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Babel One
Date: November 12, 2154
Original Airdate: January 28, 2005
Reviewed by Diesel Micky Dolenz

The Story

The episode opens on the Andorian ship Kumari with Shran in command. The bridge is in flames. Shran sends a distress call to the Andorian Imperial Command, stating that he was attacked by a Tellarite ship. The damage is so severe, that Shran orders all hands to the escape pods to abandon ship. Cue Russell Watson.

Act I begins with Hoshi and Archer in a shouting match. Hoshi complains about everything from the food to her quarters, including calling Porthos "mangy" (watch it, sister!) before Archer lets her have it with both barrels. To no one's surprise, the two then start smiling at each other. It was all just preparation for receiving the Tellarite delegation. It turns out that the Enterprise has been dispatched to ferry the Tellarite Ambassador and his entourage to a neutral planet for trade negotiations with the Andorians. Earth will be mediating the dispute it its first high-profile foray into interplanetary diplomacy. The planet has been designated "Babel" and lies on the far side of Andorian space. The Tellarites have warp ships of their own, but the Andorians won't allow them to enter their space, hence the pride of Starfleet must play taxi. Get used to it, ships named Enterprise end up with the same crappy duty for at least the next two hundred years.

The Tellarites come take a shuttlepod from the surface to the Enterprise. Archer greets Ambassador Gral, wasting no time in launching into the insults. It's not a particularly witty insult by even elementary school standards, but apparently Gral is satisfied, and he offers Archer his hand. At the reception for the pigs, Trip tries a little humor without much success. He tells Archer that he likes the Tellarites' directness. Archer, thinking he's getting the hang of this insult thing, zings a few Trip's way before the engineer can get out the door. If Vulcans ever rolled their eyes, T'Pol would probably be brought up on charges. Gral reminds Archer that he knows about the Andorians' role in saving Earth from the Xindi and questions whether Earth can be impartial. He also questions humanity's experience in mediating such matters, but Archer doesn't back down and reminds Gral that the Tellarites didn't have many choices.

The Enterprise picks up Shran's SOS, conveniently not receiving the part about the Tellarites. Helping the Andorian ship will delay the arrival at Babel, but (all together now) the Enterprise is the only ship in range. Again, get used to it.

Nineteen Andorians managed to escape the destruction of the Kumari. That might not be so bad except 86 were aboard. The ship had been escorting the Andorian ambassador to Babel for the conference when a Tellarite ship got the drop on them. The ambassador's ship had been destroyed immediately, and the Kumari hadn't fared much better. Shran remarks that he'd never seen a Tellarite ship move that quickly, and chalks it up to their developing their war capabilities while talking peace. T'Pol is skeptical of why the Tellarites would agree to the conference and then kill the Andorian party. Archer tells Shran that he's got the Tellarite contingent on board. Shran first tries to go to question the Tellarites, but Archer reminds him who's ship he's on. Shran then warns that there will be bloodshed if the two species aren't kept apart.

The Enterprise's sensors verify that the weapons used in the attack are consistent with Tellarite technology. The Andorian ship's data recorder was badly damaged, but T'Pol was able to retrieve an image of a Tellarite vessel firing on the Kumari. Archer takes this data to the Tellarites, but they insist the they are not involved. They point out that Andorian technology is more advanced than their own, and a single Tellarite ship would stand no chance against two Andorians. Archer informs the Tellarites that they are headed to Andoria, and Gral objects, fearing that they would be arrested and held accountable for the attack. Archer's only reply is that Gral has nothing to worry about if he's innocent. It's difficult whether Archer is playing up the aggressive angle, or whether he truly distrusts the ambassador.

Shran joins Archer in his cabin for a toast to the Kumari. Shran commanded her for 12 years, and knew most of his crew (and their families) longer than that. He reveals that he's gotten together with Talas, one of his subordinate officers. apparently in Andorian culture, assaulting an officer is equivalent to making a pass. He also shares that the Tellarite attack will likely lead to war. Archer questions why the Tellarites would initiate such an attack. Shran notes that Andorians have been losing ships along the border with Tellarite space, but Archer replies that the Tellarites, too, claim to have lost ships there.

