Star Trek: Enterprise: Shadows of P'Jem   Rewatch 
November 12, 2018 2:42 AM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

T'Pol's going away party hits an unexpected snag.

Memory Alpha has some stuff for us here:

Background information
Production
> Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong, both fans of The Original Series, enjoyed writing this episode, seeing it as a chance to "finally write some Andorian battle action."
> This episode had the working title "Untitled Andorians Return". The first draft script of this episode had that title and was submitted on "24". The final draft of the script was issued on 16 January 2002.
> T'Pol actress Jolene Blalock pointed out that this episode's portrayal of Vulcans can be seen as analogous to the Catholic Church. "'Shadows of P'Jem' addressed something that I like to compare to the Catholic Church," she said. "When you take something that […] in all aspects […] represents holy, no matter how holy something can be, when power is mixed into it, things become shady. Everybody is subject to temptation, I guess. Whether it's greed or, you know, seven deadly sins, it doesn't matter. Whatever it may be, whatever their weakness is. The Catholic Church has its own problems […] So, there's a certain darkness that some light was shed on in at the episode." ("NX-01 File 01", ENT Season 1 DVD special features)
> Some mood music helped the filming of the scene in which, while Archer and T'Pol are handcuffed, Archer's face becomes buried intimately close to T'Pol's bosom. "We wrapped for the night," recalled Stunt Coordinator Vince Deadrick, Jr.. "The next morning, we were supposed to start with that sequence, with them on top of each other, back in position. And the sound department put on the song 'Love Shack' really loud over the speakers. It was a great way to break the ice for the morning. Everybody got a big laugh out of it. It was perfect." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 43)
> Jeffrey Combs, Vaughn Armstrong and Gregory Itzin are all Star Trek: Deep Space Nine veterans, as they all played at least two characters on that series. Combs and Armstrong both appeared in that series' penultimate episode, "The Dogs of War". Jeffrey Combs played Weyoun and Brunt, and Vaughn Armstrong played Danar and Seskal.

Continuity
> This episode takes place six months after "Broken Bow", therefore in October 2151.
In this installment's teaser, it is revealed that Captain Gardner was considered the most suitable choice to captain Enterprise by Ambassador Soval. However, Admiral Maxwell Forrest ultimately narrowed down the candidates for the captaincy to Jonathan Archer and A.G. Robinson instead (revealed in "First Flight"), pointing out that the Vulcan High Command was not in charge of Starfleet's personnel assignments.
> The teaser also marks the end of the joint fleet operations between Earth and Vulcan first established in "Broken Bow".
> Shran correctly predicts that the Vulcans are preparing for a war against the Andorians. In the season four Enterprise trilogy "The Forge", "Awakening" and "Kir'Shara", the Vulcans, under Administrator V'Las' orders, indeed launch a preemptive strike invasion of Andoria.
> This episode confirms that T'Pol is not the first Vulcan to serve on a Human starship. Phlox does, however, mention that T'Pol is – up to the date of the episode – the longest-serving one.
> This is, chronologically, the first mention of Coridan and its people. As established in TOS: "Journey to Babel" and TNG: "Sarek", Coridan was (presumably) admitted into the Federation at the Babel Conference in 2268, with Vulcan voting in favor of admission. It was also noted in that same TOS episode that Vulcan had no mining interest on Coridan.
> This episode reveals the fate of a covert spy station that Archer discovers at P'Jem in the earlier first season installment "The Andorian Incident".

Reception
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 4 out of 5 arrowhead insignias and cited a certain scene from this installment as the "best moment" from Enterprise's first season. This was, precisely, the moment when the Andorians and the Vulcan assault team confront one another at gunpoint. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 79)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 365) comments about this outing, "An early follow-up to a successful episode, this is a good story built on good foundations, dealing with exactly the sort of diplomatic hi-jinks and actions with consequences that should be the bread and butter of Enterprise."

