Star Trek: Enterprise’s two-parter “Demons” and “Terra Prime” speak to right now…

Earth, Today.

The third decade of the 21st century is off to a really rocky start.  Political unrest in the United States at its most volatile since the late 1960s, arguably more so, in fact.  Severe racial and economic strife, grotesque social injustice, a global pandemic, rampant political corruption, multiple constitutional crises and even murder hornets might make a passing alien starship want to turn tail and warp back home.  According to Star Trek, our current social strife will eventually lead to a third world war in a few more decades or so.  Despite this eventual nuclear holocaust, the fictional universe of Star Trek optimistically opines that humanity’s best days are still ahead of us; later this century, and well into the 22nd, we will see the invention of faster-than-light warp drive, meet the logical Vulcans and get our act together on Planet Earth before we help form the “United Federation of Planets.”

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Hollywood Boulevard, not far from where “Enterprise” was filmed (from 2001-2005), we see the temporarily closed off street displaying honors to both “Black Lives Matter” and the current LGBTQ “Pride Month” of June.  Star Trek has been championing diversity (both human and otherwise) for decades.

Sometimes extreme challenges are the catalyst for social change.  Today we see how the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd during an arrest has led to massive urban protests all over the United States (and even the world), including unprecedented calls for police reform, and even the renaming a section of 16th Street Northwest in Washington DC as “Black Lives Matter” Boulevard.  Just this week, the US Supreme Court officially declared discrimination against LGBTQ persons at their places of work to be unconstitutional, after states and individual companies previously reserved the ‘right’ to fire someone solely on the basis of their sexuality.  Out of dark times and tragedy often comes change.

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Star Trek once gave a literal black and white lesson about the banality and futility of prejudice in the somewhat heavy-handed (but still relevant) TOS episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” costarring Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio as feuding aliens “Bele” and “Lokai.”

As Star Trek’s own Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) once said, “Change is the essential process of all existence” (from the equally relevant TOS episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” which was filmed only a few years after the Watts Riots in Los Angeles).

Star Trek: Enterprise’s two-part episodes “Demons” and “Terra Prime” use a xenophobic, militant faction of 22nd century humanity, the “Terra Prime” movement, as biting metaphor for current prejudices within our own kind, based on skin color, culture, economic class and sexuality.  With my recent rewatch, I was once again amazed at how ably Star Trek uses the lens of future metaphors to speak to the humans of right now.   In fact, the fictional Terra Prime movement could just as easily have been wearing brightly colored baseball caps.

*****STARSHIP-SIZED SPOILERS!!*****

 

“Demons.”

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The ruthless Paxton (Peter Weller) and his assistant Mercer (Patrick Fischler).  

The first part of the two-parter, directed by TNG star LeVar Burton (“Geordi LaForge”) opens on a mining colony on Luna (yes, Earth’s own moon). We see administrator Frederick Paxton (“Robocop” star Peter Weller) speaking with an assistant named Mercer (“Idiocracy” costar Patrick Fischler) about the condition of “it.”

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The first human/Vulcan hybrid predated Spock by nearly a century.

The ‘it’ in question is a beautiful, six-month old baby girl with human features…save for her gracefully pointed Vulcan ears.  Nearly a century after first contact between humans and Vulcans in 2063, she represents the first genetic pairing of human and Vulcan DNA.  Paxton is using the baby girl for as-yet-unknown purpose…

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The crew of the NX-01 Enterprise, Captain Archer, Dr. Phlox, Lt. Reed, T’Pol, Hoshi Sato, Trip Tucker and Travis Mayweather.

Meanwhile, not far away at Starfleet’s Headquarters in San Francisco on Earth, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his officers from the starship Enterprise are listening to a unity speech by Nathan Samuels (Harry Groener), Earth’s representative of the fledgling Coalition of Planets (a precursor to the eventual “Federation of Planets”). Chief engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker (Connor Trinneer), comm officer Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), tactical officer Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) and helmsman Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) are somewhat unenthusiastic for the speech, as Samuels gives virtually no credit to Archer and his crew for their central role in forming the Coalition.  Archer, angered by their lukewarm response, orders them to “clap louder.”  Only the two aliens in Archer’s crew, Denobulan doctor Phlox (Jonathan Billingsley) and Vulcan T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) seem to muster the appropriate enthusiasm, though T’Pol later concedes to Archer that her human colleagues may have a point.  Archer is fine with letting Samuels, a born politician, take all the credit.  We’ve seen that parallel in modern politics all too often when politicians all across the political spectrum take credit for the actions of the military, or others who’ve put their actual lives on the line…

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“They’re going to kill her!”  A fatally injured Khouri plays the frustrating ‘pronoun game’ just before her death.

As Travis briefly reconnects with old flame/journalist Gannett Brooks (Johanna Watts), we see a frantic, mortally wounded woman named Khouri (Christine Romeo) rushing into the room with what appears to be a phase pistol blast to her abdomen. She urgently passes on a vial with what appears to be human hair in it.  Khouri cryptically warns, “They’re going to kill her!” before succumbing to her own fatal wound.  T’Pol takes the vial, as Phlox screams for a med kit.

