Star Trek: Enterprise

"Cease Fire"

2.5 stars

Air date: 2/12/2003
Written by Chris Black
Directed by David Straiton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I don't like pushing the engines this hard. The injectors are running at 110 percent."
"They're rated for 120."
"Yeah, and my underwear's flame-retardant. That doesn't mean I'm going to light myself on fire to prove it."

— Trip, T'Pol

In brief: More middling — if thematically respectable — fare.

Lukewarm indifference can be an awful feeling when experienced for a prolonged period. I look at my last four reviews in a row now: 2.5 stars, 2.5 stars, 2.5 stars, 2.5 stars. I tell myself that at least it means competently constructed television, but somehow that's cold comfort. I want a spark of life and ingenuity in my entertainment, and not simply responsible messages inside bland containers.

"Cease Fire" is more average Trekkian fare that inspires more indifference from me. The story is reasonable enough — don't get me wrong — but it's presented in perhaps the most by-the-numbers way imaginable. It's forensic-like in its approach to plot points: Point A, Point B, Point C. All that's missing are the Law & Order location-and-date cards and that unmistakable CLANG-CLANG:


The message: Peace requires patience and compromise on both sides. Archer is able to bring the two parties to the table so they listen to each other and compromise. By the end, problems may not be completely solved, but things are nicely wrapped up for the moment and we have cause for hope. If only the real world were so hopeful, I'd have that Middle East thing solved in an hour. Maybe two. At least the Star Trek universe is still hopeful of such possibilities.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that getting from A to B to C is like watching the construction of some hoary storytelling techniques at work. It's gotten to the point that I wonder if the problem is not the material, but the reviewer who is tired of some of the material. Am I jaded and cynical? I hope not. Maybe it's just the fact that "Cease Fire" employs in its arsenal of storytelling techniques things that fail to move me because they don't have any freshness to them. Things like hostage-taking, obstinate Vulcans, traitors in plain view, shuttles being shot out of the sky and thus crashing to the ground, and bloodless shootouts with unseen enemies that seem to go on forever. No amount of reasonable dialog or good intentions is going to make elements like that feel new or exciting (or, at least, not in this case). It makes me thirst for a clever plot with a clever twist.

The indispensable Jeffrey Combs returns as the ever-serious Andorian leader Shran, who has requested Archer mediate a dispute between the Andorians and the Vulcans. The dispute is over a seemingly worthless rock of a planetoid called Paan Mokar by the Vulcans — Weytahn by the Andorians — uninhabitable until the Andorians began terraforming (Andoriaforming?) it a century ago. The Vulcans then annexed the planet on the account it was so close to their homeworld, and subsequently used force to remove the Andorian colonists from the planet. They justified these actions with their belief that it was obvious the Andorians were setting up a strategic military base that could threaten Vulcan interests. A treaty was put in place forbidding occupation of the planetoid. Now Shran has reoccupied the vacant colony and taken hostages from the Vulcan security forces who were sent in to remove him. Tensions are on the verge of escalating into a more serious armed conflict.

Of course, any story about a long-standing quarrel over a small territory between two strongly opposing sides with stakes in the matter will immediately remind us of the endless tensions of the Israeli/Palestinian issue. And like that situation, "Cease Fire" takes two parties whose solution lies only within the ability for both to make concessions neither wants to make. Enter Jonathan Archer as a neutral party to urge both sides to compromise. The Vulcans grudgingly accept him because they have little choice; Shran accepts him because Archer has shown in past dealings an ability to see things from a fair and neutral perspective.

I have to admit that the Vulcans continue to baffle me. I always figured they were governed, even in this century, by enlightened logic and a desire for peace in the galaxy — and yet they display the intolerance we saw in last week's "Stigma," and here it's revealed they annexed a world on suspicion of Andorian military planning (apparently not proven; the episode is murky on this point). Somehow, I always figured the Vulcans as more diplomatic than that, but perhaps they simply have no reason to trust the Andorians. Also, perhaps the writers want to reinvent the Vulcans as a flawed society in need of some repair.

