Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 1/28/2005
Written by Mike Sussman & Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Straiton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Do you think we're moving too fast?" — Archer
In brief: An entertaining enough show, although there are plenty of standbys in use.
"Babel One" is one of those shows that benefits from ending on a good note. The theory goes, the last feeling the audience has is the most important one, because it will reflect upon the episode as a whole. Based on that theory, this episode works. The twist ending is successfully executed, isn't obvious before it's revealed, and maintains plausible logic. Because, after all, the Romulans are sneaky and deceptive and what they're doing here strikes me as their sort of tactic.
The rest of the episode is passable, but nothing for you to write home about (that's my job). You know the drill: Two warring societies must meet to settle their differences as our main characters play the role of peacekeepers/mediators. (When I pitched to Voyager in what, incomprehensibly, was five whole years ago, Bryan Fuller told me that one of my pitches fell too much into the general category of the "two warring societies" storyline. Obviously, if they have a category for it that they use to weed out pitches, this is not a new story.)
In the case of "Babel One," the warring people are the Andorians and the Tellarites. The Enterprise is transporting the Tellarite ambassador (Lee Arenberg) to the neutral world of Babel for negotiations over a trade dispute with the Andorians. Exacerbating the situation is the rampant distrust both species have for each other. The distrust is in no small part caused by ships each side has lost in recent years, presumably at the hands of the other.
The latest ship to be destroyed is Shran's, which was apparently attacked by a Tellarite vessel. Only Shran and 19 of his crew survived the assault; they are rescued by the Enterprise en route to the negotiations. Obviously, Shran is in no mood to deal with the Tellarites on board Archer's ship. ("Keep them away from us, or there will be bloodshed," he warns Archer.)
There's a lot of distrust and yelling. Perhaps too much. The Andorians and the Tellarites are both obstinate to the extreme, and Archer has the thankless role of playing referee.
Better is a scene where Archer and Shran share a drink, and Shran talks about his ship and crew. Shran's character is that of a hardened soldier, and the loss of his ship is a cause for wounded pride. I liked that. He also confesses his feelings for his subordinate officer Talas (Molly Brink), one of the ship's survivors who recently had became Shran's lover. She made the first move, Shran says, and his options were to either take her up on the offer or throw her in the brig. Call it Andorian pragmatism. "I hope you made the right decision," Archer quietly says.
The attacks in this region of space have caused strong friction between the Andorians and Tellarites, since both sides seem to be attacking each other, but there's a mystery brewing with clues: Why is the same power signature present at more than one attack site? Why does this contradict the visual evidence from the recorded logs of the attacks, which confirm that the Andorians and Tellarites are attacking each other? And why does an Andorian ship open fire on the Enterprise and refuse to acknowledge Shran's orders to stand down, before scurrying off?
One annoying aspect of the show — or more specifically, UPN's marketing campaign — is that we know the answers to these questions before the show even begins, because the trailers had given it away seven days before. This has the unfortunate effect of making the first 30 minutes of the plot extremely obvious to us, forcing us to watch in frustration while the characters put the pieces together. Fortunately, it doesn't take them too long to add things up, and T'Pol even quickly hypothesizes that the ship responsible — a rogue marauder — is based on the same technology as the minefield encountered two years ago in "Minefield" — the Romulans.
Archer realizes the delicate nature of the situation, as well as the opportunity he has available here. There's a historic chance to form an alliance, as well as indications that the Romulans — if they are indeed responsible — are determined to see that such an alliance is not formed. I liked the moment where Archer pauses to muse over Starfleet's role in this mess, asking T'Pol, "Do you think we're moving too fast?" T'Pol tells him that Starfleet is in a unique position as a neutral party to forge relationships where the Vulcans — distrusted by the Andorians — would be unable to help.
By Archer's good fortune, the Romulan marauder, which has the ability to disguise itself as any other ship by using a holographic skin and false signatures, breaks down dead in space, giving the Enterprise crew a chance to beam aboard and investigate. Reed and Trip are left behind below decks on the marauder when the Romulans are able to make repairs and escape. Trip and Reed continue their investigation on the marauder while Archer resumes his efforts to bring together Shran and the Tellarite ambassador so they can all pursue the marauder.
But before Archer can show his new evidence regarding the marauder, Shran and Talas break out of their quarters and go after the Tellarites. This leads to the usual action scenes and shootouts involving the MACOs, etc., and the tense standoffs, etc., as Shran demands answers from the Tellarites while holding his gun on them. Archer tries to squelch the situation, and is mostly successful in regaining Shran's trust, but not before Talas is wounded by a Tellarite with an itchy trigger finger.