Note:  The name of Travis’ old flame, “Gannett,” appears to be a reference to the Gannett news organization.  I see what you did there, Manny Coto (4th season showrunner and writer for this episode).

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On-again, off-again shipmates and lovers, T’Pol and Trip.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Phlox has pronounced Khouri dead.  Turns out she was a member of a far-right ‘humans only’ faction on Earth known as “Terra Prime,” which seeks to banish all aliens currently living on Earth (not at all unlike Donald Trump’s travel bans, or his followers’ frantic chants of “Build the wall” during his rallies).  Khouri defected from the group, at the cost of her own life, to deliver the vial of hair…which turns out to be from a human/Vulcan hybrid baby born of Trip and T’Pol (!).  T’Pol has to convince Trip that she was never pregnant with their child, but a reluctant Trip has lingering doubt (though he eventually comes around).  Phlox is as puzzled as his on-again/off-again shipmates Trip and T’Pol, but he assures them that the DNA evidence is unimpeachable; somewhere out there, they have a baby girl.

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Section 31 operative Harris contacts his former colleague Malcolm Reed.

Archer orders Reed, a former Section 31 operative (Section 31 is a Starfleet Black Ops unit), to seek out his old boss Harris (Eric Pierpoint, of TV’s “Alien Nation”) and dig into the Terra Prime movement.  Meeting in a foggy dark alleyway, Harris confirms that Khouri was a member of Terra Prime, and he offers more information…if Reed will continue to work clandestinely for Section 31.  This continues an arc which began earlier in the season, when Reed was forced to lie to Archer about his work for the secretive agency.   Meanwhile, on Luna, Paxton begins to have doubts about his aide Mercer, who seems to be increasingly protective of the baby.  After Mercer leaves his office, Paxton calls his formidable henchman Daniel (Peter Mensah) to gather a group of men together and meet him in the caves “in one hour.”  Clearly poor Mercer is not long for this world…

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Archer wants a favor from Coalition president Samuels (Harry Groener), who’s always open to a bribe. Groener played the evil high school principal in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”’s third season.

Back at Starfleet Headquarters, Samuels is mediating a dispute between delegates (thank goodness for the handy universal translators) when he is interrupted by Archer, who comes seeking classified information that was denied to him, hoping Samuels could pull a few strings for him.  Reflexively, the bureaucratic Samuels stonewalls Archer, until the captain blackmails him with some damning information; Samuels himself used to be a member of Terra Prime.  The younger Samuels joined the movement after blaming a Denobulan pilot for the death of his father in a shuttle accident.  Samuels isn’t particularly proud of his past, and not wanting to open that can of worms, he tells Archer that he will have his information within the hour.  Archer thanks him and leaves.

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Sparks fly between pilot Travis and reporter Gannett.  Decades since Star Trek pioneered American TV’s first interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura, absolutely no mention is made, nor is one required, of an interracial pairing today.  

Meanwhile, things slowly heat up between Travis and Gannett, as she talked her editor into letting her do a story on the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise.  Travis sees through the ruse, but his old feelings for her begin to surface, and he agrees to at least give her a tour of the ship.   Taking her into one of his beloved shuttle-pods, he tells her that while the ship’s transporters have been safely rated for human travel, he prefers taking shuttle-pods whenever possible.  Their flirty banter together goes from warm to cold and to warm again, as the two of them passionately kiss.  They return to his quarters to continue their successfully rekindled romance…

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Since Star Trek is still (more or less) ‘family-friendly’ entertainment, women are apparently required to wear bras during sex aboard starships.

Meanwhile, Phlox has found a hormone in Khouri’s autopsy that indicates she worked in the Luna mining facility, which has become a focal point of Terra Prime activity.  Travis knows someone at the colony who might be able to get a pair of undercover agents from Enterprise to infiltrate the facility.  Trip and T’Pol, fearing for their unknown daughter’s safety, both volunteer.   Elsewhere on Luna, the lifeless body of would-be defector Mercer is discovered under a pile of rubble…the victim of an unfortunate (and orchestrated) ‘accident.’

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T’Pol and Trip are lost…but they’re making good time.

Working undercover in the mines on Luna, Trip and T’Pol are lost in the subsurface tunnels, as they quibble over the right way to get to their destination.  As T’Pol briefly wanders off, Trip is met by a veteran miner named Josiah (Adam Clark) who takes newbie Trip under his wing and shows him the ropes.  Trip, playing the part of an anti-alien racist, immediately connects with Josiah, who is a high-ranking member of Terra Prime.   Josiah tells Trip that they’re having a rally later that night in one of the junctions, and he’s invited.  As Josiah leaves, Trip finds T’Pol and tells her that he might have an inside track.  He goes to Josiah’s Terra Prime rally…

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Terra Prime operative Josiah spews some terribly familiar xenophobic rhetoric in a chilling rally speech that echoes a lot of disturbing things we are hearing from our leaders today.

