June 17, 2020

Enterprise: Broken Bow

Thank god for Scott Bakula?


On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Enterprise, Broken Bow. He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Archer.

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Episode Transcript

Transcript

Welcome! Thank you for checking out this episode! I am excited to dive into one of the more controversial Star Trek series…love it or hate it, we have a lot to learn as we dive into Enterprise, Broken Bow. 

Starts off with my childhood Star Wars figures. 
Some father son time, with the kid shaming the dad…and throwing shade at the Vulcans. 
We fast forward 30 years to what will be our present day - 2151, some 114 years before the days of Captain Kirk - to a corn field with a modern looking klingon running from a bad case of eczema.
The eczema can turn into slime or something <spinal tap “no bones”>, heads into a silo and the klingon blows it to hell.
Poor farmer confronts the $100,000 winner of Battle of the Tough Guys….I mean, the klingon, and blasts him with his tattooine style shotgun.
Cut to the most emotion inducing theme song in all of Star Trek…..
We meet Captain Jonathan Archer and Charles Tucker in a scene from Star Trek The Motion Picture. 
They do a great job explaining what the Enterprise NX-01 is about. I love the sense of awe and wonder Tucker conveys when he talks about the ship.
They make kind of a big deal about Tucker bumping into the Enterprise and “scratching the paint.” 

We get a really cool view of Earth and the precursor to the Starfleet we know as Archer gets called to Starfleet Medical by Admiral Forrest. 
Zeus is on a hospital bed as we see the very open hostility between the humans and vulcans. 
The main vulcan is identified as Soval and we learn the vulcans and klingons have a long history. 
Soval recommends delaying the launch of the Enterprise; this is nothing new to Archer, he’s just surprised they didn’t come up with a better story.
The vulcans talk about how dangerous the klingons are and that humans don’t need to make an enemy out of them. 
The very bright blue eyed doctor explains the klingon is still alive and the vulcans take a dive into klingon culture - more honorable to die in battle than live injured. 
A female vulcan calls humans volatile which leads Archer to demonstrate his self-control by not knocking her on her ass. 
Archer steps up and says he and his crew will be ready in 3 days even though he hasn’t even identified all of his crew yet. Bravado and confidence in spades. This can be a risky leadership tactic - overpromising on your team’s abilities. If you’re confident in them, and know how to motivate and push them, it can be amazingly successful and show them what they are truly capable of. If not...well, you stand to lose a ton of credibility; both with your team and your superiors or customers. 
Admiral Forrest seems to love it - stands up to Soval and approves it. 
Archer calls out what has been kind of a glaring issue. “When your logic doesn’t work you raise your voice?” The Vulcans in this scene haven been obviously emotional...maybe more to come on that...?

Back to the gorgeous drydock scene and onto the Enterprise where we meet Travis Mayweather and Malcolm Reed; helmsman and main armory officers.
They talk about the transporter and how it isn’t really safe yet for human transport. 
Next we meet Hoshi Sato is she’s teaching some sort of language class. Archer, in his civvies, shows up and tries to convince her to leave the school and report to the Enterprise early. She outright refuses; says she’ll be available in 3 weeks, not 3 days. 
What Archer does here is great! He knows Hoshi and what motivates her; so he dangles a chocolate covered, gold-infused carrot in front of her by playing the Klingon language. 
We hear, again, that the Klingons are from a warrior culture...”with 80 poly-guttural dialects constructed on an adaptive syntax.” 
Hoshi is all in! 

Back on the Enterprise, we learn there will be a Vulcan science officer on board. Tucker and Archer meet her - T’Pol - and Tucker introduces himself as “Trip” as his full name is Charles Tucker III...thus, Trip. 
Archer lays down the rules; they ultimately see her being on the ship as an intrusion by the Vulcans. He makes it clear that what is said in his room and on the bridge is privileged information, not to be shared with the Vulcan High Command. 
We also meet Archer’s dog, Porthos...who has taken a liking to T’Pol.
Admiral Forrest holds a press conference to announce the first interstellar voyage for Starfleet. We learn here that Archer’s dad, Henry Archer, worked with Zephram Cochran’s to develop and enhance the Warp 5 engine. 
To send them off, we see James Cromwell reprise his role as Cochran, as he lays down the foundation for the iconic opening phrases to Star Trek, “To go boldly...” 
And they’re off! 

We see a massive space structure of a unique design. When we go inside, one of the eczema guys is talking with what appears to be a shadow. The visuals are phased and very cool looking; even the voices seem to echo in a phased manner.
The eczema guy, a Suliban, updates the shadow guy that Klaang, the Klingon, is in the possession of the humans. 

