Lynch's Enterprise Episode Review
WARNING: Rogue spoilers lurk below for the ENT episode
In brief: Nicely effective.
Enterprise Season 2, Episode 15
Written by Chris Black
Directed by David Straiton
Brief summary: Andorian commander Shran calls upon Archer to
mediate a dispute between the Andorians and the Vulcans.
Sometimes, simple is best. "Cease Fire" doesn't break a whole lot
new ground, but it plays to the series' core strengths and sets up
some nice ideas for the future in the process.
It's not all that new to find a Starfleet captain trying to mediate
dispute in order to prevent a war -- Kirk certainly did it on
Sisko did on occasion (mostly early on, before the Fed's own war
with the Dominion took precedence), and Picard did it whenever his
tea got cold. It's a common enough theme -- but what's not common
is for said captain to see it as a new thing. Archer does, and for the
most part Archer *should*. I can't say I'm that impressed if it really
took the man a year and a half to realize he's the chief
of humanity to "a much larger community," but at least when he gets
a realization he tends to stick with it. :-)
Apart from that realization, though, the early stages of "Cease
didn't have all that much to recommend them apart from a sense of
potential. I liked very much the idea of Archer having to negotiate a
wary cease-fire between the Vulcans and the Andorians (and
especially the idea that Shran would ask for Archer specifically), but
the laying out of the problem came in one of the more interminable
lumps of exposition I've seen in a while. There had to have been a
more interesting way to get that information across to us; having
T'Pol hand it all to Archer while he and Trip act skeptical about
motivations is not that way. Additionally, everyone seems to have
forgotten when Enterprise is set: the treaty of 2097 (which left this
disputed planet uninhabited) is said several times to be more than a
century old, which makes no sense. It's not a huge deal, but it added
to a sense that this episode could be stuck in the land of "intriguing
ideas bollixed up by execution."
The return of Gary Graham's Soval didn't help that much. As I've
said before, there's a difference between the calm Vulcan self-
assurance that annoys everyone and actively contemptuous behavior,
and Soval has spent way too much time on the wrong side of that
line to suit me, be it for writing reasons or acting ones. He doesn't
seem to fit in with the Vulcans we know from past series *or* the
version ENT's presented us with, and that made it difficult early on
for me to buy into the story overmuch. In any event, until the end of
the first act I didn't have much of a feel for the show other than a
cynical musings about the Federation (or the pre-Fed, in this case)
still representing the U.S. writ large. (Specifically, Archer's casual
dismissal of T'Pol's background information as too long and his
unwillingness to go in with any particular plans reminded me way
too much of certain aspects of U.S. policy right about now. Let's
leave it at that.)
Once the action shifted down to the planet, however, things
considerably. Some of that is due to one of the inherent
contradictions of being a fan: a large fraction of us say we want
things to be new and different (and a large fraction of that fraction
even mean it), but give us a guest actor or character we've been fond
us previously and we tend to drool. :-) In this case, we not only got
another episode with Shran, played by Jeff "I think I've played
ninety-seven roles on Trek by now" Combs, but we also got our first
exposure to Tarah, a female Andorian, played quite well by old TNG
favorite Suzie Plakson.
More importantly, though, it's at this point that the conflict
bit more multi-faceted. Shran may have asked for Archer, but it's
clear that not everyone supports him in that initiative -- not just
use of Archer, but the whole idea of sitting down and talking with the
Vulcans at all. Tarah disputes and dismisses any interpretation of
the situation that doesn't involve her being absolutely right, from
Archer's bringing T'Pol along at all to his description of Vulcan
prisoners as hostages. "Hostages?" she notes. "Criminals take
hostages. Kidnappers looking for ransom take hostages. I assume
you're referring to the enemy soldiers we captured." She's a bit
strident, but she certainly has a consistent point of view.
Archer also gets somewhat more intelligently written here than he's
been lately. Bakula's delivery of threats and ultimatums is still not
one I find totally convincing, but the substance of Archer's comments
here is sound: he convinces Shran that, although sympathetic, he'll
need to take something concrete back to Soval in order to get him to
come down in person. I don't know if he proposed the release of
two prisoners in the hopes of getting it all, or just in the
of getting one, but either way it's a sound enough tactic.
Once the deal is struck on the Andorian end and (somewhat
inexplicably, so far as I can tell) on the Vulcan end, Archer heads
back down with T'Pol and Soval. Naturally, however, the return trip
can't go perfectly smoothly -- the show's requisite action quota needs
to be filled, for one thing. Thus, the shuttlepod gets shot down, and
the rest of the show finds the threesome trying to find their way to
safety -- and specifically to find the Andorians, since Archer insists
upon keeping his word. Soval has grave misgivings about this, since
he assumes the shuttle was shot down by Shran in an attempt to kill
them, but he's given little choice.
Stranding this trio also leads to a long-overdue conversation. At
point, Archer goes ahead to check out the terrain, Soval observes that
T'Pol was a gifted aide to him back in San Francisco, and that if
she'd stayed on Earth she might well have a diplomatic posting of her
own. It's about time that someone not on Enterprise asked T'Pol
why she's still there, and I appreciated both the asking of the
question and T'Pol's answer. (It's also close to the only scene in
which Soval actually acts as emotionless as he claims to be.)
