Star Trek: Enterprise: Babel One   Rewatch 
March 29, 2020 11:32 AM - Season 4, Episode 12 - Subscribe

[Part 1 of 3] The Enterprise is ferrying a bunch of Tellarites across Andorian space when a Tellarite ship attacks Shran's ship. Can't we all just get along? Well, maybe not quite yet...

Memory Alpha is even uglier than I remember:

- Lee Arenberg, who plays the Tellarite Gral, had previously played another character named Gral (a Ferengi) in DS9: "The Nagus"

- For depicting Romulus in this installment, CGI effects were used; the episode's final shot reuses a CGI model of the Romulan capital city which was originally created for the feature film Star Trek Nemesis.

- This episode serves as a prequel of sorts to "Journey to Babel".

- The MACO honor guard detail that met Gral in the launch bay was an homage to the honor detail that greeted Spock's father Sarek aboard the USS Enterprise in "Journey to Babel".

- This episode was first broadcast on the UPN network on 28 January 2005, hitting a series low for viewership – only 2.5 million people watched. A few days after "Babel One" aired, Star Trek: Enterprise was officially canceled by UPN. Unlike most canceled series, the plug was not immediately pulled – UPN and Paramount allowed the show to complete filming its final season of twenty-two episodes.

"I'm told this ship is the pride of Starfleet. I find it small and unimpressive."
"Funny… I was about to say the same thing about you."

- Gral and Archer

"We seem to keep running into each other, captain."

- Shran, to Archer

Poster's Log:

After the two singleton episodes, we're back to multi-parters, save for one more singleton ("Bound") and the finale, for the rest of the season and series, and this three-parter, both a sequel and prequel to TOS' "Journey to Babel", takes on the tasks both of showing how the principal members of the future Federation start working out their differences, and of showing how the Romulans, true to their characterization in future Treks (arguably all the way up through at least this season of Star Trek: Picard) prefer to at least try subterfuge before a straight-up fight. (By the way, I would strongly suggest watching or rewatching "Journey to Babel" in conjunction with this trilogy; it's not only an effective political thriller that simultaneously depicts and examines Spock's troubled relationship with his parents, but makes the point that, even a century later, relationships between the Federation's founding races can be quite contentious.) I don't think that we've seen the redesigned Tellarites since "Bounty" (with the exception of a brief background appearance in this season's "Borderland"), and I kind of like the scrappy little guys. (In my fantasy/headcanon about what the show might have done in the nonexistent seasons 5-7, in addition to Shran joining the crew of the NX-01, which was bandied about before the cancellation, I would like to have seen them add a Tellarite engineer--the dream casting would have been Danny DeVito, but more realistically Patton Oswalt--who would be a recurring character who, every once in a while, would just pop out of a random Jeffries tube, insult whoever happened to be walking past, and then pop back in.) There's also some development of the Andorians, who, as it turns out, aren't just aggro WRT the Vulcans. And, again, the Romulans showing up as antagonists, more effectively than their first appearance in this series ("Minefield"), and even sort of retroactively justifying that episode's use of the Romulans, as T'Pol uses the information gleaned in that episode to identify the mystery ship. It also brings in Brian Thompson, who has done several other roles in the franchise and whose other acting credentials are truly impressive, as Valdore (which was the name of a Warbird in Star Trek Nemesis; along with the reuse of the uniforms and the CGI of Romulus, it's arguably a better use of that movie's assets than the movie itself made); I think that, if the show had lasted a full seven seasons, and they'd gotten into the Earth-Romulan War, Valdore might have made for a decent antagonist.

The episode was not without its problems, though; the reminder of the show's past objectification of T'Pol ("you said she had an awfully nice bum") was not welcome, and neither was the revelation that not only is sexual harassment among the Andorians considered normal but that it's OK for commanders to sleep with their subordinates. C'mon, show, I thought that we were done with this. At least there's the counterexample that, although Talas tries seducing the MACO guard, he doesn't go for it, and she's fully capable of kicking ass instead. In general, the Andorians' raid on the Tellarites' quarters shared the idiot ball generously: the Andorians, for thinking that they'd get away with it (their assistance of the ship during the Xindi War nothwithstanding), the Tellarite diplomat for shooting Talas after the humans came to the rescue, and Archer for not dropping a few bulkhead seals between the two alien groups' quarters so that the Andorians couldn't just run straight there. (I assume that they have sealable bulkheads, so that all the air in the ship doesn't escape whenever there's a hull breach.) Finally, that they had the line about Tellarites eating dogs delivered by a Korean-American actress is pretty cringeworthy.

Poster's Log, supplemental: hey, at least they're McClaining through someone else's ship for once, eh?
posted by Halloween Jack (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I forgot this was part of a multi-parter until the third act just draaaaaaaaaaaaaaged on. For some reason, I remembered the back half of this season just going full serial, but turns out not. Haven't rewatched the next two yet, but I suspect there's really only enough story for two episodes based on how long this one felt.

Did anybody else catch that crazy twist that the Romulan ship was being remotely controlled? Yes? Like in the very first scene with the Romulans? I have no idea why they treated that like it was supposed to be some kind of twist.

But, hey, they figured out warp speed, and no-latency communications across space, but now they've finally invented DRONES. What an element of a more innocent time.

Mayweather being the one to sum up the Romulan plot's problem "The only thing they couldn't disguise was their energy signature!" to us in the audience was pretty silly and made him seem kinda dim.

