Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Andorian Incident"

***

Air date: 10/31/2001
Teleplay by Fred Dekker
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Fred Dekker
Directed by Roxann Dawson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Information: Did you know that over 70 percent of the organisms on my homeworld are bacteria?"
"What?"
"Here's something I think you'll find interesting: There was a man in Canton, Ohio, who once rolled a ball of string over six meters in diameter."

— Archer getting interrogated

In brief: Mostly routine as these things go, but the ending is of particular interest.

They say that the right ending to a movie is especially crucial, because that's the note you leave your audience with, and they're more likely to judge your success or failure based on the last feelings they have as they leave the theater.

This theory would apply nicely to "The Andorian Incident," which is — let's face it — a typical and obvious hostage premise with questionable logic for most of its run before supplying an ending that makes us sit up and take notice. Agree or disagree, one must admit that the final minutes of the episode and Archer's actions represent an interesting turn of events. The implications are worth thinking about.

The Vulcans, ah, the Vulcans. In "Broken Bow" I complained that they were obstacles for the sake of the story needing near-generic obstacles. That may still be the case (I'm not sure we've seen enough to understand why the Vulcans are the prigs of the galaxy, but so it goes), but here it takes a few interesting turns. The Vulcans are on not the best terms with the Andorians, who as the episode begins have invaded a spiritual retreat on a Vulcan outpost called P'Jem. Coincidentally, enter the Enterprise, where Archer tells T'Pol he'd like to take a shuttle down to P'Jem and visit the monastery in the interests of learning about some Vulcan customs. T'Pol isn't thrilled with the idea but she goes along with it, giving the captain a laundry list of rules to avoid offending the Vulcan elders. (T'Pol says the monastery is 3,000 years old, and since it's not on the Vulcan homeworld, one wonders just how long the Vulcans have been out in space.)

Once inside the monastery, our characters discover the Andorians and find themselves drawn into the middle of long-standing Vulcan/Andorian tensions. Although there's no official state of war between the Andorians and the Vulcans, there are extremist Andorian groups willing to use violence in the name of protecting Andorian interests.

T'Pol describes the Andorians as "paranoid," and she initially seems to be right. Some Andorians are very bitter at the Vulcans, accusing them of spying on their world, and that paranoia doesn't take long to extend to the humans. We have a Vulcan in our midst, we came to this monastery, so we must therefore know something. This "something" has to do with the Andorians' suspicions that the Vulcans have a long-range sensor array hidden somewhere in or around this monastery, used as a major spying post to watch over the Andorian homeworld. The Vulcans dismiss the accusations as ridiculous; they say this is a place for spiritual meditation, not for technology, and certainly not for military-type operations.

The leader of this small Andorian group is Shran, who is played by none other than Jeffrey Combs, who created one of DS9's most memorable villains, Weyoun. What's perhaps a bit unfortunate is that some of Combs' best strengths as a performer aren't allowed to come into play for this role. Shran is a near-humorless thug whose first instinct is to have Archer beaten senseless when he supplies no useful information. Combs' best strengths in Trek have always also included his humorous edge. In addition to his role on DS9, his guest spot in Voyager's "Tsunkatse" benefited from the fact he was a funny bad guy. Shran as a character doesn't have that quality. He's very serious and borderline cruel, and while Combs can do that fine too, it's just not as much fun to watch.

Between bouts of interrogation, our crew members and the Vulcans are locked into a room that, fortunately, has a secret passageway into some Vulcan catacombs. There's a radio down here, which our crew uses to contact the Enterprise. There's a certain Indiana Jones sense to the idea of Vulcan catacombs, but there's also a certain silliness to the fact that our characters are so easily able to go in and out of these tunnels undetected by the Andorians. As is the case for most situations like this, the villains unwittingly give our heroes just enough means to secretly come up with a plan of action.

The whole procession of plot is pretty much routine, but some characterization in between the moments of planning is appreciated and beneficial. In particular, I liked seeing snippets of Reed's leadership back aboard the Enterprise ("I don't take orders from a com voice, ensign — not unless that voice belongs to the captain"), as well as another debate between Archer and T'Pol highlighting differences between Vulcan and human ideals. The discussion on self-defense vs. non-violence strikes me as particularly realistic from what we know of both human and Vulcan sensibilities.

Still, there are also moments that seem really ill-thought-out. The most obvious example is the whole game with the big stone face in the wall. When Trip looked down one of the tunnels and saw the three holes in the wall, the thing that instantly came to my mind was that those three holes were the same three holes in the wall on the other side of the face. This later occurs to the crew as they're planning their escape. But they need to be sure that the tunnel leads to the room with the big face.

