Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “The Communicator”

Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on the original Star Trek and its spinoff movies, and who advocated for more women and people of color to join NASA for decades, passed away over the weekend. This edition of the Enterprise Rewatch is dedicated to her memory. Rest in peace, great lady.

“The Communicator”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and André Bormanis
Directed by James Contner
Season 2, Episode 8
Production episode 034
Original air date: November 13, 2002
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Archer, Reed, and Sato return from an observation mission on a planet that hasn’t achieved faster-than-light travel yet. (In fact, they haven’t split the atom yet.) Unfortunately, after they’re cleared through decon, Reed realizes that he no longer has his communicator.

They look everywhere on board the ship and the shuttlepod, and nobody can find it—which means he must have left it on the planet. Sato is able to use the “find my phone” option to track it to a particular area, which includes a tavern they all visited.

Archer and Reed put their prosthetics back on and head down to the surface. They track the communicator to the back room of the tavern, where they’re ambushed by a military contingent led by General Gosis, who believes them to be Alliance spies.

They’re imprisoned and interrogated. At first, the prisoners say nothing, as it’s safest to not say a word than risk any further cultural and technological contamination—which is exacerbated by Gosis and his people now having phase pistols and scanners to go with their communicator.

Tucker is getting antsy, and T’Pol agrees to try to contact Archer. However, there’s no response, even though there’s an open line on the other end. T’Pol then orders Sato to try to locate their bio-signs. They’re in a large, densely populated city, so it won’t be easy, but Sato give it a shot.

Archer and Reed’s recalcitrance leads to Gosis having his people beat the two of them up, which has the unfortunate side effect of a) messing up their forehead prosthetics and b) making them bleed red. This freaks the general out on several levels, and he immediately orders a medical examination of both of them.

Tucker reminds T’Pol that they still have a Suliban cell ship, and while Tucker hasn’t doped it all out yet, he’s really close. He and Mayweather go off to futz with it. Unfortunately, a console goes blooey and irradiates Tucker’s right arm with the radiation that is used to cloak the ship, and now he can’t see his own arm. Nor can it be detected.

Gosis confronts Archer and Reed with their peculiar biology, and finally they “come clean” by saying they’re genetically enhanced Alliance spies with experimental technology. Gosis and his people scream, “I knew it!” and jump up and down enthusiastically.

The doctor who examined them can’t confirm their story without looking at their internal organs much more closely, so Gosis condemns them to be hanged so they can film an episode of Alien Autopsy

Star Trek Enterprise "The Communicator"

Screenshot: CBS

Sato picks up an announcement of the execution of two Alliance spies, at which point T’Pol orders Tucker and Mayweather to finish their work en route. As they fly down, they’re shot at by military aircraft before they can finally cloak the thing.

They land at the gallows just before Archer and Reed have their necks stretched out. Archer is able to retrieve all their technology before they bugger off back into space. Archer is glad they were able to get their tech back, but the damage was done, as Gosis and his people now believe the Alliance has genetically enhanced super-soldiers with fancy-shmancy weapons and stuff, which will severely affect the balance of power.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Tucker has had the cell ship for more than a year, but he doesn’t get it all working right until he needs it to rescue his CO. It’s all about motivation, I guess.

The gazelle speech. Archer tries his best to keep the cultural contamination to a minimum. He almost succeeds.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol is way more willing to take risks to rescue Archer and Reed than she probably would’ve been a year earlier…

Florida Man. Florida Man Has Unique Workplace Accident.

Star Trek Enterprise "The Communicator"

Screenshot: CBS

Optimism, Captain! Phlox is unable to do much with Tucker’s cloaked arm, mostly by dint of his instruments not being able to read that there’s even an arm there…

I’ve got faith…

“Captain, my carelessness was inexcusable. I’m prepared for whatever reprimand you feel is appropriate.”

“How about thirty years in the brig? Or maybe a good flogging?”

–Reed putting himself at Archer’s mercy, and Archer taking the piss.

Welcome aboard. All three billed guest stars are Trek veterans. Francis Guinan, who plays Gosis, previously played Kray in Voyager’s “Ex Post Facto” and Zar in Voyager’s “Live Fast and Prosper.” Gosis’ aide Pell is played by Tim Kelleher, who previously played Gaines in TNG’s “All Good Things…” and P’Chan/Four of Nine in Voyager’s “Survival Instinct.” And Dennis Cockrum plays the bartender, having also previously appeared in Voyager’s “Live Fast and Prosper” as Orek, and also been a freighter captain in TNG’s “Face of the Enemy.”

Trivial matters: The plot of this episode was inspired by the gag ending of the original series’ “A Piece of the Action,” when McCoy realized he left his communicator behind on Sigma Iotia. That was never followed up onscreen, but it did lead to this story taking place a hundred years earlier.

Enterprise has apparently had the Suliban cell ship sitting in their cargo bay for over a year, since capturing it in “Broken Bow.” Why it wasn’t sent back to Earth so that a dedicated group of engineers could work on it full time is left as an exercise for the viewer.

Star Trek Enterprise "The Communicator"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “General, his blood—it’s red!” Ye flipping gods, what a boring episode. Trek has done this type of story many times before, where the crew has to deal with a pre-warp society and do their best not to influence it (not always successfully) and remove their technology (again, not always successfully), from the original series’ “Tomorrow is Yesterday” to TNG’s “First Contact” to SNW’s “Strange New Worlds,” and “The Communicator” is by far the least interesting iteration of this particular plot.

Seriously, just writing the plot description had me bored to tears. Absolutely nothing interesting happens in this episode. I mean, it doesn’t help that the plot is, basically, Reed left his cell phone behind. It’s never made clear at any point why they don’t use the transporter to just beam the communicator back up once they’ve got it located.

Tucker’s arm being cloaked might have been fun if they actually did something with it, but it’s just a gag to fill out time in an episode that doesn’t have enough plot for an hour, mostly because we don’t really get to know the society that Enterprise has theoretically contaminated with Reed’s inability to keep things in his pocket. All we see is one bartender, who sounds just like a human bartender, and a bunch of hidebound military officers who sound and act just like every stereotypical military officer in dramatic fiction. There’s nothing new here, which would be fine if any of it was interesting, but it’s all just a generic plot with generic characters having a generic adventure. The society—which scripter André Bormanis can’t even summon up the energy to name—is interchangeable with any other Forehead Aliens we’ve seen on Trek. We don’t even have the deliberate parallel with humans that we had in “First Contact” and “Strange New Worlds,” because there’s no plot reason for these never-named people to be human-like.

They didn’t even pick up on the important part of their inspiration. A big reason why the ending of “A Piece of the Action” was so amusing was because the Iotians were an imitative culture, and their getting their hands on Federation technology could prove disastrous as much for that reason. But these people (seriously, why couldn’t they give them a name?) don’t even have that, they just have a boring Cold War-esque relationship with some other nation that it’s impossible to give even a little bit of a damn about.

Warp factor rating: 4

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, Diane Duane, Peter David, Greg Cox, Michael Jan Friedman, Geoffrey Thorne, Aaron Rosenberg, Paul Kupperberg, and Glenn Hauman. 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, Geoffrey Thorne, Steven Savile, and tons more! Check it out and please consider supporting it!

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