Star Trek: Enterprise

“The Communicator”

2.5 stars.

Air date: 11/13/2002
Story by Andre Bormanis
Teleplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by James Contner

"Improvisation isn't my strong point." — Reed, demonstrating a drawback to this episode

Review Text

In brief: A good premise and decently executed action, but with misguided character decisions and an obvious lesson.

"The Communicator" is a straight-ahead serious take on The Original Series' "A Piece of the Action," which had a similar theme but a relentlessly non-serious comedic tone. The theme is one of not contaminating less-advanced alien cultures. It's treated as dead serious here, but one problem is that the characters have not thought out how they would face such a situation. The situation arises, and they're just barely on the other side of cluelessness.

This is a decent story, decently executed, with decent ideas and dialog. The big picture, unfortunately, is undermined by the way its protagonists blunder their way through their difficult situation. By the time the closing dialog rolls around, the lesson is so obvious we shouldn't have to hear it put into words. But hear it we must, because the dialog is necessary to keep our captain from looking downright oblivious (a label he does not entirely avoid).

The premise takes the final lines of "A Piece of the Action" and builds a storyline from there: The away team returns from an undercover study mission on a world that's on technological par with early to mid-20th century Earth, and Lt. Reed realizes he's missing his communicator. He apparently lost it on the planet surface; if found and examined, the technology could contaminate the planet's natural social evolution. Archer and Reed return to the planet to retrieve the missing communicator.

Cultural contamination is an interesting Star Trek topic, and the story, as I've said, deals with it seriously. The characters react with a genuine concern and urgency, which is exactly how they should react. (Reed berates himself for losing his communicator, a character touch that very much rings true given previous examination of Reed.) Archer and Reed retrace their steps to a restaurant where they are able to pick up the communicator's signal. But they act too suspiciously, are confronted by military officials in the restaurant who think they are spies for the enemy "Alliance" (with whom this society is on the brink of war), and are quickly taken into custody. (As Archer and Reed think they are about to be confronted, they attempt escape via a sudden bar fight, going two on five. This seems rather foolish, all but guaranteeing their capture.)

This presents a new problem. With Archer and Reed captured, not only does this alien military have possession of a Starfleet communicator, but now a second communicator, two scanners, a phase-pistol, and the two humans themselves. And what happens if they find the empty shuttlepod? The dilemma is an interesting one that has us wondering how our characters will get out of it. Too bad we're also wondering how they allowed themselves to get into it in the first place.

The residents of this planet are not idiots. What's more, by being on the verge of war they are suspicious of enemy infiltration. Given these facts and the underlying premise that we don't want to contaminate their culture, the whole notion of the first away mission in this volatile region seems like, well, not a very good idea at all. And if it's not bad enough that the communicator went missing, Archer and Reed end up putting themselves in a very vulnerable situation with no backup, getting easily captured. This is one mission that should've been better researched from the outset, and a response to a crisis (the lost communicator) that should've been better prepared.

"The Communicator" poses some intriguing questions about away missions. It isn't long before Archer and Reed are beaten for information about why they are spying. Reed starts bleeding, and one of the interrogators realizes in surprise, "His blood — it's red." A medical examination is immediately ordered, where it's discovered that these two have impossible anatomies to go along with their impossibly advanced technology. The implication here is interesting: The very presence of a human on an away mission can contaminate a culture should the human's anatomy be investigated.

But, again, I found myself wondering why preparations were not made to avoid exactly such discoveries at all costs. And also why more thought wasn't put into contingency plans for when such discoveries are made. Starfleet apparently had no rules for interacting with pre-warp alien cultures when the Enterprise set out on this mission, and Archer apparently set up no specific guidelines for these sort of foreseeable problems. Sure, getting captured is not exactly something you would hope would happen on an away mission, but you should be prepared for the possibility as best you can. You should have a cover story so you can explain yourself. Based on what happens here, that's not at all the case; Archer and Reed are improvising on cue ... and they're not improvising much that's in the best interests of themselves or in avoiding cultural contamination.

The most obvious example is when the interrogators begin demanding answers about Archer and Reed's technology and anatomy. Archer initially tries to tell them nothing, but he eventually decides to fabricate lies rather than revealing the truth that he and Reed are, in fact, aliens from outer space. Archer says their devices are Alliance prototypes. Following Archer's lead, Reed chimes in that they are genetically engineered prototypes developed by the Alliance. Archer says the shuttlepod is not a space module but rather an advanced experimental aircraft the Alliance has constructed.

Whoa, there.

Of all the lies to tell these people, why in the world would you tell them that? These are lies of absolutely the most inflammatory kind, which is a good way of not only contaminating this society but doing so in a potentially violent way; it's likely to incite a war. Why not tell them nothing, and let them draw their own conclusions with evidence that on its own can't prove anything conclusively?

Archer and Reed are ordered for prompt execution, a story development contrived mostly for an inflated dramatic countdown and which I don't totally buy. (I was reminded of a sarcastic line from the previous week's episode of South Park: "That's called a ticking clock. Works great in the movies.") Wouldn't Archer and Reed be more useful to the military officials alive — where they could potentially supply more information about the Alliance — than dead?

The crew aboard the Enterprise works the problem from the other end, trying to mount a rescue attempt. I again find myself wondering why the transporter is not so much as mentioned as a possibility. Given the gravity of the situation, it would be a logical choice, but there isn't even dialog here to rule it out. I'm thinking this series should simply have opted not to have a transporter at all, because the writers apparently would rather not depend on it — a good thing except for the fact that the ship is obviously equipped with one.

