Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Terra Nova”

“Terra Nova”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Antoinette Stella
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 1, Episode 6
Production episode 006
Original air date: October 24, 2001
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is heading to Terra Nova. It was the first extrasolar Earth colony following the pioneering of warp drive, but it also went completely quiet seventy years earlier. Because it was a nine-year journey there—and because the last communications with the colony were arguments over whether or not more people should join the settlement—the final fate of the colony had remained unknown until now, when Enterprise can actually get there without the lengthy travel commitment.

They arrive and can’t detect any life signs, though there are remnants of a city, but it’s long abandoned. T’Pol also detects radiation, but it’s low-level enough that a landing party would be safe for a while.

Archer, T’Pol, Reed, and Mayweather take a pod down. The colony ship, the Conestoga, was taken apart and used to build the settlement, which makes it unlikely that the colonists went offworld. There are no bodies, either, just structures. Mayweather heads to the communications center to try to see if they attempted to contact Earth, or anyone else, since the last time anyone heard from Terra Nova.

Reed sees a person spying on them and chases him into a cave. Archer and Reed enter the cave while T’Pol and Mayweather stand guard. They’re ambushed, and Reed is shot. The attackers are humanoid, but with seriously damaged skin.

While Reed is taken hostage, Archer, T’Pol, and Mayweather escape to the shuttlepod. T’Pol reveals that, biologically, the people who attacked are human.

Tucker is able to locate Reed in the cave system, but they’re too deep to even try the transporter, and also the planet is geologically unstable. Archer goes back down with Phlox and tries to negotiate with the Novans, who insist that humans are the enemy, having attacked them with poison rain.

Screenshot: CBS

They allow Phlox to treat Reed, but he needs to have the bullet removed from his leg, which Phlox can’t really do in a cave. Phlox also reveals that one of the oldest people there, Nadet, has lung cancer—and also that he can cure it. Archer convinces Nadet and her son Jamin to accompany them back to Enterprise, but only if Reed remains behind as a hostage. Archer agrees.

In sickbay, while Nadet is being treated, Archer shows her and Jamin pictures from the Terra Nova colony that Mayweather—who’s something of a nerd regarding the legend of the lost Terra Nova colony—dug up. It shows that humans lived on the surface, but the Novans insist that humans drove them from the surface. Nadet, though, realizes that the little girl in one picture is her as a child.

T’Pol and Tucker have discovered the source of the radiation: an asteroid that collided with the surface. The debris cloud and the radiation forced the colonists underground. Mayweather and Sato have gone through the communications, and discovered that the colonists erroneously thought the asteroid was an attack by Earth to take the colony by force, which is likely what led to the distrust of humans they see now, seventy years later.

Phlox reveals that the water table is still contaminated from the radiation, and the colony will be extinct if they don’t move. They refuse to go offworld, but other parts of the planet are not contaminated, farther away from the impact of the asteroid. Archer tries to convince Jamin and Nadet that they need to move their settlement, but Jamin is adamant that they leave them alone and never come back.

Archer flies them down in a pod, but when they land, the earth beneath the pod gives out and the pod tumbles through the sinhkhole into the caves. Another Novan is trapped under a rock, and Jamin and Archer have to work together to rescue him.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Terra Nova"

Screenshot: CBS

Nadet convinces the Novans that they should listen to Archer and his crew, as she realizes that that really was her in that picture. They agree to relocate, which Enterprise helps them with.

After the pod is retrieved and the relocation is completed, Enterprise heads off to its next assignment, having finally solved the riddle of the lost Terra Nova colony.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, if an asteroid hits your planet, it turns you into someone with blue gunk all over your skin…

The gazelle speech. Archer goes out of his way to be reasonable with the Novans, but he doesn’t get them to trust him until he performs a daring rescue, because of course he does.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol very cleverly manipulates Archer into realizing that just taking the Novans back to Earth and assuming they’ll reintegrate is a spectacularly stupid idea.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Terra Nova"

Screenshot: CBS

Florida Man. Florida Man Locates Crewmate in Vast Cave System.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox can cure lung cancer, and also is perfectly happy to leave a patient with a bullet embedded in his leg sitting in a damp cave for hours on end.

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… Humans did not ask the Vulcans for help with finding out what happened to Terra Nova because, as Tucker says, “Asking favors of the Vulcans usually ends up carrying too high a price,” which is a spectacularly stupid reason.

I’ve got faith…

“I’m not familiar with the early years of human space exploration.”

“Really? Every school kid on Earth had to learn about the famous Vulcan expeditions.”

“Name one.”

[after a very very long pause] “History was never my best subject.”

–T’Pol and Tucker making fun of each other, and T’Pol winning.

Welcome aboard. Veteran actor Mary Carver plays Nadet—she’s probably best known for playing the mother of the titular characters in Simon and Simon—while the great Erick Avari plays Jamin. Avari previously appeared as a Klingon in TNG’s “Unification” and a Bajoran in DS9’s “Destiny.” Two other Novans are played by Brian Jacobs and Greville Henwood.

Trivial matters: Phlox’s species—Denobulan—is spoken aloud for the first time in this episode, when he identifies himself to the Novans.

This is the only Trek writing credit for Antoinette Stella, who served as a producer for the first half of the season. It’s the first of nine episodes of the show directed by LeVar “Geordi La Forge” Burton.

Mayweather is telling T’Pol about Earth-based mysteries akin to Terra Nova, mentioning Judge Joseph Force Crater and Amelia Earhart. The mystery of Earhart’s disappearance will be solved by the U.S.S. Voyager two centuries hence in “The 37’s.”

Star Trek: Enterprise "Terra Nova"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “He speaks in shale!” There are elements of this episode that are quite good. I love Mayweather’s nerding out over getting to solve the Terra Nova mystery, and I especially love the way T’Pol rhetorically traps Archer into realizing that just relocating the Novans to Earth is a spectacularly horrible idea. Plus casting Erick Avari is never a bad idea, and he and Mary Carver both do a good job with the Novans’ mistrust. And I like that the Novans’ use of language has evolved over the decades, a bit of attention to linguistic detail that Trek rarely gets right.

But, unfortunately, there are a lot more elements of this episode that are really awful, starting with the Novans’ makeup, which varies wildly depending on what set they’re on. Seriously, the radiation gunk looks completely different on Enterprise from how it looks in the shuttlepod, which is different again from how it looks in the caves. They spend how much per episode, and they can’t get this right?

Plus, if this is such a big mystery, one that Earth has been wondering about for seven decades, why wasn’t it the first place Enterprise set course for once they dropped Klaang off on Kronos? Even if it was still several weeks away, why wasn’t it their first intended destination? They still could’ve stopped off at the various other spots on the way, but this should’ve been a priority…

Also the fact that Earth didn’t ask the Vulcans to check out Terra Nova makes nothing like sense, even taking into account that Enterprise is determined to show us that the humans of the twenty-second century are whiny, smug, arrogant morons who generally act like six-year-olds. To make matters worse, the old communications from the colony specifically mention the idea of the Vulcans being sent to help them when the asteroid hits.

It’s especially frustrating because the concept here is an excellent one, but the execution is slow and boring and predictable and lifeless.

Warp factor rating: 4

Rewatcher’s note: The Enterprise Rewatch will be taking the next couple of weeks off for the holiday season. Thanks to all of you who’ve been joining me on this journey down the long road that leads from there to here, and I hope you have a lovely and safe holiday and new year. We’ll be back on the 3rd of January with “The Andorian Incident.”

Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the many author guests at DisCon III, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, this coming weekend at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Click here for his full schedule.

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