An unidentified Andorian ship approaches the Enterprise with weapons charged. It refuses any attempt at a hail and opens fire. Shran attempts to order the ship to break off its attack, but it doesn't let up. Grudgingly, Shran helps Reed target the ship's shield generators, but phase cannons fail to cause any damage. A volley of photonic torpedoes finally manages to damage the Andorian's power grid and the ship moves off. Archer congratulates Reed, but the lieutenant notes that he wasn't targeting the power grid.

Archer brings Shran and Gral together in the conference room. The two accuse each other of being behind the attacks. Shran suggests that it wasn't an Andorian ship that attacked, noting that the shield matrix was wrong. He accuses the Tellarites of stealing Andorian ships and modifying them. The two almost come to blows, and Archer has the Tellarites returned to their quarters and placed under guard. Gral tells his aides that Archer has sided with the Andorians, and they may have made a mistake by trusting humans.

T'Pol discovers that the ship that attacked the Kumari and the ship that attacked the Enterprise both have the same power signatures. Shran doesn't believe it, chalking it up to Vulcan lies. Surely Archer can't be suggesting that the two were the same ship. Archer isn't sure what he's suggesting, but he decides to follow the "Andorian" ship's warp trail instead of heading to Andoria.

Over diner, Archer asks T'Pol whether Earth was really ready to jump into interstellar politics or if they should have let the Vulcans handle this. T'Pol points out that the Andorians don't exactly trust the Vulcans, even though relations have improved. Archer worries because the Andorians and Tellarites don't seem to have anything in common to build upon, but T'Pol notes that the same has been said of humans and Vulcans. Despite this introspection, the point of the scene seems to be to let us know that Koss has informed T'Pol that the dissolution of their marriage is final. That has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the story, but it seemed important to the writers for us to know.

The Enterprise follows the warp trail to what appears to be yet another ship. We now get our first glimpse of the Romulans, trying to effect repairs. They see the Enterprise's approach. T'Pol reports that biosigns onboard the alien ship are indeterminate, but its primary systems are offline and it doesn't return their hails. The hull of the ship is littered with subspace transceivers and multi-spectral emitters, pretty standard stuff, really. Archer dispatches Reed with two MACOs to the ship, and orders Trip to accompany them and try to get life support online. Onboard the ship, they find the section they've beamed into is depressurized, and they're unable to scan through the bulkheads.

The Romulans continue with their repairs, but they plan on destroying the ship, rather than let the humans find out their secrets. Without warning, the Romulan ship powers up and fires on the Enterprise. Archer orders the away team beamed back, but only the MACOs can be recovered before the transporter is damaged. The Enterprise is forced to flee, leaving Trip and Reed behind. The maneuvering of the Romulan ship tosses the two starfleet officers about, and the hose on Reed's suit comes loose. By the time Trip can replace it, Reed is down to eight minutes of air. Trip uses his own air supply to supplement Reed's, but they can't last long on just Trip's supply. The Romulans apparently never noticed any of the beaming activity.

The Enterprise reaches warp 4.9, but the Romulans are still overtaking them. At warp 5.0, they're maintaining their distance. Mayweather pushes the ship over warp 5.06 and they begin to pull away from the Rommies. Thank goodness for those new injectors. Meanwhile, Shran makes escape plans to get to the Tellarites, question them, then make them pay for the attack on the Kumari (don't you just love saying "Kumari"?).

Section after section of the Romulan ship is found decompressed. Trip is unable to find anything that resembles life support controls and begins to wonder whether the ship even has life support capabilities. Reed suggests that they find the bridge, after all there must be life support there. wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. The Romulans declare that they must find the Enterprise. The humans have seen too much. One officer has doubts about this plan, because the ship is only a prototype and was never intended for battle. Lucky first shot on the Andorians, I guess.

