Star Trek: Enterprise: Carbon Creek   Rewatch 
February 3, 2019 10:23 PM - Season 2, Episode 2 - Subscribe

T’Pol tells a story.

Someone on Memory Alpha looked up the real origin of Velcro, so we don’t have to:

Background information:
Story, script, cast, and production
> This episode was shot before "Shockwave, Part II", though aired after.
> In reality, Velcro was invented by George de Mestral. This is where the character of Mestral got his name. Also, De Mestral's Velcro patent was granted in 1955, two years before Sputnik and the events depicted in this episode.
> As evidenced by the episode's script, this installment had the working title "Population: 612". The final draft of the teleplay was issued on 18 September 2002.
> Although credited, Dominic Keating (Lt. Malcolm Reed), John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox), Anthony Montgomery (Ensign Travis Mayweather), and Linda Park (Ensign Hoshi Sato) do not appear in this episode. This is the first episode of the series in which Keating, Montgomery, and Park do not appear.
> The Season 2 blooper reel includes an alternate take of the final dinner table scene (after the conclusion of T'Pol's story), which the actors performed as if the characters were inebriated, including Jolene Blalock as T'Pol. The take broke down when Tucker actor Connor Trinneer began laughing.
> In this episode, the television program I Love Lucy is mentioned by one of the Vulcan characters. In reality, Star Trek: The Original Series was a Desilu production, filmed at that studio, which was owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the stars of I Love Lucy a decade before.
> The Twilight Zone is also mentioned by Tucker. During the 2002-2003 season, the revived version The Twilight Zone aired immediately after Enterprise on UPN. Ira Steven Behr was an executive producer of this incarnation of the series.
> Scenes of the town were filmed in Crestline, California.
> When T'Mir and Jack talk outside and T'Mir is shown from the front with Jack shown from the back, the sun is shining. When Jack speaks and the camera shows him from the front and T'Mir from the back, there is no sunshine, indicating the scenes were shot at different times and likely used stand-ins.

> This episode bears some similarities to VOY: "11:59". In both episodes, a main character tells a story to other main characters about an ancestor of theirs on 20th century Earth. In both cases, much of the episode is set on Earth of the past, centered around the main character's ancestor (who is played by the same actress).
> Tucker mentions the statue of Zefram Cochrane, as described in Star Trek: First Contact.
> This episode takes place on the first anniversary of T'Pol's assignment to Enterprise. It is also revealed that the previous record for a Vulcan serving on an Earth starship was ten days.
> This episode has one of the few on-screen depictions of a Vulcan drinking alcohol.
> Mestral is also seen eating a pretzel with his hand, which was noted as a contradiction of statements made by T'Pol in "Broken Bow", regarding Vulcans not touching food with their hands (hereafter, T'Pol herself was seen on occasion breaking the apparent taboo, as well). Taboo aside, Mestral may have simply been trying to act "Human," so as to remain relatively inconspicuous.
> Although it has been established that Vulcans are apparently not supposed to tell lies, Mestral lies to T'Mir about his "date" with Maggie. Also, towards the end of the episode, T'Mir tells the Vulcan rescue team that Mestral died as well and his remains were cremated, when in fact, he had chosen to remain on the planet. However, before the Kir'Shara was discovered (as is depicted in the fourth season outing "Kir'Shara"), it was not against Vulcan culture to lie. Furthermore, some Vulcans were known to engage in deception afterwards, such as Valeris' involvement with the Khitomer conspiracy or Tuvok when infiltrating Chakotay's Maquis crew.
> Mestral's Vulcan claim that the Human game of pool is a simple exercise in geometry echoes what Tuvok says to Tom Paris in VOY: "Jetrel".
> Despite Tucker's shock at the revelation that extraterrestrials had visited Earth more than a century before the official First Contact, extraterrestrials had visited Earth even further back than that. TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?", TOS: "Plato's Stepchildren" and TAS: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" established the respective visits of Apollo's species, the Platonians and Kukulkan's species to Earth in the distant past. Guinan, an El-Aurian, was living in San Francisco in 1893, as established in TNG: "Time's Arrow" and "Time's Arrow, Part II", while ENT: "North Star" and VOY: "The 37's" established that hundreds of Humans were abducted from Earth by the Skagarans in the 1860s and again by the Briori in 1937.
> Archer suggests Mestral could have lived on Earth for 100-150 years. Given that length of time, it's possible he could have lived long enough to see the official First Contact between Humans and Vulcans in 2063.

