Star Trek: Enterprise: Strange New World   Rewatch 
August 27, 2018 12:24 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Lack of planning leads to a bad camping trip for the crew of Enterprise.

Lots of interesting stuff on Memory Alpha about this one. Some highlights include:

Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong worked on this episode while the series was still developing. Sussman recalled, "They hadn't started main casting! We wrote 'EXT. SPACE—ENTERPRISE' and I go, 'I wonder what the Enterprise looks like?' We had just gotten used to writing for Voyager and its characters; and now we have brand-new characters who are from 200 years earlier and we had to 'unlearn' everything we learned. But I liked the take on the characters – much more like people from the present; more easily related to, I think, by the audience." Sussman also stated, "We didn't even know who to imagine [as the characters] – not all of the actors had been cast, and there were so few scripts to go by as a blueprint." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 11, p. 47)

This episode was originally to have included the demise of Crewman Novakovich, the first member of the crew to die aboard the NX-class Enterprise. (Information provided by Mike Sussman) Novakovich's death, caused by his exposure to the alien pollen, was actually written into in an early draft of the episode. During filming, Scott Bakula was concerned that it didn't seem right to kill off Novakovich without dealing with the loss (as originally written, Novakovich's death was not dissimilar to that of the many security guards who died in the original Star Trek series). (Information provided by Mike Sussman) Remembered co-writer Mike Sussman, "It was felt at the time that the death of a crewmember would require time to show Archer and the crew dealing with the loss, and there wasn't time for such a scene." The producers agreed with Bakula and revised the script so that Novakovich lived (although the character was never seen again). (Information provided by Mike Sussman)

Continuity
> In "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", Captain Archer's bio screen reveals that this episode's planet, the first M-Class one visited by Enterprise NX-01, was later named Archer IV, a planet originally mentioned as the site of a battle between the Klingons and USS Enterprise-D in TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise". Captain Archer also mentions the planet to Captain Hernandez in the fourth season outing "Home".
> In the later Season 1 episode "Oasis", while strolling through the corridors of a Kantare supply ship, Archer asks Travis Mayweather if their visit to the ship is turning into one of his famous ghost stories, such as the one he tells in this installment.
> This episode marks the first time T'Pol is seen using the Vulcan nerve pinch.
> This episode is also the first to establish that "class M" (as Star Trek fans are accustomed to hearing it) actually stands for, in Vulcan planetary classification, "Minshara class".
> Rock creatures, such as the ones hallucinated by the away team in this episode, were an abandoned concept developed for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
> This is the first appearance of Crewman Elizabeth Cutler.
> At the episode's start, Cutler reads two pages from the Handbook of Exobiology about termites on Loracus Prime. The text includes a reference to Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development, mentioned in TOS: "Bread and Circuses". The two pages and an unseen cover were created by Geoffrey Mandel; the cover featured a Kaferian apple and a Talosian singing plant, which appeared in TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and TOS: "The Cage" respectively.
> Following the development of this episode (involving the decision to have Crewman Novakovich ultimately survive), it was two more years before an Enterprise NX-01 crewman was lost in the line of duty (not counting the "death" of Daniels in "Cold Front"): Crewman Fuller in "Anomaly".
> The bug seen inside Trip's sleeping bag resembles the parasites seen in TNG: "Conspiracy".

Poster’s Log:
* Loads of incompetence on display here.

So last week I complained a lot about the competence of the crew of Enterprise, but this one really takes the cake. We open on:

- The crew were given zero notice that Enterprise detected and planned to explore a fresh M-class planet, allotting no time for specialists to prepare. They find out literally upon orbit, like it was a surprise Christmas present instead of a major scientific opportunity.
- Archer couldn’t wait a whole *week* to go down to the surface, like the Vulcans would. Not months. Not years. Six or seven days was deemed unreasonable.
- Archer’s first actions were to allow his poor dog outside and order T’Pol to put away her scanner. I will note that Porthos could’ve either gotten deathly ill from eating some unexpected bug, or pooped out some pathogen deadly to all native life, and they never would’ve seen it coming because they did *no surveying* and made the scientist put her tool away. (I had to pause and facepalm during this scene.)
- He left a team on the surface with no shuttle pod to escape any unexpected dangers which were totally possible because they did *no surveying*.
- The entire Away team nearly died because they did *no surveying*.
- Moving from Archer to the team: nobody used the buddy system! Argh! You can't go out alone into a storm like that!