I must admit that the mechanics of the plot did not much interest me. The hostage holding, mistrust, threats of violence, and ensuing action are put forward with a sense of clockwork routine that the episode can never really overcome. Shran's trusted lieutenant is a voice of Andorian skepticism when it comes to trusting the Vulcans. Her name is Tarah, played by the ever-tall Suzie Plakson (6-foot-1.5, according to the IMDB), another familiar Trekkian face (she played K'ehleyr on TNG and also the mother of Q's child in Voyager's "The Q and the Grey"). The fact that she is Shran's trusted lieutenant should not, under any circumstances, lead one to believe she is trustworthy; the plot point of her betrayal can be predicted half a dozen scenes in advance.

The idea is to get Vulcan Ambassador Soval (Gary Graham) and Shran in the same room with Archer so they can hammer out an agreement. Archer, Soval, and T'Pol take a shuttlepod to meet Shran on his terms. En route, the shuttlepod is shot down by Andorian militants who are not so keen on Shran's initiative of negotiation. Archer et al now find themselves in hostile territory where they must evade/engage armed Andorians who are not obeying Shran's orders in regard to the peace process.

These passages consist of fairly boring, protracted action material. I may be in the minority, but I'd favor a juicy scene of heated negotiation with specifically detailed points and good dramatic acting over any dozen scenes of Archer doing somersaults with phase-pistol in hand and then engaging in fisticuffs with Tall Tarah. But that's just me.

Tarah, by the way, is the one who willfully undermined Shran by ordering the attack on the negotiating party. Tarah's role in the plot is far too obviously telegraphed for my tastes, but the point being made here is a valid one: The leadership often has to combat the attitudes of the people they lead in an effort to gain the support for an unpopular initiative. (Disclaimer: This paragraph does not constitute my endorsement of a U.S. war in Iraq.)

One character moment that caught my attention in the midst of otherwise bland action was an exchange between T'Pol and Soval regarding her evolving attitudes as a result of being a part of the Enterprise crew. He asks her why she has remained aboard Enterprise instead of taking a path that would've provided her more career advancement by now. She responds with, "I find the work gratifying." There's more to the dialog, and it proves to be a nice exchange that shows T'Pol's loyalty to the Enterprise's mission.

Some exchanges that got slightly annoying, on the other hand, were ones involving the Andorians' term for humans, "pink-skins." Apparently they are not aware that not all humans have the same color skin. Of course, I suppose this is only fair since I'm making the same assumption in thinking all Andorians are blue.

The negotiations at the end are generic, unspecific, and somewhat underwhelming, but that's probably okay. They do convey the point of this episode, which is that the only workable solution in a conflict like this is when all parties walk away from the table partially unhappy. It also demonstrates the other theme of the episode, which is that humans will become more important on the galactic canvas through diplomatic events like this.

While I can't quite recommend "Cease Fire" on the whole, I can recommend one sentiment at the core of the episode, which is aptly summed up in some dialog by Archer: "Maybe we're not out here to just scan comets and meet new species. Maybe we're out here to prove that humanity is ready to join a much larger community. I intend to do that." Well said. Now if only we can get rid of the pointless phaser shootouts and the fisticuffs, and depict the solutions with a little more interest, we'll be in good shape.

Next week: The crew discovers a new front in the temporal cold war.

Previous episode: Stigma
Next episode: Future Tense

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

29 comments on this post

Mon, Sep 10, 2007, 9:16pm (UTC -6)
"I may be in the minority, but I'd favor a juicy scene of heated negotiation with specifically detailed points and good dramatic acting"

I was waiting for a scene...and waiting for a scene. shouting in my mind 'c'mon...enough with this scripted action....get to the negotiating table!'. But alas it was not to be. But as you say, there are some good parts to it, mainly in its theme.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Wed, Oct 8, 2008, 4:44am (UTC -6)
"I may be in the minority, but I'd favor a juicy scene of heated negotiation with specifically detailed points and good dramatic acting over any dozen scenes of Archer doing somersaults with phase-pistol in hand and then engaging in fisticuffs with Tall Tarah. But that's just me."