> This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form".

Memorable quotes
"Every school kid knows that Zefram Cochrane met the Vulcans in Bozeman, Montana on April 5th, 2063. I've been there. There's a statue."
- Tucker, after T'Pol tells him and Archer that First Contact with Vulcans actually happened in Carbon Creek in 1957

"T'Mir was your great-grandmother? I'd be the last person to question your math, but… aren't you missing a few generations? Sputnik was two hundred years ago."
"Don't forget how long Vulcans live."
"Rig-ght… (Tucker turns to face T'Pol) Just how old are you? (he turns to face Archer) It's gotta be in her record…"
"Trip – that's classified information."
- Tucker and Archer, discussing T'Pol's age

"Some type of combat, no doubt."
"I believe it may be an entertainment."
- T'Mir and Mestral, observing a group of Humans listening to a baseball game on the radio

"Yes. The paper appears to have value."
"What can I get you?"
"Do you have anything that doesn't require currency?"
- T'Mir and Mestral, upon first contact with a Human, Maggie

"You folks married?"
"No, we're… business associates."
- Maggie asks T'Mir about her and Mestral

"The game is based on simple geometry. It wouldn't challenge a Vulcan child."
- Mestral, describing the game of pool after observing it

"Two Vulcans stroll into a bar, hustle a few games of pool and walk out with an armload of TV dinners. Sounds like an old episode of The Twilight Zone!"
- Tucker

"I'd hate to see Humanity destroy itself."
"That makes two of us."
- Mestral and Maggie, after watching the testing of nuclear weapons in White Sands, New Mexico on TV

"Oh, God."
"Please, I – I was simply surprised. It was – very pleasant."
"Wasn't than an appropriate response?"
"Well, it's been a while since I kissed a man but still I was hoping it'd be a little bit more than "pleasant"."
"I did say very pleasant."
- Maggie and Mestral, after she impulsively kisses him

"You sit for hours each day in front of this idiotic device…"
"I'm doing research."
- T'Mir and Mestral, on TV

"I need to go now. I Love Lucy is on tonight. "
- Mestral

"It's unfortunate that you'll be leaving these people without experiencing one thing they have to offer."
"Such as? Alcohol? Frozen fishsticks? The constant threat of nuclear annihilation?"
- Mestral and Stron

"Do you realize you've just rewritten our history books?!"
"A footnote, at best."
"Footnote!? This is like discovering that Neil Armstrong wasn't the first man to walk on the moon!"
"Perhaps he wasn't." (Tucker groans.)
- Tucker and T'Pol, regarding the importance of the story

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Unfortunately, nothing like Carbon Creek ever happens in Star Trek Online. The game doesn’t have any modern day art assets to speak of.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcan advancements over humanity during the 1950s included FTL travel, particle beam weapons and Velcro.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: None on Enterprise.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Also none this time.

Poster’s Log:
I guess I have two major and one small thoughts about this episode.

* On a smaller note, it’s entirely possible this incident was right in the Vulcan database.

We know nobody reads that thing until the last possible minute.

* This was good.

This had humor and heart. A lot of the little touches worked for me too: T’Mir putting her dress on backwards at first, Stron getting compared to Moe, Mestral’s reaction to the kiss... really, the whole thing clicked. I also really liked that T’Pol was given the Spock-like role of tweaking the humans without losing her impassive Vulcan cool.

* The talk about non-interference is flawed, but better than most of these.

