February 13, 2003

Cease Fire- REVIEW
By Karma
Special thanks to Paul Pytlik & SpiderMonkee for the screencaps.

 

The Story
The episode begins as the camera pans across a ruined city. The derelict buildings are interspersed with bursts or weapons fire. We soon find ourselves in a bunker filled with Andorian Imperial Guardsmen who are discussing their present state of affairs. The Vulcans have apparently found a weakness in the Andorian positions and are using that advantage to press the Andorians into agreeing to a cease fire. Our old friend Shran believes that the Vulcans are attempting to dupe them, but believe that a pinkskin known as Archer might be able to help them.

Some time later, Captain Archer is contacted by Admiral Forrest with his new orders. Forrest is obviously excited about the fact that, for the first time, Vulcans are asking Humans for help. Situated on the border between Vulcan and Andorian territory, the Vulcans apparently want control of the planet, which the Andorians call Weytahn and the Vulcans, Paan Mokar, because of its strategic value. Apparently the conflict over the planet - in truth, it’s little more than a planetoid, being slightly larger than Earth’s moon - some hundred years ago when the Vulcans forcibly removed an Andorian colony. Since then, the two powers have almost gone to war twice to possess it. According to T’Pol, Humanity would react in much the same was as the Vulcans if the Klingons had tried to establish a colony on Pluto.

After some grousing by Tucker over the strain being placed on the plasma injectors - including an interesting line about flame-retardant underwear - Enterprise arrives at the planet where Ambassador Soval and a Subcommander Muroc (whom Soval will later try to send with Archer, only to be shot down by Archer’s claim that he’ll take along a Vulcan he trusts) come aboard to brief Archer on the situation. It seems, however, to say that the Vulcans wanted Archer’s help was a bit of an overstatement. Soval is not happy - to the extent that a Vulcan can be unhappy - about Archer’s involvement in the negotiations. However, the Andorians have taken three Vulcan soldiers hostage and will only negotiate their release if Archer mediates the discussions.

Before heading down the planet’s surface with T’Pol for an initial meeting with Shran, Archer stops by Sickbay where Doctor Phlox needs to bombard his immune system with some radiation so that Archer can survive the Class D planet’s unique atmosphere. While carrying out the procedure, Phlox informs Archer that he spent some time as a medic in the Denobulan infantry, and cautions the Captain on the hazards of a battleground. Archer also wonders if maybe he’s out ‘here’, not just to study comets and meet new species, but to help Earth join a larger interstellar community.

Flash ahead to the next day aboard the vaunted Shuttlepod One as Archer and T’Pol descend to the planet’s surface. The science officer is concerned about whether or not Archer is sufficiently prepared for his role as negotiator, and queries him as to whether or not he read any of the materials she sent to his quarters last night. The material included the Territorial Compromise between the Vulcans and Andorians ceding control of Paan Mokar to the Vulcans - a 1,200 page document, V’Lar’s Treatise on Negotiating Tactics, the Revised Intersystem Agreement, the High Command Briefing on the Border Incursions of 2112, etc. T’Pol does not appear impressed when she learns that Archer ‘glanced’ over the material, and that his plan consists of getting Shran to trust him then “playing it by ear”.

On the planet, T’Pol and Archer are waylaid by several Andorians under the command of Shran’s Lieutenant, Tarah (played by TNG veteran Suzie Plakson). It’s obvious right from the get-go that Tarah isn’t terribly fond of Shran’s plan, nor of Vulcans as she tries to force T’Pol to remain behind while Archer is taken to the meeting with her commander. Archer manages to convince her otherwise and the pair are blindfolded and lead off to meet the Imperial Guard commander. Finally arriving at the Andorian bunker, Archer immediately demands to see the hostages, so as the ascertain their condition. Tarah reacts quite vociferously to this, claiming that criminals take hostages. The Vulcans captives are prisoners of war. The Andorians relent, and allow Archer to see the Vulcans, but do not allow him to do more than look at them, setting off another confrontation between T’Pol and Tarah. Interceding, Shran informs Archer that, in exchange for the release of the three soldiers, the Andorians want the Vulcans to cede control of Weytahn to Andoria. Archer responds that he’ll relay the message, but warns Shran that he doubts the Vulcans will accept the deal. This sets Tarah off again, prompting her to call Archer a Vulcan puppet. Shran disagrees, and consents to a face-to-face meeting, in the Andorian compound, of course, with Soval to discuss the situation, and to release one of the hostages as a sign of good will.