Note: the small but fervent gathering of Terra Prime loyalists is disturbing on multiple levels.  The speech given by Josiah bears an uncomfortable similarity to some of the blatant anti-immigrant statements made by the current US president at his rallies, with calls for apologies from former alien foes (the “Xindi”), as well as calling attention to the ‘problem’ of “unregistered aliens” currently living on Earth; a clear metaphor for the kind of reactionary anger directed at undocumented immigrants living within present-day United States.

The impromptu Terra Prime ‘rally’ ends with Josiah publicly outing Trip as a member of the crew of the starship Enterprise.  Trip and T’Pol’s covers are officially blown.

Aboard the Enterprise, Gannett and Travis are finished getting dressed when the chime is rung outside Travis’ quarters.  It’s Archer and Reed, who’ve come to arrest Gannett on the suspicion of being an undercover operative for Terra Prime.

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Paxton meets “Romeo and Juliet.”

Trip and T’Pol, their true identities revealed are taken by Josiah and Daniel to Paxton’s office, where (in true Bond villain fashion) he invites the two of them to watch as he prepares the mining colony itself for ‘launch mode.’  The mining colony is a limited warp-capable ship as well.   Paxton compares Trip and T’Pol to Romeo and Juliet, wondering if these star-crossed lovers might have an equally unhappy fate in store for them; he also reiterates his view that Terra Prime mission of eradicating aliens from Earth is his life’s work, and that he will not be stopped.

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The mining colony blasts off from Luna, en route to Mars.  A ‘walk across the street’ in Star Trek mileage. 

Henchman Daniel takes the ‘helm’ of the mining colony, and with everyone safety tucked within its hull, he fires the giant vessel/complex off of the lunar surface for a “walk across the street” to the planet Mars.  The launch of the mining complex includes some dazzling visual effects work for 2005; even today, much of the work done for Star Trek: Enterprise still holds up very well.

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Reed, Archer and even Travis interrogate Gannett, who smartly buys herself time by insisting on her right to legal counsel.

Back aboard Enterprise, Gannett is interrogated by Archer and Reed.  She insists that she was sent to the ship as an assignment by her editor, but Malcom claims her editor denies it.  Feeling penned in, she demands the right to speak with counsel, and a frustrated Archer order her to the brig, but also tells Reed to give her “whatever counsel she wants” (an inalienable right that Archer is compelled to respect, however grudgingly).

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Paxton and henchmen/helmsman Daniel pilot their mining vessel ‘across the street.’ 

After a brief warp speed jump, Daniel carefully lands the mining complex/vessel to the partly terraformed surface of Mars, which bears a much thicker (though still unbreathable) atmosphere than the Mars of today.   Daniel lands the complex near the ‘verteron array’ which is used to fire concentrated high energy beams out to comets and direct them to collide with Mars, in order to melt the planet’s polar ice and aid in its terraforming.

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Landing at Mars, the portable mining colony coopts the Martian-based ‘verteron array’ for a very different purpose…

Paxton takes control of the verteron array and fires a immobilizing warning shot at Enterprise.  Paxton begins a systemwide broadcast everywhere within the solar system; all aliens are to leave Earth immediately, or the beam will be used at Starfleet Command Headquarters in San Francisco.  “Terra Prime…forever.” 

To Be Continued…

Note: it’s disturbing enough to hear and see blatantly racist behavior within current humanity, but to see it manifest in Star Trek’s imaginary 22nd century (a midpoint between the humans of today and the ‘enlightened’ humans of Star Trek’s far future) is even more disturbing.  While perhaps not as hard-hitting or profound as Deep Space Nine’s “Far Beyond The Stars”,  Enterprise’s “Demons” is, sadly, still a very relevant piece of television for our current age.   Once again, I fail to understand those who decry modern Star Trek series such as “Discovery” or “Picard” as being “too political” or aimed solely at “social justice warriors.” “Star Trek” has always been about politics and social justice.

 

“Terra Prime.”

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A frustrated Hoshi and Archer can’t stop Paxton’s terrorist message of hate.

Part two (directed by series’ cinematographer Marvin Rush, from a screenplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens) begins with Archer, aboard a temporarily crippled Enterprise, trying in vain to jam or block Paxton’s terrorist threat to Earth.  As they watch the broadcast helplessly, Paxton shows a proof-of-life image of what he is trying to prevent; the ‘corruption’ of humanity’s ‘purity,’ in the form of the hybrid Vulcan/human baby girl.

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The Andorian ambassador begins to panic as Terra Prime members protest outside of alien embassies, using ugly epithets not found in the universal translators.

