Star Trek: Enterprise
“The Andorian Incident”
Originally Broadcast October 31st, 2001
Reviewed by T’Bonz
After a short teaser in which we see a group of Andorians intrude upon a group of meditating Vulcans, we see Archer and Tucker reviewing the Vulcan star charts and inquiring to T’Pol as to the status of a nearby planet. She explains that’s it’s an ancient Vulcan spiritual retreat for the pursuit of Kolinahr. Archer is fascinated with the idea of dropping in and learning more about the Vulcan mindset.
Soon Archer, Tucker and T’Pol are on the surface, where a Vulcan Elder informs them that they have come at a bad time and that they should leave. T’Pol notes that he seems agitated, and soon Archer and Tucker unveil an Andorian hiding nearby. Faster than you can say “Blues Clues” the remaining Andorians rush in and capture the three. Placed with the rest of the prisoners, they soon learn that there is a long history of mistrust between the Andorians and the Vulcans and the blue skinned aliens believe that the Vulcans are hiding some type of listening post on this planet and are preparing for an invasion. Seeing T’Pol with the Humans, the Andorian leader, Shran believes them to be in league with the Vulcans and has Archer beaten in hopes of learning the location of the sensor array.
The Vulcans reveal the existence of catacombs beneath the sanctuary, along with some old communications equipment. One Vulcan leads Trip down to show him the equipment, and soon enough he is able to repair it, contacting the Enterprise and speaking with Reed, who has grown quite worrisome in the intervening hours, having spoken with Shran and being warned not to approach the surface.
In time, Archer cooks up an escape plan. Reed is contacted and instructed to lead a landing party to the surface via the transporter. They arrive and are quickly hidden in the catacombs, where they use a secret passage spied earlier by Tucker to surprise the Andorians. A fire fight ensues and soon a chase through the catacombs leads everyone to the reliquary, where during the shoot out, a very high tech door is discovered behind a tapestry. Inside is the sensor array that the Andorians feared would be there. Archer allows them to take T’Pol’s scans of the installation and go. Shran admits that they are in his debt and departs, with the Enterprise crew soon following.
This episode heralds the highly anticipated and much talked about return to the Trek universe by the Andorians. Aside from a quick glimpse in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and The Next Generation’s “the Offspring,” we have not seen the blue skinned aliens since the days of the original series. Here they are back, albeit with a slightly revamped look. Gone are the bowl haircuts with antennae protruding from the top. While still retaining the white hair and antennae, they now sport the standard Star Trek bumpy forehead.
My first impression of this episode was how extremely predictable it was. So far, Enterprise as a series seems to be churning out plots straight from a by-the-numbers book, and this episode is no exception. The major revelation at the end, that the Vulcans were indeed hiding a large scale sensor array, was easy to spot from the minute the Elders explained to Archer why the Andorians were there. When Trip spots the tunnel that is explained to be a passage to their reliquary, it’s only confirmed.
One glaring question is, why didn’t the Enterprise sensors detect such a large underground installation? Last week they were able to track the movements of individuals beneath the surface of Terra Nova, but now they cannot detect such a giant sensor array? Reed notes that it looks powerful enough to see what every Andorian is having for breakfast. That would seem to imply a large power output, but I suppose the story didn’t demand the sensors to work that well this week.
More shocking than the revealing of the underground installation was the fact that the Vulcans would conceal and secretly operate such a device. The Vulcans seem to pride themselves on their honesty and integrity, yet here they are portrayed as somewhat devious. T’Pol explains that the Andorians are jealous of the Vulcans technology. Indeed, they don’t even have transporter technology and consider the Enterprise to be a well armed ship. This implies that the Vulcans, who are more advanced than Humans, are considerably more advanced than the Andorians. So why do they feel the need to spy on them? We also learn that Vulcan and Andoria are in neighboring star systems. So why then don’t the Vulcans spy on the Andorians from their own system? Why build the array so far away and in a place so unguarded?
This episode tells us that, despite their IDIC philosophy and claims at enlightenment, the Vulcans are just as capable of deceptive behavior as anyone else out there. It’s true that they have years of conflict with the Andorians to cite as their reasoning, but the behavior here seems decidedly non Vulcan. After learning that the Vulcans knowingly violated their treaty with the Andorians, I would suspect Archer and every other Human to rethink whatever agreements that they have with the Vulcans, as this demonstrates that they can’t be completely trusted. This type of character assassination has me worried that this isn’t another case of continuity being sacrificed to make way for the story.