There's an unexpected plot development here when Trip decides a rescue attempt would be best served by employing the cloak-enabled Suliban pod captured in "Shockwave, Part II." I for one did not know that the crew had acquired this craft. The details at the end of "Shockwave II" implied that Silik was released while he was still unconscious. Unless I'm missing something, this new detail would imply that the crew left him floating in space. (*)

Nonetheless, I must admit that the Suliban pod is an effective and unexpected attention grabber, along with all the weirdness that comes along with it. There's a point where Trip get zapped while working to fix the cloaking device, and his entire forearm is rendered invisible. It's the sort of jarring detail that keeps the story from falling into routine patterns.

The action in the final act is actually quite good as these things go. There's a desperately improvised descent in the Suliban pod (see "ticking clock" above), with the cloak only half-working and alien aircraft in pursuit. And the rescue of the prisoners — about to be hanged — and retrieval of the technology involves a shootout that actually makes reasonable logical sense. For once the shooting and movement of the action matches up with what needs to be accomplished on a plot level, a far better approach to action than simply having people stand behind objects and indiscriminately firing to gratuitously fill screen time.

Indeed, what works best about "The Communicator" is its ability to confidently move the plot details forward and end with an effective action sequence. The story's progress and implementation is convincing even if its plot details raise questions.

The lesson at the end is one I found too obvious, showcasing Archer as too slow to catch on. He talks with T'Pol about how the important goal was achieved — that all the technology was recovered. Until T'Pol brings it up, Archer doesn't acknowledge how all this mayhem will likely impact the planet's sociopolitical scheme. Given everything else, I'm glad the issue was addressed in the episode's closing dialog. But I must also point out that the lesson had already occurred to me while Archer fabricating stories about the Alliance's would-be prototype technology.

This episode shows exactly what can go wrong when interacting with alien cultures. On that level it's fairly effective. But the way it goes about it has me thinking that some forethought should've gone into this mission, rather than improvising solutions to a crisis that should never have been allowed to get so far out of hand. Archer needs to set some serious protocols to avoid these sort of situations.

Better yet, let T'Pol set the protocols. She's less oblivious.

* Erratum: The Suliban pod was acquired from "Broken Bow" and apparently not "Shockwave, Part II," although I don't recall any mention of the pod after "Broken Bow" and before this episode.

Next week: The crew is disabled en masse with disease-like symptoms. Sounds like Star Trek 101.

Previous episode: The Seventh
Next episode: Singularity

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Comment Section

63 comments on this post

    Not my favorite Enterprise show this season, but it had its moments. The bartender clearly alerts the three military men at another table about Archer and Reed's return, so they were being monitored as soon as they walked in the restaurant. Their fate was not affected at all by their "acting too suspiciously." Also, how could Archer's cover story incite a war when the two sides were already at war?

    I too would have given it the extra half star. The depiction of the beatings and summary execution orders were towards the gritty and realistic end of what is normally shown on Star Trek and made for effective drama.

    I didn't buy the storyline here. We never saw the reasoning behind their decision to go undercover into a society that was on the brink of war. For that reason alone they shouldn't have gone down. Also would the communicator REALLY have been such a contaminating factor in that society? They were obviously industrialised, had military aircraft, x-ray capability and an advanced understanding of physiology. We can even assume they had started exploration of their own solar system since they knew none of the other worlds within it were inhabited. In short, from their point of view all they would have found would have been a fancy Walkie-Talkie. Was it REALLY worth the risk trying to get it back?

    To make things worse, the military force who captured Arthur and Reed were left with the impression that the Alliance had Genetic Modification, Laser Gun and Invisability technology. Surely he has now escalated their war to a level that it would never have gone to?!!

    I tend to think the characters are much less stupid than you make them appear. Other than that, a pretty accurate accounting. I would have gone to 3 stars.

    But, I'll let you have that 1/2 star after the South Park reference. They make enough Trek references..... haha

    I completely agree with Kevin! Ditto to everything he said.

    Jammer, I actually think you were way too generous with this one. It BARELY would've scraped two stars out of me.

    I know I say this in most of my comments about this show. But, man, Archer is so incompetent. I especially wanted to slap him when he said that the people on the planet wouldn't believe the truth anyway. Um, WTF? There were fully prepared to believe that Archer and Reed were aliens! That was the first suggestion their doctor made! Of course they would have believed them! How could Archer think it was better to incite further paranoia in these people during war time than to either shut up entirely or tell them the truth? Poorly played captain, poorly played...

    Also, I didn't buy that thing with Trip's arm. What? Is the cloaking device a spray paint now? That made no sense to me. But, I'm willing to give any storyline revolving around Trip a bit of a pass only because I enjoy watching him. He's one of very few people on the ship who has what feels like a real personality. Plus, he's cute. That said, I'm still not buying that the cloaking device works that way.

    Really, I'm just not buying this episode all around I guess.

    Once again, the brilliance of the writers tops that of the Enterprise crew. "Negligent", "incompetent", and "just downright stupid" are adjectives which adequately describe both groups of individuals.

    From firsttvdrama:

    "Enterprise had already been to several pre-warp planets, almost always with conflicting rules and techniques on how they act around them (or Archer becomes a physic and magically predicts future Prime Directives). Here we have yet another one in which they try to give the impression this is a pre-planned mission with rules of conduct. But the fact is, they're still doing everything half-assed. They need to already have rules (which makes sense for Starfleet to have created prior to Enterprise's launch) or have no rules and mess up which causes rules to be created because of this. Neither happened here. In fact, nothing happened at all. Even in real life the government created rules for alien contact and even made it illegal to kill bigfoot, should he ever decide to come out of the woods.

