WARNING: This article has spoilers for the first season of "Enterprise." Advance at your own risk.�
Hi there. My apologies for the lateness of this review, but it took a great deal of time to go back and watch the season given all of life's other constraints. (Then again, I haven't seen any other season reviews out yet either, so maybe I don't need to apologize all that much. :-) )
For those new to my season reviews, the drill is this. There's an episode-by-episode recap, where I look at how my opinions on a given episode evolved from the initial review until now. After that there's a more general essay commenting on trends, successes, and weaknesses on a season-wide level. So, onwards! (As a note, comments in 's during quotables are either my own comments or my own MSTings. But you'd probably have figured that out anyway...)
I. ENT Season 1, Episode by Episode | --------------------------------------*
"Broken Bow" Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by James L. Conway Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Think of it: you'd be the first human to talk to these people. You really want someone else to do it?" "For nearly a century, we've waded ankle-deep in the ocean of space. Now it's finally time to swim." [sometimes going the full cornball route really works...] "Imagine it: thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before." "They have two settings: stun and kill. It would be best not to confuse them." "What's that?" "Travis said not to worry about that panel." "That's reassuring."
"Broken Bow" encapsulates a lot of the series' promise and its drawbacks at the same time. On the one hand, there is a distinct sense here that exploration is new: it's not just the early days of Starfleet, but things like Archer recruiting Hoshi that make it all seem exotic and intriguing. Additionally, Archer's character is set up with a clear- cut arc ahead of him, and I buy at least a large part of the human/Vulcan tension.
On the other hand, we also see that "a more adult series" means that Archer gets to use the word "ass" a lot and that we get horrible and deeply gratuitous scenes like the decontamination chamber (and to a lesser extent the butterfly girls on Rigel). There's a little bit of weirdness for its own sake and a lot of ideas which, while good in principle, seem awfully hamfisted in terms of execution. As a proof of concept, I'll certainly buy it, and it's definitely a fun ride ... but as an episode, it's hardly top-notch.
Final rating: 7.
[Note: When Archer asks T'Pol to stay on, he says that he'll have to start leaving behind his preconceptions. Is there much sustained indication over the course of the season that he actually *does* so?]
"Fight or Flight" Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 8 Quotables: "We've been out here for two weeks, and the only first contact we've made is with a dyin' worm." "We don't select our destinations by what piques our interest." [T'Pol -- apparently Vulcans just stick pins in a 3-d map?] "Come on, Travis. We've got to find Mr. Reed something to blow up." "At least we know they're bipeds." "What gives you that idea?" "The ladder." "We're all frightened by unfamiliar things. You should be grateful that your body of experience doesn't include rooms full of corpses." "Talk to him, Hoshi -- it doesn't have to be perfect." [interesting only because T'Pol is the speaker, getting awfully familiar with Hoshi early on...]
"Fight or Flight," on the other hand, hits more of its marks quietly than "Broken Bow" does with a lot more noise. It's a great character piece for Hoshi, but it's a lot of the little touches here that add a lot to the episode as well: equipment's not quite working perfectly, Phlox gets a bit more phleshing out while cheering up Hoshi, and the atmosphere is very properly dark. T'Pol and various statements about what Vulcans don't like don't ring true, and there are a few other minor annoyances, but for the most part that's what they are: minor flaws on a generally successful piece.
Final rating: 8.
"Strange New World" Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by David Livingston Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "We'll rendezvous here at 1900 hours, unless the captain wants us to pose for more pictures." [great in print, iffy given Blalock's delivery] "... but I couldn't call a place home unless it came with a pair of warp nacelles." "Boomers..." "I'd like to believe you, but you Vulcans don't exactly have a spotless track record when it comes to bein' honest with us." "We have Novakovich." "And I have a phase pistol pointed at my head." "Challenge your preconceptions, or they'll challenge you."
There's some nice "lower decks" material here early on with Cutler and Novakovich, some decent character work with Travis and especially Trip, and "Strange New World" mostly succeeds in capturing a certain "classic" feel, particularly when it's doing a little misdirection. There are a number of plot conveniences that turn up to let the episode make its point, though (particularly involving the pollen, which seems to change its effects as the plot demands), and it's here that Archer begins his bold tradition of neither listening to advice nor acknowledging mistakes. The episode still wins more often than it loses, but it's not without some substantial flaws.
Final rating: 7.
"Unexpected" Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Mike Vejar Initial rating: 3.5 Quotables: "How's the breathing?" "A little easier, but I prefer air I can't see." "If we had one of these on Enterprise, I'd *never* ask for shore leave." "Why would someone put their hands there, sir?" ["Um ... because you called it a HANDRAIL two lines earlier?"]
