Star Trek: Enterprise: First Flight   Rewatch 
July 8, 2019 11:05 AM - Season 2, Episode 24 - Subscribe

Captain Archer tells T'Pol about the early days of the NX program.

Memory Alpha’s take:

Background information
> The NX-Beta itself and its launch process on rails are both similar to the 1962-1963 British science fiction themed children's television show Fireball XL5 spacecraft and its launch process.
The flashbacks of this episode serve as a prelude to the first episode of the series, ENT: "Broken Bow".
> The security guards that attempt to arrest Trip are armed with phase pistols not introduced until 2151 during the events of Broken Bow.
> Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), and Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) do not appear in this episode. Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) appears in only one scene and has one line.
> Trip Tucker refers to Captain Jefferies, an engineer who worked on the NX Program in the 2140s who later helped design the NX-class. This name is an allusion to Matt Jefferies who was the art director of Star Trek: The Original Series and designed the Enterprise, the D7-class Klingon battle cruiser, and many other ships. The Jefferies tubes are also named after him. He died on July 21, 2003, two months after this episode first aired.
> A.G. Robinson's final line, "I'll see you out there", is reminiscent of Q's final line to Captain Picard in "All Good Things...".
> In the 602 Club there are paintings and patches of many of the spacecraft mentioned on Star Trek, including the DY-100-class, the Phoenix, the NX-Alpha, and the USS Enterprise (XCV 330). An assignment patch of the Earth-Saturn probe, featuring Christopher, and added astronauts O'Herlihy and Fontana, named after Michael O'Herlihy and D.C. Fontana, the director and writer, respectively, of "Tomorrow is Yesterday", the episode where it was mentioned. Michael Okuda later sent a copy of the patch to Fontana, which she reportedly appreciated greatly (O'Herlihy died in 1997).
> Also in the bar is the Rings game from VOY: "Fair Haven".
> In the bar, Captain Archer speaks with Ruby, whom both Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed once dated (mentioned in "Shuttlepod One").
> Vaughn Armstrong, Michael Canavan, and Victor Bevine all guest-starred in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Armstrong played Danar in "Past Prologue" and Seskal in "When It Rains..." and "The Dogs of War". Canavan played Tamal in "Defiant" and Bevine played Belar in "Things Past". LeVar Burton directed Bevine in the latter episode and this one.
> This episode marks the first appearance of a commodore in Star Trek since the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Counter-Clock Incident". The only other mentions have been Commodore Probert in radio chatter in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a brief appearance in the council chambers in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and a dubious mention in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Enemy".
> The search for the first dark matter nebula would seem to be redundant as Archer mentions in the episode "Breaking the Ice" that he had previously "made a run" to a dark matter nebula to set up a graviton telescope.
> The NX hangar exterior was previously seen in the sci-fi series Seven Days as the "Never Never Land" facility.
> The desk lamp seen while Robinson is emptying his locker was previously used during the Starfleet Praxis briefing at the beginning of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in TNG: "The First Duty", on an alien ship in VOY: "Gravity", in Travis Mayweather's quarters on board the ECS Horizon, and once again on board the Enterprise in ENT: "Babel One".
> During the flashback, Tucker reveals the reason behind his nickname to Archer. As he is Charles Tucker III, his nickname is short for "triple."
> The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Enterprise.
> Star Trek Beyond establishes the first warp 4 ship of United Earth Starfleet was the USS Franklin NX-326 (under it's original designation), constructed after the NX program ended but before the keel of the Enterprise NX-01 was laid out.
> The patches on the wall behind the bar of the 602 Club are the following, starting at the top and going from left to right:
- Apollo 9, the first manned flight of the Apollo program LM
- Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission after the Apollo 1 fire, a test flight of the Command and Service Module
- Apollo 12, the second landing on the moon, and the first precision landing
- Apollo 14, third landing on the moon (a shot of mission commander Alan Shepard donning his spacesuit for this mission can been seen in the show's title sequence)
- the logo of the Canadian Space Agency
- Space Shuttle mission STS-54
- Space Shuttle mission STS-52
- Skylab 2
- Apollo 11, the first lunar landing
- Apollo 15, the fourth lunar landing, first to use a lunar rover, and the only all US Air Force crew
- Space Shuttle mission STS-26
- Apollo 13, which did not land on the moon due to an explosion en route
- Apollo 16, the penultimate lunar landing of the Apollo Project
- Apollo 17, the final lunar landing
- the logo of the Ariane ESA mission
- Space Shuttle mission STS-36
- logo of NASA Mission Operations
- Space Shuttle mission STS-49
> Archer's claim to Ruby that "nobody remembers" Aldrin's words when stepping onto the Moon is notably false, but was presumably left in the scene for dramatic effect.
> In the Teaser, the opening flyby reveals that the damage to Enterprise’s dorsal saucer section at the end of "Regeneration" has been repaired. However, there is no captain’s starlog or character dialogue to explain how or where this was done.

