Star Trek: Enterprise

"First Flight"

3 stars

Air date: 5/14/2003
Written by Chris Black & John Shiban
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"When the first warp-5 starship is built, its captain won't be able to call home every time he needs to make a decision. He won't be able to turn to the Vulcans ... unless he decides to take one with him. — Commander A.G. Robinson

In brief: Some welcome background material, although the show doesn't make us work too hard.

Enterprise is the Star Trek prequel series, but sometimes it seems to me that it needs its own prequel material, in order to preface the preface. The 90-year gap between First Contact and "Broken Bow" has always made me curious, so I welcome a show like "First Flight," which fleshes out the backstory a bit so we can get an idea of how the Enterprise came to be.

"First Flight" is good — not great — background material. It serves its purpose in supplying relevant and useful information, but it's not above invoking clichés in the process, including an almost painfully tired scene where two guys get into a testosterone-driven barroom brawl over insults to their honor.

The episode is a reflective piece, as news arrives from Admiral Forrest that an old colleague, Captain A.G. Robinson, has been killed in a mountain-climbing accident. This news is particularly distressing for Captain Archer. During a scientific mission in a shuttlepod, T'Pol accompanies the captain and he reluctantly opens up to her, talking about this old friend and their past connection.

A number of years ago, Starfleet commanders Archer and Robinson (Keith Carradine) were the two leading candidates in a team of elite pilots who were hopefuls for testing Jonathan's father's unproven warp-5 engine. The engine was to be tested to break the then-unbroken warp-2 barrier. It was a major test with some major stakes; the Vulcans, concerned that Starfleet's warp program was advancing too quickly, were looking for reasons to slow the program until Starfleet was closer to being "ready."

The question was who would be the test pilot for this potentially groundbreaking flight. The answer was obvious to many — either it would be Robinson or Archer, who were friends and also rivals. Starfleet finally made their decision: It would be Robinson. "You know why you didn't get this assignment?" Robinson later asks Archer. "You tried too hard. You did everything by the book. ... You shut everything and everyone out of your life, just so you could be the first."

As Robinson gears up for the hopefully historic flight, Archer can't help but agonize over the feeling that he's missed the greatest opportunity of his career. Certainly he'll get a chance to take his turn in the pilot's seat, but he won't be first. He'll be the second. "You remember what Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped on the moon?" Archer muses. "Nobody does. Because Armstrong went first." Adding insult to injury is the fact that the engine was designed by his own father. It's a very personal matter. Staring a missed opportunity in the eye can be one of life's great sources of pain, especially when you know how close you came.

Archer meets one of the project's engineers, Charles "Trip" Tucker III. Over a beer, we learn that Trip is short for "triple," referring to the "III" in Tucker III. Maybe I'm dense or something, but I'd never realized this before, and I liked finding out the explanation for Tucker's nickname.

Robinson's warp-2 attempt in the test craft ends up being a disaster. He doesn't heed warnings and likes to live on the edge, and rather than shutting down the engines in the face of escalating trouble, he presses on. The craft breaks apart and is lost, and Robinson barely escapes with his life. (One detail I found somewhat strange was the notion of a warp-speed-capable escape pod, which is able to return Robinson to Earth during the commercial break.) The Vulcans use this incident to recommend rethinking the program, and Starfleet caves in and decides they want to build a new engine from scratch, despite the fact they still have another test craft ready and waiting.

About here is where the episode puts forward its most obvious and ancient clichés, where Archer confronts Robinson over his unnecessary risks and Robinson counters by calling John's father's engine an unworkably flawed design. This leads to a prolonged fistfight in the bar, at which point I was wondering why bartender Ruby (Brigid Brannaugh) wasn't calling the bouncers or the cops, or at least threatening to.

The next day, bruised and calmed down, Archer and Robinson both realize that the other maybe had a point. Archer knows he's a little too quick to blame pilot error when things go wrong; Robinson probably should've eased the throttle before the ship blew up. The question is where to go from here. As has been the case in the past on this series, the Vulcan need to keep human development under a controlled pace is the real source of conflict. Starfleet — which is unwilling to challenge the overly conservative Vulcans — comes across here as, well, spineless.

So it's up to our Rogue Heroes, Archer and Robinson, with the help of Trip as a one-man Mission Control, to gain unauthorized access to the hanger and steal (borrow?) the second craft for a test flight. This will likely get them all cashiered from Starfleet. The message here: There is no significant gain without significant risk. That's probably true in real life, but you'd also better be willing to pay the price. Naturally, their flight — done in Trek-style cooperative tandem — is successful.

I enjoyed the scene where Admiral Forrest reads Archer and Robinson the riot act for their essentially criminal behavior. Vaughn Armstrong gets to show some of his range here. Usually the calm and straightforward official, here Forrest is hopping mad, and it's nice to see another side of the character. Naturally, he can't kick Archer and Robinson out of Starfleet, since they've essentially proven that the engine is sound. Archer's impassioned speech about forging ahead ("If my father were alive today, he'd be standing here asking, 'What the hell are we waiting for?'") proves quite satisfying.