So what does Archer do? He tells the Andorians he wants to talk, so that they will take him back to the room with the big stone face. When he plays around with them instead of giving them information, they beat him up some more, during the course of which he secretly throws a small artifact through one of the holes in the big face. Then, on the other side, when Trip finds the artifact, the crew then knows that this tunnel exits to the room where the Andorians are.

Hello? Why not just go through the tunnel and look through the holes in the wall to see if they lead to the room where the Andorians are? Why go to all the trouble to throw an object through from the other side and then find it in the tunnel? Either Archer is an idiot or he really likes getting beat up. More likely is that the whole concept of the artifact being thrown into the tunnel is to pad out the script and draw out the conflict. What could've been half a page of the script — or indeed, even one line ("We can ambush the Andorians from this tunnel!") — is stretched out into pages of extraneous actions and dialog.

The ensuing chase scenes and shootouts are competently staged but not particularly surprising. What makes "The Andorian Incident" work is not the hostage plot that exists for most of the hour but rather the destination the story reaches. It turns out the Vulcans are in fact hiding a massive spy facility underneath this monastery. We find out that the Andorians' suspicions don't arise from paranoia that makes them into stock villains of the week, but instead that the Andorians are right and the Vulcans have been lying all along.

This ending effectively shatters many of the assumptions from earlier in the episode that were held by the characters in the story and also perhaps by viewers watching. We find ourselves re-evaluating the meaning of some scenes. Consider, for example, the T'Pol/Archer argument on self-defense. It takes on an entirely new meaning in light of the fact that this whole time the Vulcans have been lying and in fact have been spying on the Andorians — probably in the interest of self-defense. T'Pol, I believe, had no idea about what was going on here, and likely finds herself as surprised as Archer. I wonder if the Vulcans are hiding things within their own ranks.

Archer's actions are interesting as well. He lets the Andorians have the records as proof of the Vulcans' espionage operation — an operation that's in violation of the Vulcan/Andorian treaty. Archer, I'm sure, feels completely justified in doing so, since the Vulcans had been lying all along to everyone. The truth is, after all, the truth.

It's especially important that there be consequences to this episode. The ending has shown that the Vulcans can be secretive, militaristic, and persuasive liars. The story presents this information without further discussing it. Archer's actions have shown that he's willing, on principle, to sell out what at this point is humanity's only real ally. By giving the Andorians the proof of the spy facility, he's possibly opening up a Pandora's box for increased tensions between the Vulcans and Andorians, and probably between humans and Vulcans as well. The Vulcans' unwillingness to be straight with humans shows once again that this is a strained relationship. Meanwhile, we have Shran telling Archer, "We're in your debt."

I'm giving this episode a borderline recommendation. There's plenty of stock-issue plotting and broken logic in the course of this story, but I liked where it took us. It shows that Archer is stubborn, principled, and righteous. I only hope that down the road we see what kind of trouble such characteristics get him into.

Next week: Ice, ice, baby.

Previous episode: Terra Nova
Next episode: Breaking the Ice

Season Index

26 comments on this review

stallion - Mon, Nov 12, 2007 - 12:14pm (USA Central)
Shran was a great addition to Enterprise. I'm glad Enterprise brought in the Andorian. I wish they did more with them but I'm still happy with the result.
alicelouise - Thu, Jan 24, 2008 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
I saw this episode. I concluded that the Vulcans and the Romulans have more in common than either would like to admit.

It was also a great perspective. Star Trek always previoulsly justified the Vulcans as always good. In ST: Enterprise they're shown to be priggish and secretive.

During ST:TNG some people had even said that the Romulans were Vulcans needing Prep H. ;-).

BTW in the TOS episode "Amok Time" it was a little disingenouous of T'Pau NOT to warn Kirk of Vulcan rituals.
Marco P. - Mon, Sep 6, 2010 - 2:36am (USA Central)
Like alicelouise, I too immediately thought of Romulans in the final scene of the episode. I felt a bit disturbed to learn of the Vulcans' deceit, but I guess it's in-synch with the image ST Enterprise is painting of them.

Not sure it was the right thing to do story-wise, and it is perhaps further evidence that script writers are cruelly lacking original ideas in thi series.
Cloudane - Mon, Apr 18, 2011 - 6:48pm (USA Central)
Whoa, that ending was quite a bombshell. Wasn't expecting that at all!

