Star Trek: Enterprise: Breaking the Ice
September 23, 2018 7:29 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Reed and Mayweather’s snow day ends in completely predictable disaster.

Memory Alpha has some funny stuff for us from behind the scenes this time.

Background information:

> The final draft script of this episode was issued on 29 August 2001. A revised version of that script was submitted two days later, on 31 August. Although an early version of the script referred to the Vulcan ship depicted herein as being of the "Surak class", the revised final draft referred to the type of ship as "Suurok class". The change was made for reasons which Mike Sussman wasn't privy to. (info from Mike Sussman, Talk:Suurok class#Correct spelling?)
> This is the first episode of Enterprise which did not have Rick Berman or Brannon Braga writing the episode or its story, at least according to the credits of this installment and the previous episodes in the series. However, Braga once referred to the idea of depicting people walking on a comet as an ambitious challenge that came about as a result of him continually trying to push the limits of what the series' creative staff could do. ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> Enterprise staff writer Chris Black was amazed, while planning this episode, by the flexibility of the series' production crew. "That was when I realized they really pull out all the stops for this show," he said. "It just feels sometimes like there's virtually nothing that they can't do! 'Guys!, can you turn Stage 9 into the surface of a comet?' – 'Yeah, when do you want it by?'" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, p. 29)
> Dominic Keating found his work on this outing to be particularly extensive. "I did a whole ten days in that suit, man, on that comet [set]," he stated. Meanwhile dealing with the difficulty of removing the costume he wore to represent an EV suit, Keating experienced some stress due to Anthony Montgomery's energetic and talkative behavior. "There'd just come a point in the day, on that particular episode, when I'd just go, 'Anthony! Shut up, mate!'" Keating laughed, recalling his shouting. "And you could hear, 'Oh, Domi. I'm sorry, man. Sorry, dude.' Hard work, mate, in that EV suit, pretending to be weightless." ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> This is the only episode of Enterprise to be directed by regular Star Trek: Voyager director Terry Windell.
> This episode features the Ti'Mur, the first major Vulcan High Command starship seen in all of Star Trek.
> Koss, who later appeared in "Home", "The Forge" and "Kir'Shara", is first mentioned in this episode.
> This episode effectively begins the T'Pol/Tucker personal relationship, and its title is thus a double entendre. It is the first time Tucker enters T'Pol's quarters and the first time she shares personal information with him. The pecan pie she has in her quarters at the end of the story is also the first time T'Pol is seen to eat unambiguously Human food for her own enjoyment. It is noteworthy that she signals her personal rebellion from Vulcan tradition with one of Tucker's favorite desserts.
> This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.9 and was watched by a total average of 7.36 million viewers. [1]
> This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for its visual effects, but it lost out to Enterprise's pilot episode, "Broken Bow".
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 3 out of 5 arrowhead insignia. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 78)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 361) comments about this installment, "An episode that was probably designed as a showcase for Reed and Travis is hijacked by the far more intriguing T'Pol subplot. The twist that T'Pol isn't plotting against the ship ought to be predictable, but it comes out as something of a relief."

Memorable quotes
"For those of you who aren't near a window, you might want to find one. There's something pretty amazing off starboard."
- Archer, to the crew of Enterprise

"Once he realizes we're not going to blow up the galaxy maybe he'll leave us alone."
- Archer

"Wow! That's one big snowball!"
- Tucker, on Archer's comet

"Perhaps they're simply curious."
"Curious? That doesn't sound very Vulcan to me."
- T'Pol discussing the sudden arrival of the Ti'Mur with Archer

"You're easily impressed."
- Vanik, to Archer

"It might not be good for the body… But it sure is good for the soul."
- Tucker, defending his favorite dessert – pecan pie – to T'Pol

"A POOP question, SIR?!"
- Tucker, answering a question from children on Earth

"I always wanted to chase a comet."
- Archer

"I've only seen snow twice in my life."
- Mayweather

"I hope I never see snow again!"
- Mayweather

"You are Human. You are free to choose."
- T'Pol, trying to convince Archer to ask the Vulcans for help

"If Vanik's the kind of guy who likes to watch… let him."
- Archer

"I feel like I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar!"
- Tucker

"I have more letters in my quarters. Would you like to read those as well?"
- T'Pol

Poster’s Log:
Overall, this is another step toward me enjoying this show. Getting into specific good and bad points:

* So far, this is the most properly Star Trek resolution to occur on ENT.