Then again, these are early, pre Federation Vulcans. We are very used to the Vulcans of later centuries. Enlightened they may be, but they are very much accustomed to working alone, so I suppose it would be logical to covertly observe a potential violent neighbor rather than just ignore them. Stories such as this can help illustrate the changes to not only Human society, but to the Vulcans as well. By the end of this episode we are treated to glimpses of three different species. The stoic Vulcans, the violent and suspicious Andorians and the inquisitive and well meaning humans. They seem so very diverse, yet we know that eventually they will learn to work together. These initial conflicts only help to serve a greater underlying theme – that today’s enemies can become tomorrow’s trusted friends through patience and understanding.
The real saving grace for this episode was yet again the characters and their development. None saw more this week than T’Pol, though it was quite subtle and the full extent has yet to be explored. T’Pol is at first reluctant to visit the sanctuary, feeling that she will be perceived differently since she is amongst a Human Crew. The short scene in the mess hall between her and Phlox was done quite well, with him reminding her of her own people’s precepts, as well as drawing the comparison, however unwelcome it may be from her, to the Starfleet crew and their mission. She goes to the surface, where again, she delivers another short speech to Archer on the merits of Vulcan culture and society, reminding him that her people would never stoop to violence in response to violence. At the end, however, we see that she is uncomfortable with the fact that her people had in essence lied and violated a treaty the Andorians no doubt signed in good faith. She comes full circle and seems to feel more at ease with the Humans than with her own people, who have failed to live up to their own high ideals.
The captain has some excellent moments here as well, most notably with T’pol and his dealings with the other Vulcans. He wishes to learn more about the Vulcans and he achieves that here, but it’s not what he expected at all. Despite being a Human with what the Vulcans deem a volatile nature, he manages to restrain himself and endure quite a bit in the hopes of ending everything peacefully. His disappointment is almost palpable when he discovers the truth in the catacombs. His subsequent anger shows just how much he values honesty. It may be even harder for him to cast aside his preconceptions about Vulcans after this episode, as the Vulcans can no longer claim the moral high ground with impunity.
Lieutenant Reed finally gets a chance to shine here, even if it is in a few brief scenes. Not only does he get to play cowboy and shoot his phase pistol again, he has the opportunity to show off his ability to assume command and review the situation at hand. I wonder what type of rescue plan he would have used if Tucker had not contacted him and relayed Archer’s commands.
The stand out guest role was without any doubt that of Shran, played convincingly by Trek veteran Jeffrey Combs. Still, I felt he could have been used better. His scenes with Archer were well done, but I was hoping for a little bit more of an adversarial approach by both of them. Instead, Archer just played for time. The end seems to pave the way for Shran’s eventual return in a later episode, which would be welcome as not just an exploration and development of his character, but as the Andorians as a whole. Just as The Next Generation profiled the Klingons and Deep Space Nine illuminated the Cardassians, perhaps Enterprise will do the same for the Andorians, fleshing their culture and society out over the seasons.
There were still plenty of small little touches that were nice. The constantly moving and twitching antennae on the Andorians reminded us that they were indeed vital parts to their anatomy. The age of the sanctuary, almost 3000 years, may shed some more light on early Vulcan/Romulan history. While it is not known whether the structure was always a sanctuary, and therefore may have been in use when the two races were one, we learn that they have been plying the stars for at least three millennia. We are again reminded of the superior Vulcan sense of smell, though it seems to me that this was never mentioned in any other Trek series. We learn that Vulcan and Andoria exist in neighboring star systems. The Andorian insistence that the Vulcans were hiding something on that planet tells us that they know the Vulcans much better that Humans do, as well as an indication of their own suspicious and violent nature hinted at later in the age of TOS.
As with all Enterprise episodes to date, an extremely predictable plot, saved only by the excellent character development and acting on the part of the cast, which to me is the only thing making this series worth watching. Once again, the writers manage to find a resolution to the story without the need to indulge in too much technobabble, which makes up for the obvious plot twists. I can only hope that the emphasis on the character dynamics is maintained and not dropped in favor of mindless action sequences. In the end, “The Andorian Incident” manages to entertain, while offering some new insights into the Trek universe.