"Unexpected" has one of the best teasers of the season, with Archer stuck in the shower when the artificial gravity goes out -- but it's pretty much all downhill from there. The holodeck shows up about two hundred seasons too early, the "let's play with Trip's perceptions" sequence is both wearing and inconsistent with later events in the episode, the pregnancy cliches are laid on fairly thick, and T'Pol's "she took you home to see her planet" line is among the season's worst both in choice of character and in delivery. I can appreciate the attempt to make the Xyrillians fairly alien, and Archer's quiet amusement at Trip's fate works up to a point, but this one's neither funny nor all that interesting.
Final rating: 3.
"Terra Nova" Written by Antoinette Stella (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by LeVar Burton Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "I am not familiar with the early years of human space exploration?" "Really? Every schoolkid on Earth had to learn about the famous Vulcan expeditions." "Name one." "When you get them back to Earth, what will you do? Send them to school, teach them to read and write? Wear human clothing, eat human food? Teach them to live on the surface, enjoy the sunshine?" "You're damn straight. They're human beings. It's their birthright." "You can't just pluck them off, bring them to a strange world and hope they'll learn to conform."
This seems to be showing up on a lot of people's "hated it" list, and I'm not really sure why. (Okay, a lot of people claim it's a rehash of Voyager's "Friendship One," which I haven't seen, so there may be something there.) It's certainly off-again-on-again in terms of pacing, there are some fundamental problems with the premise (the fact that these Novans would have heard their parents disparaging "humans" rather than, say, "Earthers," for one), and the <tech> solution is a little too easy -- I'll grant all that. Despite all that, though, there's lots about this episode it's hard for me not to like: the fact that looking for lost colonies is something Enterprise probably should do early in its mission, one of the first Archer/T'Pol face-offs that's convincing, Archer actually listening to other people for a change, and so forth. As a mystery, it's clunky; as a study of Archer dealing with the Novans, I think it's got some serious merit.
Final rating: 6.
[Note: Reed insists on going first into the tunnels here, and Archer agrees that it makes sense. Compare that to, say, "Rogue Planet."]
The Andorian Incident" Written by Fred Dekker (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Fred Dekker (story) Directed by Roxann Dawson Initial rating: 9 Quotables: "Where's the exploration in goin' places people have already BEEN?" "I don't take orders from a comm voice, Ensign -- not unless that voice belongs to the captain." "For people without emotions, you sure have a flair for the dramatic." "We don't believe in responding to violence with violence." "I admire your ethics, but right now a *little* violence might help."
This one, on the other hand, has "Saturday morning cartoon" written all over it, but in all the better ways. Yes, many of the plot twists are obvious, and yes, Archer seems to go out of his way to act like an idiot on an occasion or two -- but there are the beginnings of some long-term Vulcan/Andorian conflict here, the Andorians are nicely neutral as regards Enterprise itself, even the obvious twists are entertaining, and doggone it, Jeffrey Combs is just way too much fun to watch as Shran. (Jolene Blalock also gets a really good moment as soon as the Vulcans' deception is revealed; the shock on T'Pol's face is wordless, but exceptionally visible.)
Final rating: I'll keep the 9.
[Note: one does wonder whether Archer and Trip made the right move when they first discover the Andorians are present. Why not leave the sanctuary, tell T'Pol what's going on, *then* act?]
"Breaking the Ice" Written by Maria Jacquemetton & Andre Jacquemetton Directed by Terry Windell Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "Curious? That doesn't sound very Vulcan to me." ["What's that dynamo sound?" "Oh, nothing, just Spock spinning in his grave."] "Inform the Vulcans we're about to make a very loud noise." "If we were spying, Captain, you would never have noticed our presence." "Vanik expects you to refuse his offer. He sees humans as arrogant, prideful. Why not prove him wrong?" ...and, of course, "a POOP question, sir?"
"Good in theory, very mixed in execution" sums up an awful lot of this episode. I like the ideas of the comet exploration and of the human/Vulcan tension quite a bit, but neither quite comes off in the episode itself. The comet suffers from sloppy science (the gravity and the incredibly fast heating rate) and from sloppy thinking (what's to stop Reed from heading back solo to the shuttle at top speed, then flying back to pick up Travis?), and the human/Vulcan tension translates here into lots of awkward and interminably long scenes. (It doesn't help that Vulcans are consistently shown to be utterly boring and dull here rather than simply acting superior.) Trip intercepting T'Pol's letter is equally mixed; the idea is nice, but it seems at least half intended to bring Vulcan arranged marriages out into the open rather than to give us much in terms of characterization. The letter home to the kids is a bright spot, but the episode as a whole is a muddle.