So Vanik reminds me of nothing so much as Vreenak from DS9’s In the Pale Moonlight. He’s arrogant, condescending and rude, although less pushy that Stephen McHattie’s Romulan character. He’s an unlikable jerk, and he remains so even at the end of the episode. Archer doesn’t like Vulcans generally, and is especially put off by this guy.

T’Pol convinces Archer to set aside his pride and work with Vanik anyway, and Archer listens. That’s an encouraging development both within the confines of this story in particular, and for ENT as a spinoff: Star Trek is supposed to be about learning how to live and work together, to be stronger through diversity. Breaking The Ice hinges on that, and I approve. I especially like that Vanik did not soften at the end, because that would've been way too easy.

* Trip shows some signs of growth.

I haven’t liked Trip much at all so far, but he shows a better attitude here. His approach to hurting T’Pol was mature: he let her know what happened and why, and he did his best to make it right even though he had been following orders. He also backed T’Pol’s play at the end, and supported her privacy as soon as he understood the situation.

That’s another step forward in my enjoyment of the show.

* Reed and Mayweather should not have been building a snowman.

This was less unprofessional than the terrible, no good events of Strange New World, but still bothersome. Like, to give credit where it’s due: they’re abiding by the buddy system at this point, and did eventually mostly do their jobs. However, the snowman was hugely unprofessional, and in full view of third parties.

* The letters from home were adorable.

Really, I felt that was a neat touch.

* The comet looked pretty cool.

I'm consistently pretty impressed with ENT's SFX, and the comet looked pretty neat. The surface wasn't really believable per se, but I could tell how much work they put in on it, and respected that regardless.

So… progress! For me, this is leading to some cautious optimism about the show. (I'm here either way, but all evidence to the contrary, I don't actually want to be complaining about it.)

* Pointless STO Comparison: Man, you mine core samples out of a truly daunting number of comets or asteroids in Star Trek Online. Also, the general design aesthetic of the Vulcan ship in this episode made to cash shop Vulcan vessels in game.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans give no fucks about comets, thankyouverymuch. Also, they have tractor beams, and they’re not sharing.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Another shuttle falling into a hole! I didn’t remember that being a thing on ENT, but now I’m sort of hoping it's like every other week.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: See the above tractor beam.
posted by mordax (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
ARCHER: If I'm not mistaken, you're flying a Surak class ship.
VANIK: You are not mistaken.
[Long pause]
Vulcan smalltalk is amazing.

This is definitely the inflection point in the season for me -- having watched a few episodes ahead -- where everything starts to click and things start going at warp five. The 'twist' that T'Pol isn't betraying the ship didn't quite work (would anyone actually think she would be, here?), and the letters to home segment dragged on a bit, and the Enterprise again dropping out of warp to the crew's surprise to investigate something as planned makes me wonder if they need a new ship's protocol for announcements. But all of that is pretty minor stuff: the main of the show is actually...pretty good!

The encrypted letter subplot felt like something that's been missing until now -- it strengthens our understanding of several characters, it gives T'Pol a life outside the ship and a window into her past, it reframes how Tucker relates to her (and T'Pol to her) instead of being a one-note Human-Vulcan thing. Tucker's apology to T'Pol is terribly believable, and we're clearly into the range of 'episodes written with the character and past episodes in mind' -- it shows.

