Saturday, July 14, 2018

Episode Review: Breaking the Ice (Enterprise, Season 1)

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

Overview – Archer and his crew discover an unusually large comet and decide to investigate and study it. While they are doing this, they make a recording to send back to an elementary school on Earth. When a Vulcan ship starts to tail the Enterprise, Archer becomes suspicious. When Trip intercepts a coded message from the Vulcans to T’Pol, he gets Hoshi to decode it, and in doing so he learns an unfortunate personal matter of hers. Malcolm and Travis are sent to retrieve some core samples from the comet, and soon find themselves in trouble. Now, Archer must decide whether he should ask the Vulcans for help or try to rescue his crewmen alone.

Score: 7/10 – I have to admit that I like this episode. It is by no means a heavy hitter, and though Reed and Mayweather are in peril on the comet, there is really no reason to fear for their well-being, so the threat level is relatively low here. What makes this episode interesting is the glimpse and insight into the characters that we are still coming to learn about. Keep in mind this was the next episode after the very tense introduction to Shran in “The Andorian Incident”, so taking things down a couple notches is fine. Almost every main character is given some added depth here. While it initially seems that Travis and Malcolm in trouble on the comet is the main story, it is quickly over-shadowed by the beginning of the Trip-T’Pol arc. There is humor and a touch of home that comes from the letter that the crew make for the elementary school in Kenmare, Ireland (which, if I may add, was a nice touch to not have it to a school in the USA). Vanik is a particularly unpleasant character, who seems to be bent on reinforcing Archer’s reasons to dislike Vulcans. He is dismissive, patronizing, and just plain rude. This makes it even more impactful when Archer is given a moment of truth as he is forced to swallow his pride for the sake of his stranded crewmen. Overall, this is a pleasant and light character-focused tale.

Relevance – 2 points. A point scored here for the first mention of Koss, who is T’Pol’s fiancée. Koss will go on to play a very significant role in T’Pol’s life and in the overall story. A second point is being scored for the beginning of the T’Pol/Tucker relationship. This is arguably the most compelling relationship that Enterprise has, and it all begins here. Interestingly enough, it is a piece of pecan pie that seems to be the catalyst, as Tucker suggest T’Pol try some for the sheer sake of enjoying food. The end scene where see that T’Pol takes him up on that offer seems to signal that something is in store for these two.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is good here. Archer continues to feel that he has to prove himself to the Vulcans by going at a problem alone. T’Pol is understandably upset at Trip for reading her communique, and Trip is understandably remorseful for doing so. When Phlox is providing an answer to the school children, he is in full Phlox-form when he jumps in with the answer and goes off on lengthy response that Archer has to cut short. There is one little inconsistency that continues to not sit right with me. While Vulcans are said to not have a particular interest in things like comets, the comet is discovered to be rich in eisillium, a rare element. Why the Vulcans do not mention this during the remainder of the episode seems odd to me. I think that this would fall under the story continuity, and therefor I can keep universe continuity intact.

Character Development – 3 points. The fact that we begin the T’Pol/Tucker relationship by revealing that Trip is the only person to know about T’Pol’s arranged marriage. The whole misunderstanding about the encrypted message serves as a catalyst for these two. We also see some significant growth as Archer is forced to ask the Vulcans to help rescue Travis and Malcolm from the comet. This is not easy for Johnathan, and yet is an important first step in him eventually accepting that the Vulcans are going to be important allies in the future. As previously mentioned, almost everyone gets some attention here. Travis has hardly ever seen snow, and has a blast building a snowman (complete with pointy ears). Even Malcolm shows his lighter side by adding the nose as well as making a joke about the lack of symmetry in the hole they blast on the comet’s surface. If there is nothing else to be said about this episode, you can say that it is character-driven.

Social Commentary – 2 points. This part was a little tricky to nail down. I did think that there was something to be said about Tucker’s sincere remorse over reading T’Pol’s message, and with Archer having to ask for help from the Vulcans. T’Pol turned to Trip to discuss the things that were troubling her. All of these lead to a theme about having to take that first step in trusting someone. Trip betrayed the trust of T’Pol, and yet she still found it within herself to trust him in seeking advice. Archer had to take the proverbial leap of faith to trust the Vulcans, which led to the rescue of Mayweather and Reed.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I loved the snowman. Yes, I said it, though no pun was intended by including a snowman in the “Cool Stuff” section. I thought that was such a cool little part of the story. I also am going to score a point for the scene where the crew is answering the questions to the elementary class. I love that scene. It adds some humanity to everyone involved, from Archer’s attempt to speak to children he cannot see, to Phlox’s enthusiasm about germs, to Tucker’s dismay at having to answer a “poop question”. It was really good stuff.

Rank – Captain (18 points). OK, so this episode is not the most exciting, the most humorous, the most intriguing, or the most complex story that Star Trek has ever done. Far from any of those, in fact. Yet, despite all of those, it still comes across as a very charming story. Everyone gets something significant or important to do or say (which is quite rare for an ensemble cast), and the story is woven together quite well. Sure, there are far stronger and wittier episodes, but “Breaking the Ice” can do just that with

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.

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