Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Broken Bow”

“Broken Bow”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 1, Episode 1/2
Production episode 001
Original air date: September 26, 2001
Date: April 26, 2151

Captain’s star log. We open with young Jonathan Archer putting the finishing touches on a remote-control spacecraft model. His father, Henry Archer, looks on; he’s supervising the construction of a real-world version of the spacecraft, and they discuss how the Vulcans are being parsimonious with assistance with the project. It’s 2121, fifty-eight years after first contact.

Thirty years later, a Klingon ship crashes on a farm in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Its sole occupant, Klaang, is on the run from several Suliban. Klaang leads them into a silo, then leaps out of it, blowing it and the Suliban up. The owner of the farm, a man named Moore, then shoots Klaang.

In orbit, Archer, now all grow’d up and a captain, joins his chief engineer Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker III in a flyby of the newest ship in Earth’s Starfleet: the Enterprise, NX-01, the first Earth ship to be capable of warp five. The tour is interrupted by Archer being summoned to Starfleet HQ.

Klaang is being cared for by a Denobulan physician named Phlox. Archer meets with several high-ranking personnel: Admirals Forrest and Leonard and Commander Williams of Starfleet, as well as several Vulcan diplomats, including Ambassador Soval and his aides Tos and T’Pol.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

The Vulcans have been in contact with the Klingons and wish to send Klaang’s corpse back to Kronos. Archer is confused, as Klaang is still alive, but Tos points out that the Klingons are a warrior culture, and he would prefer to die. But Klaang is a courier, and the Starfleet personnel insist that they use Enterprise to bring him to Kronos. The Vulcans think this is a bad idea, but ultimately it’s the humans’ decision, as this happened on Earth. However, the Vulcans do insist on sending along a Vulcan to serve as science officer in exchange for their star charts telling the how to get to Klingon space. T’Pol, who holds the rank of sub-commander, is given the assignment.

Enterprise also doesn’t have a chief medical officer assigned yet, so Archer asks for Phlox to come along, since he’s already treating Klaang. The ship wasn’t intended to set off for another few weeks. Archer has to convince his communications officer, Ensign Hoshi Sato, to cut her teaching assignment short due to the quicker departure time, and she only agrees because it’s an opportunity for her to be the first human to communicate with a Klingon.

We get to meet Enterprise’s chief of security, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, and pilot, Ensign Travis Mayweather, as cargo is beamed aboard using the fancy-shmancy new transporter they have, discussing whether or not it’s safe for organic life to use. (Reed is against the notion.)

There is a launch ceremony led by Forrest, who plays a thirty-two-year-old clip of Zefram Cochrane giving a speech at the dedication of the Warp Five Complex, which eventually resulted in Enterprise.

T’Pol reports on board, and there’s a certain amount of tension among her, Archer, Tucker, and Archer’s pet beagle Porthos (though Porthos really likes her because he’s a good puppy).

Enterprise takes off, and T’Pol gets into a minor verbal spat with Sato, who is very nervous about her first major space flight. Meantime Mayweather shows Tucker the “sweet spot” on the ship where the gravity is reversed; Mayweather is a “boomer,” having grown up on one of the many human colonies that sprung up over the past ninety years. Phlox settles into sickbay, having brought numerous bits of flora and fauna that have useful medical applications.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

Klaang awakens, and Archer tries to interrogate him with Sato’s help. It goes slowly, and then suddenly main power is gone. The Suliban board the ship and take Klaang, though Archer kills one of the invaders.

The Suliban ship buggers off with Klaang. Phlox’s autopsy of the Suliban corpse reveals that he has been radically genetically modified via technology that is beyond anything Phlox has ever seen.

T’Pol thinks they should return to Earth, but Archer refuses to give up that quickly. With Sato’s help, they determine that Klaang visited Rigel X before Earth. They set course for that world to try to find whoever it was who gave Klaang whatever it was he was carrying home.

Some Suliban capture the away team, and their leader, Sarin, questions Archer. Turns out she gave Klaang proof that the Suliban Cabal—of which she used to be a member—is trying to destabilize the Klingon Empire.

More Suliban soldiers attack, then, killing Sarin and wounding Archer. The away team escapes in the shuttlepod, which is also damaged, Archer falling into a coma. T’Pol assumes command, to Tucker’s chagrin. However, to everyone’s surprise, T’Pol doesn’t order them back to Earth, but instead determines where the Suliban Cabal ship went. When Archer regains consciousness, he continues the search, grateful that T’Pol chose to anticipate Archer’s wishes rather than simply do as she pleased while in command.