Back on the NX-01, the damage from the attack has been repaired. Analysis of the Romulan ship suggests that it is neither Tellarite nor Andorian in origin. The only identifying sign is the use of Boridium cells in the power matrix, something the NX encountered in "Minefield". Archer wonders why the Romulans would be involved in an attack so far from their home. T'Pol says that the Romulans have been known to be aggressive toward species they see as a threat, but Archer doesn't see why the Andorians, Tellarites or humans would be considered a threat. Maybe what the Andorians fear is an alliance of these species, and with the conference now postponed, any alliance would appear unlikely.

Trip and Reed have trouble finding the bridge, and Reed notes that it need not be at the top of the ship. They decide to follow data conduits in a further attempt to find the bridge. They do manage to find the fuel tanks for a maneuvering thruster that works on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. At least they can use that tank to replenish their air supply. And take the opportunity to confirm that Trip and T'Pol are no longer involved. Again, it's irrelevant, but someone obviously felt like we needed to know that right now.

Talas attempts to seduce the MACO guarding her quarters. The MACO doesn't go for it, but he is distracted enough for Shran to attack. MACO takes out Shran with no real trouble, but Talas is too much for him and the two escape. I guess we know who wears the pants in that family.

The Romulans detect the opening of the liquid oxygen tank and activate internal sensors to find Trip and Reed. After confirming that inertial dampeners are off, they order evasive maneuvers. The Starfleet officers are tossed about briefly, but magnetize their boots to keep themselves in place and continue to follow the data conduits toward the bridge.

Shran, Talas and a few other Andorians make it to Gral's quarters. They take out the guards and threaten Gral and his aides. Meanwhile, T'Pol has determined that the Romulan ship is capable of mimicking both the appearance and weapons of other ships. The discussion is interrupted when weapons fire is detected near the Tellarite quarters. Inside, Shran sets his weapon to kill and threatens Gral with death if he doesn't tell him the truth. Archer and the MACOs take out the Andorians standing guard and make their way into Gral's quarters. Archer talks Shran out of shooting Gral, saying he can prove that neither the Tellarites nor the Andorians were behind the attacks, and that someone wants to derail the conference. After Shran gives up his weapon, one of the Tellarites grabs Talas' phase pistol and shoots her with it. Shran goes to her and tells her it is only superficial, and she'll be fine. Either he's lying to her, or the episode was running short and the writers couldn't find another way to work in a non sequitur about Trip and T'Pol's love lives.

With the Romulan ship still executing evasive maneuvers, Trip and Reed finally force their way into the bridge, only to find it deserted. We cut to the Romulans, still in their control room, which turns out to be on Romulus. To be continued...

Analysis

You know, I've missed the Romulans. We haven't really seen much of them since Deep Space Nine. Yeah, yeah, Nemesis, yadda, yadda... it doesn't count. This is what Enterprise has needed, a dose of intrigue. We got close last season with the Xindi and the Sphere Builders, but you knew Earth would be saved and we'd never be hearing from the Xindi again. The Romulans are different. There's a war coming. We know it. We also know we'll win, but we don't know how it started. Unlike the Xindi, we also know we'll be dealing with the Rommies for centuries to come. Kirk, Picard, Sisko... they all had their run ins with the ex-Vulcans. Finally, in the fourth season, we get a story about how the Federation we know so well got its beginnings. It's not some castoff either, where Reed out does Starfleet's finest and develops the first force field or some attempt at reconciliation between Spock and Soval.

It would be completely out of character for me to not point out some flaws, and I will, but I genuinely enjoyed this one. It's been rare that I've felt excited about seeing the next episode of this series, but I've already made sure that the Tivo is locked in on "United." Obviously, the various races will have to start working together, at least enough to put their differences aside. There's still the issue, though, of finding and defeating the Romulan ship, oh and getting Reed and Trip off alive to boot. That the ship is remote controlled shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, but it is an interesting way of making sure that the future allies never come face to face with a Romulan.