Archer touches base with his medical officer, Phlox, the guy that was working on Klaang back on Earth. Phlox has a lot of “pets” and living creatures that he is unpacking. Sounds like he uses them for medicinal purposes. 
Archer is trying to get a feel for if and when Klaang will be conscience; Phlox isn’t a lot of help and explains that he agreed to this mission so he can study humans under pressure.  ....we won’t talk about the smile effect they use on him.......

Archer, Trip and T’Pol all meet to have dinner together. We begin a deeper dive into Vulcan culture - they don’t touch food with their hands, they’re vegetarian - which prompts a discussion on how “enlightened” humans are as compared to Vulcans. Trip says they’ve wiped out hunger, disease and war in just 2 generations.   I always like these scenes where they “fill in the blanks” between our time and theirs.
Phlox calls Archer, who gets Hoshi, and lets him know that the Klingon is awake. Hoshi is really struggling to communicate with him, but keeps at it. Hoshi gets really emotional and overwhelmed. 
Suddenly, main power goes out and Reed thinks he saw something off the starboard bow. We get some night vision footage of some Suliban creeping through the halls and then we briefly see one in sickbay; seems they can cloak themselves. 
Nice, slow pacing builds the tension along with a great soundtrack...when they finally see one of them climbing on the ceiling it goes all horror-show into a brief firefight. The lights come back on and Klaang...Klaang is gone.
The tension is high, Archer is panicked and is shortening up his delivery. “What are you waiting for?” Gets Hoshi going on a translation, blows off T’Pol and orders her to help with the translation. She makes the case that the mission is over and a failure and that they need to return to Earth. Archer tells her to follow him into his ready room. 
In here, he lays into her and goes pretty racist/species-ist on her - “take your Vulcan cynicism and bury it along with your repressed emotions.” She keeps her cool and encourages him to reach out to Starfleet to at least update them. He refuses and dismisses her. Super short, to the point and, ironically, inhumane. Under pressure, he really looks like he’s falling apart and blasting through his crew in the process. 

In the meantime, Phlox has got a Suliban on the table. He points out through an autopsy, there has been extensive, sophisticated genetic engineering done on this guy. Some great close ups on the make up here; looks awesome.
Trip and T’Pol are digging into the sensor readings where she shares that “Vulcan children play with toys that are more sophisticated.” They are doing a lot of work, effectively, to show the rift between humans and Vulcans...this isn’t the Star Trek we grew up with!
Archer is all over the ship as he interrupts Trip and T’Pol - who continue their argument. He’s not quite micromanaging...but he’s absolutely micromanaging his crew right now. 
Hoshi comes in with a translation that, through T’Pol, leads the Enterprise to Rigel X. 

Back on the Suliban ship, they’re interrogating Klaang. They’re trying to get some thing, or some info from him, and he ends up sending them to Rigel X also.   Bum bum bum.....dramatic music..

Archer pulls together his away team: Trip, Mayweather, Reed and T’Pol. He and T’Pol brief the crew; she heavily emphasizes they shouldn’t act too human or else they’ll be found out. Archer explains they’re trying to find the courier Klaang was here to meet with. They take the shuttle down - remember transporters for people aren’t really a thing yet. 
The crew are in some cool, totally inconspicuous jackets and they are marveling at the world they see: a total slum with all kinds of different species. Reed and Mayweather find these incredible looking blue and pink women dancing and...eating butterflies. They have an odd looking guy leading them to Klaang, but also trying to basically pimp out the butterfly girls.
Trip sees a kid and its mom - the mom looks like she’s suffocating the kid - and he can’t help but get involved. Learns a valuable lesson about forcing human values on other species. He’s self-righteous despite the fact she was doing what she should have to raise her kid. As they leave, we see a Suliban watching them.
Archer and Hoshi see some Klingons. Their communicators are being blocked so Archer pulls out his gun. Some hooded Suliban jump down and subdue the both of them. 
They add Archer and Hoshi to a cell with T’Pol and Trip...taking Archer to meet Saren, the one that Klaang was looking for. Archer basically immediately threatens her: “You’d better be careful, I’m a lot bigger than you are.” 
Saren explains that some of her people have accepted “evolution” in exchange for something significant. She also explains Klaang was carrying a message back to his people from her. She was proving to Council would understand the Suliban had been staging attacks to make it look like one Klingon House was attacking the others. 
And then she drops it: The Temporal Cold War. The Suliban Cabal are taking orders from the distant future. An attack from Cabal members breaks up the discussion. Saren releases the crew and they head towards the roof to get to the shuttle. As they leave the area, Saren gets taken out and the crew are on their own. 
The set for the roof looks epic! Snow pouring down, multiple levels...reminds me of a multi-player map on Mass Effect 3! #FBW
Reed and Mayweather are in the shuttle trying to reach the crew but the communicators are still broken up. The sets up a standoff between the crew and the Cabal. 
Archer plays the hero, grabs to guns and covers everyone as they get to the shuttle. He takes one to the leg and gets dragged into the shuttle. 
T’Pol takes control and starts barking orders at Mayweather. She lets Enterprise know Archer has been hurt and that she is taking command of the ship.