I am coming to hate Captain Archer, which is a shame because I really like Scott Bakula. I was a big fan of Quantum Leap as a kid. Before ENT aired, I was really looking forward to him in the role. And I guess to be fair, Bakula himself is not the problem: his performance is fine, and his backstage advice about Novakovich was completely on-point, so I still like him quite well. All the same, not a fan of his character at all. It feels similar to how things went with Janeway, where she was given bad decision after bad decision to move the plot along without any regard for how the audience might view such a leader.

The general unpreparedness on display here is especially egregious on the heels of Fight or Flight, which I’ve already complained about at some length last week. And I get what they’re trying to do here: they’re going with a ‘humanity isn’t ready yet’ theme, but they’re overplaying it wildly. I wish they had offered us the best people in their respective fields, who were just missing the omnidisciplinary competence displayed by later Trek crews. Like… it would’ve been enough if this crew were good at their jobs but not also musicians and scientists and chess champions and whatever else they teach at TOS/TNG era Starfleet Academy. I just want people who take basic precautions and display a modicum of common sense. I mean, I have planned longer and harder for road trips than they did to visit their first brand new planet. (I strongly disagree with Sussman about these characters being relatable right now.)

* Racial tension is huge this week.

I guess the other plot thread I noticed was how specific and ubiquitous anti-Vulcan sentiments are. Cutler clearly wants T’Pol’s approval early in the episode: we open on her eating Plomeek soup and she appears hurt by T’Pol’s dismissal of her enthusiasm during mission prep. Despite this, even Cutler turns on T’Pol while under the influence, having vivid hallucinations about the only Vulcan selling them out. The others are worse, especially Trip.

By contrast, nobody seems to have a problem with Dr. Phlox. Hoshi is friendly with him. Archer - who is openly and vocally prejudiced about Vulcans - picked him to be on Enterprise during their very first meeting, and has offered him no disrespect that I can recall.

This is interesting to me because it mirrors how real world racism works in many scenarios, with ‘good’ groups of outsiders and ‘bad’ ones. I’ve been on either side of that myself. I wish I thought that was a deliberate choice on the part of the writers, but I feel like we’re supposed to side with humanity’s bias here based at least in part on an interview cjelli tracked down during the premiere, because it's implied that we should be cheering the humans pissing off the Vulcans.

Either way, the whole thing left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. My favorite thing about Star Trek is very much its inclusiveness and willingness to make friends out of enemies. Prejudice still exists, from Kirk’s ‘I’ve never trusted Klingons and I never will’ (shared to unfortunate heights throughout VOY), to O’Brien’s distaste for Cardassians, but it was generally depicted as a flaw to overcome. I feel like ENT is framing this more as ‘maybe both sides have a point.’ Which… no. They don’t.

* Good stuff.

I did like a few things during the hour:

- I enjoyed Mayweather’s ghost story. It was pretty cheesy, but just creepy enough to believe he'd tell that to the gang around a campfire.
- I found Novakovich’s transporter accident effective and horrifying, totally believable with their less sophisticated and reliable tech transporter technology. I was impressed by the SFX too - they held up pretty well after like twenty years.
- I liked seeing someone recover from a shuttle accident instead of just crashing. If Chakotay had been piloting that thing, people definitely would've died. Seeing them turn back was refreshing.
- I appreciated that Hoshi and T’Pol ultimately resolved the situation. I still wish there were more women on this show, but I was glad they had good stuff to do either way.

I guess what I’m saying is: this isn’t a total loss, but it was pretty bad. During the initial airing, this episode featured heavily in my decision to drop the show early into S1.

Pointless STO Comparison: Hallucinogenic encounters are very rare in Star Trek Online, presumably because losing control of your perception or actions is generally not fun gameplay. There are a couple of missions that include at least some though, and Borg assimilation always messes up both.

