Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Chris Black and Alan Cross
Directed by Patrick Norris
Season 1, Episode 23
Production episode 023
Original air date: May 8, 2002
Date: February 9, 2152
Captain’s star log. T’Pol is discussing the fact that the efficiency rating of the ship has dropped. Archer allows as how that’s to be expected after ten months in space, and T’Pol suggests a planet nine days away called Risa as an excellent place for shore leave. Archer sets a course there.
That trip is sidelined by a call from Forrest: there’s a Vulcan ambassador named V’Lar who is being recalled from Mazar. Enterprise is closer to Mazar than any Vulcan ship, and apparently time is of the essence, so Archer diverts.
T’Pol asks Sato to give up her quarters for V’Lar (they don’t have a VIP cabin?), including removing all decorations from it, and also has explicit instructions on how to behave around the ambassador, including not shaking hands.
Upon arriving at Mazar, Archer asks for landing coordinates to send a shuttlepod down to pick V’Lar up, but there’s already a shuttle en route from the surface. Mazar wants her gone as quickly as possible. According to the official Archer speaks to, V’Lar is being expelled from Mazar for “abuse of her position and criminal misconduct.” This surprises the Enterprise crew.
Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker greet V’Lar at the shuttlebay. V’Lar surprises all three of them by offering to shake hands, and later expressing surprise at how Spartan her cabin is. Oops.
V’Lar dines in the captain’s mess, and she even makes a stab at humor—and then admits that she is guilty of what the Mazarites accused her of. T’Pol’s disapproval is pretty heavy, though she denies it, of course. T’Pol later privately reveals to Archer that V’Lar is someone she admired in her youth, having seen a lecture of hers when she was a student, and T’Pol’s vocation as an adult was at least partly inspired by V’Lar. Archer allows as how it can suck when your heroes have feet of clay. T’Pol’s protestation that Vulcans don’t have heroes rings false.
A Mazarite ship shows up, saying they were sent by the government to bring V’Lar back. Apparently the magistrate has had a change of heart and wishes to question her further. Archer says he needs to consult with his superiors—but the Mazarites then jam their communications and fire on them. While their torpedoes have no effect, when Enterprise drops out of warp and fires their phase cannons, it damages the Mazarites enough for Enterprise to put some distance between them.
V’Lar can’t say why the Mazarites—who obviously are not from the government—came after them. It involves her diplomatic assignment, and to say more would put Enterprise in great danger. Archer rather grumpily points out that they’re already in great danger, as they barely escaped the Mazarites with their lives. Archer therefore decides to return to Mazar. V’Lar objects, but since she can’t provide him with a good reason not to, he proceeds—with Forrest’s blessing, though the admiral points out that there will be nasty repercussions with the Vulcans…
T’Pol chats with V’Lar, who does remember T’Pol approaching her all those years ago. V’Lar was impressed with her bluntness then, and now as well. T’Pol insists that Archer is trustworthy, and he already has resentment toward Vulcans because of how they held human development back. (For whatever reason, T’Pol doesn’t mention the specifics of how the Vulcans being parsimonious with scientific aid affected Archer’s father, keeping him from living long enough to see a Warp 5 engine in use.)
V’Lar convinces T’Pol that she will be killed if she returns to Mazar and that they must rendezvous with the Vulcan vessel Sh’Raan. V’Lar committed no crime, but does have evidence of a terrorist group that is trying to overthrow the Mazarite government. T’Pol asks Archer to reverse course, pointing out that she’s never asked him for anything over the last ten months, but she is now. Archer agrees to go back to the planned rendezvous with the Sh’Raan.
Soon enough, three Mazarite ships are on Enterprise’s ass. Archer tries to outrun them, but even going all the way to warp five doesn’t do the trick. However, they do manage to get close enough before being forced to drop out of warp so that the Sh’Raan is only ten minutes away. They drop out of warp and agree to be boarded by the Mazarites. Archer tells the Mazarites that V’Lar was injured in the firefight and is in sickbay. They go to sickbay to find the imaging chamber occupied, the bio-scan of a Vulcan woman on the screen. Phlox refuses to turn her over or let her out of the imaging chamber, as that would kill her, but then the Mazarites fire on the imaging chamber.
Then the Sh’Raan shows up and fires on the Mazarite ships. The Sh’Raan captain makes it clear that the Mazarites should leave Enterprise or their ships will be destroyed. The Mazarites reluctantly turn over their weapons, and as they’re escorted out of sickbay, they see V’Lar, who was never in the imaging chamber.
The Sh’Raan lets the Mazarites go, which surprises Archer, but V’Lar insists it’s for the best. She also tells Archer and T’Pol that she has seen the bond of friendship and respect between the two of them, and that it bodes well for the future of human-Vulcan relations.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Phase cannons can’t fire at warp—the particle discharge would disrupt the warp field and damage the nacelles. Archer doesn’t find this out until he asks Reed to fire on the Mazarites and belatedly learns that means they have to drop out of warp. Either Reed’s writing bad tactical reports or Archer isn’t reading them……
The gazelle speech. Archer is continually frustrated by being forced to operate without sufficient information, but is willing to trust T’Pol enough to go against his instincts and not return to Mazar.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol goes completely overboard in making sure V’Lar gets the best VIP treatment only to have V’Lar not actually want all that fuss and apparently being a criminal, though the ambassador eventually makes it clear that the latter, at least, is not the case.
