Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Shadows of P'Jem

Enterprise, Season 1
"Shadows of P'Jem"
Airdate: February 6, 2002
13 of 97 produced
14 of 97 aired


Enterprise visits a world beset by rebellion, and Archer and T'Pol find themselves caught in the middle. An old "friend" shows up to help them.

What we have here is a classic Andorian Stand-Off.



Matthew: So obviously, this follows up on the previous episode featuring the P'Jem monastery (The Andorian Incident). In many ways, it's a similar episode - people beam down, get captured, engage in a firefight, and leave. The difference here is that T'Pol is set to be punished by the Vulcans for that incident, and the bad guys are an "alien of the week." I actually feel like these two differences are the weaker elements of this plot. The Coridan have civil unrest relating to their government, which rebels claim is propped up by the Vulcans. I would have liked to learn more, since weak governments being installed by foreign powers is something we have had all throughout our recent history. In addition, T'Pol was very tight lipped about her reaction to being transferred. I think, during the scenes in which she and the Captain were in captivity, they should have had a deeper conversation about this.

Kevin: I think, at the macro level, this is the sweet spot of serialized storytelling, at least for Star Trek. Previous episodes have an impact on the scope and causes of the action here, but both episodes stand alone and are about their own thing. Having said that, I think the episode does whiff on a few really obvious questions that need answering and some avenues of storytelling to help make everything work. Are the Vulcans propping up a corrupt government? The Chancellor didn't earn herself any friends with how she was handling the situation, and the evidence of a massive shanty town outside a walled capital does speak to something amiss, but I really think we needed more to get a sense of the real stakes of the Coridan conflict. And I could see the Vulcans calmly explaining that one tyrant is the same as another, so supporting the one who supports them is 'logical.' 

Matthew: I like the overall progression of the Starfleet-Vulcan tension in this episode. I enjoy most any scene with Admiral Forrest and/or Ambassador Soval. They lend a verisimilitude to the world that is very reassuring to this old Star Trek fan. Starfleet and the nascent Federation feel like real places peopled by rational actors. Soval's position is perfectly reasonable, as is Forrest's. I'm a sucker for arguments with two valid "sides." I also liked the Vulcan commander's condescension, and Trip's chafing against it.

Kevin: Yeah, giving the larger Starfleet and Vulcan positions faces in the form of Forrest and Soval really help make the conflict feel more organic, and they both serve as potential points of conflict with both Archer and T'Pol. It's not a given that either will agree with how their superiors are handling the situation, and that's always fun to watch. I think the Vulcan commander, like the last one, came off too bitchy, too early, but not in a way that derailed things.

Matthew: Commander Shran is a welcome addition to any story, and he saves the day here, in more ways than one. He brings great energy to what are otherwise pretty rote action scenes (and ones that, as mentioned above, lack a certain level of idea engagement in terms of the antagonists). It was a nice follow up to his introduction in the prior P'Jem story, and developed him as a character I would like to see more of. 

Kevin: I wish more of the episode had focused on him. They are doing a good job of making him an antagonist but not a villain. Giving the Vulcans, and not just the monks, time to leave before destroying the monastery, makes him a patriot to his cause without making him a murderer, and that's how I like my antagonists. They have their side, and it can't be dismissed because of their tactics. I think the rescue plot got just muddled enough to make it less clear that Shran actually did rescue Archer. If he hadn't shown up, Archer would have been rescued. I'm splitting hairs here, though. I enjoyed both Shran's appearance and the minimal attempt to flesh out the intergalactic politics Starfleet is charging into.


Matthew: I've already sung the praises of Jeffrey Combs, so I will just stipulate to his excellent work here as Shran. Voyager alum Jeff Kober shows up as the alien antagonist, and given the great work he did as Iko in "Repentance," it's really a shame we didn't get more of his take on Coridan politics and oppression in this episode. The recurring/guest cast in this was really pretty good throughout.

Kevin: Combs is of course, great. And I will praise Blalock for her performance here. I think she did a great job of shading her dispassionate resolve with some depth about her feelings about the destruction of the monastery and the transfer. Kober was good, and giving me Kiril Finn from The High Ground Vibes, and I wish we got to see more to make his position more understandable.

Production Values

Matthew: The scenes on the planet were pretty lackluster. The shack was dark and nondescript. The area around the shack was also a pretty boring backlot. Really, everything on the planet was pretty mediocre. I wanted to see the office of the prime minister, As far as good effects go, the orbital shots with the Vulcan ship were really nice.  One note: T'Pol got shot in the butt. Was that really so serious an injury? Another note: I like it when characters need not constantly "cock" their weapons, because it sounds cool. So extra points for that here.

Kevin: Yeah, in both SD at the time and HD now, this was pretty soupy, to the point I wasn't totally clear on a lot of the action in that final fight. Agreed that the shots of the Vulcan ship are great.


Matthew: I have alluded several times to missed opportunities in this episode. I think it's perfectly entertaining, but that it emphasized fisticuffs and hostage situations over world building. It felt kind of like a budget saver, really. Was it bad? By no means. But it's a relatively mediocre 3 for me.

Kevin: So, yeah, this was a solid episode. It doesn't reach the heights I think the set up could have, but on the strength of the acting and pacing, this was a solidly enjoyable episode. This is a solid, respectable 3, for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. Re. getting shot in an 'awfully nice bum': Writers in Trek have a lot of room with the injuries of disruptors and phasers and so on. One of Shran's ladies gets hit in Season 4, and dies a while later despite Phlox' best efforts. Sort of Trek's version of gangrene, I suppose. And in the episode where Data gets kidnapped by Saul Rubinek, there is a particularly 'vicious' disruptor that has a prolonged effect that slowly eats the person hit from the inside out.

    I can buy it that any given energy weapon strike needs to be checked by a doctor, and may be quite serious no matter where it hit you.