    Instead, we get yet another go where their "mission" just sort of coasts on whatever direction the writers decide they want the wind to blow to fit their current story and create a false jeopardy to stall for time as filler until the next episode happens. That is after all what every episode of Enterprise seems like: filler until the next episode, which is filler until the one after that."

    Enough said.

    "Enterprise" is child's play.

    I'm absolutely amazed at how incompetent Archer is at times. Why in the world would he go down to an alien civilization for observation without having first set protocols on rules of engagement much less even being aware of its importance in the first place? Captain Archer seemed completely clueless at the beginning of the show and only realized its importance at the end; the effects of cultural contamination HAD to be pointed out by T'Pol! This is complete nonsense. A captain of any kind would know these things and to assume that the audience wouldn't understand this reality feels like a serious sucker punch in the gut. We are NOT that dumb!

    First of all, when you're on an observation mission and observing a less developed culture you just simply would not bring any instrument or device what so ever less an accident or carelessness create an incident that could cause contamination. Second, like Jammer so pointed out, why didn't Archer simply just beamed out the communication device in the first place? Alternatively, the communication device could be remotely destroyed by a detonation device in the communicator. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, this is Protocol 101! This is how it's done in the real world and how it should be in fiction.

    Finally (now I pause a bit here as I'm clearing my throat), as brutal and ruthless as this sounds, the real protocol that would be executed in the event of a potential contamination of this magnitude is nothing short of ice cold, surgical in its precision horror. The truth is all the people innocent or not and possibly the entire property site would be killed and destroyed. The crew of Enterprise even with its level of science and technology would have little choice without an alternative. Statistically, when you crunch the numbers down to its pinpoint essence it is paramount to preserve the integrity of the natural state of an alien culture as a whole, even if it means obliterating a small group for the sake of the many. Perhaps, however, Dr. Flox might spare Archer and his crew such course devilry by synthesizing a chemical compound that would induce a permanent amnesia to all parties involved in the incident. Naturally, the agent delivered would be dropped in an IED.

    "Enterprise" may be child's play and much to be left desired in its script, story imagination, and delivery as many episodes are rife with plot holes and insipid devices, the show does, however, lend itself as humorously superficial, lighted hearted fluff that puffs its way through its episodes.

    Was the teleporter broken? And perhaps they should build a self-destruct mechanism into the communicator in the future....

    On Earth Henry Starling was responsible for micro-computers -- a gift from the future via the 29th century. So why not allow a communicator to "infect" this civilization? This idea of non-contamination seems a bit ridiculous at times, unless the technology being introduced is a weapon that could be used to harm people -- then there is a clear moral issue. It's not about warp vs. pre-warp necessarily, as much as harm vs. non-harm. Introducing an indigenous culture to complex technology clearly harms their way of life, but if the society already has electronic components, how can it truly harm them? Also, everytime humans visit a world they are influencing it in many ways they don't know or don't understand. The idea that there is a "natural evolution" of a society or a world seems manufactured. Everything influences everything else in the universe, indirectly. One atom out of place can affect history. The chief issue is to do no harm. Someone's suggestion above -- to murder the inhabitants -- is a violation of that moral duty, but forgetting a communicator? Also, the idea that humans have forgone their war-like ways seems a bit far-fetched. Violence is part of the human condition and probably always will be. That does not excuse it, but it makes it improbable that our descendants will solve the problem of war and poverty as pictured in ST. These things are caused not by want but by greed and lust for power. I don't see how humans will overcome this part of themselves now or ever, on a large collective scale. I hope they do, but so far in our history we have not done so.

    The most improbable thing about this entire series is that Archer et al seem to be operating independent of Star Fleet and Vulcan High Command most of the time. They take matters into their own hands, have no protocols or rules, make stuff up on the fly, botch things frequently. It is unlikely that Star Fleet would prepare for warp travel for 100 years and send a bunch of amateurs operating without any real rules to do the job. However the episode does point to an important issue, one that is discussed a lot in previous ST series, so it's interesting on that level.

    Perhaps no forethought was given to eventualities like this because of a sense of imperviousness or naiveté on their part. Hopefully an important lesson was learned here.

    An entertaining, though somewhat flawed episode.

    I'm a caveman. I discover a quantum computer from alien visitors. It immediately contaminates my culture.

    I reverse engineer it, going "wogga, wogga" while examining the quantum bits and extracting them for my own caveman technology. Within a week, I develop technology that is so advanced and out of place, that I'm contaminated beyond recognition.

    And so microwave cooking was developed 150,000 years before it had to be invented. Ceramic cooking plates are being dug up from the Olduvai Gorge. Civilization came to an end, because all cooking technologies had been developed before their time.

    So let's get back for that communicator and tell them to start a war.

    Seems like I wasn't the only person shaking my head in consternation while watching this episode. Sadly, an all too common occurance.

    2 stars, tops.

    Archer's improvisation under questioning was far more damaging to this society than the actual truth would have been, and Archer came off looking like a fool because of it. That and the fact that the transporter wasn't even mentioned as an alternative really damages this episode for me. I'd give it 1.5 stars.

    I don't know why they just didn't tell them that the communicator was a child's toy. Maybe a radio that didn't work. Didn't they do that in the original series? Might have kept them from getting captured in the first place.

    Imagine this scenario...the alien doctor admits to being astounded at Archer and Reed's alien anatomies. Archer realizes this is the perfect opening to hopefully fix a bad situation. Rather than continue to lie about his identity...Archer confirms that he and Reed are indeed aliens. Give them the rundown of Starfleet (too bad the UFP doesn't exist yet). Explains the historic alliance of Earth and Vulcan and the Enterprise's mission of peaceful exploration.

