“Strange New World”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 4
Production episode 004
Original air date: October 10, 2001
Captain’s star log. Crewmen Cutler and Novakovich are eating in the mess hall, the former reading an exobiology text and eating plomeek soup, the latter teasing her about her choice in food. They and everyone else in the mess hall are surprised to see the ship going into orbit around an Earth-like planet, which is a surprise.
On the bridge, T’Pol’s readings indicate that this is a Minshara-class planet, which can support humanoid life, while Reed can detect no signs of beacons, artificial satellites, or anything else that indicates that anyone else claims this planet. Archer orders a pod prepared. T’Pol urges a more cautious approach: a week’s worth of scans from orbit and with probes before setting foot on the planet. Both Archer and Tucker think that’s wussy and insist on going down right now. T’Pol’s reminder that the planet has been there for millions of years and will still be there in seven days falls on uncaring ears. Archer laughs derisively in much the same way jocks have laughed at nerds for millennia, says fuck that noise, and tells Tucker to prepare the pod. The captain then shows how magnanimous he is by letting T’Pol pick the survey team.
Said team includes Cutler and Novakovich. In addition, Archer goes down, taking Porthos with him, as do Mayweather (to fly the pod) and Tucker (because, um, he’s in the opening credits, I guess). They arrive, with Archer ordering T’Pol to put the scanner away and enjoy the moment when they arrive. Tucker also takes a picture of the team, with everyone but T’Pol smiling.
Once the photo op is done, they go to work. Novakovich at one point picks a flower and sniffs it, which will probably be important later. Archer, Mayweather, and Tucker lose track of time enjoying the scenery, and T’Pol has to remind them that they have a rendezvous. When Archer returns to the pod, T’Pol requests to stay overnight to observe some nocturnal marsupials. Archer agrees, and also accedes to Tucker’s request to let him and Mayweather stay the night as well.
After Archer and Porthos go back to Enterprise, the rest of the gang make camp. Mayweather tells a Boomer ghost story, and then Novakovich complains of a headache and asks T’Pol if he can take a nap before they get to work observing marsupials.
Later, when they’re trying to sleep, Tucker finds a big bug in his sleeping bag and wants to squash it, and then a major wind storm kicks up. They retreat to a cave, but they forgot to grab the food. Mayweather goes back to retrieve the food, and swears he saw and heard some people, though he didn’t get a good look at them.
On Enterprise, Reed reports to Archer about the storm and that the survey team has taken refuge in a cave. Archer orders a pod prepared.
In the cave, Novakovich also swears he sees and hears someone and retreats deeper into the cave, and then disappears. Tucker and Mayweather go after Novakovich. T’Pol goes to investigate something deep in the cave, leaving Cutler alone. Not liking that idea at all, Cutler follows T’Pol, and sees her talking to some shadowy aliens.
Tucker and Mayweather return unsuccessful in their attempt to find Novakovich, though Tucker did see a humanoid figure seemingly emerge from solid rock, and Cutler then accuses T’Pol of secretly talking to aliens. T’Pol denies this, but Tucker starts getting incredibly paranoid, accusing T’Pol of conspiring with the aliens to sabotage Enterprise’s mission and keep humans stuck on Earth forever.
Archer and Reed attempt a rescue, but the storm is too intense for them to land. Returning to Enterprise, they are able, at least, to locate Novakovich, but he’s gone completely binky-bonkers and refuses to return to the cave to rejoin the survey team. They risk beaming him up, and he immediately goes to sickbay, as some local flora got embedded in his body.
Phlox is able to save him, and determines that he’s suffering from a hallucinogenic that is probably given off by the pollen in the local plant life. It didn’t come up in scans because it was dormant earlier, but it probably got kicked up by the storm.
Archer tries to communicate this to the survey team, but they’ve gone completely over the edge. Tucker is holding T’Pol at phase-pistol-point, convinced that she’s been plotting against them all along. T’Pol is still mostly rational, but she too is feeling the effects of the pollen. Archer orders them to go deeper into the cave, and they’ll rescue them when the storm passes.
Unfortunately, going deeper doesn’t solve the problem. Mayweather and Cutler are insensate with delirium, T’Pol and Tucker are pointing weapons at each other, with the former speaking only in Vulcan.
Phlox synthesizes an antidote, which Archer beams down to the surface. Archer contacts the survey team. T’Pol says in Vulcan that Tucker wants to kill her, which Sato passes on to Archer. After playing on Tucker’s friendship and trust with Archer fails rather spectacularly, Archer decides to play along with his delusion—he says that T’Pol was meeting with aliens, but it was a classified meeting that only Archer and T’Pol were permitted to be aware of. This at least gives Tucker enough pause for T’Pol to subdue him, and then administer the antidote.
The next morning, Tucker is suitably abashed at his behavior, but T’Pol is not concerned, as he was under the influence of a hallucinogen. A pod comes down to rescue them.