Admittedly, little of this material is very challenging. I find in writing this review that I'm mostly falling back on rehashing the facts in a synopsis. In terms of subtle nuances or deep analysis, I don't feel like there's much for me to say. This story simply documents facts that shed some light on Starfleet's backstory. Of course, there's plenty more we don't know, and I still wouldn't mind going even further back — say 40 or 50 years. (How exactly was Starfleet founded, for example?)

There is a certain melancholy in the show's closing notion — taking place after Archer has been selected as captain of the Enterprise — where Robinson, hopeful to one day captain the second warp-5 starship in Starfleet, says to Archer, "I'll see you out there." We know that Robinson will in fact not be seeing him out there. It drives home the show's unspoken point: Life is fragile and can end at any unexpected moment. Years of dreams and one's hopes for the future can instantly become the missed opportunities and unfinished business of one's prematurely ended life. It is perhaps one of the more disturbing aspects of life — our fearful awareness that it's possible we may not have a chance to write the latter chapters of our own book.

With this conveyed underlying feeling and the episode showing a relevant piece of Starfleet history, "First Flight" gets the job done.

Next: T'Pol must mate within 24 hours ... or DIE!

Previous episode: Regeneration
Next episode: Bounty

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45 comments on this post

Tue, Sep 25, 2007, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
They have mentioned some pretty major wars that errupted in the 21st century, one might assume that part of the aftermath involved a society that very much knew it needed to expand or die, resulting in a more capable space program...

And considering in just a few episodes florida gets a makeover, I'd say the fragileness of life is again brought into the spotlight...just on less a personal level and more a 'superman save us' level. :p
Alexey Bogatiryov
Sun, Mar 22, 2009, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
Loved this episode as it provided backgound information.
Jeremy Short
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
I really liked the whole feel of the "Mission Control" room during Robinson's first test flight. It reminded me of Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon, which I understand are both pretty accurate in that area. It was a nice touch to see early Starfleet looking a bit more like what we've done in real life space travel.
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
There being no accounting for taste, this was a 4-star for me. Maybe I was just so glad to see something that fits the theme of a prequel, rather than just Voyager with "hull plating" :P
(Ironically, I remember when Voyager got hull plating. It was badass. But I digress....)

The comment about what his father would say "what are we waiting for?" and taking risks, I could easily take as commentary for the present day. Gone is the old impatience of pushing forward with exploring space, with incidents like Columbia sadly having set us back a bit (as with the Concorde setting back supersonic flight, or you could go back the the Hindenberg having essentially ended LTA flight). Understandably, we don't like losing lives or the risk of it, and sometimes that holds us back. Nowadays we aim for zero risk, and things take 5x as long and cost 5x as much. I'm not saying it's wrong, but I can understand the frustration.

Interesting about Trip, I never cottoned onto his nickname either. NIce little detail.

Curious about the "can I buy you a drink" - still got currency in that era? Or maybe it's just a figure of speech.

On the "warp speed capable escape pod" point, I chuckled - massive plot hole, but easily sealed by the presence of the Vulcans. Let's just guess that he was rescued by a Vulcan ship and brought home.

If this was about 7 years ago they needed either some more makeup work for looking younger or younger alternative actors, but that's a minor nitpick.

Anyway, waffling. I think I just loved the history lesson, shown quite well I thought (it had me absorbed, so something was right) as well as the poignant moments about AG. Oh the irony of a Vulcan tugging at the emotions by suggesting that "Robinson Nebula" would be a more appropriate name...

Yay for T'Pol getting a kick to her scientific closed-mindedness too. "Fascinating O___O" she says. Aye - about time.
John the younger
Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 8:28am (UTC -6)
I thought this one was ok. Which, amazingly, makes 3 in a row!


But I agree that it was very pedestrian (the bar-fight was particularly silly and predictable).

And I also found the technology continuity to be an issue.. Ie. They go from Warp 1 in astronaut suits to Warp 5 with 'hull plating' and particle weapons in what 10 years? Are you saying cargo ships have all been going around at Warp 1 all these years (Travis being born in space)? That's 4 years from earth to the nearest star system.. Maybe that could be solved by people using cryogenics.. Like Kahn..

Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was boring.

There's no question of success here, since the history has been written. So the meat has to be in the story, the interactions, the dialogue, the atmosphere.

The best is clearly the last of that list. Everything looks great and feels authentic. The SFX shots are top-notch, but more than pretty graphics, we're given a time and place that seems exactly right.

However, I found it difficult to care about a character who is now dead in the present; we won't be meeting him again, and having met what was essentially a walking bag of cliches, I'm not terribly sad about that. I might have cared had the relationship been genuinely engaging, but it was stock from the get-go.