Back on the Enterprise, we are reminded this show aired in 2001 and TV audiences expected something “more” out of their Star Trek...a little thing I like to call the “Seven of Nine Syndrome.” To decontaminate after the mission, T’Pol and Trip have to rub gel on their nearly naked bodies under a black light...for a very long time with very “early 90’s Cinemax” camera angles....
In the midst of all this, Trip advocates for Archer being able to complete this mission the way he would want to. 
In sickbay, Phlox is using a leech sort of thing to heal Archer’s leg. He’s been out for 6 hours. T’Pol explains she has taken command and that they are tracking the Suliban vessel...she is following Archer’s plan!! 
Archer records his first “Star Log” with a calendar date: April 16th 2151. In it, he ponders T’Pol’s change of heart and praises her skill. 
On the bridge, they seem to have chased the vessel to a dead end. They lost them. 
Archer basically bullies T’Pol into digging deeper into the scanner readings and they find there were 14 tiny ships that went into the planet’s atmosphere. He giver very specific orders to Mayweather on how to get there. 
We see the Suliban back in the phased room with the Shadow man who says the humans and Vulcans shouldn’t be involved yet. He tells the Suliban he needs to stop them as they have the Klignon’s message.

Enterprise finds the Suliban base. The base finds them too and they start taking fire. They head up into the atmosphere to avoid attacks. 
T’Pol finds the “base” is made up of hundreds of small ships, held together. They can’t get a fix on Klaang so they plan a B&E; how do we break in and find this guy. 
Enterprise continues to take fire, Archer waits till the last second before deploying the grappling hook to steal one of the ships. 
I love this scene! How often do Star Trek people get into a ship and just know how to pilot it?? All the time!! This scene is Mayweather trying to teach Trip HOW to pilot it! 

They’re hiding up in the phosphorus layer of the atmosphere, but the Suliban are sweeping the area looking for them. In time, per T’Pol, they’ll find them. 
Great acting as Trip and Archer fly the Suliban ship towards the base. Trip looks like a guy that has no idea what he’s doing....really well done! 
As they’re trying to find the docking port, Trip bumps into the base...nice call back to his piloting when we first saw the Enterprise! 
On the base, they quickly find Klaang. They had back towards the small ship but this is where they find opposition. Archer sends Trip and Klaang along while he plants charges on the base core causing it to demagnetize and for all the ships to start to break off. This looks awesome! All the little ships floating away. 
Trip and Klaang make it back to the Enterprise but Archer is still on the Suliban base. He stumbles into the weird phased room and immediately notices things aren’t quite right. 

On the Enterprise, Trip and T’Pol are arguing about Archer’s order to go back and get him. She believes he said that to get Trip to get Klaang to the Enterprise successfully and she is refusing to proceed with the rescue. Some shots of the crew eyeballing each other and not buying into her reasoning. Eventually, she agrees with Trip.

Back in the phased room, the Suliban, Sellick, attacks him. He shoots Archer with a phaser, er, phase pistol, but because of the phased time, he’s able to dodge the shot. Archer escapes the room and we get a cool, strobe light fistfight between the two of them. Sellick confirms the genetic enhancements were payment for their help in this Temporal Cold War. As they fight....Acher disappears as Trip BEAMS HIM ABOARD! They used the transporter on a person and it worked! Trip said it was their only choice as they couldn’t dock.

Cut to the Klingon High Council. Klaang, Archer, Hoshi and T’Pol enter. This is the first official meeting of humans and the Klingon government! 
Hoshi provides translation services as Klaang delivers his message...it was encoded in his bloodstream. The Klingons decode it and acknowledge Archer’s involvement. 

In Archer’s quarters, he updates Trip and T’Pol on Starfleet’s new orders. They are to continue their exploration! Dr Phlox has agreed to stick around and Archer confides in T’Pol after Trip leaves. He says that he needs to change if they are to be successful. He has to leave behind preconceptions, holding grudges. He praises T’Pol’s assistance and asks her to request that she remain on board. She agrees. He asks this because he doesn’t want to appear weak in front of the Vulcans; while clearly prejudiced against the Vulcans, he is politically astute enough to build his team without weakening his position. 
Archer heads onto the bridge and gives a rousing speech to the crew. 
And there we go...Enterprise is underway!

