Thursday, March 9, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Babel One

Enterprise, Season 4
"Babel One"

Airdate: January 28, 2005
87 of 97 produced
87 of 97 aired


Enterprise is interrupted in its mission to mediate a dispute between Tellarites and Andorians by a mysterious attacking vessel. 


"Once we force the subject to watch an uninterrupted Discovery/Picard marathon,
their brain will be susceptible to any suggestion we make..."




Kevin: Here we are ready to embark on another multipart episode. Given how unsuccessful the last standalone episode was, I'm find getting back to the mini-arcs. This one is fun right off the bat because we know it will involve Shran, far and away Enterprise's most successful character. We're also getting some nice foundation laying for the Federation we know is coming. It builds well on the previous thaws between Earth and Vulcan, and between Vulcan and Andoria. I like that on all sides, there are varying degrees of ambivalence on the conference. All of this combines to make a nice textured universe, and I like that it manages to be a prequel to the Federation that still feels like its own story. This isn't just fan service to set up the Federation. There's some stakes for these characters in their own story and that makes the difference.

Matthew: I agree that this is a "prequel" that "feels right." It acknowledges TOS "Journey to Babel" without aping it or outright re-doing it (a real problem for current Kurtzman Trek), and it gives the characters we have in this show things to do, positions to hold, and so on. I do wish the goals of the conference has been laid out a little more clearly. I realize this is a nerdy ask, and something that could never happen nowadays. But I long for the days of the Acamarians and the Gatherers hammering out power sharing agreements.

Kevin: I am ambivalent, slightly coming down against, the Romulan involvement in this story. The show is suffering from the fact that technology has passed what writers in the 60s might have reasonably expected. The line about not having face to face communication in TOS "Balance of Terror" clearly reads as that technology didn't exist in the 22nd century, which unbeknownst to the writers (but knownst to us), we would have that tech in the 21st. So, the holographic ship is clearly the reach to reconcile everything. On the balance, it's a little much. A species capable of running a drone in real time over interstellar distances feels more advanced the the Romulans we saw in TOS. The solution is either ignore them, or frankly acknowledge a retcon. Setting all that aside, I don't think they managed to give the Romulans enough meat on their story and motivations. I had a much sharper sense of the Andorians and Tellarites, and would have been fine had the story stayed there.

Matthew: I am totally in favor of explaining the Earth-Romulan War, and this is a fine enough introduction to a story-line that will ultimately (spoiler alert) not bear fruit due to the show's cancellation. With respect to the "not seeing their faces" question, I would go for a "soft retcon," like having them wear helmets (which accords with the helmets worn by TOS Romulans) but still communicate or be seen visually. The real larger continuity problem is having Administrator V'Las be in contact with Romulans in the furtherance of reunification. This fits with neither the "unbeknownst" problem nor the TNG "Reunification" arc. And since that's not really the fault of this episode, I won't ding it for this.

Kevin: Overall, I think this episode does a solid job of setting a bunch of things in motion that the later episodes will handle, and as a place setter, it works pretty well. If I had to be picky, I suppose introducing the romantic relationship with Talas just to shoot her in the teaser comes perilously close to fridging her. Beyond that, it paints stakes and motivations quite nicely. I'll save this for the later episodes once we get to the meat of the story, but this is second time where the best stories of Enterprise have our main crew on the sidelines of it. It's not fatal to the season, but it is a kind of backhand compliment to the show. The show is at its best when it ignores the characters that have the center of it for the last three years.

Matthew: I enjoyed this episode for all of the interpersonal interactions. Archer and Shran sharing a drink was a lovely scene, and indeed, Talas was a fun addition to the story, despite suffering the unfortunate malady of not being Suzie Plakson. I liked that her seduction attempt with the MACO failed, and so they had to beat him up. It was a rare non-incompetent Starfleet-adjacent security character. I thought the action stuff on the drone ship was just sort of "meh" and could have been streamlined in favor of more talking scenes (I should just save this sentence to paste into practically every Trek review I write from here on out).


Kevin: I will save time and energy and simply cite back to all the nice things I've said about Jeffrey Combs to date. The Tellarite actors as a group did well this week. Their 'argumentativeness' is usually a punchline, but I think everyone made it closer to a real personality trait. Molly Brink's Talas is again a worthy successor to Suzie Plakson. She had great chemistry with Combs, too.

Matthew: Stipulating to the argumentative thing being kind of dumb, I agree that the actors carried it off well. They gave it a sense of calculation and evaluation, not just stupid irascibility. I also enjoyed Grace Park and Scott Bakula trading insults in the teaser. Bakula got a lot of nice scenes this episode, with Park, Combs, Blalock, and the Tellarites to boot. He could easily have gone Angry Dad with the Tellarite scenes, but reined it in.

Production Values

Kevin: There was a lot in this episode and it all largely works. The Romulan ship was a good model and the interiors felt really detailed and varied, a tall order for a drone ship. The costumes and makeup on the guest starts was also a nice array of good work. This is really the show hitting its stride. All the work serves the episode quite well.

Matthew: The CGI effect that stuck out to me was the CGI spacesuit characters sent hurtling down the corridor - they were decidedly non-Gumby, which is a huge improvement over recent Enterprise CGI. The ship shots were predictably (at this point) good and the Tellarites were a good, solid, faithful upgrade over the TOS rubber masks. I might have enjoyed some cubed foods during the reception just as a wink to TOS fans. Oh, well.


Kevin: As a set up episode, it certainly checks the boxes, but as a set up episode, it does cover a lot of plot when I wouldn't have minded more time on relationships and other character focused work. That's a small complaint, and this lands in a hearty three for me. It's a very good competent episode that sets up a lot of fun places to go, and spoiler alert, we'll actually get to the fireworks factory this time.

Matthew: I agree on the 3 for a total of 6. This felt a bit slow burn, and didn't introduce a big "hook." If they had withheld the Romulan reveal to the end, that might have hit harder. As it was, the reveal was only that the ship was controlled remotely. Either way, there weren't enough ideas to really animate me above "this was solidly entertaining," whether they be the details of the Andorian/Tellarite dispute, or the Vulcan-Romulan unification question.


  1. Re. the caption: And poor Geordi thought he had it tough!

    Poor Shran. I think this is fridging (though technically not until the next episode, IIRC?). For now it's not so bad, but when Shran immediately goes on to find a new love interest, it cheapens his relationship with Talas. Okay, they use it for more than just motivating him to demand the duel. It also enhances the drama of Jhamel putting herself in danger. So maybe it is just a small step shy of fridging, but regardless it's not pretty writing.

    That said, I find this episode to be as enjoyable as you do. The new remote-controlled ship seems an interesting idea to me. No crew means no need for life support and less dampening fields. But it also means no defenders or repair crew on board. After the initial shock, Starfleet should be able to find tactics to deal with them and fight the Romulans to a standstill.

    It also seems to my (admittedly hazy) recollection that the remote ships tick at least a few boxes as a solution to the Earth-Romulan War. It was a case of no captives taken on either side, right?

    But yeah, difficult job to reconcile the stories with forty years or so between them.