A barfight? Really? In a present day when this already seems anachronistic -- how many people get into good-natured barfights and Bond In Manly Ways anymore? -- it's just hopeless that Robinson insults Archer's dad and Archer throws his fists. When Picard gets in a barfight, we get Tapestry. Sisko punches Q, not because Q called him names, but to establish his character. Here, Archer can't stand that the bad man told him his daddy was stinky-poo. We learned things about Picard and Sisko. What do we learn about Archer, other than he's a child? (We learn that he's a bit more "by the book" -- apparently this book contains a guide to barfights.)

C'mon. This is bottom of the barrel stuff. So is the dreary 'conflict' between the Vulcans and Starfleet. What kind of Starfleet is this, where a single bad test run (that had successful elements) puts the program on hiatus? It's manufactured drama and urgency.

As an aside, I know that the Vulcans of TOS are long gone, replaced by the arrogant jerks we see on this series, but real Vulcans would have looked at the flight results, documented every trivial error, and told the humans in excruciating detail what the inadequacies were. These aren't Vulcans on the show; they're middle managers.

The best thing that I can say about Robinson is that he understands that they need to *show* that the craft works and that he wants to help. This displays an understanding of their situation. But, again, we know it will succeed, and the scene with Admiral Putdown is so dreary. Of course they will say something inspirational and humanity will go to the stars! Blah.

Archer gets one of the best lines, saying it's not the Vulcan's call. But would this really be so novel a sentiment? Everyone else at Starfleet is all, "Oh, sure, man. Let's slow it down for a few decades. No worries." That's silly. It means that Archer is speechifying for no real reason, since he shouldn't have to preach to this choir. Or he is surrounded by really dumb people that need the obvious pointed out to them.

As a point of comparison, the one-season show Defying Gravity did something like this episode in *every* episode, because while they were in space, they'd flashback to the obstacles and difficulties all the characters had in basic training. Like this episode, there was never a question they'd succeed because we saw them in space. But it was the nature of the problems and *how* they were overcome that provided the interest, and characterization went a little deeper than fistfights. What choices did they make? What sacrifices? What costs will you pay and what demons will you face to get where you want?

Here, there's little interest in the "how" and there are no choices of any consequence. Trip has a technobabble solution and Robinson turns some dials. Voila. Yawn. The only thing approaching conflict or a decision is Archer blaming Robinson, Robinson blaming Dad, and both boys going for a joyride. None of that is surprising or engaging. We know it's a foregone conclusion; it shouldn't *seem* like one as we are watching it.

There's no "drama" in hey, the design is fine and it was just a change to the Preferences and you're good to go. There's no choice there, because the alternative -- to do nothing and and have everyone sit on their thumbs while the Vulcans babysit -- has *nothing* going for it, and no sane person would choose it. Archer and Robinson are out of a job anyway if they go on hiatus. There's nothing to lose, no price to pay, and no reason for viewers to stay awake. Archer learns something he already knew, that it's okay to beat people up and disobey orders when it's convenient to the plot, and to not go rock climbing. If only Kirk and company had learned that last one...
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
I'd rate this 4 stars, actually: Keith Carradine was wonderful, Bakula gave us some nice touches as a "pre-Archer" Archer and did a nice job on his big speech at the end, and Jolene Blalock's T'Pol came across as a real friend to Archer while still keeping her Vulcan reserve. I quite enjoyed the subtle way she got Archer to open up about Robinson, and I also liked the fact that (it seemed to me) she only insists on accompanying Archer because she believes he needs someone to talk to.

Carradine stole the show for me, though. I find myself wondering what ENT would have been like with him playing the intriguing notion.
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
The escape pod was probably just a life pod that kept the pilot alive until he was picked up by a human rescue ship. It's established that human freighters could make warp 1.4 so they could've rescued him within days at the most.

The tech continuity is strange, but it is worth remembering that the test ships we see were designed solely to test the engine. Not for comfort or long term habitation. This means they may not have had redundant life support systems.
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 6:59am (UTC -6)
Wow, three great ENT episodes in a row! I'm really beginning to love ENT at this point. This is exactly what I expected more of - Starfleet history. Well done.

Admiral Forrest's office looked like straight out of a TOS episode, nicely done.
Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 3:00am (UTC -6)
OK episode. I felt mission control and the whole vibe was TOO old-school NASA. Today's control rooms are a lot more advanced-looking that depicted for this future. Archer was bending over watching AG take his flight on a video monitor stuck on a table -- it just felt cheap. And if they wanted that feel, they needed younger hot-shot type pilots (see "The Right Stuff," not middle-aged men with balding pates.

