s location. Eventually, Archer gets a message to T’Pol and puts in motion a plan wherein the crew lets Silik find a piece of equipment that Silik uses to try to establish contact with his boss, who’s gone missing (apparently, the result of Archer’s disappearance). Somehow, the equipment along with Silik’s allows Archer to get back to the 22nd century and reset the timeline. Still armed with evidence of what happened at the mining colony, Archer — with help from T’Pol — convinces Starfleet to continue the mission, despite the Vulcans’ objections.

Linda Park actually gets something to do, and it’s this. Sigh.

Why it’s important

Given what happens in this show’s fourth season, it’s difficult to know whether what happened with Daniels, Silik, et. al was wiped away. But, some of what we learned in the temporal cold war episodes is key for Enterprises’s place in the Trek mythos.

Here, we learn that Archer was a key figure in the establishment of the Federation, and that his disappearance would be disastrous for the fate of humanity and (apparently) other societies, as well. Also, the developing friendship between Archer and T’Pol is important as the series progresses, as it’s unlikely Archer would have been successful in preventing the second Xindi attack on Earth without her (among other things).

And, of course, Archer and T’Pol come together here to allow Enterprise to continue its mission.

“Can you give me a genetic modification that will allow me to make sense of this temporal cold war business?”

What doesn’t hold up

Part one is a very solid episode, among Enterprise’s best. Part two is a very mixed bag, mostly because the creators painted themselves into a corner. It’s just too hard to swallow that Archer and Daniels, with no more technology than Archer’s communicator, could make contact with T’Pol 900 years earlier and a great physical distance away. And, hell, they’re pretty lucky that when they contacted her, it wasn’t during her interrogation by Silik. Speaking of which, it’s remarkable that Silik would do exactly what Archer and Daniels would have predicted with the piece of equipment from Daniels’ quarters.

Frankly, I’m not sure why Silik would have left any of the Enterprise crew — other than maybe T’Pol and Trip for the purposes of information — alive or, at least, conscious. Without Reed, Phlox, Sato and Mayweather, it’s unlikely that the big plan would have worked. And it’s hard to swallow that Trip could so successfully fake a reactor breach and then quickly correct it. The Suliban don’t come across as particularly capable in part two.

Essentially, the only way to let Archer and Co. emerge victorious was to produce a hard-to-swallow scheme.

Final thoughts

As stated above, this episode is important for the continued development of the rapport between Archer and T’Pol. By the end of the second season, T’Pol is willing to give up her career to try to help Archer save humanity — something that would have been hard to imagine when the series began. To the show’s credit, the relationship between the two of them grew over time, with some notable milestones. It was one of the strengths of the series.

Coming next week …

As our old buddy Worf would say (with trademark disdain): Romulans.

“Dear Doctor”

“This was a great episode — hopefully the creators won’t mess things up with something awful like ‘A Night in Sickbay.'”

The Enterprise happens upon a disabled ship carrying two Valakians, a pre-warp race that has ventured out into space to look for a cure to a deadly epidemic. Archer and Phlox agree to help and travel to the Valakians’ planet. Phlox spends a couple days looking into the matter and encounters the Menk, a sort of sub-species (subservient but living without issue with the Valakians) who aren’t affected by the disease. The Menk are also evolving. Phlox eventually finds a cure, but learns that the Valakians are dying because of genetics, and he can’t ethically justify altering the natural evolution of the planet, which might be positioning the Menk to be the world’s dominant species. He tells Archer, who initially objects. But, later, Archer comes to Phlox and tells him that he realizes his job isn’t to “play god” and that he believes some sort of a “directive” will eventually come from Earth on these matters. Until then, he’ll just have to do his best.

“Yeah, I just said ‘Ferengi.’ The creators told me that fans LOVE the Ferengi.”

Why it’s important

Obviously, this episode paves the road for the eventual Prime Directive, a tenant of Star Trek so central to the franchise that the creators were smart to address it early in Enterprise. The first two seasons of this series often weren’t considered prequel enough for some fans, but this episode doesn’t warrant that criticism.

“Hmmm. You look a lot like the woman on ‘Seinfeld’ who was really into cured meats.”

