Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and David Wilcox
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 2, Episode 6
Production episode 032
Original air date: October 30, 2002
Captain’s star log. We open at a ramshackle mining colony that is struggling to meet their quota. As they work, a ship comes down from orbit, but it’s not a ship they recognize. However, the viewer recognizes it as a shuttlepod from Enterprise.
Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker approach the miners about trading for some deuterium. The miners are unwilling to part with any deuterium. When Archer points out that they scanned a very large reserve, the miners are initially pissed that Enterprise scanned them at all. Archer assures them that they only did so because they didn’t reply to hails. The leader, Tessic, says they’re too busy mining and refining to answer hails, especially since two of their pumps are down. The reserve Enterprise scanned is for another customer, and Enterprise needs to leave before that customer arrives in a few days.
The haggling then begins in earnest, as Archer can offer Tucker’s repair services on the pumps, as well as some medical supplies and power cells. In exchange for that, Tessic will give them a tiny bit of deuterium, and they need to get it done before the other client arrives in three days.
Tucker goes back to the pod to find a stowaway: a boy named Q’ell, who asks lots of questions about the pod. Tucker offers him a ride, if he gets permission from his elders. Tucker then repairs the pumps.
E’Lis accompanies the shuttlepod back to Enterprise where Phlox provides her with various supplies. Phlox notices that she needs treatments for plasma burns, which is unusual for a mining colony, but E’Lis gives him a bullshit answer for it. Archer also notices that the mine is pretty run-down and should be in much better shape given how much deuterium they mine.
A Klingon ship comes out of warp. This is the other client. It turns out that Tessic doesn’t trade with them, he simply gives them as much deuterium as they want in exchange for Korok, the leader of the Klingon gang, not killing them all. They tried rebelling, and it got several people—including Q’ell’s father—killed. The Enterprise crew on the planet hide and Enterprise stays on the far side of the planet from the Klingon ship when it comes into orbit.
The deuterium earmarked for Korok is insufficient, which Tessic blames on the broken pumps that have only just been fixed. Korok “generously” gives them four days to mine the rest of it.
Tessic gives Archer the deuterium they asked for, and then politely but urgently asks them to leave before the Klingons come back. Archer, however, is not willing to let this go. T’Pol points out that fighting off the Klingons once won’t help them—once Enterprise is gone, Korok will just come back and be meaner.
Instead, they teach them how to defend themselves. T’Pol teaches them some basic self-defense against Klingon edged weapons (which is pretty much just ducking and falling down with purpose), Reed teaches them how to shoot, and Archer comes up with a plan to move the location of the camp (the buildings are modular and designed to be moved around anyhow) so that the Klingons can be lured to the deuterium field.
When Korok returns, a guerilla war ensues, as the Klingons face resistance for only the second time—and skilled resistance for the first. Eventually, after lots of back-and-forth, the Klingons stand over the deuterium field (which they don’t realize because the camp has been moved) and Reed sets it on fire. Korok decides this is no longer worth the trouble and beams out. Tessic gives Enterprise a crapton more deuterium by way of thanks.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? This episode puts a bandaid on previous misuses of deuterium on Voyager (see in particular “Demon”) as something rare and valuable by establishing that ships need refined deuterium, so colonies like the one here are needed to not just mine it but refine it.
The gazelle speech. Archer refuses to sit back and let the miners be bullied, and he also does the captainly thing of whipping out an appropriate cliché, to wit, give someone a fish and they can eat for a day, but teach them how to fish, and they can eat for a lifetime.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol shows off her Mad Martial Arts Skillz by training the miners how to defend themselves, and also by kicking some Klingon butt.
Florida Man. Florida Man Bonds With Little Kid, But Not In A Creepy Way.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox is the first to realize that the miners are being bullied by noticing what medical supplies E’Lis specifically asks for.
Qapla’! Korok and his gang aren’t wearing military armor, so are likely not Klingon Defense Force soldiers. T’Pol all but verifies this when she shoots down Archer’s notion of asking the High Council for help, as she does not believe Korok will care what the High Council thinks.
I’ve got faith…
“You won’t hurt me.”
“It’s not you that I’m worried about.”
–T’Pol reassuring Mayweather when they’re about to do a self-defense demonstration, and Mayweather not being remotely reassured.