At Earth, Samuels is beset on all sides by Tellarite, Andorian and Vulcan delegates who are fearful by the massive demonstrations outside of their embassies.  Even their universal translators can’t decode some of the epithets being used.  It’s an ugly time for Earth, and these aliens are trapped in the thick of it.   Samuels returns to Enterprise, where he orders Archer to destroy the Martian verteron array.  Without the array, the multiple comets that are due to impact Mars will hit random targets such as the domed colonies, threatening millions.  Archer suggests another idea; he will lead a small team in a shuttle-pod, traveling within the icy tail of Comet Burke, which is due to impact Mars very soon.  Upon landing, they will slip into the mining complex and stop Paxton from firing on Earth before his deadline.  Samuels reluctantly agrees, but if they fail to hear from Archer before the deadline, he will order Enterprise to fire on the array.

On the mining complex vessel, Paxton allows Trip and T’Pol to finally meet their daughter, but only in exchange for engineer Trip’s help in refining their verteron beam so that they only hit Starfleet Command, and not all of San Francisco; Paxton wants a scalpel, not a bludgeon.  Trip refuses to cooperate, until Josiah holds a phase pistol to his head.

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Reed and Harris meet again…just get a room, you two.

Meeting once again with Section 31’s Harris on another foggy night, Malcolm needs to know their chances of reaching the colony undetected.  Harris tells Reed that the now denser Martian atmosphere makes the planet’s sensors a bit less reliable, which should allow Archer’s team some wiggle room to infiltrate the complex undetected.  The two spies, one present and one past, shake hands as Harris wishes his former colleague luck.  A reminder that despite their ethically differing approaches, both Section 31 and Starfleet Command ultimately share common goals.

Note: The morally dubious Section 31 was first introduced in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and later played a large role in “Star Trek: Discovery.”  There was also talk of a Section 31 spinoff series starring Michelle Yeoh, but with most film and TV production still uncertain during the COVID-19 pandemic, news is scarce.

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T’Pol meets her daughter, who will eventually be named “Elizabeth” after Trip’s late sister. 

T’Pol, alone in confinement with her daughter, tries to connect with the baby (with comical results) as she is interrupted by Paxton.  Paxton warns her about the danger the baby represents to the Vulcan race as well, but T’Pol argues that neither human nor Vulcan races are what they once were before first contact in 2063.  Both species will continue to evolve together (this alludes to the Vulcan philosophy of “IDIC”; Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations).  T’Pol also makes a note of Paxton’s shaking hand. As Paxton leaves, T’Pol uses her small scanner to conduct a quick, discrete bio-scan…

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Gannett is visited by lover Travis in the brig, where she finally comes clean…but isn’t believed. 

Meanwhile in the Enterprise’s brig, Travis visits Gannett, who tells her she still hasn’t had access to counsel.  Travis sarcastically tells her that they’re “a little busy” right now, with the ship traveling in the tail of Comet Burke en route to Mars.  She comes clean with Travis, telling him she is actually working for Starfleet Intelligence, trying to sniff out Terra Prime moles who may be working aboard Enterprise.   She also warns Travis that if there are Terra Prime operatives aboard, Paxton will know they are going to Mars.  Travis has had enough of her manipulative games and leaves, unsure if she can ever be trusted again.

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Trip and Daniel really know how to push each other’s buttons. 

On Mars, Trip is held by Paxton’s chief muscle Daniel, forcing him to refine the verteron targeting system.  Trip tries to curry some favor with his captor by telling him of his own previous prejudices with Vulcans.  Daniel relates a conspiracy theory that Vulcans allowed Earth to experience World War Three before making contact, rationalizing that a weakened humanity would be less resistant to their invasion.  Trip is amazed that Daniel believes such ‘crap’, right before Daniel taunts Trip about his half-Vulcan ‘freak’ of a daughter.  Trip then punches the bigger man, who is caught off-guard just long enough for him to sabotage the targeting system.  Regaining his composure, Daniel returns the favor, and accuses Trip of being a race traitor.

Later, as Paxton becomes aware of Trip’s sabotage, he has the wily engineer placed in confinement with a single viewscreen to see the resultant carnage from his non-cooperation.

Meanwhile, T’Pol remains in her cell with her daughter.  Carefully observing the infant, T’Pol then uses her scanner to run a check on the baby’s health…

Leaving with Travis, Reed and Phlox to Mars, Archer leaves Hoshi, the former nervous-flyer ensign, in command of Enterprise until he returns.  Archer kids her about the times she used to jump whenever the ship went to warp.  She says she still jumps, but has become better at hiding it.  Confident that she will make a fine acting captain, Archer and his team head to the shuttle-pod bay.

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Enterprise launches one of her twin shuttle-pods towards Comet Burke, en route to Mars.

