Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Silent Enemy”

“Silent Enemy”
Written by André Bormanis
Directed by Winrch Kolbe
Season 1, Episode 12
Production episode 012
Original air date: January 16, 2002
Date: September 1, 2151

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is dropping a couple of subspace amplifiers to make long-distance communication easier. They also encounter an alien vessel, which has a sensor-proof screen and which doesn’t respond at all to hails.

Now that they can contact Earth more readily, Archer has Sato put a call through to Reed’s parents. The armory officer’s birthday is approaching, and the captain wants to surprise him with his favorite food. However, the Reeds—who don’t even know what Reed’s position is on Enterprise—have no idea what their son’s favorite food is.

Archer puts Sato in charge of learning Reed’s favorite food, but conversations with his sister, best friend, aunts, and uncle yield no useful intel.

The alien ship returns and still ignores hails. This time it fires on Enterprise, and the weapons fire comes dangerously close to a hull breach that would’ve killed a dozen of the crew. Reed was able to briefly scan the ship, and found fifteen bio-signs, but the life form is unfamiliar to the Enterprise database, and to T’Pol.

Archer decides that they’re not really ready to defend themselves properly from threats out here. They have ports for phase cannons, but they weren’t installed because they buggered off to bring Klaang home. Archer orders Mayweather to turn around and head home to Jupiter Station to get the cannons installed, but Reed and Tucker both think they can do it themselves. Archer doesn’t agree to let them do it all out here, but does permit them to at least get started so they can save time in spacedock.

At T’Pol’s suggestion, Sato tries the direct approach by asking Reed himself, which the latter misinterprets as her asking him on a date.

Screenshot: CBS

Tucker upbraids Reed for tying the phase cannons’ power to the impulse engines, as that risks power surges that could cause catastrophic damage. Reed insists that that risk is minimal, but Tucker insists he not go through with it, and since Tucker’s the commander and Reed’s the lieutenant, the former wins that argument.

The alien ship pursues them at warp and attacks again, hitting them with a damping field that brings them out of warp and kills main power. The aliens board the ship, render two crewmembers unconscious, prove resistant to phase pistol fire, and then leave, damaging a nacelle on their way out.

The two subspace amplifiers have been destroyed by the aliens, so Enterprise can’t call for help. (They can, actually, it’ll just take a while for help to hear the call…) Archer tells Tucker that they’re still going back home once warp power is back—the next time they leave Earth, they won’t do it until they’re ready. Tucker reminds Archer that everyone on this ship wants to be there and knows the risks. He also reminds him that the earliest space explorers took off from Earth with exploding hydrogen under their asses, but they took that risk, too.

Tucker then goes to Reed and tells him to go ahead and hook up the phase cannons to the impulse drive.

Two days later, they test the shiny new phase cannons on a small mountain on a moon. But instead of taking a bit off the top of the mountain, they pulverize the entire mountain, leaving a crater behind, and blown-out relays on the ship. While effecting repairs, T’Pol finds a surveillance device left behind by the aliens when they boarded.

Sato goes to sickbay to see that the two crewmembers have been discharged and are recovering in their quarters. She asks if Phlox knows what Reed’s favorite food is. His negative answer so dismays Phlox that he violates medical ethics by revealing that Reed takes shots to deal with a bromelain allergy, which enables him to eat pineapple. He wouldn’t get the shots if he didn’t have a fondness for the fruit.

The aliens return, and this time Enterprise fights back with the phase cannons, this time working at normal output. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do any damage, so Archer orders Reed and Tucker to re-create the malfunction on the moon. That works, albeit with some damage to the Enterprise, and they follow up with some torpedoes. The aliens beat a hasty retreat.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Silent Enemy"

Screenshot: CBS

Since the cannons work just fine (more or less), Archer decides not to head home, and they resume their previous course. And then, during what’s ostensibly a toast to celebrate the successful implementation of the cannons, Sato brings out a birthday cake for Reed that has pineapple filling. Reed is thrilled, as that’s his favorite, and how did they know???

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? If you use the gravity plating to channel energy into the structural integrity field, your hyper-powered phase cannons won’t blow up the ship. Probably.

The gazelle speech. Archer is tired of Enterprise getting its ass kicked and wants to go home and put in bigger guns. Instead, his crew puts in bigger guns, and all is well. Or something.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. Archer mentions that T’Pol’s latest attempt to use chopsticks has been a hilarious failure, prompting Tucker to refer to her struggle with the Asian implements to be “dinner and a show.”

Florida Man. Florida Man Gets Dear John Letter From Girlfriend in Pensacola.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox saves the day by revealing Reed’s pineapple allergy.