So we got more of the generic ‘we cannot contaminate this lesser culture’ stuff, which we’ve already talked about and talked about in various threads, officially putting more thought into it as a group than the franchise ever has. On the up side, Mestral’s side of the argument does win, both in the mineshaft and with T’Mir helping the kid go to college via considerably more overt interference. I would’ve liked a deeper discussion of the value of keeping people in the dark or not, but I will content myself with compassion winning without too much fuss.

Last week, Jack mentioned Carbon Creek was one of his favorites previously. That’s where I’m at with the episode now: this was my favorite episode of the rewatch thus far.
posted by mordax (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This was the first episode of the whole series that really made me quiet so I could watch expectantly. Like we had a couple of episodes last season where I was like: this is Star Trek! But this episode was the first one in the whole series that made me think Enterprise could be really good- and the first season was just your typical Star Trek first season curse. I was wrong of course, so wrong. But this is still one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, and today it just makes me a little sad, because... of the promise this show had, that it all but squandered.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:43 PM on February 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

My feelings resemble Homo neanderthalensis's very closely. I also think it's an interesting episode in the context of Discovery having some human/vulcan culture discussions right now. I look forward to seeing everyone's thoughts after work!
posted by neonrev at 6:15 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is a lot better than "11:59," though I can't immediately pinpoint why. I guess the Roswell/First Contact factor is a large part of it; it makes the stakes higher. Probably also the fact that it involved more engaging core conflicts (differing cultural values of Vulcans and old-timey Humans + risk of being discovered) than "11:59"'s (overcoming curmudgeonliness? fighting city hall?).

Moreover, as was pointed out in our "11:59" discussion, it's not a Star Trek story; this one definitely is. In fact, it sort of relies on the previous stuff about Vulcan-Human interaction to work; I wonder if a newcomer to the franchise would've been bored by it.

On a smaller note, it’s entirely possible this incident was right in the Vulcan database. We know nobody reads that thing until the last possible minute.

Heh, if then, even. But I liked T'Pol's coy evasion w/r/t whether it was fiction or not.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:43 AM on February 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I still liked it, and it's probably still going to be one of my favorite, if not my favorite, episodes of this season. (It was slightly unsettling to look at the S2 season list and realize how few of them I remembered; I watched through the end of S2 at the time of original broadcast, giving up at the end of the season (due mostly to personal drama), but I think that I'd mentally checked out of the series well before that.) It's very familiar turf, especially for Trek; simply contemplate the number of times that Spock had to cover up those points, and add in Tuvok's head-covering from the "Future's End" two-parter in VOY. (Plus innumerable plots in which aliens visit Earth and blend in to a greater or lesser degree.) They could have gone different ways with this; one thought that I had is that, if they wanted to tie this in to the "these primitive humans are on the verge of blowing themselves up" thing, they could have set it near Oak Ridge, Tennessee and still retained the mountain town character, substituting some sort of reactor accident for the mine collapse. But I liked it just fine as it was; I was reflecting on how generally accepting the townfolk were of their visitors' eccentricities, and remembered the Blue Fugates of Kentucky--having a few people show up with faintly green-tinged skin and a tendency to cover their ears in public were probably not the strangest folk that some of them had met.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

P.S. A couple of notes about the guest stars: we've seen J. Paul Boehmer in a few different Trek roles before, and he'll repeat his Nazi officer from VOY's "The Killing Game" in a later-season ENT episode. And Ann Cusack, who played Maggie, has been in quite a few things, and is the sister of John and Joan Cusack.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:10 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was reflecting on how generally accepting the townfolk were of their visitors' eccentricities, and remembered the Blue Fugates of Kentucky--having a few people show up with faintly green-tinged skin and a tendency to cover their ears in public were probably not the strangest folk that some of them had met.

Stuff like this is why I like discussing pop culture here and basically nowhere else - that's some great background info.

Moreover, as was pointed out in our "11:59" discussion, it's not a Star Trek story; this one definitely is.

That was basically it for me. I liked 11:59, (probably more than it deserved), and felt it was pertinent enough to link to, but... yeah, what you said here: this was Star Trek, 11:59 was merely adjacent.