But mostly i was confused by this big test flight when freighters are already making regular runs. I figured Starfleet already would have a fleet with ships of various sizes, outfitted with the hull plating, the transporters, the various tech that they use every day. They can't have built it all just for the new starship, that's a stretch for a handful of years later. So the timing is screwy, as was pointed out above.
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
auralgami wrote, "When Picard gets in a barfight, we get Tapestry. Sisko punches Q, not because Q called him names, but to establish his character. Here, Archer can't stand that the bad man told him his daddy was stinky-poo. We learned things about Picard and Sisko. What do we learn about Archer, other than he's a child? (We learn that he's a bit more "by the book" -- apparently this book contains a guide to barfights.)"

I agree that the stinky-poo-poo comment about his daddy was the tipping point, but I disagree with most who have written here that the brawl was a mere tack-on. Robinson's recklessness threatened humanity's interstellar space flight program, threatened humanity's potentially greatest accomplishment - ever. As I watched Archer and Trip drink in the bar after they had heard the devastating news about the NX program, I began to feel a little angry myself - angry because of how much I personally want to see mankind travel the stars and visit alien worlds, and as I put myself in their place, as irrational as it may seem, I wanted very much to punch Robinson for devastating what so many people in their universe had worked to achieve. In this sense, I completely understand why Robinson's cockiness after such a profound and utter f*** up would inspire Archer to want to inflict pain.

Naturally, Robinson was right in the end. I also feel that the epsiode's question of "taking risks" is a valid one and has relevancy in our own time (cost/motive).

On a personal note, I once got into a 'fist fight' with someone (more like a we got off one punch each and rolled around on the pavement until we were both tired. We ended up becoming good friends afterwards, not unlike Archer and Robinson. In that sense, Archer's comment about human friendships (at least in my experience) is accurate and rang true on the "human level" of Star Trek.
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was ok.
It may be just that I am an ancient saddo but when the NX Delta launched on its ski run with the 'rocket' trolley I could not help thinking this was a homage to Gerry Anderson's Fireball XL-5-the ship has a very similar appearance too.
Sun, Feb 8, 2015, 3:28pm (UTC -6)
Not a bad episode, I was just, frankly, bored through it all.

Best part of the show? When the fight in the bar starts, what does Trip do? he grabs the beers and moves to the bar out of the way! :) Can't have the alcohol get knocked over or the bottle broken! Good to know 'party fouls' are still to be avoided in the future! :)
W Smith
Tue, Jun 2, 2015, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
Kinda boring, and felt like the story could have been so much more. It was entirely predictable the whole way through, and of course we knew the outcome for Robinson from the beginning of the episode. The timeline for humans to go from this great new warp engine to Enterprise in only a few years felt ridiculously truncated.
Tue, Sep 8, 2015, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
This is easily my favorite episode of the second season. I may be biased because I'm a pilot(ok, ex pilot, my eyes are pretty much shot)but this episode did a lot to help me like Enterprise. I must say it got the atmosphere and the relationship between the pilots just right. The camaraderie, the competition, the friendly put downs and most of all the intense loyalty to one another, it's all there in the bar scenes. I think my favorite scene was when Archer and Robinson have stolen the NX prototype and are about to go into warp. Robinson decides to let Archer have "left seat" for the flight. Because in Robinson's words, "You need the practice."
The only part that made me cringe was when Archer asked Ruby if she knows Buzz Aldrin's first words when stepping out on the moon. Ruby had to admit that she didn't and Archer went on to explain that is was because Armstrong went first. "Ouch" That was a bit of a shot to the nads of old Buzz. I remember what he said. It was... "Magnificent desolation." I hope the first man or woman that walks on the surface of Mars says those words as a tribute to Buzz.(Childhood heroes die hard.)
I also liked this show because it went a long way toward filling in the back story as to how we got to where we are. It shows how Tripp and Archer met and how Tripp got his posting on Enterprise. It even introduces Ruby, the cute bartender known to both Trip and Reed that was first mentioned in Shuttle pod One.
I also liked Enterprise in general because it shows us that for the first hundred years or so our relationship with the Vulcans was somewhat less than cordial. And it was no misperception that they have been trying to hold us back. The reason was revealed in the last season when Soval admitted to Forrest that Vulcans were afraid of humanity because of our rapid progress and because we most reminded them of themselves.
So all I can say is great episode that went a long way toward giving Enterprise a feel of its own.
I do have one thing to add though. I can't help but muse that the name Robinson may not have been chosen at random. Robinson is, of course, the last name of the family in Lost In Space. I can't but wonder if the fight scene between Archer and Robinson and the scene where Robinson allows Archer to have left seat isn't a metaphor for the competition between Star Trek and Lost In Space and the acknowledgement that Lost In Space has run its course but Star Trek is still flying. A bit of a stretch but maybe.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Apr 23, 2016, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was largely dull and extremely derivative. Unlike, let's say, Tapestry (which tells us something meaningful about Picard), the flashbacks here function as a less than organic story telling device. And the story itself is full of such hoary old cliches as male bonding bar fights and ships stolen in the dead of night that it doesn't really let you take it seriously. 2 stars.
Thu, Oct 20, 2016, 10:47am (UTC -6)
Great review Jammer, but you've surprisingly left out a very important (to me anyway) part of this episode.