Good boy, Porthos! Archer and Tucker converse while the former is walking the pooch through the corridors of Enterprise. One wonders how, exactly, they deal with the output from those walks…

Star Trek: Enterprise "Silent Enemy"

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Besides Tucker’s girlfriend Natalie breaking up with him over subspace, we have Reed mistaking Sato’s attempt to learn his favorite food to be flirting.

I’ve got faith…

“What are Malcolm’s duties on your ship, Captain?”

“He’s my armory officer.”

“Well, his grandfather would be pleased. He was an ordinance officer himself in the Royal Navy.”

“It must be in Malcolm’s blood.”

“The Reeds have been navy men for generations.”

“Until Malcolm decided to join Starfleet. I suppose the ocean wasn’t big enough for him.”

–Reed’s parents discussing their son with Archer, and being very disapproving and stuff.

Welcome aboard. The amusingly named Paula Malcolmson plays Reed’s sister, John Rosenfeld (last seen as an alien in Voyager’s “Friendship One”) plays Reed’s friend, and Jane Carr plays Reed’s Mom. Robert Mammana (last seen as a Quarren in Voyager’s “Workforce”) plays Eddie the engineer.

And then we have this week’s Robert Knepper moment, to wit, Guy Siner—probably best known as Lieutenant Gruber on ‘Allo ‘Allo!—as Reed’s Dad.

Trivial matters: This is the only Enterprise episode directed by Winrich Kolbe—one of the franchise’s best and most prolific directors—and also the last Trek episode he would direct. He retired from directing a year after this, and took a position as a professor of film & television at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He retired from that in 2007 and died in 2012.

Tucker and Archer discuss the events of “Broken Bow” at some length when the captain starts getting cold feet.

The episode was originally titled “Call to Arms,” but was changed when they realized that title had already been used by a DS9 episode.

The date on this episode is actually one week prior to the date given for the previous episode, “Cold Front,” which first aired two months before this one did.

Latrelle’s speculation that Reed hates fish is contradicted both earlier in the scene when Reed’s sister mentions his love of octopus, and again four episodes hence in “Shuttlepod One,” where the first of the emergency rations Reed goes for is sea bass.

The aliens in this episode are never seen again onscreen. They do show up in Star Trek Online, where they’re named the Elachi, and are seen as allies of the Romulans in the twenty-fifth century. They also appear as the antagonists in regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation novel A Choice of Futures, where they are named the Vertians.

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “We have our sources.” This is a perfectly cromulent episode of Enterprise. I really like the fact that we never really find out what’s up with the aliens. Writer André Bormanis said in an interview with StarTrek.com in 2010 that he wanted them to stay unknown and confusing, because he truly believes that “our earliest encounters with alien life forms will leave us utterly baffled.” And he’s got a point…

And I like the attempts by Archer to do something nice for Reed that winds up being way harder than expected because Reed’s taciturn nature is way worse than anybody could have imagined. Also, Guy Siner and Jane Carr are perfection as the stiff-upper-lippy Reed parents.

Still, a lot of the episode falls a bit flat. For one thing, there was no indication prior to this that Enterprise went out underequipped. In fact, the whole argument at the top of “Broken Bow” was that Enterprise was past ready, but the Vulcans were trying to delay the launch further.

Even if we buy the premise that—like the third Federation starship to bear the same name—it went out before everything would be installed on Tuesday, if they had the fixin’s to install at least one phase cannon on board, why the hell didn’t they do it after they got their asses kicked in “Fight or Flight“?

And as much fun as it is watching Sato try to figure out Reed’s favorite food, the scene between Reed and Sato in the mess hall is a rhapsody in awkward that dances all over the line between amusing and painful to watch. It is far from the finest moment for either Linda Park or Dominic Keating.

I do like how Scott Bakula plays Archer’s growing insecurity about whether or not he did the right thing in telling the Vulcans to pound sand and flying off to Kronos with Klaang against their wishes, and I mostly like Tucker’s pep talk about the early astronauts (the caveat “mostly” necessary due to the continued tired racism regarding Vulcans).

Still, it’s a decent episode, all told…

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s other pop culture commentary includes essays in all three of The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 from Crazy 8 Press, including the forthcoming volume on the third season, entitled OOOFF! BOFF! SPLATT!, in which he discusses the series’ final episode, “Minerva, Millionaires, and Mayhem“; an essay on how poorly the three commanders were served on Stargate Atlantis in the soon-to-be-released Unauthorized Offworld Activation: Exploring the Stargate Franchise from Sequart; an upcoming monograph on the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parterBirthright” as part of The Gold Archive series from Obverse Books; and TV and movie reviews on his Patreon.

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