Originally posted to ScoopMe! on February 6, 2002
Shadows of P’Jem : Of Vulcan Bondage
An Andorian tries to save face while Archer’s is full of T’Pol.
Vulcan Ambassador Soval chides Admiral Forrest about Archer’s freelancing — which led to the Andorians destroying the P’Jem monastery/surveillance station. Forrest takes umbrage with this. Soval says that he’s been recalled to Vulcan and that joint fleet operations with Earth are suspended.
Archer decides to visit the planet Coridan — a world of 3 billion that trades with the Vulcans. Forrest contacts Archer, updates him on the situation, and urges Archer to be a little more cautious. He then drops his bombshell…
T’Pol meets with Archer. He tells her that the Vulcan High Command is recalling T’Pol to Vulcan. While T’Pol seemingly takes this in stride, Archer has a problem with it; he doesn’t want T’Pol to be a scapegoat because they can’t punish Archer.
Despite her Vulcan stoicism, T’Pol isn’t happy about the news. Phlox joins her in the mess and tries to make her realize that in the time she has been on board (six months vs the couple of weeks of previous Vulcan assignees), she’s become a part of the crew.
Archer and T’Pol head to Coridan in a shuttlepod. T’Pol isn’t sure why she’s there. Archer tells her that he thought she’d like one last mission — but they could turn back. T’Pol searches her logic and says it would be illogical to waste the fuel to return to Enterprise. The shuttle pod is attacked by a better-armed and nimbler ship.
In a dark shed with rain water leaking through the roof, Archer and T’Pol are bound together, back-to-back. Their hands are tied. Archer waxes on about Houdini as they struggle against their ropes. Their captors, Coridian rebels, come in. Soon after Archer, an unknown alien, starts to be beaten, T’Pol volunteers that he’s a steward, and she’s his superior. Being a familiar alien with a reputation for telling the truth, the rebels believe her.
Trip argues with the Coridan Chancellor about the safety of Archer and T’Pol and the means to get them back. When the communication ends, Trip starts the wheels moving to find their crew.
Archer and T’Pol try to get to their feet. After falling several times, they finally succeed. T’Pol squirms around so that they face each other so they can untie their hands. After their hands are free, they reach around each other to untie the ropes around their waists, and they fall again — Archer gets a face-full of T’Pol’s breasts when they land. At least they get freed. A guard enters, an escape attempt is made, but is quickly thwarted when more rebels arrive.
Reed is sure he’s located the shuttle, but Trip doesn’t want to rush in without more info. The rebels give a ransom demand of the delivery of 40 phase pistols (which they don’t have) and then cut off the transmission. The good news keeps coming as the Vulcans arrive and inform Trip they are taking charge of the investigation since a Vulcan is involved and then cut off the transmission. Trip isn’t happy.
Vulcan Captain Sopek is typically condescending as he consults with the Enterprise officers. Trip accuses them of being trigger-happy. When the Vulcans leave, Trip tells Reed to warm up a shuttle pod.
Archer and T’Pol are once again tied up — but separately this time, and much more thoroughly bound hand and foot. A guard place bowls of food at their feet. Archer falls over and starts feeding like a pig at a trough. He orders T’Pol to eat as well — to keep up her strength. Archer discovers a red blinking thing in his gruel.
Mayweather and Sato stonewall Captain Sopek before she cuts off the transmission.
In a Coridan shantytown, Tucker and Reed are quickly kidnapped in a dark ally. They are the guests of Andorians — specifically Shran (The Andorian Incident). Shran doesn’t like owing Archer — he wants to pay back the debt. If he, and the rebels, can stick it to the Vulcans, so much the better. Tucker and Reed volunteer to help in the rescue plan.
Tucker gets a message of the plan to Archer via the red blinking thing.
Tucker distracts Coridan rebel guards at the compound gate as the Andorians slip in with the help of an “inside” man. Several guards are taken out and Tucker and Reed enter the compound through the gate. Then the Vulcans stage an anti-terror attack and all hell breaks loose. Archer and T’Pol are freed. Shran’s debt it paid — now he can get a good night’s sleep.
With the battle won, it becomes a close standoff between the Vulcans and the Andorians. One of the rebels starts to regain consciousness, which T’Pol notices, and throws her body in the way of the shot meant for Sopek. The rebel is seriously killed. T’Pol lies unconscious with a large gaping wound of green just above her hip. Archer takes his science office for medical care, ignoring Sopek’s feeble dissent. After the humans leave, Shran grumbles that Sopek should be dying, not T’Pol.
T’Pol lies unconscious behind sterile curtains. Archer and Phlox are at her side. Sopek enters. Phlox says that he can’t say if she’ll live. In exchange for T’Pol saving Sopek’s life, Archer asks him to ask the High Command to give her a second chance. Sopek agrees, sort of.
After the Vulcans leave sickbay, Phlox injects T’Pol with a stimulant and she wakes. She’s not too badly hurt, only enough to keep her in sickbay for 24 hours or so. Archer tells her the good news. T’Pol bristles that she wasn’t consulted. Archer says that she can probably catch up to Sopek. She can’t find the logic of violating her doctor’s orders to not leave sickbay.
