Star Trek: Enterprise: Minefield
February 11, 2019 8:37 AM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Reed gives Archer some long overdue feedback about ship protocol.

Memory Alpha feels a little thin here.

Background information
Script, sets, and props
> The final draft of this script was submitted on 18 July 2002.
> The Romulan mine prop was later reused as the reactor of the Xindi weapon in ENT: "Countdown".
> Parts of Enterprise's hull had to be specially built for this episode but were discarded hereafter. "We had to throw the pieces away," reflected Production Designer Herman Zimmerman, "we just didn't have any room to store them, they were so large!" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 151, p. 59)

Continuity
> During breakfast, Archer mentions that England has made it to the final round of the World Cup, revealing that the World Cup (unlike the World Series) has survived into the mid-22nd century.
> Consistent with the differing customs of their respective homelands, the World Cup's sport is referred to as "soccer" by the American Archer and "football" by the British Reed.
> This episode represents the first appearance of a Romulan ship on the series, and the first chronological contact in all the series.
> This episode takes place two episodes after Captain Archer learns the name of the Romulan Star Empire ("Shockwave, Part II"); he apparently did not tell his crew about it, as Ensign Sato mispronounces the word "Romalan."
> In keeping with continuity established in Star Trek: The Original Series, the Romulans in this episode are only heard and not seen. Romulans are seen visually for the first time by Humans (and Vulcans) in TOS: "Balance of Terror".
> Although new, lighter-blue-colored Starfleet jumpsuits were produced for the second season, they were not seen until this episode. At first worn by only the regular cast members, the new uniform color eventually became more widely used as the season continued.
> This episode features Romulan cloaking technology, while "Balance of Terror" depicts cloaking as a fairly new technology that the Romulans are experimenting with. An explanation is given for this inconsistency in the non-canon novel The Good That Men Do. The novel explains that the ships seen cloaking in this episode were two prototype Birds-of-Prey which were being tested at the time. The Romulans had previously experimented with cloaking technology, but had only been able to apply it to their mines and not to their ships due to the huge amount of power needed. These ships were an attempt to deal with this problem. According to the novel, the prototype Birds-of-Prey were ultimately unsuccessful, as the power needed put too much strain on the ships, and one of them was destroyed in an antimatter containment failure caused by its stealth systems. It would then be decades before the Romulans would successfully solve the problem.
> EV suits aboard Enterprise NX-01 are shown to be self-sealing in the event of a leak. Curiously, the suits aboard the USS Enterprise-E, more than two centuries later, in Star Trek: First Contact apparently did not have this feature.

Memorable quotes
"This isn't a visit to the principal's office, Malcolm."
- Archer, trying to calm Reed at the captain's breakfast time

"They missed our starboard nacelle by less than twenty meters."
"Not a very subtle warning shot!"
- Mayweather and Archer, when the Romulan vessel begins firing at Enterprise

"If you plan to go to warp, sir, you'll let me know?"
"I'll try to remember."
- Reed to Archer, while in space on Enterprise's hull

"You'll have to wait in line for my osmotic eel to cauterize your wound. He's getting quite a workout today!"
- Phlox, to an injured Enterprise crewman

"Thought you might need a hand."
"Actually, I'd prefer a leg."
- Archer, tending to Reed after his leg was impaled by magnetic spikes on the mine

"Please sir, may I have some more?"
- Reed, mimicking Oliver Twist after having been injected with an analgesic

"So you were saying at breakfast that you didn't follow any particular sports?"
"Well I haven't started following any since breakfast, sir."
- Archer and Reed, disarming the mine

"Frankly, sir from my point of view that kind of socializing has no place on a starship."
"I had a C.O. once, felt the same way. 'They're your crew, not your friends.' I thought about that a lot… when I took this command but then I realized this is not a typical mission. We could be out here for years. All we have to depend on… is each other."
- Reed and Archer

"They say they've annexed this planet in the name of something called the… 'Romalan Star Empire'?."
"Romulan. It's pronounced 'Romulan'."
- Sato and T'Pol

"Polarize the hull plating."
"I'll do what I can but keep in mind we're missing some of it."
- T'Pol and Tucker

"So how long was it?"
"I counted 10 seconds."
"10?! It was more like 20."
"Respectfully, sir, it was 10."
"I'm not going to argue with you, Malcolm… It was 20… That's an order."
- Archer and Reed

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: I mostly play Romulans in Star Trek Online, (I joined shortly before they were a playable race and was delighted when they were the new expansion), and have spent more time in variants of the ships pictured in this episode than any other other style of ship in that game. Cloaked mines are also a classic NPC Romulan tactic in the MMO. About the only thing that didn’t ring true here were warning shots. (Their weapons are also not usually tricobalt in the MMO - that’s more of a Vaadwaur thing for whatever reason.)
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol has a pretty good reason to know who the Romulans are, and to play coy about who they are. For once, this stuff is probably not included in the database on Enterprise.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Averted, but see below.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Either warbird should have more firepower than the NX-01, and both can cloak.

