Star Trek: Enterprise

"Minefield"

***

Air date: 10/2/2002
Written by John Shiban
Directed by James Contner

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm afraid we have another problem, sir."
"What?"
"I need to use the bathroom."
"I won't tell a soul."

— Reed and Archer

In brief: A bomb-dissection episode featuring good characterization.

"Minefield" is highly reminiscent of last season's "Shuttlepod One." We have a life-threatening crisis, we have attempted solutions, and we have two guys trapped in a predicament that gives them time to talk to each other. One of them happens to be, again, Lt. Malcolm Reed, who has become a character of noteworthy development after starting the series as the resident mystery.

Yes, the premise is the sort that all but invites a David Spade-like quip of, "I liked this episode the first time I saw it — when it was called 'Shuttlepod One.'" But it's worth noting that "Minefield" works for many of the same reasons "Shuttlepod One" worked. It's mostly an exercise in simplicity — giving us a predicament and the attempted solutions — and that ends up putting the emphasis on personalities and acting. While this episode isn't as good at capturing sheer desperation the way the frigid, closed-in "Shuttlepod One" was, I did enjoy it for its ability to adequately showcase Reed and Archer.

The setup is another one of those situations that goes a long way to proving the adage, "curiosity killed the cat." The Enterprise encounters a planet, decides to take a look, and promptly runs into a cloaked mine that leaves a hole in the side of the ship's saucer section. Another mine, unexploded, is discovered to be attached to the hull of the ship. Reed may have the expertise to defuse it, so he goes out in an EV-suit and magnetic boots to make the effort.

It's about here where the Romulans show up.

I'm not sure we need to see the Romulans here (actually, we don't see them — just their ships). Their presence raises the question of how the Vulcans know so little about them considering the Romulans are their distant cousins. I'm sure an explanation could be easily concocted (whether or not it's believable is another matter), but it's a moment like this that makes one wonder why the writers feel a need to fall back on established lore when it's pretty apparent they have no clue what the lore means in the current time frame.

The Romulans basically tell the Enterprise to go away, right now, you are trespassers, you will be destroyed if you don't leave, yadda yadda yadda. I've often wondered why those who hate trespassers so much opt to make it impossible for innocent passersby to know that they're trespassing. If you want people to stay away from your planet, I'd recommend the solar-system equivalent of a big "KEEP OUT" sign and an electrified barbed-wire fence. The barbed-wire fence here is cloaked, which seems neither fair nor practical.

The Romulans, of course, aren't here to provide cultural insight; they're here to up the urgency quotient. Since the mine is not a time-bomb but rather a tamper-resistant device that must be slowly and carefully disarmed, the ticking clock is provided by the looming presence of Romulan ships, which cloak and decloak ominously. (Can a ship cloak and decloak ominously?) As if Reed didn't already have enough pressure on him, a metal spike comes out of the mine and impales him through the leg and pins him to the hull of the ship. I hate it when that happens.

This requires Archer to come out in an EV-suit and lend a helping hand. The ensuing scenes are a conventional mix of Bomb Defusing Procedures and personal dialog. Bomb Defusing Procedures on Star Trek must always be fun for the prop guys, because they get to design big metallic levers and switches and buttons that move around and must be activated in the right order, i.e., whatever order the writers have previously concocted. Remember the series of big round dials that activated the Genesis Device in The Wrath of Khan? Bingo.

The important thing is for the bomb-deactivation scenes to be believable. For the most part, they're about as believable as they need to be here, although we all know the Enterprise is not about to be blown to smithereens. The episode's cause is particularly helped by the fact the crew is shown thinking ahead to work the problem. Trip comes up with a backup plan for detaching the segment of the hull where the mine has locked on. This is very sanely written — showing that the crew is not helpless and in a way that is easy for the audience to grasp (and therefore something we can find plausible rather than feeling buried with tech).

