Written by Andre Bormanis, Rick Berman, and Brannon Braga
Directed by James Contner
In which Reed accidentally loses his communicator while secretly observing a pre-warp species, and the crew of the Enterprise must deal with the results...
Synopsis - Analysis - Memorable Quotes - Observations
As the episode begins, Archer, Hoshi, and Reed return from visiting a planet with pre-warp technology, having carefully disguised themselves as the species in question. Reed gushes over the experience, wanting to write the report himself. Of course, Hoshi thinks heís really interested in writing a report on the tactical situation on the planet.
Dr. Phlox clears them, and they leave decon without the need to run any goo on each other. As they disrobe, Reed muses over the speaker at the political rally they attended, Chancellor Tolray. Apparently the society is extremely paranoid about their adversaries. But then Reed realizes that something is very wrong; his communicator is missing.
They scour the shuttlepod and the decon chamber, but they canít find the communicator. The last time Reed remembers using it, they were on the planet. Hoshi suggests using an inverse carrier wave to locate it on the surface. TíPol reminds them that itís crucial that they find the technology before it can contaminate the native culture. When Hoshi isolates a three-square-block area of the city, Reed recognizes one of the landmarks and believes that they visited a tavern there.
Archer and Reed return to the surface. On the way down, Reed accepts whatever penalty Archer deems appropriate, but Archer reminds him that itís an accident. They land outside the city and hike down to the tavern. They quickly locate the table at which they had been sitting, and begin searching around it. When they canít find it, Reed carefully uses his scanner to locate it.
Reed is interrupted when the bartender arrives, asking them what they would like. Archer asks him for a moment to decide what they would like to order. As Reed continues scanning, the bartender shares a significant look with several men sitting around a table in the middle of the room. Reed manages to locate the communicator in a room off a nearby hallway. Reed is sure he never went into the room.
They get up and walk into the hallway, watched the entire time by the bartender and the other men. Reed uses his scanner to find the room where the communicator is being kept, and he tells Archer that there are two men inside. He suggests waiting until the men leave to go in and get it. But as they walk back towards their table, the men confront them. Despite their best efforts, Archer and Reed are quickly and easily taken into custody.
They are taken into the room, where an officer asks them what the communicator is. The security men relieve Archer and Reed of two scanners, another communicator, and a phase pistol. The officer asks them about the phase pistol, but they donít answer. The officer orders one of his men to inform General Gosis that two enemy spies have been taken into custody. Then he tells Archer and Reed that theyíre not going to see their friends in the Alliance for a very long time.
Back on the Enterprise, when they realize that too much time has passed, TíPol decides that they should risk trying to hail Archer. There is no response, but Hoshi is able to track the communicator to a specific building. She also notes that the shuttlepod has not moved. They realize that Archer and Reed must have run into trouble. TíPol orders them to isolate Archer and Reedís lifesigns.
Back on the planet, Archer and Reed are confined in a cell. Reed mutters about his sore feet, and muses over the escalating situation. Reed wonders if they ought to tell the truth, rather than let their captors think theyíre enemy spies. Archer dismisses the idea, figuring that the truth would be too hard to believe.
They are both brought before General Gosis, who asks which of them is the captain. He was present when TíPol hailed Archer, and heard her voice over the communicator. Archer admits to being the captain. Gosis thinks that the Alliance must be desperate to use military personnel as spies, but Archer claims that heís not in the military. Gosis is amused, not believing Archer for a moment.
Gosis goes on to ask Archer and Reed what frequency the communicator operates on, and how the scanners work. When Archer doesnít answer, Gosis orders his subordinate to strike Archer. Still, Archer declines to reply. Gosis assumes that they were there to spy on Tolrayís speech, perhaps to assassinate him. Archer simply claims that they are visitors.
Gosis order his man to strike Archer again. Reed tries to intercede, and some of the other men beat him down. When they are pulled back into their chairs, Gosis notices that Archer and Reedís disguises are coming off. Itís soon obvious that Archer and Reed were surgically altered, and even more astonishing...they have red blood! Gosis orders his men to take Archer and Reed to a man named Temec for an examination.