You are not the minority and it is not just you. I was also expecting (and hoping for) a scene at the negotiation table. What could that have been for Jeffrey Combs and the great Suzie Plakson!
Wed, Sep 16, 2009, 2:11am (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this one very much. It is classic Trek in both theme and execution. That's not enough for some, I guess, but it's enough for me. 3-3.5 stars.
Fri, Dec 17, 2010, 10:40pm (UTC -6)
I too would have liked a scene at the negotiating table. Normally, this script would have been a two star outing for me. But, Jeffrey Combs Manages to pull this up to your two and a half star rating for me as well.
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
I also would have liked to see some real negotiation, and I was equally disappointed. I feel similar frustration with the past handful of mediocre episodes. What I liked about Star Trek was the way it made you think, and brought up moral dilemmas and cultural issues, or even interesting character development. I'm just not seeing that much in this series. I hope it gets better.
Fri, May 25, 2012, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
Trek has done compromise and negotiation many times before, and that's obviously where one big complaint lies. But oddly enough, I don't recall any time when "both sides must walk away not completely satisfied, in order to compromise" has really been hammered home as a point. It's a simple one, yet not always as obvious as it sounds - plus with the Trek idealism it's always seemed to be more of a case of "both sides somehow walk away happy" and this is far more realistic.

How interesting then, that it applies to the episode. The die-hards wanted TNG/early-DS9 style in-depth discussions that promote discussion for decades to come and change our very way of thinking. Their target audience at the time was people who want lasers and somersaults. We got a pretty fair compromise / mix of both, which... don't kill me... I actually kind of enjoyed.

3/4 for me. True, could have been 4/4 if it was less of a compromise.
Fri, May 25, 2012, 6:22pm (UTC -6)
P.S. (typical to remember just after submitting!)

I was delighted at first to see Combs play an important Andorian. It was fun, and he's a great talent. But I don't like that he's a recurring character - despite the different character personalities (the Andorian guy is quite reasonable) I cannot get away from the fact that it's Combs, he has a signature style and a signature voice and it's just... it REALLY messes up the immersion. I have to keep myself from just inventing some non-canon story in my head where his DNA was used centuries later to make Weyoun.
Captain Jim
Tue, Aug 14, 2012, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
Jammer said, "It's gotten to the point that I wonder if the problem is not the material, but the reviewer who is tired of some of the material."

No offense, but I do think that may be part of it. Not that we've had a lot of gems this season, but I read your last few seasons worth of reviews on Voyager, and I think comparable episodes tended to be rated a bit more highly. At least, I don't recall a long chain of 2 1/2 star ratings there.
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 4:16pm (UTC -6)
Agree with Cloudane. This is some important back story for the founding of the Federation, for T'Pol, it has continuity... No, it's not DS9 "politics" but I think it is a standout for Enterprise, I'd boost it at least half a star.
Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 8:06am (UTC -6)
This episode is just bad on so many levels. Instead of giving lots of time and dedication to seeing Andorians and Vulcans on screen, the show instead finds lots of time for mindless action sequences, leaving all of the potentially interest conflicts and characters out of the story.

I also find Archer's gloaty behaviour infront of Soval to be rather immature. This is the first time humanity can step up as demonstrate that they are ready to be a mature member of the interstellar community, yet Archer prioritizes gloating to Soval everything else. This is the spokesman for humanity? This is the best we could find?

Even when Archer gets serious about this role for humanity when he speaks about it to Phlox, it doesn't come as sincere in the slightest. The acting is kind of terrible in this scene from him. It's not coming from a place maturity or centeredness. It sounds like he has something to proof to his unaccepting dad.