This kind of thing is a good idea - it may be set in the past, but at this point *as a series* (collection of), Star Trek has boldly been there and got the t-shirt. There's little they could do in terms of traditional/exploration sci-fi that hasn't already been done by TOS, TNG and Voyager - in many cases 3 or more times. So if this is any indication that the series moves towards a more early-DS9-like theme of political web weaving, I'm all for it - that's been done a lot less.

The other thing the series seems to be doing is keeping fairly light-hearted and not taking itself too seriously, which makes for fun viewing and a fresh perspective on what would otherwise seem recycled. But I don't think it can pull of being both. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

What transpired still doesn't excuse Archer for wading in with his size 10s during the ceremony (this was before he spotted the Andorian so he had no reason). I know at this stage Starfleet haven't quite developed the Picard level of diplomacy, but any idiot knows to be quiet and respectful in that kind of place even without T'Pol's more detailed advice (which he mostly ignored). They just made him look like a tactless loudmouth. This isn't an inexperienced captain, it's a moron. Let's not put him in that light too often eh?

Jeff Combs yet again, just can't stay away can he :) I was glad to see another style to his acting even if it's still a villanous one - his guest appearance on Voyager was far too similar to Weyoun (a style which in itself was overdone on DS9 i.e. the "smiling and polite villain") and yanked me out of immersion a little too often. Here he was sufficiently different not to suspect that Weyoun has cosmetically altered clones all over the galaxy. I knew the actor was capable from seeing Brunt (I didn't even realise it was him until very late in the series), it just needed the right character.

Indeed, it's the same old Enterprise plodding though, but the ending makes up for it a great deal.
Gene - Tue, Jul 26, 2011 - 1:02am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode, though like others I am a bit dismayed Vulcans have been portrayed thus far into the series, but since I am only a few episodes in I am willing to let that go. The thing that seems to be bothering me the most right now is how Archer knocks out a Vulcan with one sucker punch. We've been programmed since Trek's inception to know that Vulcans are much stronger than humans, but yet Archer knocks one cold just like that? That Vulcan that got smacked also seemed so... timid. Almost as if he were afraid. I just have a tough time accepting that I suppose.
Michael - Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - 10:30am (USA Central)
Quite a nice show. I like the unexpected twist at the end. I'd actually give it 3.5 stars.
Paul York - Sat, May 12, 2012 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
I just stared watching this and already have two issues with it:

1) T'Pol's vegan meal is pictured as celery sticks and lettuce, yet on Earth there are more varieties of vegetarian dishes than meat dishes, and many are very substantive. This is more of a portrayal of what the producers think vegetarians eat than what they actually eat. If you factor in the millions of possible dishes from other worlds that the Vulcans must know about it, this portrayal seems ridiculous.

2. It would be very improper for a young woman in a tight body suit to visit a monastery, where presumably the clerics are celibate. In fact why is T'Pol pictured this way at all -- or Seven of Nine for that matter? No doubt it has a lot to do with ratings, trying to titillate prurient viewers rather than appeal to intellect or moral ideals.

Another issue that always perplexed me: why portray Vulcans as mystics when they are so dedicated to reason and logic? Mysticism is by definition irrational and illogical. A better religion for them would be similar to the Talmudic studies of law or the highly rational philosophical studies derived from Aquinas or Maimonides. Or perhaps since they are a species of scientists and mathematicians, as well as vegetarians, their religion should be closer to Deism or pantheism, where respect for physics and nature and the laws of the universe is practised, but without any conception of God and no need for complex symbols or rituals as shown here. I don't think Rodenberry really bothered to study religion when he conceived of them. He just drew something out of his imagination that he thought fit. I'm not sure that it does.
Paul York - Sat, May 12, 2012 - 9:09pm (USA Central)
So Archer gives away the Vulcan command centre location to the militaristic Andorians ... what happened to the idea of non-interference? What about the alliance and friendship of Earth and Vulcan. Would Archer like it if Earth's defences were similarly compromised. It does not seem credible that T'Pol would go along with this, or that as soon as they entered the room Vulcan guards would not disarm and capture them immediately. The ending of this episode was horrible.
Captain Jim - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
I've always enjoyed this episode. I suppose it's a combination of several things: the reemergence of the Andorians (introduced in TOS but pretty much absent thereafter), the Indiana Jones type atmosphere of the catacombs, a new role for Jeffrey Combs and the surprise ending. All good stuff.
Rosario - Sat, Nov 3, 2012 - 11:23pm (USA Central)
I'm bothered that the final fight scene took place in the vault where all the "most sacred relics to Vulcan" were stored yet it looked like they were battling through a closed flea market with cheap and fake Ming dynasty vases and pirate dubloons. Like they were filmed battling amongst the props from Goonies.
Cloudane - Sat, Jan 26, 2013 - 8:10pm (USA Central)
I'm back! (Betcha didn't expect that, I've moved onto Babylon 5 now)

Why? Because Star Trek Online.