This is just not a plot that could have quite worked without being able to sell the comet part, and coming even from earlier Treks, the improved range for CGI really shows. I'm still a sucker for these shuttle pod shots - flying off to the comet! So cool! And even if the comet surface is basically Same Caves Again But Lit With Blue Light, it's still a really well done Same Caves Again But Lit With Blue Light.

Speaking of which: the 'shuttle pod falls into a cave system' count is at '2.'

I will defend the snowman scene in that the first few lunar astronauts weren't always entirely serious, and this isn't that much less professional than golf on the moon, and this felt comparable -- they're not under attack, they have a reasonable amount of time to kill, they're already planning to detonate explosives so they're hardly expecting to leave the place pristine. I can see the objection, but in this case I don't feel it; not so much that it is professional, but more in that not even professionals are always professional all of the time -- it felt believably unprofessional and not an idiot-ball type scene. ☃️
posted by cjelli at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


And even if the comet surface is basically Same Caves Again But Lit With Blue Light, it's still a really well done Same Caves Again But Lit With Blue Light.

This is a huge pet peeve with me. It's not that I don't get that shows with a budget have to reuse sets, its that its so often done SO cheaply and SO poorly, its not even like cave system one and cave system two it's oh LOOK its sound stage 12 again! Like, with a little ingenuity and like 100 dollars at the craft store, you can at least make cave system one distinct from cave system two! But this really is where as you say, the CGI really shines. It's the really well done same comet that just sparkles here, even if it's still sort of a classic Star Trek set situation.

Classic Star Trek Set- now with one $ more spent on CGI!

I also really liked the snowman scene, it's very... human. Not sure I love that they made it a snow-vulcan, that seems slightly icky. But also- very human.

I'm just so glad we've gotten to an episode that isn't awful. Or very meh. I'm remembering this series fondly now, and I'm sure there are more turds ahead, but also episodes that don't suck. More of those please!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:09 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


This was another solid episode! Liked Vanik; he was believable as a Vulcan with an important command who didn't give a shit about humans or the comet (that said, a comet full of an exotic material that the Vulcans don't understand yet might spark some interest?). But yes, the fact that Vanik's cool remoteness pissed Archer off, and that they were able to work together anyways, and Vanik didn't change a whit said a lot about the possibilities of the co-operative future: we don't have to like each other, we just have to be able to work together.

Anyways, far more interested in the T'Pol stuff than anything else on the comet, though I'm not sold on the idea of any kind of chemistry with her and Trip (although I know something is coming).

The only thing that struck me as off from a "we don't know what we're doing" perspective was no estimation or understanding of the fact that setting off explosives might actually change what the comet was doing in terms of rotation...but I'm willing to overlook that for the sake of the fact that this episode didn't go the predictable route with the Vulcans or there being something sinister on the comet; it was just an episode about the crew of Enterprise learning how to work through problems, including how to work with people they don't like very much.

And the letters from school children bit was awesome.
posted by nubs at 9:20 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have more to say about this episode, but for now: is anyone else not bugged by the fact that the comet could not possibly have Earth-level gravity? The EVA suits probably have magnetic boots, but quite a bit is made out of the fact that whatever the rare mineral is that they're digging for is way below the surface.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:25 PM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack, yes that bugged me too, but I was willing to cut them a little slack in terms of budget and time pressures to not have the effect of them skipping around in low G.
posted by nubs at 5:05 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


>> Reed and Mayweather should not have been building a snowman.
> not so much that it is professional, but more in that not even professionals are always professional all of the time -- it felt believably unprofessional and not an idiot-ball type scene.


My only real gripe with that scene was that a snowman is a time-consuming way to goof off in what is presented as a situation where they don't have all the time in the world. A snowball fight might have felt more fitting—though it'd further emphasize the gravity problem!

we're clearly into the range of 'episodes written with the character and past episodes in mind' -- it shows.

