Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Babel One"

***

Air date: 1/28/2005
Written by Mike Sussman & Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Straiton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Do you think we're moving too fast?" — Archer

In brief: An entertaining enough show, although there are plenty of standbys in use.

"Babel One" is one of those shows that benefits from ending on a good note. The theory goes, the last feeling the audience has is the most important one, because it will reflect upon the episode as a whole. Based on that theory, this episode works. The twist ending is successfully executed, isn't obvious before it's revealed, and maintains plausible logic. Because, after all, the Romulans are sneaky and deceptive and what they're doing here strikes me as their sort of tactic.

The rest of the episode is passable, but nothing for you to write home about (that's my job). You know the drill: Two warring societies must meet to settle their differences as our main characters play the role of peacekeepers/mediators. (When I pitched to Voyager in what, incomprehensibly, was five whole years ago, Bryan Fuller told me that one of my pitches fell too much into the general category of the "two warring societies" storyline. Obviously, if they have a category for it that they use to weed out pitches, this is not a new story.)

In the case of "Babel One," the warring people are the Andorians and the Tellarites. The Enterprise is transporting the Tellarite ambassador (Lee Arenberg) to the neutral world of Babel for negotiations over a trade dispute with the Andorians. Exacerbating the situation is the rampant distrust both species have for each other. The distrust is in no small part caused by ships each side has lost in recent years, presumably at the hands of the other.

The latest ship to be destroyed is Shran's, which was apparently attacked by a Tellarite vessel. Only Shran and 19 of his crew survived the assault; they are rescued by the Enterprise en route to the negotiations. Obviously, Shran is in no mood to deal with the Tellarites on board Archer's ship. ("Keep them away from us, or there will be bloodshed," he warns Archer.)

There's a lot of distrust and yelling. Perhaps too much. The Andorians and the Tellarites are both obstinate to the extreme, and Archer has the thankless role of playing referee.

Better is a scene where Archer and Shran share a drink, and Shran talks about his ship and crew. Shran's character is that of a hardened soldier, and the loss of his ship is a cause for wounded pride. I liked that. He also confesses his feelings for his subordinate officer Talas (Molly Brink), one of the ship's survivors who recently had became Shran's lover. She made the first move, Shran says, and his options were to either take her up on the offer or throw her in the brig. Call it Andorian pragmatism. "I hope you made the right decision," Archer quietly says.

The attacks in this region of space have caused strong friction between the Andorians and Tellarites, since both sides seem to be attacking each other, but there's a mystery brewing with clues: Why is the same power signature present at more than one attack site? Why does this contradict the visual evidence from the recorded logs of the attacks, which confirm that the Andorians and Tellarites are attacking each other? And why does an Andorian ship open fire on the Enterprise and refuse to acknowledge Shran's orders to stand down, before scurrying off?

One annoying aspect of the show — or more specifically, UPN's marketing campaign — is that we know the answers to these questions before the show even begins, because the trailers had given it away seven days before. This has the unfortunate effect of making the first 30 minutes of the plot extremely obvious to us, forcing us to watch in frustration while the characters put the pieces together. Fortunately, it doesn't take them too long to add things up, and T'Pol even quickly hypothesizes that the ship responsible — a rogue marauder — is based on the same technology as the minefield encountered two years ago in "Minefield" — the Romulans.

Archer realizes the delicate nature of the situation, as well as the opportunity he has available here. There's a historic chance to form an alliance, as well as indications that the Romulans — if they are indeed responsible — are determined to see that such an alliance is not formed. I liked the moment where Archer pauses to muse over Starfleet's role in this mess, asking T'Pol, "Do you think we're moving too fast?" T'Pol tells him that Starfleet is in a unique position as a neutral party to forge relationships where the Vulcans — distrusted by the Andorians — would be unable to help.

By Archer's good fortune, the Romulan marauder, which has the ability to disguise itself as any other ship by using a holographic skin and false signatures, breaks down dead in space, giving the Enterprise crew a chance to beam aboard and investigate. Reed and Trip are left behind below decks on the marauder when the Romulans are able to make repairs and escape. Trip and Reed continue their investigation on the marauder while Archer resumes his efforts to bring together Shran and the Tellarite ambassador so they can all pursue the marauder.

But before Archer can show his new evidence regarding the marauder, Shran and Talas break out of their quarters and go after the Tellarites. This leads to the usual action scenes and shootouts involving the MACOs, etc., and the tense standoffs, etc., as Shran demands answers from the Tellarites while holding his gun on them. Archer tries to squelch the situation, and is mostly successful in regaining Shran's trust, but not before Talas is wounded by a Tellarite with an itchy trigger finger.

Meanwhile, Trip and Reed make their way to the bridge of the Romulan marauder, and find themselves face to face with ... an empty bridge, controlled by remote. In what proves to be one of the season's more memorable moments, there's a cool pull-back reveal shot that shows the Romulans at their command stations, which turns out to be in a tower in the capital city on distant Romulus. It's a neat twist. I admit I didn't see it coming, and yet the logic holds. The show finds a way to do something unexpected and yet sensible given the fact that Trek history mandates that the Romulans are not to be seen by anyone in this century. If the rest of the episode had been this inventive, it might've been a great one. As it is, we have a decent story willing to employ standbys, up to a point.

Next week: Before there can be an alliance, there must first be a fight to the death, naturally.

Previous episode: Observer Effect
Next episode: United

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14 comments on this review

urfriend - Sun, Oct 28, 2007 - 1:43pm (USA Central)
Travis almost gets a line in this one. He says, "they couldn't mask their warp signature, that's why they--" then he gets cut off by someone on the intercom.

Decent storyline this time. I like the ending, but I'm losing hope that this show will live up to its predecessors.

