Star Trek: Enterprise: Silent Enemy
October 21, 2018 9:22 PM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Enterprise falls victim to a random encounter.

Memory Alpha indicates the crew liked this one more than I did.

Background information
Production
> The choice to never reveal the motives of the aliens who attack Enterprise herein was, in André Bormanis' words, "a bit of a risk." Bormanis, however, felt that the episode's unexplained depiction of extraterrestrial life was realistic, later commenting, "I think our earliest encounters with alien life forms will leave us utterly baffled." [1]
> The first draft of this episode's script was issued on 2 October 2001. It was revised on 4 (blue revision pages), 8 (pink pages), 9 (yellow pages), 11 (green pages), and 12 October (goldenrod pages). The final draft of the teleplay was submitted on the latter of those dates, 12 October.
> Reed actor Dominic Keating approved of how this outing ponders the specifics of his character's personality. "It's a terrific set-up, really," he commented. "Rather than an episode that puts it all on the table and says, 'OK, here's Malcolm,' this one asks, 'So just who is Malcolm?'" (TV Zone, issue #147, p. 30) The way in which the episode leaves this an unanswered question was also a highlight for Keating. "It's quite subtle because you get to see more of me, but you still don't know much about me," he observed. "We learn that we don't know much about Reed. It's sort of a nice way to begin the Reed experience." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 59) Additionally, Keating described the mess hall sequence in which Ensign Sato tries to determine Reed's favorite food as "a lovely scene." (TV Zone, issue #147, p. 30)
> This is the only episode of the series to have been directed by regular Star Trek director Winrich Kolbe and was the final Star Trek episode directed by him.
> The aliens, referred to by several members of the art department as "Shroomies," were designed by Dan Curry and represented with CGI models built by John Teska. [2](X)
Originally, this episode was to be titled "Call To Arms", [3](X) but was changed before airing when someone realized that there was a Deep Space Nine episode with the same name.

Continuity
> This episode takes place one week before the previous episode, "Cold Front".
> The ship that attacks Enterprise herein is of the same configuration as numerous Kovaalan ships that attack Enterprise in a subspace corridor in the third season outing "E²".
> This episode establishes that Malcolm Reed was born on September 2.
> Mark Latrelle's contention that Reed disliked fish is later disproved by a scene in "Shuttlepod One", in which Reed's first choice of emergency ration is sea bass.
> Despite stating that medical records are confidential, Phlox appears to leave Reed's file on the display when he leaves.

Reception
> Out of all the Star Trek episodes he has written, André Bormanis named this as one of his favorites. He cited the fact that the episode does not clarify the aliens' motivations as his "favorite aspect of the story." [4]
> While working as an executive producer on Enterprise, Brannon Braga found this episode turned out well. In retrospect, he commented, "I thought [it] was kind of a good episode. I really felt the crew facing some unknown thing that was kind of scary." ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 3 out of 5 arrowhead insignias. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 78)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 363) comments about this episode, "When you hear Archer say he doesn't really know Reed, it's almost impossible not to hear the writers sitting around a table saying the same thing. We find out a bit more about the tactical officer in this episode, which is unremarkable but watchable."

Apocrypha
> In the 25th century timeline of Star Trek Online, the aliens return as part of the game's "Legacy of Romulus" expansion pack, and are known as the "Elachi". They act as allies of the revived Romulan Star Empire under the command of Empress Sela and the Tal Shiar. Elachi ships (similar in appearance to the design in "Silent Enemy") participate in attacks on independent Romulan colonies and the fledgling Romulan Republic. During ground-based attacks they deploy large building-sized attack walkers.

Poster’s Log:

* Gah, the pineapple subplot.

Calling someone’s parents before their birthday to try to surprise them? Thoughtful. Okay, weirds me out, but it seems within the bounds of propriety.

Assigning a busy officer - notably a female one - to set up a birthday surprise for someone in lieu of her actual job? Not cool. (I was especially unhappy with the ‘comedic’ misunderstanding where Reed thought Hoshi was hitting on him, although his response to that was good.)

Breaking into someone’s medical records to help plan their surprise party? *Extra* not cool.

I would’ve been pretty pissed if my coworkers did even half this stuff instead of just asking me what I wanted. It's childish at best, and though it pales in comparison to many worse things I've seen on Trek, it chewed up a lot of runtime this episode.

* The Elachi stuff was… eh?

Within the context of this episode, I felt like the action was fine. The Elachi are indeed pretty creepy, and having them communicate strictly via recut incoming messages was a great choice. It felt like the verbal equivalent of a ransom note.

However, knowing they will just never show up again makes this feel like a dropped thread instead of a mystery. (To me, it felt very ‘JJ Abrams mystery box,’ which is never good.) I get what they were going for, but I feel like that requires a story that is more committed to internal consistency - it's okay if I never find out a detail like 'what did they want?' but the authors should know, IMO.

* Ambivalent about the phase cannons.