It's really disappointing when the series actually does an episode that could develop into something wonderful, but instead turns out to be total rubbish. What a wasted opportunity. I don't know how the writers can live with the quality of their work.
Mallory R.
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 6:39pm (UTC -6)
Jeffrey Combs is always a treat. That said, this is an episode with more story than time. I could easily see this as 3 or more episodes. The inner conflict with the Andorians (I really wanted Shran to shoot Tarah.) More Trip in command and for heaven's sake is a space battle scene too much to bloody ask? (Poor Malcom!) And the Vulcan...these Vulcans are one big sour note. Every Vulcan should have some emotional breakdown. (Perhaps his meditation staff could break before he got it out of his...) I'm sure this episode looked good on paper, but it needed to breathe.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 8:33am (UTC -6)
Another fairly by the books hour, this time in a well-worn negotiation theme. What's interesting is that we get very little of the actual negotiations - although the looks on the Vulcan's faces when trying the drink at the end is worth the wait.

What we do get is a lot of shootiebangs and Archer punching out an Andorian woman. Which is all perfectly well played, but doesn't really offer a great deal of depth. OK, but not much more. 2.5 stars.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
I personally had no desire to see an in-depth negotiation. Good lord, we never even saw Surak do that drivel.

Suzie Plakson and Combs in the same episode? That's 3 stars right off the bat! :-) Boy she towers over him ... lol

Someone suggested Suzie get shot after undermining Shran.... NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I lost her in one episode already!!! :-)

Love this episode! Easily one of this season's finest.

I think it's so good because I like Shran's decision to have Archer mediate. It's a logical choice from his standpoint. This "little war" instigated by the Andorians also is very plausible because of P'Jem.

I love how T'Pol wants her Captain to succeed and inundates him with references... the scene in the shuttle was nice.

I didn't have a problem with any of the "pew-pew" stuff. I didn't expect Soval to take a hit.

Archer's also right on point here:

"ARCHER: I believe someone once defined a compromise as a solution that neither side is happy with."

Just because all we see on TV is two sides shaking hands with someone taking credit in the middle doesn't mean that either sideis happy.

Love this too:

"SOVAL: Captain, your presence here has not been overly meddlesome."

Good day for Archer. He now know's he has a friend in Shran and Soval for the first time doesn't just walk out on him with his nose up in the air.

4 star episode in my book.
Mon, May 15, 2017, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
A good episode but I agree with Jammer's points about the action scenes. After watching many episodes of ENT, I do feel they seem kind of blah. Nothing special about them anymore - just different colors of light beams zipping here and there in some sketchy place.
The good parts about this episode are the "philosophical" debates between Soval/T'Pol and Shran/Tarah. Also thought it was good how Tripp handled the situation in space between the Andorians and Vulcans.
It was a nice ending with the uncomfortable compromise and uneasiness between all parties and also good to see Archer be well-regarded by the Andorians.
While there was some element of predictability, it is a well-paced episode that keeps one interested - although some of the action scenes went on for a bit longer than they should have.
Not a fan of the Vulcans being portrayed as jerks given how they would come to be understood but that's not particular to just this episode. Nevertheless, it's a good episode and worthy of a decent 3 stars rating.
Just another fan
Tue, Oct 10, 2017, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
I agree that the action sequences don't do much for this episode, and the plot is somewhat predictable. But tell the truth now, are you every truly surprised by any plot these days? For my part, not since the Sixth Sense.

I enjoyed the performances by the guest stars -- Mr. Combs (always a treat), Tall Tarah (always a treat, in any incarnation) and Gary Graham. Mr. Graham is very believable as the irritable but reasonable Ambassador Soval. And the exchanges between T'Pol and Soval and Archer and Phlox helped move the characters along.

For the performances, I rate it 3 stars.
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 4:36pm (UTC -6)
I didn't think the last few episodes deserved 2.5 stars but this one does. Maybe even three. The shooting was boring and the plot was predictable but the planet looked good, some of the acting was fine, tall blue woman with the antennas was just spectacular in so many ways. So yeah. Good stuff. Oh, Archer must stop walking around and looking away and dropping long pauses when talking to people. Archer is really annoying. More episodes with T'Pol in command would be great.
Jason R.
Sun, Jul 28, 2019, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
"Trek has done compromise and negotiation many times before"

Has it? The only example that comes to mind is TNG's the Price and that was only little snippets. Most of the time it's just some mediator (Sarek, Picard etc..) showing up and then the afterward.

