Star Trek: Enterprise: Terra Nova
September 9, 2018 8:40 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The crew of Enterprise scrabble through some shale.

Memory Alpha was a little thinner here:

Trivia and continuity
> This episode is one of nine Star Trek episodes with Latin names, in this case meaning "New Earth." (It also happens to be the Latin name for Newfoundland.) The others are "Sub Rosa", "Dramatis Personae", "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", "Ex Post Facto", "Non Sequitur", "Alter Ego", "Vox Sola", and "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum".
> In an apparent nod to Star Trek: The Original Series, when Archer and Reed enter the abandoned surface colony, Reed spins the wheel of an overturned bicycle – just like Dr. Leonard McCoy did in a desolate city in TOS: "Miri".
> This is the first episode to name Phlox's species, Denobulan.
> Near the end of this episode, Mayweather mentions the mystery of Amelia Earhart. This mystery was solved 220 years later, by the crew of USS Voyager, in VOY: "The 37's".

Reception
> In a 2011 interview, Brannon Braga cited this as his least favorite episode from the entirety of Star Trek: Enterprise. "There happens to be an irony there. It was about finding a lost colony of humans, but it was boring and it was unfortunate that it was such an early episode," Braga critiqued. [1] He also described the installment as "terrible" and one of several first-season "mediocre scripts" which were an attempt to "go after something" and which were visually improved to a "great" extent by the cast and production crew. Braga concluded by calling it, "Not a bad concept, but not […] a good episode." ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> In Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide", this episode was rated 1 out of 5 arrowhead insignia. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 78)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 360) comments about this episode, "The first major misfire of the show, 'Terra Nova' isn't really about anything, and the big revelations are never anything but predictable. Perhaps it's because the 'first Human colony' is presented so pessimistically, but the whole episode just feels wrong."

Memorable Quotes

"I'm not familiar with the early years of Human space exploration."
"Really? Every school kid on Earth had to learn about the famous Vulcan expeditions."
"Name one."
(after long pause) "History was never my best subject."
- Tucker and T'Pol

"Asking favors of the Vulcans usually ends up carrying too high a price."
- Tucker, to T'Pol

"If those aliens killed the colonists they could kill Malcolm, too."
"Those weren't aliens. They're Human."
- Mayweather and T'Pol

"I'm leg broke!"
- Akary

"If these are the descendants of the original colonists, they've never seen other Humans before. Maybe, we look as strange to them as they did to us."
- Archer, after realizing who the Novans really were

"How are you holding up?"
"Not badly, all things considered. But I really wouldn't mind getting this bullet out of my leg."
- Archer and Reed

"You Humans tried to gut our go-befores when they lived on the overside. Now you're trying to gut us!"
- Nadet

Poster’s Log:

I guess the thing that leapt out at me here was Brannon Braga’s reaction. While I did not like Terra Nova at all, this story isn’t even the worst one so far in the series. Right now, I’d give that dubious honor to Strange New World, because literally every problem in that episode is the fault of the crew.

For all its various flaws, Terra Nova does get away from that. The crew behaves more professionally than in previous episodes. Archer refuses forced relocation of an unwilling population even though he is probably in the clear to do so legally. He sticks to diplomacy, and he’s willing to risk his life to save someone else. Better still, Reed is cool as ice after being shot and left behind as a hostage. I was downright impressed with him. So this time, they actually seemed like they belonged in space. Well, apart from the shuttle accident, which has to be the single funniest shuttle problem in Trek canon, but we’ve established that their sensors are garbage.

That said, this story is still pretty bad. It’s only been 70 years, there was no time for those people to turn into Morlocks. Their dialogue is absolutely dire. (Props to them for being able to deliver lines like “I’m leg broke!” with straight faces.) The story itself is, as Memory Alpha complained, completely pessimistic: they literally just died off to a giant rock falling at random, and now there are so few ‘Novans’ left that they’re doomed to die out if Earth doesn’t send more help, something we don’t see happen. The setup doesn’t make much sense either: 200 people wasn’t a sustainable colony to begin with, and they should’ve wanted more settlers. (Like, they were doomed before the rock fell with a population that small, but they... didn't want people? WTF?)