This Week In:
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans would’ve actually surveyed the planet first.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: The previously mentioned transporter effect. Props to the effects people there.
* Aliens Incapacitate the Ship: Still just 2. No alien ship this week.
posted by mordax (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking of "Vulcans are superior", I've been rewatching DS9 at night as I fall asleep and recently passed through "Take Me Out To The Holosuite" where the Vulcans challenge the DS9 crew to a baseball game in the name of proving Vulcan superiority and, thinking back on ENT while watching it, I kinda sided with the Vulcans this time considering that humans have been know-nothing know-it-alls to Vulcans for generations by DS9's point in time. No wonder the Vulcans have a superiority complex!
posted by Servo5678 at 5:15 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Archer’s first actions were to allow his poor dog outside and order T’Pol to put away her scanner. I will note that Porthos could’ve either gotten deathly ill from eating some unexpected bug, or pooped out some pathogen deadly to all native life, and they never would’ve seen it coming because they did *no surveying* and made the scientist put her tool away.

"IS THERE AIR?! YOU DON'T KNOW!!"

I have to admit to being so charmed by that shot of Porthos bounding around, and by the idea of a Ship's Beagle generally, that I gave them a pass here. After all, we are free to assume that Archer et al. may indeed have taken scans, without us seeing it happen, for canine safety, if not biped.

Moving from Archer to the team: nobody used the buddy system! Argh! You can't go out alone into a storm like that!

Now here, yeah, I'm sorry: *I* know better, and I wasn't even in the Boy Scouts.

they’re going with a ‘humanity isn’t ready yet’ theme, but they’re overplaying it wildly.

Yeah, and your MA background suggests that the writer's room was a little pressed for time/not yet able to really get the direction of the show. I'm gonna guess that this episode's issues are due to that. It would take time, and no small amount of clarity w/r/t the show's concept, to have done the same basic story with more balance—say, creating situations where Lead Character A and Lead Character B both have their specialized areas, but lack the cross-training necessary to apply them to Problem X, resulting in conflict. These are actually pretty tricky worldbuilding/crewbuilding problems from a drama-creating perspective. (I would never have dared to try to GM a prequel Trek campaign, and still wouldn't, even though there's plenty of source material now that Trek is, arguably, over-prequelled.)

I feel like we’re supposed to side with humanity’s bias here based at least in part on an interview cjelli tracked down during the premiere, because it's implied that we should be cheering the humans pissing off the Vulcans.

Which is so weird because the show ALSO seems to assume that the audience likes Vulcans due to Spock et al. Unless they actually thought they were attracting a huge new hip youthful audience segment with so little awareness of Trek that they didn't even know Spock, which strikes me as delusional.

During the initial airing, this episode featured heavily in my decision to drop the show early into S1.

I didn't start to sour on the show quite that rapidly. To me, this episode does pull off (at least in its first half or so) that thrill of "EXPLORATION!" that was one of my hopes for ENT back when it premiered. So that bought a little leeway from me, though the less-exciting, too-predictable finale was a disappointment. (As was, of course, all the stumbling-about.)

Hallucinogenic encounters are very rare in Star Trek Online, presumably because losing control of your perception or actions is generally not fun gameplay.

Generally, yes. IIRC I nearly broke a controller in rage at a GTA San Andreas level where CJ is under the influence of some sort of substance. Then again, I always loved the "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" levels in Yoshi's Island, where Yoshi suddenly becomes Foster Brooks.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Writing this before the the cast was cast must have been difficult, and given that constraint they really did a nice job with some of the characters -- the campfire scene & the onset of the storm, for example.

I just want people who take basic precautions and display a modicum of common sense. I mean, I have planned longer and harder for road trips than they did to visit their first brand new planet. (I strongly disagree with Sussman about these characters being relatable right now.)

This, yes, complete agreement: they're writing this as if the crew's unpreparedness should stand in for humanity's inexperience with ~spaaaace~, and that intent comes across, but the specific ways they're unprepared are a mix of objectively bad decisions, foolhardiness, and inexperience below the boy scout level. These aren't 'first humans in space' mistakes, they're 'first time going camping after living a life of sumptuous luxury and private valets' mistakes (although they do handle the actual camping part well enough) -- if we imagine as a counterfactual an episode where they survey for a week and yet fail to detect any pathogens, because they don't know what space pathogens look like, the episode plays out the same way, substantially. The main issue here (and with last's week's episode as well, and a thing to bear in mind going into next week's episode) is how the writers seem to have penciled in 'making simple mistakes' as symbolic of inexperience where the crew should (I would argue) be making complicated mistakes.