As someone who has sat at a lot of negotiating tables, I would be curious to see this realistically portrayed in a TV show. I too would have been pleased if the phasers fights were cut in place if some actual negotiating to show *how* Archer got these two intransigent parties to compromise.

But all the same, this was an enjoyable episode. I'm starting to like how the show is building, episode by episode, on establishing a certain open-minded Trekkian value system for the humans. You start to see how the Federation came to be and why the Vulcans could never have created it.
Mon, Nov 25, 2019, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
This is one episode that really improves when considered in the context of the series. I can see how, watching these episodes weekly in 2003, “Cease Fire” would’ve come off as slight and inconsequential, especially with how neatly the situation is tied up in the end. But watching the whole series on Blu-Ray, I’ve been impressed with how well certain story arcs are building subtly and gradually. Mainly T’Pol’s growing acceptance of humans and the bond of trust between her and Archer (let’s pretend “A Night in Sickbay” never happened). Enterprise needed MUCH more world-building in its first two seasons, and this episode is exactly what they should’ve been doing. When you know how well the Vulcan / Andorian plot is handled going forward, episodes like this come off as important stepping stones.

Like Jammer, I really appreciated certain scenes such as the Soval / T’Pol conversation and Archer’s speech to Phlox about humans joining the broader community. It’s exactly what I wanted to see from a Star Trek prequel: showing the beginnings of cooperation between humans and Vulcans, and how the Federation was founded. Trip literally flying the Enterprise in the middle of the Vulcan / Andorian conflict is a great visual metaphor for this latter theme. But unlike Jammer, I enjoyed the rest of the episode too. Jeffrey Combs, Suzie Plakson, and Gary Graham are all great. That’s one of the Rick Berman era’s greatest strengths; they found excellent character actors and brought back the best ones again and again. Even if the plot elements are familiar, the episode is directed with enough zip that it kept me entertained. And though I’m normally down for a great negotiation scene, I was OK with skipping it in this episode. That’s part of the point: getting to the table is an ordeal in itself. ***1/2 stars
James Band
Thu, Sep 3, 2020, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
Agreed with Quibbles.

Great episode.
Mon, Sep 28, 2020, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
I think Jammer's right on the money about being tired of the material. This was airing during a period when at least one Trek had been on the air for a decade. The formula is a winner, but even good things get old after awhile. However, watching the series years later, my own opinion is that Enterprise is certainly superior to Voyager, and compares favorably even with some early TNG. Enterprise doesn't deserve the bad rap, although I do wish they'd change the theme song.
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 3:48am (UTC -6)
Dba I'll follow up on something you said. I'm a big fan of Enterprise, much more than DS9 or Voyager, even more than many TNG episodes. I found this episode pretty well balanced, "comfortable" and engaging, though I agree with those who say the writers could've written it tighter, better, with more tension, more pointed. I like how it expands on the Vulcan-Andorian conflict. Moments I like: when Soval says "Vulcans don't drink"; Shran doing his squinting and occasional bellowing; the whole exchange between T'Pol and Soval while under fire; the visual of the planet when ships are flying toward it. Trip gets camera time in the center seat, and we see the other crew some too. And Archer gets more experience as the Earth captain helping other species resolve differences, through talk and action.
Sean J Hagins
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
A wonderful episode! Things are brought further along as the Andorians and Vulcans further their trust in humans, and also they both realise that there are peacemakers in both camps.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 11:47am (UTC -6)
I'd probably bump it up to a 3/4 myself, though it's definitely lacking in some actual negotiations. The Vulcan/Andorian conflict remains quite interesting though and I hope it's something the show continues to develop over its run.
I Am Nomad
Mon, Jun 7, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
I think I'd give this 3.5 out of 4: I LOVED Combs and Plakson: they're both so fun to watch :). Trip had a cool moment in command and Archer did a competent job, which I consider a win for him. Even Soval relaxed on the dickishness a little. It might have been improved by a negotiating table scene, but I wasn't sad about how it ended.
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
I think Soval taking T'Pol to task about arrogance (and it being an emotion) was a bit rich, given all prior depictions of Soval up to this point. He's basically defining the "arrogant prick" archetype for Vulcans in ENT.