Back aboard Enterprise, Archer and T’Pol are in a meeting with Soval and Muroc, neither of whom seem to be impressed with Starfleet’s progress thus far. They also reveal that three Andorian ships are en route to resupply the Andorian troops. T’Pol obviously fears that an actual war is going to break out, and, off Archer’s prompting, Soval reluctantly agrees to a meeting with Shran.

Later, Shran instructs his troops that they are to treat Ambassador Soval with respect when he arrives. Tarah, once again, questions why he is behaving as he is. She suggests launching an assault so as to have the Vulcan forces on the defensive by the time their ships arrive. She also wonders why Shran is willing to trust Archer. Her protests, however, fall on deaf antenna as Shran continues about his business. Meanwhile, Shuttlepod One, with Archer, T’Pol, and Soval aboard, comes under attack from an unidentified source, and is forced to crash land some distance from the Andorian compound. Upon exiting the shuttle, Soval reveals that he was once stationed on Paan Mokar as an intelligence officer and that it was he who later negotiated the original Territorial Compromise, and suggests that they try to reach the Vulcan headquarters. Archer dissents, insinuating that maybe it was the Vulcans who shot them down, and that he intended to keep his meeting with Shran, lest he lose the Andorian’s trust. Soval isn’t happy, but has no choice by to comply when T’Pol follows Archer.

We take a quick break from the plight of our planet-bound heroes to check up on Enterprise. Commander Tucker, having been informed by Muroc of the situation, advises the Vulcan officer that a more moderate response than the one he witnessed on Coridan in “Shadows of P’Jem”.

Having been informed of the attack on the Starfleet shuttlepod Shran demands to know why his men fired. Tarah replies that it wasn’t them, and suggests that the Vulcans tried to kill Soval so they could blame it on the Andorians and launch an attack. A sceptical Shran reluctantly agrees to reinforce his defensive positions in preparation for a Vulcan attack. At the same time, Archer temporarily splits up with his Vulcan companions so as to scout about, making a quip about his ears being less of a target as he leaves. A confused Soval asks T’Pol why Humans constantly refer to Vulcan ears. T’Pol replies that she believes the behaviour is prompted by envy. Soval goes onto point out that T’Pol seems to have developed a Human accent and wonders why she is still serving aboard Enterprise when, had she returned to the Diplomatic Corps her career could have advanced further, he goes so far as to suggest that T’Pol ought to be reassigned because her emotions are being affected by her exposure to Humans. Back aboard Enterprise, Hoshi announces that she’s detected an EM signature and that it’s definitely Captain Archer. Unfortunately, she’ll need at least another hour to localize the signature, while the Andorian ships are only minutes away. The engineer orders Reed to take the ship to tactical alert.

Returning to where he left T’Pol and Soval, Archer and company are soon ambushed, with Soval taking a blast to the chest. The wound is not life threatening, but he is in need of medical attention. T’Pol recognizes the weapons fire as Andorian and Archer passes his phase pistol to Soval, who protests that it’s been 50 years since he last fired a weapon, so that the Vulcans can provide covering fire while he attempts to outflank their attackers. Archer manages to get the drop on the first Andorian, knocking him out and stealing his weapon as we jump back to the situation aboard Enterprise. In hopes of preventing the Vulcans and Andorians from starting to shoot at each other, Tucker orders Mayweather to move the ship between to the two sides. Reed, understandably concerned, demands to know what Tucker is up to.

Archer, in the meantime, managed to sneak up on the other Andorian, who turns out to be none other than Tarah, Shran’s dissatisfied Lieutenant. The two scuffle, Archer finally gaining the upper hand, just before several Andorian soldiers arrive on scene. Shran confronts Archer and learns of Tarah’s attempts to undermine the peace process. Sending her away he orders his medics to treat Soval’s wound. Flash back to Enterprise again, where Tucker informs both the Vulcan and Andorian commanders that he will first on any ship taking hostile action. Fortunately, before he has a chance to fire, Archer contacts them and tells them that the Andorians will be withdrawing.