They trace the Suliban to a gas giant, where they find a whole mess of interlocking Suliban ships. Enterprise manages to steal one of their ships and commandeer it. Archer and Tucker then fly in to rescue Klaang.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

Sillik, the leader of the Cabal, speaks with a shadowy figure, whom Sarin had mentioned to Archer, and who was directing the Suliban in a battle she referred to as the Temporal Cold War. “Future guy” tells Sillik that the humans and Vulcans shouldn’t be involved yet, and Klaang’s information must be found and kept from being returned to Kronos.

Tucker takes Klaang back on the shuttle while Archer stays behind to sabotage the Suliban helix. He winds up in a firefight with Sillik, but then Tucker rescues Archer with the transporter. Enterprise then breaks orbit and resumes course to Kronos.

Klaang speaks before the High Council, where they cut open his hand and examine his blood—the message from Sarin was encoded in Klaang’s DNA. The Klingon chancellor then kicks the humans out of the council chamber.

Archer announces that they’re not returning to Earth but instead exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before. Both T’Pol and Phlox are game to stay on board, though T’Pol expresses concern that Archer still doesn’t trust Vulcans. Archer allows as how he needs to let go of his preconceptions and welcomes her on board.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Transporters are not rated for sentient life, but Tucker risks it to rescue Archer, who thankfully does not wind up like the pig lizard in Galaxy Quest.

Reed also issues fancy-shmancy new weapons called phase pistols, urging Archer not to mix up the stun and kill settings.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

The gazelle speech. We get several flashbacks to Archer’s childhood where he tries and fails to get his model starship to fly, eventually succeeding in the flashback that corresponds to the end of the episode. His Dad built the Enterprise, which seems to be the only reason why he’s put in charge.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol butts heads with Archer, Tucker, and Sato, but does her duty as acting captain superbly, pretty much saving everyone’s ass, and is the only reason why the mission is a success.

Florida Man. Florida Man Gets Ship Up and Running Ahead of Schedule While Saying “Keep Yer Shirt On” A Lot.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox has an impressive collection of animals he uses for medicinal purposes. Archer’s least favorite is the one he keeps for its droppings. The doctor uses an osmotic eel to cauterize Archer’s wound.

Ambassador Pointy. Soval insists that Klaang be allowed to die and his corpse sent home to Kronos. Forrest disagrees.

Good boy, Porthos! Porthos takes an immediate liking to T’Pol, which is more than can be said for anyone else on board.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… In the ninety years since first contact, Vulcans have aided humans in their becoming a space-faring world, but done so parsimoniously. Many humans resent this.

Qapla’! The Suliban Cabal is spreading rumors that certain Klingon Houses are warring on other Houses in order to foment chaos within the empire.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When they return from Rigel X, Tucker and T’Pol have a protocystian spore on them and they have to go through decon. This requires them to take as many of their clothes off as Broadcast Standards and Practices will allow and apply gel to skin with their bare hands, which is quite possibly the most inefficient method possible of decontaminating someone, though it does allow the camera to linger on Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock’s scantily clad, greased-up bodies.

Also Sarin is disguised as a human and kisses Archer, only then reverting to her Suliban form. Because the captain can only kiss an alien babe if she’s hot.

More on this later… The phase pistols are very similar in design to the laser pistols seen in “The Cage,” but acknowledge that Gene Roddenberry didn’t understand how actual lasers work when he wrote the first pilot. (Neither did a lot of people.) The transporter is also a new technology that people don’t entirely trust…

I’ve got faith…

“Ensign Mayweather tells me that we’ll be at Kronos in about eighty hours. Any chance he’ll be conscious by then?”

“There’s a chance he’ll be conscious in the next ten minutes—just not a very good one.”

–Archer asking a legitimate question and Phlox bringing the sass.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Vaughn Armstrong has his ninth role on Trek, and his only recurring one, as he debuts the role of Forrest, who will continue to recur on the show all the way through to the end. It’s also the only one of Armstrong’s eventual dozen roles in which he wears no facial prosthetics or makeup.

Other recurring roles that debut in this episode are Gary Graham as Soval, which will also recur throughout the series’ run, John Fleck as Sillik, James Horan as “future guy,” Jim Fitzpatrick as Williams, and Peter Henry Schroeder as the Klingon chancellor (who will be played by Dan Desmond when he appears next in “The Expanse”). Graham previously played Tanis in Voyager’s “Cold Fire.” Fleck previously played two different Romulans in TNG’s “The Mind’s Eye” and DS9’s “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” a Cardassian in DS9’s “The Homecoming,” a Karemma in DS9’s “The Search, Part I,” and Abaddon in Voyager’s “Alice.” Horan previously played Jo’Bril in TNG’s “Suspicions,” Barnaby in TNG’s “Descent, Part II,” Tosin in Voyager’s “Fair Trade,” and Ikat’ika in DS9’s “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light.”