    Imagine that this information opens up the eyes of the alien species (too bad Archer, Sato and Reed visited the planet and we never learn the name of their species). And they let Archer and Reed go, knowing they are not working for the Alliance. And instead of a joke scene featuring Trip's cloaked hand, we end on a scene of the alien soldiers deciding to make an overture of peace with the Alliance.

    Would it be repetitive of previous TREK episodes? Sure, but the franchise has plenty of examples of repeating itself. Would it still feature cultural contamination? Of course. But here ENT would be living up to some of TREK's ideals and rather than leave this planet in a state of chaos, fear and a certain-to-escalate war, the Enterprise would be leaving having (hopefully) helped this planet stop fighting with its neighbor. Again, not a new story for TREK. But it would feel better.

    They peel off a rubber forehead thing and then say "you've been surgically altered". Is gluing something on your face really surgery?

    The moral of the story seems to be that they should have just left the communicator there. And maybe add a component that allows for its power source to be destroyed by remote control.

    My biggest problems was the shootout at the end. You've got two enemies in nooses tied up and two people rescuing them, with nothing for cover BUT the two enemies tied up in nooses. how in the hell did at least a dozen, if not more, professional soldiers NOT put a bullet into at least ONE of the cast members? How horrible is their training with firearms?

    These guys are idiots. you do NOT interrogate and jail people together, allowing them to corroborate their stories on the fly.... rookie move.

    Also the rescue attempt, apart from the cloaked ship, was pitifully straightforward and not believable - in terms of phase pistols vs. normal firearms, both can kill you, and they were very outnumbered, yet still prevailed....


    That's the first time in a long while that I've watched a teaser and gone "cool, neat idea". It's a shame that it's all downhill from there until the last scene, where Archer's foolishness is beaten into him with a verbal equivalent of a baseball bat.

    A shame, as with such a good premise this could have been much more than the bog standard actioner it turned into. Not sure what the point of Trip's missing arms was either. 2.5 stars, barely.

    This has nothing to do with this episode (or does it?), but i noticed that all Season Two episodes are two to three minutes shorter in length than Season One. I've seen all TNG and VOY and their episodes were always the same length. I guess the producers decided it was in their best interest revenue-wise to increase commercial time. I did read somewhere that how much the percentage of time given to a show is lost to commercials has increased over the years.

    Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 6:15pm (UTC -5)

    They peel off a rubber forehead thing and then say "you've been surgically altered". Is gluing something on your face really surgery?
    Exactly!!!! lol!!! I actually said out loud.... "Did Phlox learn his surgery techniques from Michael Westmore?" :-)

    But that said, didn't the same thing happen to Riker in TNG? The episode name escapes me.

    Enterprise arrives at new inhabited planet.
    Hoshi/T'Pol scan
    T'Pol says "pre-warp"
    Hoshi says the can speak
    Reed says "looks like lots of weapons fire down there, it appears they are at war with each other"
    Archer "They're at war? Travis, set a course...."

    **** End episode ****

    I don't mind them stumbling, but I agree with the firsttvdrama, they at least should have learned from their past experiences... jeeeesh....

    There ARE things about this series that frustrate the hell out of me.

    I really want to give this a flat ZERO because of this but I'm trying to recall any trek that actually tells us any details about protocols etc.

    I'm not remembering any.... and we've even had a movie where 24th century folks are found out, 'Who Watches the Watchers' comes to mind as well.

    So, if I were Archer, I'd have Reed implant some sort of incendiary device in all communicators/phase pistols/tri-corders etc... then if this ever happens again, poof....

    ....or, include a locator pinging device so Enterprise can pinpoint the location and use the transporter.

    OK, if you forget all this stuff, this episode is pretty fun to watch.

    My cut on telling Gosis the truth... why not? especially after they inform you they are going to hang you. When you're dangling by your neck, they will have all the stuff anyway.... if you tell them at least you have a chance to minimize the damage.

    For that matter just how much hard can a futuristic walkie talkie do? .... I guess tons the ST universe.

    All the acting was well done in this one.

    The rescue was pretty damn cool. I agree with Jammer that this "fight" looked like it should have. Well done, I still enjoy watching it.

    ...then of course T'Pol nails it again at the end... that's my girl.

    I think 2.5 is a little high Jammer, 2 stars for me.

    Seems weird to test the cloak of a vessel with the door open. Maybe it has a safeguard against that...

    A lot of what I wanted to say about this Ep has already been mentioned.

    As soon as Malcolm discovered his communicator had been left behind, and everyone flew into a cultural contamination panic, my immediate thought was, "It's just a fancy two-way radio!." Kevin pointed this out.

    Oh, by the way - why did T'Pol point out they could easily find the thing's energy signature on the planet in no time at all, only AFTER they'd half dismantled the ship (everything short of tearing up the gravity plates) looking for it on board?

    Mike is right. The best way to ensure no cultural contamination would be to kill everyone who witnessed any of this. A drastic step to be sure, but they've already demonstrated they're prepared to effectively condemn an entire SPECIES to death in 'Dear Doctor' (that Ep is going to keep haunting this series if not the whole franchise).

    And Jack had the same reaction as me - "My God - they're wearing make up!"

    So what does that leave? Go back down with even MORE technology and become captured in no time flat (seriously, does Archer have a fetish about being beaten up by aliens?). I'm half surprised their reaction to that development wasn't to go down with even MORE advanced technology. Oh, wait - they did. A cloaked ship, which THEY didn't even understand.

    Which brings me to the glaring inconsitency here: here they are, having half worked out Suliban cloaking technology in about 30 minutes - and 200 years later cloaking technology is still a total mystery to Starfleet???