I personally thought we could and should have had an entire year of this. I thought the 1st year (or some number of episodes) should have showed us the struggles, crew selection etc of "making it into deep space".

I welcomed this episode with open arms.

Love how T'Pol sees Archer needs some companionship and "forces" herself on the shuttle pod.

"T'POL: I've brought some sensor enhancements.
ARCHER: Thanks.
T'POL: We'll find them useful in mapping the nebula, if it's there.
T'POL: This is a scientific mission. It's only logical to bring your Science Officer.
ARCHER: I'd prefer to handle this myself.
T'POL: Commander Tucker obviously didn't remind you that Starfleet regulations prohibit the Captain from leaving the ship unaccompanied.
(The shuttlepod launches.)
T'POL: We should reach the edge of the phenomenon in two hours, forty six minutes. I can pass the time by meditating, but if you'd prefer to talk?
ARCHER: Go ahead and meditate.
T'POL: Would you like to join me? You seem quite unsettled since your call from Admiral Forrest."

She really had no desire to go looking for a dark matter nebula, she knew her Captain needed her.

But I think the best part of this episode was how Archer's telling of the story had the wonderful backdrop of the experiment using the shuttle pod and Trip's charges.

This episode briefly encapsulates humanities struggle to the stars, fighting Vulcan influence, doubt etc. The experiment shares this theme as well. T'Pol has no faith that the "dark matter nebula" exists, let alone any hope that Trip's charges with find one, but Archer wants to press on. How the story unfolds along with the events as they occurred in the shuttle pod was perfect. Not only was T'pol's skepticism tromped on a bit in the shuttle pod, but the Vulcan's advising Star Fleet were also shunned as Archer, Robinson and Trip prove the potential of the prototype warp engine.

Wonderful story telling in my book.

I still, every time I watch this episode, tear up twice. First when Archer calls T'Pol up to see the successful results of the last 2 charges not just study the data (just like Archer proving to the Vulcan's that we are ready) and when T'Pol suggests that the nebula be named after AG.

"ARCHER: T'Pol, come up and look at this a minute.
T'POL: I have to monitor the quantum field.
ARCHER: Let the sensors do it. That's why AG and I worked so hard to get out here."


4 star episode for me.
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 11:07am (UTC -6)
Might have been better if they made it a Warp-4 or even a Warp-3 test. It's strange that humans spent 80 years having reached Warp 1 but not Warp 2. Would be akin to planes being of the Wright brother type until a decade before the Concorde.
Mon, Jan 30, 2017, 11:30am (UTC -6)
DIdn't we just have a flashback episode style story with T'Pol as the narrator? Feels like it anyway. That being said - I always love seeing Keith Carradine in anything. Just too bad it was a one shot.
Not sure I would have given this a three star rating myself, but still better than some of the season two garbage I've seen so far.
Sun, Mar 26, 2017, 6:19pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with you 100% on how great this episode is. You summed it up nicely. I think anyone that found it boring didn't bother to look beyond the surface. And yeah, the final scene where T'Pol suggests naming it after A.G. was the cherry on top of the sundae. But I am biased, being a pilot.
Sun, Mar 26, 2017, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
Thanks Greg. One of my favorite trek episodes.
Sat, Apr 15, 2017, 9:24am (UTC -6)
Wow - not just three good episodes in a row, but this is the best of the lot. It gets my vote as best episode of season two.

Trek so often succeeds with lower key episodes (not that this was lacking in drama, but there was only a bar-room brawl and, oh yeah, a ship exploding - which is pretty restrained by ENT standards).

I really enjoyed the whole 'Right Stuff' feel of the thing, to the point that it actually struck me while watching this, that maybe the whole damn SERIES could have been set in the pre-warp 5 era, leaving room for something like ENT as both a sequel AND prequel. I guess it wouldn't have been proper Trek, but there's room out there for a series of this kind.

The episode scarcely put a foot wrong in any important way. Bakula's acting was spot on for once, and Archer came across as actually likeable. The choice to use the shuttlepod mission as a framing device was inspired, and having T'Pol along instead if Trip was spot on, too.

I also liked how we find out about the 'Trip' nickname (if that came up earlier, I missed it).

I don't know if I can quite give bring myself to give 4 stars to an ENT episode - there is just a weakness in the characters which seems to hold it back from ever achieving greatness - but this is a rock solid 3.5 from me. Bravo.
Sun, Jun 25, 2017, 1:30am (UTC -6)
A good fan service episode that is made better by the presence of Keith Carridine.

