Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Home"

***

Air date: 10/22/2004
Written by Mike Sussman
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Seen any good movies while I was gone?"
"Another World War III epic. Swept all the awards."

— Archer and Hernandez

In brief: A step in the right direction, although it still has some obvious flaws.

In what could end up being one of the most necessary and yet overlooked episodes of the season, "Home" takes a crack at supplying the coda for season three by showing us the Enterprise's homecoming after its grueling mission in the Delphic Expanse. In the parlance of our time: If "Zero Hour" was season three blowing its wad, then "Home" is the pillow talk that follows. (Don't ask me where that leaves "Storm Front" in terms of that metaphor. You probably don't want to know.)

The results of "Home" are good but not wonderful. I'm glad the writers did this episode rather than launching straight into a new plot line. But I also think they could've pulled this episode off better than they did. "Home" supplies some welcome things I was happy to see, but it doesn't go about it in the best ways. Some ideas are ham-handed in execution.

It starts with a heroes' welcome in San Francisco, where Archer acknowledges the dedication of his crew and especially the 27 crew members who did not return from the mission alive. It's good to see this moment on-screen rather than to hear about it in throwaway dialog. Similarly, it's also good to see the continuing construction of the Columbia, the Enterprise's new sister ship, which is nearly ready to launch. It even has a newly appointed captain, Erika Hernandez (Ada Maris), an old friend of Archer's.

In an episode that has a number of good ideas, the best is the introduction of Hernandez and the Columbia; I hope we see them again and that they become an actual part of this series' fabric. The notion that Starfleet is expanding its warp-5 fleet beyond the Enterprise is crucial to conveying the continuing growth and development of Starfleet.

Another idea I liked was Archer's mission debriefing. Honestly, the debriefing itself could've been an entire episode, possibly a fascinating one. We get a taste of the debriefing here: Soval, in his typically skeptical tone, begins asking Archer about the events of "Impulse," which ultimately ended in the destruction of the Vulcan ship Seleya and its crew. Archer tries to explain, but he doesn't like the implications of Soval's questions, and eventually Archer launches into a dramatically charged tirade against Soval that I must admit had me nodding in agreement: "I got more help from the Andorians than I ever got from the High Command! This planet would be a cloud of dust right now if we'd listened to you!"

What's interesting about Archer's admittedly unprofessional outburst is that we, as witnesses to Archer's ordeal over the past year, can understand the feelings and logic behind it. He's right that Soval has always been an obstinately uncooperative skeptic — and now Soval has the nerve to question Archer about the loss of the Seleya?

The debriefing is suspended and Admiral Forrest tells Archer he is out of line and orders him to take a few days to cool off. Archer decides to go mountain climbing in seclusion so he can clear his head. He unexpectedly runs into Captain Hernandez, who has followed him out here, no doubt sensing Archer could use an ear to rend. Is there some rule somewhere that says starship captains must inevitably turn out to be rock climbers?

Archer vents his doubts about space exploration in light of the vast amount of conflict and battle he's experienced. He suggests that Starfleet will now be more about defending Earth than exploring space. Hernandez thinks Archer is overreacting. "That's not the mission either one of us signed up for," she says. "Maybe you'll feel differently after you've delivered a few dozen eulogies," he responds.

Some of this works well, like when Archer talks about how his initial objections to weapons on the Enterprise were ultimately wrong, or when he confesses that during the mission in the expanse, "I lost something out there, and I don't know how to get it back."

Some of this is simply overstated, as when Archer says, "Maybe the Vulcans were right; maybe we weren't ready," and suggests that 7 million people might still be alive if the Enterprise hadn't been out "stirring up trouble." I simply don't buy that Archer honestly believes those words, even for a minute. He talks here almost like he's buying into the role of devil's advocate despite the actual truth. I can understand his doubts, particularly those about the ethical corners he cut (he specifically mentions the incident of torture as well as having marooned an innocent crew), but I think the writers, in putting forward the argument through Archer, vocalize more doubts than are actually believable given all the facts.

Still, it's good to see Archer questioning himself, and Hernandez turns out to be a loyal friend who offers her support in Archer's time of need. Indeed, it turns out that these two once had a relationship where they were more than just friends, and the episode indicates that they still have some more-than-friends feelings (although whether it will go anywhere is unlikely, since both are, as Hernandez puts it, "already married to Starfleet").

