9/25/11

Star Trek: Asterisk "First Flight"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S02E24
Air Date: May 14, 2003
Written by: John Shiban & Chris Black
Directed by: LeVar Burton

Premise
Archer reflects on old times working on the NX test program after learning of the death of his old rival there.

Review
Archer is pleased to discover that we may just have found a huge gathering of dark matter together in one nebula. T'Pol doubts this claim, obviously, because she's a Vulcan and doesn't want Humans to have any fun. But she is unable to dissuade the captain from having Trip modify some spacial charges that would excite the dark matter enough to be visible. All is happy and good! And then Archer learned his friend had died.

In "Cogenitor" we had a character that committed suicide at the end of the episode. In "Regeneration" things took a turn for the scary with a Borg invasion. And now we start with Archer learning of the death of his good friend. Enterprise is definitely getting darker. But that's a good thing. I've been upset with them for not allowing redshirts to die in the early episodes.

When Archer gets onto the shuttle to explore the dark matter nebula, T'Pol joins him. He objects, but T'Pol cites regulations that captains are not allowed to go on away missions alone. And as they head out, T'Pol shows a bit of humanity by asking Archer about his good friend, A.G. Robinson.

Robinson and Archer were both up for consideration as the pilot of the first NX warp ship to break the warp 2 barrier. Robinson got the job, Archer was left raising a toast to him. During the test flight, the humans are overseen by two Vulcans as Archer leads the ground team monitoring Robinson in flight. Robinson gets as far as Jupiter, but something goes wrong. Archer orders him to stop, but he pushes on. The warp ship is promptly destroyed, but not before Robinson has a chance to eject.

Following the mission failure, Trip, who is also apparently part of the team, has some words for the Vulcans who believe the warp engine is a failure. He says there's nothing wrong with the engine, and that the failure was due to pilot error. This gives the test team two choices: either the engine is crap and the Vulcans will shut them down, or Robinson made a mistake and would have to convince them to keep testing while at the same time admitting to a mistake. And guess who's writing the report.
Pilot Astro McDouchebag
So Archer goes to drown his sorrows at the local bar and when Robinson shows up he tells him and Trip that he reported engine failure. This results in classic bar fight that's quickly broken up. Perhaps feeling remorseful that the active test program has been shut down by the Vulcans, Robinson shows up later with Archer to plan an unauthorized second test of the engine.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Archer and T'Pol are having a difficult time finding the dark matter nebula. Rather, Archer is having a difficult time finding the nebula, and T'Pol is drumming her fingers. They've tried about four times and they have only one more shot at it. But for some reason T'Pol is more interested in Archer's story. So he continues.

Archer, Robinson and Trip set up another test and steal the only other warp ship that had been made, the NX-Beta. They, of course, get into huge trouble, but the test is a success. They broke the warp 2 barrier, holding steady at warp 2.5, and proved to the Vulcans that the engine design works. This infraction is perhaps what set Robinson back from being captain of the Enterprise NX-01, but there were high hopes that he would he able to pilot the NX-02.

Archer and T'Pol finally find the dark matter nebula on their last attempt. T'Pol quickly starts taking readings, but Archer stops her and tells her to just take a look at the beauty of the nebula. This, he says, is the reason they worked so hard back in test program. The death of Robinson, heavy on his heart, he returns to the Enterprise where T'Pol suggests naming the nebula after Archer's departed friend.

Overall Thoughts
This was a beauty of an episode chronicling a unique friendship between warp engine test pilots. Sure there are better and there are worse, but if you're looking to skip an episode, don't make it this one unless you really have to. Thumbs up.