On the supposedly "warp capable" escape pod: it wasn't, nor did the dialogue result in a a plot hole. On the contrary, it's well dramatized exposition. A.G. abandoned his test ship while traveling at warp 2.2 and therefore he had to pass through the warp barrier in the pod just after ejecting which was disorienting. The pod itself probably only had 2 thrusters.
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
For me, this episode solidified the main issue with Archer’s arc and the use of Vulcans on Enterprise in general: You can’t do a story about a a person overcoming their bigotry and still have all of their prejudiced assumptions proven correct anyway.
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 6:30pm (UTC -6)
Enjoyed this history lesson and really appreciate the backstory told the way it was by Archer through the flashbacks. This is a good technique -- nothing special about it -- but just reliving those early days of Star Fleet back on Earth worked well. Nice also to get the backstory for Trip and how he got his nickname -- and that back then he was always willing to speak his mind and go to bat for what he thinks is right. And of course, the Vulcans and their modus operandi is further emphasized.

The actor for A.G. did a good job -- you could really get a sense of their competitive spirit. Yes, the bar brawl was silly but it could realistically happen between 2 testosterone-fuelled competitors. Why it took so long to get broken up is another valid question. Armstrong acting as then Commodore Forrest was also good -- some nice subtle facial expressions when he realizes that the rogue flight was a success.

The one gripe is being able to get around whatever security there may have been to undertake the rogue flight. Just the 3 of them pull it off seems a bit of a stretch to me. What's easier to buy is that Archer/A.G. get off with a slap on the wrist.

In the end the tie-in with the beauty of the nebula illustrated why A.G. and Archer both wanted so badly to get out into deep space. Good part when Archer just told T'Pol to observe the nebula.

As far as lessons like taking risks -- can't argue with that although, a fair bit of calculation has to go into taking these risks. That always gets seems to get glossed over.

3 stars for "First Flight" -- this is what ENT is for: to fill in the details leading up to TOS and there's plenty more of this kind of work to do. Plenty of good details here although we know things end up working out given that Archer captains the NX-01 so there was never any real tension here, but this is a different kind of episode.
Mon, Oct 29, 2018, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Auralgami and #teamboring on this one. The engine gets unstable at two stars so that's all this episode gets from me.
Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
I like the fact we are getting backstory, what a prequel show is supposed to do. I thought the Archer and T'Pol in the shuttlepod worked well, far less awkward than it seemed in theory. The two storylines worked well, the flipping back and forth was pretty seamless.
Dan Bolger
Fri, Apr 19, 2019, 3:13pm (UTC -6)
Another 4 star episode. Latter part of season 2 is mostly outstanding.
Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I agree completely with Yanks from a few years back - this episode hit the right notes, even if it was compiled of familiar elements.

I’m what you might call emotionally gullible, so it took me about ten minutes to realize that the episode was going to have a tearjerker moment, but for me it was the final line of T’Pol. But more generally, the whole sense of drive for scientific exploration was beautiful but of course a bit melancholic, given how far that is from the public consciousness these days, at least in the US. Ultimately I think that’s why Trek continues to resonate for me beyond my affinity for science fiction, is that it dares to imagine humans as at least a little better than we are now.
Cody B
Wed, Jul 8, 2020, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
Fantastic episode. Clearly not enough aliens, explosions, and pretty phaser beam blasts for some but what are you going to do. Some people can’t appreciate great writing when it’s right in front of them
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 10:16pm (UTC -6)
3/4 stars is about right for me too. The flashback scenes were done well, and they seemed to learn from the mistakes of Carbon Creek. It wasn’t great, but it was nice putting some meat on the 100 year skeleton we have between the 21st and 22nd centuries.
Mon, Sep 21, 2020, 7:10pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. I agree with what Yanks said above. Loved it. Three great ones in a row, after a whole bunch of duds. Nice to see.
Sat, Nov 28, 2020, 2:51am (UTC -6)
It's interesting to see all the criticism of SMG on this site. After ENTERPRISE made clear Archer was the most important human in the history of Starfleet, after DEEP SPACE NINE literally a prophet, after TNG dragged Picard through history as the focal point. I don't see the difference.
Sean J Hagins
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 2:38am (UTC -6)
I'm a bit confused here. So, in an earlier episode, Travis goes back home to his cargo ship that has 50 year old engines that hit warp 2. In this episode, it's a flashback of Archer and his friend/sparring partner trying to breach warp 2! It would have made a lot more sense if they were trying to hit warp 4, as 2 should already have been achieved!

Another thing-I don't know much about ranking structure, but with Archer's background, it would seem that he would be an EXCELLENT chief engineer. How did he go from helping with his dad's engine to captain? I mean I guess I understand it, but it seems odd to me
Thu, Dec 10, 2020, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
In "Fortunate Son", Travis states that the Horizon's official maximum speed was always warp 1.8. That's already close to warp 2.