Memorable quotes
"They've been in space for six months and they've already destabilized an entire sector."
- Soval, on the crew of Enterprise

"My assignment to the Enterprise was only supposed to last eight days. It was unrealistic to expect it to continue indefinitely."
"The High Command is looking for a scapegoat… someone to blame; they can't punish me, so they're taking it out on my science officer… sounds like an emotional reaction, if you ask me."
- T'Pol and Archer

"My superiors believe that I'm responsible for the destruction of the P'Jem sanctuary."
"Do you agree with their assessment?"
"It's the logical conclusion."
- T'Pol and Phlox

"You realize you're not the first Vulcan officer to be posted aboard a Human starship? The High Command has tried this before, but none of the others lasted more than a few weeks. They found their crew mates too chaotic and unpredictable. But you've been here more than six months, and you haven't merely tolerated this crew, you've become part of it. Isn't it logical to take pride in that accomplishment?"
"Pride is a Human indulgence."
"I suppose it is."
- Phlox and T'Pol

"I just… thought you might enjoy one final mission with your captain. Or maybe I should just take you back to Enterprise."
- Archer, to T'Pol as they descend toward Coridan

"Houdini could get out of this."
"Perhaps you should invite him on your next mission."
"Harry Houdini was a magician, an escape artist. He was famous for being able to free himself from any kind of restraint – rope, chains, anything."
"That seems unlikely."
"That's why he was called a magician."
Archer and T'Pol, as they work to free themselves from their restraints

"I'm curious about your starship, what can you tell me about it?"
"Our protein resequencer can make chicken sandwiches."
- Traeg and Archer

"You might have told us about your little war before you invited us down."
- Tucker, to Chancellor Kalev

"It's clear that living among Humans has caused my reasoning to become compromised."
- T'Pol, to Archer

"Your people took something away from my father that meant a lot to him. They're not going to do the same thing to me."
- Archer, to T'Pol

"It's not Vulcan policy to negotiate with terrorists."
- Captain Sopek

"This is Sopek. Where is Commander Tucker?"
"He's unavailable at the moment, can I take a message?"
"I want to know where that shuttlepod was going."
"What shuttlepod is that?"
"The one that left your launch bay nine minutes ago."
"I really wouldn't know, sir. We get shuttlepods coming and going all the time. It's a little like Union Station around here."
"I want to know where Commander Tucker is…"
"I'm sorry, your transmission's breaking up…"
- Sopek and Sato, just before she intentionally cuts their transmission

"I'm getting real sick of being cut off."
- Tucker, on having his communications disabled twice

"You're awfully trigger-happy for someone who's repressed his emotions."
- Tucker, to Sopek

"Captain, can you hear me?"
"Trip?"
"It's me and Malcolm sir. We're about half a kilometer away."
"Just the two of you?"
"Not exactly. We met up with some old friends down here. Andorians. Apparently, one of them thinks he owes you a favor."
"He couldn't have picked a better time."
- Tucker and Archer, via a transceiver smuggled in by one of the guards

"You should be the one dying, not her."
- Shran, to Sopek

"I know how you must feel. She saved my life once, too. She can be a real… pain in the ass! Stubborn, arrogant. Sometimes she makes me angry enough, I want to shove her out an airlock! I can understand why the High Command's upset, but it took a lot of courage to step in front of that plasma bullet. Do you really want to take her back home in disgrace?"
"Nothing can excuse what she did at the sanctuary."
"I'm not asking anyone to pin a medal on her. All I'm asking is that she be given a second chance."
- Archer and Sopek, discussing T'Pol

"I'd say the odds are pretty good you're going to be with us for a while longer."
"You should have consulted me first."
"It's probably not too late if you want to catch up to him."
"That won't be possible. Leaving sick bay would violate my doctor's orders."
- Archer and T'Pol

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: The current season of Star Trek Online features Discovery content. Jeffrey Combs reprises his role as Shran in a tutorial mission, a member of Starfleet after the founding of the Federation.
* Vulcans Are Superior: As with many earlier stories, Enterprise is going to places already in the Vulcan database.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: None specifically, but I did notice that this was another week where nobody wants to try the transporter even though it was crucial to the resolution of the original plot at P’Jem, and this is a similar scenario.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: I’ll admit it: I laughed out loud when Archer and T’Pol got blown out of the sky.

Poster’s Log:
Several thoughts come to mind.

* Irritated by T’Pol’s treatment on a couple counts.

So the bosom scene was bad. I was also frustrated at the last scene, where they kept her on board without asking her. To their credit, the show itself addresses that, but I still didn't like it. There’s also the long standing Trek tradition of people trying to get an emotional response out of Vulcans that is continued here.

* The ‘Bad Vulcans’ plot thread still isn’t working for me.

While the Vulcans supporting a regime with massive income disparity is unfortunate, the whole ‘side with the recognized government and support the status quo’ thing is a long standing tradition in Trek, and basically inevitable given the Federation’s take on non-interference. So the comparison of the Vulcans to the Catholic Church in Memory Alpha is mostly just weird. I could rattle off any number of examples where the Federation did that later on.