The year is 2267 on a Starship named Enterprise. On board are Humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and others. The issue at hand is the admission of Coridan to the Federation. The captain is assaulted. The Vulcan science officer undergoes surgery. The chief medical officer engages in subterfuge. Throw in a red-shirt Tellarite and a journey to a planetoid code named Babel, and we might just have a classic Star Trek episode.
So, I guess we were one Tellarite (and 116 years) short with this one.
One of the dangers with a prequel series such as Enterprise, or Smallville, is that much of the fan base already knows what is going to happen down the road. It’s easy for a writer to get trapped in the immutability of the show’s future history. If the show is written well, then the results add to what will come after. If it isn’t, then it’s always a waste of an opportunity.
In 2267, Coridan finally gains admission to the Federation. It wasn’t easy, as this dilithium-rich world is subject to illegal mining operations. It’s largely through Ambassador Sarek’s efforts (Spock’s father, for those who don’t know) that Coridan gained admission. The Andorians don’t seem to be passionate about it one way or the other. It’s revealed that if Coridan gets into the Federation, then its dilithium wealth would be administered for the benefit of its people, that Vulcan has no mining interests, and that it is underpopulated and unprotected.
In 2151, Coridan is a wealthy planet that’s well-populated with three billion inhabitants, though about half live seem to live in shantytowns. It has an enviable ship construction yard, and is likely to have fast (and possibly powerful) starships of its own. Vulcans have a large stake in Coridan’s current situation. Quite a difference.
What happened in the intervening 116 years? Did the revolt happen? Did it decimate the population? Were outsiders involved? What happened to the shipyards? What about the Vulcans?
Yes, what about the Vulcans? I can’t help but wonder if this deconstruction of the Vulcans is intentional or simply the result of a lack of focus. It’s so pervasive that it seems intentional.
The original series was largely about the problems of today using SF as the story-telling medium. The Federation was America/NATO. The Klingons were the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. The Romulans were the Chinese and Indochinese. The politics were thinly guised. There was a cold war and by gum, there were going to be obvious white hats and black hats.
The balance is different now. The Vulcans are meant to be the voice of American diplomacy — both political and gunship. It’s not subtle, as the exploding compound wall made very clear. They are a superpower that can do things they way they want because they have power. Not as much power as they might think, but what they have they use to great effect. They don’t deal with the people who they consider are beneath them — and humans are just barely above the waterline on that.
The Andorians are yet another mystery. They seem so much like Humans — though with better equipment. There is a code of honor, of debt repayment, that makes them more approachable. They aren’t stupid. Since we share the Vulcans as a common antagonist, I’m surprised that more effort isn’t being made to establish a diplomatic relationship or alliance.
At best this was a catalytic episode. There are many changes in the coming century, and some of them will likely happen in the lifetime of this series. At least I hope they happen. That would be something to see. But on its own, there wasn’t really a strong story holding anything together. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors, but very little of real advancement of story or character. An opportunity wasted.
Once last thing…
I can’t get the image out of my head of Archer smothering under T’Pol’s pulchritude. Yes, T’Pol has assets that not even the great Spock could match, but it’s way too early in the series to be literally hitting us on the head with them. I thought that with the tasteful decon scene in the previous outing that perhaps the show was through being so obvious. Guess not.
The past several shows have helped build up the crew. Give them substance. It was the beginning of a respectful relationship. But this, “Oooo, T’Pol has a butt. Oooo, T’Pol has boobs,” knocked that hard-earned respect down a notch. It was needlessly gratuitous.
Personally, I’d rather have Archer get into these compromising situations with the alien babe of the week a la Captain James “Tomcat” Kirk.
TIDBITS, IRKS, and QUIRKS
In Journey to Babel, Amanda tells Kirk that Vulcans believe that peace shouldn’t depend on force. Ooookay.
- Since T’Pol was seriously hurt, why didn’t anyone offer the use of a transporter?
- Phlox’s comment that T’Pol shouldn’t be moved was silly since the Vulcans could have simply beamed her over. No big deal.
- Since when can Tucker speak Coridian well enough to make the guards think he was non-threatening?
- Didn’t any of the Vulcans notice that T’Pol’s injury was to her hip? I mean, I’m no doctor, but even a plasma bullet in the hip doesn’t seem as dire as Phlox made it sound (which, as it turned out, it wasn’t).
- Kudos for Hoshi pulling the ol’ “signal is breaking up” gambit.
- Jolene Blalock is starting to run with this role. T’Pol is indeed more “human” in the six months she’s been with the crew. She’s able to convey emotion while still being stolidly Vulcan.
- How many times can Jon get hit in the head before he starts getting brain damage?
- Did they call off the going-away party?
- Vulcans don’t touch their food. 1) Good on T’Pol for following Archer’s order even though it was, at best, distasteful (and kudos for not looking like a pig doing it); 2) Does Phlox use his fingers to take food off T’Pol’s plate just to tweak her (he’s done it twice, now)?
As always, message board comments, speculations, and opinions on this episode are encouraged.