Written by John Shiban
Directed by James Contner
Season 2, Episode 3
Production episode 029
Original air date: October 2, 2002
Captain’s star log. Reed has been invited to have breakfast with the captain, and it’s massively awkward, as Archer wants to have a friendly, non-duty-related chat with his subordinates, and Reed is completely not capable of doing that even a little bit. T’Pol’s report that they’ve found a Minshara-class planet comes as a huge relief to Reed.
Just as they’re about to achieve orbit and Archer is talking about exploration procedures, there’s a big-ass explosion that takes out a bit of the saucer—but, miraculously, no fatalities, though there are a ton of injuries (including a concussed Sato). They quickly realize that it’s a mine, one that’s cloaked, and another attaches itself to the hull but somehow doesn’t explode.
While Reed suits up to go out onto the hull and defuse the mine, Archer, aware that no one in the history of military strategy ever set as few as two mines at a time, deploys the quantum beacons they used to detect cloaked Suliban ships and are able to detect all the other mines.
A ship decloaks and broadcasts a warning, but the translator isn’t working, and Sato is concussed. However, Sato powers through her head trauma to translate the message, though it takes a while. The Romulan Star Empire—a name both T’Pol and Archer recognize—claim this planet and demand that Enterprise leave. Mayweather slowly works his way out of the minefield.
Reed’s attempted defusing is complicated by a strut from the mine suddenly coming out to attach itself to the hull—doing so through Reed’s leg. He’s now pinned to the hull.
Archer goes out to help Reed, letting the armory officer talk him through the very complicated defusing process. While doing so, Archer is able to finally have the friendly conversation with Reed that he wanted at breakfast (Reed being somewhat of a captive audience), though Reed would prefer to focus on defusing the mine. However, Reed eventually opens up a bit, including some criticisms he has of Archer’s looser command style. He also reveals that he broke the family tradition of serving in the Royal Navy, choosing Starfleet instead, primarily due to suffering from aquaphobia. He also tells Archer about an uncle who suffered from the same syndrome, but served anyhow, sacrificing his life to save his crew.
Meanwhile, Tucker works to implement Plan B, which is to detach the hull plating on the part the mine is on. The issue there is that Reed is currently attached to the mine, and they can’t get him off without setting off the mine until it’s defused.
This is only a problem once Mayweather gets them out of the minefield. By this time, they’ve been able to use Sato’s translation work to talk to the Romulans. The Romulan commander insists that they detach the hull plating, having been able to determine that they’ve prepared for that. To the Romulans’ mind, it’s worth the sacrifice of one of their crew, especially since they assume Enterprise is there to spy on them.
Archer does something that rearms the mine, and he has to reset it and start it all over again. They no longer have time to go through it all, and Reed insists that they detach the hull plating and sacrifice him. Archer refuses, instead going back into Enterprise and grabbing two pieces of shuttlecraft hull plating. He goes back out, has Tucker detach the hull bit, then he slices off the strut on either side of the wounds on Reed’s leg which, as anticipated, sets the mine off. They use the hull plating to protect themselves from the explosion and then are brought safely back on board.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Tucker reminds T’Pol nervously that, between a chunk of the saucer being blown away and them removing a slice of hull plating, polarizing the hull to protect the ship from Romulan attack may not be that easy…
The gazelle speech. Archer comes to understand Reed better, and returns the favor by explaining why he has a more casual command style.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol is left in charge while Archer is helping Reed and she gets to negotiate with the Romulans, which doesn’t go all that great.
Florida Man. Florida Man Goes Entire Episode Without Washing His Face.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox has to treat a large number of crew who are injured by the mine—at one point he tells one crewmember that he has to wait his turn for the osmotic eel to cauterize his wound, as the little guy is getting quite a workout…
The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… The Vulcans have heard of the Romulans but never had any encounters, according to T’Pol. This is obviously horribly wrong, but most Vulcans won’t know about that until way later. (See next paragraph.)
More on this later… It was established in “Balance of Terror,” the original series episode that introduced the Romulans, that no visual contact was ever made between Earth and the Romulans, and Spock’s surprise that Romulans are Vulcanoid indicates that the same is true for the Vulcans. As a result, there is no visual contact here, either.
I’ve got faith…
“Frankly, sir, from my point of view—that kind of socializing has no place on a starship.”
“I had a CO once, felt the same way. ‘They’re your crew, not your friends.’ I thought about that a lot when I took this command—but then I realized, this is not a typical mission. We could be out here for years. All we have to depend on is each other.”
–Reed and Archer discussing command styles.
Welcome aboard. No actual guests in this one—the closest they come is the Romulan commander, whose voice work is uncredited.
Trivial matters: This is humanity’s first contact with the Romulans, who were established as fighting a war with Earth a century or so prior to the original series in “Balance of Terror.” Had Enterprise gone to a fifth season, that war would’ve been chronicled in that year. Instead, it was chronicled in the two-book The Romulan War series by Michael A. Martin.
Archer uses the quantum beacons that they built with thirty-first-century technology in “Shockwave” to detect the cloaked mines. He first heard about the Romulan Star Empire in the future library he wandered through in “Shockwave, Part II.”
This is the first of five Trek writing credits for John Shiban, who made a name for himself as a writer/producer on The X-Files and its spinoffs Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen. He joined the series as a co-executive producer for the show’s second season, though he was only on staff for the one season. He would go on to work on Breaking Bad, Torchwood, and Hell on Wheels, among many others.
The source of Reed’s aquaphobia will be revealed in the novel The Good that Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, as relating to a childhood trauma from Reed being bullied.
Romulan ships and mines are both cloaked, despite the notion of cloaking technology being spoken of as brand-new in “Balance of Terror.” I’m just putting this here as a reminder that Discovery was not the first Trek prequel series to disregard what “Balance of Terror” implied.
It’s been a long road… “Not a very subtle warning shot…” This introduction of the Romulans to Enterprise shares some qualities with the episode that introduce them overall, “Balance of Terror.” “Minefield” is nowhere near as tense or exciting, but it is significantly more gripping that any episode of Enterprise to date. Part of that is because we get some really nice characterization of both Reed and Archer—especially Reed. John Shiban builds nicely on what we’ve learned of Reed particularly in “Silent Enemy” and “Shuttlepod One.”
But the real thing Shiban brings to the table is an understanding of how commercial television works. For what seems like the first time in twenty-nine episodes, we have a script that ends acts on a gripping, cliffhangery note, starting with the teaser. Where most episodes limp toward Russell Watson crooning the theme song, this episode has an actual exciting teaser that makes you want to suffer through “Where My Heart Will Take Me” to find out what happens next, a vanishingly rare occurrence on this show.
This episode, more than any other so far, had me engaged in what was happening. Yes, I knew that Reed was going to survive, but watching the process by which they got there was genuinely interesting. Archer has been a thoroughly mediocre captain thus far, but at the very least we get some insight into his relaxed command style.
Nothing groundbreaking, but a fun, exciting thriller of an episode.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido has three short stories out in June: “A Lovely View,” a tale of Zorro in Zorro’s Exploits, edited by Audrey Parente, from Bold Venture Press; “What You Can Become Tomorrow,” a story that features author Mary Shelley, baseball player Josh Gibson, and NASA scientist Florence Johnson, in Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, edited by Michael A. Ventrella, from Fantastic Books; and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a Super City Cops story in Tales of Capes and Cowls, edited by C.T. Phipps, from Crossroad Press.