Thursday, March 16, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: United

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: February 4, 2005
88 of 97 produced
88 of 97 aired


Shran's lover Talas takes a turn for the worse, which threatens the fragile alliance Archer is forming to fight the unknown marauder.


I'm gonna slap chop your ass back to Andoria!




Matthew: This is a continuation of the previous episode, and I found myself more engaged this time around. Why? I think it should be pretty obvious that this is a story with more of a character focus than a plot focus. Whereas the previous episode had a bit in the way of character interaction and a lot in the way of action, here the action actually hinges upon the characters' motivations and characteristics. Am I going to credit some of this to my favorite twosome of Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens? Yup. Shran has had his distrust of Tellarites established, as well as his new relationship with Talas. Talas gets shot last episode, and (spoiler alert) dies this episode. Fridging? Yes. But look - a lot of sins can be forgiven when characters' motivations are established and adhered to, and the proper scenes are given to us to sell the emotions. This occurs in spades here. Shran's scenes with Talas make his subsequent murderous rage feel believable, but the political realities that are firmly established also make his eventual relenting to them work as well.

Kevin:  I agree with the broad strokes of your points. The inciting events are fairly paint by number, but the scenes themselves move with some energy and the responses themselves are credible for the given characters. I think they managed to do a good job tying the personal to the broader political stuff. It's pretty grounded to have the broad political landscape give rise to personal positions (the mutual fear and distrust) and then have those personal positions impact the broader political landscape (derailing the nascent alliance). That's nice believable work that mines drama from understandable things.

Matthew: This episode takes a decidedly TOS-style turn when Shran challenges Naarg to ritual combat to avenge Talas. Is this a bit silly? Sure. It is basically "Amok Time" all over again? Yep. But does it work? Again, because motivations and character traits are established, I can overcome my "Oh, come on" feeling because of course Shran would push this, and of course Archer would feel that the fragile alliance was more important than his life. I liked that Hoshi and Travis looked for a loophole that could save their captain, and the subsequent scenes of Shran having had an antenna severed were amusing.

Kevin: Here I am a little less enthusiastic. This is just slightly too much a copy, and with a sillier ending. I suppose I find it hard to believe that Shran's insatiable bloodlust and honor would be satisfied by such a letter of the law versus spirit of the law interpretation. Picard using Shelliac pedantry worked since it was precisely their obsession with legal minutiae that gave rise to the threat. McCoy faking Kirk's death worked since Spock only needed to subjectively believe it, and he did. Here, it feels like cheating. If all you have to do to shut down this Ancient. Honorable. Tradition. is cause a mild injury, it gives lie to the notion that the Andorians take it that seriously. It was just to cutesy a solution that made everyone too happy to quite land.

Matthew: The B-story of this episode is the Romulan drone ship. I think the action beats for Tucker and Reed were enjoyable, and again flowed well from their characters. I enjoyed Reed disobeying Tucker's orders to leave him in the irradiated room (though I do question how he seems to have escaped radiation sickness entirely), and their later joking over it. Them jumping out into space as the united fleet arrived was a cool moment. Did I really care about any of the Romulan politicking portrayed? Nope. None of those scenes were given the air to let them grow. So Remans, Aenar, Romulan officials.... meh.

Kevin: The Romulan stuff just isn't as developed as it needs to be. They aren't absurd mustache twirling villains, but their goals and priorities aren't there enough to really care yet. The action elements work great, though. It's fine, but not more than that.


Matthew: We have of course sung the praises of Jeffrey Combs many times, and this will be no different. This may be Combs' most full blooded role yet, since his Vorta and Ferengi characters never had such complex motivations. He gives us really believable love, grief, sadness over having to fight his friend, and comedy beats afterward. It's probably his best work on Star Trek, which is saying a lot. Molly Brink continues the run of criminally cut-short female characters in Star Trek, bringing a lot of pathos to her character's fear and eventual demise.

Kevin: Shran's outrage is very convincing, and that's actually part of my problem with the resolution. Even if Andorian honor were satisfied, it seems like he shouldn't be. Archer maneuvered him out of being able to claim revenge for his lover, and ethics code or no, he should still be mad about that.

Matthew: The main crew really excelled here, too. Scott Bakula sold me on an essentially silly character choice. Jolene Blalock modulated her restrained emotional response to Archer's danger well. Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating brought very Trek-like energy and competence to their B-story, acting in tight quarters and without any additional scene partners. 

Kevin: My complaints with the plot mechanics aside, it was nice to see Archer and company act like an orthodox Starfleet crew, and actually get to be good at it. Everyone is trying to find a solution that saves the alliance and comports with their value system, and they actually do that. It's kind of thing I watch Star Trek for.

Production Values

Matthew: The ship shots were excellent, both on the drone and on the fleet chasing it. The arrival of the fleet and the rescue of Trip and Malcolm was genuinely inspiring, which is a credit to the music as well. The Dan Curry designed ice-cutting weapons also looked great.

Kevin: The Enterprise coming on screen to beam them aboard was a great shot, and the model work looked fantastic. They really achieved the Enterprise feeling like a massive object in space.


Matthew: Yes, I am going to compare this to current Trek, specifically Picard Season 3. People are creaming themselves with praise over Picard's recent episodes, and this episode of Enterprise provides me with a demonstration of why I don't share that effusiveness. This, this right here, is an example of good writing that sells scenes and serves overall plot development. Characters are given the time to show us their motivations and emotions, so that when they have fights and/or tearful dialogue scenes, they feel justified and right. Something like Picard, at its very best (which I admit it is at presently), only gives us the payoff, with precious little of the setup, and it wastes more time doing it. I don't know how to explain it, except to blame it on the current streaming era, and the storytelling pressures this era creates (stretching stories to maintain subscriptions, incessant cliffhangers, constant repetition of plot points, constant emphasis on action).

Anyway, I'm at a 4 on this episode. The silliness of Archer duking it out with Shran, and the fridging of Talas, keep it from going higher. But a tight political drama proceeded from firmly established characterization and impeccably acted emotional scenes. This is definitely above average to me.

Kevin: This is still a hearty three for me. It's a good three, but the too neat, too silly resolution to the honor combat story keeps this from being Great. It's still Good, and that's always nice. The Romulan story won't win any Pultizers, but for an action story, it moves quite nicely, and the main plot about trying to keep the alliance together works overall, silly ass-pulling solutions aside. That's a combined 7.



  1. I thought the whole duel thing was... weird. Which, i suppose, it should be anyway to someone who does not believe in duelling. But person A kills person B, who is loved by person C, who therefore challenges person D, and ends up fighting person E.

    I seem to recall that I was a little worried for Shran the first time I saw it. But once the episode piled on the worry that Archer might get killed, my intuition told me they'd both be fine.
    Not that I would want to lose Shran, but from a purely dramatic standpoint, having Archer be forced to kill Shran to protect the new alliance, now that has real dramatic stakes. And it would be something Archer would carry with him for the rest of his life.

    1. The problem with that is that the setup states that if Shran dies, the Andorians leave the alliance. So the only acceptable outcomes are Archer dying or the duel stopping honorably by some default (which as Kevin states, is rather silly, but my argument is that the actors and character motivations sell it)

    2. So don't have that setup. :) As long we're inventing rewrites, I mean.

    3. Hey, I'm with you ;-) There was definitely a way to write it better.