Final rating: 5.
[Note: apart from the fact that we need Trip around to bond with T'Pol, is there any reason why the comet-exploring team is Reed and *Mayweather* rather than Reed and Trip? He is the chief engineer, after all, and if that mission wasn't strongly engineering-based I'm not sure what is.]
"Civilization" Written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman Directed by Mike Vejar Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Starfleet could've sent a probe out here to make maps and take pictures, but they didn't. They sent us, so that we could explore with our own senses." (it looks goofy in print, but Bakula pulls it off) "Seventy-eight light-years to get here, and our first act is breaking and entering." "Maybe you don't have to mention this part in your log?" "Have you ever seen anything like that?" "Actually, I have."
"Civilization" is somewhat thin, but pretty effective for what it is. There's not a lot of depth here -- Garos does everything but villainously twirl his nonexistent mustache, for one thing -- but some of the basic "exploring strange new worlds for the first time" feeling comes through nonetheless. (Trip and Hoshi seem especially enthusiastic.) Archer's "let's give Kirk some lessons" romance actually succeeds more than it fails, and the double jeopardy faced by both the ship and the landing party is both suspenseful and well- resolved. I wouldn't want a steady diet of these, but it's fine.
Final rating: 7.5.
[Note: since the Malurians rather clearly had transporter technology, am I the only one wondering why they didn't just *beam up* the crates that tip Archer off rather than sending a shuttle to tractor them? Would've made for a far cleaner getaway...]
"Fortunate Son" Written by James Duff Directed by LeVar Burton Initial rating: 8.5 Quotables: "What gives you the right to take prisoners?" [Archer, displaying a planet-sized double standard] "Don't kid yourself thinking that you're doing this for some greater good. This is about revenge, nothing else." "At warp 3, help's a lot closer than before. You won't have to go it alone." "Going it alone's all I've ever done. For some of us, that's the reason we're out here." "We'll adapt. We always have. But things just won't be the same."
Okay, so an 8.5 was overstating the case here; chalk it up to enthusiasm for the idea of getting to know "boomer" culture a bit better. "Fortunate Son" is still a more intriguing episode than I think a lot of people give it credit for. Given the breakthrough that Archer's ship represents, there should be a real "times are changing" feel when we deal with humans -- and "Fortunate Son" is one of the few episodes that addresses that in any reasonable way. There are flaws, to be sure -- in particular, Archer addresses the "revenge" part of Travis's concerns while completely avoiding the rest, and Ryan is badly written in the second half in order to provide an easy out -- but I'm interested enough in the ideas to look past some of the muddle containing them.
Final rating: 6. (The last scene gives it an extra half-point.)
[And yes, I *did* buy Travis's big speech. Was it a little halting and forced? Yes. I consider that a facet of the character, not indicative of Montgomery.]
"Cold Front" Written by Stephen Beck & Tim Finch Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: "Lieutenant." "Ensigns." "There's a difference between keeping an open mind, and believing something because you want it to be true." "And you didn't grow up in Illinois." "Oh, I'm from a place called Illinois, sir -- just not the one you're familiar with." "Well, it's good to know Earth'll still be around in 900 years." "That depends on how you define Earth." "Beg your pardon?"
This is the first real test of the "Temporal Cold War" aspect of Enterprise's premise, and so far, so good. There's some humor and some humanizing (with the "haven't you ever wanted to sit in the chair?" bit on the bridge, for one thing), some good mystery surrounding Silik's motives, and a lot of nicely done action -- the last act and a half is virtually flawless from where I sit. There are some minor problems with actors' delivery (both on Blalock's and Bakula's part, especially early on) and there's basically no closure other than that of the very immediate threat, but I can live with all of that -- this one's great, great fun.
Final rating: still 9.5
[Note: take a look at the salt shaker Archer uses at breakfast. I think it's neat.]
"Silent Enemy" Written by Andre Bormanis Directed by Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Maybe they checked us out and decided we weren't very interesting." "Us? Not interesting?" "You missed T'Pol's latest bout with chopsticks." "Damn. Dinner *and* a show." "Are your ears a little pointier than usual?" "I don't suppose scanning his taste buds would help?" "Medically speaking, there's no accounting for taste."
"Silent Enemy" should be a lot better than it actually is, but suffers from a major clash of moods. There's a mysterious alien ship out there shooting the blazes out of Enterprise whenever it feels like it, and Hoshi spends all of her time (and much of the comm bandwidth) trying to figure out Reed's favorite food? I think not. I can buy the phase cannon project, which in turn leads to some decent Trip/Reed friction, and Linda Park and Dominic Keating do what they can with the "Malcolm's food" plot, but this one comes across as a mishmash more than anything else.