Poster’s Log:
So I have a lot of notes about this one:

* If only there was some way to move people in Star Trek without crossing the intervening space.

I get why they couldn’t beam the mine away from the ship. It’s very possible transport would’ve detonated the weapon and crippled the ship. However, I *don’t* get why the stunt at the end was necessary: beaming Reed and Archer away from the floating piece of hull should’ve been just fine. If the writers wanted to skip that, all they had to do was say, ‘man, it sucks that the transporter was damaged in the blast, and will take 72 hours to fix’ or something.

* So, you can take a leak in a modern EV suit.

It’s funny, but the second most frustrating thing about this story was Reed needing a bathroom, as this is a solved problem in modern times, nevermind future ones.

* Again with the early first contact.

Enterprise could’ve spent more time on actual neighbors like the Andorians or Tellarites or the like, but once again hits franchise favorites that shouldn’t be encountered until TOS. The Romulans shouldn’t be annexing territory here right now, and so on. On a broader note, it just reaffirms that making a prequel wasn't a great idea to start with: it's clear nobody was ready for or interested in telling stories about the stuff in Earth's backyard for very long with the way they keep doing this.

* This is a better Reed/Archer vehicle than some stupid subplot about pineapple.

Taken completely out of context - removing the bad plot elements, the unexplained lack of a transporter and so on - the story at least worked on an emotional level for me. Archer has one school of thought about ship protocol, Reed has another, and they bond anyway through adversity. That much went all right, especially Reed attempting to sacrifice himself for the ship and Archer refusing to let him. This was a much more believable way to learn more about Reed than the idiotic ‘what’s his favorite food’ mystery. It was also refreshing that they managed to do this without a couple of men being gross about women. That's a little progress, anyway.

Overall, it’s a frustrating entry that didn’t really need to be that way. There was plenty to salvage.
posted by mordax (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The element of making it the Romulans was pretty nonsensical. They are, probably, some distance from the Romulan Star Empire, and the assumption is that the Romulans found this planet that's probably suitable for colonization, put a cloaked mine field around it, and then apparently didn't put any sort of marker buoys out there to warn people off, just assuming that other species would run into it and have their ships destroyed, and that that would eliminate any problems, I guess? Which is all kinds of dumb, because, among other reasons, Starfleet or the Vulcans or someone else could come along, use the special scanners that they used on the Suliban to locate some mines, then use robotic telepresence rigs to tinker with them until they can be fully disarmed and their cloak circuits isolated. So much for the Romulans' main strategic advantage. (I like the retcon above as to why the Romulans haven't apparently gotten a decent cloak until the 23rd century, despite what we see here. One of the advantages of the Federation is that it incorporates the scientific and technological insights of many different civilizations instead of one totalitarian monoculture; quite likely, if not by the time of the Earth-Romulan War, then by the 23rd century, the Federation probably would have had a working cloak on its ships by the time of Discovery, and quite a few things would have ended up very differently.) None of the local powers that we've seen are hegemonic enough to try to defy an openly-minefield-protected planet; we know that the Romulans are paranoid, but they're not stupid.

Aside from that, it's a good enough and decently suspenseful story, and, as mordax says, pretty fixable. I'll spot them not using the transporter, as in general it seems that they simply don't trust the device enough right now, and especially with a bomb of unknown manufacture and sophistication in close proximity, they might have feared that using the transporter would cause it to detonate immediately. The quote from Oliver Twist was funny, and I liked the beads of sweat on Travis' forehead as he's navigating through the mine field. As with "Shockwave", this was an effective demonstration of the crew all pitching in on an emergency. One thing that I initially puzzled over, but decided to No-Prize away, was that neither T'Pol nor Hoshi seem to recognize any element of the Romulan language being related to Vulcan; I decided that the Romulans had probably adopted an ancient Vulcan language that was not related to the Vulcan lingua franca, something like Korean, which isn't related to any other language (and is by far the most commonly-spoken language isolate today).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:19 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Enterprise could’ve spent more time on actual neighbors like the Andorians or Tellarites or the like, but once again hits franchise favorites that shouldn’t be encountered until TOS.