The gazelle speech. Archer wants to travel down to the planet NOWNOWNOW, because waiting around for probes to do their job is for wimps. This completely unnecessary overeagerness results in nearly getting his survey team killed.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol recommends a cautious approach, but does follow Archer’s orders once it becomes clear that he insists on being a dumbass. She also snarks off his and Tucker’s insistence on taking photographs.
Florida Man. Florida Man Holds Superior Officer Hostage While Under the Influence of Hallucinogenic Alien Pollen.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox is able to save Novakovich from being the show’s first redshirt.
Good boy, Porthos! Archer takes Porthos down to the planet with the survey team. He immediately pees on a tree. I’m sure that introducing alien microbes to the planet via puppy urine won’t have any deleterious effects on the ecosystem…
The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… A Vulcan ship would spend a week scanning a Minshara-class planet before setting foot on the surface because they’re not impatient jackholes.
More on this later… “Class-M” planets have been a part of Star Trek lore all the way back to “The Cage.” This episode establishes that the term comes from Vulcans, who refer to a planet with an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere that can support hominid life as “Minshara-class.”
I’ve got faith…
“We have Novakovich.”
“And I have a phase pistol pointed at my head.”
–Archer and T’Pol filling each other in.
Welcome aboard. Kellie Waymire debuts the recurring role of Cutler. She’ll appear twice more in season one. Waymire previously appeared in Voyager’s “Muse.” Her character of Cutler might have appeared more often, but Waymire tragically died at age 36 in 2003.
Henri Lubatti plays Novakovich. He previously provided the voice of Kolanis in the Away Team videogame.
Trivial matters: In the original script, Novakovich was to have died, but Scott Bakula felt it was wrong to have a character die without any kind of acknowledgment or fanfare. This very heartening anti-redshirt philosophy will continue, with the result that there are no crew deaths until the early third season of the show.
A bio of Archer that will be seen in “In a Mirror Darkly, Part II” will say that this planet was later named Archer IV. That planet is the site of a battle between Starfleet and the Klingons in the alternate timeline of TNG’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
Archer will discuss the events of this episode with Captain Erica Hernandez in “Home.”
The page Cutler is reading from in the Handbook of Exobiology includes a reference to Hodgins’ Law of Parallel Planetary Development, which was first mentioned in the original series’ “Bread and Circuses.”
It’s been a long road… “Where no dog has gone before.” This is a depressingly standard things-go-wrong-on-an-alien-planet story of a type that Trek has done millions of times before, from “This Side of Paradise” to “Natural Law,” and while this does stand out from the others in one particularly important way, it’s not one that speaks well of our protagonists.
Basically, the only reason anything bad happens in this episode is because Archer doesn’t listen to T’Pol. He’s impatient, he’s stupid, he’s moronic, he’s imbecilic, and what’s especially frustrating is that nobody actually points this out after T’Pol’s initial objection. The episode should have ended with Archer apologizing to every single person on that survey team, especially T’Pol (whose good advice he disregarded in a snotty and mean-spirited manner) and Novakovich (who nearly died).
On top of that, they just stumble around this new alien world without any regard for safety protocols or any of the other things that people on this planet do right now when exploring a region they’ve never been to before, whether it’s Novakovich just randomly picking up an alien flower and putting it to his nose (an action that almost gets him killed) to letting Porthos blithely piss on a tree.
After watching this episode, I almost wanted Tucker’s delusion to be real so that they’d send a ship with smart people out into the unknown…
The episode has some good moments. I like getting to know more of the crew, though seeing Kellie Waymire’s Cutler is bittersweet knowing of Waymire’s too-young death a couple years later. Still, the opening in the mess hall is wonderful, and the sort of thing Trek has only sometimes been good at, and should have been doing all along. I especially like Cutler trying to understand T’Pol and Vulcans better by being friendly with the sub-commander and trying out Vulcan cuisine. It’s certainly a more mature approach than that taken by the captain and chief engineer…
I also must confess to adoring Mayweather’s ghost story because it’s the perfect space-age update of your standard urban legend. Anthony Montgomery tells it so very well, too. It, combined with his discomfort with being on a planet, does a nice job of showing the Boomer subculture, one that the show would’ve done well to show more of.
And major points to Scott Bakula for insisting that Novakovich live if the episode didn’t have time to mourn him properly. Enterprise’s insistence on avoiding Trek’s morally repugnant redshirt tendency is one of the show’s most noble and worthy qualities, and it started here.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido is amused to see that there’s now going to be a show called Strange New Worlds, and there was an anthology series called Strange New Worlds, plus the photonovel-style comic book by John Byrne called Strange New Worlds and a Star Trek Adventures role-playing game supplement subtitled Strange New Worlds, and then there’s this episode. That’s not confusing at all!