Missing a pathogen or a hallucinogen because you don't have a frame of reference to understand it, or think to look for that kind of thing, or assume your systems and scanners are adequate, is a complicated problem: you're dealing with what you don't know you don't know. You went through four years of Space College (not necessarily Starfleet Academy, which doesn't exist yet?), you've been tasked to be on the first real starship, you're the top-of-the-top of your class -- but you can still spend a week scanning a planet and not know what your training missed because Earth hasn't been off exploring before. Simply not doing a survey is dumb. It's the thing you're supposed to do, it's the thing even our fiction today says you ought to consider (for example: this episode!), and that Archer doesn't do it -- I can't quite tell what we're supposed to make of that. It feels like he's saying 'no' to the survey because T'Pol is saying 'yes,' but it also feels like he's saying 'yes' because the plot requires it; it also does feel like the writer's think Archer has a point? (He does not. T'Pol was right.) At any rate, he doesn't give a great rationale for landing, and T'Pol is shown to have been justified. Is the moral 'do the survey first?' Or is it 'listen to the Vulcan?' With the way the episode ends -- with Hoshi & T'Pol resolving the cave standoff -- it feels like the moral is supposed to be 'listen to the Vulcan,' and the need to do a survey first isn't quite framed as mistake (which it was.)

Now, that said, I'm not sure that 'and then rock monsters, despite adequate preparations' would have been good, mind you, but better -- this didn't really work for me once the paranoia kicked in because it seemed really clear that (a) they were hallucinating and (b) there weren't really monsters, because (c) I can't imagine a Trek that would kill off any major crew in those circumstances. Maybe the incompetence broke my suspension of disbelief, but I couldn't tell if we were supposed to seriously entertain the idea of rock monsters or of any of the delusions -- no, right? The tension is supposed to be that we're wondering if the crew will figure it out, and how they'll get out of it?

---
Short notes:
- Campfire scene was actually great! T'Pol's 'ghosts are illogical' stance is where I wish they were taking the Vulcan/Human stuff.
- The low-level 'how do we relate to T'Pol' scenes with the non-bridge crew worked better than 'Tucker and T'Pol spout monologues at each other,' but I'm still not sure what this show wants us to think about Vulcans. (And mordax's parallel to how Phlox is treated is well stated -- the show, so far, definitely has a 'Vulcan/Human' and 'Human/Alien(but not Vulcan alien)' division going, and it's not clear how intentional that is.)
- The transporter scene is a good case study of 'show don't tell:' if they had just said 'we can't risk the transporter' that wouldn't have worked, given the prior decades of Star Trek.
- I really like the shuttle set and the whole docking/undocking setup, particularly in contrast to the giant expanse of the TNG shuttlebay. This is a ship at which space is really at a premium.

I'm trying to re-watch these episodes while putting aside what I remember of episodes-to-come -- not least because I don't remember all the details -- and I don't want to be hard on the show for having a bad episode, because I remember future episode being better, and particularly given the context of the writer's lack of context; but...did I ever not enjoy this particular episode.
posted by cjelli at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


To me, this episode does pull off (at least in its first half or so) that thrill of "EXPLORATION!" that was one of my hopes for ENT back when it premiered.

Back when the show was first on the air, I remember being annoyed at how it set up the premise of the temporal cold war and then did literally nothing with it for -- a while. I spent a lot of time wanting Voyager to be something it wasn't and then again with Enterprise; except, now, instead of wanting them to double-down on the cold war, I'm wondering what the show would like if they leaned into the exploration side -- I would love, now, an episode that was just 'Enterprise crew + Porthos stumbles around a planet with no external conflict, just the thrill of new horizons and the tension of the crew getting to know each other.' It's going to be interesting working through the Memory Alpha notes on the writer's side.
posted by cjelli at 9:02 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Generally, I too thought that the basic premise of the show--an Idiot Plot [TVTropes] that boils down to "crew doesn't take reasonable precautions on planet with several unknown factors in its biosphere because it looks real pretty; hilarity ensues"--was kind of bogus, although I was much more sanguine about the whole Vulcan thing, for reasons that I'll get to in a bit. But first, let's look at the whole idea of human fools rushing in where Vulcan angels fearhave reasonable hesitance to tread. TOS had many instances of unknown or overlooked environmental hazards causing complications; just in the plant kingdom, there was the auto-chillaxing pollen of "This Side of Paradise", the flechette-firing flowers of "The Apple", and, well, pretty much every plant containing deadly acid in "The Way to Eden"; that's just off the top of my head. In particular, the space hippies of "The Way to Eden" seem to have a lot in common with the quasi-military humans in this episode, their funky jams notwithstanding; everything looks so pretty, it must be pure and good, and if you want to err on the side of caution, well, you must be some sort of Herbert, maaaaaaaaaan.