Memorable quotes
"All the close calls he had flying warp trials and he gets himself killed climbing Mount McKinley."
- Archer on A.G. Robinson's death

"There were just a few of us; Gardner, Duvall, A.G., and me. We all wanted the first flight."
- Archer reminiscing to T'Pol about the NX test program

"You remember what Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped onto the moon?"
"Nobody does. Because Armstrong went first."
- Archer and Ruby

"You mean that?"
"Of course not. I'm waiting for Forrest to realize what a horrible mistake he made."
- Robinson and Archer

"When the first warp five starship is built, its captain won't be able to call home every time he needs to make a decision. He won't be able to turn to the Vulcans. Unless he decides to take one with him."
- A.G. Robinson, to Archer

"Don't worry, you'll get out there some day. If I had my own ship, I'd sign you up in a second."
"I'm going to hold you to that!"
- Archer and Tucker

"We didn't build this engine to make test runs around Jupiter. We built it to explore! If my father were alive today, he'd be standing here asking: 'What the hell are we waiting for?' "
- Archer, to Commodore Forrest

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Spatial charges are available as a special attack via loot boxes.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans are shown with a vast amount of political clout on Earth.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: The first few charges fail.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Just the usual Vulcan technological superiority.

Poster’s Log:
I... like this one?

As with some other episodes I felt were winners, I like this one for two reasons:

1) I buy the emotional reality of the situation well enough, including Robinson and Archer not always seeing eye-to-eye. Their difficult friendship rang true.
2) It’s a peek into bigger Starfleet history, beyond the NX-01.

For me, this puts it in company with outings like Fortunate Son, and is a window to a version of this show I do enjoy. Indeed, I would’ve appreciated a Star Trek show with bigger scope than just one crew, if we needed to do a prequel here - seeing more big moments in future history could’ve been pretty neat.

Archer and T’Pol’s interaction in the current frame also worked, IMO. I liked that she calmly ignored his bullshit and just went with him. Their friendship felt forced at first, but is growing on me at this point.

The only thing that really bugs me here is *how* the Vulcans are helping, which is of a piece with larger issues about Star Trek and how cultures of differing technological advancement can and should engage with one another. But that detail isn’t really discussed in the story, and we’ve been over that ground a lot in the past.

All around, good viewing experience.
posted by mordax (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I also liked this one. I enjoyed T'Pol and Archer hanging out in a shuttle doing some boring science stuff and chatting as a frame story, anytime Trek shows our heroes doing the dull science I liked 'young' Archer much more than 'present day' Archer, his whole attitude and behavior makes much more sense as a young hot-shot pilot than as a captain, and I enjoyed a little demonstration of how the Vulcans held the humans back, at least in human eyes. I also am not a fan of the continued 'Vulcans are self-superior assholes' thing, but the show has decided on that one it seems.