"First Flight" establishes that the warp 2 barrier isn't an engine limitation. It's a bit like the sound barrier for aircraft: getting there is not too difficult. Keeping your ship/plane from breaking apart afterwords - that's the tricky part.

It's this instability that Archer and Robinson solved in this episode. Later they even got to warp 2.5, without any physical changes to the engine.

In short, there's no problem with the notion of an old cargo ship reaching warp 2 with a 50-year-old engine.

Fun fact:

Going by the warp power usage chart from the TNG technical manual (which can also be seen onscreen in this very episode), sustaining warp 2.3 actually takes *less* engine-power than sustaining at warp 1.8. You'll need an additional short-term burst, though, to transition through warp 2.0.
Fri, Mar 12, 2021, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
I found this to be a fantastic episode which does exactly what a prequel series is supposed to do. Instead of saddling the episode with a secondary and unrelated B plot, the play between the NX-Alpha story and the present moment where Archer is telling it to T'Pol work wonderfully together to form one very touching unit. That alone is worth four stars on Jammer's scale.

The only thing that detracts from it is, yes, the execution of the bar fight. I say execution because, for me, the fact the fight broke out is not at all out of place seeing how much was at stake and how intimately Archer was tied to the engine's development. But the confrontation would've driven home the same message if the two had been immediately separated by Trip and others, instead of having them slug it out while everybody else watched which just seemed odd.

Even so, with everything else happening on screen this is such a minor issue that if I ignore it this episode is, again, easily worth four stars on Jammer's scale. It's a pity we didn't see more of this (or even earlier) era of Starfleet's development, but either way, I am pleased to say that despite a few stinkers thus far I am thoroughly enjoying my reviewing of Enterprise.
Bob (a different one)
Sat, Mar 13, 2021, 10:52am (UTC -6)
One thing missing from Jammer's review, imo, is the fact that this episode is almost as much of a T'Pol episode as it is an Archer episode. The beginning of the show where she shows compassion for Archer's loss by insisting on going with him on his mission shows just how far she's come in two seasons. The moral of the story about risk taking and about how exploration is about more than just collecting dry scientific facts is for her benefit, not Archer's. And her last line about naming the nebula after A.G. - would season one's T'Pol have understood the importance of such an illogical, sentimental, human gesture?

The first two seasons feature a naïve, sometimes even a bumbling, Archer learning that at least some of the resentment he felt for the "gatekeeping" of the Vulcans was misplaced. Look at how often T'Pol's prudent warnings turned out to be correct. Likewise, we have seen T'Pol's character evolve over two seasons; she is no longer the ice cold Vulcan who disdains almost everything about humanity from their unrestrained emotions to the way they smell. This episode shows just how much both characters have grown.

I have seen some commenters say that one of the things they dislike about Archer is that he only became captain because of nepotism; that he rode on the coattails of his father's reputation. To me, that is the exact opposite way to view his character and this episode illustrates why. IMO, Archer is someone who loved his father, and feels a lot of bitterness because his father didn't live long enough to see his dream come true. Archer has devoted his entire life to proving the value of his father's work. Ironically, it almost cost him the chance to become captain of the NX-01 because he was so focused on becoming a great pilot to the exclusion of everything else in his life that it made him unfit for command in the eyes of Starfleet.

What did we learn from A.G.? On one hand, he taught the previously "by-the-book" Archer that you have to take risks in order to succeed. But I think there is a difference between being bold and being reckless. I think A.G. had a problem recognizing seeing the line between the two. First, he wrecks the experimental craft and almost ends the warp program. Secondly (and finally) he gets killed while mountain climbing and never gets the chance to go into space. To me, this illustrates a flaw in his character. Maybe that's why Archer, after learning that risk is sometimes necessary, was chosen to be captain of the Enterprise.

P.S. I listened to the commentary track on this episode last night and it featured one of the episode's screenwriters, Chris Black. He mentioned a few things that, in hindsight, he would change in the episode. IMO, almost every change he suggested would have led to a worse episode.

1) He wanted the bar fight to be bigger. I don't really get this at all. This was one of the weaker points in the story, and I don't see how turning it into an over the top Wild West saloon brawl would have made it better.

2) He thought the scenes in the shuttlecraft were too low key. To me they were played perfectly. You've got a scene featuring a Vulcan and a middle aged astronaut quietly grieving for an old friend while on a scientific expedition. I don't think having Bakula getting overly emotional would have fit the situation or the characters at all. I think he and Blalock both did very well in their scenes.