But it's not just Archer who has changed. Earth is also going through its own post-trauma, although this area of the story isn't as appealing. The whole situation with the barroom bigot and the ensuing brawl is handled with all the subtlety of a nine-iron to the temple. The setup comes when Reed warns Phlox to be careful while on Earth, because the Xindi attack has left people a bit jittery and xenophobic. Perhaps not an awful concept (I suppose it will do as an echo of some similar feelings in the U.S. following 9/11), but you'd think that 22nd-century sensibilities would draw the distinction between Xindi attackers and other aliens who are obviously non-hostile.

But, sure enough, while Reed, Mayweather, and Phlox are minding their own business in a bar, a patron (Joe Chrest) comes up and starts suggesting that Phlox should find somewhere else to drink. This is handled with such lazy, superficial contempt that it feels forced. Something more subtle would've been better. Reed and Mayweather end up in a bar brawl coming to their crewmate's defense. The scene ends with Phlox puffing up like a blowfish, which is so odd and unexpected that it's almost effective.

The idea that the Xindi attack has shaken Earth is fine, but I think there are better ways to demonstrate it than with witless bar fights.

That leaves the last strand of the story involving T'Pol and Trip, which is less interesting than what's happening on Earth but actually proves to be the most complicated from a character point of view. Of course, leave it to UPN to promote "Home" as if it was going to be a fun-n-festive Vulcan wedding show (which, thankfully, it isn't). The trailer couldn't be more misleading. The wedding itself doesn't happen until the very last minute of the show, and even then it's barely seen. And it's certainly more solemn than it is festive.

But this is not really about a wedding at all. It's about fulfilling family obligations and following old traditions — values that may seem as baffling to many Enterprise viewers as it does here to Trip. While modern American society tends to emphasize the individual over tradition, there are societies that still commonly practice arranged marriages (India in particular comes to mind), and what we have here is a human-Vulcan culture shock (right down to the fact that the guests are expected to make breakfast). What complicates things is that T'Pol finds that she has ventured recently toward human thinking and away from Vulcan traditions.

T'Pol returns to Vulcan to visit her mother (Joanna Cassidy). Trip, who has no hometown or family anymore (destroyed in the Xindi attack) tags along. We can see that T'Pol's relationship with her mother is somewhat strained, with T'Pol leaning toward individuality where her mother leans toward tradition. The tension between them is played fairly well, especially by Cassidy, who understands that Vulcans need not sound like robots to sound like Vulcans. When T'Pol starts to show cracks in her emotion-controlled facade, her mother asks, "What's happened to you?" in a tone that is just about perfect.

Things don't get any better when T'Pol's former fiance, Koss (Michael Reilly Burke), comes calling. He wants to resume the marriage plans. T'Pol doesn't. From here, the family negotiations begin, as it turns out that T'Pol's mother, who lost her teaching position because of the political fallout of T'Pol resigning from the High Command, can regain her job with the help of influence from Koss' family — if T'Pol agrees to marry him.

I'm not sure what to make of all this back-room maneuvering. Indeed, I can't claim to understand the terms of the marriage at all. What's the point of Koss marrying T'Pol if she's obviously just doing it out of obligation and to help her mother? I can wrap my brain around the concept of an arranged marriage, and even T'Pol's selflessness, but I don't understand where Koss sees himself in this. I guess he's willing to wait for T'Pol to maybe come around.

This, of course, leaves Trip sidelined. Trip realizes here that he's actually in love with her, although the sentiment doesn't really work, mainly because the way these two ostensibly got together was presented as so meaningless (see "Harbinger"). This is really the first real look we've had at the relationship. I would guess this represents a turning point in their relationship, which is kind of strange considering T'Pol marries someone else.

"Home" has its flawed rough edges. But what I appreciate about it, especially after the largely concocted and irrelevant "Storm Front," is that it puts us back in the legitimate Star Trek universe, where things are happening on Earth and the story services the characters. That's a step in the right direction for season four.

Next week: Brent Spiner, Klingons, Orion slave girls, eugenic soldiers. Does this signal the beginning of the Coto era?

Previous episode: Storm Front, Part II
Next episode: Borderland

Season Index

20 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru - Fri, Nov 14, 2008 - 7:33am (USA Central)
Well, you put it right: "Good but not wonderful". It was at least as important as TNGs "Family", but not quite as strong.
Carbetarian - Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - 4:48am (USA Central)
I liked this one. Phlox's puffer fish face was a very "WTF?!?" moment for me though.
Grumpy - Sun, May 1, 2011 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
Archer said they wouldn't have survived the Xindi mission without the "sacrifice" of those killed along the way. For the record, whose deaths allowed the mission to go on?