The episode is the first to be written by new co-executive producer John Shiban, a former X-Files scribe. The script wisely puts its money on the character backstory. Yes, Archer and Reed are trying to dismantle a bomb, but the story is more interested in supplying these two guys with some humanity than in getting too carried away with the bomb or the Romulans. Reed once again comes across as the perpetually serious officer — a man who's all about the work and not all about personal relationships with his crewmates. The breakfast scene at the beginning sets the stage nicely; Reed is all business, awkward and uncomfortable in a situation where the captain has invited him simply to offer his friendship.

Here we get some Reed backstory that I think works pretty well. Reed is from a long line of British navy men, and to carry on the tradition, Malcolm was even in the British navy himself for as long as he could stand it. He had a fear of drowning that made his participation in the navy pretty impractical — a fear fueled even more by the fact that his great-uncle drowned in a submarine disaster, a story I need not retell since the episode does such a good job of doing so on its own.

What I liked best was the story's interest in comparing Malcolm's formal navy sensibilities with Archer's looser style of command on the Enterprise. Malcolm doesn't really agree with Archer's style of fraternizing with his subordinates and seeking out their opinions. Malcolm favors a rigid, conservative chain-of-command structure where a captain is your boss and not your friend. I liked Archer's response, too, which has its own merits: The Enterprise is out here on its own, and camaraderie is an especially important virtue to nurture.

But also intriguing is how Archer's command style makes it more difficult for him to think in the military terms of death. Indeed, it's shown here almost as one of Archer's bigger weaknesses, where he's prepared to take out even bigger risks on his ship for a gamble to keep every crewman safe. It's a weakness that does not go unchallenged, with Reed strongly objecting and finally disconnecting his own oxygen supply to try to force Archer into another course of action.

It's worth noting that after an entire year in space, up to and including the mine that rips a hole in the ship at the beginning of this episode, the Enterprise has not suffered a single fatality among its crew. Archer has not truly faced death under his command, and the evidence here is that he is not particularly well-prepared for that possibility. When someone finally does get killed on this mission, it ought to be interesting to see the impact.

The hardware aspects of "Minefield" are the type that prompt me to ask questions out of curiosity (which is not to be confused with questioning the show's science on the account that I don't buy it). For example, I wonder what it takes to damage an EV-suit beyond its ability to protect you from the vacuum of space. Would a hole poked by a metal spike cause decompression? Also, when the hull segment is detached and the bomb finally does blow up, Reed and Archer protect themselves by holding metal shields between them and the explosion. Is that possible? Would the shockwave injure or kill them or at least jar the shields from their grip? Just wondering.

Don't worry, because that's not really the point of "Minefield." Nor are the Romulans, who remain shadowy figures of a vaguely threatening nature. The point is watching Reed and Archer interact as they try to dismantle a MacGuffin. It's not complicated, but it is effective.

Next week: Phlox finally gets to say, "He's dead," when our first crew member dies (and also possibly un-dies).

Previous episode: Carbon Creek
Next episode: Dead Stop

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18 comments on this review

chris
Sat, Sep 4, 2010, 9:03am (UTC -5)
I also coldn't believe the metal shields would be effective against a bomb that I thought earlier in the episode was described as a third of a kiloton - that is equivalent to 330 tonnes of TNT. Come to that, if I heard correctly, ther mine that did detonate on the ship should have destroyed it completely if it was the same yield.

Marco P.
Thu, Nov 18, 2010, 4:25am (UTC -5)
As always, the amount of inconsistencies/nonsense present in this episode is just staggering.

The best:
In "Silent Enemy", Archer sent Hoshi on a mission to find out what Reed's favorite food was (and during an intense battle no less). After discovering it was pineapple, Archer now suddenly doesn't have a clue what Reed likes to eat, so he had the chef cook eggs.

Read the rest here:
www.firsttvdrama.com/enterprise/e29.php3
Carbetarian
Mon, Nov 22, 2010, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
Does anyone else have a strong desire to punch Arher in the face? I can't help it. I always want to sock him right between the eyes.

Phlox and T'Pol are the only truly competent people on that ship. I know there are many that don't like T'Pol and her monotone delivery. But, for me, she sometimes saves the show. Her epic bitch faces express exactly what I'm thinking, which is usually "good lord, I want to punch Archer in the face...".