I appreciated the continuity from "Singularity" with the Tactical Alert, and I appreciated Trip being a competent commander here. Strange that he was not a competent commander at all in "The Seventh," just a few episodes ago. Maybe bravery/brinkmanship (being willing to sacrifice ship and crew to try to prevent interstellar war) is actually easier for him than weighty decisions about diplomacy and crew health.

Tarrah states explicitly here that Andorian weapons don't have a stun setting. Yet, Soval gets hit by one somewhere between chest and shoulder, and he is totally fine aside from a flesh wound?? Maybe 22nd century particle beam weapons don't actually pack the same punch as their later counterparts from the TOS and TNG era. Have we seen anyone actually vapourize something in this series yet? (Probably). If Andorian weapons don't have a stun setting, then perhaps Vulcan weapons don't either, which would explain T'Pol's dilemma in having to shoot Jossen to kill in "The Seventh." But honestly, I find it highly implausible that the Vulcans and Andorians wouldn't have been able to come up with a feature that nascent/proto *Starfleet* was able to develop on basically their first attempt at particle beam weapons. They may have excluded the feature on purpose, but that seems implausible in the Vulcans' case. Where's the logic in having to resort to lethal force every time there is a firefight?

I agree with basically all previous commenters that Tarrah's status as the traitor was too obvious from early on, and the whole business of overcoming her as an obstacle just became tedious. I also agree with previous commenters that a scene at the negotiating table would have been welcome. I remember watching this episode, and realizing that there were only 10 minutes left, despite the fact that they still hadn't reached Shran. The pacing was just off.

Overall I might bump this up to 3 stars, but I think 2.5 is fair. This episode just seems slightly better than the previous two outings, if only because of its contribution to building the world/setting.
Mon, Sep 12, 2022, 9:07pm (UTC -6)
Interesting, all the complaints about the "by-the-numbers" action.
Yep. It is. Do you want an over-the-top hyper-stylized action of a Tarantino film instead? As one who's been watching action scenes in Trek since watching TOS as a kid.... it's hard to do anything *new* in action scenes.

In that regard, Trek is showing it's age.

But, do you care about the characters? In many ENT, Archer is such a doofus that I don't care - in several, I wanted him to get shot just to teach him a lesson. In this one, he acts like he's actually worthy of command -- and I do care about what happens to him.

Yeah, I still don't like the way they've libeled the Vulcans. But I like the growing rapport between Andoria and Earth -- that's apparently a key element in the founding of the Federation.

And I think ST has done negotiation. DS9's "Life Support", TNG "Devil's Due", any number of courtroom episodes, etc.. Given a choice between a by-the-numbers action and a by-the-numbers negotiation..... at least the action is more interesting to watch.

Tue, Oct 10, 2023, 6:55pm (UTC -6)
What is it with all the vulcan lying? In TOS they were incapable. Of course nimoy was such an excellent vulcan. You really believed it, and he only half vulcan but now they are completely unprincipled. It seems impossible to fix the vulcan backstory at this point.
Top Hat
Wed, Oct 11, 2023, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
Spock himself lies through his teeth at various points in TOS, perhaps most noticeably in "The Enterprise Incident" -- the very episode in which the "Vulcan's can't lie" thing was introduced! It was never meant to be taken as gospel truth.
Peter G.
Wed, Oct 11, 2023, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
SPOCK: Vulcans never lie.
TOP HAT: He's lying.

Norman, co-ordinate!

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.