Overview – The Enterprise, en route to the planet Risa for some much needed shore leave, is sent to Mazar to escort a disgraced Vulcan ambassador, V’Lar, back to Vulcan. V’Lar is also a hero to T’Pol, and displays very unusual qualities and mannerisms for a Vulcan (such as shaking hands and engaging in idle conversation with others). As T’Pol learns that her once idol is not what she had hoped she would be, the Enterprise is attacked by rogue Mazarites, who are intent on killing the ambassador. As V’Lar remains hesitant to share the details of her mission with Archer, the danger levels rise. Soon, Archer must decide between the safety of the ship and the safety of one of Vulcan’s most distinguished diplomats.
Score: 8/10 – I really enjoyed this episode, mostly due to the character of V’Lar. One of the many criticisms of Enterprise at the beginning was that the Vulcans seemed too arrogant to be allies of Earth. V’Lar causes that point to be turned, and Archer begins his journey to trusting Vulcans (or, at least, some of them). This also showcases the growing closeness between T’Pol and Johnathan. We are also treated to a wonderful performance by Fionnula Flanagan as V’Lar. She previously played one of Curzon Dax’s former lovers in the first season of DS9 and the “mother” of Data in the final season of TNG. We get some “firsts” in this episode. We have the first mention of Risa (it will take the crew two whole episodes to get there), the first Vulcan salute on Enterprise, and the first time the ship reaches Warp 5. Some of said that this is another typical “diplomat runs amuck” story, but that is far from the truth. Instead of a disgraced diplomat, we see a wonderful character examination paired with a high-stakes dangerous mission that increases the excitement of the story. There a few odd things in this episode, mainly a lack of originality with the Mazarite make-up. Overall, though, this episode is a strong showing for the first season of Enterprise.
Relevance - 3 points. Definitely scoring a point for Risa. Fans were wondering if we would encounter this pleasure/vacation planet that was first introduced in the Next Generation episode “Captain’s Holiday”. We would visit the planet, but only after another delay in the next episode. I am also going to score a point for hitting Warp 5 for the first time. There is even a little homage to Scotty when Tucker informs the Captain that he’s giving it all he can. Final point is scored for the acknowledgement of the growing respect and friendship between Archer and T’Pol. While this may not be the strongest relationship on the show, it is a vital one.
Continuity – 3 points. Story wise, everything is by-the-book with the truth being dished out a little at a time, complete with a bait-and-switch hoodwink resolution to the dilemma. Universe continuity is in check here as well. Character continuity is especially interesting, as we see T’Pol be challenged by her beliefs towards one she thought of as a hero and icon. She struggles with the disappointment that she feels in how V’Lar behaves, yet ultimately is able to stand up to her and use logic to convince her to trust the captain. Everyone else acts as they should, especially Archer. As he grapples with choosing between his ship and a Vulcan who is again hiding something from him. I especially like in this episode how Admiral Forrest is willing to defer to Archer’s judgement on the matter as it is Archer who is out there in space in the middle of the situation. All on point.
Character Development – 3 points. T’Pol definitely has a lot of development. For much of the first season she has been almost prudish in her insistence on the superiority of the Vulcan way of doing things, and then along comes her hero V’Lar, who is shaking hands and acting much more human that anyone expects. T’Pol is thrown for a loop, but is eventually able to reconcile. Archer also makes some needed progress. He cannot go the entire series with a distrust of Vulcans (no matter how deserving they may be). It is this episode that we get to see those walls break down a bit as, finally, a Vulcan authority reveals the truth of her top-secret mission and demonstrates that she is willing to sacrifice herself if it ensures the safety of Archer’s crew. That he chooses to first trust and then save her is a big step for Captain Archer. As mentioned before, this episode is where we truly start to see the blossoming friendship between the Captain and his science officer. It may not be the Kirk-Spock story that we see in the original series, but it is important to the series overall.
Social Commentary – 3 points. How do you handle disappointment in those you hold in high regard? That is a good question. As of the writing of this review, our society has recently experienced a plethora of accusations of sexual harassment charges against the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and many others. Many people are looking at some of their heroes in entertainment and politics as being less than inspiring these days. It is not unusual. As I learn about the lives of many that I admired for most of life I am unquestionably discovering that they are far from perfect. When I learn of marital infidelities, power-hungry abuse, and other unsavory elements of the likes of Jim Henson, Bill Cosby, and even Gene Roddenberry himself, I have had to settle those within myself. Sometimes, it happens quickly without much angst. Other times, it is difficult to accept the mounting piles of facts. Once in a while, I discover that my standards were being held at an unreasonable height. Regardless of which, as we see with T’Pol in dealing with a hero who is acting in a way that goes against T’Pol’s perceptions, we can learn to accept that things change and that sometimes it is us that suffers the most from our disappointments. We need to learn to let go of the hero-worship and move on with our lives, allowing ourselves to be disappointed. We don’t have to condone their behaviour (and in many of the cases about sexual abuse that are coming up now, we shouldn’t even come close to condoning them), just be prepared to have our heroes fall from grace.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. I must score a point for the ruse that Archer and his crew uses to fool the Mazarites who are intent in killing V’Lar. Most crucial to this is V’Lar’s appearance in the sickbay entrance after the rebels think they have killed her, showing Flanagan’s ability to portray sassiness as only a Vulcan can.
Rank – Admiral (21 points). Fans of Fionnula Flanagan definitely want to see this episode, as it is her strongest performance in all of her (to date) Trek appearances. She makes V’Lar a force to be reckoned with. The story is both compelling and exciting and we see two of our characters take some much needed steps in their development. Likely one of the brightest spots of the first season of Enterprise.
If you would like to check out my other episode reviews for Enterprise, simply click here.
If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.