5/28/11

Star Trek: Asterisk "Broken Bow Part 2"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S01E02
Air Date: September 26, 2001
Written by: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by: James L. Conway

Premise
Save the Klingon, save the world.

Review
PREVIOUSLY ON ENTERPRISE: A Klingon named Klaang got shot on Earth on his way to deliver a message to Qo'nos. Captain Archer went to bring him the rest of the way, but ended up losing him. And now Archer and the gang are captured themselves.

This part of the episode actually gets kinda good. We learn a lot about the Suliban, we get some real, story-driven character moments, we see strange new worlds and go where no one has gone before. But before all that, we have to escape. And we have a Suliban rebel to help with that. Sarin, a female Suliban, approaches as a Human, but then turns all yellow and bumpy after... kissing Archer? for some reason? I mean, sure, he's ruggedly handsome and his nose is undeniable, but you haven't even had your first date yet, Sarin! If you need close proximity to gauge his trustworthiness, just shake the man's hand!

Ok, we're past that bit of awkwardness. Once Sarin "gauges Archer's trustworthiness," she tells him all about the Suliban (which is the name of my Hikaru Sulu cover band). We learn there is a Temporal Cold War (which is the awesomest kind of cold war), that the Suliban are taking orders from a shady agent from the distant future which, presumably, is how they got all their fancy-schmancy genetic modifications, but most importantly, we learn what's so important about Klaang. The Temporal Cold War was trying to create a Klingon Civil War, but Sarin had given him proof that it was Suliban espionage and sabotage that was to blame.

AND THEN THE SULIBAN ATTACK! There's lots of running and shooting and it's all very exciting and people get saved and people die (Sarin) people get severely injured (Archer) and people put themselves in charge (T'Pol) after making it back to the shuttlecraft and ascending to their salvation.

Mmm... Yeah, you like to take charge, don't you?
What follows is a fairly bland, emotionless and not-at-all sexually charged discussion in the decon chamber between T'Pol and Trip about whether or not T'Pol should actually be in charge since she's not technically a part of the crew.
Can we talk for a minute...
About this idea that sex sells Star Trek? Sure, Star Trek has had its share of sexuality. With as few clothes as alien females tended to wear in The Original Series it's no wonder Kirk has the reputation he does. There were several episodes where characters explored sexual themes, but this decon chamber scene might be the first time the sexiness was purely gratuitous. There is no romance here, no sexual tension, not even any good, plot-moving reason. The scene is played purely to get your kicks out of seeing the two most attractive characters get half-naked and oily. And what do they discuss in that setting? Which one of them should take charge of the ship. There is a disgusting disconnect between the story and the visuals at this point. It's like watching an apple sitting on a table while hearing random people in the background talk about plans to rob a bank. When Gene Roddenberry was in charge, sure, there was some sex, but it always made sense. When he died, Star Trek lost its way in many ways. This scene is one of the greatest reasons this series never left a lasting legacy in the minds of Trekkies.
Alright, that rant's out of the way... Whatever Trip and T'Pol discussed in the decon chamber (I'm not really sure what it was, I was distracted) seemed to get to T'Pol, because when Archer woke up in the infirmary and found that T'Pol had taken charge, he fully expected them to be back on their way to Earth, but T'Pol, having a change of her icy, Vulcan heart, had, in stead, followed the Suliban ship. They follow it to a gas giant planet where it seems to have split off into several different ships. And this is where, for the first time, Archer, T'Pol and the whole bridge crew work together awesomely to solve a vexing problem. Applause! They figure out about the different tiny ships and then go into the gas giant to investigate.

And there it is... The Helix. This is the complex in which the Suliban have been hiding. So, obviously, this is the place they need to blow up. Oh, but, yeah, find that Klingon first... right... In order to do that, they capture a Suliban ship with a grappling hook (tractor beams won't be installed until Tuesday) and fly that thing up to the Helix with some newfangled "Phase Pistols." Apparently these things can be set to stun for some reason? I don't even know...

So now they're on the Helix, they find Klaang, release him and then there's a lot of shooting and fist-throwing as they pass a bunch of Suliban guards on their way back to their stolen Suliban ship. But now Archer has to act like a hero, so he tells Trip to take Klaang aboard their ship and return to the Enterprise while he does some stuff with magnets. Oh, and don't worry about me because I'm awesome and I'll always survive because we have four more seasons of this stuff to go.

Ok, so, the stuff with the magnets is actually pretty cool. The Helix is made up of a bunch of tiny ships that are magnetically locked together. He's going to try to unlock them and allow a little chaos while the Enterprise escapes. The only problem with his plan is that he gets a little distracted and finds the trippy time room. This is the chamber where a Suliban commander has been taking orders from a shadowy figure from the distant future. Turns out this Suliban commander has some camouflage ability that he uses to sneak up on and attack Archer. He steals Archer's phase pistol and fires it at Archer, but, thanks to the effects of the magical trippy time room, Archer is able to dodge the proverbial bullet.

Nutritious and delicious! Perfect meal for a spy.
They run around for a while and then Tucker beams Archer aboard. Which is the first use of the transporter on a human. And Archer immediately blows up and turns inside out. The End. Oh, wait, no, he survives. Turns out the transporter actually works. So they've got the Klingon, they've got info about the Suliban, now all they need is to get out of there. They arrive at Qo'nos, Klaang says some lame Klingon crap about being ready to die because he failed, the important Klingon dude cuts Klaang's hand and finds a message in his blood. Which, by the way, is supposed to look like yogurt. Just sayin'.

So they day is saved, the Klingons aren't falling into civil war just yet, Archer did what he believed was right and the Enterprise can go on its merry way. Starfleet has informed Archer that they can begin their official missions, but there's one more thing to take care of...

When Archer asks T'Pol to stay on board as a science officer, this is the first time he has acted like an advanced, noble human. Despite all the mistrust he had in T'Pol and Vulcans in general, he puts aside his differences and presents to her a fine offer. This is the first time I feel a substantial amount of respect for the man.

After that, the Enterprise gets underway and starts its mission. To explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. When Mayweather asks what course to set, it would have been cool if Archer said something as awesome as "first star to the right... and straight on 'til morning." He doesn't... but it's still a heartwarming moment.

Overall Thoughts
I like this part better than the first part because the crew really seems to come together. Everyone has a vital part to play and it doesn't feel tacked-on. It really, actually advances the story. However, this is the part with the decon room scene. For however great the rest of the episode is, that scene sticks out like an ugly black mark on an otherwise delicious sandwich. A thumb up for trying, but I'm not eating it. Or at least I'm going to have a tough time trying to eat around it.