The whole thing really was sad, pointless and subsequently dropped.

Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: So many ground missions in Star Trek Online involve dull generic cave systems that I’d be hard pressed to even remember them all. I’d feel right at home shooting stuff in the scenery of Terra Nova.

* Vulcans Are Superior: Mostly averted, but see below.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: The shuttle literally fell in a sinkhole. I bet Vulcan ships have sensors good enough to avoid parking on top of those.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Skipped again, since there were no aliens. Holds at 3.
posted by mordax (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It’s only been 70 years, there was no time for those people to turn into Morlocks.

My thought, too. There seems to be this recurring plot in Trek where colonies that break contact with Earth/the Federation for even a short time just fall to pieces, one way or another. One way that they could have gone would have been to look at the history of some of the would-be utopian communities of early America, and what made them fail. The date of the launch of the SS Conestoga would have been around the time of the post-atomic horror, so the colonists may have had reason to want to try some new way of living that wouldn't recreate what they'd left behind. It also could have explained their fear and loathing of radiation, specifically. But I don't think that the colonists would have been technophobes, given that they spent nine years aboard a starship (although it could have been a sleeper ship like the Botany Bay), and they disassembled its parts for use on the surface.

A more logical approach would have been for them to migrate away from the original colony, deciding that they wanted a more hunter-gatherer lifestyle than they'd originally planned, and challenging the Enterprise's crew as to why they necessarily had to reproduce Earth's social/political/economic structure, as much as it had apparently improved in the last 70 years. Although, yeah, they'd need a lot more people in order not to die off in a few generations.

I Never Forget a Face, part 47: Erick Avari, who has a big IMDB entry in addition to his Trek roles.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:25 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


In an apparent nod to Star Trek: The Original Series, when Archer and Reed enter the abandoned surface colony, Reed spins the wheel of an overturned bicycle – just like Dr. Leonard McCoy did in a desolate city in TOS: "Miri".

Exactly what I thought when I saw Reed with the bicycle - it felt like a callback to "Miri", and it certainly set the expectation for an episode that felt like something that was tonally more like an episode of TOS.

I didn't hate this episode - it actually features the crew behaving relatively competently, and the beginnings of the discussion/debate about the idea of the Prime Directive when T'Pol and Archer consider their options for the Novans. But the stakes are incredibly low, the changes to the colonists too dramatic for 70 years (both physiological and sociological), the population obviously unsustainable. The story was a bit of shale, in other words. And I was left with the question of why, if this lost colony is of such historical significance, it wasn't the first place the Enterprise was headed, instead of just seemingly meandering out of the solar system.
posted by nubs at 7:35 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Trek as a whole does not do colonies well due to the constraints of the format.

Just as an example, TNG and "The Ensigns of Command" where Data goes down to the planet in a shuttle due to the planet having radiation that prevents the transporter from working. The colony is supposed to be large and thriving with thousands of people (necessitating Picard's dilemma), but we only ever are shown a handful of characters and the entire colony seems to be led by a single person who has no one overseeing his conduct.

An hour of TV just does not allow the crew to explore or the show to display a realistic colony.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:15 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Reflecting on what I wrote above, I'd amend it to note that, of course, the show probably won't show too many instances where everything's hunky-dory on Colony X, because why would they? No drama potential there. But I still think that they could have gotten something out of a situation where the Novans were hunter-gatherers and, when the crew met up with them, they were emphatic that they weren't interested in becoming a standard-issue colony and, further, didn't want anyone else colonizing their planet, either. TOS was pretty adamant about the whole progress-or-die thing, and the episode would have been a lot more interesting if they'd had to debate the whole proto-Prime Directive question when it regarded humans, especially since Earth didn't really have any other extrasolar communities at the time AFAIK (with the exception of the commercial fleet that Mayweather grew up on).
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:41 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


'Shale! Shale!'

Reflecting on what I wrote above, I'd amend it to note that, of course, the show probably won't show too many instances where everything's hunky-dory on Colony X, because why would they? No drama potential there.