Yes, exactly - Enterprise should be using it's time to build up something new; having a chance to take one of the races that has been largely background in previous series and turn it into a fan favorite. Instead, they give us an episode like this, where they have to carefully maneuver around the fact that the Romulans won't be seen physically until the next chronological series. So what does having the Romulans in here gain? They are just a vague, faceless threat - instead of having a chance to build a friend or a villain, we get vagueness. I guess it's apparent at this point that the powers-that-be didn't trust Enterprise enough to go out and find it's own voice, because they keep making callbacks to other Trek, as opposed to using this time to fill in corners that haven't been explored yet.

I could handwave away the transporter not being used, but the bit about not being able to go to the bathroom in the suit was surprising and made me laugh.

All that said, I did like Archer & Reed getting some time together - it was nice to understand a bit more around why Reed is a bit of a standoffish fellow, and to see their philosophical differences on leadership and questions around how to approach it. It just feels like with a bit more polish and a bit of thought, this could have been a great episode that expanded not only our knowledge of the crew, but also of the ST universe at this moment in time.
posted by nubs at 11:37 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


It's a good character episode, which is nice, but yeah- why the Romulans? There's a lot in this series that just makes no sense and the addition of races and planets that just shouldn't be involved in a prequel is very much part of it. Of course we'll see Romulans later in the series (or well, *we'll* see them, the characters in the series won't *eyeroll*) and it makes... about as much sense as this does.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:12 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The next episode is really good though.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:13 PM on February 11


he assumption is that the Romulans found this planet that's probably suitable for colonization, put a cloaked mine field around it, and then apparently didn't put any sort of marker buoys out there to warn people off, just assuming that other species would run into it and have their ships destroyed, and that that would eliminate any problems, I guess?

...and then
just fired warning shots rather than attempting to actually destroy Enterprise, despite a security setup nominally geared entirely towards destroying explorers rather than simply warning them away.

It felt like they kind of handwaved Archer being the person to go EVA to help Reed, too: it's necessary for the character's narrative, sure, but isn't there some non-captain person who could assist Reed with this? (Star Trek having a grand history of sending Kirk, etc, down to a planet for no good reason other than him being one of the stars of the show, I don't really mind, but it did feel weird). It got them a nice character episode, so: worth it!

I too felt the same weirdness about avoiding the transporter, and at this point I think they would have been better off simply not having one on board -- it would have fit with the prequel idea, and it would avoid this weird tension of 'we can use it, but only when really necessary because it's dangerous; apparently more dangerous than two humans standing next to an exploding mine.' I assume that this was never an option for the writers, and that there was an executive way back in S1E1 insisting that 'Star Trek means transporters!' but the show tends to be better when it isn't writing around their absence.

Although new, lighter-blue-colored Starfleet jumpsuits were produced for the second season, they were not seen until this episode. At first worn by only the regular cast members, the new uniform color eventually became more widely used as the season continued.

Not just new colors, but way more zippers and pockets, I think? They look a lot more useful than the old ones did.
posted by cjelli at 12:57 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Props to the props folks: I found the mine, and the defusing thereof, believable.

And the writers managed to take what continually threatened to be a tedious premise and prevent it from actually crossing over into tedium. A notable victory in that regard.

But maybe I've been watching too much DISCO (I'm finally caught up as of last night!), but I kept thinking, "Just cut homeboy's leg off! It's the future, you got badass bionics! And he'd probably LOVE to have an Admiral Nelson-style injury."

And while I concur with the general sentiment that they could easily have gone with a species other than Romulans, IIRC it doesn't strictly violate continuity for them to appear (via audio) here. Whether it strains continuity-plausibility is another matter (I'd argue yes, for reasons you've all mentioned already).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:29 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


It felt like they kind of handwaved Archer being the person to go EVA to help Reed, too: it's necessary for the character's narrative, sure, but isn't there some non-captain person who could assist Reed with this?

At this point I just assume the crew was randomly generated using the old Traveller rpg system, and nobody besides Archer and Reed rolled Vacc-Suit as a skill.

I too felt the same weirdness about avoiding the transporter, and at this point I think they would have been better off simply not having one on board

Traveller explains that as well. Nobody has Transporter skill (hell, you can't even find it on the skill tables), and all veteran Travellerr players know better to try something that hazardous unskilled. It doesnt help that whenever a player suggests it, the Referee lovingly pulls out his homemade "Critical Transporter Malfunctions" table.
posted by happyroach at 1:31 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


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