Star Trek Enterprise: Breaking the Ice

T'Pol: "You can save them, or you can let your pride stand in the way. You're human. You're free to choose."

By nature I love brevity: Pretty good. Some nice character work here, with good stuff for everyone to do. The danger plot felt kind of off; maybe it was the direction. Regardless, there's nothing too deep in this one, but the 'life on a new starship' feel was perfect.

'Breaking the Ice' pulls off an entertaining and often amusing or bemusing hour of television. It sure isn't gripping or superb, but it mostly feels right and it's fun to watch. I still have my reservations about the Vulcans, but they're definitely being consistent within the series. I have to reiterate my hopes from 'The Andorian Incident' that the writers know what they're doing and will be able to show the Vulcans' journey from the species and near-antagonists they are now to the close friends and allies we know them as from TOS onward.

The premise is simple enough - Enterprise comes across a huge comet with some interesting and rare mineral samples in its core. Not long after they decide to investigate, a Vulcan ship approaches and asks if they may observe the proceedings. Meanwhile, T'Pol is dealing with some personal issues with the accidental help of Trip.

Let's start with the Vulcan ship plot. We learn from Archer that in the last few weeks, Enterprise has caught several Vulcan ships watching them. Some of them fled the scene when they were discovered. This fits just right after the events of 'The Andorian Incident' just last episode. It makes a lot of sense that the Vulcans would keep an eye on Enterprise's movements and actions considering that the crew just uncovered one of their secret operations to their enemy. It's a natural progression, and I like the continuity.

This particular Vulcan ship is slightly chattier than the one that ran away, and it's announced its intentions to watch already. The captain, Vanik (William Utay), enters the story gradually at first. Archer invites him to dinner aboard Enterprise, hoping to placate him and get him to go away. Vanik comes, but he's just plain rude the whole way through. He ate before coming and takes absolutely no interest in talking with Archer or Trip, even after he is informed that it is human custom to make small talk during meals. Clearly, he's not one of the great Vulcan diplomats that we've heard stories about in TOS times.

Vanik's ship, the Ti'Mur, came with a message for T'Pol in addition to their intention to keep an eye on Enterprise. The message is encrypted and sent directly to her quarters, which Trip flags as suspicious. After a brief discussion with Archer, he gets Hoshi to decrypt the message. After reading it, he discovers it's a very personal matter.

Trip's reaction to this sticky situation is perfect. He's not always given the most respectable fare, as evidenced by the 'poop question' scene in this episode and the entirety of 'Unexpected', but when he is, Connor Trinneer does a remarkable job with it. I really wish he'd get more to do that respects the character rather than making fun of him. He's a gentleman in this situation, profusely apologizing to T'Pol and explaining why it looked so suspicious. He genuinely feels bad and wants to know how he can help.

T'Pol initially resists his assistance, but after Dr. Phlox recommends that she talk to someone about what's stressing her out, she chooses him because he already knows about the situation. She's betrothed to a Vulcan man, and the wedding was scheduled for the very next week. She had asked for a postponement when she chose to remain aboard Enterprise longer than her originally planned mission to Q'onoS, but her fiance Koss's parents were insulted that she would postpone their plans to serve on a human ship.

Trip tries to give her some advice, but true to form he's not able to simply do this calmly and without coming across as judgmental. He does have a very good point, though, despite his inability to articulate it appropriately. T'Pol has a choice here, to follow her cultural traditions and demands or to follow her desires and wishes. Which choice is the better one matters very little. What matters is that she does have the choice, and she couldn't see that before. It remains to be seen whether the demands of T'Pol's culture should win out or not, but here the episode is content to make the point that she can choose to go against it.

Lastly, we come to the comet aspect of the plot. I found it amusing at times, particularly the Vulcan ears on the snowman, but the danger plot felt off somehow. I get by the end that it was necessary and facilitated the necessary closure from the other plots, but it didn't feel like that at the outset of the danger. It kind of seemed unimportant and out of place, and I'm not sure what could have been done to fix it.

In any event, Reed and Travis end up in a shuttlepod beneath the cracked surface of the melting comet. Enterprise tries the grappler, but it isn't working well enough. Captain Vanik offers his assistance with the Ti'Mur's tractor beam, but Archer won't have it. It's here that T'Pol urges him to accept the offer. Vanik believes Archer will reject it out of pride, which is happening at that very moment. But T'Pol tells him that he can show Vanik a different side of humanity. He has, she says, a choice. Archer gives in, and the Ti'Mur saves Reed and Travis.

Finally, T'Pol chooses to remain aboard Enterprise. In the episode's closing beats, she meditates in her quarters, a slice of Trip's favorite pecan pie on her table. I like the ending, and it feels satisfying.

Strange New Worlds:

No planets in this one; just a comet.

New Life and New Civilizations:

All the species in this episode have shown up before.

Pensees:

-Enterprise's teasers are very simple and light, without much plot or suspense. I can't tell if that's refreshing or annoying.

-The school questions scene was worth it for everything involving Phlox. Forget Travis, he's the most underused character because he's so great. The scene did falter for the aforementioned reasons involving the ridicule of Trip. I did also like that it gave us some world building about how important this mission is to the people of Earth. Our current astronauts get questions from schoolchildren; why wouldn't Enterprise's crew?

-Speaking of Travis, he got more to do this time around than usual. Although it still wasn't anything useful or important.

-Chef's ability to make anything is giving me Vincent from Eureka vibes. Although significantly less charismatic, considering he hasn't shown up yet.

-Archer seems surprised by the questions he reads from the kids, but he says he specifically picked the ones he wanted to answer.

-That was definitely anger from T'Pol when Trip told her what he'd done.

-The whole comet business kept making me think of Deep Impact. Which is never a bad thing; I love that movie.

Quotes:

Trip: "D'ya ever... d'ya ever do anything totally by mistake that you weren't very proud of?"
T'Pol: "No."

Travis, admiring the gaping hole in the comet: "Impressive."
Reed: "Meh. I was hoping for a little more symmetry."

Archer: "We have this peculiar habit of actually talking during meals."
Vanik: "I've noticed."

4.5 out of 6 Vulcan-eared snowmen.

---
CoramDeo is a sensitive artist.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I enjoyed reading your review, CoramDeo.

I think one of the strengths of this show is its closer connection to present day Earth than other Trek series, all of which tended to be more futuristic and distant. Here we had a charming parallel between the human fourth grade class asking questions on food, dating, germs, and where does the poop go, and the almost childish enthusiasm of the Enterprise crew as they explore the "biggest comet humans have ever seen." We even have the Vulcan overlords arriving as unwelcome babysitters.

The comet stuff was okay (I especially liked the Vulcan snowman), but I enjoyed other parts of this episode much more. Trip and T'Pol did some interesting bonding and became confidants. He gave her some good advice, too, and despite her initial reaction, she obviously took it. Good for her. And good for Trip.

I also enjoyed the dinner, with Archer moving from cordial charm to complete stonewalling in the face of Vanik's outright rudeness and condescension. You'd think that someone in Vanik's position would have a better handle on public relations. Or maybe Vanik was just so prejudiced against humans that he couldn't help going overboard?