Well, partly, but (to get back to the snowman a second) we're only a couple of episodes away from a scene with Reed and Mayweather on the bridge that seems to entirely forget that these two characters have joked around before (twice, IIRC: here and in the pilot).

the letters to home segment dragged on a bit

Agreed—they ought to have cut, like, three lines or so from it. But it was good stuff: very plausible given the show's concept. And very Bakula.

is anyone else not bugged by the fact that the comet could not possibly have Earth-level gravity?

It bugs me not so much due to Reed and Mayweather obviously walking like it's 1.0 G, but more because of the shuttlepod-falling-into-the-hole bit. One line of dialogue about the comet having a Superdensetronium Core or something might've been nice. OTOH, it might've been a bit obvious too.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:26 AM on September 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


However, the snowman was hugely unprofessional, and in full view of third parties.

You might be shocked at the sort of snow sculptures the scientists get up to in Antarctica then. Although we had the good sense to aim the PR cameras the other way at least.
posted by traveler_ at 7:38 AM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Aside from the comet gravity thing, I liked this quite a lot. One bit in particular was a big advancement for the show and the particular characters involved: Trip reads the letter (in the middle of engineering, which is not great, but hey), and, realizing immediately that it's strictly a personal, intimate matter, tells Archer that they have to tell T'Pol that confidentiality has been breached, and Archer agrees, and doesn't ask what it's about, and Trip doesn't tell him. A lot of the human-Vulcan conflict in the show so far has had some weird child-parent dynamics with Archer and Trip being all "you're not my real mom" toward T'Pol, and this episode's development seems geared toward putting that relationship on a more mature basis. Even without considering the later developments in the Trip-T'Pol relationship, their subsequent conversation is remarkable, even though they still disagree, they're actually learning about each other's culture. (It also pleases me, as a Trekkie, that T'Pol treats marriage and its surrounding customs as a very private thing, which is right in line with Spock's attitude in "Amok Time." Her willingness to bend if not break those customs is less pronounced than T'Pring's in that same episode, but, as the episode itself and innumerable fanfics in the following decades attest, T'Pring herself is quite exceptional.)

Other things: at first I was put off by Vanik, but eventually his absolute lack of fucks to give about social niceties was funny. Loved the message to the schoolkids; I think that 22nd-century children would absolutely want to know where the poop goes (as have many adult Trekkies, TBH), and Phlox's delight in being given a chance to lecture was spot on and hilarious. And I do like me a piece of pecan pie. Finally, WRT real life comet landings: Rosetta landing on a comet, images from the comet's surface compiled into a GIF (note the name on the Twitter account!), proposed Comet Hopper.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Pecan piiiiiie" - Cpt. Kathryn Janeway
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:58 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think that 22nd-century children would absolutely want to know where the poop goes (as have many adult Trekkies, TBH)

I really felt that was a shout-out to all the Trekkies over the years who have wondered where the bathrooms are on the various versions of Enterprise.
posted by nubs at 11:56 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Gotta say also that Trineer really nailed the poop-question-related exasperation. One of his more likable moments so far.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:19 PM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


You might be shocked at the sort of snow sculptures the scientists get up to in Antarctica then.

I would like to preface this with: I am arguing in the spirit of friendship, and not pique. I assume from that gauntlet we are here to nitpick.

*clears throat theatrically*

I'm no scientist, but I was a dispatcher a good while. I *do* know how to schedule and plan, and I have known many an irresponsible technician in my day. I was very good at the work.

The difference is that Antarctica isn't rotating into a melt zone in a couple hours. The people there are stay for lengthy stints. They have downtime, either because they're off or because whatever they're doing is simply going to have some waiting built in.

This wasn't that. I mean, think about it: the reason they got caught in the melt zone was that they took too long. Yes, there was an accident. However, that's one reason you shouldn't wait until the last possible second to do your job in a dangerous area: you want as much extra time as possible in case something goes wrong. I'm sure everybody in Antarctica takes impending bad weather pretty seriously, because they don't wanna die.