I may have to also add Reed to my list of competent crew members, because I agreed with almost everything he said in this episode. To paraphrase, Archer IS an idiot who has no idea what he's doing and should never have been given a command position. For example, let's examine how they got into this position in the first place:

*paraphrasing the scene again*

T'Pol: We found a large planet with an atmosphere

Archer: Yee-haw! Let's go camping!

BOOM!
Cloudane
Sun, Jul 3, 2011, 5:41pm (UTC -5)
Pretty good on a character level (poor Malcolm in the opening - that's me down to a T) but yeah, been done.

Also the suit seems to have a sort of self sealing goo built into it which we saw oozing slightly when he got skewered, that's probably why all the air didn't leak. Managing to spin around and hold those shields up to survive was a bit of a stretch though!
chris
Tue, Oct 25, 2011, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
"*paraphrasing the scene again*

T'Pol: We found a large planet with an atmosphere

Archer: Yee-haw! Let's go camping!

BOOM!"

I laughed my ass out when that scene came up.
enniofan
Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
"The best:
In "Silent Enemy", Archer sent Hoshi on a mission to find out what Reed's favorite food was (and during an intense battle no less). After discovering it was pineapple, Archer now suddenly doesn't have a clue what Reed likes to eat, so he had the chef cook eggs."


Just to be fair, Archer says "I wasn't sure what you wanted for breakfast, so I had Chef cook up some eggs."
Captain Jim
Sat, Jul 28, 2012, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
Not bad, though I did think the story dragged a bit. Personally, I don't think it was nearly as good as Shuttlepod One. I probably would have given it two stars.
Aaron
Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 3:45am (UTC -5)
Is it just me, or does Reed have a bit of a death wish? So many times he's said he's prepared to die. I do agree with him sometimes that Archer's command style is a bit frustrating, but if I were Archer, when Reed pulled his oxygen out, I'd have punched him in the head. I also would've put him on report afterwards. It's great to be willing to die for the ship and mission, but not to be *wanting* to die.
Rosario
Mon, Nov 12, 2012, 11:36am (UTC -5)
Jammer: "Their presence raises the question of how the Vulcans know so little about them considering the Romulans are their distant cousins."

Concerning the Romulans being present, in "Balance of Terror" it's established that while there had been a conflict with the Romulans 100 years prior, no one had actually seen one. TNG also established in numerous episodes that the Romulans are quite a bit more than "distant cousins" of the Vulcans. They are an off shoot of the Vulcans that left either just prior or during the time of Surak. We're talking 5000 or so years. Even if the event was recorded, it would have recorded it as just some Vulcans leaving - it's taken 5000 years of evolution to arrive at a Romulan. *takes off geek hat*

Didn't really feel this episode, except for the Romulans which I found intriguing. I fail to see why the writers are hammering home again and again that Reed is a professional who is 100% dedicated to his work and even willing to die for it. Some commenter said he seems to have a death wish since he keeps saying he wants to die. Well, that's the character, there's nothing else left to say so it keeps being repeated.

Oh and a mine that is that complicated to disarm, no way should a little gadget be able to figure out how to do it with 0 info to work from. If they had made it less complicated I could buy it. The whole redundant arming mechanism was so obvious and contrived - same with Hoshi's let me go to the bridge scenes. feh.
John the younger
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 9:18am (UTC -5)
Once they worked out that there was a 10-20 second delay between arming and detonation, why didn't they just beam the guys back to the ship rather than have them hold up bits of tin?
Cloudane
Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 7:03am (UTC -5)
"Is it just me, or does Reed have a bit of a death wish? So many times he's said he's prepared to die" (Aaron, a long time ago)

Yeah I remember him being like that a lot. I'm not sure, but I think he was meant to have some kind of depression (it wouldn't be obvious all the time as a lot of people with depression mask it so they can function in their jobs and society), but it was never really confirmed either way.
Simon
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 6:20am (UTC -5)
Sorry, I'm enjoying Enterprise more than any prior Star Trek (it just seems a little less soap opera-y or something, not sure exactly).