Welcome aboard. Trek veterans Larry Nydrom, Robertson Dean, and Bari Hochwald play, respectively, Tessic, Korok, and E’Lis. Nydrom previous was a T’Lani in DS9’s “Armageddon Game” and a Kazon in Voyager’s “Alliances,” Dean was a Romulan in TNG’s “Face of the Enemy” and a Reman in Nemesis, while Hochwald was Doctor Lense in DS9’s “Explorers” and Brin in Voyager’s “Friendship One.” Steven Flynn plays Maklii, while future lead singer of The Neighbourhood, Jesse James Rutherford, plays Q’ell.
Trivial matters: The story of this episode is very much inspired by the 1954 Akira Kurosawa film Seven Samurai and its various remakes and spinoffs, most notably the 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven.
Archer mentions the events of “Broken Bow” twice, once to T’Pol when speculating on whether or not they can call in a favor with the High Council after getting Klaang and his message to them, and once to Tessic when saying that his mission of peaceful exploration started out with him getting shot in the leg by a Suliban Cabal soldier, and how he had no choice but to fight back and defend himself.
Archer says the Kreetassans recommended the colony as a deuterium source, a recommendation that likely came shortly after the events of “A Night in Sickbay.”
The Vulcan martial art that T’Pol teaches techniques from is called Suus Mahna, named after co-producer/writer Mike Sussman.
This is the only Trek credit for scripter David Wilcox, who would go on to work on the Law & Order franchise and also serve as one of the co-executive producers of Fringe.
It’s been a long road… “I sense what you’re about to say is not going to make me happy.” Seven Samurai is one of my ten favorite movies of all time, and I’m also a fan of both versions of The Magnificent Seven (the 1960 one with Yul Brenner and the 2016 one with Denzel Washington), and after viewing this episode, I have a great urge to rewatch all three. (And yes, I know about the other science fictional take on the story, the Roger Corman-produced Battle Beyond the Stars, and leave us simply say that it is not one of my ten favorite movies of all time…)
In general, this is actually a decent reworking of the premise, but writers Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and David Wilcox are a little too painstaking in their homages to both samurai movie and Western to the detriment of the actual genre they’re working in.
Here’s the problem: the Klingons have a) a ship in orbit, b) disruptor pistols, and c) transporter technology. Yes, they’re bullies, and yes, bullies tend to back off when their victims fight back, but this isn’t a fair fight by any stretch. There’s nothing stopping Korok from beaming back down outside the ring of fire Reed created and shooting everyone. For that matter, there’s nothing stopping him from firing on the colony from orbit, and Enterprise—hiding as they are on the other side of the planet—wouldn’t be able to stop them in time.
It’s too bad, because for the most part, this is a fun adventure. I like that T’Pol is right there with Archer in wanting to help the victimized miners, and also that—as always—she’s actually smart about it and talks Archer out of just fighting the Klingons.
Another instance of painstaking re-creation without thinking is the inclusion of Q’ell. The kid serves no purpose in the story at all. His bonding with Tucker goes precisely nowhere, he doesn’t participate in the fight or become collateral damage or anything. He’s just there so there’s a cute kid. Snore.
This would’ve worked better if, like in the original, the bandits were also on the same planet and all Archer and the gang have to do is drive them off to another part of the world, not back into orbit where they can pick them off at their leisure.
(Also, we have yet another non-teasing teaser, as we see people mining and a ship landing and, then Russell Watson starts singing, and that’s it? Why do I even care about any of this?)
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido urges everyone to support the Kickstarter for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2022, an anthology of pulp stories edited by former Trek comics editor and longtime Trek prose stylist Robert Greenberger. Keith will have a story in it called “Ticonderoga Beck and the Stalwart Squad.” Among the other contributors are Keith’s fellow Trek word-slingers David Gerrold, Peter David, Greg Cox, Michael Jan Friedman, Geoffrey Thorne, Aaron Rosenberg, Paul Kupperberg, Glenn Hauman, and, if a stretch goal is reached, Diane Duane. There’s also a new story by Lester Dent, the creator of Doc Savage, plus tales by Raymond Benson, Jody Lynn Nye, Mark Verheiden, Will Murray, and tons more! Check it out and please consider supporting it!