There was some fun stuff in this one though. The cold open was obvious but pretty funny (sans the eating dog thing). Love some Andorian women kicking MACO ass. Liked that we get a lot of Shran in this outing* and the Tellarite characters were fun as well. Archer is pretty good at diplomat, maybe just in comparison to the other actually professional "diplomats." T'Pol's little joke about going the correct speed was a nice character beat.

I haven't seen Journey to Babel in a very long time, so maybe I'll have to try and rewatch it this week. But good lord do I really want to?

*I like the idea of him joining the crew of the NX-01 but how well would it work to have two captains as headstrong as Shran and Archer on the same ship for any length of time?
posted by General Malaise at 12:09 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Haven't rewatched the next two yet, but I suspect there's really only enough story for two episodes based on how long this one felt.

I will say that the third one seems more like a sequel to the first two than part of the same story.

good lord do I really want to?

Yeah, that's a very sixties SF look to everything. (Fun fact: the Tellarite actors adopted that head-tilted-back way of talking, not out of a desire to make them seem arrogant--although it had that effect--but because that was the only way they could see out of their makeup/mask.) But it's honestly a very good episode, another great writing job by D.C. Fontana, and good performances all around; the Austrian character actor Reggie Nalder, who might be best remembered as Barlow in the miniseries of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, has a short but slightly sinister turn as the Andorian ambassador Shras.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:32 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Missed a chance to show some antenna sticking out from under some wreckage. Lots of glorious Shran though. Combs can command Shatner levels of hamminess, it's so great.

Yeah they dragged out the remote piloting reveal and tried to make a Silence of the Lambs moment out of it. Fairly attractive super-fake looking CGI Romulan city at the end, though. The hologram ship looked interesting, but "faking" weapon damage uhhh I don't think that works, but I thought I detected the magic hologram word triphotonic or whatever, so fair ball. Shran knew the Tellarite ship didn't move correctly, I wish they'd used that in the reveal.

Fuckin' MACOs. I hate them so much, I wish they were just Reed's redshirts, we could call them Reedshirts, and it would have given his character things to do and some importance and they could stop giving oxygen to this Tom Clancy's warfighter stuff in Star Trek.

I glanced at memory alpha and I think got spoiled and pre-pissed off about Talas. It was sad to see that this episode was the series' low point of ratings, and it was officially canceled shortly after this aired.
posted by fleacircus at 3:39 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Great opening tease. They know the best way to make us care about what happens in the episode is to show Shran in serious trouble! It also didn't hurt to clearly indicate that this was going to be another one of those TOS-heavy episodes.

I knew immediately that I recognized the voice of Gral, but couldn't place him. It's Lee Arenberg, who played a few Ferengi in the Berman era.

I genuinely snickered aloud at Trip warming to Tellarites and Archer messing with him thereafter. Likewise, fantastic writing and performances in the Archer-Shran drinking scene (apart, of course, from the "fun"-Andorian-sexual-assault stuff).

Is it too bold to suggest that, at this point in this show, the Archer-Shran relationship rivals any other in the Berman era for richness and depth?

Maybe I mentioned this already, but I really prefer Enterprise's bridge lighting lately. It's crisper and less murky.

Also very cool that they got half of Daft Punk to cameo as the Romulan pilot.

I think that, if the show had lasted a full seven seasons, and they'd gotten into the Earth-Romulan War, Valdore might have made for a decent antagonist.

Thompson certainly has what it takes to make him one, yeah—he was the only reason that the Dosi in DS9 weren't completely stupid. Of course, this episode doesn't develop Valdore much beyond "stern glowering heavy," but maybe the next two do and I just forgot about it.

the reminder of the show's past objectification of T'Pol ("you said she had an awfully nice bum") was not welcome

Not to mention that it confirms that Trip and Malcolm have not grown one iota in that department.

how well would it work to have two captains as headstrong as Shran and Archer on the same ship for any length of time?

Plausible retro-never-realized-continuity (retnon?) explanation: in the third episode of this trilogy, "Shran reveals that the Andorian Imperial Guard rarely rewards a commander who has lost his ship with another one" (according to MA); perhaps he would have actually been demoted and assigned to Enterprise in a similar capacity to how T'Pol was originally assigned, only with more of a frisson of punishment to the assignment itself. That might've been further fuel for the interesting tension between Archer and Shran, who is now subordinate to Archer but feels like he shouldn't be. Malcolm is drummed out of the service for his Cro-Magnon attitudes toward women and Shran takes his position—the better to glower suspiciously at T'Pol across the bridge. Travis is uncomfortable most of the time as a result, but once in a while he has to play diplomat between them when Archer's not around, which surprises everyone because it's Travis actually doing something.

In my fantasy/headcanon about what the show might have done in the nonexistent seasons 5-7, in addition to Shran joining the crew of the NX-01, which was bandied about before the cancellation, I would like to have seen them add a Tellarite engineer--the dream casting would have been Danny DeVito, but more realistically Patton Oswalt--who would be a recurring character who, every once in a while, would just pop out of a random Jeffries tube, insult whoever happened to be walking past, and then pop back in.

There's something intensely Laugh-In about that idea. But I love it. And DeVito might've actually done it. I always love it when he does his raspy voice, like the Penguin, or Frank Reynolds in pain.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:16 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


I admit that Archer-as-diplomat works when he is dealing with hotheaded men. Shran is fun because he is sort of an ally, but sort of not; he is emotional, but will listen to reason. You know things are going to be spicy, but you know it will probably work out okay. And compared to Shran, Archer does look calm, reasonable, and noble.
posted by fleacircus at 8:30 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


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