Meanwhile, Trip and Reed make their way to the bridge of the Romulan marauder, and find themselves face to face with ... an empty bridge, controlled by remote. In what proves to be one of the season's more memorable moments, there's a cool pull-back reveal shot that shows the Romulans at their command stations, which turns out to be in a tower in the capital city on distant Romulus. It's a neat twist. I admit I didn't see it coming, and yet the logic holds. The show finds a way to do something unexpected and yet sensible given the fact that Trek history mandates that the Romulans are not to be seen by anyone in this century. If the rest of the episode had been this inventive, it might've been a great one. As it is, we have a decent story willing to employ standbys, up to a point.
Next week: Before there can be an alliance, there must first be a fight to the death, naturally.
Previous episode: Observer Effect
Next episode: United
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44 comments on this post
Sun, Oct 28, 2007, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
Decent storyline this time. I like the ending, but I'm losing hope that this show will live up to its predecessors.
Sun, Dec 12, 2010, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 12, 2010, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 24, 2011, 4:58am (UTC -5)
I have one comment on the plot, specifically relating to Jammer's annoyance at UPN. I'm currently watching the episodes on DVD (so no "Next week on ST Enteprise" spoiler-previews for me), yet the deduction that the marauding ship was in fact neither Tellarite nor Andorian but rather a third species, one with the technology to mimick other ships, was in fact quite obvious for me from the start. I didn't find this aspect of the story very creative to be honest.
I do agree with Jammer however concerning the ending: I certainly did not see it coming and it adds a nice twist to the trilogy (surpassed only by the twist of the following episode, when it is revealed WHO is in remote control of the marauder ship).
Sat, Sep 24, 2011, 9:30am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 26, 2011, 12:23am (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
The Tellarite makeup was ingenious. They found a way to make it effective and believable by 21st century standards, while still being true to the awful, ill-fitting masks used in TOS. The laughable gap between the mask and the actor's eyes became a creepy "feature" of the modern makeup, and Lee Arenberg knew how to use it to make his character more expressive in a most unsettling way. I thought it was a beautiful and creative "splice" of modern techniques with the wanting techniques of low-budget 1960s television.
A nice twist on the "red shirt" trope: The two red shirts ("MACOs") are beamed to safety first, leaving the stars in jeopardy on the alien ship.
A nice double-twist on the sexy-lady-seduces-clueless-guard trope: The guard doesn't fall for it, but when he reacts quickly to thwart the predictable ambush attempt by the lunging male, the sexy lady turns out to be the one he should be defending himself against, and she kicks his ass herself.
This isn't the best episode of season 4, but if they had kept up this level of quality as a minimum from the first season on, Enterprise would probably still be on the air.
Sat, Mar 24, 2012, 2:59am (UTC -5)
I do understand this is the fourth time this has occurred which has nearly resulted in the death of a crew member.
Once again I must apologize.
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 7:35pm (UTC -5)
Called that it'd be a ship that can disguise itself early on, even without the trailer, and Romulans weren't much of a stretch either from a few episodes ago.
Nothing much else to say! Ooh, they're controlling things from FF7's Midgar.
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 6, 2013, 5:38pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 1:17pm (UTC -5)
For the same reason that the consoles on the bridge explode: It looks cool and adds to the drama.
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 1:52am (UTC -5)
I loved this Babel arc. It filled in so much backstory for the original "Journey to Babel." And it has SHRAN!! With antennae that move! And his hot female sidekick, who kicks MACO ass!
The drone thing was cool -- and really timely here in 2014. I agree it's a stretch that Romulans had the tech that early, but they alone had cloaking devices in Kirk's century, so maybe they're just advanced in an ADD way -- develop a new toy, then discard it for the next.
And it's surprising the crew didn't guess that a holographic projection was taking place when they clearly identified it by its power signature -- obviously it wasn't an Andorian ship that attacked the Tellerites. It's a little disconcerting when the audience is a step ahead of the crew.
I got a deep Trekkie thrill seeing the four original Federation races all gathered together, starting to build an alliance. It would be more perfect if a captain as cool as Picard was involved. I really, really have to suspend disbelief to accept that the hothead Archer has anything to do with bringing the species together.
Mon, Feb 16, 2015, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
On the Romulans having this technology...it WAS a prototype, and DID break down in the middle of enemy space AND enemies were allowed to reach the bridge itself. I haven't seen the other episodes yet, but perhaps this design was abandoned becauseit wasn't reliable enough and this was the only time it was used?