The shuttle-pod is launched directly into the tail of Comet Burke.  Pilot Travis weakens the pod’s inertial dampeners, in order for it to look like a piece of cometary debris.  This deliberate rough ride makes Reed deeply airsick (or space sick?).  Phlox offers to give Reed something to ease his nausea, but Reed insists he’s had the maximum dosage already.  The good doctor then gives Reed an old-fashioned, in-flight barf bag instead…

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“This is your pilot Travis Mayweather speaking.  Please tuck your heads firmly between your knees and kiss your asses goodbye…”

Continuing their approach to Mars from within the comet’s turbulent tail, the controls of the pod suddenly and inexplicably lock up; a last-minute switch to manual control saves the day, as Travis’ skill at the controls saves their necks.  Passing undetected into the Martian atmosphere, the damaged pod streaks past the “Carl Sagan Memorial Station” and lands, just as Comet Burke impacts at its appointed site for the terraforming effort.

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“32!”  “248!”   Sounds like Reed and Phlox are exchanging prison yard jokes.

Exiting from their rough ride wearing thermal gear and oxygen masks, Reed randomly says “Thirty two,” explaining to Dr. Phlox that Mars is the 32nd planet he’s set foot on during his time on Enterprise.  The Denobulan Phlox chuckles, quipping that Mars makes for planet “Two hundred and forty-eight” in his case.   It’s a nice character-building moment that reiterates Star Trek: Enterprise’s being set in the early days of Starfleet, when new space explorers might still be prone to ‘keeping score’ of how many celestial bodies they set foot upon.

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“I Wanna Hold Your Haaaaaand!”

Meanwhile, T’Pol requests permission to see Paxton in his office.  Escorted by Josiah, she wants to confront Paxton about a private issue.  Paxton says he keeps “no secrets from my men.” T’Pol coolly declares, “You and I both know that’s not true.”  Worried bout what she might know, Paxton orders Josiah to wait outside.  Alone with Paxton, she grabs his trembling hand and reveals his “Taggart’s Syndrome,” a disease that should’ve killed him before age 20 had he not used Rigellian gene therapy.  T’Pol succeeds in exposing the xenophobic leader’s hypocrisy.  Dismissing her accusation, Paxton meekly counters by saying, “I’m not the first significant leader who failed to measure up to his own ideal.”  T’Pol doesn’t let him off the hook, stating that by the standards of Paxton’s own hero, 21st century genocidal leader Colonel Green, Paxton should’ve been euthanized.  Their argument ends in stalemate, as the clearly stung Paxton remains undeterred from his mission.

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Hoshi Sato remains steady, even in the face of orders directly from Coalition leader Samuels.

Aboard Enterprise, Samuels heads to the bridge to confront acting captain Sato, telling her that Paxton’s deadline is up.  Hoshi states that the verteron array will take at least two minutes to power up.  Samuels orders her to fire or risk the deaths of thousands back on Earth, but Hoshi refuses, stating that Archer left her in command and she will give him every opportunity to succeed in his mission before firing.

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A freshly escaped Trip reunites with his shipmates.

Archer’s team sneaks into the complex and find an escaped Trip, who used bits from his miner’s belt to escape from confinement (this is why you never leave an imprisoned engineer unguarded…just sayin’).  As they break into the control room of the mining facility, Archer contacts Enterprise tells Hoshi they’re inside.  Trip tries to shut down the verteron array, but Daniel shoots him, stopping him mid-attempt.  Daniel himself is also shot, as a full-on firefight breaks out.  A random phase-pistol shot strikes the front window, causing it to slowly crack apart and depressurize in a spiderweb configuration.  Reed is also struck by pistol fire and taken out of the room by Travis and Dr. Phlox.

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Archer puts a phase pistol to the unyielding Paxton’s head, but to no avail. 

Archer puts his oxygen mask on Trip, as Paxton tries to get under Archer’s skin by accusing his father, warp engineer Henry Archer, of working with the Vulcans at the cost of his integrity.  Paxton explains to Archer that humanity needs to simply take those planets it need for themselves.  Archer says, “The galaxy’s more crowded than we thought.”  Suddenly, the cracking window blows open, exposing the room to the thinner Martian atmosphere outside.  Archer struggles to breathe, while Paxton, used to the thinner air, is able to lock the firing controls and prevent Archer from disabling the weapon.  Even at Archer’s gunpoint, there is nothing that can be done.

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Wait, is this the 2009 “Star Trek” movie?

Archer is unable to prevent the verteron array from firing, yet the deadly beam strikes harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean near the Golden Gate bridge, not Starfleet Command.  This is a deliberate result of Trip’s earlier tampering and sabotage of the verteron beam’s targeting controls.  The day is saved, and the foiled terrorist Paxton is taken into custody.

Note: JJ Abrams’ film, “Star Trek” (2009), seems to have ‘borrowed’ this same climax, as that movie featured a massive Romulan (not Martian) mining platform firing its own deadly beam into the Pacific Ocean, just west of the Golden Gate (!).  While I enjoyed the Abrams’ movie, it’s not exactly the most original storyline.  Luckily, the charm of its main cast and its impressive scope, as well as the legitimizing presence of the late Leonard Nimoy, make it a far more entertaining film than its otherwise unoriginal story should’ve offered.  