At the end of the day... actually, this is dumber now that ya'll are making me think about it for a few extra minutes:

This is a situation that would be pretty normal in any other Star Trek. TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY all featured pretty careless explorers... but those were all people who grew up with transporters the way you and I grew up with toasters or cars. It makes sense that their baseline assumption - if they were not specifically questioning it - was that 'we can pull someone out of literally any bad spot, let's worry less.' I actually find some of the devil-may-care stuff VOY did to be good characterization for instance, because they were used to emergency beamout from childhood stories. That's their world.

ENT's writers are still viewing stuff that way, but it feels off during S1 here because the characters are also gunshy about the transporter. But that's even worse: Enterprise should've used the transporters here. They should've beamed those two out of harm's way, let the shuttle get iced over and recovered it when it rotated back into the freeze zone with some more blasting and the grappler.

There's no line in the text about the comet preventing that, which would've been the other way to write this. (Or for T'Pol to point out that the Vulcan tractor beam is just safer, or for T'Pol to suggest the Vulcans beam them out before retrieval.)

So this isn't better than I said above, it's actually worse.

... I will address all the stuff that is not snowmen in a bit, speaking of schedules. :)
posted by mordax at 1:20 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, think about it: the reason they got caught in the melt zone was that they took too long

If we're going to nitpick, in the spirit of friendship, let me say: I don't believe this is true, in the sense that the snowman caused any delay. The area they were in was selected because it was near one of the "poles" and was not going to be exposed to the sun. It was the detonation of the explosives that caused the comet to change its rotation and put them in a situation where time was suddenly a factor. The snowman sculpture was created before the explosion; hence, the snowman sculpture had no impact on the mission outcome at all. Was it unprofessional? Yes, but at the time it happened, time was in no way a factor and the way it was shot I took it that Mayweather had some idle time while Reed was figuring out the drill site and the explosive charges, so he did something to alleviate boredom.
posted by nubs at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


On the transporter front, I honestly figured that was how they were going to rescue Mayweather and Reed, along with some tongue clucking from the Vulcans about using such a risky technology.
posted by nubs at 1:36 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


And the more I think about it, the more frustrated I am with the fact that this episode features a comet packed full of some exotic material that even the Vulcans have rarely had a chance to study, and nobody gives a shit about (a) the presence of a large quantity of that material or (b) where the comet formed/came from, such that it has that material. Like, that should be some interesting stuff to tech the tech with!
posted by nubs at 8:33 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


It certainly feels like the writers got too caught up in Hourlong Serial Writerly concerns to realize the significance of the science-related opportunities and (literal) pitfalls that they chose to include for story reasons. Not unusual in the franchise, and IIRC most common in Voyager.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:41 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


If we're going to nitpick, in the spirit of friendship, let me say: I don't believe this is true

I reviewed the logs and concede defeat about the snowman.

And the more I think about it, the more frustrated I am with the fact that this episode features a comet packed full of some exotic material that even the Vulcans have rarely had a chance to study, and nobody gives a shit

Strangely - and I may be giving these guys too much credit - I feel this was legitimate foreshadowing regarding what I'm jokingly calling the Bad Vulcans story arc. Spock would've cared about fancy rocks, and the fact these guys don't feels like a choice to me based on dim recollection of late-era ENT.

No promises though. Could just be them being dumb.

About the other comet nitpick, the gravity:

I was willing to just roll with it even though it is obviously and painfully wrong based on limitations of the medium. They tried their hardest to offer a pretty comet landscape, they couldn't do the whole thing well enough, but I personally went with it based on the obvious labor poured into the project.

I do agree it's all wrong though, and can't say I blame people that it bugged.
posted by mordax at 11:07 AM on September 26, 2018


This is one of my favourite Season 1 episodes but the fiction in science in this one is a little too strong to ignore. It's like a mosquito bite.