Overall, the episode was well acted and the story flowed well, with a few exceptions. The scene with Archer and Shran having a drink was a nice touch. These two commanders have obviously come to respect each other, and Scot Bakula and Jeffrey Combs appear to be comfortable with each other as well. The only time the story really came to a screeching halt was when the Trip/T'Pol bits were dragged in. TPol's marital status and Trips feelings towards her are relevant to the characters' long term development, but really added nothing to this episode. Perhaps these seemingly shoehorned-in lines will become relevant before this mini-arc is completed, but at the moment I can't see how.

Now for the nitpicks.

  • The characterization of the Tellarites confused me a bit. Clearly the Tellarites in "Journey to Babel" were argumentative, but I think they've been mistaken for the Zaldans. There was no indication that Gav expected to be insulted by Kirk or Sarek. It was also not in keeping with Enterprise's own continuity. The Tellarite, Skalaar wasn't the least bit insulting, and was hardly even argumentative by the standards set in this episode.
  • Something that made me go "hmmmm" was the idea of having Babel be on the far side of Andorian space from the Tellarites. What kind of negotiators do the Tellarites have? They should be fired. Surely there must be a neutral planet both sides can reach without having to hitchhike.
  • I can't be the only one that was amazed that simply tugging on that air hose could cause it to come undone. I'd be surprised if today's space suits aren't significantly more rugged than that. And shouldn't there be some sort of safety systems built in? You know, if the air suddenly starts to vent into space, the flow shuts off until manually restarted, or there's an emergency reserve of some sort.
  • The amount of time spent to repair the NX-01 after the second battle with the Romulan drone has to be an all-time record. Back in ship shape before Trip and Reed can even find the Romulan bridge. Who's second in line in engineering? With response time like that, that whole Trip/Sim thing may have just been a monumental waste of time, effort and a bad child actor.
  • More of a neatpick than a nitpick, really. Reed voices something that's bugged me for a long time. There's no rule that says the bridge has to be on top. In fact, having it on top has never made sense to me. All your senior officers and the command and control for the entire ship, and they set it up on top, out in the open, as one of the easiest targets on the ship.
  • Okay, here's my laws-of-physics rant for the day. Yes, the former science advisor to the show, Andre Bormanis, has his fingerprints all over this. The Romulan ship has inertial dampeners turned off, yet all Trip and Reed have to do is magnetize their boots. Aside from the nice nod to The Undiscovered Country, this is absolutely ridiculous. The ship is maneuvering at near light speed at least, pulling hundreds of Gs. Those boots might stick to the floor, but our boys wouldn't stay in them long. They'd be spread all over those bulkheads like jam on toast. Tucker, Smuckers, it's all the same at that point. Of course, the ship would rip itself apart, too. Oh, and while we're on the subject of the ship...
  • Who the heck was making the repairs? There were no worker drones in any part of the ship Reed and Tucker explored, and those power conduits aren't going to replace themselves.
Aside from all that, I still liked this episode, and I'm looking forward to next week. That's about the highest form of praise I've been able to offer since Deep Space Nine went off the air.

Grade: 9/10 (A-)

Cast:
Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer
John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox
Jolene Blalock as T'Pol
Dominic Keating as Malcolm Reed
Anthony Montgomery as Travis Mayweather
Linda Park as Hoshi Sato
Connor Trinneer as Charles "Trip" Tucker III

Guest Cast:
Jeffrey Combs as Shran
Lee Arenberg as Gral (Tellarite)
Brian Thompson as Valdore
J. Michael Flynn as Nijil
Molly Brink as Talas
Kevin Brief as Naarg
Jermaine Soto as Maco Crewman

Creative Staff:
Director: David Straiton
Written By: Mike Sussman & Andre Bormanis

 

 

 

 

 

 

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