I think there is some potential there (your suggestion, for one), but drawing out the drama in the tensions of a successful colony that just doesn't want Earth involved in its affairs -- but isn't threatened by a meteor, radiation, time-travelers, Klingons, &c. -- is probably outside of the scope of what's feasible for Enterprise's standard format of The Problem Of The Week. Thinking about other Treks, The Inner Light comes to mind as an episode that manages to be exceptional without any actual threat to the crew or any other living* beings -- but it is exceptional, because delivering on that well within 45 minutes of screen time is hard, if you can't link it to other episodes. Which is also (in a roundabout way) why so many modern shows have moved towards heavier serialization. If this was remade now in 2018, I could see them getting a season's whole arc out of this, or at least a few episodes.

*Sadly.

Or out of 'a lost earth colony,' anyway -- the premise (as noted multiply above) doesn't really hold up under even mild scrutiny, and you get the sense that they knew it because the tried to prebuttal any objections by noting that 'asking for Vulcan help would come with too high a price.' I have to say though: really? What price? We're apparently talking about a trip on the order of days or weeks in pursuit of a lost colony (40LY here, vs. 15LY from Earth to Rigel in the pilot) -- this is unlike Amelia Earhart in that they know exactly where the colony is, and exactly how to get there, but just chose not to follow up -- either with Vulcan aid, or with an uncrewed probe (not that Star Trek's history of uncrewed probes is great, but) And then chose not to direct the Enterprise there right away. It might have worked better as the crew discovering a colony and then realizing it was Terra Nova -- 'this isn't where you were supposed to be!' -- or, really, basically any justification other than what's presented.

Miscellaneous notes:
- We're 2 for 6 so far on 'episodes set in dark cave tunnels.'
- The 'rocks fall, everyone is trapped underground' part aside, it's interesting to see what Star Trek without transporters looks like -- and in that vein, the approach shot from the shuttle cockpit as the away team is returning to dock looks fantastic in HD.
- The colonists are going to die...immediately? Of tainted water? In a few weeks? They never quite state the timescale, but it's lucky (and convenient) that Enterprise showed up now.
- I love the little moment where Archer puts his hands up and Phlox looks momentarily puzzled and then raises his hands too -- 'oh, is this a thing? how neat!': I'm getting a kind of Neelix 2.0 vibe from Phlox: (1) alien (2) crewmember (3) puzzled and intrigued by human customs (4) who knows more than the crew does about things they encounter but (5) doesn't preëmptively share that knowledge with them.

Overall, this was...okay? There's some potential here in the discussion of what makes a human a human (or an alien an alien) and it's a good foreshadowing of later Starfleet policies of engagement with other cultures -- and what makes an 'other' culture.' It calls back to a lot of prior Treks, in that 'dealing with a weird Earth colony' is a recurrent episode trope. I, too, was surprised that Braga would call this out as the worst episode -- it's definitely not the best, but it's definitely not the worst.

One way that they could have gone would have been to look at the history of some of the would-be utopian communities of early America, and what made them fail.


That's basically the premise of Up The Long Ladder, right? It would have been interesting to see a different take on that which didn't have Up The Long Ladder's problems.
posted by cjelli at 9:33 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Augghhhh, The Shale Episode. I got maybe ten minutes into it before I remembered that it was The Shale Episode, then I noped out.

It’s only been 70 years, there was no time for those people to turn into Morlocks. Their dialogue is absolutely dire.

Their lingo is about the only thing about their time away from the rest of humanity that might make sense. One of the few things that I remember from my linguistics coursework is that big linguistic changes take about three generations to set in. (Doesn't mean I have to like it, of course.)

I'm getting a kind of Neelix 2.0 vibe from Phlox: (1) alien (2) crewmember (3) puzzled and intrigued by human customs (4) who knows more than the crew does about things they encounter but (5) doesn't preëmptively share that knowledge with them.

I also got that vibe, when the first few episodes premiered, but I eventually decided that the thing that sets Phlox apart (and makes him more tolerable IMO) is that he's also a huge nerd.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:02 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


That's basically the premise of Up The Long Ladder, right? It would have been interesting to see a different take on that which didn't have Up The Long Ladder's problems.