Final rating: 6.
"Dear Doctor" Written by Maria Jacquemetton & Andre Jacquemetton Directed by James A. Contner Initial rating: 10 Quotables: This one's a lengthy list... "They don't have movies where you come from, do they?" "We had something similar a few hundred years ago, but they lost their appeal when people discovered their real lives were more interesting." "The captain has committed all our resources to help people he didn't even know existed two days ago. Once again I'm struck by your species' desire to help others." "In my experience, humans lack the emotional maturity for interspecies relationships. They tend to be easily infatuated with things they find new. This crewman may simply be satisfying her curiosity." [T'Pol -- and am I the only who wonders what the heck "in my experience" would *mean* here?] "We could stay and help them." "The Vulcans stayed to help Earth ninety years ago. We're still there." "I never thought I'd say this, but ... I'm beginning to understand how the Vulcans must have felt." "All I'm saying is that we let nature make her choice." "To hell with nature." "What if an alien race had interfered and given the Neanderthals an evolutionary advantage? Fortunately for you, they *didn't*..." "I am not prepared to walk away based on a theory." "Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle." "Someday, my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine -- something that tells us what we can and can't do, should and shouldn't do. But until somebody tells me that they've drafted that ... directive ... I'm going to have to remind myself every day that we didn't come out here to play God." "If I hadn't trusted him to make the right choice, I'd have been no better than the Vulcan diplomats who held your species back because they felt you couldn't make proper decisions on your own."
Ah, the most controversial episode of the season. Why? Because there are no real villains here -- just people who individual viewers might be philosophically opposed to. Phlox and Archer have different points of view, but each is fairly well founded -- and as a result, the clash between them is among the strongest this series has yet to offer. I agree that the biology here is a little questionable, both in terms of the mechanics of the "disease" and in the assumption (albeit subtle) that evolution is somehow goal-oriented ... but the details of the science here are not the point: the clash of views is. John Billingsley confirms his status here as one of the cast's major gems, and the look into Phlox's soul is very appealing to boot. If you're not entirely comfortable with Phlox's choice, *good* -- you shouldn't be, any more than you should be with Archer's. That's the nasty thing about "choose the lesser evil" scenarios -- it's a bitch to figure out which one's which.
Final rating: 9.5.
[Note: this episode also contains one of my favorite moments of gentle character humor, when Phlox and Hoshi are talking about relationships. This is how to approach a language barrier properly.]
"Sleeping Dogs" Written by Fred Dekker Directed by Les Landau Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "I'm reading three bio-signs." ["Um, T'Pol? That would be US."] "Photon torpedoes? Never heard of anything like *that*."
Klingons appear. Exposition and pointless rehashes ensue. Hoshi gets some interesting characterization which may or may not go places later. Klingon stereotypes abound. Viewers yawn.
Final rating: 4.
[Note: it's here that T'Pol mentions an atmospheric pressure as being some amount of "GSC." I got confirmation later on that GSC does in fact stand for "grams per square centimeter." To paraphrase what said confirming source said to me, "Yippee -- we're finally going metric! Of course, knowing the difference between mass and force would be nice..." And yes, he's a fellow physics teacher.]
"Shadows of P'Jem" Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong (teleplay), Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (story) Directed by Mike Vejar Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "Captain Gardner would have made a far more suitable commanding officer." "The Vulcan consulate doesn't make command decisions here." "I'm gettin' real sick of bein' cut off." "Will she live?" "I wish I could say." [Phlox, shading the truth in ways a Vulcan would envy]
File this one under "death by expectations." "The Andorian Incident" set up a number of interesting plot threads once the Vulcan deception at P'Jem was revealed, and lots of people (including yours truly) were expecting some serious payoff here. What happened? The Vulcans manage to be offended and dull at the same time, we get a "crisis" involving T'Pol's position which no one can believe will go anywhere, and the most interesting thing Archer gets to do all episode is play bondage games with T'Pol. The first act is generally very solid, but after that any pretense that this will be a meaningful episode seems to fall by the wayside in favor of more Vulcan posturing, one-liners from Shran (good ones, at least), and some half-decent action. It's not bad per se, but could've been much, much more.
Final rating: 6.
[Note #1: why is Hoshi the one scanning towards the end? Is she the science officer in T'Pol's absence?]
[Note #2: Phlox's observation that T'Pol isn't the first Vulcan on a human ship so much as the first one to last this long is the first hint that T'Pol might not be your typical Vulcan. One might suggest that "Fusion" follows this up.]
[continued in part 2]
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department) tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "Have you ever seen anything like that?" "Actually, I have." -- Copyright 2002, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.