Back on the Enterprise, Hoshi shows the senior crew where Archer and Reed are being held. Itís a heavily defended fortress. Trip suggests taking the second shuttlepod down to mount a rescue. TíPol objects, worried that even more advanced technology might end up in the aliensí hands. Trip suggests using the Suliban cell-ship that they still have from their first encounter with Silik. He thinks he can figure out how the cloak works, so they can sneak in and out without detection. TíPol agrees.
Down in the cargo bay, Trip and Mayweather work on the Suliban vessel, but they canít find the controls for the cloaking system. Trip tries to activate the system directly, and gets thrown back by an energy discharge. Then they notice that a toolkit is partially cloaked...as well as Tripís right arm!
Phlox examines Trip, and determines that Trip is healthy, regardless of his inability to see his cloaked arm. Phlox isnít sure about a diagnosis, but he figures that the effect will go away eventually. He gives Trip a glove for his hand and sends him back to work.
Back on the planet, in an open courtyard of the fortress, Gosis and his men test the phase pistol. They are astonished at the thought that their enemies might have developed particle beam weapons. Then they figure out that thereís a higher setting, and they are even more worried. Temec brings Gosis some X-rays of Archer and Reed, and makes it clear that the two men can only be from another species.
Gosis confronts Archer and Reed with this new information, as well as a fuzzy picture of their shuttlecraft in flight. They know that none of the other planets in their system hold life, so they want to know where Archer and Reed come from. They have also reasoned that the shuttlecraft is too small to travel between stars. Gosis wants to know their orders, and whether or not Archer and Reed have had contact with the Alliance.
Archer poses as an Alliance spy, to hide the truth. He claims that the shuttlepod is an experimental sub-orbital aircraft with stealth technology. When asked about their odd physiology, Reed claims that theyíve been genetically enhanced as advanced soliders. Archer adds that they and their devices are prototypes.
Gosis sends Archer and Reed back to their cell, and consults Temec on the possibility that the story is true. Temec replies that itís plausible, but he could only be sure if he could extract the unknown organs. Gosis immediately orders his subordinate to have Archer and Reed executed.
Back on the Enterprise, Hoshi intercepts a communication from Gosis to Tolray about the execution. Archer and Reed are to be hanged. TíPol checks on Tripís progress with the Suliban vessel, but he has been unable to fully determine how the cloak works. Still, TíPol orders Trip to launch. They only have two hours before the execution is scheduled.
Back on the planet, Archer and Reed discuss their options. Archer knows that TíPol will ensure that all the lost technology and their remains are recovered. Reed thinks itís ironic to be giving their lives to protect people who want to kill them. Archer wonders if they might tell the truth now, and show Gosis the grand tour of Enterprise. After all, Reed notes, it might do the culture some good, like the Vulcans for Earth. But Archer counters that the Vulcans only come after Earth demonstrated warp technology.
TíPol accompanies Trip and Mayweather on the Suliban vessel as they leave orbit. Archer and Reed are prepared for the gallows and led from their cell. While entering the atmosphere, the cloaking system losing power on the Suliban vessel, and the military sends fighters to intercept. They manage to dodge most of the gunfire from the fighters until they get the cloak back online.
As they are taken to the gallows, Archer calmly asks Gosis to spare Reedís life. He tells Gosis that Reed can give him any intel he wants. But Gosis is unconvinced, and both men are placed in a noose. Just before the execution is to take place, the others arrive in the Suliban vessel and start firing out of apparent thin air.
Trip and Mayweather free Archer and Reed, and Archer manages to retrieve their technology during the ongoing firefight. He also takes the medical evidence and the surveillance photo of the shuttlepod. Everyone climbs into the Suliban vessel, and they make a clean getaway. On the way back, Archer thinks he dropped one of the scanners...but of course, Reed produces it with a grin.
Back on the Enterprise, TíPol speaks with Archer about the next phase of their mission. Archer muses that it was risky using the Suliban vessel, since the cloak could have failed. He figures that getting everything back prevented too much damage from being done, but TíPol points out that a great deal of contamination has taken place. However, TíPol did find Archerís willingness to sacrifice himself for the culture to be unexpected.
In sickbay, Trip gets his latest checkup, and grumbles over how long itís taking...and about the remaining patch of cloaking field thatís letting him look through the middle of his hand!