More than that, the notion that Vulcans don’t typically work so closely with other species just raises additional questions about why they’re working with Earth. Did they try this client-state arrangement elsewhere but it fell apart? Is this a new thing to them? It *could* be rich territory for discussion, but I get the distinct impression nobody backstage really thought about this stuff too deeply, and the real answer is just ‘Humans and Vulcans are destined to be best buddies, so they’re working together now too.’

* The Andorians do check out.

I forget who suggested that Andorians should’ve replaced Klingons at every instance in ENT S1, but I’m 100% down with it, and the idea shines through here. While Klingons have been depicted as dumb murderhobos, Andorians are actually getting some layers: they made sure P’Jem had time to evacuate. Shran acknowledges a debt to Archer and goes out of his way to repay it - I liked him returning the scanner from P’Jem, and appreciated him respecting T’Pol. At the same time, Shran isn’t *soft* either. He retains his hard edge, his prior agenda is intact and so on. Also, the Andorians solved their problem with the P’Jem observation post via orbital bombardment.

I… like all this stuff. It tracks, and it’s dramatically interesting. I understand their agenda, they have reasons to either work with or oppose Enterprise depending on the stakes, etc. Credit where it’s due: this is all fun because it makes sense.

* Hooray for continuity.

Finally, it’s nice to see a real plot arc here. As I recall, Enterprise will lean even harder into this later, but it’s good to see here.

* It's That Guy!

I dunno why they even put Jeff Kober in alien makeup, the voice is a dead giveaway every time. :)

Overall, this installment mostly worked for me. I wanted them to lean into continuity on the show, and I wanted some more interesting political situations, and this manages to do at least some of that. Plus, inclusion of Jeffrey Combs is usually worth like a full letter grade to me.
posted by mordax (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mordax just shut down his computer, and asked me to add that in Star Trek Online, the monastery was rebuilt, or they forgot it got blown up-- because you totally go there. :)
posted by Charybdis at 2:49 AM on November 12, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'll add that, while Gregory Itzin doesn't have the sort of face you'd normally think of for casting a Vulcan, his performance is as great as always here.

And while it is a pretty solid episode, IMO it never quite transcended "functional" (which is still above-average for ENT), and the Wacky Bosom Moment almost ruins it. It's arguably as offensive as the chase-around-the-table in "Profit and Lace."

Jeffrey Combs was in my dream last night. I dreamt that he landed some major, prestigious role in an upcoming film—the sort of thing a ton of people would see—and I was all, "Damn, yeah, it's about time."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:58 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


I liked this episode a lot, especially compared to the last one and especially especially compared to "Dear Doctor." A big part of that probably comes down to my generally accepting the Bad Vulcans thread; some of this may come from knowing how it's eventually going to be resolved in the last season, but I think that there have been a few hints at this in DS9, where Vulcans have been shown to have the potential to be serial killers, members of the Maquis, and even xenophobes who carry a grudge so far that they're willing to learn an alien game just so that they can beat a rival captain at it. Whatever the original source of the conflict with the Andorians was (I don't remember if it was ever addressed in this show; I'll be paying close attention in future episodes--I think that the closest that we've gotten so far is "they're pretty violent"), the Vulcans are casting about for allies--not just "adopting" humans as a client race, but allying with the Coridans, who aren't really good with their own people but have superior warp tech. It may be that the Vulcans are already thinking in terms of forming some sort of confederation of their own, but their whole thing right now seems to be very focused on control and everyone else admitting that they're right about everything, hence their insistence that they were right about P'Jem (and even being wounded WRT their sacred monastery being nuked) and being willing to kick the humans to the curb, even though the Andorians already had their suspicions about the place. It's not a very good long-term strategy, which may be why, when the basis of Vulcan society gets challenged in a future season, at least some of them are ready for a change. (T'Pol is being stoic about the whole thing, but she doesn't seem to be too put out about being on the ship longer, and even Sopek is pretty chill about both standing down instead of getting into it with the Andorians and letting T'Pol stay.)

The rest of the episode was pretty tight, with the exception of the boob thing (really, guys? Did Brannon Braga switch minds with a twelve-year-old at some point?). At least Tholos wasn't a creep, the way he was in "The Andorian Incident." The situation on Coridan, where the Andorians are supporting some of the dissidents, but not those guys, is pretty interesting. And, finally, after giving so much grief to T'Pol over the front half of this season, it was nice for Archer to acknowledge that her leaving would be a loss. Also, the "sorry, we're getting a lot of static on our end" thing was justified here.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


And while it is a pretty solid episode, IMO it never quite transcended "functional" ... and the Wacky Bosom Moment almost ruins it.