Melinda Clarke plays Sarin, Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. plays Klaang, and Jim Beaver plays Leonard.

Several Trek veterans show up: Mark Moses plays Henry Archer, having last appeared as Naroq in Voyager’s “Riddles.” Thomas Kopache plays Tos, the sixth of his seven roles on Trek, following roles in TNG’s “The Next Phase” and “Emergence,” Generations, Voyager’s “The Thaw,” and the recurring role of Kira’s Dad in DS9’s “Ties of Blood and Water” and “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night.” The late great Joseph Ruskin plays the Suliban doctor, the last of his six roles on Trek going all the way back to the original series’ “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” as well as DS9’s “The House of Quark,” “Improbable Cause,” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places,” Insurrection, and Voyager’s “Gravity.”

Finally, James Cromwell makes an uncredited appearance returning to the role of Cochrane, having previously played the role in First Contact. Cromwell also appeared as different characters in TNG’s “The Hunted” and the “Birthrighttwo-parter and DS9’s “Starship Down.” He’ll appear again in the role (sort of) in “In a Mirror, Darkly.”

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

Trivial matters: This series is, in many ways, a sequel to the movie First Contact, as well as a prequel to the original series (and, retroactively, to Discovery and the Bad Robot movies). The series picks up on the exploration of space and the first contact with the Vulcans established in that film.

Enterprise is the first, and so far only, Trek series to have opening credits music performed with lyrics: the song “Faith of the Heart,” a.k.a. “Where My Heart Will Take Me,” which was written by Diane Warren, and first performed by Rod Stewart on the Patch Adams soundtrack. Russell Watson performed the version used on Enterprise. (The original series theme did have lyrics, but they were not sung in the show itself.)

The Klingons in this episode all have cranial ridges, just as the Klingons do in all the productions that take place after 2270 (The Motion Picture forward). Previously, every Klingon seen chronologically prior to that movie (on the original and animated series) was more humanoid in appearance. The discrepancy will finally be addressed in the fourth-season two-parter “Affliction” and “Divergence.”

The Temporal Cold War Sarin mentions in this episode will continue to be a recurring theme on the show through to the end of the third season.

This episode was novelized by Diane Carey. It proved to be Carey’s swan song after a very long and prolific career writing Trek fiction going back to 1986, including several prior episode novelizations. Carey’s work on this novelization, which included pointed references to elements of the script she viewed as poorly written in the narration, angered the production staff.

The farmer who shoots Klaang is named Moore in tribute to Brannon Braga’s erstwhile writing partner Ronald D. Moore. Admirals Leonard and Forrest are named after Leonard “Spock” Nimoy and DeForrest “McCoy” Kelley. Tos is named after the popular abbreviation for the original series.

Picard stated in TNG’s “First Contact” that disastrous first contact with the Klingon Empire led to years of war. The events of this episode don’t quite track with that, but Picard could easily have been speaking of Vulcan’s first contact with the Klingons, which will be established in Discovery’s “The Vulcan Hello” as being similar to what Picard described. There is, after all, no reason why Picard, a citizen of the United Federation of Planets, would necessarily be referring to humans’ first contact with the Klingons…

Star Trek: Enterprise "Broken Bow"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from knocking you on your ass!” In theory, the idea of seeing the earliest days of humanity’s exploration of space in the wake of Zefram Cochrane’s historic warp flight is one with potential. But I get to the end of “Broken Bow,” and all I can think is that that potential has been utterly wasted.

(Okay, I also got to the end of “Broken Bow” the first time in 2001 and kept waiting for Archer to turn to his left and say, “Okay, Al, I got the Klingon back to his home planet. Why haven’t I Leaped yet?” For those of you who don’t get that, Google Quantum Leap.)

The Earth we saw in First Contact was a fractured, chaotic postwar mess. We saw bits of this also in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint,” what was described there as the post-atomic horror. So the road from that to a united Earth would be a fun thing to explore.

What a pity that Enterprise doesn’t explore it. Instead, we jump the timeline ninety years and just say that Earth’s all united and has wiped out poverty and hunger and disease and stuff off-camera, and really? That’s it?

On top of that, what we see of Earth is made up of a bit too many American white dudes. The high-ranking Starfleet personnel that are deciding what to do about Klaang are all American white dudes. Two of our three main characters are American white dudes, with a European white dude thrown in for good measure. The other two non-white humans are the lowest-ranking among the main cast. Showing a united Earth by having mostly white people with others represented here and there was progressive when the original series did it in 1966, but wasn’t really good enough by the turn of the millennium.

I will give the show credit for having an Asian in the opening credits who is actually from Asia—Trek had, up to this point, only two Asians among the main casts, and both Sulu and Kim were established as being born in North America. But overall, the show feels way too much like the United States rather than the United Earth—and a particularly limited view of the U.S., truth be told.