Meanwhile, the Vulcans aren't the only one with internal
of opinion. Shran doesn't know who shot at the shuttle, but is
incensed at the result -- he orders Tarah to personally see to it that
three people are brought in alive. She again resists this, suggesting
that the Vulcans shot down their own ambassador to provoke a war,
but grudgingly agrees.
If there was any intention of making "who's trying to kill them?" a
mystery, then it failed, as a neon arrow pointed to Tarah pretty early
on. I don't really think that was the intent, though -- and as I said
earlier, I think there was a real strength to the way Tarah was used
here. She may be the villain of the piece, but she's not some cackling
villain twirling her mustache -- she's a patriot by her own lights who
thinks Shran's leadership is bringing them all to ruin.
Before too long, of course, this is exposed. Archer and company run
into another firefight, and eventually Archer manages to take one of
the two snipers by surprise, then has some hand-to-hand fighting
with Tarah. Given how strong the Andorians are (as per several
examples that weren't this episode), it rang a little false that a
and battered Archer could take on a perfectly hale and hearty Tarah
and come out on top, but that's a relatively minor hitch. The main
point was to incapacitate her long enough for Shran to come upon
the scene and find out what Tarah's been up to, and that he does quite
Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew is at least given something
to do. Trip, who's been put in the "dorky comic relief" role entirely
too many times this season, winds up putting the Enterprise in
harm's way when some Andorian ships come to help out their
fellows on the surface. It's not all that surprising that he'd put the
Enterprise between the Andorians and the Vulcans and then threaten
to fire on anyone who makes an aggressive move, but it's very in
keeping with Trip's character and was well presented. I'll take it.
I keep coming back to the schism within the Andorians, though, and
it was very definitely a large part of the show's appeal for me. Once
Tarah admits what she's done, she tells Shran "it's not too late to
make a stand," and he does: he has her arrested and taken away.
She goes calmly, but tells him, "there are others who feel this way.
You'll see." I very, very much hope that's not something that's just
mentioned to make this episode feel a little more ominous. There
should be lots of people who feel as she does, and some of them
should be in places of sufficient power to really make a lasting peace
difficult. Let's see some of that!
Despite some problems early on, "Cease Fire" is a fairly good
example of what can be done with this series' setting. We know that
eventually, there does need to be a lasting peace, since both Vulcan
and Andor (or "Andoria," as it's apparently called here) are charter
members of the Federation -- but we don't know how strong or how
friendly that alliance is, and we know next to nothing about how that
alliance came about. This is a historical thread well worth pursuing,
as it can lead to interesting stories that really are somewhat new to
"Cease Fire" also wins by having much better dialogue than a lot of
its recent predecessors. Granted, there's also some dialogue that's
quite grating -- Trip's whole bit about "my underwear's flame-
retardant" is on that list, as is Archer's "the ball's in your court
and T'Pol having to explain it. That's outweighed, though, by things
-- Tarah: "You act as if [the Vulcans] have some sort of moral
They have no conscience -- only their precious logic!"
-- T'Pol: "We need to reduce our speed." Archer: "The ground is
gonna do that for us. Brace yourselves."
-- the Andorian ship's recommendation that Enterprise withdraw,
because they'd hate to see them be hit with debris from the Vulcan
ships. *That's* self-assurance.
-- Archer: "I believe someone once defined a compromise as a
solution that neither side is happy with." Shran: "In that case, these
talks have been extremely successful." (He then proposes a drink
"to our mutual dissatisfaction," which is also cute.)
-- and, of course, the Vulcans' discussion about humans' ear
It's been unusual this season for ENT dialogue to make me smile,
but "Cease Fire" had a few of those. Kudos.
Other observations and comments:
-- When Archer and T'Pol first arrived on the planet, did anyone
find it convenient that the Andorians brought along a second hood
even though they were expecting only Archer? (I've no problem with
it, especially since they're so paranoid as a matter of course -- it
made for good MST3K fodder.)
-- Beyond the timing glitch of "how long ago was 2097, anyway?",
Soval also says at least once that Archer's last contact with the
Andorians was at P'Jem. Not true, and there's every reason Soval
should know that.
-- The breakfast scene with Archer/Trip/T'Pol has some strikingly
bad effects work whenever you see Trip. It was most unusual.
That should do it. "Cease Fire" took fifteen minutes or so to
out where it wanted to go, but struck very few false notes once it
started on that path. More shows on this level and less like "A Night
in Sickbay" or "Dawn," please.
So, wrapping up:
Writing: Some lousy work with Archer early on, but several nice
moments of dialogue and some decent complexities within
Directing: Again, after a slow start things moved along nicely.
Acting: Kudos to Combs and Plakson, and after a bumpy start
Bakula and Graham held their own as well.
OVERALL: I think this sits at an 8.5. Color me pleased.
A crashed vessel has the potential to affect history.
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
"What *is* their fixation with our ears?"
"I believe they're envious."
-- Soval and T'Pol
Copyright 2003, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free
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