Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 21
Production episode 021
Original air date: April 24, 2002
Captain’s star log. Archer and Mayweather wake up on a floor. They’re in some kind of closed facility, and everyone else inside is a Suliban. Apparently their shuttlepod was attacked, but they don’t know by who.
An alarm goes off, and all the Suliban go into the corridors to stand for inspection, which is done by some aliens in uniform. One of them, Major Klev, brings Archer and Mayweather to the person in charge, Colonel Grat. The aliens are Tandarans and they’re at war with the Suliban Cabal. Grat explains that the planet they were surveying was a Tandaran military installation, which mistook them for disguised Cabal members. A DNA test has revealed the truth, but Tandaran law is very strict: they must remain detained at this facility until they can be brought before a magistrate on Tandar Prime, which won’t happen for three days. Grat tells them that they’ll be fed well and kept as comfortable as possible until the transport arrives to take them to their day in court. Archer’s request to contact Enterprise is denied, but Grat says he’ll talk to them and let them know they’re okay.
The food they’re given doesn’t match either Archer or Mayweather’s idea of being fed well, but they choke it down. The Suliban are not treated especially well—during inspection, one drops a cup he was holding and gets hit with a shock-stick for his trouble—and at first Archer and Mayweather assume them to be Cabal troops that have been captured in the war. However, a conversation with Danik and his daughter Narra while all three are getting some water reveals that they’re not Cabal, just ordinary Suliban who were imprisoned solely on the basis of what species they were.
Their talk is interrupted by Klev, who says they’re out after curfew. Archer tries to take responsibility for that, as he was asking questions, but rules are rules, and Klev reluctantly takes Danik to isolation.
Grat contacts Enterprise, filling them in on the situation. He urges T’Pol to travel to Tandara Prime in order to pick Archer and Mayweather up there after their hearing in three days. Sato is unable to get a fix on where the communiqué is coming from, as it’s been scrambled. Tucker wants to mount a rescue mission, but T’Pol prefers to follow Tandaran law.
After he’s freed from isolation, Danik is approached by a very apologetic Archer. Danik explains that the Suliban are mostly nomadic these days, as their homeworld became uninhabitable three hundred years ago. Since the Cabal became active, the Suliban who live in Tandaran space have been targeted, regardless of any possible Cabal affiliation, supposedly for their own protection. Danik has petitioned several times to be reunited with his wife, also Narra’s mother, who was sent to a different facility, and those requests have been repeatedly denied.
After Archer leaves, another Suliban, Sajen, tells Danik to be wary of Archer, as he and Mayweather may be spies for Grat.
Grat summons Archer to his office again. He’s gotten a more detailed report on Enterprise’s activities from Tandaran intelligence, and now knows that they’ve had several dealings with the Cabal. Grat interrogates Archer about the Cabal, but he refuses to take either side in this conflict and declines to provide any useful answers to the colonel’s questions. Grat says that he can keep Archer here after the transport arrives tomorrow, and the next one won’t be for two months. Archer stands his ground.
Then Grat contacts Enterprise and says that the hearing has been delayed. He tells them to continue to Tandar Prime and they’ll be given a tour of the capital city. However, with this second communication, Sato is able to trace the signal. T’Pol now agrees with Tucker that Grat is full of shit, and they set course for the detention center now that they know where it is.
Danik tells Archer that he should tell Grat what he knows, but the notion of cooperating with someone who would unjustly imprison innocent people doesn’t sit well with Archer. Danik also tells him of a docking bay that contains Suliban-owned ships that have been impounded, and also the Enterprise shuttlepod that Archer and Mayweather were shot down in. Archer immediately starts to plan an escape.
Sajen still doesn’t trust the humans, and an attempt by Mayweather to talk to him is met with scorn. Sajen also thinks the notion of trying to escape is madness and he refuses to help Archer, Mayweather, and Danik plan it.
Enterprise arrives in orbit and they beam a communicator down to Archer’s location. Archer tells them not to beam him and Mayweather up just yet. Having Enterprise‘s help will make the prison break easier to accomplish.
Grat questions Archer, then has Mayweather brought in: the Tandarans have tortured the pilot and found a communicator on him. Archer is put in isolation. Grat is also not happy to see Enterprise in orbit, and he contacts them via the confiscated communicator to tell them to back off.
Sajen sees that Mayweather has been tortured, and the latter snidely asks if the Suliban still thinks they’re spies.
When he sees that Enterprise is still in orbit, Grat contacts them again, through more traditional channels, and tells them to back off. T’Pol insists that they want to invite him up to the ship for a meal and also share both Starfleet’s database and the Vulcan database. Sato embeds the datastream with interference that messes with the detention center’s sensors long enough to beam a surgically altered Reed down and also launch a shuttlepod with Tucker at the helm.
The Suliban-disguised Reed blows a few holes in the detention center and frees Archer from isolation, while Tucker takes out the guard tower. Sajen decides to join the fun, and the Suliban all manage to escape. Grat is livid, and is convinced that the Suliban will all go into the waiting arms of the Cabal now.
Archer admits to Mayweather and Reed as they fly back to Enterprise in their retrieved shuttlepod that he does think the Suliban will get out of Tandaran space safely, but he has no idea if they’ll be all right.
The gazelle speech. Archer is reminded by T’Pol that he had sworn he was going to stop interfering in other cultures, and Archer says this is an exception. He refuses to cooperate with Grat in his war effort against the Cabal (especially after Grat tortures his subordinate), and he refuses to let the unjust imprisonment of the Suliban stand.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. After raising her objection, T’Pol then jumps into making the prison break work with both feet, feeding Grat a hilarious line of bullshit about inviting him to dinner and sharing information and such.
