Category Archives: 2152

“The Expanse”

Mickey Mouse must die!
It’s as if thousands of mousekeeters suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

A weird sphere pops up over Earth and attacks, killing 7 million. Enterprise is recalled and on the way home, Silik and his future guy boss tell Archer that a species called the Xindi is responsible — as they think humanity will destroy them in the future — and that an even larger attack is coming. Archer makes his case to Starfleet, over the objection of Ambassador Soval, and sets course for coordinates given to him by future guy, which Soval says are in a particularly nasty part of space called the Delphic Expanse. Without clearance from Soval, T’Pol resigns her commission to help Archer with the mission. Enterprise has to deal with some Klingons out to get Archer (wrapping up a mini-thread from late in the second season) but makes it to the expanse as the episode and season end.

Why it’s important

Well, the entire series basically changed in this episode. The attack on Earth is hugely important for Enterprise and Trek generally, and the ship’s mission in the third season truly needed to succeed for everything we saw in previous Trek to still have happened. No Earth, no Federation, no Starfleet, no Kirk singing around the campfire with Spock and McCoy, no Picard rolling his eyes at Q’s jokes, no Sisko fooling the Romulans into a war and no Janeway going through shuttles like Pez.

Interestingly, the fact that we knew the creators wouldn’t undo all of that sort of undercuts the drama in the third season — we know Earth won’t be destroyed — which basically makes the Xindi arc about HOW Archer will save Earth, not whether he would.

Can all our species agree, we'll never, ever. mention The Xindi again after we deal with this.
“Can all our species agree, we’ll never, ever, mention The Xindi again after we deal with this?”

What doesn’t hold up

Well, big picture, I can’t not mention that in all the Trek that takes place after Enterprise, we never hear of the Xindi or this attack. There are plenty of lines in Star Trek about how some threat to Earth is the biggest since the “last World War,” (or something similar) without any mention of the death of 7 million and the possibility of another, more cataclysmic attack. The only way you can write this off is to figure that the events of Enterprise are in an alternate timeline, perhaps created by all the time travel in previous series. Maybe Data winning at poker in 19th-century San Francisco is to blame? Or that time Chekov left a Klingon phaser behind in 1986?

Lastly, why did the Xindi mount a small attack before the big one? That’s probably the biggest logical issue with the entire Xindi storyline, because without the initial attack — which wasn’t necessary from the Xindi perspective, as the final attack was aiming to destroy the entire planet — Starfleet wouldn’t have known to send Archer to the Delphi Expanse.

I’m a big fan of season three of Enterprise, but that logical flaw is something that takes away from the overall quality.

Torpedos. Lots of torpedos.
Torpedos. Lots of torpedos.

Final thoughts

The attack, of course, is an obvious parallel to 9/11, which occurred about 18 months before this episode aired. Interestingly, much of the first season was shot before 9/11, even though it didn’t air until after. That’s one explanation I’ve heard regarding the first season’s unevenness — and the show’s general inability to connect with audiences.

Now, not a lot of fans liked where the series went after “The Expanse” and were probably unnerved by how the Archer/Trip scene in this episode indicated a darker, non-Roddenberry approach to the third season that clearly was meant to echo the politics of the early aughts. While that’s certainly a fair criticism at points, it’s not a major problem (IMO) if you watch the ENTIRE third season. It never QUITE gets to the point where the the characters aren’t at least torn up about their actions. Despite some dabbling (to be kind) in moral ambiguity, Archer and Co., as we’ll discuss, eventually get back to Trek idealism. Stay tuned on that.

All that said, Trek is at its best when it makes you think. And whether you like season three or hate it, it’s not the sometimes boring, by-the-numbers fare that we saw for much of early Enterprise that made the show feel dated. Put another way, season three’s ambition beats the malaise of much of seasons one and two, at least, in my humble opinion.

Last point: T’Pol’s decision to remain with Enterprise is one of the high points for the series. Her growing respect and even devotion to Archer was a well-crafted part of Enterprise’s first two seasons — as it developed slowly and believably over time. We pointed this out in our previous review, but it’s worth noting that the Archer-T’Pol relationship was as multi-faceted as (or close to) anything we saw in Trek — though it helps to forget that the absolutely horrid “A Night in Sickbay” ever happened. And it’s unlikely Archer’s mission in the Delphic Expanse would have succeeded if T’Pol had left the ship.

Coming next time …

The season of “This isn’t open for debate” begins.

“Cease Fire”

"I'll tell you what the high command wants. What they really, really want."
“I’ll tell you what the high command wants. What they really, really want.”

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.

Andorian sexual dimorphism?
Andorian sexual dimorphism?

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.

I demand that this treaty be dated August 15th, 20XX. Because the Earth calendar makes absolutely no sense to either of us!
“I demand that this treaty be dated August 15th, 2152. Because the Earth calendar makes absolutely no sense to either of us!”

Final thoughts

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.


“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.