Possibly; TBH, I've never gotten past the Bringloidi in that episode, they yank me right out of the story. I do think that it would have worked better as a longer arc, possibly one that might have floated the idea that there might have been political rivals to the Federation prior to its formal founding (and not just extremist/terrorist organizations such as Terra Prime, which I kept confusing with this episode's title), possibly even in the form of Mayweather's boomer buddies, forming a sort of de facto extrasolar government.

the thing that sets Phlox apart (and makes him more tolerable IMO) is that he's also a huge nerd.

That, and he also seems to be the show's Ethics Guy, which will become more prominent in later seasons.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:18 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Augghhhh, The Shale Episode. I got maybe ten minutes into it before I remembered that it was The Shale Episode, then I noped out.

I'm shale noped!
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:47 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I'm shale noped!

Right? When I looked back I saw the dialogue tried to gut me in the airing-before.

But I still think that they could have gotten something out of a situation where the Novans were hunter-gatherers and, when the crew met up with them, they were emphatic that they weren't interested in becoming a standard-issue colony and, further, didn't want anyone else colonizing their planet, either.

That would've been legit interesting.

It might have worked better as the crew discovering a colony and then realizing it was Terra Nova -- 'this isn't where you were supposed to be!' -- or, really, basically any justification other than what's presented.

Would've been happier with that instead too.

I love the little moment where Archer puts his hands up and Phlox looks momentarily puzzled and then raises his hands too -- 'oh, is this a thing? how neat!'

I'm digging on Phlox a lot more than I expected to so far.
posted by mordax at 9:19 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Phlox is the best part of the show for me at this point. He's enthusiastic to learn, curious, provides a certain practical viewpoint about everything, and is being played with wonderful humor (the puzzlement about raising hands, for example).
posted by nubs at 9:31 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


It’s only been 70 years, there was no time for those people to turn into Morlocks. Their dialogue is absolutely dire.

And it sorta seemed to be suggested that the colonists had a bit of a civil war after the asteroid smacked into the planet, so if only young children and teens survived because they were hidden in the caves and didn't get the radiation dose the surviving elders got? Sure, I'd buy that language would go all morlock tout suite.

So anyway, this is another example where B&B haven't quite internalized what the history of warp travel is for Enterprise. Warp 5 is the big achievement for the NX-01, but the boomers weren't lugging around at Warp 1 this whole time since Cochrane's trip. Mayweather's boomer trade route was getting pretty far out there, they sure as shit weren't making 100 year loops. So if boomers are cruising around at warp 2 or 3, that nine year trip to Terra Nova is either a year or a couple of months, if I'm looking at the right warp equivalent chart. I mean OK maybe the trade-focused boomers wouldn't have gone out of their way to stop at a deadhead destination, but somebody would have in the intervening 70 years.
posted by Kyol at 7:40 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


Since this is clearly a bug up my ass, I went to look, and this page suggests this is sort of the timeline, condensed to events that matter here:

2063: Cochrane's Warp 1 flight
2069: The colony ship SS Conestoga is launched. It would found the Terra Nova colony.
2126: Mayweather born.
2142: Warp 2 barrier broken by Commander Robinson in NX Alpha and Warp 2.5 achieved by Commander Archer in NX Beta
2145: Warp 3 broken by Commander Duvall in NX Delta
2151: Warp 4.5+ and this episode.

So, it's "less than 20 light years" away, but takes 9 years to get there, which means they were already faster than warp 1 in 2069, but not yet warp 2. Reasonable. 73 years later humans finally hit warp 2, 9 years before ENT.

Mayweather was born on a ship between Draylax and Vega in 2126 - Vega is 25LY away from Earth, so the boomer routes at that time were comfortable running route distances that included Terra Nova's distance to Earth.

I'm smelling a cover up IF NOT CONSPIRACY.
posted by Kyol at 8:16 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


I'd buy that language would go all morlock tout suite.

I bought that part, hence the sentence break. It just annoyed me. :)
posted by mordax at 4:41 PM on September 14


« Older Rel: Pilot...   |  Kidding: Green Means Go... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments