Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Shadows of P’Jem”

“Shadows of P’Jem”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 1, Episode 15
Production episode 014
Original air date: February 6, 2002
Date: October 2151

Captain’s star log. On Earth, Soval informs Forrest that the Andorians have destroyed the monastery, and the secret listening post, on P’Jem. Soval blames Starfleet for the Andorians discovering the post and announces that he’s being recalled to Vulcan and all joint High Command-Starfleet operations are being suspended.

Forrest contacts Enterprise and informs Archer of what happened, which means, among other things, that T’Pol is being reassigned. Archer is very upset; T’Pol takes it with her usual equanimity.

She has time for one final mission: Enterprise is heading to Coridan, a thriving planet that has an impressive shipbuilding industry. The Coridan chancellor has invited Archer and one other to visit. Archer takes T’Pol with him rather than Tucker (who is eager to see the shipbuilding) so he can have one last mission with her, and maybe convince her to fight to stay on board.

Unfortunately, when they take a shuttle down to the surface, they’re attacked and taken prisoner by revolutionaries led by a Coridanite named Traeg, who assumes that T’Pol is the superior officer. T’Pol plays along by saying that Archer is the ship’s steward and they were preparing a meal for the chancellor. Traeg has no love for the Vulcans, as they support the current government that he’s fighting against.

The Vulcan vessel Ni’Var arrives early to pick up T’Pol. Tucker reluctantly informs Captain Sopek that Archer and T’Pol have been kidnapped. The Coridan chancellor is less than helpful to Enterprise, but is more than happy to let Ni’Var take charge of investigation and rescue.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Shadows of P'Jem"

Screenshot: CBS

Archer and T’Pol manage to get out of their bonds and try to escape, but are quickly recaptured. Traeg then sends a ransom demand to Enterprise: forty phase pistols like the ones Archer and T’Pol were carrying. The chancellor had advised them against dealing with the terrorists, and Reed agrees: leaving aside that they don’t have as many as forty phase pistols, there’s no guarantee that giving them away would free the captain and sub-commander.

Sopek plans to do a commando raid to rescue Archer and T’Pol. Tucker is less than thrilled with the high risk factor there, so he orders Reed and Sato to try to locate the shuttle. Once they find what they think is it, Tucker and Reed go down—only to also be captured, but not by the Coridanites, but instead by Andorians! Shran and Tholos inform them that, had they actually gone to the shuttle pod, they’d have been ambushed, as it was a trap. They’re there because Shran has been losing sleep over his being indebted to Archer. He plans to rescue him by way of repaying that debt. Shran has an informant among Traeg’s people, and he has that informant smuggle in a communications device to let Archer know what’s coming.

Shran, Tholos, Tucker, and Reed effect a rescue just as Sopek’s commando raid happens, and there’s a big-ass firefight. Shran gives T’Pol back the scanner she gave him at the end of “The Andorian Incident,” and then he argues with Sopek about treaty violations.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Shadows of P'Jem"

Screenshot: CBS

Traeg was wounded in the firefight, but he manages to fire a shot at Sopek, which T’Pol jumps in front of, saving the captain’s life. Over Sopek’s objections, Archer brings the unconscious T’Pol to Enterprise, where Phlox treats her. Archer pleads with Sopek to advocate on T’Pol’s behalf to stay on Enterprise. Either way, he can’t take her on the Ni’Var, as Phlox declares her too badly injured to be moved. Sopek says that he will speak to the High Command.

The gazelle speech. Archer has gone from wanting to knock T’Pol on her ass to fighting tooth and claw to keep her on board in a mere six months!

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol points out that her initial assignment to Enterprise was only supposed to be eight days and it would be illogical to expect it to last that much longer anyhow.

Florida Man. Florida Man Makes Racist Remarks Toward Vulcan Captain While Asking Him For Help.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox points out that T’Pol is the only Vulcan who has served aboard a human vessel for more than a few weeks. The others all couldn’t handle the rampant emotionalism.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Shadows of P'Jem"

Screenshot: CBS

Ambassador Pointy. Soval has many disparaging remarks to make about Archer on his way out the door.

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… Vulcan is sufficiently cranky about the destruction of P’Jem that they suspend joint operations with Earth.

Blue meanies. The Andorians were kind enough to give the monks (and spies) on P’Jem fair warning before blowing it up, so everyone survived. (Interestingly, T’Pol is the only one who asks if the relics were saved, and Archer doesn’t know—and we never do find out…)

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When they’re trying to extricate themselves from their bonds, at one point T’Pol falls on top of Archer, her breasts smushed into Archer’s face. That speaks so well of what the producers thought of their primary audience…

More on this later… The planet of Coridan was first introduced in the original series’ “Journey to Babel,” where the conference to which the Enterprise was ferrying various diplomats was to decide whether or not the planet should join the Federation. It wasn’t established until TNG’s “Sarek” that they did, in fact, join the Federation.

I’ve got faith…

“Your people took something away from my father that meant a lot to him. They’re not going to do the same thing to me.”

–Archer first explaining why he’s so bitchy toward Vulcans and then showing how much he’s been able to move past that to appreciate T’Pol.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Shadows of P'Jem"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Gary Graham returns as Soval (last seen in “Broken Bow“) and Jeffrey Combs and Steven Dennis are back as Shran and Tholos, respectively (last seen in “The Andorian Incident“), officially making all three characters recurring. Graham and Combs will both continue in their roles to the show’s conclusion; this is Dennis’s final appearance. Graham will next appear in “Shockwave, Part II,” Combs will be back in “Cease Fire.”

Vaughn Armstrong is back for the second week in a row, this time in his more familiar recurring role of Forrest, who was last seen in “Fortunate Son.” He’ll be back in “Fusion.”

Gregory Itzin plays his fourth of five guest roles on Trek as Sopek, having previously appeared in DS9’s “Dax” and “Who Mourns for Morn?” and Voyager’s “Critical Care.” He’ll next appear in Part 2 of “In a Mirror, Darkly.” Barbara J. Tarbuck, last seen in TNG’s “The Host” as a Pelian, plays the Cordian chancellor. Jeff Kober, last seen in Voyager’s “Repentance” as a murderer, plays Traeg.

Trivial matters: This episode is a direct sequel to “The Andorian Incident.” It also takes place six months after “Broken Bow.”

The Vulcan vessel Ni’Var is named after the novella “Ni Var” by Claire Gabriel, which was originally published in the fanzine Quartet in 1974, then professionally reprinted in the 1976 anthology The New Voyages. The starship Ni’Var is also seen in Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. Discovery‘s “Unification III” will establish that the Vulcan and Romulan people will unite some time between the twenty-fourth and thirty-second centuries and the planet Vulcan will be renamed Ni’Var.

Captain Gardner is mentioned as Soval’s preferred choice to have captained the Enterprise. He’ll be mentioned a few more times, later promoted to admiral and taking over for Forrest when the latter is killed in season four. His Mirror Universe counterpart will be seen in “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II,” played by John Mahon. He was named after a friend of co-writer Phyllis Strong’s who died in the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

Coridanites will continue to be seen on Enterprise, and also on Discovery.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Shadows of P'Jem"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “She’s still my science officer.” This is about seventy-five percent of an excellent episode. My biggest problems with it are that it should have been immediately after “The Andorian Incident,” not eight episodes later, and the completely unconvincing ending.

While television has gotten looser in this regard over the last decade or so, as a general rule a person’s name in the opening credits means they’re going to continue to be a part of the show. So building an episode around the second-billed person in the opening credits possibly leaving the show doesn’t exactly put the “art” in artificial suspense. There are ways of doing this that are convincing and interesting—for example, the EMH’s tragic reasons for not leaving Voyager in “Virtuoso.” Unfortunately, “Shadows of P’Jem” falls more into the same weak-sauce category as the original series’ “Operation—Annihilate!” (with the out-of-nowhere revelation about the Vulcan inner eyelid enabling Spock to stop being blind and continue to serve) and TNG’s “The Icarus Factor” (where Riker just provided a poor last-minute excuse for not accepting the Aries that pretty much boiled down to “I’m in the opening credits, I can’t leave”).

T’Pol’s remaining on board boils down to appealing to Sopek’s feelings of sentiment for the person who saved his life, and while it’s possible they could’ve picked a less convincing reason for a Vulcan to do something, it doesn’t spring readily to mind. There’s nothing in Sopek’s character—he’s all-business and snotty even by Vulcans’ high standards—that indicates that he’d be at all interested in advocating for T’Pol. And even if he does so, Archer’s belief that it’d be enough to convince High Command to leave her be is specious to say the least.

It’s too bad, because up until the ending, it’s a good episode. This is the sort of thing Enterprise is best at: humans stumbling out into the galaxy and getting caught up in the chaos of the pre-Federation Alpha Quadrant politics. The opening with Soval and Forrest is excellent, setting the stage nicely. Jeffrey Combs remains magnificence itself as Shran, and I love the fact that he wants to repay his debt to Archer, not out of some sense of honor or duty or anything like that, but because being indebted to some schmuck of an alien annoys the shit out of him and is keeping him up at night.

Though there are other issues, as well. I know the intentions of the producers were to show Vulcans as the bad guys and humans as the victims of them being big meanies, but watching Tucker be an asshole to Sopek just has the opposite effect. Sopek is just doing his job, and Tucker is defensive and quick to think the worst of the Vulcans, and pretty much comes across as racist. Yeah, Sopek’s a pompous ass, but that’s not a good enough reason for Tucker’s attitude.

And T’Pol falling boobs-first on Archer was just cringe-inducing.

Still, this episode moves the political chess pieces around some, gives us some more insight into a world introduced in passing on the original series, shows how much Archer has come to appreciate T’Pol, and has Combs being awesome.

Warp factor rating: 7

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, which will only last until tomorrow night.

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