When we last left the NX-01 crew, they were beginning their mission of exploration. It’s remarkable how unprepared Captain Archer and his crew was by the 24th century standards viewers were accustomed to. But by the beginning of Season 2, the crew has bonded and the dynamic has improved. The previous episode saw the ship encounter a minefield with disastrous results. “Dead Stop” picks up with Archer and Tucker inspecting the damage in a pod.
The ship is in such a way that it would take years to return to the Jupiter Station because the hull is so damaged they can’t go faster than Warp 2. Captain Archer decides he needs to send out a general distress call and asks Hoshi to be as vague as possible to hide how dire their situation is. The Alpha Quadrant is still uncharted territory in Archer’s time, and the captain is weary of encountering new species who may take advantage of them. A Tellarite freighter on the edge of communications range answers the distress call with coordinates of a repair station.
At first the repair station doesn’t look like anything special, and Archer’s hail goes unanswered. But after a probe scans Enterprise, the station reconfigures itself to accommodate the ship. The captain, T’Pol, and Tucker are the first to come aboard, and they find the station empty. Instead of a crew, it is completely automated. A computer voice—played by the episode’s director Roxann Dawson—explains the repairs will take 34 hours and payment is expected upon completion. Archer has a choice between some hardware and 200 liters of warp plasma. The captain is wary, but agrees to the terms as he has no other viable options.
The crew is warned to stay out of areas of Enterprise that are repaired at a remarkable pace because everything is automated. They have access to a recreation room on the repair station where Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker discover small replicators embedded in tables. Tucker is able to request a fried catfish, one of his favorite meals. Archer would rather stick to whatever Chef is cooking. He’s troubled by the fact they have no idea who built the station and is suspicious of the low cost for complete repairs.
Commander Tucker scans the repair station and asks Lieutenant Reed to do some unsanctioned exploration with him. The computer core must be huge to have everything automated, but the station doesn’t seem to be able to accommodate anything that large. The pair crawl through a maintenance access tube to reach a restricted area but trip an alarm and are beamed back to Enterprise. The captain is not amused and punishes the pair for acting without any authorization.
Unfortunately, Ensign Mayweather is lured to the launch bay when it is off limits and killed under mysterious circumstances. Archer demands answers from the computer on the repair station but is met with “your inquiry was not recognized.” Doctor Phlox performs an autopsy and discovers that this is not the real Travis, but a duplicate. The crew had been inoculated against Rigelian fever a month ago, and the microbes should still be alive inside Travis. The repair station can replicate a dead body but not a living single cell organism.
It’s a race against time as the Enterprise crew figures out how to rescue their pilot before the repairs are fully completed. They must gain access to the restricted section. Tucker brings 200 liters of warp plasma and starts arguing with the computer, complaining about the sloppy repair job. In reality he is stalling and trying to distract the station while Archer and T’Pol hack their way into the computer core. They learn the disturbing truth behind the repair station. The computer uses aliens as a neural network, and just added Ensign Mayweather to its collection. The station turns hostile once the crew rescues Travis and won’t release Enterprise. Archer detonates the warp plasma Tucker brought as payment. The ship barely escapes. Unbeknownst to the crew, the station starts to repair itself.
Last post, I admitted to being biased against Enterprise, but I know my opinion has changed, or at least softened, as I am watching episodes for this blog project and a podcast I’m on. At the height of my Trek fandom, I fell in line with the consensus that Enterprise was the weakest franchise. Now that I’m watching random episodes on my own, I’m re-evaluating my opinions. I know there are some episodes are rough, but other ones feel like new Trek stories that I haven’t seen yet. Roxann Dawson directing “Dead Stop” was the reason why I sought this episode out. She also directed 9 other Enterprise episodes.