Monday, October 17, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: First Flight

 Enterprise, Season 2
"First Flight"
Airdate: May 14, 2003
49 of 97 produced
49 of 97 aired


Archer reflects on an old friend and rival from his early days in the NX program.


Wherever you go, there you are.



Kevin: I like the idea of the episode, but I'm not bowled over by its execution. By introducing a character by announcing his death and then giving us that character in flashbacks, there's a lot of narrative lifting to do, and I think it crowds out the character work that would make me care more about the relationship at the center of the episode. I also don't really buy the relationship that is affecting Archer so much in the present day. I understand that they are rivals but they grudgingly respect each other, but I didn't get more than that in the flashbacks, so there's no connective tissue to his response now. I'm not saying he should feel nothing, but the episode is playing it like they were close friends, and I just didn't get that. Maybe if the story had been about Archer and his father or how he and Trip became friends, it would land with a little more oomph.

Matthew: So, I personally liked this quite a bit, and for a few reasons. Firstly, because it expands continuity and the universe of the characters. I've always liked looking at Earth of the future, I think we're still early enough into the Archer/Trip relationship to benefit from a flashback, and the character interplay was pretty good for me. I enjoyed learning about Trip's nickname, and the scenes at the 602 bar really added life to the history of Starfleet and the NX program. With respect to A.G., it's always good to see an alternate captain, whether they're a villain, or just a competent person with a differing style than our show's captain. It informs how we feel about the lead character. I think seeing Archer evolve from a test pilot with a huge chip on his shoulder to a ship captain with a slightly smaller chip on his shoulder was gratifying.

Kevin: Beyond the character work, I can't shake the notion that the recounting of the Warp 2 project felt like warmed over The Right Stuff. We have hotheaded, adrenaline junkie test pilots. We have officious admins who Just Don't Understand. We have risky maneuvers that should land people in jail, but of course save the day. I should be happy we are sketching out the references to Vulcan paternalism, but I feel we didn't learn anything we didn't already know. And based on their behavior, you kind of end up siding with the Vulcans. They may have the risk aversion of an actuary with an anxiety disorder, but the humans didn't cover themselves in glory on this one. 

Matthew: I do think A.G. was a bit too cavalier with risk, and of course we have the well worn trope of breaking the rules but not losing one's job. Nonetheless, "The Right Stuff" is a well worth revisiting, because it works really well, and whether or not this is the best instantiation of it, it works to make this story feel a lot more real. It's always been one of my problems with the show that they sort of skipped the "flying by the seat of their pants" stuff they had promised at the outset, and this restores it.


Kevin:  Keith Carradine is a good actor with a long career for a reason. I don't think he turned in a bad performance certainly, but I just don't think he quite connected with the material or the other characters. He read his lines fine and maybe it was the script more than anything, but I just don't think he connected emotionally to the characters around him, and that's what is going to give this story some teeth. Bakula and Trinneer did good work this week. There was something about Trip's performance that read as being shaded slightly greener, and that worked for me.

Matthew: I loved Carradine here. Whether or not I agreed with the writing choices, I totally bought A.G. Robinson's motives and emotions. Scott Bakula, while not looking younger, definitely exuded a different energy as Commander Archer. Ditto Connor Trinneer. I think Vaughn Armstrong really nailed his turn as "Commodore" Forrest. He really seemed younger and less experienced.  I also really liked Brigid Brannagh (no relation) as Ruby - she really gave the role life.

Production Values

Kevin: I'm not sure what could have been done to make the men look younger, but honestly, they should have just recast. Carradine in particular does not look like a man doing test flights for a living. Trip has a perpetual baby face and looked the least out of place, but somehow the casting just doesn't serve this story. On the effects side, it was the usual CGI fare, fine but not something particularly memorable. 

Matthew: Yep. No one looked younger. It was down to acting choices to sell the illusion, and Bakula, Armstrong, and Trinneer did that to some degree. Maybe some hairdressing would have added to it. The set and digital model work was really exceptional here. The NX experimental ships looked really nice, sort of a natural evolution from the Phoenix. The bar had loads of set decorations that were callbacks to prior stories, such as the ring ship from TMP, and the Botany Bay, not to mention all the mission patches. The Okudas really set a high bar here.


Kevin: This isn't really this episode's fault, but I just finished watching season three of Apple TV's For All Mankind, Ron Moore's alternate history take on the space program that begins with the Soviets reaching the moon first. It actually covers a lot of the same tension between scientists and pilots and governments, etc. And it does it better. The lead actor and astronaut, Joel Kinnaman even looks like a younger Keith Carradine. Again, not the show's fault, but the comparisons write themselves, and I do think they illuminate my ultimate problem with this episode. It's a little tepid. Neither the space program antics or the friendship at the center really crackle. Everyone turns in a fine performance in an adequate, if not original story, but the result is somehow less than the sum of its parts. On paper, I think it's a 3, but in terms of my engagement, I feel myself pulled towards a 2. But the more I think about it, the more a 2 feels mean. I appreciate that this episode did not resonate with me, but Matt made some good points, so I will give this a 3.

Matthew: I think a 2 is off the table, personally. There is a lot of love in this episode, and none of it is the sort of love that results in "Acquisition" or "Regeneration." I was involved in the story even as I knew how tropey it was. Take an at least average story and add some quite good performances and very good production values, and I'm at a 4 on this one.


  1. IIRC, there was an idea that the first season of ENT should be on the ground, as it were, in preparation for the first launch of the Warp 5 engine. I feel like this story would have worked better in that scenario. Then the question of how this ends is not so clearly resolved before the episode starts, and there is more room for surprises.
    This is one I sometimes skip on rewatch. It definitely establish several worthwhile things, and that alone shows the story has a reason to exist. But I'm just not that entertained by it. In that sense it reminds me of Datalore.

    1. But Datalore contains the immortal line "I'll turn your little man into a torch."