5/27/11

Star Trek: Asterisk "Broken Bow Part 1"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S01E01
Air Date: September 26, 2001
Written by: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by: James L. Conway

Premise
Captain Jonathan Archer gathers his crew in order to bring home and save the life of a dying Klingon who is promptly kidnapped by the same Nerf-skinned aliens that tried to kill him.

Review
By the time we open the Enterprise series, Earth has survived a lot: a secret Eugenics War in the 1990's, World War III in the 2050's, the post-atomic horror that followed, a near-Borg-assimilation in 2063. But now, after about a hundred years of peace, the ever-restless Humans have decided they're bored and want to go outside to play. The Enterprise NX-01 is the very first long-range interstellar Human craft. And Captain Archer is practically bursting at the seams to find any excuse to start her engines.
Klingons never got the hang of corn mazes
Enter the hapless Klingon warrior, Klaang. Apparently, on his way from Rigel to Qo'nos, he accidentally ran into Earth out of all the empty space in the system, and lured a couple of pursuing Suliban into a nearby silo. I very much doubt that he expected the silo to be filled with methane when he jumped out and shot at it, but the massive explosion seemed to work toward his advantage... until the highly evolved farmer who had advanced beyond war and crime came out and shot him.
Can we talk for a minute...
About the ridges on this Klingon's forehead? Now, I know the forehead issue is addressed later on in the series (I don't know how satisfactorily), but this was a source of major contention when I first saw it. We all know that in The Original Series the Klingon's foreheads were smooth as a human's. In fact, the only real distinguishing features were the hairstyle and skin color. When Klingons suddenly had ridged foreheads in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Roddenberry was asked about it and he jokingly reacted like nothing was different. This was all fine and dandy and Trekkies simply took it as a conceit of the franchise that Klingons were supposed to have ridged foreheads, but The Original Series simply didn't have the budget to portray it. And then Deep Space 9 went and screwed it all up when they took Worf back in time to Kirk's episode with the Tribbles, saw flat-headed Klingons and Worf said "We don't like to talk about it." So then we had to live with the understanding that Klingon foreheads were flat... and then ~something happened~ and they became ridged. Now we go back in time with this prequel series and find a ridge-headed Klingon and now our minds are blown! There are only two ways this can go: either we address the issue, or tear another continuity hole in the universe. Personally, I'm glad they decided to address the issue, but I haven't seen those episodes yet, so we'll see how that goes.
So now that we have this Klingon, obviously we want to help it, right? It has a ridged-forehead, pointy teeth and a large, nasty-looking dagger and we want to help it. Well, not if the Vulcans have anything to say about it! Well, ok, not if Klingon culture has anything to say about it. Apparently, he has to die a warrior's death or whatever, yadda, yadda, yadda... Poppycock! Archer is having none of this nonsense! Klingon culture be damned! A "mercy" mission is the perfect excuse to take the Enterprise out of her packing foam and out into the black! So that, despite the "fiery" objections of the Vulcan High Command, is what they did. It should be noted that Humanity has done away with war, hunger and money, but apparently has yet to master arrogance and impatience.

Pass the beer and initialize the inertial dampeners
Let it not be said, however, that Humans have grown tired of fanfare. Before the Enterprise left spacedock, there was just enough time to drum up a little ceremony to commemorate Earth's first interstellar mission. I would have skipped right past this scene, except it features the great Zefram Cochrane, the drunkard who was out to make a buck and ended up saving the world. It turns out that the mission statement of the two greatest Enterprises was taken directly from this man's speech during the dedication of a Warp 5 Complex. Except he said it grammatically correctly. "On this site, a powerful engine will be built. An engine that will some day help us to travel a hundred times faster than we can today. Imagine it. Thousands of inhabited planets, at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds and seek out new life, and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly, where no man has gone before."

So now the ship is underway and the crew is getting to know each other. Random details of people's lives seem to pop up out of nowhere just because "hi! I'm a new person!" Tedious introductions take place and we pretty much figure out what everyone's note is. T'Pol is an emotionless jerk, Trip is a Southern boy, Sato's a language nerd, Reed is a fidgety Brit, etc, etc. Remember when we didn't need quick introductions and we were just kinda moved forward by the individual story like they did in The Original Series?

Which makes it kind of jolting when the story does move forward and the power goes out while Sato is trying to get information from Klaang. The Suliban break into the Enterprise, steal the Klingon and then return Enterprise back to normal. Ya know... if these guys were Goa'uld, they would have just destroyed the whole ship and all their problems would be solved.

Ok, apparently, Klaang is supposed to deliver "a message" to Qo'nos. SPOILER ALERT: this message is in his blood. He doesn't even know he has the message. They can't just kill Klaang, because then the message would still exist and they wouldn't know where to find it. But, really, there are only two places it could be, right? Either on his crashed ship in the middle of Oklahoma, or on his person. So crash the ship even harder, destroy the Enterprise and you're all good, right? Oh, well, I guess their leader has something else in mind...

Moving on, Sato figured out that Klaang had been to Rigel, so that's where they go to find Klaang's kidnappers, and that's where the really interesting stuff happens. This is where we really get to see that Humans in deep space are like fish out of water. New stuff everywhere! In one scene, a little alien boy is seen being "suffocated" by his mother who places and removes a breathing mask from him. This doesn't go over well with Trip who tries to stop it, only to be told by T'Pol that the mother was weening the child off of a different kind of air. This kind of thing really makes you think about the preconceptions you have in our own life that need to be broken before you can move on in real society.

When Archer and T'Pol find the area that Klaang was supposed to have been, they find it quiet... to quiet... and then boom! they're attacked! Which brings us to:

To be continued...

Pictured: Red-skinned Suliban
Overall Thoughts
I'm not gonna lie, I actually kind of enjoyed this episode. Sure, it had its flaws, but it was at least entertaining enough to hold my attention. In this episode we get our first look at what will be the series main bad guys, the Suliban. We'll learn more about them in the next episode, but this episode gives a good deal of information, such as the fact that they're fighting in a Temporal Cold War, whatever that means. They're taking orders from the distant future and they have been genetically modified and enhanced. From this, I am intrigued. I want to follow the Suliban storyline. Time travel always gets me.

So there was tedious character introductions, some plot holes, a couple of flaws here and there, but it opened with a methane explosion and introduced some cool bad guys. One thumb up, I say.