Thoughts:
Star Trek just gets better each time it launches another pilot! While I found TNG’s Encounter at Farpoint barely watchable, this is another cinematic achievement in the vein of Voyager’s Caretaker. The sets, music and visuals all look great...well, most of the music....going to take some time to warm up to that theme song again. The pacing was a little disjointed; they had a lot to cram into this episode but they also gave it some room to breathe...I think that’s because the story was honestly a little weak. They took 90 minutes to fly a Klingon home. 
Personally, I like the animosity they build between humans and Vulcans. We’ve always seen these two groups as being united and having a common cause. This sets up an almost parent-child relationship as humanity comes into its own. As we rebel against our parents, so do the humans against the Vulcans. 
Not a bad start to this new series! A very different feel with the seeds for some other stories and relationships being planted.

Command Codes:
At this point, we really have one leader in Archer. We get some tiny glimpses of T’Pol’s style, but they tend to fall in line with what we know if Vulcans...with two very significant exceptions.
You see, T’Pol can be persuaded by her teams. While she is confident in her choices and the direction she has set, she also realizes she is not infallible. When Archer is hurt and she is in command, she could have very easily followed orders blindly and returned to Earth. Instead, she listened to Trip and the others and was able to understand their vision. Ultimately seeing the logic in it, she followed their lead, and they tracked down the Suliban.
Finally, despite accomplishing the mission by bringing Klaang on board, she sensed the desires and needs of the crew and agreed to rescue Archer. They didn’t dive into her decision making in the episode, but I’m going to make some assumptions here. It’s not uncommon to have to deliver and support actions and information your teams may not like. Often, leaders are called upon to carry messages that are not their own. An effective leader, though, can recognize those decisions and actions that can cause more harm...more immediate harm, and act otherwise. In this case, given the looks of Reed and Mayweather, specifically, she could have faced an all out mutiny. Again, weighing her options she decided to proceed with the rescue. The flip side to this is when things don’t go well, when going against the message you’re tasked with passing on fails significantly, you, as the leader, need to be prepared to take the heat. In this case, if the ship were destroyed or something happened with Klaang, it would be T’Pol that would bear responsibility. As her choice was a success, the team shares in the credit.

Now, Archer. Right now, the worst thing Archer has going for him is that he is played by Scott Bakula. He has such charisma and confidence on the set, it causes you to overlook his egregious flaws as a leader. He fails to follow orders, he argues with superiors - the Vulcans, in this case - he doesn’t communicate, he micromanages, he tries to play the hero......whew. Weigh that against his positives: he knows his crew and how to push them, he is aware of the politics surrounding issues, and he isn’t always afraid to ask for help when he needs it. 
Let’s dive into those positives a bit. Early in the episode, he dramatically over promises his crew’s ability to perform this task; he doesn’t even have a medical officer at this point! Understanding how to motivate the team, though, pays off and allows them to, in the end, over deliver. His persuasion of Hoshi Sato to come aboard early is masterful. 
At the end of the episode, when he’s gotten his orders to continue their exploration, he knows they will face challenges they aren’t up to facing. Having learned the asset T’Pol can be, he unashamedly asks her to stay and help; and does so in a way that doesn’t reinforce the stereotypes the Vulcans hold against humans. Good work.

And the negatives...they are substantial. The minute things go off the rails, he becomes an absolute tyrant. In crisis situations, people are looking for confidence, for assurance they will get through everything. Archer does the exact opposite. He lays right into Hoshi and T’Pol, basically bullying them into performance. With Klaang having been abducted, it is super obvious things aren’t going well, and Archer’s reinforces that by totally falling apart. As a subordinate, I would be nervous enough, but his leadership approach would send me into a total panic. He doesn’t trust his people to do what they can do…which is ludicrous given what we saw earlier in the episode! He had so much confidence in them; knew just how to motivate them, that he convinced Starfleet and the Vulcans to let him take the mission in the first place…and then he starts throwing his weight around and yelling at people……uncool, Archer…uncool. 

Given all that, in the end he acknowledges some of his shortcomings. He inspires the crew and they are excited for what lies ahead. Given what we’ve seen, I don’t know that I share their optimism, but…it’ll be a long road, getting from there……ok, enough of that…
Next time, on the Star Fleet Leadership Academy, we start off what is, ultimately, my favorite Star Trek series: Deep Space 9! 

In the meantime, you can catch me on social media. I’m @jefftakin on the twitter, instagram and facebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the episode as well! 

And, until then, Ex Astris Scientia!