Warp Factor Trek

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In this review by Matt and Elaine Sweatman, Elaine’s comments are in italics.

A favorite alien race from The Original Series – namely, the Andorian species – makes a welcome return appearance in this episode of Enterprise. It also marks a return of a favorite actor from Deep Space Nine: Jeffrey Combs.

“Is this the first time since the pilot where we begin an episode off-ship?”

We’ve noticed that this show’s teasers are universally very short, shorter than most programs from today, and this episode fits that mold. We open in a Vulcan temple that is soon invaded by a squad of the promised Andorians.

Andorian troops invade a Vulcan monastery (Paramount)

Returning to Enterprise, we see Commander Tucker griping about using Vulcan star charts to explore the galaxy. Captain Archer makes a case for their use, finding a nearby outpost inhabited by practitioners of Kolinahr, a welcome callback to The Motion Picture. Archer is insistent on visiting the monastery. T’Pol reluctantly (doesn’t she pretty much do everything reluctantly?) agrees to participate in organizing the trip.

We get another Vulcan-related TOS reference when we see T’Pol enjoying a meal with Phlox in the mess hall. The Doctor advises her that, in the spirit of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” T’Pol should be more tolerant of human ways. One wonders what she thinks of being lectured about her own culture.

The Vulcan monastery of P’Jem (Paramount)

T’Pol instructs the landing party on protocols for their visit. She, Archer, and Tucker take a shuttlepod down to the surface.

As the landing party discovers, the doors to the monastery show signs of damage. The newcomers are greeted by a lone Vulcan monk who is evasive in explaining the disorder present inside the temple. A short examination of the room uncovers a hidden Andorian.

Archer indicates the presence of the Andorian intruder (Paramount)

“That was really smart, the way Archer signaled that someone was hiding behind that wall.”

Archer and Tucker expose the Andorian infiltrator, starting a brief struggle. More Andorians enter the room and add the Enterprise officers to their collection of hostages.

Vulcan captives (Paramount)

We soon learn that the Andorian intruders are suspicious of the Vulcan outpost. They believe that the monks are using it to spy on the Andorians, in violation of an unsteady truce between the races. The arrival of our crew only deepens their confidence that a sensor array is hidden amidst the monastery grounds.

Archer is beaten and tortured by the leader of the Andorians, Commander Shran. He fails to gain a confession, but it shows that Andorian interrogation techniques are not very subtle. We also see one of the soldiers, Tholos, creeping on T’Pol, making us feel uncomfortable.

Tholos takes an interest in T’Pol (Paramount)

“You and your antennas are creepy!”

The torturing of Archer convinces the Vulcans to tell the landing party about a transmitter located in the monastery’s catacombs. While reluctant to allow the Earthlings access to the otherwise forbidden passages, one of the initiates guides Tucker through a secret passageway, leading him towards the communication device.

In the catacombs, the Vulcan Initiate leads the way (Paramount)

“He’s a little haughty for a Vulcan.”

During the trip, Tucker notices a few lights at the top of a stairwell from which the acolyte suspiciously diverts Trip’s attention. It doesn’t take much to guess that this area will somehow come into play later in the episode.

Tucker and his Vulcan guide return just in time to be counted by their captors. While Tucker returns to the communicator, Archer and T’Pol debate how violent their escape plans need to be and huddle together to share warmth for the night.

T’Pol eventually pulls the blanket off Archer, leaving him out in the cold (Paramount)

“They’re sending Tucker off into the unknown again!”

Enterprise is contacted by Tucker, who has finally managed to get the transmitter to work. Reed has been checking the Vulcan database – their equivalent of Wikipedia – for information on the Andorians. He’s anxious to act but is ordered to stand by while escape plans are formulated.

In the morning, the landing party uses some sort of Vulcan dominoes to map out the catacombs. Captain Archer withstands further torture in the atrium, to prove his suspicions concerning the lights at the top of the stairwell. He throws a statuette through the eyes of a face on the wall.

Andorian Commander Shran interrogates Archer (Paramount)

“I really wish he’d quit punching Archer!”

Tucker retrieves the figurine, confirming that the position behind the wall is in the catacombs. Hoshi beams a strike team, led by Reed, into the hidden passages. There, Reed positions charges behind the face wall and sets them off. A firefight ensues. In the confusion, two of the Andorians, Shran and Keval, escape through the newly rendered opening. The violence has offended the Vulcan monks’ sensibilities (boo-hoo!).

Archer, T’Pol, Reed, and the guide monk follow the Andorians into the catacombs. Locating the fugitives in the previously unexplored passageway, the guide again attempts to keep the officers from exploring this area. Ignoring his warnings, the Enterprise crewmembers come across a suspiciously modern-looking metal door. Through it, they discover a very large operations center – obviously, the sensor array that Shran had suspected.

The Vulcan operations center (Paramount)

They proceed through the door, but their presence somehow goes unnoticed by the Vulcans working there. T’Pol, siding with her crewmates, takes scans of the area and provides this evidence to Shran, for him to take to his superiors. He states that the Andorians are in Captain Archer’s debt. Then they and the shuttlepod from Enterprise depart from the Vulcan monastery.

Rating: 4.5/5

This exciting, tense, action-packed, and thought-provoking episode is Enterprise’s best yet. We both enjoyed it immensely.

First contact with the Andorians teaches us as much about Vulcan duplicity as the aggressive, brutish, and militaristic nature of their more straight-forward adversaries. Makeup design for the Andorians, who have made precious few appearances in canon prior to this, has improved substantially since the 1960s, most notably in the movement of their antennae. Still, the design is relatively faithful to the original from “Journey to Babel” and not as dramatically different as we’ve most recently seen in Strange New Worlds. Their leader, the Andorian Commander Shran, is wonderfully portrayed by the great Jeffrey Combs.

While not progressing the Temporal Cold War storyline, this installment does promise to be relevant for many future episodes. It indicates there will be much more from our blue-skinned future allies, and hopefully Shran will recur in the same way Combs’ Weyoun did in DS9.

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