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 6:11am (UTC -5)
I second the premise that the remote drone will be viewed as a liability, as we can already see this one has broken down in enemy territory with the bridge in the hands of enemy humans.
That aside, the execution of this episode is well done.
Mon, Aug 31, 2015, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
When is the Third Doctor going to turn up ?
Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 1:30am (UTC -5)
I am hoping that recent novels will explore the technology more in-depth with what they call the "Ware" in the "Rise of the Federation" series of novels. If the Romulans had done a deal to build ships with similar technology with the race that helped create the automated stations, it would explain the advanced drone ships.
Sat, May 14, 2016, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
Outside of that we got a lot of shouting, a lot of shooting, and some running round corridors. So it wasn't all good news, but solid enough. 2.5 stars.
Sat, May 20, 2017, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 14, 2017, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
I'm actually getting a little tired of Shran now. Might as well give Coombs a spot in the opening credits. Shran's better parts, as Jammer said, were with Archer going over the loss of his crew etc. Don't need to see more of Shran the warrior captain in gunfights, taking hostages. Actually don't need to see that in ENT period. Just getting old.
What is good about this episode is the link to "Journey to Babel" one of the best TOS episodes with Andorians/Tellarites trying to settle their disputes. But this episode doesn't come close to being as good as that one.
When starting to watch this episode, I had no idea it was the 1st part of a multi-part episode. Looks like S4 of ENT is all about small story arcs which is not a bad plan.
I'd give "Babel One" 2.5 stars -- I admit it was cool and an interesting surprise at the end to see the Romulan ship being commanded remotely , however it is inconsistent with prior Trek episodes. The Tellarites were portrayed in a manner consistent with 60s Trek although the coincidence that it's Shran's ship that got destroyed is one I think could have been avoided, but the producers want more Coombs (is he the only Andorian captain their Imperial Guard?).
Definitely a watchable hour of ENT although nothing particularly noteworthy.
Thu, Aug 17, 2017, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
The Romulans didn't have this tech in the 24th, much less the 22nd.
And Trip and Reed should be dead after the first hard maneuver, much less the jump to warp. With no inertial dampers, there would simply be no resisting the inertial forces on the human body from the extreme acceleration in various different directions. They would be chunky salsa inside those suits and the show would have to go on without them.
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
This was akin to George Washington having access to the internet.
Thu, Oct 12, 2017, 11:30am (UTC -5)
Loved the your-mama-style insults at the beginning of the episode.
It does feel like Shran is almost another member of the crew. He certainly gets more lines than some of the series regulars. Fortunately for me, I enjoy Combs performances.
I rate this 3 stars.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 10:04am (UTC -5)
-The fact that the Romulans have a ship that can disguise itself as other ships doesn't break canon. It's easy to see the Federation figuring out away of adjusting their sensors to see past the disguise sometime between this episode & TOS. (In the same way, a cloaking device from the TOS era might not fool a Federation ship from the TNG era; there is likely a constant technological race where both sides are improving to stay ahead of the other).
-The fact that the Romulans have remote control ships doesn't break cannon. As other's have said this technology may prove to be unreliable. It may also prove easy to jam. Block the signal, and they have no control over the ship. Again, this doesn't need to happen until the time of TOS to avoid breaking canon.
While I'm not going to argue over the defects in Starfleet's space suits, it was clever of the writers to make oxygen a problem for the landing party. They kept expecting to find an atmosphere somewhere. At the end of the episode they (and we) realize that there is a reason there's no atmosphere in the ship: the ship is unmanned.
I don't have much else to add to what Jammer & other's have said. It takes too long for the Enterprise crew to at least guess that there's another power at work here, but this is still a strong episode.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 5:41pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
And the writer's don't need to give these explanations. The complaints aren't justified (you certainly didn't provide 1 bit of reasoning in your 1 sentence dismissal of my "bad explanations").
Complaining that Federation tech decades before TOS couldn't see through Romulan tech decades before TOS somehow violates TOS continuity makes no logical sense. It's like complaining that a WWI story has planes showing up at a battlefield undetected, since we know they have Radar in WWII.
Any sort of holographic system, cloaking device, or weapon is based on technology. Another technological innovation can come along and make a previous technology useless instantly. And there are decades between ENT and TOS.
Sun, Jan 21, 2018, 2:18am (UTC -5)
It makes no sense for an episode to include obvious explanations for the reason a piece of technology is abandoned in the future.