3) He wanted there to be some direct tie between the story Archer was narrating and the problem of finding the dark matter nebula. I don't really understand what he meant with this comment. The "problem" in the story wasn't finding the nebula, the "problem" was in convincing T'Pol that exploration is more than collecting data, that there are beautiful and wondrous things to be discovered if you are willing to take the risk. The script already does that perfectly, imo. I don't think it needed a scene where some scientific discovery or a piece of advice from 7 years ago literally helps them discover the nebula.

Today's lesson: leave well enough alone, Mr. Black. You got it right the first time. One George Lucas is more than enough.
Tue, Jun 1, 2021, 1:03pm (UTC -6)
Robinson's last words to Archer are "I'll see you out there". Now due to Archer's naming the first dark matter nebula the Robinson Nebula, everyone will see Robinson out there. I think this is a more poignant and emotional connection between the two story threads than any technobabble connection could ever have been.
Tue, Aug 10, 2021, 12:51am (UTC -6)
What I got from this was that in the 2 years since the launch of NX01, NX02 and presumably its captain, are still stuck waiting on Earth for the green light?
I enjoyed this episode though. Carradine's a good actor. Not surprising since he's the brother of Bill from Kill Bill.
Rick McCombs
Sat, Jan 8, 2022, 2:07am (UTC -6)
I like this Episode. I am now re-watching Enterprise.
The getting back to Earth at Warp speed during the commercial, reminded me of something no one mentioned that is supposedly risky to go to warp in the star system at least depending on if that is convenient for the writer.
Tarkalean Tea
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 1:25am (UTC -6)
This episode struck an "off" note with me right out of the gate when they talked about "Mt McKinley," an anachronism that threw me out of the story. Of course how could the writers know that the mountain would be given its original native name Denali just a few years after this episode aired?

The best part of "First Flight" for me is Jolene Blalock's performance. It's when I first started to like her character. Thankfully she ditched the psycho, unblinking death stare and disdainful tone. She blinks normally now and her eyes express accessibility, however reserved she continues (rightly, as a Vulcan) she continues to be. In my opinion, though this story was Archer's, T'Pol stole the show.
Mon, Jul 11, 2022, 11:44am (UTC -6)
Love this episode. One of my favorites from Enterprise's run.

Off topic, but I was thinking about what Enterprise would have looked like if it was produced in the modern era with 10 to 13 episode seasons. Just for fun I broke down my favorite episodes into 13 episode seasons.

Season One:

01 Broken Bow (1)
02 Broken Bow (2)
03 Fight or Flight
04 Strange New World
05 The Andorian Incident
06 Breaking the Ice
07 Civilization
08 Cold Front
09 Sleeping Dogs
10 Shadows of P'Jem
11 Oasis
12 Fallen Hero
13 Shockwave (1)

Season Two:

01 Shockwave (2)
02 Carbon Creek
03 Minefield
04 Dead Stop
05 Singularity
06 The Catwalk
07 Cease Fire
08 Future Tense
09 Canamar
10 Judgment
11 The Breach
12 Regeneration
13 First Flight

Season Three:

01 The Expanse
02 The Xindi
03 Anomaly
04 Impulse
05 The Shipment
06 Twilight
07 North Star
08 Similitude
09 Chosen Realm
10 Proving Ground
11 Stratagem
12 Doctor's Orders
13 Azati Prime (1)

Season Four:

01 Damage (2)
02 The Forgotten
03 E²
04 The Council
05 Countdown
06 Zero Hour
07 Storm Front (1)
08 Storm Front (2)
09 Home
10 Borderland (1)
11 Cold Station 12 (2)
12 The Augments (3)
13 The Forge (1)

Season Five:

01 Awakening (2)
02 Kir'Shara (3)
03 Observer Effect
04 Babel One (1)
05 United (2)
06 The Aenar (3)
07 Affliction (1)
08 Divergence (2)
09 Bound
10 In a Mirror, Darkly (1)
11 In a Mirror, Darkly (2)
12 Demons (1)
13 Terra Prime (2)
Fri, Nov 11, 2022, 4:21pm (UTC -6)
Not a fan of this one. It goes nowhere, there are no surprises, nothing new learned about the series. Vastly overrated.

And worst of all, it seems to have a 1950s feel, where the main woman in the show is a BARMAID. Mad Men had better representation than this. It's supposed to the MID-22nd CENTURY. And the lack of people who are not Americans on the crew... yikes.

I get the feeling this show was primarily designed to be mostly men and few women to make it "feel" behind TOS and TNG, with women still as the minority in the main cast, so they had to present this century as still dominated by hoo-rah Americans (one other non-American Earth crew member).

And Angry Archer is a tired act, even as a flashback to show he's evolved. Whatever.
Sun, Mar 19, 2023, 9:32pm (UTC -6)
Average ep.

Top Gun did it better!
Michael Miller
Sat, Aug 5, 2023, 4:30pm (UTC -6)
Trying to break the warp 2 barrier? The warp 2.1 barrier? Warp 2.2? Warp 2.5? Make up your mind!

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