And, for a show that wants to tie the nascent Starfleet into Earth's (and particularly NASA's) exploration history, they're not really getting how cautious NASA could be about spaceflight; sending unmanned* missions and a chimpanzee up before Alan Shepard, following the tragedy of Apollo 1 with a number of incremental missions--Apollo 10 got to within a few miles of the lunar surface--before landing (which was justified, given the near-loss of the Apollo 13 crew, and even Apollo 11's difficulty in finding a landing site), the test of some of the launching and landing systems of the space shuttle by, well, the Enterprise, and so on. I think that the showrunners may be fuzzy on the distinction between going boldly and going recklessly.

And that leads me to the most positive aspect of this episode: even if the rest of the crew is still being all GRAR toward Vulcans, there's no real disputing this: T'Pol saved the fucking day. I think that the show likes her better than just about any human does. In fact, Trip does not come off well here at all; in contrast to Mayweather and Cutler mostly just feeling oogy and reacting to Trip's paranoid ramblings, Trip just completely loses his shit. T'Pol sweats a little and occasionally lapses into Vulcan, which ends up working for her. If she hadn't been there, the three who remained after Almost-Redshirt Leafboy (sorrynotsorry) got beamed up would be dead. And do any of them (or Archer) thank her? Well, Trip goes into this rambling anecdote about his old Vulcan science teacher, if that means anything.

And one more thing (for now, anyway): if you're going to use twentieth-century-style tents to camp out overnight in unknown meteorological conditions (?!?), stake the fucking things down. Sheesh.

*I'm an old, so if there's a non-gendered version of "manned" (I would think that "staffed" would work) for flights/missions without personnel, let me know.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, from a broader perspective the two things that got me most about ENT was the temporary cold war and the big reactionary plot later on. At rewatch speeds the cold war is barely tolerable, but as originally broadcast, working out over 2 years with dribs and drabs here and there before a big chunk of cliff hanging exposition? Ugh.

I mean, the clumsiness in these early episodes is lousy from _so many_ perspectives. And, I mean heck, even though Starfleet isn't a fully formed planetary exploration society yet, it's not like this is the human race's first time off the planet, period. While big chunks of the enlisted crew might be provincial idjits, you'd expect the officer core to be familiar with reports from boomers like Mayweather so while maybe they've never been out system personally... Or were Mayweather's people mostly following well planned routes the Vulcans provided, so they didn't see just how small humanity was in the universe, and didn't have any experience with how unprepared they really were.

*I'm an old, so if there's a non-gendered version of "manned" (I would think that "staffed" would work) for flights/missions without personnel, let me know.

"crewed", I think, usually.
posted by Kyol at 9:26 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


if there's a non-gendered version of "manned" (I would think that "staffed" would work) for flights/missions without personnel, let me know.

NASA suggests 'piloted/unpiloted', but anecodotally I agree with Kyol in that I've heard 'crewed/uncrewed' used more often.
posted by cjelli at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


(oh, lost the point in edit)

That said, all the "gawrsh we're human idjits pokin' our noses where they don't belong, heyuck heyuck" in the early part of this season sort of pays off later on in this and the next season when the humans step up and, sure, still make mistakes, but they use that stubbornness to befriend the Andorians and stuff like that. That isn't saying they shouldn't have done a better job writing their unpreparedness early on here while still producing an entertaining product but yeah, you could tell they didn't quite know how to do that....
posted by Kyol at 9:39 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


During the initial airing, this episode featured heavily in my decision to drop the show early into S1.

Me too, for all the reasons given above.

I do taking issue with the reference to Kirk's line about not trusting Klingons. The guy had been a front line commander for decades with his principal foes being the Klingons. There were plenty of instances in TOS where Kirk was the voice of reason in dealing with them ("Trouble with Tribbles" for instance). Kirk's prejudice was more learned than a flaw he had to overcome. After all, he only really started getting hardcore after David died and the Klingons wanted Kirk dead.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Before I respond to anything, just want to mention how delighted I am about everybody being here, overthinking a plate of gagh together. Also, apologies for just cherry picking a few things. (Trying not to thread-sit.)