What doesn’t hold up

Nothing is truly problematic here, as this episode is probably Enterprise’s best first-season offering. I suppose you could argue that Archer’s final talk with Phlox — in which he uses the word “directive” — is a little on the nose, but I’ll let that slide, given the strength of the rest of the episode.

Final thoughts

While this episode would have been strong almost no matter what (thanks to the writing) John Billingsley as Phlox brings a great performance that makes this one of Enterprise’s best showings. The scene between Phlox and Archer in the mess hall is one of Enterprise’s strongest — it’s tense but respectful and truly helps flesh out the questions at hand. In a season full of moments in which T’Pol scolds or talks down to Archer, this “teachable moment” by the other alien voice on Enterprise really works.

The approach to this episode — Phlox describing the events while narrating a letter to a friend — works, too, as it feels very different than anything else in the first season. I was less excited by the subplot about Phlox potentially starting a romantic relationship with an Enterprise crew member, but it was fine and unobjectionable and sort of tied into the larger plot. Phlox as an outside observer wasn’t something that was a hallmark of the series, but it usually worked when it was used.

Coming later this week …

More Silik, more problems.

“Star Trek: Nemesis”

“I see your Schwartz is … much smaller than mine.”

As the Enterprise crew gets ready to break up — a newly married Riker and Troi are leaving so Riker can finally get his own ship — they detect evidence of positronic energy on a random planet. After a poorly done battle outing with some primitives there, Picard, Data and Worf recover another Soong-type android named B-4, apparently a prototype that looks exactly like Data, though he’s less advanced. Data links with B-4 in an attempt to help the prototype develop, though the results of the data transfer are hard to predict and could leave B-4 with Data’s personality. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is called to Romulus, by the mysterious new head of the government. Turns out the new leader, Shinzon (Tom Hardy), is a younger clone of Picard, whom the Romulans created for espionage some years back but who has led a coup to take over the government and now says he wants peace. Of course, Shinzon’s lying and he is really after Picard — he needs a blood transfusion to live — and has plans to attack Earth. The Enterprise and Shinzon’s ship engage in a massive battle, leaving both ships somewhat disabled. Shinzon then starts a buildup within his ship’s “thalaron” reactor that will wipe out everything nearby, including a disabled Enterprise. Picard beams over to stop him, and Data follows. Data sends Picard back to the Enterprise and then destroys Shinzon’s ship and himself before the reactor can go critical. Back on the Enterprise, with Riker and Troi gone, Picard talks with B-4 about Data. B-4 doesn’t understand what Picard is saying, but starts to sing a song Data sang at Riker and Troi’s wedding early in the film. A smiling Picard leaves B-4 and heads to the bridge, ending the TNG storyline.

“Spock, Spock, Spock, Spock, Spock, Spock.”

Why it’s important

This movie is extremely flawed, as we’ll discuss. But it’s also incredibly significant in the Star Trek universe. Before the rebooted movies in 2009, it detailed the last events of the second-generation Trek timeline. It aired more than a year after Voyager’s final episode, and Enterprise, of course, took place in the distant past.

We learn that the Romulans didn’t remain allies with the Federation after the war with the Dominion, as they were in DS9, though this movie does effectively tie those events in by making Shinzon a former military leader in that conflict. We learn the Federation is still OK and apparently has recovered since the war. “Star Trek: Insurrection”, which we won’t review, takes place immediately after that war — but this movie shows things three or four years later.

Meanwhile, it appears that the events here could lead to some sort of a new relationship with the Romulans, as Riker’s first mission as captain of his new ship is said to be going to Romulus to begin peace talks (with Shinzon gone). How that plays into the reboot stuff in the 2009’s “Star Trek” is unclear. It’s also odd that there’s no mention of Spock — who was on Romulus as of TNG’s fifth season — in this movie.

“Well, that is all, folks!”

What doesn’t hold up

To this film’s credit, it has fewer logical gaffes than “Generations” (though that’s not a tall order) and feels more significant than “Insurrection”. What doesn’t work is less about inconsistencies and more about poor execution and bad writing. But let’s talk about the inconsistencies and logic fails first.