Most of all, this was an episode where I didn't feel bad for any of the actors involved, and that is a rare thing in ENT. Another good Trek episode.
posted by neonrev at 2:24 PM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

My reaction to this episode was a bit more... nuanced. I mean, I appreciated it for what it was, or seemed to me to be: as full-bore an evocation of a 22nd-century version of The Right Stuff as the show ever got. In the spirit of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier with two broken ribs, not wanting to get taken off the flight so that someone else would get the record, Archer and Robinson aren't about to let a bunch of bureaucrats Vulcans bureaucrats and Vulcans stop them! So they "borrow" the NX-β with about as much difficulty as Cameron borrowing his dad's Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (I mean, even if the program is temporarily mothballed, this is literally humanity's most advanced vehicle ever at this point--not even a couple of guards to bribe with Saurian brandy or something?) and do the thing. Forrest blows his top, but we already know that it doesn't hurt Archer's career to any appreciable degree. It's pretty easy to grade this high on the ENT curve, even if I hadn't been a big fan of the space program as a kid, and liked Tom Wolfe's book and the movie adaptation a lot.

But... I have to be honest in my opinion of this episode in this year and at this age, and the conceit wears a bit thin for me. One of the things that popped out at me almost immediately was that, with Starfleet being an organization of United Earth, both of the top contenders for the record-breaking flight were white men with American accents. Maybe the aforementioned Gardner and Duvall weren't; we don't know. (They may have been among the pilots who were celebrating with Robinson, which included one woman and one black man, but they're not named in the credits.) For that matter, the only member of the ENT crew that I've noticed with a non-American accent is Reed. Sometimes, people say that TOS was only progressive by 1960s standards, but then here we are.

Anyway, I don't want to end on a negative note, so I'll mention that T'Pol showed surprising emotional intelligence in suggesting the name of the nebula to Archer, and that I also appreciated the similarities in design between the Phoenix (from Star Trek: First Contact and the NX-α and NX-β. Finally, I liked Keith Carradine's appearance; I've always been a big fan of "I'm Easy."
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:39 PM on July 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

P.S. Since this is a rewatch, I can note that, when the Columbia (NX-02) does finally launch, this is who we get. If you already know, or don't mind spoilers, scroll down and read the background information section.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:59 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

My reaction to this episode was a bit more... nuanced.

Heh. No, your complaints about this are completely fair, and I appreciate you pointing that stuff out a lot. (My favorite thing is when someone here catches something I didn't.)

Sometimes, people say that TOS was only progressive by 1960s standards, but then here we are.

Yeah. I do think that's a part of why ENT's proving a difficult watch for me: this is a franchise low for diversity, which is weird given that for a long time, it was the most recent entry.
posted by mordax at 10:03 PM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

The most interesting thing here to me was seeing how Archer got to be on friendly terms with Trip and Forrest.

I struggled more with the Right Stuffedness inasmuch as Archer's whole argument to Ruby about why "being first is what counts" is kind of undercut by the fact that Zephram Cochrane is the Warp 1 Barrier name, and the show hasn't quite made clear IIRC why incremental increases in that warp factor number even matter in that wider sense. I mean, of course it matters to space jockeys, but even the server at a space-jockey hangout casually referencing "warp 5" struck me as…not terribly plausible. A minor gripe.

Star Trek Beyond establishes the first warp 4 ship of United Earth Starfleet was the USS Franklin NX-326 (under it's original designation), constructed after the NX program ended but before the keel of the Enterprise NX-01 was laid out.


Additional tidbits:
- The warp factor chart on the big wall in Mission Control is adapted from a similar chart in the always-enjoyable Next Generation Technical Manual, though the hyper-nerdy may be interested to know that, according to Memory Alpha, ENT uses the TOS warp scale, not TNG's.

- MST3K fans will recognize Ruby from The Quest of the Delta Knights.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:40 PM on July 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

One thing I like that hasn't been mentioned: when they do finally light up the nebula and Archer wants T'Pol to stop looking at the computer and appreciate the nebula, he doesn't snark or command he just asks again.

I may have snickered when T'Pol said that Archer had acquired the skills to be a captain.
posted by fleacircus at 5:55 AM on November 3, 2019

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