Which is so weird because the show ALSO seems to assume that the audience likes Vulcans due to Spock et al. Unless they actually thought they were attracting a huge new hip youthful audience segment with so little awareness of Trek that they didn't even know Spock, which strikes me as delusional.

Right? I mostly find all of this baffling.

To me, this episode does pull off (at least in its first half or so) that thrill of "EXPLORATION!" that was one of my hopes for ENT back when it premiered.

I'll admit that they had me at the window scene, even though the lack of an announcement came across as amateur-hour. Cutler and Novakovich's wide-eyed awe was infectious... until Archer shot down surveying a few minutes later.

Now, that said, I'm not sure that 'and then rock monsters, despite adequate preparations' would have been good, mind you, but better

Agreed. I would've settled for that personally, but still complained a little. Heh.

- I really like the shuttle set and the whole docking/undocking setup, particularly in contrast to the giant expanse of the TNG shuttlebay. This is a ship at which space is really at a premium.

Yeah. I actually feel like the tech stuff is going well. The NX-01 looks better than I remembered internally. (I even like the engine room, and the transporter scene is one of the few portions of this episode that I unabashedly liked, followed by the harrowing shuttle scene.)

In particular, the space hippies of "The Way to Eden" seem to have a lot in common with the quasi-military humans in this episode, their funky jams yt notwithstanding; everything looks so pretty, it must be pure and good, and if you want to err on the side of caution, well, you must be some sort of Herbert, maaaaaaaaaan.

... man, you almost owed me a new keyboard, good sir.
*shakes head*
I never would've thought of that comparison in a million years, but it's completely on-point.

I think that the showrunners may be fuzzy on the distinction between going boldly and going recklessly.

Yeah, I think that sums up what's going on here really well.

That isn't saying they shouldn't have done a better job writing their unpreparedness early on here while still producing an entertaining product but yeah, you could tell they didn't quite know how to do that....

I mostly wish anybody on the writing team had ever even brushed military experience. Just briefly. Washed out, maybe? (I did that in ages past, and it gave me at least a modicum of appreciation for how much any military values preparation.)

I do taking issue with the reference to Kirk's line about not trusting Klingons.

Fair cop, I'll concede that. I just couldn't think of a better shorthand for it.
posted by mordax at 12:55 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]




So I finally got around to watching it tonight and man, the number of times they passed the idiot ball around to get to the (interesting) core nugget of psychoactive hallucinogen with mint frosting was a little disappointing. I mean, there was good here. Decent character development even if they didn't really have a feel for the characters yet. i.e. Trip was hallucinating and responding positively to his Vulcan science teacher at one point. But that was a known, _good_ Vulcan, versus the as yet unknown, potentially scary T'Pol that he's being thrust into dangerous situations with.

And at least some of the idiot ballin' wouldn't have hurt to give a couple of quick handwaves in the writing room.

* We're just gonna rush on in because it's a nominally breathable atmosphere! "We launched a probe and it thinks everything's fine where we're landing" - Human probes aren't good enough, but we're learning, that's the point of this trip, right? Gimme 30 seconds from somewhere else in the episode, honestly Trip's hallucinations were overselling it a bit, there was airtime to spare.

* Leaving the crew on the planet without a shuttle, but also not trusting the transporter as a hole card - have Mayweather fly Archer and Reed back to the ship before returning to the planet. It's still too windy to depart either way. Harder to not turn into a bus trip back and forth, but easy enough to write off as a "you fly us back to the ship and return with instruments we've figured out in this initial foray" sorta offhanded explanation.

But I think someone nailed it upthread, it was less "we're unprepared but willing to take the risk" and more "If the Vulcans say no, we say YES!" Which isn't a good look on anybody.

And I dunno, the episodes so far haven't given me the best impression of the NX-01's sensor suite. It's possible the bridge _had_ only just detected an M-Class planet, so there was no time to warn the science staff. As much as that would be on a ship with 80-ish crewmembers, as established in this episode. While it's not competence porn, I gotta figure Cutler and Novakovich are pulling at least double duty as entomologist and ... whatever the hell Novakovich was as well as whatever their ordinary shipboard rating is.