This is exactly where I'm at. There are a lot of good story beats, and good performances all around, but it ultimately pulls ever possible punch: a hostage situation like before, except this time they don't use transporters to solve the problem; T'Pol's internal struggle over what to do, but the writers don't let her make a choice by keeping her sedated; a clash of captains and civilizations, but a slow-motion leap shortcuts us past to a new problem; a glimpse at how Vulcans work with other civilizations, that could give us insight into how they see humans, but we never really get into what's actually going on on the planet in question.

But it still works! Gregory Itzin and Jeffrey Combs manage to sell it, and Blalock nails T'Pol's very Vulcan internal conflict; the characters carry what the plot doesn't. This is another episode that would benefit from having a more developed sense -- even just behind the scenes, to inform the writing -- of what Starfleet's goals and directives are, what the Vulcan's MO is, and so on; there's a lot of mysteriousness on the Vulcan side that I'm not convinced is anything other than hand-waving and a lot of improvisation by Archer & Co. that doesn't seem to come from anywhere other than what they think is best at the time. That can be great, but having a framework for them to bump up against would help clarify when they are doing what they think is best -- for example, are using transporters in this sort of situation against regulations? Are they actually suggested but the crew doesn't trust them and therefore eschews them?

Likewise, we can project a lot of interesting motivations onto the Vulcans here -- and should, really, because that's fun as heck -- but the show seems disinclined to actually give us much beyond 'Vulcans are sometimes jerks.' Do we actually know that much more about the Vulcan motivations after this ep? That might be going somewhere -- I don't remember much of the later seasons -- but I would love it if they went there now.
posted by cjelli at 8:31 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


One of the things that it's frankly necessary to accept in order to get into ENT at all is that the initial showrunners threw quite a few Hail Mary passes WRT some of the show's basic premises, even if there was never actually a receiver at the other end. I don't think that they had any sort of a real plan for the Temporal Cold War, for example; when we get to the resolution (or "resolution", as you please) of that thread, we can debate whether or not it really wrapped things up, but at this point it seems that they engage with it only very reluctantly. I don't know that they really had a plan WRT the Vulcans being jerks at this point, aside from it being a source of conflict that they could dip into at will.

As far as the transporters thing, it may be a matter of the Coridans simply having a way of blocking them, or even having some sort of dampening effect inadvertently. If the tech is as shaky as they've hinted (such as with the crewman who got merged with leaves in "Strange New World"), they may be reluctant to beam up two people pressed so close together, lest they be Tuvixed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


they may be reluctant to beam up two people pressed so close together, lest they be Tuvixed.

"Oh no, now the Captain is trapped in T'Pol's boobs forever"
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:10 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


As far as the transporters thing, it may be a matter of the Coridans simply having a way of blocking them, or even having some sort of dampening effect inadvertently.

I would be 100% okay with them technoabbling this away; not even taking the time to do that is what bugs me -- even if it was just 'shouldn't we try the transp--' '-- it's not worth the risk!' that would be fine.

It's like how they never, ever seem to check the Vulcan databases when it would be helpful: once you've Ensign Chekhov'd that gun on the wall, it's weird to not at least mention that it exists.
posted by cjelli at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]



It's like how they never, ever seem to check the Vulcan databases when it would be helpful: once you've Ensign Chekhov'd that gun on the wall, it's weird to not at least mention that it exists.


Trek's history includes a lot of episodes where previous solutions to problems somehow never come up again, even in similar circumstances; I believe the true Prime Directive of Trek is that the same solution never works twice. The Vulcan database clearly falls under that rule.

I liked this episode, right up until the bondage fantasy with Archer and T'Pol's boobs. Seriously, can't the writer's room grow up a little?
posted by nubs at 9:23 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


The Andorians are fun. +1 for shran_was_right tag too haha

I did like Archer grunting and writhing for 30 seconds to try to get his food bowl to his mouth before he asks if T'Pol can hold her own bowl and she's just like, "No."

This episode made me realize that Archer has like divorced dad energy. Vulcans are the ex-wife he still hates, T'Pol is his daughter, or maybe his step-daughter who is visiting for a summer.. It's fraught. Faces should not be going into bosoms.
posted by fleacircus at 11:07 AM on October 12


Oh I forgot to mention.. When the guy inside the rebel base opens a hole in the wall, and for a second the shadow of Shran's head is framed on it, with his antennae wriggling -- that was hilarious and brilliant, maybe my favorite little moment of the show so far.
posted by fleacircus at 1:49 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


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