Hawkins, arguably, since the Sphere Claw might otherwise have grabbed T'Pol first, and she was pretty essential to the ultimate battle. For all the rest, their getting sucked out of hull breaches or fried by exploding consoles provided no tactical advantage.
Marco P. - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 11:08am (USA Central)
Dear God... was I just watching Star Trek Enterprise??? Because honestly this doesn't look like the same show! Between seasons 1 to 3 and the first 3 episodes of season 4 there is a NIGHT vs. DAY difference! I feel like I'm watching a *REAL* sci-fi drama for the very first time since I pressed PLAY on "Broken Bow".

I honestly and truthfully have nearly *nothing* negative to say about "Home"! There are 3 story arcs and they all are perfectly paced, acted, and executed. More importantly there is REAL character exploration in all three, albeit at different levels.

First we have Archer, facing his debriefing and yet another wave of Vulcan hostility. He snaps out at first, but it is an understandable emotional response, rooted in fact rather than a plot contrivance to create false antagonism between humans and Vulcans (like we often saw during Season 1). At the end of the episode the reconciliation between Soval and the captain rings true: not only have both had adequate time for reflection, but they are now capable of seeing the other's point of view. More importantly they both look like intelligent people rather than pig-headed idiots, and the viewer comes to same conclusion by himself (instead of being spoon-fed by poor dialogue).

In between, during the mountain-climbing trek Archer comes to face with his inner demons. It is one of the first few times where I've genuinely empathized with Archer, because he sees the choices he's had to make over the Xindi war and they don't represent the idealistic notion of a StarFleet captain, a notion he fully embraced once he started off on his journey in season 1 and one he doesn't see now by looking at himself in the mirror. He feels he has lost a bit of his humanity and perhaps he's right. At any rate this character exploration, which was virtually non-existent during any of the previous seasons, provides the vital structural fabric necessary for us to finally FEEL for Archer, empathize with him and understand what he's going through on the human level. By the same token, the romance with Erika (who provides the ex-girlfriend shoulder to cry on and offers Archer some of his humanity back) has the same "right" tone to it. Both actors pull off the scene admirably and this provides very strong evidence in support of Scott Bakula: any distaste/indifference we might have had for Archer in previous seasons was not the actor's fault, but rather how the character had been written.

Secondly, we have the T'Pol/Trip arc on Vulcan. For the very first time (and this perhaps why Jammer didn't buy it) we see these two interacting in ways that are neither cliché, openly saucy-and-sexy-for-viewer-ratings, or dumb. They act like *real* people. Yes, the root of their relationship and how they got together the first time... SUCKED (for lack of a better word). But I am drawing the same line here that I drew in my commentary of the "Storm Front Part II" episode. This line separates the period of Berman & Braga with that of Manny Coto, and if the latter wants to be successful it must treat events that took place in the former in a very particular way: it must focus on INTENDED effect (namely here, T'Pol & Trip *doing* it in a way that has emotional consequences) rather than the actual hash that was displayed on the TV screen due to inept writing.

With that in mind it is fully conceivable the two characters developed a true emotional attachment to one another over season 3, and it is one that has a worthy resolution here with a backdrop of finely-tuned themes of arranged-marriage and Vulcan society/family obligations. T'Pol's mother, which during former seasons I have no doubt would have served as a hollow character, a mere tool advance the plot... instead looks and acts like a REAL person here. My only regret is the way the story was wrapped up, namely not the "love-conquers-all" ending I was expecting. Perhaps it's a good thing, and perhaps the show should be commended for avoiding an obvious RomCom cliché. Still, I couldn't help but "Aww" when the wedding does go through (I guess I'm a romantic).

Lastly, we have the Earth post-Xindi war trauma/bigotry theme featuring Phlox (which also provides Reed, Mayweather, and Hoshi with some screen time). I will admit the barroom brawl feels very contrived and expected, and intelligent humans *should* make the distinction between Xindi and other obviously non-hostile aliens. That said, there is no evidence to attest to the intelligence of the bar patron picking the fight (quite the contrary in fact). So despite feeling expected, the whole scene does not have the otherwise "fake" feel I felt in similar outings of seasons 1-2.

As for the whole puffer-fish reaction by Phlox, it provided a WTF moment of pure jubilation for me. Not only is it funny, but it has the effect of defusing the "serious" tone of the situation immediately and perfectly. I cannot believe I'm saying this in an Enterprise context but I thought it was a moment of PURE GENIUS by the writers, nearly surpassed later by one of Phlox's lines during his dialogue with Hoshi. "My osmotic eel is under the weather" has to be the BEST excuse to get out of a date in the entire history of dates.