Remote control or AI control technology was never or rarely used by "canon" Trek, in order to protect show drama. To go boldly where no man (or his drones) have gone before....
If writes can find a way to make episodes using this technology, they should not be restricted by the lack of imagination of their predecessors.
Fri, Mar 30, 2018, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 5, 2018, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Technology isn't abandoned, it's perfected. If the Romulans are using ships that can masquerade as anything here, they wouldn't just go back to conventional ships by two centuries later. More likely is that ALL ships in the 24th century would be shapshifting ships, with a "space race" centered on who could out-stealth and out-defeat stealth each other. The Enterprise, -A, -B, -C, -D, -E would all be shapeshifting ships.
Same logic goes for remotely piloted ships. If it could be done here, it would only have been perfected in the two centuries since, not abandoned. By the 24th century, ALL combat ships would be remotely piloted drones.
That's CLEARLY not what he have in the 23rd and 24th centuries.
That this ridiculous stuff could be done in the 22nd century, but a ship than can separate its saucer section and its drive section is state of the art two centuries later, is laughable.
Mon, Nov 12, 2018, 1:55am (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 12, 2018, 2:07am (UTC -5)
Greattrekker: like your theory on the link between the Romulans and the builders of the creepy repair station.
Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 11:44pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 10, 2019, 3:21am (UTC -5)
For a big event multi parter wasn’t very exciting. Very formulaic only thing that helps it rise above is the inclusion of the Tellarites, Andorians and Romulans
The Hoshi/archer bickering was fun.
Fri, Jun 26, 2020, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
Speaking of those little tidbits, there's the bit with Kos formally dissolving the marriage with T'Pol and then Reed asks Trip (when on the Romulan drone ship, no less) what he's going to do about it. I like how these 2 characters are written where they are good buddies even while on the Romulan drone and can talk about women!
Also Archer talking with T'Pol over a meal in the captain's mess about if they are are moving too fast vs. the Vulcans mediating between the Andorians and Tellarites is a good self-reflection that puts into context the extent humanity is getting involved in these galactic geopolitics.
As for Shran, I still wonder how Archer keeps running into him but it makes for good TV, especially when they get into a conversation over Andorian liqueur about Shran's romantic life.
There's some good continuity and character/world building here that adds to the richness of the overall material.
3 stars for "Babel One" -- There's really no downtime in this well-paced opener to a pretty good 3-parter. ENT was pretty damn good in Seasons 3 & 4 -- really wish we could have had another season with the momentum it had going.
Fri, Sep 11, 2020, 11:03am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 31, 2020, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 25, 2021, 11:06pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 7, 2021, 5:22am (UTC -5)
In this episode, the room that the Romulans are shown to occupy has a similar no-front-direction design, making us believe this is ENT's depiction of a standard Romulan bridge. But this is what helps them hide the ending so well -- because a standard starship bridge would have been much harder to pull back from to reveal a static room on a planet. Brilliant art direction!
Wed, Jul 7, 2021, 5:30am (UTC -5)
Another reason that the technology may become obsolete is that the drone has to be necessarily *smaller* than the ship it is projecting. If unmanned drone tech becomes obsolete in the future only large manned ships will remain, and there will be no larger "skins" to project.
Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 7:43am (UTC -5)
I found this very ordinary, like so many Enterprise episodes. 2 stars max.
Thu, Jun 23, 2022, 11:33am (UTC -5)
And of course there's Shran. I love watching his antennae twitch according to his emotions! Absolutely one of the best sci-fi effects of all time, on any Star Trek Series.
3 paws and tail wag?
Tue, Jul 19, 2022, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
I really like the Andorians, Tellarites, and Orions - why the heck didn't TNG or DS9 ever make use of these races? They are interesting characters and interesting visually. You would think those shows would have done something with them. Oh, well. Their loss is Enterprise's gain, I suppose.
Random post-script: I've been taking a bunch of screenshots for a photoshop project and while Enterprise has some of the best stunt work in Trek the cuts between the actors and stunt people are still pretty noticeable when you're going through an episode frame by frame. That's not a criticism since it would be very difficult to hide the swaps perfectly.
There is a VERY noticeable (and amusing) switch in the fight scene involving Talas and the MACO. As soon as the fight starts Talas' breasts mysteriously triple in size. And this being UPN when given the choice between making a stunt look realistic or shoving the camera directly into the the stunt woman's big blue boobs there really isn't a choice at all.
I don't know, maybe Andorians are related to Denobulans and they automatically inflate when their fight or flight instinct kicks in.
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