On the one hand, I appreciated them checking to make sure there was no life at their target location, ‘not even a microbe.’ I don’t buy that their sensors are that good, but I appreciate our heroes being shown to care about environmental impact even out in the middle of nowhere.

On the other, the entire A-plot of this episode was 'we need more guns.' It's not a first for Trek: the Defiant was explicitly designed as a warship. Voyager carried tricobalt weapons for reasons that were always pretty murky. Still... also not exactly what I want outta my Trek. If they needed to do this, I would've preferred it involve the Klingons or Andorians or Nausicaans or... pretty much anything but randos we never meet again.

So… yeah. I guess I don’t have a lot to say here because half the episode is an escalating series of HR violations being played as heartwarming, and the other is a random monster encounter used to justify upping the NX-01's armaments.

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: The Star Trek Online connection was significant enough to make Memory Alpha, which is unusual. I couldn’t tell you how many Elachi I’ve blown up in there. For the record, they are super annoying.

Also, Beam Overload is a staple of certain builds and, as on this episode of ENT, your ability to do it is predicated on having a Bridge Officer with the appropriate ability at a tactical station rather than your ship’s configuration.

Finally, boarding parties are an element in space combat in the MMO - a lot of antagonists use them, which can lock out your own abilities (representing your crew being busy with invaders and unable to do stuff like overload a beam array). Players can use them too, but it’s usually better to just shoot stuff. (That would be a fair tagline for the MMO. Star Trek Online: it’s usually better to just shoot stuff.)

* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans had warp drive before it was cool.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: They didn’t detect the Elachi monitoring device until they were looking at it, (and indeed might never have found it if the Elachi had, say, put a potted plant in front of it or something). I am also amused that Enterprise left spacedock with a bunch of weapons uninstalled and didn’t think to correct that after meeting the Klingons.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: And then some. The Elachi appear to be immune to phase pistols at close quarters, and their ship is much more combat-capable than Enterprise.
posted by mordax (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am also amused that Enterprise left spacedock with a bunch of weapons uninstalled

I'm sure the installation was scheduled for Tuesday.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:37 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Assigning a busy officer - notably a female one - to set up a birthday surprise for someone in lieu of her actual job? Not cool.

Especially, you know, since they've just encountered an apparently hostile and very uncommunicative alien ship. Archer's insistence that a uniquely gifted bridge officer who has her hands full with a new and threatening species do this sort of thing is just bizarre. (I was going to compare Archer to Michael Scott, the bumbling and frequently obnoxious manager from The Office, but Scott would probably have assigned a task like this to whoever the actual receptionist was at the time, if he didn't just try to find out himself, with hilariously bad results.) I think that junior officers in the real military do get tasked with menial and/or problematic duties, but probably not in crisis situations, and if they do, their commanding officers will probably not be in command very long. Plus, of course, the subject of her inquiry is himself quite busy.

And, yes, that A-story has problems as well. It's pretty bizarre that, with all the trouble that they've already run into, they just had these cannons in crates sitting in a cargo hold. I can relate to this somewhat; in my first library job, I was at my first assignment (a branch library in Brooklyn) for some months before finding out that we had a computer workstation, which had arrived there before I did, sitting in a box because no one there knew anything about computers and didn't see the need to learn. That sort of indifference obviously doesn't apply here, though, especially with Malcolm being so keen on weapons of all sorts. It would have been sort of funny if they'd been running around frantically trying to figure out how to deal with these aliens and had a scene something like this:

ARCHER: There must be something that we haven't tried, damnit! Maybe there's something in the cargo hold that we could bargain with...

REED: The only thing in there that we haven't already used or at least opened is a crate that says DO NOT OPEN on the side.

ARCHER: Well, let's see what's in it.

REED: But it says "DO NOT--"

ARCHER: I'm the damn captain! Open it.

REED: All right. Hmm. You know, this looks an awful lot like a phase cannon.

ARCHER: ...

REED: ...I'll get right on it, sir.


Likewise, I think that they could have done something with Reed's birthday, and made it an episode that had the crew on a wild goose chase, maybe even set it up so that they find out that he's been sending encrypted messages to an alien whom they'd met before but not had any formal kind of diplomatic contact with, and they're wondering what he's up to, only to find out that they've been playing chess by email. Or something like that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:18 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Unlike last week, where the "B" plot was better than the "A" plot, this week the "B" plot was bafflingly bad, and the "A" plot frustrating.