Later, aboard Enterprise as it seems that the negotiations between Shran and Soval are going nowhere, Shran proposes as toast to their mutual dissatisfaction, the cease fire, and to Archer himself. Soval first points out that Vulcans do not drink, but agrees to a compromise, stating that he is looking forward to continuing the negotiations on Andor. After the toast, T’Pol offers to escort Soval back to his ship, and, as a parting comment, he informs Archer that his presence was not as overly meddlesome as he had expected. Shran claims that this is a sign that he likes Archer, though the Captain isn’t sure he’d go that far.

 

Analysis
“Cease Fire” was a solid, well-written, well-acted episode. Excluding last week’s “Stigma”, which I have yet to see, “Cease Fire” is certainly the best episode since “Shuttlepod One”, and possibly the best episode yet.

All to often, it seems that one of Enterprise’s greatest weaknesses is the acting. Not so with “Cease Fire”, primarily thanks to veteran Trek actors Jeffrey Coombs and Suzie Plakson), who both performed wonderfully as Shran and Tarah, respectively. I was especially impressed with Plakson. I liked the aggression of Tarah, I would imagine that her TNG role as K`Ehleyr was quite beneficial. Much to my surprise, both Scott Bakula and Jolene Blalock also turned in quality performances. As noted above, I have yet to see “Stigma”, but Bakula was, frankly, awful in “Dawn”, and Blalock has yet to truly impress me with her acting abilities - though some of her scenes in today, especially the play between her and Archer during the first trip down to the planet’s surface, and her interaction with Gary Graham’s Soval were indications that she might finally be beginning to flesh out the character. “Ear envy”, indeed!

The writing on Enterprise can also be fairly blasé, fortunately, this was again not the case with “Cease Fire”. Despite not featuring much action until the last few minutes of the episode I thought that a steady tempo was maintained and I never really found the episode losing my attention - of course, that could just have been because I was paying closer attention than normal so that I would be able to write this review, but I honestly don’t believe that to be the case. The occasional moments of humour were also nice, and fit in surprisingly well. One of the few consistent strengths in Enterprise has been it’s intra-series continuity. “Cease Fire” was no exception to that rule, containing quite a few references to past episodes. But what I most enjoyed was not the references to major events, like those of “The Andorian Incident” and “Shadows of P’Jem”, but the little things like V’Lar’s Treatise on Negotiating Tactics (if you’ll recall, V’Lar was the Vulcan ambassador from season one’s “Fallen Hero”), or the tactical alert ordered by Tucker, which was clearly a development based on ‘Reed Alert’ from “Singularity”.

A few of the other good things in “Cease Fire” were the little tidbit we got about Phlox, learning that he had spent some time as a medic in the Denobulan infantry; seeing Archer stand up to the Vulcans, and having the Vulcans back down for once, and seeing our heroic Captain actually win two fights! I also liked the way we got the first inkling of the eventual founding of the Federation. It was nice because, unlike some of the previous Prime Directive hints we’ve seen in the past, the writers seemingly did not feel the need to beat us over the head with the implication and delivered it somewhat subtly. It was still quite obvious what the meaning of the statement was, but I think it was handled in a reasonably well way.

I was also glad to see that “Cease Fire” was not another episode in what I like to call the “Trip Tucker Spectacular”. It seems like most of the recent episodes have been pretty heavily focussed on everyone’s favourite Arkansas Engineer. Not that I’m complaining too loudly, as Connor Trineer is one of the two best actors on Enterprise (along with John Billingsley), and I’ve liked the way his character has been developing of late. But I’m glad to get an episode featuring someone other than him.

The one possible negative aspect of “Cease Fire” would be that many people will probably see it as the next in a long line of episodes that degraded the image of our Vulcan allies that we’ve gotten from TOS on. I’ve wavered back and forth between both sides of this argument... I can see how people would be upset with how the Vulcans have been treated, and I wonder if it’s possible for a race that lives as long as the Vulcans (after all, T’Pol could, conceivably, still have been alive during Picard’s tenure as Captain of the Enterprise-E) to undergo such a radical shift in no more than two generations - but I’m not convinced that it isn’t impossible. For now, I’ll content myself with stating that if you do not like the way Enterprise has been treating the Vulcans, then you probably won’t be a big fan of “Cease Fire”.

Nevertheless, it’s one possible strike aside, “Cease Fire” was a very good episode. Not great, but definitely one of Enterprise’s best.

 

Grade: 8.5 / 10 - A

 

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