I honestly can't remember whether any of the later episodes do a better job of fleshing out Archer's lack of command experience. As the son of the engineer working on the warp 5 project, it would've made more sense for him to be chief engineer with a different (more/differently [in]competent) captain.
posted by Kyol at 7:39 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to compare this with the early sessions of Stargate. There you had the humans, with even less space experience, and going to planets they were pretty sure were human inhabitable (and yeah, that assumption bit them hard in a couple episodes), and they STILL took the precaution of sending in a drone first. Sure there were a few really stupid couple episodes as they were finding their feet, but usually the trouble they encountered was from as said above, Unknown Unknowns, and not "Let's see how large of an idiot ball we can have".
posted by happyroach at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh and garment-wear, it's the year of our lord 2151 and their standard away team cover is a gotdang off-the-shelf baseball cap. Not even a flat cap or something mildly tweaked to show the passage of 200 years from the present, they just walked into Lids at the mall and had some custom embroidery done.

Uh huh. Ok. I mean I know they had pretty normal caps in Take Me Out To The Holosuite in DS9, but that was in context. Here? I dunno, it was jarringly American.
posted by Kyol at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


The baseball cap with the ship name and/or serial number is a US Navy thing, although it's spread to other uniformed service branches, at least for their veterans. I have a Navy vet brother who wears his all the time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:40 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


>off-the-shelf baseball cap...jarringly American.

The baseball cap with the ship name and/or serial number is a US Navy thing,


Oh, that's a good catch (pun intended) -- I hadn't really thought about that because, yeah, it felt completely normal as a thing to see, but it's very much an American-coded (and particularly American-navy coded) thing, which is in line with a lot of how the show has presented Starfleet (eg, the theme song title cards showing only American spaceflight).

I'm presuming this is some reflexive, un-examined American-ness (it is, after all, an American show by American writers on an American network run by American producers) rather than particularly a statement about anything, in comparison to, eg, DS9's considered use of baseball as an extended theme throughout the show's run.
posted by cjelli at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm presuming this is some reflexive, un-examined American-ness

Sort-of-but-not-exactly on that subject, here's part of an interview with costume designer Robert Blackman:
Q: Let’s move on to Enterprise. What were the joys and challenges of designing for that show?

BLACKMAN: Because it was a prequel, we really went with the idea that there’d be some NASA in there, but that it’d still be in the Star Trek mode. First of all, though, I said, “We’re going to see closures.” I had spent, at that point, 12 years trying to make everything look like you didn’t know how they got into it, that they were just wearing it. So I said, “There’s going to be zippers. There’s going to be pockets. There will be things for equipment.” There were 13 zippers in each one of those uniforms. There were zippers to nowhere, in a way. Some of them sewn down with a zipper, so that you could never get anything into it, but it just made the characters look a little bit more like cowboys in space. It definitely had a much more masculine and rough edge to it. There was nothing Spandex-y or woolly about them.
posted by cjelli at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh I know the baseball cap is the US navy's non-dress cover, but that's now. 200(ish) years from now it feels like it would be as anachronistic as a bicorne, all Admiral Nelsoning it up in here.

On the other hand, the current baseball cap has been awfully persistent, so maybe? I dunno. It jumped out at me.
posted by Kyol at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2018


