In the sixth episode of the first season of Enterprise, the crew tracks down the first deep space human colony, only to discover a terrible truth. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This is a neat episode, if a little confusing towards the end. As a whole, though, it’s a great to show us what exploration is like without the Prime Directive.
SPOILER ALERT, IT’S MESSY, NO ONE IS SURPRISED. (Of note, however: Exploration with the Prime Directive is somehow just as messy! OH, HUMANS.) It was fascinating to watch Archer and the crew deal with the complications of Terra Nova without the usual pause to consider whether they should get involved or not. Well, I can’t discount T’Pol’s role in this, since I am rapidly coming to understand that she exists to basically treat the humans like over-excited puppies who need to be reminded not to pee on the floor or tear up the curtains. Still, this mission was always going to be risky and a little bit creepy because… y’all. Y’ALL. LOST COLONY TROPE. It’s creepy right from the start!
Even then, I expected the team to immediately find people, was shocked when they didn’t, and then got shocked by what they did find: an entire humanoid culture who lived underground. So, I jumped to the next conclusion: humans had colonized a planet where people already lived. Look, that is not exactly an unbelievable thing, okay? Do I even need to provide citations at this point? Star Trek itself is pretty heavy on the whole colonization bit anyway, thus it made sense to me that this episode was going to address that. There had to be a reason the Terra Nova colony stopped communicating 70 years prior, and death by the indigenous population? A pretty shitty trope, but an explanation nonetheless.
Except PLOT TWIST AGAIN, they were all human, and apparently, other humans wiped them out? At times, “Terra Nova” felt bewildering as I tried to keep track of the various threads and reasoning given for what had happened to the colony, but I didn’t see that as a bad thing. This had to be a confusing story so that the audience could understand these two sides better. The humans were desperate to prove that they were not responsible for the destruction of the colony, despite the signs that said otherwise. The Novans wanted to protect themselves and had no reason to trust humans, yet these humans repeatedly made no sense to them.
Ultimately, this is an episode that tracks cultural storytelling and myths and compares it to a giant game of Telephone. I mean, that’s kinda what happens here, right? Humans never destroyed the original colony; rather, a coincidental asteroid collision made the colonists think they were being attacked by a vengeful Starfleet. It’s not like they had any other explanation readily at hand, and so I understood why they had assumed the worst. But this script focuses more on an individual than the Novans as a whole, though it did get dangerously close to something pretty awful. (More on that in a bit.) Nadet is the oldest surviving member of the original colony, but doesn’t know that.
Which was a little hard to believe at times, I admit. Granted, she was a young child before the asteroid struck, and what “Terra Nova” attempts to say is that the years and years of being told that humans were to blame pushed that memory out of Nadet’s mind. It takes the old Terra Nova files to jog her memory, to get her to believe that Archer and his crew really were trying to help them survive. But what if that hadn’t worked? There was a moment within this episode where I thought that Archer truly was going to forcibly relocate these people, and BOY, WAS THAT UNCOMFORTABLE. The writers bring him to the edge of that decision, and it looked like not even T’Pol herself was going to be able to talk him out of it. He was so convinced that he could “save” these people, despite that T’Pol expertly pointed out that such an act wouldn’t be saving their identity or their culture along with their lives.
Thankfully, Archer’s attempt to reach Nadet worked, and I’m guessing the survivors moved south? Hopefully? At least they didn’t have to move to another planet or got forced to do so. WILL THEY CONTINUE TO HAVE THAT AWESOME FACE PAINT, THAT’S ALL I CARE ABOUT.
The video for “Terra Nova” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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