If I had one very minor quibble, it was with the velcro bit -- I was convinced that T'Pol was going to go back to the ship and scan for stuff to mine and sell that information, or scrap the ship and sell off its precious metals or something similar ('we're not going to need these synthetic diamonds if we're leaving, right?'), since that would avoid directly interfering with the technological path of earth and also loop thematically back to the mining in the episode.

I'm actually going to defend Enterprise for a moment, which is a weird sensation:

T'Mir directly interfering is more thematically appropriate than selling unidentifiable ship components. The point of the story (IMO) is that Mestral wins the debate: humans are worth knowing. By intervening in history in a subtle but meaningful way, T'Mir is conceding this broader point about our species, rather than just helping one specific individual. (This is pertinent to some recent discussions about Discovery, but beyond the scope of this thread - I can take that over to Fanfare Talk if anybody's curious.)

I am dubious about whether this occurred to the people writing the story, but it feels very appropriate to me given her later choice to lie for Mestral - it shows that T'Mir is all-in, even though she isn't interested in staying herself.
posted by mordax at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Every school kid knows that Zefram Cochrane met the Vulcans in Bozeman, Montana on April 5th, 2063. I've been there. There's a statue."

I remember the original timeline, where Zefram Cochrane was from Alpha Centauri. *

* Goldstein, S., Goldstein, F. P., & Sternbach, R. (1980). Star trek spaceflight chronology. New York: Pocket Books.
posted by mikelieman at 5:38 AM on February 5, 2019

MA sez:
In [TOS] "Metamorphosis", Cochrane is described by Kirk as "Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri" and Dr. McCoy explicitly states that Cochrane is Human. In the film Star Trek: First Contact, Cochrane has clearly never left Earth. This was further validated in "Shuttlepod One", which clearly affirms that Cochrane's life originated in Montana. Furthermore, the final draft script of ENT: "Desert Crossing" implied he was Human.

I always figured it made perfect sense for Cochrane to get so irritated by his fame on Earth that he later elected to move to Alpha Centauri, maybe even become a citizen "of Alpha Centauri."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:42 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

mikelieman, even though I wouldn't cite that book as it included a lot of non-canon speculative material that has since been superseded by canon, I'm still tickled, as I remember poring over that book back in the day, and didn't remember that Rick Sternbach worked on it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:04 AM on February 5, 2019

This was good Trek. Giving the audience an alien perspective on humanity is always good; having three different Vulcans develop different opinions about us is great: we go from Mestral's embrace of humanity to T'Mir's more measured caution in which she relates with individuals rather than the whole (and her comment to Mestral about how quickly the empathy and acceptance of humans might run out if they were dealing with aliens (someone other/different) feels very on point in 2019), to Stron's disgust with everything. It digs into the question of non-interference in an interesting way - that standing by and letting something bad unfold when you have the ability to stop it is different than exposing a species to ideas and technology that they might not be ready for. It's a nice counterpoint to "Dear Doctor".

I'm left musing about why "first contact" stories where aliens come among us as observers are so potent, and I guess it's because it is a really direct way of doing what science fiction does - hold a mirror up to ourselves. This was really well executed, and having T'Pol emphasize that it is a "story" just makes it fascinating, and I would happily watch a series of Mestral wandering the Earth, learning all he can, and leaving behind a database for the Vulcans about humans...that would have been a fantastic touch, actually.

Anyways, this is the third different story about first contact with the Vulcans that I've been exposed to - the first being Strangers From the Sky.
posted by nubs at 8:58 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is a good episode! It's well-written and paced and feels complete.

The two Vulcan dudes had good personalities and it was nice to see basically-T'Pol interacting with some bridge crew without constant angry posturing from Archer and/or Tucker. And I love her as inscrutible Spock-like trickster in the dinner scene.
posted by fleacircus at 10:43 PM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

My minor contribution is to note that at least one of the $50 bills T'Mir put in the tip jar at the bar & grill has the big "50" on the back, a feature for low-vision users that had been a part of US currency for only a few years before production of the episode.
posted by channaher at 6:41 PM on January 20, 2023

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