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A revelation that might’ve been even more shocking if we’d gotten to know Ensign Masaro just a little bit more, like Lt. Valeris in 1991’s “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

Back safely aboard Enterprise and recovered from their mission, Travis tries to solve the mystery of the shuttle-pod’s near fatal helm malfunction upon descent.  With Reed’s assistance, he inspects the pod’s hull and finds irrefutable evidence of sabotage.  Suspecting the officer who signed off on the pod’s maintenance log, they interrogate assistant engineer Kelby (Derek Magyar) who tells them it was Ensign Masaro (Josh Holt).  Reed and Hoshi contact the captain, and Archer encounters the ensign near one of the ship’s turbo-lifts.  The conflicted ensign pulls a phaser on Archer but lacks the nerve to fire on his captain, instead putting the weapon to his own head and pulling the trigger.  Masaro, the ship’s lone (?) Terra Prime operative is dead.  It’s also assumed that he was the one who stole Trip and T’Pol’s genetic material from Phlox’s sickbay to create the cloned daughter of the two unwitting parents, who have decided to name “Elizabeth”, in honor of Trip’s sister who was killed during the Xindi attack on Earth over a year ago (“The Expanse”; the episode that served as the series’ thinly-veiled metaphor for 9/11).

Note: one wonders if Masaro was the only Terra Prime operative working on the ship, or are there other Terra Prime operatives in Starfleet?  With their leader Paxton in custody, will the others just meekly realize the ‘error of their ways,’ or will they continue to practice sabotage and other acts of defiance in their careers?   One looks at the fervent cult following of US politicians such as Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders and wonders what will their passionate followers do if/when their chosen leaders fall out of influence?  Had Star Trek: Enterprise not been cancelled after its 4th season, this might’ve been an interesting ongoing thread to explore. 

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Newfound parents T’Pol and Trip are given bad news about the condition of their newly-named daughter Elizabeth.

In sickbay, Trip and T’Pol learn from Dr. Phlox that their daughter Elizabeth is dying.  It’s assumed that her pairing of human and Vulcan DNA is ultimately incompatible.  Archer enters sickbay to pay his respects, and Phlox makes his report to the captain.

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John Billingsley’s performance in the final scenes of “Terra Prime” bring down the house.

The following scene is beautifully performed by Jonathan Billingsley, as Phlox tearfully tells Archer that when he first signed on as ship’s physician he thought it’d make for an interesting ‘diversion’ and a nice getaway from the (extremely) complicated rituals of Denobulan family life.  The last thing he anticipated was gaining a new family, and that Elizabeth’s passing hurts him as much as if she were his own daughter.  Just thinking of this scene makes me tear up.  It’s no coincidence that Phlox is one of my favorite characters in the series.  Phlox not only embodies Star Trek’s credo of ‘seeking out new life and new civilizations,’ he actively embraces it.

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Perhaps Captain Picard isn’t the only Starfleet captain to make such gorgeously inspiring speeches after all…

Back at Starfleet Command, Archer and his crew are listening to Samuels speak to the assembled delegates, as he tries to reassure them that what happened with the Terra Prime movement should not deter their commitment to the Coalition of Planets.  With Samuels failing to win the room,  Archer sees an opening and addresses the delegates:  “Up until about a hundred years ago, there was one question that burned in every human, that made us study the stars and dream of traveling to them, Are we alone? Our generation is privileged to know the answer to that question. We are all explorers, driven to know what’s over the horizon, what’s beyond our own shores. And yet, the more I’ve experienced, the more I’ve learned that no matter how far we travel, or how fast we get there, the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond that next star. They’re within us, woven into the threads that bind us, all of us, to each other. The final frontier begins in this hall. Let’s explore it together.”   Vulcan ambassador Soval (Gary Graham), who’d been a thorn in Archer’s side for years, stands and begins a round of applause for the captain, as the other grateful alien delegates follow.

Note: Gary Graham, who plays Vulcan ambassador Soval, and Eric Pierpoint, who plays Section 31’s Harris, were costars in the short-lived Fox sci-fi TV series “Alien Nation,” (1989-1990), which was based on the 1988 film starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. In that series, Pierpoint wore the alien makeup as alien ‘Newcomer’ police officer George Francisco (another coincidence?), while Graham played his cynical human partner Matt Sykes.  Despite its single season run, the series continued in several subsequent TV movies throughout the 1990s.  “Alien Nation” (an underrated gem) often dealt with xenophobia, intolerance and cultural impasses as well.

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The other pair of star-crossed lovers in this two-part episode; Travis and Gannett choose to say goodbye, but slowly

Another thread is tied up as Travis escorts an exonerated Gannett to the ship’s transporter bay.  Having only recently rekindled their rocky romance, they find they aren’t in such a great hurry to say goodbye.  With Travis staying on Enterprise and Gannett (presumably) returning to her former life as a journalist on Earth, they decide to enjoy a bit more time together by taking a slower shuttle-pod ride back to Earth instead…

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In my humble opinion, Jolene Blalock (sadly since retired from acting) gave the most subtle, nuanced performance as a Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in TOS.