    Gee, I really don't want my reviews to be a catalog of mistakes and dumb ideas, but that's pretty much what this episode is.

    It was watching this ep that something seemed to change in my opinion of this series. I'd been rather thinking that I'd been harsh on it the first time around, and that on its own merits it was considerable better than I'd thought - but perhaps after that ridiculous episode with the Klingons, and now this, I'm starting to think I was right the first time. This is just cruising along, barely even trying to keep a story credible. These aren't nitpicks, they're glaring mistakes which the writers should have seen almost the moment they thought of them.

    There are some good, even very good eps, but increasingly they're just separated by too much medicority and lately outright dross. My recollection is that I enjoyed season three more. I hope that turns out to be an accurate memory.

    1.5 stars

    I'm starting to think that Starfleet tech should be fitted with self-destruct mechanisms. Surely the tech exists to completely vaporize, say, a left-behind communicator upon transmitting a coded signal to the general area.

    Or at least lock onto it and beam it back up.

    Seems like a mish-mash of a prior ENT episodes - the usual shoot-up at the end, some questionable Archer decisions including unpreparedness etc.
    As others have pointed out - better to just leave the communicator there rather than risk a whole lot more.
    What really bugged me was why Archer/Reed decide to start making up nonsense about being genetically enhanced etc. when under inquisition.
    Also surprising that their captors would just hang them and not try and hold them for some kind of ransom with their Alliance adversaries.
    The not corrupting pre-warp alien cultures idea -- definitely an examination the Prime Directive that should help formulating policy going forward.
    This is another mediocre ENT episode - a bit worse than "Detained".
    2/4 stars for me.

    The Prime Directive (and the like) had a reason, and this episode just shows why: because just exploring and improvising is risky and unwise (but not impossible: I'm not optimistic about humans forgetting this someday, in fact I'm not optimistic about anything anymore).
    And I admit I've done/said fool things while improvising sometimes (specially on social situations. I'm better at tech. Aw, I'm Malcolm. Lol!). I enjoyed that, and also watching Archer/Reed ready to die to stop doing further damage, plus the shooting scenes.
    On the other hand, I hate that they forgot the transporter, and the repeated beating scenes which became monotonous.
    2 stars from me.

    Ugh. OK. Let’s assume the universal translator was perfect. Is there a universal mouth hologram device that makes their mouths and lips move in time with the words? So fucking stupid, it’s painful every time these idiots go on secret missions. “Oh, their mouths are moving out of sync with the words. Weird.”

    Or, are we to believe they all learn these alien languages before going on their away missions? In which case, Hoshi’s talents aren’t really that special after all.

    Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    This ep reminds me of that time some Apple engineer left a prototype iPhone in a bar. :)

    Also, aren't Archer and Reed making things worse by claiming to be spies from a rival nation than if they just shut up and demanded a lawyer?

    This culture contamination thing is getting kinda tiresome.

    I wonder what are the Romulans' and Klinglons, for instance, policies on the subject. There seems to be plenty of prewarp places around.

    How do they build their empires??? Only at the expense of warp capable cultures, leaving others alone?! I would doubt so.

    It's a shame this episode had the HUGE plot hole of them forgetting they had a transporter, which would've made the rescue 100 times easier. They also resorted to the "enemy can't hit a barn door at ten paces" trope to ensure that not one bullet landed on the Enterprise crew when they were being continuously shot at in close quarters by 20 military men at the end. Pretty weak stuff. It's a shame they didn't rework these details because I think it's quite jarring to the cohesiveness of the whole story.

    Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
    “They peel off a rubber forehead thing and then say "you've been surgically altered". Is gluing something on your face really surgery?”

    Jack’ll probably never see this, but the General wasn’t suggesting the rubber prosthetics constituted surgical alteration, he thought that Archer and Reed had been surgically altered to look non-whatever his race was called (i.e. human). Of course that begs the question why the Alliance would try to infiltrate their enemy by surgically altering soldiers to look like a completely different freaking species, THEN sticking some easily dislodged rubber onto them just to make them look how they would’ve looked before they were surgically altered. But then the General didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of wattage running through upstairs.

    Whilst I’m nitpicking, the technology level displayed by the aliens was a bit all over the shop. They had fighter planes shooting energy weapons whilst being able to match the manoeuvres performed by an advanced alien spaceship, but according to Archer also hadn’t learned how to achieve nuclear fission.

    Why didn't they just use the transporter and beam it out? It might have come as a shock to whoever saw it but it would have been better than landing a carnival on their heads.

    The aliens didn't say that the humans were surgically altered just because they were wearing latex - they were referring to the normal human appearance, thinking it was either plastic surgery or deformity. I can't believe people didn't understand this simple and obvious point, no wonder Enterprise takes so much crap.

    I missed this episode when it waa first shown on telly. It's an interesting and well-paced episode. I do agree some disastrous choices were made throughout though: why bring your naive and inexperienced crew into an alien war zone? Why not reveal yourselves rather than create a terrible escalation of fear, paranoia, hostility and any pre-existing arms race?

    I don't blame the characters, to do so would make me a dolt. The NX-01 crew are a very likeable bunch and their problem is TERRIBLE writers. But the buck must always stop with the showrunners who authorise crap writing and, who knows, probably interfere to make it even more crap. I'd love to have an in-depth discussion with those writers.

    Lots of brownie points for the cloaked arm though. That is the kind of thing that keeps me watching Enterprise. There should have been much more stuff like this as humans interface with unknown technologies. How come ripping the cell ship apart and building Starfleet cloaking devices wasn't the number one priority from day one?

    The episode also makes decent use of the whole cast which is going to become a rarity very soon; this will become the Archer-Tucker-T'Pol show soon enough.

