Written by Fred Dekker
Directed by Les Landau
Season 1, Episode 14
Production episode 015
Original air date: January 30, 2002
Captain’s star log. Sato is at the shooting range with Reed. She still can’t get above a 50% hit rate with the new phase pistols. Their practice is interrupted by the ship unexpectedly coming out of warp: they’ve encountered a class-9 gas giant.
T’Pol doesn’t think it’s much of a big deal, until they detect a crashed ship on the planet, with some bio-signs. Archer has T’Pol put together a boarding party—which may also need to be a rescue party. Sato goes to Archer and asks to be put on the team—a far cry from when they first set out and she was dead set against field work. Archer happily informs her that T’Pol had already requested that she be on the team with her and Reed.
Speaking of the armory officer, he’s in sickbay with a cold. Phlox treats him and approves him for away-team duty, as long a he doesn’t sneeze inside the helmet of his EVA suit.
The ship is sinking into the planet’s core, so the boarding party only has an hour or so. They arrive, and Sato recognizes the markings on board as Klingons, though it’s an unfamiliar type of ship. The good news is that the atmosphere and gravity are intact so they don’t need the EVA suits—though the smell is sufficiently awful that Reed is actually grateful to have a cold.
They find the crew unconscious on the bridge. T’Pol urges them to leave the crew there, as Klingon warriors prefer to die at their posts and are offended by the notion of being rescued. Reed does not share that position.
However, there is one Klingon who’s conscious: a female engineer names Bu’kaH, who ambushes Reed and then steals the shuttle pod, leaving the boarding party stranded.
Bu’kaH transmits a distress call when she achieves orbit. Enterprise takes the shuttle in tow with the grappler and brings it aboard. Bu’kaH takes out two security guards and almost takes out Tucker, but Archer is able to render her unconscious with his phase pistol. That’s why they pay him the captain money…
T’Pol, Reed, and Sato try to figure out how to operate the Klingon ship. Archer tries to pull off a rescue, but the Klingon ship has sunk too far for it to be safe to bring a shuttle pod down. So he brings Enterprise into the atmosphere, but the pressure is too much for the larger ship also, and they have to abort.
Bu’kaH regains consciousness and is convinced that the humans are behind the attack on their vessel. Phlox has detected a neurotoxin in Bu’kaH’s blood that is probably also responsible for rendering the rest of the crew comatose.
The boarding party finds the captain’s log: apparently they raided a Xarantine outpost. The neurotoxin was in the Xarantine ale that they looted and celebrated with. Archer, having failed when he asked Bu’kaH for help like a human, instead tries to think like a Klingon. He points out to Bu’kaH that to die of being poisoned by the booze you stole from a lesser race is not an honorable death.
Reed is getting dehydrated, and Sato and T’Pol go to the galley to get him some water. After seeing gagh and live targs for the first time, Sato starts to have an anxiety attack, but T’Pol is able to calm her down with a Vulcan meditation technique.
The boarding party fires the ship’s photon torpedoes to try to lift them higher in the atmosphere. The first few attempts don’t do much good, and it’s Sato who suggests firing a whole mess of torpedoes, draining the ship’s supply of them. This actually works, and brings the Klingon ship high enough that Archer and Bu’kaH can effect a rescue. Bu’kaH also brings Phlox’s cure for the neurotoxin, and administers it to her crew.
The Klingon ship—which is called the Somraw—breaks atmosphere and comes into orbit. The captain immediately threatens Enterprise. Archer calls his bluff, saying that his ship is barely holding it together and also that he knows for a fact that they’re out of torpedoes.
Everyone goes their separate ways. T’Pol, Sato, and Reed enjoy their stay in the decon chamber, which is refreshingly not stinky.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The magnetic fields of a gas giant’s atmosphere give off odd sounds when scanned. Mayweather refers to them as “siren calls,” and they used to give him nightmares as a kid when the Horizon passed by a gas giant.
The gazelle speech. Archer is frustrated when trying to deal with Klingons. This will be a running theme…
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol uses a meditation technique on Sato that seem to use Vulcan touch telepathy to some extent, though that’s never said out loud. Given the proscription against mind-melding that will be established in “Stigma,” this is particularly interesting…
Florida Man. Florida Man Keeps Chair Warm For Captain While Captain Does All The Fun Stuff.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox thinks it’s perfectly okay for Reed to go on an away team while sick with a cold which, after the last two years, comes across as howlingly irresponsible.
