Category Archives: 2151

“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.

“Cold Front”

Here I am with your eggs. A speaking character who'll have no significance to the plot. What. So. Ever. (wink)
Here I am with your eggs. A speaking character who’ll have no significance to the plot. What. So. Ever. (wink)

Enterprise continues its first-season meanderings and finds a stellar cluster with a ship filled with friendly aliens about to watch “the great plume of Agasoria,” an occurrence that happens in the nursery only once every several years. Archer makes friends with the aliens and invites them to tour the ship, but one is our Suliban buddy Silik from “Broken Bow” (John Fleck) in disguise. Strangely, he secretly saves the ship from exploding. Meanwhile, Archer’s steward Daniels (Matt Winston) tells Archer he’s actually a temporal agent from 900 years in the future, sent to apprehend Silik. He needs Archer’s help (hmmm) to find him. Archer agrees and loops T’Pol and Trip in, but Silik apparently kills Daniels in the process. Silik nearly makes off with a piece of equipment from Daniels’ quarters, before Archer stops him. But Silik escapes.

Why it’s important

Really, this episode is important because it introduces Daniels and what seems to be a Federation presence in the “temporal cold war,” mentioned in the pilot. Silik’s return is of secondary importance, as he really becomes Enterprise’s recurring villain.

I came here to kill you Daniels, chew bubblegum, and explain temporal paradoxes. And I'm all out of explanations... and gum.
I came here to kill you Daniels, chew bubblegum, and explain temporal paradoxes. And I’m all out of explanations… and gum.

What doesn’t hold up

I’m truly confused by this episode — and I fear that the only way to explain it is to use a really hokey and annoying trope that sort of encompasses the entire temporal cold war. I call it the “that darn time travel!” explanation. Here’s why …

Apparently, Daniels was on the ship to stop Silik … who was on the ship to steal Daniels’ piece of equipment. But that’s completely cyclical. One of the events would have had to happen first. Otherwise, the only way to explain this episode is to shrug and say that “time travel is complicated” or some sort of nonsense that basically took hold with Trek and time travel in early DS9 and Voyager. Ugh.

Beyond that, the abilities and knowledge of Daniels and others from the future just don’t make a ton of sense. Silik’s limits make more sense, as he’s not actually from the future and only gets certain pieces of information. But Daniels is another story. That he’d need the Enterprise’s sensors to help find Silik is odd, borderline goofy.

Archer thinks, "I sure wish I could _leap_ onto the catwalk." Get it?!
Archer thinks, “I sure wish I could _leap_ onto the catwalk.” Get it?!

Final thoughts

The temporal cold war clearly was one of the creators’ first attempts to create a sustained storyline. It and the dealings with the Suliban were key throughout much of the series, especially in seasons one and two. But, it didn’t really work, as it was basically too convoluted and/or illogical. Daniels and Silik were actually well acted, but they didn’t amount to much.

And, yes, the temporal cold war appears to connect to the third-season Xindi arc (Silik’s “future guy” overseer actually tells Archer that the Xindi are coming after humanity). But that wasn’t anything all that important. Archer could have learned what was happening in many other ways and the forces we learn are manipulating the Xindi don’t seem like they’re in the same sort of conflict as Daniels, Silik and the rest.

Coming next week …

The first vestiges of the Prime Directive.

“The Andorian Incident”

In Archer's time, exploration meant wandering around taking in the tourist sights.
In Archer’s time, exploration meant wandering around taking in the tourist sights.

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.

I'm putting it in the captain's manual: If a Starfleet captain gets beat up his shirt should be torn sexily.
I’m putting it in the captain’s manual: If a Starfleet captain gets beat up his shirt should be torn sexily.

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.

Who wants to aimlessly mess with the balance of power? [Archer raises hand]
Who wants to aimlessly mess with the balance of power? [Archer raises hand]

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.

Final thoughts

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.


“Broken Bow”

“We don’t take too kindly to bumpy-headed Klingons in this century.”

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.

Some men find baldness, and genetic enhancement, sexy.
“Some men find baldness, and genetic enhancement, sexy.”

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.

Such prequel. Much continuity questions.
Such prequel. Much continuity questions.

Final thoughts

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.