    From the beginning of this episode when Reed discovers his loss the solution is obvious. Use the transporter to beam the communicator away

    There is zero reason to head down in a shuttle, make things worse, wait for your crew to drop down in an invisible spacecraft and expect no contamination to happen

    BEAM THE FRIGGING COMMUNICATOR UP and it’s problem solved

    Apropos of the reviewer's quite correctly saying that the transporter should have been mentioned: T'Pol tells Hoshi to start scanning for Archer's and Reed's bio signs, and Hoshi argues, "There are 10,000 people down there!" Yes, but only two of them are human. They might have given themselves an "out" by expositing that humans' and the planet's inhabitant's bio signs were nearly indistinguishable from each other -- but the episode went out of its way to show that human physiology was very different from the aliens' physiology.

    The cloaking "paint" was just ridiculous - clearly the greatest technological marvel of any Trek yet - a device that provides a temporary but enduring cloak, with no energy cost, to whatever you zap? Future away missions should be a snap then - just give everyone and their equipment a shot of inviso-ray. Heck, it's better than the Jem Hadar cloaks - these ones don't dissipate when you want to attack. Might as well "spray" your warships right before battle too (sigh).

    It was funny, yes, and it would have been funnier to have an almost-fully invisible Trip waltz in and save our heroes, maybe just half a leg left visible. But when will Trek writers stop introducing crazy powerful tech without regard for future plots? (Never, obviously... stupid question). And continuity with TOS? Yes, I know B&B are hostile to continuity. Sigh, again.

    Frustrating episode, they are a bunch of bumbling cowboys, stubbornly refusing to use their transporter. Don't they have any old DVD's of spy movies they can train from?

    None of the plot holes really bother me because this episode has a much worse problem - it’s deeply, aggressively boring.

    We know that Archer and Reed are in no danger. Not even a token third person to be glad makes it out or sad they die. No sympathetic aliens, literally all one note bad guys, so you don’t care about them either.

    At the beginning they’re talking about all kinds of interesting stuff they don’t show us. There was so little plot, they could have actually put all that stuff on screen.

    At least A Night in Sickbay was trying to be interesting even if it was stupid.

    Trip’s hand thing might have been interesting if it had made sense. Why was he acting like he couldn’t feel it when he obviously could? And the alien culture, was it medieval or 20th century? They couldn’t make up their minds.

    The only part that interested me was two subtle character moments towards the end before the escape, both Reed’s complaining and optimism really winding Archer up, and Archer seeming to only truly care if Reed is killed and not for himself in light of the contamination risk. But my god, that was like a minute of footage altogether. Really pathetic.

    Yet another TV show with the cartoon Soviet military dudes (yeah, take a look on the very least the uniforms, they better had said they were space Soviets from the 50's). Then the "I can't believe I'm dying protecting this people" crap? How were they protecting them???? By retrieving some 'advanced' walkie-talkie? Just idiotic.
    Yeah, we're not aliens, we're genetically engineered soldiers from your enemy (wink, wink, the space USA), and we have particle weapons and stealth ships. How can that "protect" them??? The writers for sure were procrastinating until deadline was very close.
    Yet, still better than STD...

    Ah, and I forgot, why the 'doctor' tells Trip, his hand will "rematerialize" itself????????? It's a cloak, not a "dematerializer"................................

    Although this show preceded the smartphone to be fair, in just a few years from 2002 we gained the ability to effectively brick our phones remotely, rendering them useless. So this episode really loses a 2019 audience. Definitely a boring, skippable episode.

    How many episodes can we go until we next see Archer again shackled to a chair with a gun at his head? I'm hoping at least 5 or we really need to get him some hostage insurance.

    It's sucha Star Trek staple that people get "surgically altered" by the doctor to pass as alien races, but then they get back and pull the prosthetics off their faces like so much make-up.

    I would think that "surgically altered" means beneath the skin.

    Apparently this society hasn’t yet learned to split the atom - the soldiers are seen using hand guns. However, their futuristic-looking planes can fire laser bolts! Someone in the airforce needs to be seconded to the military...

    An example of a episode that deals with those “serious Trek questions” and might even be considered an essential episode but yet the execution just keeps this from being a classic. In the end I think they would have been better off just leaving the communicator on the alien planet. They probably never would have figured out exactly what it was and thought that it was some sort of advanced Walkie talkie (it is) that was being tested by the “Alliance” they were at war with. But Archer decided they just couldn’t leave the communicator on the planet and instead caused a series of events that almost certainly will be more harmful to the planets inhabitants in the long run than just finding a strange communicator would have been. I agree with 2.5 stars

    This episode was 4 stars for me.

    It had a solid concept. Good action. And presented a moral dilemma. Could the exception have been slightly better? Sure. But an overall great episode.

    The General is going to have a tough time explaining all this to his superiors since Archer took back all the equipment and the X-rays etc. Imagine his superior turning up, seeing the base in disrepair and its personnel in disarray. And the explanation for all this is "aliens".

    I did wonder about the explanations they gave since they've now created the impression "The Alliance" has all these sophisticated weaponry/technology.

    Couldn't they have transported the device once they confirmed (whilst at the bar table and a scan proved it) that it was indeed in the building. I thought the reason they couldn't initially was because they couldn't narrow down its precise location down from an orbital scan.

    Once discovered, I wonder if they could have moved to introduce themselves. Because initially it seemed like the General was open to the idea of aliens.

    I enjoyed the episode.