So in summary, this episodes features THREE simultaneous storylines and ALL THREE are worthy to receive full marks. when is the last time it happened on this show? I'll tell you when: NEVER.

4 Stars.

P.S. Grumpy, why are you taking Archer's words so literally? That's just what a captain *has* to say when delivering an eulogy, every member of his crew is essential to the ship's effort. Whether each casualty *individually* provided a tactical advantage isn't really the point.
Grumpy - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
Marco... I realize Archer was using a figure of speech. In effect, I was questioning the figure of speech itself.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Thu, Aug 4, 2011 - 4:12am (USA Central)
Well, having rewatched the episode today, I agree with Jammer on this one: "Honestly, the debriefing itself could've been an entire episode, possibly a fascinating one."
According to me it not only COULD have been an entire episode - it SHOULD have been! Why suspending the hearing when it got hairy (and interesting)? To go rock climbing?? They should have shown us more of the debriefing or even a court martial. I mean: torture, piracy, heavy losses - Archer has quite a track record, hasn't he? And let him ponder over this things in breaks during the debriefing with (the wonderful caracter) Cpt. Hernandez! That would/could have been really powerful! (And why did they have to kiss anyway!?)
Milica - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
The best episode ever! (The wedding made me cry though when TPol kissed Trip...) For the first time it goes deeper into the characters and we have a moment to relax from all that action.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
This is a 4 star for me, I loved it, maybe because it was just SO unbelievably needed.

Sorry to be crude, but after the endless battles of season 3 (I loved Archer's comment "boldly going into battle") this was very similar to really desperately needing a pee, and finally having one. It's the most relieved and satisfied I've felt with the show for a while!

It's just so nice to quieten down and see the characters a bit more. To see Archer beating himself up about some of his choices (as he perhaps should), reminding us that yes he does have a conscience, yes he is a decent human being still etc. I support his love story and it being fairly important for his mental and emotional health, and it's a shame it can't really develop like say Sisko and Cassidy Yates. Alas, the life of captains.

The Trip/T'Pol "I already have a fiancé" thing is rather cliché (two accents in one sentence, mannn) but worked well enough not to bother me and it's nice to see a bit more of Vulcan parenting. I'd also add that the house and area are indeed beautiful, and much nicer than the grim looking place Spock went to way back when :)

Story C with the rest of the crew, yeah, that was a bit overblown with a sort of "Wild West Saloon" thing going. Can't win them all. The blowfish thing evened it out!
CeeBee - Wed, Jan 2, 2013 - 4:49pm (USA Central)
Trip has no family left, the episode seems to state. But all we heard prior to this is that he lost his sister in the Xindi attack. No one else.

But he also had a brother. He practiced dancing with him because he wanted to ask a girl on high school prom or something similar. He told that to the renegade Vulcan engineer at odds with his dad.

Or did his brother die earlier? If he died in the attack as well, why wasn't he mourning him as well?

Hoshi has a father, Reed had a father and a mother, Travis had a mom and dad...
What about Trip's father or mother? Were they both deceased, or killed in the attack as well or whatever? He never mourned them, either.

The disappearance of his family always nagged me. Maybe someone here knows what was wrong with his brother and family?
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
T'Pol's clothes are way too trendy for Vulcan's attire. She doesn't stand out among the humans or the Vulcans of this time period or any other in the Star Trek universe. She looks like a teeny popper from 2004.
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 10:26pm (USA Central)
I meant to say that T'Pol does stand out among Humans and Vulcans.
auralgami - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 1:48am (USA Central)
Overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. As Jakob said, very much like "Family", though not quite as strong. Although, I think I'd qualify: not quite as strong in the same areas.

"Home" does not do for Archer what "Family" did for Picard. It was close. But as soon as Hernandez kisses Archer, it jumps over that cliff Archer only dreamed about. However, I think this is the best that the T'Pol/Trip relationship has been portrayed, and their scenes are all wonderful. For them, it's "Family" and more.

Restraint. This is the key to what works in the episode. All the Vulcan scenes have restraint, even though T'Pol is near bursting and everyone, Vulcans and Trip, have emotions bubbling to the surface.

It makes these scenes appear low-key, but there's this charge and energy beneath it all that just crackles. Also, I have to say that I'm very glad that all the Vulcan scenes felt exactly right. For a series that typically makes them one-dimensional jerks, it's refreshing to see Vulcans that look and act, well, Vulcan for a change.