Jay - Sun, Dec 12, 2010 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
This trilogy had a few good points, but I couldn't get past the total disbelief that Romulans could have this technology in the 22nd century. Flying warships from Romulus? Mimicking any other vessel? If they could do this now, imagine the technology by Picard's time. This simply can't even be canon. The whole trilogy is discarded as far as I'm concerned...it's a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit.
Jay - Sun, Dec 12, 2010 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
I forgot to mention the self-repair capability. Nope, this is not canon...it can't be.
Jay - Mon, Dec 13, 2010 - 2:35pm (USA Central)
And that it can zip out of the way of already fired beam weaponry....no, just no.
Marco P. - Sun, Jul 24, 2011 - 4:58am (USA Central)
While I agree with Jay's concerns regarding the verisimilitude of the Romulans' technology, I have to say this was a well-constructed, well-acted, and entertaining episode for me.

I have one comment on the plot, specifically relating to Jammer's annoyance at UPN. I'm currently watching the episodes on DVD (so no "Next week on ST Enteprise" spoiler-previews for me), yet the deduction that the marauding ship was in fact neither Tellarite nor Andorian but rather a third species, one with the technology to mimick other ships, was in fact quite obvious for me from the start. I didn't find this aspect of the story very creative to be honest.

I do agree with Jammer however concerning the ending: I certainly did not see it coming and it adds a nice twist to the trilogy (surpassed only by the twist of the following episode, when it is revealed WHO is in remote control of the marauder ship).
Jack - Sat, Sep 24, 2011 - 9:30am (USA Central)
Not sure how Jammer can call the ending here remotely "sensible"...the cheat raises far more canon issues (like those that Jay mentioned) than the one it tries to solve.
Talmida - Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - 12:23am (USA Central)
Nice subtle nods to TOS's "Journey to Babel" where Kirk & crew were transporting Andorians, Tellarites (and Vulcans, etc.) to Babel for admitting a potential new planet to the Federation....
Max Udargo - Wed, Nov 9, 2011 - 10:26pm (USA Central)
Three details I must applaud.

The Tellarite makeup was ingenious. They found a way to make it effective and believable by 21st century standards, while still being true to the awful, ill-fitting masks used in TOS. The laughable gap between the mask and the actor's eyes became a creepy "feature" of the modern makeup, and Lee Arenberg knew how to use it to make his character more expressive in a most unsettling way. I thought it was a beautiful and creative "splice" of modern techniques with the wanting techniques of low-budget 1960s television.

A nice twist on the "red shirt" trope: The two red shirts ("MACOs") are beamed to safety first, leaving the stars in jeopardy on the alien ship.

A nice double-twist on the sexy-lady-seduces-clueless-guard trope: The guard doesn't fall for it, but when he reacts quickly to thwart the predictable ambush attempt by the lunging male, the sexy lady turns out to be the one he should be defending himself against, and she kicks his ass herself.

This isn't the best episode of season 4, but if they had kept up this level of quality as a minimum from the first season on, Enterprise would probably still be on the air.
Starfleet Spacesuit Company - Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - 2:59am (USA Central)
On behalf of the Starfleet Spacesuit Company I wish to say sorry for such a poor design choice when it comes to the oxygen supply. Clearly having the oxygen pipe disconnect so easily from the tank is a design flaw which should have been noticed in testing. In hindsight, a simple locking mechanism similar to an automobile seat belt may have been a wise design choice.

I do understand this is the fourth time this has occurred which has nearly resulted in the death of a crew member.

Once again I must apologize.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - 7:35pm (USA Central)
Hehehe - I love the "insult each other" culture. Far more amusing than, say, the Ferengi. Should've had these guys in more often!

Called that it'd be a ship that can disguise itself early on, even without the trailer, and Romulans weren't much of a stretch either from a few episodes ago.

Nothing much else to say! Ooh, they're controlling things from FF7's Midgar.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - 7:39pm (USA Central)
Also, LOL at the comment above about the suits. Very true! The "detachment of oxygen tube" issue is pretty terrible and starting to give the Voyager Shuttle Crash a run for its money!
Annie - Sun, Jan 6, 2013 - 5:38pm (USA Central)
To the representative from Starfleet Spacesuit Company, while you are redesigning the suits, you might consider also designing them so that the person inside the suit can reconnect the hose himself rather than relying on a nearby colleague.
Gary - Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
Not only is it too easy to detach the air supply, why in the hell is it designed so that the air hose loop can catch on something? And why isn't there some sort of check valve that stops the flow when the air is escaping too fast?

For the same reason that the consoles on the bridge explode: It looks cool and adds to the drama.
Snooky - Fri, Jul 18, 2014 - 1:52am (USA Central)
LOL about the EVA suits and the design flaw. So, so true. And the exploding bridges... Can you imagine a fire inspector giving these flammable bridges the green light? Me neither. Especially when they explode in showers of sparks no matter what part of the giant ship gets hit. Very bad wiring.

I loved this Babel arc. It filled in so much backstory for the original "Journey to Babel." And it has SHRAN!! With antennae that move! And his hot female sidekick, who kicks MACO ass!

The drone thing was cool -- and really timely here in 2014. I agree it's a stretch that Romulans had the tech that early, but they alone had cloaking devices in Kirk's century, so maybe they're just advanced in an ADD way -- develop a new toy, then discard it for the next.

And it's surprising the crew didn't guess that a holographic projection was taking place when they clearly identified it by its power signature -- obviously it wasn't an Andorian ship that attacked the Tellerites. It's a little disconcerting when the audience is a step ahead of the crew.

I got a deep Trekkie thrill seeing the four original Federation races all gathered together, starting to build an alliance. It would be more perfect if a captain as cool as Picard was involved. I really, really have to suspend disbelief to accept that the hothead Archer has anything to do with bringing the species together.

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