Anyway, there are still some things that trouble me a bit, like:

- in Minefield, why not use the transporter to evacuate Reed ? It seems a critical decision between losing the ship, losing Reed or Reed + Archer. They've used the device successfully to transport people before .. so why not simply beam him out of there then release the hull section ?
- in Shockwave, when the enterprise is being attacked by 30ish Suliban vessels, why not simply out-run them ? Sorry, but enterprise has a Warp 5 capable engine, and these suliban craft are single man vehicles, yes, they're targeting the engines, but there would have been ample chance to simply outrun the buggers. Or is my logic all screwed up and it's a reasonable contention that single-man suliban vessels could match or exceed Warp 4.9 ? (of course not !)
NCC-1701-Z
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 12:21am (UTC -5)
"I've often wondered why those who hate trespassers so much opt to make it impossible for innocent passersby to know that they're trespassing. If you want people to stay away from your planet, I'd recommend the solar-system equivalent of a big "KEEP OUT" sign and an electrified barbed-wire fence. The barbed-wire fence here is cloaked, which seems neither fair nor practical."

LOL! Good one.

Good episode, but I found it stupid that Archer decided to start chatting in the middle of defusing the mine. It was good from a character standpoint - the material the characters were given to talk about was very solid - but downright stupid from a practical viewpoint.

Also, those Romulans were too hard-headed for my tastes. And wouldn't it have been more reasonable to beam Reed back? Also, I'd like to ask why 22nd century EV suits have a self-sealing ability, but the more advanced 24th century EV suits lack it (see First Contact).

According to Memory Alpha, the novel The Good That Men Do did a pretty good job of explaining this episode's inconsistencies with Trek canon (why the Romulans had cloaking tech, for instance) but it's a shame that the writers' sloppiness with canon required that explanation the first place.

Overall, though, good character development and solidly entertaining story overall. I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt.
NCC-1701-Z
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 12:24am (UTC -5)
And during the climax of the episode when the Romulans were preparing to fire and Archer and Reed were floating in space, I literally screamed at my TV, "USE THE TRANSPORTER YOU IDIOTS!". Why didn't they do that instead of trying to bring them into the launch bay??

But I nitpick what is basically a good episode.
W Smith
Mon, Apr 6, 2015, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
The story really dragged in the middle. When I catch myself checking my watch multiple times during an episode, it's not a good sign. Reed certainly comes across as having a death wish. The fix with the metal slabs as adequate shields against a multi-kiloton blast stretched my suspension of disbelief (which generally has a high threshold if I'm being told a compelling story). The Romulans, as usual, were intriguing, but not much else to see here. Maybe 2 stars at most.
Yanks
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
Jammer,

"...The point is watching Reed and Archer interact as they try to dismantle a MacGuffin. It's not complicated, but it is effective."

Yes sir.

@ John the younger
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 9:18am (UTC -6)

"Once they worked out that there was a 10-20 second delay between arming and detonation, why didn't they just beam the guys back to the ship rather than have them hold up bits of tin?"

I had the same thought watching this episode. I could make up some technobabble reason but I wont. :-) I guess inter-ship beaming is still dangerous or not even tried yet.

As Jammer states though, this episode is all about Reed and Archer. Very enjoyable exchanges throughout this episode. This is Archer being Archer at his best. Cool headed, thoughtful and determined.

I think the blast shield they used was realistic. I however didn't see the 180 deg turn, as they showed it, as very believable.

I wonder what the Romulans were mining there.

3 star episode for me.
Yanks
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Correction. 3.5 for me.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Apr 10, 2016, 9:43am (UTC -5)
I wasn't a fan of Shuttlepod One, and unsurprisingly I wasn't too much of a fan of this one either. Reed's enthusiastic fatalism was extremely tiresome, while the attempt at character development was welcome. Similarly, Archer's pigheadedness is equally as infuriating. Put the two together and it's like all the worst character elements are put together in a two hander that gets tedious very quickly.

Kudos for the fairly graphic impaling scene though. 1.5 stars.

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