Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Episode Review - Broken Bow (Enterprise, Season 1 - Pilot)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Episode Overview – Captain Johnathon Archer takes command of the first NX class starship, the Enterprise. He assembles a crew of the best that Starfleet has to offer. His first mission is to solve the mystery behind a strange alien known as a Klingon that was discovered in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Having to deal with the disapproving Vulcans insisting that one of their officers be assigned to the crew, Archer and company soon find themselves embroiled in a dangerous web of a temporal cold war that could result in their first mission being their last

Trying to understand Klingon

Episode Score – 9/10. This was a very exciting episode. I enjoyed the storyline and the new characters. Lots of action, some mystery, and setting up a very cool (at first) idea of a temporal cold war. The cold war never really took off after this episode, but the pilot established it as something interesting that had great potential. I liked look of Enterprise, being futuristic but yet very connected to what we know now. The bridge is smaller, engineering is more cramped, and the ship looks like what we would have designed first.

Tucker and Mayweather in the "sweet spot"

Relevance – 3 points. The pilot episode often sets the tone for the rest of the series, and this pilot lays the groundwork Enterprise. In addition to the introduction of the main characters, we also meet Soval, Forrest, and Silik, all of whom would be recurring characters throughout the series. Silik was a Suliban, which was going to be the new antagonistic race for the series. We also see the first encounter between Earth and the Klingons. There is the traditional “major character guest spot in the pilot episode” moment. With Enterprise occurring before the Original Series, it was clever to use James Cromwell to reprise his First Contact role of Zefram Cochrane. The Temporal Cold War was intended to be the big multi-episode storyline, and this episode establishes it. While the Temporal Cold War eventually fell flat, it was given a promising beginning. Basically, as far as relevance to the Trek Universe, a pilot episode will almost always score high.

Archer recruits Sato

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is always tricky in a pilot episode. Since no characters have been encountered by this point, everyone has a fresh canvas to work with. I also have to cut them a bit of slack in this regards as characters are often going to change and evolve over time, so I am giving them the point for this. Story continuity gets a point, as does the universe continuity. I liked how when Zephram Cochrane states the famous line “Where no man has gone before”, he says “no man” instead of “no one”. This keeps it in line with how the Original Series stated it compared to how it was said from TNG onward. His whole speech is a reworking of Kirk and Picard’s open lines in the main title sequence of the two shows, and it makes those opening sequences mean something a little bit more.

Soval and Starfleet observing the Klingon

Character Development – 3 points. Again, pilot episodes get a bit of an advantage in this category as they are the first time we get to meet almost all of the main cast. We learn a bit about each of the new crew. Phlox is the unconventional and brilliant alien physician. Hoshi is a brilliant linguist but insecure in her abilities. Travis is a “boomer”, one who has lived most of his life traveling in outer space. Malcolm is the by-the-book security officer who takes his role and training seriously. Trip is the engineer, a friendly, down-home southern boy who is fiercely loyal to the captain and Starfleet. T’Pol is the Vulcan science officer who was assigned to the ship, contrary to the wishes of Captain Archer. Archer is the first captain of an NX-class starship. He is the consummate professional Starfleet officer who has an obvious grudge against Vulcans and knows how to recruit and motivate his crew. We learn some of each character’s backstory, with some having more than others. Naturally, Johnathon Archer gets the most development as he is the highly driven yet flawed captain. He learns to trust his Vulcan officer and begins the long path to overcoming his prejudices. This will eventually lead him to become the man who will lay the literal foundation for the United Federation of Planets.  

Optimism, Captain!

Social Commentary – 2 points. This has been a hard one for me to assign. When you are setting up an entire series, it is difficult to identify a major commentary on society right now. There is the whole Suliban with their genetic enhancements, but other than not wanting to wait for natural selection there is little that happens with that. I think, for me, the most compelling life lesson learned is about fighting for your dreams. Archer wanted to make his father’s dreams a reality, and after decades of pushing and fighting against the Vulcans, he finally makes it happen. He then learns to trust his Vulcan science officer, to the point where he sees the value in keeping her around and arranges to have T’Pol remain an integral part of the crew.

The Enterprise is space dock

Cool Factor – 3 points. Let’s score a point for the first time we see how Klingons and Earth are introduced to each other. The Suliban, with their genetic enhancements, have some great abilities that are fun to watch. I’ll give a third point for the scene where Zephram Cochrane gives the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” speech.

Zephram Cochrane's famous speech

Rank – Admiral (23 points). If you are going to watch Enterprise, then you are going to have to watch the pilot, there is just no getting around that. Having said that, “Broken Bow” is one strong pilot episode. While the rest of Season 1 is (understandably) shaky, the series gets a good, solid beginning.

A young John Archer and his father

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