Florida Man. Florida Man Aids In Prison Break By Blowing Up Guard Tower.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox is able to make Reed look like a Suliban. It’s enough to fool Mayweather, but hilariously not Archer.
The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… At one point, T’Pol offers to contact the Vulcan High Command to send an arbitrator to represent Archer and Mayweather at their hearing on Tandar Prime. Tucker rejects the notion, likening it to a death sentence. Nice to see that twenty-second-century humans remain racist assholes… (Seriously, whatever you might think of Vulcans, I’d love to have one as a lawyer. See also, Tuvok in Voyager’s “Death Wish” and “Author, Author.”)
I’ve got faith…
“I’m willing to compromise, Captain—just tell me what you know about Sillik.”
“Well, he’s about this tall, a little on the scrawny side, bad teeth…”
–Grat interrogating Archer and Archer pretending to cooperate.
Welcome aboard. Past Trek guests Dennis Christopher and Christopher Shea, who both played Vorta on DS9 (the former as Borath in “The Search, Part II,” the latter as Keevan in “Rocks and Shoals” and “The Magnificent Ferengi“), play, respectively, Danik and Sajen. Shea, who also played Saowin in Voyager’s “Think Tank,” will be back as an Andorian in “Cease Fire.”
David Kagen plays Klev, Jessica D. Stone plays Narra, and Wilda Taylor plays the cynical Suliban woman.
But the big guest, of course, is the late great Dean Stockwell, one of the greatest actors of any age, as Grat.
Trivial matters: This episode had some obvious stunt casting, as Scott Bakula’s biggest role prior to Enterprise was starring on Quantum Leap alongside Dean Stockwell. Your humble rewatcher was always disappointed that they never got Robert Urich on DS9 to play alongside his Spenser: for Hire co-star Avery Brooks, so this was incredibly cool to see.
This episode is an allegory for the detaining of Japanese-Americans in the U.S. during World War II, an allegory that Archer spells out when discussing the detention center with T’Pol, specifically mentioning Manzanar, though that was only one of ten such detention centers in the U.S. The site is now a historical landmark in remembrance of the internment.
It’s been a long road… “This isn’t about my rights, it’s about theirs.” I wanted to love this episode a lot more than I actually did. I mean, we start off with the Scott Bakula-Dean Stockwell reunion, which is worth the price of admission all by itself, especially to this fan of Quantum Leap. And the storyline is very much a Trek one of shining a light on human behavior via aliens—even more so, as this particular time in history is one that has been a cause célèbre for one of Trek’s icons, George Takei, who was put in one of those detention centers as a child, an experience that was the inspiration for the play Allegiance.
And yet, I found myself disappointed in a lot of it. Part of it is that the metaphor was sledgehammered a little too heavily, with Archer actually coming out and mentioning Manzanar. Admittedly, it’s a part of U.S. history that doesn’t get discussed nearly as much as it should be, which was even more true in 2002, so it’s likely that scripters Phyllis Strong and Mike Sussman felt they needed to be more overt about the analogy.
In addition, the climactic prison break is surprisingly lifeless. It’s especially disappointing in an episode directed by David Livingston, whose Trek resumé includes (among others) “Power Play” on TNG, “The Die is Cast” on DS9, and “Scorpion” on Voyager, all great action pieces. In particular, I’m baffled as to why we never actually see what the result is of Sajen going back to help Danik. Did they survive? Did they make it to the ships? We’ve spent the whole episode being invested in the plight of the Suliban in general and of Danik, Sajen, and Narra in particular, and to not reveal whether or not they even survived the prison break feels like a cheat or a failure of writing. In addition, Sajen himself is a tired stock character whose journey from contrary asshole to hero is depressingly paint-by-numbers.
Also, Tucker’s bitching and moaning when Grat contacts Enterprise feels horribly constructed. They’ve decided that Tucker is going to play the McCoy role of bitching and moaning whenever T’Pol/Spock does something, and they follow that preordained narrative word for predictable word, even if it doesn’t make sense, and gives us more racist Tucker as he likens using a Vulcan lawyer to the death penalty.
Having said all that, it’s still an episode with lots of good bits. I like that Archer doesn’t hesitate to help out the Suliban in whatever way he can, going so far as to delay being rescued to do so—an action that indirectly leads to his pilot getting tortured. I love T’Pol bullshitting Grat to cover Reed beaming down and Tucker taking out the shuttlepod. Dennis Christopher does a fine job as the imprisoned civilian who just wants to be reunited with his wife and do the best he can to keep his daughter safe.
And, of course, Stockwell is never not wonderful. (Amusingly, I’ve been watching old episodes of Columbo on Peacock, and Stockwell appeared on a couple of episodes as a young man—I almost didn’t recognize him…) I love how Grat starts out reasonable, seeming like a bureaucrat who’s just doing his job, but with each scene he’s in, the fanaticism comes out, culminating in his ends-justify-the-means nonsense about how they’re “protecting” the Suliban by imprisoning them without due process. I particularly like the exchange where Grat insists that the Suliban are desperate and have nothing left and won’t be able to resist what the Cabal offers. Leaving aside the obvious—they only have nothing left and are desperate because Grat and his ilk threw them in jail because of what species they happen to be—Archer’s response is beautiful: “I haven’t been here very long, but I seem to know these people a helluva lot better than you do.”
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Indiana Comic Con this coming weekend at the Indiana Convention Center. He will be at Bard’s Tower, booth 1536, selling and signing his books alongside fellow authors John Jackson Miller, Gama Martinez, Rick Heinz, and Brian Anderson. Other Trek folks who’ll be there include actors Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, John deLancie, and Carlos Ferro (Carlos will also be at Bard’s Tower with Keith). Keith will be doing panels as well—click here for details.