ENT S01E06 Terra Nova (3.5 out of 5 stars). Earth’s first extra-solar colony planet cut itself off from home within a few years – as Archer’s opening info-dump explains. Given that nothing in this scene reveals character, I wonder why we didn’t see it in flashback, other than budgetary considerations (or the seeming commitment that this series has to telling stories in as slow-moving and dull way as possible). It’s also a strange place for the Enterprise to visit, given that they would presumably have had to U-turn to reach it. Down on the surface, things improve considerably. The cave set looks impressive and the inhabitants hiding in the crevices are nicely creepy (although their Aboriginal-like presentation is a bit ick). And we get to see Archer and T’Pol working smoothly as a team for once. But taking off and blithely leaving Malcolm behind is totally and utterly wrong. That’s the behaviour you give to the cowardly and deceitful captain who is shown up by our awesomely capable and compassionate heroes. And it achieves nothing, because the next thing Archer does is to go right back down there and carry on where he left off. The pidgin English of the colonists is pretty rote, but there are some resonant moments in the details of their story, albeit still no character development for any of the regulars.

ENT S01E07 The Andorian Incident (4 out of 5 stars). Fussbudget T’Pol reluctantly agrees to the Enterprise visiting a Vulcan spiritual retreat to discover that the inhabitants are spending a month in silent contemplation. T’Pol instantly knows something is up, but Trip continues to prove his uselessness but ignoring her concerns in favour of making fatuous jokes. It transpires that the Andorians (who’d have guessed?) are holding the Vulcans hostage. Rather upsettingly, the blue-hued aliens refer to humans as “pink skins”. One wonders whether Anthony Montgomery was on-set that day. That aside, this is far better than the previous episodes, with enough plot for forty-five minutes, a chance for Malcolm to shine in the captain’s chair, a credible threat and a superb guest performance from the always reliable Jeffrey Combs. And there’s strong – if not wildly original – thematic material about pacifism, militarism and how to deal peacefully with aggressors. The final twist is important too, putting T’Pol on the side of the humans, condemning her own people for their deceitful conduct. It’s the first time we get any hint in this series as to why it’s the humans who end up as the lynchpin of the Federation, and not the more technologically advanced, more experienced Vulcans, and it’s a great showing for both Scott Bakula and Jolene Blalock.

ENT S01E08 Breaking the Ice (2.5 out of 5 stars). The title refers to a comet, ho ho, which Archer names after himself, and which oddly is both super-gigantic-enormous and hitherto undetected. More has been learned about comets since this episode was broadcast, so I guess we have to give the writers a pass when it comes to the scientific gibberish on display. T’Pol’s tug-of-loyalty continues as Archer wants to know why the Vulcans have suddenly shown up, and why they’re happy to sit and watch as Travis and Malcolm attempt to go comet-spelunking. This gives rise to the title’s other meaning, Archer trying to get to know the Vulcans a little better, ho ho. All of the posturing between the two groups makes little sense in the light of the previous episode. I can only assume this was meant to be shown first.

Trip is the one who discovers that T’Pol is being summoned home to take go through with her arranged marriage. They spend a long time conversing on the subject but it doesn’t amount to all that much, and it’s called off as soon as Travis twists his ankle. The Vulcans like to portray the humans as arrogant and inexperienced, and Archer’s initial refusal to ask Captain Vanik for help doesn’t do much to undercut this. It’s a pretty poor showing from all concerned. A cloying and protracted sequence in which Archer answers student questions from a high school in Ireland seems to have been inserted simply to pad out the running time, as it goes on for well over five minutes, which is pretty shocking, and is yet another opportunity for Trip to get worked up about all the wrong things.