I remember when I first watched this episode being excited about an exploration based episode but once again Archer and Trip in particular fall into their already tired and frankly childish scolding of T'Pol for being Vulcan and being what seems to be the token adult on the bridge.
The rejection of even the most basic scientific principles continues as it did last episode with placing an alien life form on a different planet. This time it's screw the probes, it's Minshara class so we can breathe, let's get down there, to hell with possible contaminants! Archer's line about enjoying yourself was also absurd. The investigation of the world, even with scanners in addition to your natural senses should be a joy to any explorer.
But of course I remind myself that Star Trek has always been an underdog but mainstream show, for the most part. Worf had a secret child, then a known child with soap opera growth and he had a secret brother. Troi had a secret sibling. Spock, it turns out, had a rogue brother. Data had an unknown brother and mother, etc.
It's a show that relies on standard dramatic tropes. Sometimes it executes them well, which makes for good episodes, despite the shitty science. Often times, it does not do so well.
In this first season they are definitely in the our audience couldn't possibly understand anything without putting it on a sledgehammer and smashing them in the face with it mode.
We have an oft used plot device where the crew are affected by some sort of exterior agent, this time biological in nature, that makes most of the crew delusional and paranoid. We've seen it before in every Star Trek franchise and therefore, the thinking must go, at least at the executive level, that the same idea can be used again with a "twist" or a different skin. I'm reminded of those paper dolls you could put different clothes on that stayed on the dolls with folder over tabs.
Trip is absolutely appalling. The situation T'Pol is placed in is terrifying. It's as if the writers and perhaps the public are so used to the crazy man takes people hostage and threatens their lives plot that the terror of it is almost dismissed. I give the actors credit for making it terrifying. Trineer managed to pull of a man possessed by madness, rage, and paranoia. But actors make a career doing what they can with the material they're given.
I can accept the premise of being under the influence of some sort of super rage/paranoia agent but there has be at least emotional consequences. The show is only to happy to display the emotional consequences of Archer and Trip's treatment by the Vulcans in the past but that seems to be the only consequences they can experience at this point in the series.
T'Pol, once again stands head and shoulders above the humans in general. I'm not sure if the writers intended this. Sort of a look at how much humans have to learn to get to be the ultra competent (unless they need to be ultra incompetent for the plot) humans but hey we'll learn from our mistakes. Sure, that's fine. Perhaps learn to make that point with sensible dialog instead of a sledge hammer and perhaps have people learn about more interesting things instead of learning about things they should already be familiar with, like say, the concept of contamination.
This episode had potential. That potential was thrown away.
posted by juiceCake at 3:01 PM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I feel like we’re supposed to side with humanity’s bias here based at least in part on an interview cjelli tracked down during the premiere, because it's implied that we should be cheering the humans pissing off the Vulcans.

Which is so weird because the show ALSO seems to assume that the audience likes Vulcans due to Spock et al.


And here's the thing: Not only does the audience like Vulcans to begin with, in this episode I felt bad for T'Pol because (a) she's right about the whole wacky-ass camping trip being a bad idea; (b) she's the only one able to hold it together when wacky-ass camping trip goes off the rails, so the mission's "success" is solely because of her; (c) she's effectively held at gunpoint for a sizeable chunk of time by her ostensible crewmate; and (d) I have complete faith that by next week, T'Pol's heroism & competence from this episode will be completely forgotten and either Archer or Trip will be yelling at her again.

Look, she's not a fun person, and that should be where the tension between her and the crew derives. Having Cutler seeking her approval should be an awesome dynamic for the show to explore - some humans resent Vulcans for their paternalism, whereas others see the Vulcans as benefactors who are more advanced and worthy of emulation. That would be interesting to explore, as would the challenges T'Pol faces in bonding with a human crew. Showing us Humans and Vulcans getting to know each other would be grand. Instead, T'Pol is being written as a no-fun know-it-all who nevertheless is vital to saving the day. I think I should start counting how many times the joykiller Vulcan saves the crew.
posted by nubs at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Anyways, looking back on this I feel like I kind of lost one of my main point, or didn't state it clearly: if the intent if the show runners is to make us chew when the human characters defy the Vulcans, the approach of regularly showing the humans bullying, belittling, and othering the Vulcan crew member is having the opposite effect from my perspective.
posted by nubs at 10:02 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm really enjoying reading these, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who hates Archer and is so annoyed by the incompetence.

It would be nice if the resentment to the Vulcans wasn't so reactionary coded. It's not just that the Vulcans were paternalistic, they were elitist no-fun over-cautious snobs and the True Real Human thing to do is to barge ahead all yeeehaww. That character type isn't as charming as the show thinks. (And shouting at the sexually attractive-but-unavailable woman that she's stuck up and no fun is so horrible.)

I think it's in this episode (?) where Trip brings up that the Vulcan star chart sort of makes their whole exploration thing pointless and Archer is like, "We just found a star that wasn't on it" and that's supposed to be enough? Our ongoing mission .. to boldly show that the Vulcan star chart is not comprehensive -- suck it Vulcans!??

TOS was mythic and Odyssey-like in its exploration. Space was chaotic, strange, magical. Here at the other end of so many years of ST shows and a more realistic low-tech Enterprise, Exploration is going to mean something else. Or at least it should.
posted by fleacircus at 8:07 AM on October 7


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