Following the death of Elizabeth, a despondent T’Pol is alone in her quarters, tightly gripping her IDIC medallion (IDIC representing the diversity and beauty of Elizabeth’s short life).  Her mourning is broken by the chime to her door, as she admits Trip to join her in grief.

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If the final scene between the grief-stricken parents T’Pol and Trip doesn’t make you cry?  You might want to check under the hood to make sure you’re not a robot.

His arm still in a sling following the incident on Mars, Trip loses the battle to keep his composure as he struggles to relate news from Dr. Phlox; there was an undetected error in the cloning process used by Terra Prime to create Elizabeth.  Her death was not the result of any incompatibility between human and Vulcan DNA, as previously believed.  As T’Pol gently takes his hand, the grief-stricken Trip tells her that if a human and Vulcan ever decided to have a child together, there is no nothing biological to prevent it.

This statement of Trip’s ultimately paves the way for Spock, another personification of the concept of IDIC, who will be born less than a century later…

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The End.

 

That Other Enterprise Finale.

While those last few paragraphs of the “Terra Prime” story synopsis might sound like a near-perfect way to end the series, it is not the official end of Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT).  That distinction belongs to the hotly debated finale, “These Are The Voyages…” cowritten by series’ creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.  “These Are The Voyages…” places the time-jumping series finale within a holodeck recreation of the NX-01’s crew, summoned by Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) during the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 7th season episode, “The Pegasus.” 

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While they were both very welcome in the recent Star Trek: Picard episode “Nepenthe,” Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes felt more like a pair of cosmic interlopers in ENT’s “These Are The Voyages…”

Apparently Riker had hours of time to waste during the previously tightly-plotted “Pegasus” mission, and used them to recreate Archer and his crew in order to learn how to deal with having to come clean about a past mistake and defy the orders of a superior officer.  Beyond the nagging issue of forcing the crew of ENT to share their final limelight with the arguably more popular TNG crew, there are many other questionable decisions made throughout the episode, such as killing off popular character Trip Tucker like a TOS redshirt, or never even hearing the ‘great speech’ that Archer is about to give at the end, which Troi “memorized as a little girl.”  While the 4th season of ENT was arguably one of the best seasons of Star Trek ever,  “These Are The Voyages…” really drops the ball.  With a few rewrites, it could’ve made for a passable standalone episode in the middle of the season, but as a series’ finale it’s unfocused, and ultimately compromised by a few too many ill-fitting choices.  For myself?  I prefer to think of “Demons” and “Terra Prime” as my official ‘head canon’ ending to this underrated Star Trek series.

I’d previously written my thoughts on the entire series in the link below:

Time has been kind to Star Trek: Enterprise.

 

Connections/Easter Eggs.

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The comet impacting Mars in “Terra Prime” is named “Comet Burke,” presumably after “John Burke”, the fictional 21st century British astronomer first mentioned in the TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” (1967).  Burke was the first person to map the region of both Donatu 5 and Sherman’s Planet, a hotly disputed zone sought by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire (the famed “battle of Donatu 5” was also mentioned in Star Trek: Discovery’s pilot episode, “The Vulcan Hello”).

The “Carl Sagan Memorial Station” seen on Mars (presumably in Mars’ Ares Vallis region) honors the landing site of the real-life 1997 Mars Pathfinder lander and its “Sojourner” rover, which is seen briefly in Enterprise’s opening credits montage).  The name Carl Sagan honors the late pop scientist (1934-1996) who popularized space science with his 1980 TV series and book “COSMOS,” and cofounded  The Planetary Society, of which I’ve been a proud member for 30 years.  The Sojourner rover was named after former slave and famed abolitionist Sojourner Truth (1797-1893) who escaped from slavery with her daughter in 1826 and would later successfully recover her son as well in court (the first successful case against of its kind a white slave owner).  The Pathfinder landing region of Ares Vallis was also visited in the 2011 book and 2015 movie “The Martian”, when astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) travels to the site in his rover to retrieve the Pathfinder lander in order to create a rudimentary comm system.

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In “Demons,” we see Paxton and Daniel watching video of a speech given by genocidal 21st century “Colonel Green” (Steve Rankin, who’s played many aliens on Star Trek).  Green advocated for ‘purity’ within the human race by purging all of the weak and suffering from the gene pool following the nuclear holocaust of World War 3.  Col. Green (Philip Pine) was first seen in TOS’ “The Savage Curtain,”  where a living recreation of Green was brought to life on the planet Excalbia, using the thoughts of Kirk and Spock as a template (which would explain why he looks very little like the version we see later in Enterprise).  Green’s full backstory, and even his actual military role in World War 3, are never made completely clear in Star Trek (at least onscreen).

