The Cynics Corner


"Broken Bow"

by David E. Sluss

30 September 2001

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: A surprisingly good start. Who'd have thought?


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: That it didn't suck. There were so many ways that this premise could have failed, but with few exceptions, the pitfalls were avoided, for this week at least. So, much as I hate to, let's run down the some of the good things:

  • Characterization: Based on the infamous press release, it's easy to pigeonhole these characters and map them almost directly back to characters in the original series. And while the intent to do that is clear, as in the scenes that obviously play Archer/T'Pol/Tucker as Kirk/Spock/McCoy, it's already evident that some effort has been made to create characters and not just crew positions. That's not to say I don't have concerns. For instance, it seems that Ensign Sato will be playing the "damsel in distress/Friday the 13th victim" in this series, based on this episode and the preview for next week's. Reed seems a little thin to me, and T'Pol seems inconsistent, though that may be partly by design and partly due to Jolene Blalock's performance, which doesn't always manage to be "Vulcan enough."
  • Acting: While there weren't any performances that I would call stand-out, there also wasn't any bad acting from the principal cast, so I don't have major reservations at this point. The two reasons for the casting of Blalock are pretty obvious, but she managed the "Vulcan thing" well enough in places that I think she'll work out.
  • Conflict: This episode goes out of its way to show Vulcans as arrogant and human beings as imperfect, emotional, and - well - human. At times the script gets carried away, painting in big letters that These Are Gritty, Real People (how many times did Archer use the word "ass," for instance?), but on the whole, this is a welcome development. Let's remember, though, that conflict was one of the premises of Voyager's "Caretaker," and that they became a Stepford crew in less than a year.
  • Reasonable level of technology/minimum of technobabble: Whether Braga and company can overcome the heroin-like addiction they have for ridiculous particles and devices remains to be seen, but so far, with some exceptions, Enterprise's technology seems appropriate for its time. And hey, there's even a mention of toilets.
  • Set design: One of my bigger concerns with this prequel concept was whether it would be able to walk the line between depicting a vessel significantly less advanced than Kirk's Enterprise and presenting a series with modern production values. For the most part, I think it was successful. Cramped quarters, doors that have to be opened manually, and slide controls all imply an appropriate level of sophistication without being cheesy.

But you didn't come here to read praise, so let's get down to it...

UNIFORM ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: We can't expect Bakula and company to wear velour, I suppose, but their uniforms struck me as being too 24th Century. It also seems strange that the Picard-era rank pips would be used. The nod to the original series in terms of the division color scheme (gold for command, red for engineering and, well, redshirts) was a nice touch, though.

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: Take the spoon off of one of DS9's leftover Cardiassian masks and you get Dr. Phlox, it looks like...

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Well, we didn't waste any time working time travel into this series, did we? There's no way to know where this "temporal cold war" is going, but I can't help thinking that it will be an excuse for stunt casting from the future. Think Deanna Troi would make a good agent for one of the war's combatants? On the other hand, given all of Trek's temporal shenanigans over the years, the idea itself isn't unreasonable, or even unlikely. And it was kind of quaint to see a Starfleet captain floored by the notion of communication with the future.

NAME-DROPPING OF THE WEEK: No doubt we can expect plenty of sly references to "future" Trek continuity in this series, and they were certainly present here. I won't complain, except for the mention of "Tholia," since the Tholians have been name-dropped as a mean-spirited tease for over a decade. And of course on this series, it should be impossible to ever encounter them. Oh, well.

PRANDIAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Vulcans don't touch food with their hands, eh? It seems like it should be possible to refute that, but the only example I can think of is Spock and the marshmallow in Star Trek V, which most people, understandably, dismiss as non-Canon.

TECHNOLOGICAL ANOMALIES OF THE WEEK: As I said earlier, most of the technology seemed acceptable, but there were lapses. Enterprise's warp nacelles had that distinctive 24th century glow about them, for instance. The Klingons' blood/DNA scanner seemed a bit too advanced. And while the show went out of its way to mention that the transporter isn't yet a reliable technology, the fact that it was able to grab Archer while he was running was definitely questionable. It never seemed possible to do that on the original series. And then, of course, for it to work at all with the interference and the unreliable scans for biosigns would seem to make Enterprise's transporter better than Voyager's.

CONTRIVANCES OF THE WEEK: Reed's demagnetizing gizmo seemed very plot-convenient. But the bigger problem, plot-wise, was that the Suliban have technology that can shut down all power on Enterprise, but forgot to use it during the climactic battle.

HISTORICAL ANOMALIES OF THE WEEK: I can't think of a Canon source, but having Starfleet pre-exist the Federation doesn't sound right to me. And this first contact with the Klingons, unless more arises directly from this incident, doesn't wash either. Next Generation's "First Contact" TV episode made it pretty clear that a bungled encounter with the Klingons led to decades of war, and that it was the Federation that bungled it. I don't see how that squares with what was shown here.

LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: "Don't be afraid of the wind," the guiding principle that centuries of Captains will follow when flying directly into space storms and anomalies...

MYSTERY OF THE WEEK: Perhaps I'm reading more into the scene than is warranted, but what was the meaning of T'Pol appearing in Archer's dream. Is it just a jack-off fantasy of Archer's, or meant to imply something more sinister, such as T'Pol using some Vulcan mind trick on Archer to make him trust her?

EXPLOITATION OF THE WEEK: I don't think anyone expects high standards of programming from UPN, the Jerry Springer of TV networks, but the "decontamination scene" was pretty blatant. The best that can be said about it is that it was equal-opportunity exploitation, with equal parts cheesecake and beefcake.

CREDITS CREDIT OF THE WEEK: Ah, yes, the credits. You know what? I kind of like it. The scenes shown are fitting, even poignant, and - what the hell - the song fits, even though there are parts of the arrangement, especially at the beginning, that I don't care for. It does seem strange images of the Voyager (or Pioneer) space probes weren't featured, given their key role in space exploration and the fact that they have a specific place in Star Trek history. They could have even recycled footage from Star Trek V, in which one of the probes had a cameo role.

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEEK: "Space is big," says T'Pol. "Not big enough, apparently," says The Cynic. Kronos should not be four days away from Earth; even in the 24th century, that really shouldn't be the case. And since Archer pinned down Enterprise's speed in real world terms, we can prove without a shadow of a doubt that it's BS. So, let's do the math:

  • When Enterprise gets up to speed, Archer says the vessel is traveling at 30,000,000 km/sec, which is 30,000,000,000 m/s.
  • The speed of light is 300,000,000 m/s. So, Enterprise is travelling at 30,000,000,000/300,000,000 = 100 times the speed of light. Sounds fast. But...
  • Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to Earth, is over 4 light years, or 1,460 light days, from Earth.
  • So it would take Enterprise more than 1,460/100 = 14.6 days to reach Proxima Centauri.

And Kronos, presumably, is nowhere near that close. Looks like they'd better start using iso-meters, or something...

Next: "Fight or Flight" NEXT WEEK: More gritty, human action as gritty humans board a dark, dangerous, possibly gritty alien vessel.



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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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