Qapla’! The Somraw appears to be Klingon military, but they’re also raiding sovereign outposts, so they may also be pirates. Or both. Also we see that they keep targs on board in a cargo hold to be killed for food when it’s suppertime…
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. T’Pol, Sato, and Reed all sit remarkably close to each other in their underwear in the decon chamber….
More on this later… The boarding party discovers that Klingons have something called “photon torpedoes” that they’ve never heard of before.
Also Reed bitches that they haven’t cured the common cold—which we know will be cured by the twenty-fourth century…
I’ve got faith…
“It’s called gagh. It’s a Klingon delicacy, but only when they’re alive.”
“They look like worms.”
“They are worms.”
–T’Pol introducing Sato to Klingon cuisine.
Welcome aboard. Vaughn Armstrong plays the Klingon captain. Originally Stephen Lee was to play the role, but he was unable to and Armstrong came in at the last minute to fill in. It’s Armstrong’s tenth role on a Trek show and his third Klingon (the others being his first Trek role, in TNG’s “Heart of Glory,” and also in Voyager’s “Endgame“).
Michelle C. Bonilla plays Bu’kaH.
Trivial matters: This is the final directorial credit for Les Landau, one of the most prolific directors in the Trek stable going back to the first season of TNG, and the only Enterprise episode he helmed. He appears to have retired from TV and film work after this.
Sato expressed apprehension about going on away missions in “Fight or Flight,” which she seems to have gotten over.
This is the only mention of the Xarantine people on screen, though the Rise of the Federation novel A Choice of Futures by regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett established that the yellow-skinned species seen in “Broken Bow” are the Xarantines. The Xarantine home system is also mentioned in both your humble rewatcher’s A Time for War, a Time for Peace and David Mack’s Destiny trilogy.
In 2020, Michelle C. Bonilla and Scott Bakula were reunited on an episode of NCIS: New Orleans, on which Bakula starred and Bonilla guest-starred.
It’s been a long road… “Remind me to stop trying to help people.” There’s nothing actively wrong with this episode. It’s a pretty basic try-to-rescue-a-ship-in-distress storyline that we’ve seen several billion times before from “The Doomsday Machine” to “The Next Phase” to “The Ship” to “Timeless” to “Context is for Kings” to “First First Contact.”
But there’s a goodly amount that’s passively wrong with the episode. Indeed, the episode is way way too passive. There’s absolutely no sense of tension or danger. The closest we come is when Sato throws a nutty in the mess hall, but that’s over with pretty quickly. It’s good to see that T’Pol feels comfortable enough with the crew at this point to help Sato out, at least. But there’s never any feeling that the boarding party is in serious danger, not from the music, not from the directing, not from the acting.
Indeed, something I’ve noticed about this season so far is that the show very rarely ends an act and goes to commercial break on a note of tension or suspense or curiosity. I can’t imagine what the thinking is there, but it’s been happening often enough that it seems to be a preference in the writers room. It’s actually less of an issue watching it now on Paramount+ or Netflix or your own DVDs, as there are no commercial breaks, but it still leads to a curtain of inconsequentiality hanging over the entire program.
This is especially problematic on a show that’s supposed to be all about the wild and wacky world of early human space travel, which should be chock full of danger and difficulty. But there was more tension, more sense of danger, in DS9’s “Starship Down,” which also had ships bopping about in a gas giant, even though the Defiant and the Jem’Hadar were way more technologically advanced and more experienced than the Enterprise and Somraw crew here.
It doesn’t help that the Klingons are dumber than a box of hair. The captain of the Somraw chose to land on the gas giant for some stupid reason and Bu’kaH’s belief that Enterprise poisoned them makes nothing like sense. And then the captain’s empty threat to attack Enterprise at the end is just ridiculous. You don’t expect them to thank Archer, but the very least they could do after Enterprise saved them from an embarrassingly dishonorable death is not try to shoot them.
It’s a good character piece, especially for Sato, building nicely on her anxieties established back in “Fight or Flight.” And I like that Archer’s trying to be a better diplomat and that he goes to the trouble of studying more about the Klingons (though you’d think he would’ve done more of that during and after “Broken Bow”…).
Still, this is ultimately nothing more than an average rescue-the-ship episode.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido urges folks to support the anthology The Fans are Buried Tales, edited by veteran Star Trek novelist Peter David and Kathleen O. David, to which Keith is one of the contributors. It features cosplayers telling stories in character for whoever they’re dressed as, and other contributors include fellow Trek prose stylists Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Rigel Ailur, Robert T. Jeschonek, and John Peel, and tons more besides. Here’s the link to the anthology’s Kickstarter.