 

Star Trekking at Las Vegas.

Over the few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the Star Trek actors in person at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.  In the past five years, I’ve had the pleasures of meeting Connor Trinneer (“Trip”), Dominic Keating (“Reed”), Anthony Montgomery (“Travis”) and Jonathan Billingsley (“Phlox”).  Standing for a photo between Trinneer and Keating, I felt like the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder (these Enterprise actors are even more handsome in person… it’s crazy!).  Speaking of which, I purchased a copy of Montgomery’s graphic novel, “Miles Away,” an aspirational story of a middle-schooler superhero aimed at younger audiences.  Reading it in my 50s, I can vouch that its story transcends generations.  Trinneer, Keating and Montgomery are terrific guys (and Keating will succeed in bringing you out of your shell, I guarantee it)

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I think I got the biggest kick out of meeting John Billingsley (on several occasions).  Turns out he and I are very much on the same page in our politics and even our warped senses of humor (though his is much more wonderfully wicked than mine…hehe).  We had a few discussions about the current state of our world today, as well a chat about his 2007 independent movie “The Man From Earth”, based on the novel by the late science fiction writer Jerome Bixby (“Star Trek TOS” “The Twilight Zone”), which was completed on the writer’s deathbed in 1998.  I’m a big fan of the film, and plan to do a closeup of it in a future post someday.

It is also with deepest regrets that I most likely will not be attending the annual Star Trek Las Vegas convention this year (pushed back from August to December) because of the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  To be honest, after 20 years of conventions, I know firsthand that one can very easily catch airborne illnesses (and I have) due to the close proximity of other convention-goers at these (often packed) events.  Until there is a vaccine or even an effective COVID-19 treatment, I will not be risking my health, my wife’s health, or anyone else’s health by attending any further conventions until it is safer to do so.  I am very sorry to those readers who’ve enjoyed my past convention coverage, and I hope to resume attendance as soon as it’s medically viable.

 

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

The birth of Elizabeth paves the way for the birth of the half-Vulcan/half-human Mr. Spock, nearly 80 years in Star Trek’s future.  Canonically, Spock represents the first successful (natural) fusion of human and Vulcan DNA, making the USS Enterprise’s future science officer the living embodiment of the IDIC philosophy; “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  As Spock himself states in the TOS episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty,” IDIC is best exemplified  “in the ways those differences combine to create meaning and beauty.”

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Currently, the world feels is at a crossroads.  In one direction, we can see a way towards a progressive future that celebrates the full spectrum of diversity within the human genome, with all colors, sizes, shapes, sexualities and beliefs being championed as beautiful things to be cherished, and not merely ‘tolerated.’   The other direction represents a historical distrust of those who are unlike the majority, fearful of any potential changes and new ideas from those unlike themselves.   This is where we are at right now.  Fifteen years ago, the “Terra Prime” movement in Star Trek was a work of fiction.  Today, they are embodied in those who wish to build walls between people (at the US southern border and in the Middle East), as well as curtail the rights and freedoms of those who simply love each other in different ways, demonizing them as ‘perverted’ or ‘blasphemous.’  One thing is clear; if we ever hope to track towards the more inclusive, openly diverse future celebrated in Star Trek?  The old ways of exclusion, fear and intolerance simply won’t work.  If we can’t celebrate the many differences within our own genome, then we are clearly not ready for the diversity that (hopefully) awaits us among the stars.

The choice is ours.

 

COVID-Safe Viewing.

Star Trek: Enterprise is, of course, available for streaming on multiple platforms, including Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access.  It is also available on DVD and Blu Ray, and can be purchased via no-contact delivery online through Amazon.com for COVID-safe viewing at home.

To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic as well.  The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States is nearing 120,000 deaths as of this writing (that number is increasing daily).  So, for the time being, please continue to practice social safe-distancing wherever possible, wear masks in public, and avoid crowded outings as much as possible.

Live long and prosper!

Images: Trekcore.com, Newsweek.com, Author

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Nancy says:

    Although I wasn’t a big fan of Enterprise, these episodes were excellent. I might just do a re-watch now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enterprise is very re-watchable.

      I wasn’t terribly fond of Season 3 and its search for WMDs (seemed like a justification for Iraq) but S4 is arguably one of the best seasons in all of Star Trek.

      Yes, I stand by that. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. David Moberly says:

    My son Jonathan, who just turned 18, got his namesake from Capt. Archer! I thoroughly enjoyed this episodes and I appreciate your references to the Star Trek universe timeline. Thank you for reminding us of Star Trek’s commitment to improving society. I was wondering if T’Pol and Trip ended up having a baby, and if so, did Spock and family ever contemplate this union of Vulcan-Human?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as I know (?), Spock was the first successful Vulcan-human hybrid in the ST universe. Doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been a hybrid baby born off the record somewhere…

      And I had no idea your son was named after Archer! That’s great! ;-D

      Like

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