Future spoilers (considered "canon enough" I think) follow



One of the earliest missions is.... a reference to this episode!
On Vulcan they talk of how P'Jem was a holy place of theirs for 12 centuries, which they lost in the 22nd century through their own misguided ways of bringing war and politics (spying on the Andorians) to a place meant for peaceful contemplation.

Furthermore they say how after the founding of the Federation, P'Jem was reconstructed as a symbol of peace between the founding Humans, Vulcans and Andorians.

A fascinating little look back to this episode, which in a way, makes it all the more meaningful.
Michael - Mon, Jan 28, 2013 - 3:35am (USA Central)
@Cloudane: Hey, forget all that! tell us about Babylon 5! Is it worth watching?
Markus - Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - 2:56am (USA Central)
I consider this and the following one the first entertaining episode that matters. All the episodes before were well produced but were dull, horriby plotted and even not worth remembering considering character moments. Klaustrophobia? Had that in DS9. Some poisoning planet and halluscinations. In TOS, TNG and in DS9! They should have done less shows with better plots. No wonder people turned off ENT after a few episodes.
Jack - Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
Three stars = just a "borderline recommendation"?
Jay - Tue, Dec 3, 2013 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
This was the first of many (way too many) episodes in which Archer is being interrogated, and his cocky demeanor in each case (always regurgitating gibberish, which would annoy me to high heaven as well) is so excruciating that I vicariously enjoyed the beatings he got from the interrogators he was torturing.
NoPoet - Fri, Dec 13, 2013 - 3:53am (USA Central)
Posting in a thread where someone actually wrote a paragraph criticising what T'Pol had for dinner.

In other news, I like this episode; I'd agree Shran comes off as brutal and cruel in the episode. It's no excuse, but the Andorians are deeply suspicious people and it seems pretty obvious they will think Archer et al are in league with the Vulcans. Good to see Coombs, one of Trek's greatest actors, making a wlecome return.
Cloudane - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 7:35pm (USA Central)
Michael: Sorry, I hadn't been keeping up with the comments!
A year late here, but..
Yes and no with B5. To be honest, I ground to a halt watching it some time late season 2 / early season 3. That's not to suggest it's bad, in fact it's kind of like DS9 sometimes was with its long complicated story weaving which I enjoy, but if anything it's *too* complicated and for every mystery that's solved 5 more pop up.

You like action right? There's a lot of that. But you can expect a lot of talk as well.

I intend to resume watching it at some point. It's good, don't get me wrong, I just don't see it in the same "best thing in the universe that ever was" light that its fans do - to be honest, people hype it up so darn much I can't help but label it "vastly overrated" even though it's fairly good, if that makes sense.

====

Enjoying re-reading some of my old comments
"This isn't an inexperienced captain, it's a moron. Let's not put him in that light too often eh?"

Spoiler: They did. A lot. The hot-headed buffoon you see handling situations with the grace and tact of a wounded bull in this episode is pretty much the Captain you get for the rest of the show...
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 9:51am (USA Central)
Hi Cloudane, regards to Babylon 5 I would recommend trying to watch the whole thing one day because season 3 and 4 are the absolute height of the show and all the drive of the show is chanelled directly into paying off the lengthy set-up. Imagine all of the best episodes of the first 2 seasons intensified and pumped on steriods and firing on all cylinders and the you'll get an idea of how mind blowingly epic it managed to get! Not to mention, there's consistency and a daring edginess and spark that was absent in them early days.

Each season marked a huge improvement over the last except for a slightly pointess season 5, but even the weakish fifth season gave us one of the most powerful finales ever made. I'm not saying its perfect (just the dialog alone never failed to bug me in its persistent tone deafness!) but I definitively do highly recommend completing the show if you got any enjoyment from those wobbly early days :).
Cloudane - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
OK thanks Jo I'll try to give it another go sometime. It must be the lengthiest set-up in history XD (just hope I can remember it all, that was always the sticky point)

To be fair, it tends to be worth watching for Ivanova and her witty snarkasm.
Paul - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 10:25am (USA Central)
It's too bad more of early Enterprise wasn't like this.

