Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S01E01 – Broken Bow, Part I

In the first episode of the first season of Enterprise, Captain Archer assembles a team for Enterprise‘s first mission. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Ah, a new Star Trek show! For the time being, it will be my last, which means it’s a tad bittersweet to begin this show. It marks the start of the end, and by this November, I’ll have seen all of the currently-aired Trek that the world has to offer. (We’ll talk about Discovery later this year.)

I don’t like to think of myself as a Trek expert by any means. I still forget about episodes and get the canon mixed up or downright wrong. But after spending years working my way through the four prior shows, I feel like I’ve got a decent sense of this entity’s style, design, and general outlook of the world. In some ways, “Broken Bow” reminds me of that, but my initial take is that I’ve got a lot to adjust to. Unlike the prior takes on Starfleet and space travel, Enterprise drops us practically at the beginning. Just 90 years have passed since the events of First Contact, and that means many of the things I’ve gotten used to aren’t standards. Warp 9. Transporters. Treaties. Translation matrices. The computer. Indeed, by pulling us all so far in the past, the writers have created an atmosphere that is rich with possibility. Are we going to see the first of everything? Are we going to see all the events that precipitated the need for Starfleet protocol? HOW OFTEN WILL THE CREW OF ENTERPRISE ROYALLY FUCK UP EVERYTHING? So, there’s a challenge to “Broken Bow.” I’ve got to ignore the majority of canon BECAUSE IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET.

The mystery we’re given here at the start of this show is a means to introduce this time period and these characters. The script does a wonderful job with the former, and I imagine it’s going to take me time to adjust to the latter. All these characters are very, very new to me, and thus, I’ve got little to go on but initial impressions. But it is through the humans’ interactions with other species that the show manages to paint this time period as one that’s fraught and challenging. The Vulcans are much more of the “other” in the narrative. They’re the strange geniuses whose lack of emotion and devotion to logic set them very far apart from the crew of humans. Aside from Dr. Phlox and T’Pol, this is a very human cast of characters, which I find way more interesting because – again – the sheer potential of this set-up. Humans know few non-human languages; there’s been limited contact with non-human species. (Though Ensign Mayweather seems to have had a grand time growing up off of Earth, so perhaps it’s a matter of experience and privilege more so than anything else.) There are aliens on Earth, but in limited form.

And the Vulcans who are there seem to exist for one reason: to guide humanity into space exploration through endless, endless condescension. I don’t know that anyone in this pilot seems to enjoy the Vulcans all that much. Even Captain Archer barely has the patience for T’Pol, WHO, FOR THE RECORD, IS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER ALREADY. There’s a suspicion and a resentment that runs between the humans and the non-humans, and with the appearance of THE VERY FIRST KLINGON EVER on Earth, matters are even more frustrating. What if an invasion is imminent? What if the Vulcans know more than they claim to and are leading Earth into a trap?

I don’t think that’s the case. Rather, the Vulcans just know more about the rest of the galaxy than the humans do, and humans, in their grand arrogance, insist on doing things their way because…. well, that’s who we are. Seriously, it’s an infectious premise: Enterprise is charting the first missions of the first ship capable of Warp 5. The audience knows just how much is out there in the world, but these characters don’t. So, they’re stumbling into the unknown with their clunky phasers drawn and their ignorants minds about to be blown in a million different ways, and THIS IS SUCH A COOL IDEA.

But y’all know that I really want good characters more than anything else. I’ve been able to accept some absurdly terrible episodes of Star Trek because of the emotions they gave me for the characters. So where does Enterprise end up for me? Like I said before, I’m not sure yet. I really dig T’Pol because of the friction she causes LITERALLY EVERYWHERE SHE GOES. Archer is… a dude. So is Mr. Reed and Trip, and they feel like a duo of opposing forces, one British and the other so distinctly American it hurts. (Oh god, please don’t let Trip be an asshole, I don’t think I could deal with it.) I like Hoshi, but I hope she’s not always just the super nervous one, terrified of everything. I can’t get a grasp on Dr. Phlox yet, either, aside from the fact that he’s quite cheery. My other worry is that Ensign Mayweather is this show’s Harry. How is someone as experienced as him in space travel still an ensign? He grew up in space, has met the most species of anyone, and is used to this kind of travel. Oh god, PLEASE DON’T LET HIM GO UNPROMOTED FOR ALL FOUR SEASONS.

Anyway, I have zero guesses as to what’s going on with Klaang and the Sulibans. I have lots of opinions, though, most of them revolving around the giant NOPE that is their species. STOP CRAWLING AROUND LIKE THAT, IT SCARES ME. Why is it that we’ve never seen them on the other shows, though? I don’t recall the Sulibans elsewhere, which worries me. What happened to them? Who was that blurry dude the head Suliban was talking to? Why are they so interested in what Klaang has?

Well, I need to find out, so that’s a good sign for a pilot that I’m still interested in seeing more.

The video for “Broken Bow, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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