    I like the premise of this episode. And again, I think that the series is letting Archer and co gradually figure out how dangerous giving "primitive" civilizations anything that can be contaminating is. To me this is more realistic than Archer right away basically using the Prime Directive. I know a lot of people don't like Archer's behaviour, but I think it shows how he is learning as he goes

    Is the intention of the writers to persuade us that the Vulcans were right and terrans should stay on terra. Dumb, dumb, dumb! AAAARGH!

    They should have retired the "naïve bumbler" version of Archer midway through season 1. Here he, once again, makes a bad situation even worse.

    You can only sympathize with a fool for so long; by this point rooting for Archer is like rooting for the kids in horror movies who go off to screw in the woods 30 seconds after they find a severed head on their front porch.

    I'm not even 20 minutes in and can I just say HOW SICK I AM of these generic story lines where a guy who thinks he's hot shit and knows everything is questioning them and thinks they're spies. Strong man, military leader unknowingly put of his depth. Snore. I'm over this trope.

    It doesn't seem that implausible that while preventing technological contamination, Archer and co. forget about cultural contamination. Essentially, they don't take the civilization's development and future history seriously enough. Just like when your teenager says "my life is over", and you don't take them seriously enough. You have gone through that phase, and tend to mentally discount it. Archer realizes too late the harm his fib has done.

    = = = =

    * The general says Archer's _unadorned head_ is surgically altered, because he has never seen a person without forehead ridges before. He is not calling the makeup a surgical alteration.

    * It is OK that the planet's development does not exactly match Earth history, they are not Earth. This is not time travel.

    * Enterprise's transporter's targeting scanners may be nowhere near as good as TOS/TNG, because transporters are a primitive technology. Locating and targeting are two very different things. One has to find something within a few feet, the other has to draw a bounding box the thickness of a single molecule around an object.

    * Archer is an imperfect character, and developed that way. It is odd to berate writers for writing an imperfect character on purpose, and blaming Archer's imperfections on the writers' laziness. It is also odd to expect a _prequel_ to follow the "Star Trek ethos". The Star Trek ethos is still being developed, which is the whole point.

    * Biosign detection from orbit does not have to work as well as it does in TOS/TNG either. Furthermore, these aliens were quite similar. There was exactly one organ the doctor completely failed to identify. The rest of it was "deformed" or in different numbers, but essentially the same anatomy. The blood chemistry was different, possibly not detectable from that distance. Furthermore, even if biosigns had been detected, being able to target a transporter correctly is entirely different.

    * Lots of primitive human societies (tribes) have been happily contaminated both culturally and technologically by visiting humans. We humans do not have this sensitivity. That Archer should have this sensitivity _before_ the Federation even exists, just because all the people on this board saw TOS and TNG first is hilarious. It is exactly this sensitivity that is being shown being developed step by step.

    * Being worried about the contamination due to a communicator is not idiotic. The communicator has a power source the likes of which this society will not develop for a few hundred more years. Getting their hands on such a power source will give one side in the war a very large advantage. The computing ability and communication ability would also create such an advantage when reverse engineered. Just destructing it with a small charge would not remove such contamination. Molecular deconstruction might, but a de-molecularizer may not fit within communicator technology of that time (or any time before the year 3000, when communicators finally merges with teleporters).

    * Communicators have universal translators, that is how they can communicate with different cultures. They got it right almost throughout the episode. E.g. in the interrogation scene, the communicators are nearby. They got it wrong in the hanging scene where Archer asks them to spare Reed, but the communicators are in a room inside the complex, at a distance from the hanging site, where the UT's ventriloquism should not work. You can view that scene as the two sides didn't actually understand each other (they don't actually converse), but that may be a fluke!

    * Archer does seem like a slow learner for the most important post any human has ever held. I would chalk this up to bureaucracy / politics. I am sure Columbus wasn't so worried about cultural contamination either.

    Plot: Malcolm loses his keys and everyone forgets transporters exist.

    Absolute and utter garbage. The only thing that kept me from falling asleep was anger at how inexplicably idiotic everyone handled the situation.

    When captured, Archer and Reed are asked point blank if they’re aliens, do they have a ship orbiting the planet, and where in space they came from. This is immediately after we learn their physiology has been revealed to be of a completely different species, and the iron in their blood would be toxic to any species native to this planet.

    10 minutes later as they await execution, Archer asks AGAIN “Hey Malcolm, what if we told them the truth? We could beam them up to the ship, show them around, prove everything, get our stuff back, and you know, not be hanged.”

    To which Reed replies...
    “You said it yourself captain, they’d never believe us.”



    This sack of absolute garbage gets 2.5 stars while A Night In Sickbay (Archer breaks down because his dog is dying from the carelessness of the PearlClutcharians, who care nothing about their mistake and want HIM to apologize for yet another nothingburger of an “offense”. I would’ve told Reed to level their capitol with every photon torpedo on board. Did no one watch John Wick?) got only 1 star? Criminal.

    I’ve been enjoying my rewatch of Enterprise up until now. It’s aged well, and after watching Discovery throw away so much of the previous series, I appreciate it even more.

    But this episode sucked. Miserably. It deserved -3 stars. It was so bad the episodes surrounding it should have stars deducted as well just for being adjacent to this pile of excrement. But considering the following episode is “The Enterprise Crew Tries Space Meth” I don’t know if there are any stars to borrow from.

    The people pointing out that a communicator is little more than a "fancy walkie-talkie" or a "fancy two-way radio" are forgetting that it's a *subspace* radio. This society may have pocket-sized communicators, but I'll bet you anything that those communicators cannot send faster-than-light signals with a range of tens of thousands of kilometres (at least). The society on this planet only has a handle on transmitting and receiving EM waves, which travel at the speed of light. They haven't discovered what subspace is, let alone how to manipulate it.