Indeed, the show is trying a little too hard to capture an original series feel. The dynamic among Archer, Tucker, and T’Pol is so aggressively attempting to ape the Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter it’s almost painful to watch. And, since T’Pol is played by an attractive woman, we get the added “bonus” of focusing on how hawt she is in the decon scene. Yes, Connor Trinneer’s manly manly chest gets some attention, but the camera lingers quite a bit longer on Jolene Blalock’s torso and chest. This is exacerbated by the gratuitous Archer-Sarin kiss (which they very carefully only allow to happen when Sarin looks like Melinda Clarke instead of Clarke covered in pock-marked makeup and greenish skin) and the scantily clad butterfly dancers of Rigel X.

As for the actual story, it’s okay, mostly. The Temporal Cold War sounded stupid twenty years ago, and it sounds even stupider now knowing that it won’t go anywhere particularly interesting over the next several seasons. It’s too bad, as both John Fleck and James Horan are superlative presences with great voices, and they deserved a running plotline that is actually, y’know, coherent.

What I mostly remember from two decades ago is being annoyed (as were many Trek fans) that the Klingon homeworld was close enough to reach at warp five in only a few days, which seemed absurd. Part of the point of doing a prequel is to show how much harder things were back in the day, so this should’ve been a several-week journey. (This would also make their staying out there in the end to explore more make more sense.)

I also remember large swaths of fandom being annoyed at how snotty and obstinate the Vulcans were portrayed as being, as if that was an unfair and wrong portrayal, and that annoyance never made any sense to me. Seeing the Vulcans as brilliant, controlled elves who are noble and logical and nifty was a rose-colored perception at least partly encouraged by decades of tie-in fiction and fan fiction that were often hagiographical in their portrayal of Vulcans in general and Spock in particular. But if you actually watch the original series, every single Vulcan we met was high-handed and snotty, and more than a little sarcastic—starting with Spock, who was a snot of the highest order. Not to mention Sarek, who was condescending, arrogant, and stubborn; T’Pring and Stonn, who were manipulating Spock’s pon farr to benefit themselves; T’Pau, who was arrogance personified (seriously, her response to McCoy’s legitimate medical concern for Kirk’s health was a dismissive, “the air is the air”). I had—and have—no problem with how the Vulcans are portrayed in the least.

Watching it now, I mostly think that the humans come off way worse: whiny, petulant, bitchy, borderline racist. Meanwhile, T’Pol comports herself extremely well. Everyone on Enterprise has a chip on their shoulder regarding her, and she handles all of it with dignity and a minimum of fuss. I particularly like how she takes command of the ship and proceeds to—as is proper—act in a manner consistent with the captain’s wishes, rather than her own. For the third show in a row, an actor has been cast seemingly for her looks more than anything (Terry Farrell on DS9, Jeri Ryan on Voyager), and has risen above the aggressive male-gazing of her character to prove a worthy addition to the Trek pantheon. In this particular case, T’Pol is very much the unique outsider that Spock, Worf, Odo, Seven, and the EMH were, and that Saru will be, and she plays it quite well.

Indeed, the most interesting characters in this premiere episode are the non-humans. Besides Blalock, we have John Billingsley’s delightful Phlox, who proves to be magnificently entertaining, and, of course, Porthos, who is the bestest puppy.

Would that the humans came across better. Tucker feels like an awkward mix of Scotty’s protective engineer with McCoy’s Southern cantankerousness, Reed creates almost no impression whatsoever, and Archer doesn’t create hardly any impression beyond not liking Vulcans and being a product of nepotism. (Seriously, the only reason anybody gives for why he has command of Enterprise is because his daddy built it.) I’ve liked Scott Bakula in pretty much everything else he’s been in, from Quantum Leap to NCIS: New Orleans, but his Archer is blandness personified, with surprisingly little of the charisma we’ve come to expect from our Trek captains.

Mayweather and Sato are both significantly more interesting, and I remember looking forward to seeing more of them twenty years ago. Alas. Mayweather should’ve been the most important person on the ship, since he had the most experience out in the galaxy, but he was pretty quickly marginalized, a bad look for the only African-American cast member in a show that was already well stocked with similar bad looks. And Sato’s usefulness was swimming upstream against the need to just get the story moving and not deal with language barriers, as they get in the way of telling your story in forty-two minutes.

The show has its moments, and certainly the performances—Bakula’s phoning it in excepted—are all quite good. The setup is one that is rife with possibilities, even if so many storytelling possibilities have been ignored or bypassed. While my memory of this pilot is strong, my memory of subsequent episodes is scattershot at best, and it’s going to be interesting to revisit them.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido will also be reviewing each new episode of Star Trek: Discovery season four when it debuts later this month.

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