Florida Man. Florida Man Thinks A Hawai’an Shirt Will Get Him Laid.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox is adamant that V’Lar not be turned over to the Mazarites, as she’s his patient, and that overrides whatever it is the Mazarites want with her. The Mazarites show that they don’t care about that with a lot of weapons fire.
Good boy, Porthos! When T’Pol goes to Archer to ask him to not return to Mazar, he’s cuddling Porthos, and it’s so cute…
Ambassador Pointy. Forrest promises Archer that he’ll try to get more information from Soval, though the ambassador doesn’t actually appear.
Blue meanies. Among the accomplishments on V’Lar’s CV is negotiating the first territorial accords between the Vulcans and Andorians.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. T’Pol believes that a dearth of sexual activity on the ship is responsible for the drop in efficiency, especially given Starfleet regulations about fraternizing. T’Pol also comments that human mating rituals are effective in easing tensions, and Tucker allows as how that isn’t always the case…
More on this later… The pleasure planet of Risa—established as a popular vacation spot in the twenty-fourth century in TNG’s “Captain’s Holiday,” and also seen in TNG’s “The Game” and DS9’s “Let He Who is Without Sin…“—is mentioned by T’Pol. This is the first that humans have heard of the place.
I’ve got faith…
“Ambassador, we’re here at the request of the Vulcan High Command. It would be illogical for you withhold information from us.”
“There are diplomatic matters at stake here which do not concern you. To tell you anymore would put your ship and your crew at greater risk.”
“How much greater could it get? A few more volleys from that ship would’ve ruptured our hull!”
–T’Pol trying to be rational, V’Lar trying to be diplomatic, and Archer being justifiably pissed off as he points out the flaw in V’Lar’s logic.
Welcome aboard. John Rubinstein makes his second appearance on Trek as the Mazarite terrorist, having played a transplanted human in Voyager’s “The 37’s.” He’ll be back in “Awakening” and “Kir’Shara” as a Vulcan.
Michael Flynn also makes his second appearance on Trek as the Mazarite official, having played an Angosian official in TNG’s “The Hunted.” He’ll be back in the “Babel One”/”United”/”The Aenar” trilogy as a Romulan.
Plus we have recurring regular Vaughn Armstrong as Forrest.
Trivial matters: Enterprise try to get to Risa again next week in “Desert Crossing,” but will again be diverted, this time by a distress call. They’ll finally make it in the following episode, “Two Days and Two Nights.”
This is the first of two episodes directed by Patrick Norris, who started out as a costume designer, having been nominated for seven Emmys for his costume work. He’s been a full-time director since the mid-1990s, however.
This episode is the first time that Enterprise has gone to warp five, even though it was described from jump as a Warp 5 engine (something Archer points out to Tucker when the latter is reluctant to go that fast).
Scenes in Sato’s quarters show the stars moving from right to left while at warp, indicating that her cabin is port-side, a request she made back in “Fight or Flight.”
It’s been a long road… “Some day, I’d like to walk into a room without it feeling like a state visit.” This episode starts off very much on the wrong foot, as the opening is an incredibly awkward conversation that feels like it was written by a thirteen-year-old boy who hasn’t figured out yet how puberty works. T’Pol’s directness—which becomes a factor later in the episode also—is actually almost amusing, but Archer and Tucker’s adolescent squirming is just painful.
I do like that they set course for Risa and then spend this and the next two episodes getting there. It’s a nice little through-line that gave the show a bit more cohesion than, say, the previous Trek show.
As for the rest of the episode, it improves tremendously once Tucker wanders onto the bridge in his Hawai’ian shirt, which is a visual I will always treasure. I love that Tucker actually believes it will help him get laid, and doesn’t even let T’Pol’s admonition that blinding potential sex partners won’t help him get one slow him down.
Then we get the actual plot, which is perfectly fine. Mostly the value here is in seeing T’Pol fangoober (as much as a Vulcan can fangoober, anyhow) over the expectation of V’Lar being on board before she arrives and be so utterly gobsmacked by the reality of V’Lar when she does. Jolene Blalock nails it, from her calm recitation of all the things Archer and the rest of the crew should and shouldn’t do, to her slow burn as V’Lar appears to have feet of clay, and then that excellent conversation when V’Lar convinces T’Pol to help her.
It helps that Blalock has an actor of Fionnula Flanagan’s high calibre to play off of. Flanagan gives us in V’Lar a lovely character who is still very much a Vulcan, but not the stiff that far too many guest Vulcans do, nor does she go for the deadpan sass that Leonard Nimoy did so well and that Mark Lenard, Tim Russ, and Blalock all emulated. Instead, she shows a diplomat’s curiosity about other cultures—actually embracing IDIC overtly—and also never loses sight of her mission. She has a certain charm while still maintaining the repression of emotions. It’s a fantastic performance, showing a greater range of personality types among Vulcans that has been rare even on this show that has given us so many of them.
I like that the show embraces the lower tech of the era, with Enterprise struggling to reach warp five and failing to maintain it for long, and Archer having to rely on guile to work his way out of it with everyone surviving.
The actual plot is pretty straightforward, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and it isn’t really here. The Vulcans being parsimonious with information actually works here, as there are diplomatic stakes that Starfleet can’t necessarily be read in on.
My only real issue is the clumsiness of the act breaks, as the show continues to go to commercial breaks at moments that don’t really call for a dramatic pause, and it continues to really mess up the flow of the episodes.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido is writing a graphic novel that serves as a prequel to the Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness animated series on Netflix. Entitled The Beginning, the graphic novel is available for preorder on the Kindle.