One of the running themes of this latest incarnation of the franchise is ďeducationĒ. More specifically, the education that humanity receives during its first deep-space mission and the inevitable encounters with the unknown that follow. Much of this education has centered on the protocols one should follow when dealing with a civilization with a much lower technological capability.
This is an interesting spin on the usual ďPrime DirectiveĒ episodes of past series, because itís not about breaking the rules. At this point, the rules havenít been written yet, and itís only through the painful process of trial and error that lessons can be adequately learned. This process had already begun last season, but this episode shows us how easily a small mistake can snowball when guidelines and training donít exist.
Reed and Archer represent two ends of the spectrum. Archer has been on enough missions to other civilizations by now to understand the basic premise of the non-interference concept. On the other hand, Reed only understands it on a theoretical level, having never needed to apply it before. This ought to bring them to very different conclusions about how to handle their crisis, but in the end, the same level of damage is done.
Reed is responsible for the worst of it, and not by dropping the communicator in the first place. He supplies the aliens with false information about an enemy faction to a degree that is simply astonishing. If Gosis believes even a fraction of what Reed told him, then itís likely that the Alliance is going to find themselves in dire straits.
But the full brunt of the responsibility falls on Archerís shoulders, because he accepts Reedís solution and even adds to it. Archer ought to have been far better at giving Reed some sort of direction, a clear path forward with regards to their own safety and what information they should be willing to offer. By not having the protocols set in stone prior to the mission, Archer allows the situation to spiral out of control.
One hopes that this was the intent of the writer, but itís hard to tell, thanks to a number of errors in logic. The entire premise of using the Suliban vessel, while initially not entirely a bad idea, ought to have been scrapped as soon as it was announced that Archer and Reed were to be executed. Far better to have the two men die through a transporter accident than force TíPol to stage yet another mission to recover remains.
But itís amazing that it even gets to that point. For all the supposedly amazing security and surveillance used by the aliens, and their advanced aircraft, they somehow missed the shuttlepod that was parked for days outside of town! Better by far to use the transporter to retrieve the communicator in the first place and render all of the other concerns moot.
And in the end, thatís the weakness of this episode. The entire situation is either a continual display of command incompetence, or just weak writing. But then there wouldnít have been a chance to use the oh-so-hilarious cloaked body parts subplotÖand we wouldnít have wanted to miss that, now, would we?
MAYWEATHER: ďThis would be a lot easier if there was a button marked CLOAK...Ē
REED: ďSir...are you looking for this?Ē
(Yep....slim pickings again...)
- Why didnít they just transport the communicator back from the surface? Sure, it might not work afterwards, but itís better than their solution!
- What, Archer didnít think it would be at all suspicious to just walk into a hallway and stand around? Itís not like Reed is doing his best to keep the scanner out of sight!
- Why would they take a phaser pistol down with them, if they know that there might already be a situation due to the relatively minor exposure to the communicator?
- What kind of paranoid military force with advanced aircraft wouldnít find a big honkiní shuttlepod in the middle of nowhere?
- When Hoshi identifies the building where Archer and Reed have been taken, itís surrounded by an awful lot of other buildings on the schematic. But the long CGI shot shows the building in a remote location!
- Notice how Gosisí subordinate gets annoyed every time he has to strike Archer...probably because it hurts his hand so much!
- Damn, theyíre just trying to drag Mayweather into any plot they can, arenít they? Hereís a thought...give the character a frickiní purpose!
- If iron is a toxic element to the aliens, then Iíd love to know what all of those metal objects are made of...since it looks like stainless steel!
- Nice touch, having Archer sound a little displeased with the notion of posing as genetically enhanced soldiers...
- Once itís clear that Archer and Reed are to be executed, why not try the transporters to retrieve them and the technology? At that point, there really is nothing left to lose, and itís a lot less questionable than using the Suliban vessel!
- Shouldnít the native military personnel have a lot better aim? I would have expected at least one of the Enterprise crewmen to get wounded, if not killed...
- Wouldnít the native military have been on a high enough alert to notice the shuttlepod leaving the ground on the way back to Enterprise?
Overall, this episode was full of either very bad judgment or a ton of plot holes. Either way, there was quite a bit of the olí stupidity on display here, and it didnít help that the subplot was more or less a waste of time.
I give it a 5/10.
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