How were the children's actual drawings "sent" to them? They certainly didn't look like reproduced prints. Isn't Enterprise supposed to be light years away from any at least Earth vessel to possibly reach them in a timely fashion?

The air supply system of the EV suits screams out someone's tubing will be compromised! I'm always surprised when it doesn't happen.

I get that Trip found the transmission but why isn't Malcolm in charge of the investigation as head of security instead of the chief engineer? We know the answer of course. Star Trek does this all the time. It's character we want in this role in this episode even if it violates the character's established role. I have a feeling they could tell that Trineer was going to be one of the more outstanding actors in the cast already.

Is this the beginning of the "Let's injure Travis" phenomena? It will come to resemble "Let's torture O'Brien" though not to the same degree.

One of the big issues with Enterprise is it's obvious the producers wanted more action, and the more the better. The entire shuttle scene was just ridiculous, particularly strong gravity. Then there's the supposed threat that the ice will freeze over them. Did I miss something here? There was no sign of liquid water anywhere to freeze over. They broke the surface ice big time and that ice fell with them. How would those enormous holes freeze over with no liquid water to freeze? I must be ignorant of something here surely maybe?

Using the unheard of presence of an unheard of substance as the main motivation for much of the events of the episode and then completely ignoring the results was annoying.

Loved the wonder and joy displayed about the comet.

Hoshi was barely in it but once again displays classic Trek competence.

Loved the reach out to the students and the "shitty boots" conversation with Trip.

T'Pol is once again wonderful. Trek can be so annoyingly generalist at times but they use it often clumsily and often well to highlight the outsiders in a society or group. T'Pol, like Spock, is an outsider of at least conservative Vulcan society even though she struggles with it (and if Vulcan society was actually as strict as it's often portrayed there would be lots of struggle I suspect). She's been measuring her desire or love for exploration both of space and different cultures throughout the season and she's beginning to embrace it openly (well relatively openly).

Trip finally matures and like others I like how he owns up to the entire thing and Archer points out how admirable that is. Doing the right thing, even if it's understood, can be very uncomfortable of course but it must be done. This is particularly relevant these days of course.

Vanik. Every time I see him I wonder if Star Trek was a BBC production, would they have Paul Weller on the show as a Vulcan?
posted by juiceCake at 8:16 PM on September 26, 2018


How were the children's actual drawings "sent" to them? They certainly didn't look like reproduced prints. Isn't Enterprise supposed to be light years away from any at least Earth vessel to possibly reach them in a timely fashion?

This bugged me a lot in the moment, too, actually; it didn't feel quite right. But on reflection, they must have printed them -- since there's no other ship to send packages to them that's faster than they are -- and either printing technology has come a long way or someone on set figured it would be better to just use real drawings rather than draw, scan, and then print on 21st century technology that also wouldn't look like a properly reproduced print of the 22nd century.

Maybe it would have been better if they were on a screen? Or a tablet?
posted by cjelli at 8:54 PM on September 26, 2018


This bugged me a lot in the moment, too, actually; it didn't feel quite right. But on reflection, they must have printed them -- since there's no other ship to send packages to them that's faster than they are

Yeah, it threw me off too; but I had also been wondering about the fresh food/vegetables they seemed to have. I'm not sure where they have room for hydroponics on the scale they would appear to need to be regularly churning them out, but at least they made a nod in that direction. So I just decided to assume that they had really good scanning/printing technology, though - why carry paper when you can have a good quality scan on a tablet?

It becomes possible to nitpick this to death, and I'd rather not do that; there are other bigger problems the show has evidenced at times (making Vulcans the villains makes the crew look abusive at times; the crew being more inexperienced than a group of Scouts on their first camp out; etc) that I'm more interested in seeing how they address. The pictures and the subsequent message to the class got us a pretty nice moment with the full cast, and I'll take it.
posted by nubs at 9:52 AM on September 27, 2018


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