Riding the high that the Star Trek franchise enjoyed during the mid 90s, a fourth spin-off to the original show was ordered. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman teamed up to create a prequel halfway between the 21st century seen in Star Trek: First Contact and the beginning of Kirk’s voyage seen in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” After the Vulcans notice humanity’s first warp flight, they leave a delegation on Earth to guide humanity’s first steps into deep space. However, not everyone is a fan of the Vulcans, as some grumble the aliens are deliberately withholding information and keeping humanity back.
The warp program was started by Zefram Cochrane to develop space vessels with faster-than-light engines. By 2151 they had a prototype vessel that had a Warp 5 engine. Earth is united and war, disease, and hunger are considered “wiped out” by some humans. Earth certainly looks far removed from the World War Three fallout we saw in First Contact. But the Vulcans still deem humanity unworthy for deep space travel because of their volatile nature. Everything changes when a Klingon crash lands in Oklahoma. Despite knowing very little about the species, Admiral Forrest decides to launch Enterprise ahead of schedule so they can return the Klingon to his home planet.
The Vulcan delegation object strongly to Admiral Forrest’s decision, but they manage to strike a compromise. In exchange for the use of Vulcan star charts, a Vulcan named T’Pol joins Captain Jonathan Archer as his science officer to assist them. Both Captain Archer and his engineer, long-time friend Commander Tucker object, but there’s nothing they can do except welcome T’Pol aboard and crack jokes about her heightened sense of smell. Captain Archer keeps his dog Porthos on board.
On paper the mission to return the Klingon to Kronos looks simple, but things are complicated almost right away by a new alien species called the Suliban, who have the ability to camouflage themselves and sneak aboard Enterprise undetected. They steal the Klingon from sickbay, because they’re anxious to retrieve a message. Captain Archer and his crew are drawn into a mystery. The Suliban are fighting a Temporal Cold War, taking orders from a shadowy figure from the future.
Despite all odds and the added complication of fighting the Suliban, Archer and his crew are able to rescue the Klingon and return him to Kronos, where he reveals his message that was hidden in his own DNA. Admiral Forrest is satisfied with the mission and orders Enterprise to continue boldly going where no man has gone before. It is up to T’Pol whether she returns to Earth. Captain Archer admits he has held a grudge against Vulcans his entire life, but he is willing to let that go if she is willing to remain serving under him.
After I finished this episode, I looked up information about the pilot and was surprised to find reviews were favorable. I must have watched a different episode because I did not like this much at all. I will admit to being biased against Enterprise as I think it’s the weakest show of the franchise. I was surprised by my strong negative reaction to the pilot, so I watched the next two episodes. I found “Fight or Flight” heavy handed, but I did enjoy “Strange New World.”
Part of the problem is I don’t like many of the characters as they are established. I paid attention to T’Pol and Hoshi Sato, the linguist, the most because sadly, they are the only two female characters on the bridge crew. Hoshi is a Starfleet officer, but took leave to teach Klingon on Earth. She’s hesitant to return to space until Archer tempts her with being the first human to talk to Klingons in their language. She’s very anxious about warp travel as she’s the least accustomed to it of the bridge crew. In fact the second episode is devoted to her deciding whether to remain on board or ask to return home. I don’t want to watch a character acclimate herself to space travel, especially when she’s already a Starfleet officer. If she were a civilian consultant I’d give her more leeway.
T’Pol is also frustrating. These Vulcans are very different from the ones we’ve seen before. They’re almost haughty. It’s safe to say they have a superiority complex. For some reason the dynamic between her Archer and Commander Tucker rubs me the wrong way. I am glad that the Captain is willing to admit he holds a grudge at the end of the episode. Hopefully Commander Tucker’s attitude improves as well.