Archer and Hernandez have this restraint, until they cross the line. I particularly liked Archer owning up to torture and marooning, as we as viewers constantly wonder if the writers forget these things. It's nice to see his character reflective, and see the contrast of war-weary Archer and starry-eyed Hernandez. It's a shame that her offer to help Archer find what he lost ended up in her pants. (I have nothing against Archer getting some, or relationships between senior officers, but it just seems to trivialize everything Archer is going through to say that all he needs is a good lay. It's a simplistic, lazy out.)

Restraint is the thing the bar scenes most definitely did *not* have, and they suffered for it. The scene where Malcom cautions Phlox before he goes to Earth is effective, because it seems so unfortunate yet all too believable.

Then it becomes a bad cartoon. Barfights are a tired enough cliche as it is, but they really don't work for a serious episode or issue. There's a way to tackle this kind of sentiment. That way is not "Stupid prejudice is bad. Let's punch each other."

I thought Jolene Blalock was fantastic, striking just the right note of a barely-contained T'Pol. It would have been easy to go too far, but she provides just enough contrast to the normal Vulcan facades.

I think the biggest difference between "Home" and "Family" is that "Family" kept its eye on where the characters came from, what was going on in their lives, and where they needed to go.

This worked beautifully for Trip and T'Pol, encompassing all those aspects and developing them. It's no surprise that these scenes were my favorites, but I think they were just all-around the most satisfying.

The Archer scenes come close, but drop the ball in the resolution. Yes, we want Archer to get his optimism back. But this was the pivotal crisis for Picard in "Family", and it was wrenching. Here, it's just a little too easy. In more than one sense of the word.

Finally, the Phlox story, while no less deserving, is just not well developed. Phlox's attitude is nuanced, but nothing else is. I don't know if this will be referenced later in the season, or it would have been better just to junk it in favor of more Vulcan scenes and giving Archer's turnaround a bit more meat on that bone.
John TY - Tue, Jan 15, 2013 - 9:18pm (USA Central)
I'd agree with your review Jammer.

The Archer stuff is best, although I think it degenerated a bit after the kiss.

The Vulcan part was second but still very annoying. I just can't buy the way they portray Vulcans in this series. Too emotional, too passive aggressive.

John Billingsley makes the 3rd part watchable but that's about it.

As everyone has stated; the episode we (mostly) had to have.
Arachnea - Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - 3:46am (USA Central)
It's a shame, in a 4th season with mini-arcs, that they didn't make "Home" a two-parters. What worked in "Family" was the fact that it was focused mainly on one character to describe the aftermath of the encounter with the Borgs.

I think there was much more to be done with each of the three stories. I agree with everyone, it was a delight to have a quiet and deep episode and I still rate it very high. The idea of xenophobia was good, but that's the topic they did partially wrong. The context was good, in a bar; though taking it against the doctor who was on the ship that saved earth is a bit hard to swallow. They could have started it against an anonymous andorian or tellarite.

I also agree that I had liked a long debriefing and more exploration of Archer's guilt. I enjoyed the little insight we had here, but it wasn't enough.

T'Pol's mother is a true vulcan, very logical but not impervious to human's emotions, recognizing that her daughter should have all the facts before making a decision. There are even hints that she sees Trip as not unreasonable, even for a human. Wonderful and tragic story.
Simon - Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - 2:05am (USA Central)
I guess that they didn't want to spend more than three episodes dealing with season three. However, I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to have wrapped up Stormfront in one episode and spent two on this one.

I did like the barfight, or at least its resolution, basically because I think its a fourth-wall-breaking visual gag (the man with the rubber forehead is actually *supposed* to have a rubber forehead) played deadpan, so you don't necessarily notice until later.
Nebula Nox - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 11:25pm (USA Central)
I loved how Trip fixed one of the appliances in the Vulcan kitchen... human men can be useful!
Anonymous - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 11:37am (USA Central)
Whoever started the rumor that season 4 is the best, most focused, etc., should go into marketing, or at least porn. The waves of raging unquestioning boners for what is just another season of "Star Trek: Wasted Potential" is mind boggling.
Jordy - Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - 1:38pm (USA Central)
All I could think about in this episode was how bony T'Pol looked. Someone please give her a donut - JB has always been slender but she looked almost skeletal in 'Home', and it was not attractive.
Nancy - Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
I agree the bar fight was lame. If I were Reed, my reply to the idiot complaining about Starfleet would be a reminder that I had just freaking saved the planet!
Jack - Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 11:55am (USA Central)
At the end of the last episode, the timeline repaired itself, according to Daniels, but how much was "undone"? THe Xindi swath and the 7 million casualties are still "real", since Archer whines about them here.

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