    That having been said, I think that the commenter above who drew an analogy to a caveman reverse engineering a quantum computer was off the mark. He was trying to imply that the communicator was too advanced for this society to realistically be able to determine anything about how it works. I disagree. It may be a subspace radio, but it's still a radio, which means it has a power supply, transceiver antenna, and processing circuitry, all of which a mid-20th-century society may be able to recognize and reverse engineer to a certain extent. So their understanding of energy generation and electronics could indeed be revolutionized by the discovery of the device. Even with the communicator alone, contamination was therefore definitely a concern.

    I of course agree with all the commenters who pointed out that *far more* damage was done by Archer and Reed becoming captured, turning over yet more tech, and concocting a story that confirms a paranoid military's worst fears. Once a non-zero amount of damage is done, all you can do is figure how to minimize its impacts. Revealing that they were indeed space aliens was probably the way to go.

    And yes, the cloaked arm was an absurdity. A cloaking device has always been depicted as a field that bends light (and presumably other sensor signals) around and object, rendering it invisible. Now all of a sudden it's "particle radiation" that you can apply wherever you like, and that renders things invisible on a semi-permanent basis? That's absurd, and has even less of a grounding in real science than the usual technobabble. Either the show's science advisor wasn't doing his job, or they chose to ignore him/her

    Voyager had it's crashed shuttles, Enterprise has 'Malcolm Tucker does something stupid or is a coward'.

    I actually liked this. But to carp about flaws:
    1) Where's the transporter?
    2) Claiming to be from the Alliance was worse than the truth
    3) The gunfight scene was just silly. A gunfight at point blank range with automatic weapons and no one gets hit? Another homage to "The A-Team"....
    4) The hanging appeared to be *indoors*. How did the Suliban ship get inside?

    Like quite a few others, I, who actually frequently enjoy Enterprise, had to admit that The Communicator was terrible on many levels. How did we survive you may ask? So many ridiculous decisions on Archer's part created opportunities for us to MST3K our way through the unremitting slurry they called a screenplay. I started talking to the characters as they did the opposite of what any reasonable person would have done or said when put into that situation. Examples:

    1) Wear clothing with sagging pockets so that a communicator can easily fall out when you simply sit down.

    2) When retrieving the now missing communicator, make certain to go back to the planet surface with as much extra warp-capable civ. equipment to risk losing that stuff as well.

    3) Give off signals to all and sundry when you begin your search that you are the guys who are associated with the original device you lost.

    4) When confronted by security men in uniform, make certain you hit several of them so that they can conclude that you are the dangerous enemies they expected to confront. Corollary: by being so physical, you immediately get yourselves taken 30 miles away from the ramshackle tavern you were in (and could easily be rescued from) to a high security facility that makes Sing Sing look like a summer camp.

    5) When given an opportunity to answer questions, insult their intelligence.

    6) Avoid no opportunity to get yourselves hit in the face.

    7) When given a second opportunity to answer even easier questions, think of nothing better this time around, insult the interrogator's intelligence again, and make sure to get yourself hit in the cheekbone forehead and jaw.

    8) Answer questions in ways which will get the security force leader to agree to have you dissected....

    Those are just some of the jaw-dropping incidents one will experience with this gem.

    All these stupid prime directive episodes from any series get 0 stars from me I'm sorry. The whole ideology is absurdly immoral and ridiculous. From letting species suffer when you have the cure to a disease, to make them even more suspicious when literally their own doctor suggested they were aliens, thereby worsening the paranoia and the war, to letting yourself be imprisoned or killed just so they never find out you are an alien cause that's soo much worse than being a counter-insurgent in a civilization on the brink of war. The Pre-warp standard is also absolutely ridiculous, some civilizations may never develop warp drive, does that mean they don't deserve to know if there is other life in the universe or be helped out with more advanced medical technology? Saying a civilization isn't mature enough for first contact until they figure out how to get around the known laws of physics like the speed of light barrier is beyond absurd. Then you have Archer risking his life to grab the few x-ray sheets of their bodies as to not "contaminate" their development, even though their military vessels just engaged the freaking Suliban pod and saw it disappear, as well as the people coming out of thin air. But noo, better go back for the communicator and medical images (which I'm sure the doctor put into a database anyway). All the military officer already played with your phase pistols, so what are you worried about. Not only is the non-interference crap immoral (like in Dear Doctor) but the plots in these types of episodes are also totally laughable, illogical, and self-contradictory LOL

    I read all the comments and see mine was pointless as everyone already nailed it, good job guys! Archer and Reed couldn't have been more stupid throughout the entire episode. Like, they have literal proof you are aliens and you not only just act like total idiots but then try to be claim to be the interrogates worst enemy? Genetically engineered so ALL of your internal organs and blood are altered? A pre-nuclear society would understand that but not the possibility of alien life? And the BS with 10+ military gunmen shooting automatic weapons at T-pol and Travis yet of course they evade every single one like superman. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the air combat scene and say those were typical fighter plane machine guns/artillery and not energy weapons but they did act like kling-on war birds. Point being they already made the maximum negative impact they could have on their military/society yet continued to think they could "improve" it via their ridiculous decisions.

    Awful episode. Dull and frustrating. Rather die than tell them you are from another planet is absurd. And at same time lie about what you are. What is difference between truth and lies if both are impacting civilizations?

    Glaringly obvious that Starfleet protocol to be upheld to the death isnt very smart, nor acceptable to Archer's crew.
    "Save yourselves!" is more like it - to echo President Anton Chekov ( heard this in ST: Picard S3).
    But at least the fight scene at the end is redeemable - it featured Capt Kirk's usual call: "Phasers on Stun"!

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