Probably the worst logical gaffe comes early when Picard, Data and Worf recover B-4 from a primitive world. There’s not even a mention of how the trio is quite clearly violating the Prime Directive in its ground battle with the random aliens.

Beyond that, Shinzon’s plan is just completely ridiculous. Basically, he found B-4 (how is never explained), programmed him to be a sort of sleeper agent (he sends info to Shinzon while on the Enterprise) and planted him on the random planet figuring the Enterprise (on its way to Betazed) would just happen upon him and be the nearest ship to Romulus when he called for a Federation envoy. Then, the Enterprise would get called to Romulus with B-4 on board because it’s the closest ship.

But … how did Shinzon know that the Enterprise would be anywhere near the planet where he left B-4 (is Betazed really that close to the Neutral Zone)? Why did he feel the need to (apparently) draw the Enterprise close to Romulus? Why not simply tell the Federation that he would only deal with the captain and crew of the flagship? What would have happened if Shinzon hadn’t found B-4? That whole part of the story just makes very little sense and was pretty much unnecessary. It would have made more sense if Shinzon had built B-4, using stolen plans, or something, and demanded that the Federation send the Enterprise and only the Enterprise. Maybe he could have offered B-4 to the Enterprise as a gift?

There’s also the matter of Shinzon deciding to attack Earth. Frankly, that was just a twirling-mustache move that wasn’t necessary. Shinzon wanted Picard. Putting Earth into the equation was just overly dramatic nonsense.

Oh, and putting Worf back on the Enterprise was pretty goofy. His appearance in “Star Trek: Insurrection” was justified by a throwaway line — and apparently took place as the Federation was negotiating with the Dominion after that war ended on DS9. But in the final episode of DS9, Worf left to become the Federation ambassador to the Klingon Empire. I guess the idea was that he didn’t make it as an ambassador and some time over the next three years, he came back to the Enterprise?

Same goes with the situation with Wesley, who appears briefly at Riker and Troi’s wedding. Last we saw him, in “Journey’s End”, he resigned from Starfleet and was going to explore new realms of existence or something. But here, eight years later, he’s back in a Starfleet uniform. So, what the hell happened? It’s also odd that he had no lines in the actual film!

Final thoughts

Logical problems aside, this movie fails because of its artistic choices and the idea that it has to jam some characters into the action. Notably, the Riker/Troi stuff (post wedding) was just awful. The whole business with Shinzon’s viceroy (Ron Pearlman) having mental powers and assaulting Troi is mostly uncomfortable — and Riker’s decision to fight the viceroy (after he boards the ship) was not at all interesting. As noted previously, the writers clearly ran out of things for Riker to do late in TNG. This is a great example of them struggling to get him involved.

Beyond that, there’s the homage/ripoff of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. I’ve never been offended, as some were, by the idea of the callback. But the implausibility of the situation (as noted above) just makes it feel way too forced. Data sacrificing himself and possibly living on in B-4 really wasn’t an awful idea, but the execution was bad.

The movie also has an odd tendency to include superfluous scenes (the Troi assault, the goofiness in the Romulan Senate to start the movie, the stupid action scene with the random aliens after B-4 is recovered, etc.) and to leave other matters unaddressed. Left on the cutting room floor were lines from Wesley at the wedding (I can’t imagine Wil Wheaton was thrilled with that) and a subplot about Crusher leaving the ship to go run Starfleet Medical. That last part would have been important (considering her relationship with Picard) and the idea that the family is really breaking up. Even before Data’s death, Picard would have had to deal with the loss of Riker, Troi AND Crusher.

As it is, the TNG sendoff feels forced — and overly dark. Removing the Troi assault, the Riker fight and the Romulan Senate scenes would have brightened up a dark film and allowed time for other, more important scenes.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why “Star Trek: Insurrection” didn’t get a review, it’s that it’s mostly inconsequential in the Trek universe. We never hear of the aliens in that film again (aside from one random mention on DS9) and the “insurrection” doesn’t have any last effects. The movie’s most interesting idea — that Starfleet, after all the conflicts in the DS9 years, was old and somewhat desperate — is not really explored. As a film, “Insurrection” is right up there with “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” in its episodic nature and overall quality.

Coming next week …

DS9, bitches.