The episode isn't perfect, but the Shran/Vulcan episodes in the first two seasons sow a lot of the seeds for season 4. Archer's role as a diplomat is actually one of the best aspects of the series.

The problem with Enterprise, early on, was that it tried to make Enterprise about exploration. I know that sounds funny, but after TOS and some TNG, the exploration stuff got boring (with the exception of a few episodes).

Enterprise figured this out mid-season 2 and changed course for season 3, which was pretty strong, if imperfect. The final season had almost no exploration -- Archer even makes a comment about this to Captain Hernandez.

Then, laughably, Archer is called "the greatest explorer of the 22nd century" when the mirror universe characters access the Defiant's database. Essentially, this was the Enterprise creators attempt to pay lip service to Starfleet not being a military organization. But they could have done that without trotting out the explorer line when, really, Archer's significance came from what he did to stop the Xindi and his role in helping found the Federation.
Jack - Fri, May 2, 2014 - 9:17am (USA Central)
alicelouise said:

"BTW in the TOS episode "Amok Time" it was a little disingenouous of T'Pau NOT to warn Kirk of Vulcan rituals."

Happened again in ST:III, when she tells McCoy how dangerous it will be to extract the katra that was already dumped into him without his consent.

McCoy's "hell of a time to ask" quip when told of the danger is appropriate.
Eli - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 10:36pm (USA Central)
The surprise ending is interesting in that it reveals that the Vulcans have a more complex relationship between spirituality and technology than initially indicated.

However, I think it's reckless for Archer to antagonize the Vulcans. It is not his business whether or not the Vulcans are telling the truth to the Andorians. He should mind his own affairs. Further, the Vulcans are their allies. If they're not perfect, so be it. Even with these deceptions revealed, it's not as though the Vulcnas have committed some horrible atrocity. If it weren't for the treaty that is vaguely referred to in this episode, it wouldn't necessarily be immoral in any way to have a secret facility.

Anyway, the Andorians we see here are thugs with no obvious sense of ethics. The Vulcans not only support the humans, but appear to have a more developed moral code in their society. They don't beat and torture their prisoners and threaten other alien woman sexually (as the Andorians do in this episode). They appear to desire peace and rational thinking.

If nothing else, you shouldn't cut off your nose despite your face.
Eli - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 10:40pm (USA Central)
Above it should read: [the ending] reveals that the Vulcans have a more complex relationship with spirituality and technology than initially indicated. (with not between)

Also it should say "Vulcans in the second paragraph not Vulcnas."

I've said this before, but it would be great if we were allowed to edit our posts.
Katie - Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - 10:35pm (USA Central)
I've been re-watching ENT for the first time after watching the whole series 4 years ago. This is the first episode that was remotely familiar to me. Every other episode so far, I didn't remember anything. That goes for the series as a whole--I have some vague memories of the Xindi and I think something about Nazis? Oh, and the Borg episode, mostly because it pissed me off so much. But other than that, nothing. On the other hand, when I re-watched VOY and DS9 on Netflix over a decade after watching them on TV as a child, there were dozens of episodes that I remembered and was delighted to see again.

This really encapsulates the problem with Enterprise. It was just totally underwhelming and unmemorable. The one really familiar element emerging so far is how deeply annoying Archer is as a captain. I think it's partially the writing, but mostly Bakula's acting. He completely lacks the gravitas of Stewart, Brooks, and Mulgrew. He just comes off as an idiot.

Seriously wondering if I want to devote any time to re-watching this series.
Jerry - Wed, Oct 15, 2014 - 5:06pm (USA Central)
I'm TRYING to watch ENT, but the writing is so bad... "A firefight? In close quarters?" No, you stupid witch! The monks take cover, out of the way, and the instant the Andorians open the door, they're hit with phasers on stun! The writers assume that viewers are as stupid as they are, and won't/can't think of any other tactic/alternative. It's as if no one ever held a hand up in staff meetings and asked any questions.
Eli - Mon, Oct 20, 2014 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
After watching Shockwave, I have re-evaluated Archer's decision to share information with the Andorians. I still wouldn't go so far as to agree with the decision; I think the Vulcans are their allies first and foremost. But, in the context of the show's thoughtful idealism, his decision is not without merits. I think also I was overly critical to call him reckless. Clearly the relationship between humans and Vulcans is a dynamic one at this point.

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