Star Trek Enterprise: Silent Enemy

Trip: "In the old days, astronauts rode rockets with millions of liters of hydrogen burning under their seats. You think they said, 'Gee, I'd love to go to the moon today, but it seems a little risky'?"

By nature I love brevity: There's some good stuff here. It really feels like an episode that's designed for Enterprise. But the two plots have virtually nothing to do with each other, and seem to have been combined here for no particular reason. Some of the elements fall flat, too, so all in all this is not the best of episodes.

What is an acceptable level of risk? This is a question that hinges on personal opinion, on the value of the potential reward, and on the value of what's being risked. Was the danger of the Apollo missions, as evidenced by Apollo 13 and the other failed space missions, really worth landing a man on the moon? It's easy to respond 'Of course' in 2018, after twelve people successfully landed on the moon and the American flag is planted firmly in the rocky lunar soil. But in 1969, that question was very different. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins knew full well the risks of a moon mission – they'd seen the death of Apollo 1's three crewmembers in a cabin fire – yet they still got into the rocket, trusting that their own skill and the skill of the many scientists and engineers that had made the mission possible would get them through.

The human spirit of exploration is unquenchable. First we wanted to explore the ocean, then the world. Then we went to the moon, and now we're looking to Mars. Star Trek, for all its ridiculous science, is plausible because space is naturally the next place humanity will want to explore. Every time we explore a frontier, we look for another to reach for. But we're also held back by the caution in us. We have a side of us that is afraid of the risks, a side that wants to keep back, to continue researching, to do more tests. The balance between those two sides of humanity is what makes us such great explorers, and the better we find that balance, the better we are at exploration.

All this is a long-winded way of introducing the theme of this episode. The characters, at least in the 'A' story, struggle with an acceptable level of risk. This starts at the command level, with Archer's doubts about coming out into space without being prepared for what may come, and runs all the way down to Trip and Reed, who wonder whether their wild plan to power the new phase cannons will blow them all up or not. It's a fascinating world conflict, and it's what I'd argue is Enterprise's core conflict.

Everything here that explores that theme is worthy of note. Interestingly enough, T'Pol takes a back seat here, when normally she'd be at the forefront of an episode that directly dealt with this issue. Instead, the episode makes the wise decision of having Archer question his own rash decisions, making it an internal and personal question rather than a large-scale matter of principle and policy. Reed and Trip take the opposite sides of the conflict than they normally have, too; Reed is typically the by-the-book rule-follower, and Trip tends to be the creative experimenter. But here, Trip is reining in Reed's crazy idea. It's fascinating, and yet it never seems to cross over into being out-of-character for any of them. I'm impressed.

So let's turn to the less-than-stellar aspects of this episode. While Hoshi's quest for Reed's favorite food was amusing at times and certainly never unpleasant to watch, it seemed like definite filler. I'm all for fleshing out the less prominent characters, and this certainly did some of that for Reed, but it had no ties to the larger story of the episode, and it felt as though they put these two plots together for no reason other than that Reed had stuff to do in both of them. If you're going to focus on the same character in the 'A' and 'B' plots, please make them work together as a cohesive whole, rather than clumsily slapping them together with little effort.

I did like the feel of the aliens. I was happy that they didn't turn out to be a species we'd seen before; it made the mystery much more mysterious, and it helped with the overall effect of the faceless enemy. I liked that they never spoke, and it was nice that their technology was more advanced than Enterprise's, yet not beyond what we might see in, say, TNG. That helped to ground it a little bit.

All in all, a good look at Enterprise's core conflict in a way we haven't seen much yet. I like it when shows do that.

Strange New Worlds:

Enterprise stayed on the ship for this whole episode. We never even got to see Jupiter Station.

New Life and New Civilizations:

Memory Alpha says that the production team referred to the anonymous aliens as 'Shroomies.' We didn't learn almost anything about them, which was a good thing for the effect they were going for.

Pensees:

-Enterprise's communications arrays reminded me of the arrays the Defiant used to drop on the other side of the wormhole in DS9.

-Reed's favorite food turned out to be pineapple.

-Apparently, Reed doesn't talk to people, including his family. I definitely detected some tension about his decision to join Starfleet, though.

-Enterprise was outfitted with phase cannon ports, but they weren't installed before the ship left space dock. That's a nice fleshing out of a little detail.

-According to Archer, Enterprise began with a crew of 83 - 81 humans, 1 Denobulan (Phlox), and 1 Vulcan (T'Pol). That would mean they're down to 82, with Daniels' demise, assuming Daniels was on the original crew manifest and didn't slip in after the ship left Earth.

-Travis watch: Nothing other than a few 'Aye, sir's.

-I liked the final solution, overloading the cannons intentionally.

Quotes:

Archer: "You missed T'Pol's latest bout with chopsticks."
Trip: "Damn, dinner and a show."

Trip: "We all signed up for this trip because we wanted to do something no one had ever done before, not because we thought it'd be easy, or safe. But we're not here to take foolish risks."

Archer: "This time, we won't be leaving before we're ready."
Trip: "Are your ears a little pointier than usual?"

Archer: "We're not here to make enemies. But just because we're not looking for a fight doesn't mean we'll run away from one. You may think you've left us defenseless, but let me tell you something about humans. We don't give up easily."

Hoshi: "I don't suppose scanning his tastebuds would help?"
Phlox: "Medically speaking, there's no accounting for taste."

3.5 out of 6 slices of pineapple cake.

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CoramDeo doesn't wanna go. You know he'll be back, though, since he's got other episodes of Enterprise to review. For some reason, that seems kind of unsatisfying.

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