The Elachi could have been a cool, interesting antagonist to develop - mysterious, threatening, and so forth. But the problem is solved by the application of better weapons and more force, instead of curiosity and problem solving - which is what I generally like about Trek. It's the early days of space travel, though, so I could kinda live with it if it didn't then also pull out the constant Star Trek trump card of "the crew is magnificent and able to do in days what Spacedock would take weeks" and do it flawlessly. I had a brief moment of being heartened by Tucker telling Reed off for wanting to alter ship systems without following any kind of protocol, only to have that feeling reversed when Archer's little speech inspires Tucker to carry through with the plan. I honestly felt that having Enterprise return home mid-season, to share their learnings and get some ship upgrades, could be a good episode about everyone having a moment to draw some important conclusions about how space travel is, versus all of what their ideas and theories were. You could have Reed and Tucker arguing with Starfleet desk jockeys about how the systems need to be able to do this, that and the other thing because shit gets different out there, while Archer and T'Pol reconcile some policy approaches with the admirals, and everyone else has some time to reflect and consolidate learnings. Anyways, I'm back to my idea of having two parallel series - Enterprise, out exploring, and Starfleet, where the decision makers react and respond to what Enterprise is learning and sending back.

The less said about the "B" plot the better. What an utter waste of Hoshi, who I find to be an interesting character who never gets to do anything. Not wildly happy about the latent sexism in her assignment as well, nor does it seem likely that after how ever many weeks in space in close quarters together, nobody knows anything about Reed. And having Phlox bend ethics around confidentiality left a sour taste for me here too.
posted by nubs at 8:58 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Pineapple?! My Favorite! How did you guys know?" "Oh, just a little violation of medical ethics, no big deal...."

It sorta felt like the Reed/Tucker friction was both not quite fully established or properly resolved. It just sort of popped up with "don't you take risks with my ship!" "if we don't take risks with the ship, there won't be a ship!" "oh well, that's true."

I tried paying attention, but I don't think Reed's dad blinked _at all_ during Archer's call. Creeeepy.

It also doesn't feel like they really examined or explained how or why Reed was and continues to be such an enigma. I mean OK, his starfleet training buddies and shipmates don't remember much about him, but his parents? Did I miss a turn where he was just the black sheep of the family or something, so he just keps his head down and his parents were more interested in his more successful (to them) elder siblings? Arnold J Reed, Ssc, Bsc, indeed.

I wasn't terribly opposed to the "need more guns" a-plot - they've been shown to be outgunned several times previously because they didn't fit their phase cannons before running off to Qo'nos. On the other hand, right, they've been out there for a few months by this point, why only just now? Oh. For the drama. Gotcha. Thanks, writers!

The wife and I have run out of currently airing shows so we're kind of running ahead on Enterprise - I'll need to start keeping notes for the threads.
posted by Kyol at 9:33 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I concur with basically everything you've all said. During the sick bay scene, Mrs. CoB and I exchanged remarks about how Starfleet apparently doesn't have HIPAA. You'd think the Vulcans would, though, what with pon farr being such a huge secret and all. …But maybe it's SO secret that they couldn't even acknowledge the existence of V-HIPAA to the Earth people.

Anyways, I'm back to my idea of having two parallel series - Enterprise, out exploring, and Starfleet, where the decision makers react and respond to what Enterprise is learning and sending back.

There's actually a scene like that coming up soon, and I remember feeling like "Hey, yeah, finally." But I guess it turns out to be relatively isolated occurrence, and definitely not an actual parallel element. (See also Law & Order.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:06 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


General agreement with everyone's sentiments here -- foisting off emotional labor onto Hoshi in service of a weird and confidentiality-violating plan was bad, and doing that when her help was needed to deal with a major crisis was doubly bad; resolving said crisis by technobabbling the hull plates in order to overload cannons was...something that happened.

The alien design -- to center them on being unknowable and weird -- was, conclusion aside, very nicely done though; aliens that you can't talk to, and that won't talk to you, are inherently creepy. That they're a genuine threat is creepier, and having them destroy the relay beacon was a good touch to drive home how far away from home the Enterprise has gone: they're all alone out here. The goofy CGI work on the aliens themselves during the boarding was a suspension-of-disbelief breaking mis-step, and the aliens trolling-by-audio-clip-reply was oddly hilarious.

I don't think that saves this episode, or even just the A plot, but that there is a lot of good in this is why it's so frustrating that it's not better. I didn't really love how Tucker/Malcolm debate over refitting the cannons went -- I agree that it would have been more interesting to have them consider and then discard doing anything absurdly risky -- but it's at least a discussion that draws out, and draws on, their personalities rather than just being jargon. Likewise, Archer's initial reluctant to contact the Vulcans for aid, and his eventual acceptance of the (then-thwarted) idea is very in character. I'm even going to suggest that Phlox's flagrant space-HIPAA violations are also very much in character for him, as we'll see in the future, and could be read more as a character note than as the show itself disregarding the issue. Although, odds are, they did just disregard it.

T'Pol suggesting that they just ask Malcolm what his favorite food is had me agreeing with Vulcan logic. That Malcolm ends up liking the surprise is hardly redeeming.

...

I think that this is the second or third time someone has referred to 'chef' or 'chef's food' or 'chef's cooking' but I think we have yet to actually hear anyone say the chef's name. Am I mis-remembering that?
posted by cjelli at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


At this point, I consider “chef” the hero of the ship.
posted by nubs at 11:41 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]




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