ENT S01E09 Civilization (3 out of 5 stars). The crew are giggling like giddy schoolchildren at the prospect of a nearby “Minshara” (M-class) planet complete with 500 million life signs. And here’s where T’Pol starts explaining what will turn into the Prime Directive. This is a good example of the space Enterprise seemed purpose-built to occupy. For years we’ve been watching transporters, warp drives, phasers, tractor beams and so on. Here’s the chance to see where and how some of these things originated. As noted, The Andorian Incident is successful largely because it’s the beginning of a human-centred Federation. But, for example, the transporter simply works or it doesn’t depending on the needs of the plot. Here, Captain push-random-buttons-first-ask-questions-later Archer is determined to gather information on this primitive society by sending a disguised landing party rather than, as T’Pol suggests, watching them from orbit. And that’s the flip side of this Star Trek: The Early Years concept. We’ve seen this exercise before, but performed by a more competent, more able crew. There isn’t the same pleasure in seeing goofballs stumble through it, especially when the characters are still so thinly drawn. But the main plot revolves around Archer and Trip discovering and “Evil Leaper” in the form of Wade Williams as “Garos” whose nefarious activities I find far less interesting than the prospect of the Enterprise crew figuring out how to and whether to make first contact. And sure, Archer having to snog his way out of an awkward moment when the Universal Translator goes on the fritz is funny enough, but things like that and the transporter are storytelling devices first. Having to faff about with shuttlepods and dictionaries kills the pacing.

For the second time in three episodes, the plot turns on Archer’s discovery of a vast underground technological array which has no business being where it is. And we end with no better protocols for interacting with pre-warp societies.

ENT S01E10 Fortunate Son (3.5 out of 5 stars). Father/son sports bonding is one of those eternal things which decades of technological advancement and space exploration just can’t stamp out, as once again the ability of early 2000s writers to imagine a new kind of society just ends up recreating 1960s American sitcoms. This ersatz family are under attack from Nausicans and Enterprise has to U-turn to come to their rescue – only to be told that they aren’t needed after all. In a minor variation of the situation in The Andorian Incident, the human crew has a Nausican prisoner they don’t want the Enterprise to know about. As ever, there’s plenty of time for casual chatting, the story is in absolutely no hurry to get here. Travis was born on a similar freighter but this is factual backstory, not characterisation and knowing this information doesn’t help us or Anthony Montgomery to get more of a handle on him (although Montgomery makes a fair job of Travis’s big speech). The rest of the team are as hapless as ever, letting this haulage crew run rings around them, but there are exciting sequences in between all the tepid chatting, and some of them even involve the people we care about.

ENT S01E11 Cold Front (4 out of 5 stars). Those spotty-faced time travellers from Broken Bow are back. Unconnected to this, creepy crewman Daniels extracts some exposition from Archer, which is at least a distraction from the exchange of cliches occurring on the bridge. A squad of religious acolytes come from dinner, so we’re off to the usual relaxed, conversational start. Travis’s thirty seconds in the captain’s chair makes him seem like a goofy teenager instead of a junior officer. Trip assuming that his visitors don’t know what a warp drive is makes him seem like a patronising jerk. The crewman Daniels reveal is a real missed opportunity. We could have had almost a dozen episodes getting used to his presence before he explained who he really was. The wrinkle that the time cop’s quarry is the person who secretly saved the ship is interesting, but T’Pol’s scepticism is dull and serves only to slow the plot down (although Archer’s wonder at Daniels’s planetarium light show is bizarre to say the least). When Acne-head gives his own side of the story, it becomes genuinely hard to know who is on whose side, and while this has nothing to do with the story of the first wave of space adventurers from Earth, or the game of plugging holes in Star Trek’s early history, it is more tense and exciting than a great many recent episodes. But amid all the intrigue, the climactic fight in the cargo bay is very confusingly and unconvincingly shot, as if director Robert Duncan McNeill didn’t have all the coverage he needed.

ENT S01E12 Silent Enemy (1.5 out of 5 stars). Archer has determined that Enterprise needs a weapons upgrade and so he wants to take her back to the shop. A ship shows up and then goes away again. Hoshi talks to Malcolm’s sister. Even by the slightly aimless standard of these episodes this is unbelievably pointless and sluggish. Finally, halfway through, the ship is attacked and boarded, but then they go away again and we’re back to squabbling about maintenance procedures and lunch preferences. Eventually Malcolm fires his big gun, and everybody is happy. It’s a bizarrely vacuous 45 minutes which barely qualifies as a story. And it seems if, to the writers, British people are as bizarre as Klingons or Denobulans. Certainly, Malcolm’s parents behave like no human beings I’ve ever encountered.

Trekaday #108: Broken Bow, Fight or Flight, Strange New World, Unexpected
Trekaday #110: Dear Doctor, Sleeping Dogs, Shadows of P'Jem, Shuttlepod One, Fusion, Rogue Planet, Acquisition, Oasis