Saturday, June 18, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Breaking the Ice

Enterprise, Season 1
"Breaking the Ice"
Airdate: November 7, 2001
7 of 97 produced
7 of 97 aired


The crew of Enterprise comes across a comet that piques their scientific curiosity, but a mishap puts Captain Archer in an uncomfortable position. T'Pol needs to make a decision about her future.

This Vulcan redesign has gone too far.


Kevin: I think there are the basics of a good episode here, but somehow the episode never really gels. The A plot is about the crew exploring the comet. I like the idea, but the stakes aren't really there. The danger of the comet collapsing occurs and is resolved in the last ten minutes of the episode and the element they are harvesting is at best a curiosity. It's a perfectly pleasant story, and I enjoy a nice slice of life. Nothing says slice of life like a Vulcan snowman. I just wish it had been tied to a little meatier meta story than Archer learning to marginally swallow his pride when the crew is in danger. Maybe expanding it to a true Vulcan/Human operation would have given it some teeth, if only to give Vanik something to do other than arrive and announce that he is here to be a judgmental asshole.

Matthew: Yeah, I was wondering when the twist would occur - you know, that the comet is actually an alien library, or a sentient life form, or whatever. Nope, just a comet.  Ultimately, I think the episode is undercut a bit by how low stakes the exploration of the comet is. I guess it's interesting that the humans are so driven to explore things, but the danger only really exists because they chose to land when they didn't really need to. Maybe they could have at least talked about finding precursor amino acids to life or something like that, to give it more of a science edge to it.

Kevin: The B plot is similarly a nice idea, but comes and goes without enough stakes to really succeed. We learn that T'Pol is engaged and that she breaks the engagement is less than half the length of the episode. We don't really get enough to show either why she might feel genuine obligation or why she might want to stay on Enterprise. This isn't like Amok Time where the idea of Spock leaving feels both like a real possibility and something that would be sad for both Spock and the ship. Maybe the story just came too soon. T'Pol hasn't really had time time to bond with the crew, so the prospect of her leaving feels like the early seasons of TNG where they were offering Riker the captain's chair just so he could turn it down a bunch. The scene in T'Pol's quarters was good, but with a little more time and focus, Trip's position could have gotten a little better articulated.

Matthew: I just want to get this out of the way - T'Pol says that she has only met her betrothed, Koss, 3 or 4 times since the childhood ceremony. This fits with "Amok Time" and makes SNW seem like it's more on a retcon limb. Anyway... yes, the main takeaway is not that we're worried about her leaving, because we aren't, but that Trip becomes more personal with her. I liked all of their scenes, from the Mess Hall to her quarters, to the pecan pie button at the end. It's clear the writers and producers noticed their chemistry, too, and it's a happy thing they did, too.

Kevin: Vulcan stoicism is a difficult story concept to land and I appreciate the degree of difficulty. You have to find a way to dramatize emotional detachment without nullifying the concept or making it dramatically inert. But we keep getting episodes of the Vulcans being outright annoyed at literally every human trait and action. It's getting laid on a little thick in a way that makes the Vulcans seem like actual jerks rather than just stuffed shirts. I understand and applaud the desire to shade the relationship between humans and Vulcans, but it is starting to strain credulity that Vulcan would ever consent to having tea with Earth let alone forming an interstellar alliance as co-equals. I know Ambassador Soval will be getting an increased role and if my memory serves, having an actual relationship to funnel that through is more successful. As it stands, Vanik doesn't get to do anything other than be mild prick.

Matthew: Captain Vanik reminds me a bit of Captain Solok from DS9. Solok obviously went way farther to be petty, but Vanik's rudeness seemed to me beyond the bounds of just "not having outward emotions." Eating a meal right before you're invited to someone's house for dinner is a real dick move, and any "logical" person would know this. It would have been better if some bit of personal history with humans had motivated Vanik's priggishness. Maybe his brother is a monk at P'Jem or something.


Kevin: Everyone is settling into their roles quite nicely. I think Bakula did a good job acting annoyed without acting petulant. I will also say that T'Pol and Trip had good chemistry in their scenes, both of Trip awkwardly apologizing and later in her quarters. I'm starting to see why the writers eventually pair them. There is an edge to their sparring that credibly reads like it might be unwilling attraction. Note to writers: Hepburn/Tracy sparring >>> weird HR-disaster decon scenes.

Matthew: I think an unsung little scene here is making a recording for the Earth classroom. It gave the whole bridge staff (and Phlox) a real chance to flesh out their characters in a charming way.  But yes, the main acting note for me here is Trip and T'Pol - the actors have real chemistry, which is an accomplishment when Jolene Blalock is leaning so hard into the stoicism. She finds a way to give us the merest hint of interest on her part, and just about everyone loves a good "will they/won't they."

Production Values

Kevin: I applaud the ambition if not the execution exactly. From a distance, the comet and tail looked good. One the comet, it was clearly styrofoam, and I don't think I'm just being a jerk and comparing it to the higher budget and capacity of SNW which I happen to watching in parallel at the moment. It was styrofoam. And I know the rigging would be a pain, and I know the franchise, outside of that scene in Undiscovered Country really attempt it, but I wanted a little something to imply lesser gravity. Say the comet is magnetic and the boots work, but give me a taste of zero g.

Matthew: The worst effect for me was the ice cracking. It looked quite bad. The shuttle falling into the chasm was also subpar. It would have been better with a model.

Kevin: I did like the design of the Ti'Mur. It's a neat design that manages to look real and elegant and imply a different architectural philosophy than we have seen elsewhere. It's simultaneously pretty but not fussy, and therefore credibly reads as Vulcan.

Matthew: I think the Vulcan ship looked terrific. It was a really neat design, but it also fit spiritually with the Vulcan ship we saw in First Contact. And I agree with it matching what we've seen of the Vulcan design philosophy generally. The curved lines remind me of their written language and their devices. Whatever else this show is doing strangely with Vulcans, the aesthetics are on point.


Kevin: As somewhat lacking as I think the stories are, I can't say I didn't enjoy myself. I don't think a 2 is really on the table. For all its missed opportunities, the basics of the story are here, and with the cast really starting to gel, the episode turns into an adequate, if not more than that, outing. I'm sticking with a 3.

Matthew: Again the level of ambition is circumscribed by very narrow universe-building goals (Archer learns to swallow his pride before a Vulcan), but I agree that things are pleasant and inoffensive. So how does "inoffensive" rate? I think, because people act in character, and like professionals in an organization dedicated to good, that this juuuuust squeaks into a 3, for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. Strangely enough, I kinda liked Vanik. The only part where he stepped over the line for me was in not sharing the meal. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. :) But he reminds me of a dad of a childhood friend - distant, with a certain sharpness, but he'll make sure your bicycle works and you get home safely.

    Or perhaps, he just came across to me as very proficient at what he did. Never at a loss for words, patient, offers to step in but doesn't when told he isn't wanted, and he solved the issue easily and immediately when he was asked to do it.

    He does have that control over his emotions that I associate with Vulcans, and which Vulcans in ENT usually do not have. Who knows what really lurks in his depths? Maybe that masterful control covers a darkness we could barely comprehend, or the soul of a poet. The dad mentioned above had the most beautiful garden I've ever seen.

    They should have hinted at something going on there, as you say.