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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Andorian Incident"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise s The Andorian Incident. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Mostly
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 21, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise's "The
      Andorian Incident." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Mostly routine as these things go, but the ending is of particular
      interest.

      Plot description: During a visit to a Vulcan monastery, Archer, T'Pol, and
      Tucker are taken hostage by a group of Andorians who claim the monastery
      actually houses a secret Vulcan spying post.

      -----
      Enterprise: "The Andorian Incident"

      Airdate: 10/31/2001 (USA)
      Teleplay by Fred Dekker
      Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Fred Dekker
      Directed by Roxann Dawson

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "Information: Did you know that over 70 percent of the organisms on my
      homeworld are bacteria?"
      "What?"
      "Here's something I think you'll find interesting: There was a man in
      Canton, Ohio, who once rolled a ball of string over six meters in diameter."
      -- Archer getting interrogated
      -----

      They say that the right ending to a movie is especially crucial, because
      that's the note you leave your audience with, and they're more likely to
      judge your success or failure based on the last feelings they have as they
      leave the theater.

      This theory would apply nicely to "The Andorian Incident," which is -- let's
      face it -- a typical and obvious hostage premise with questionable logic for
      most of its run before supplying an ending that makes us sit up and take
      notice. Agree or disagree, one must admit that the final minutes of the
      episode and Archer's actions represent an interesting turn of events. The
      implications are worth thinking about.

      The Vulcans, ah, the Vulcans. In "Broken Bow" I complained that they were
      obstacles for the sake of the story needing near-generic obstacles. That may
      still be the case (I'm not sure we've seen enough to understand *why* the
      Vulcans are the prigs of the galaxy, but so it goes), but here it takes a
      few interesting turns. The Vulcans are on not the best terms with the
      Andorians, who as the episode begins have invaded a spiritual retreat on a
      Vulcan outpost called P'Jem. Coincidentally, enter the Enterprise, where
      Archer tells T'Pol he'd like to take a shuttle down to P'Jem and visit the
      monastery in the interests of learning about some Vulcan customs. T'Pol
      isn't thrilled with the idea but she goes along with it, giving the captain
      a laundry list of rules to avoid offending the Vulcan elders. (T'Pol says
      the monastery is 3,000 years old, and since it's not on the Vulcan
      homeworld, one wonders just how long the Vulcans have been out in space.)

      Once inside the monastery, our characters discover the Andorians and find
      themselves drawn into the middle of long-standing Vulcan/Andorian tensions.
      Although there's no official state of war between the Andorians and the
      Vulcans, there are extremist Andorian groups willing to use violence in the
      name of protecting Andorian interests.

      T'Pol describes the Andorians as "paranoid," and she initially seems to be
      right. Some Andorians are very bitter at the Vulcans, accusing them of
      spying on their world, and that paranoia doesn't take long to extend to the
      humans. We have a Vulcan in our midst, we came to this monastery, so we must
      therefore know something. This "something" has to do with the Andorians'
      suspicions that the Vulcans have a long-range sensor array hidden somewhere
      in or around this monastery, used as a major spying post to watch over the
      Andorian homeworld. The Vulcans dismiss the accusations as ridiculous; they
      say this is a place for spiritual meditation, not for technology, and
      certainly not for military-type operations.

      The leader of this small Andorian group is Shran, who is played by none
      other than Jeffrey Combs, who created one of DS9's most memorable villains,
      Weyoun. What's perhaps a bit unfortunate is that some of Combs' best
      strengths as a performer aren't allowed to come into play for this role.
      Shran is a near-humorless thug whose first instinct is to have Archer beaten
      senseless when he supplies no useful information. Combs' best strengths in
      Trek have always also included his humorous edge. In addition to his role on
      DS9, his guest spot in Voyager's "Tsunkatse" benefited from the fact he was
      a funny bad guy. Shran as a character doesn't have that quality. He's very
      serious and borderline cruel, and while Combs can do that fine too, it's
      just not as much fun to watch.

      Between bouts of interrogation, our crew members and the Vulcans are locked
      into a room that, fortunately, has a secret passageway into some Vulcan
      catacombs. There's a radio down here, which our crew uses to contact the
      Enterprise. There's a certain "Indiana Jones" sense to the idea of Vulcan
      catacombs, but there's also a certain silliness to the fact that our
      characters are so easily able to go in and out of these tunnels undetected
      by the Andorians. As is the case for most situations like this, the villains
      unwittingly give our heroes just enough means to secretly come up with a
      plan of action.

      The whole procession of plot is pretty much routine, but some
      characterization in between the moments of planning is appreciated and
      beneficial. In particular, I liked seeing snippets of Reed's leadership back
      aboard the Enterprise ("I don't take orders from a com voice, ensign -- not
      unless that voice belongs to the captain"), as well as another debate
      between Archer and T'Pol highlighting differences between Vulcan and human
      ideals. The discussion on self-defense vs. non-violence strikes me as
      particularly realistic from what we know of both human and Vulcan
      sensibilities.

      Still, there are also moments that seem really ill-thought-out. The most
      obvious example is the whole game with the big stone face in the wall. When
      Trip looked down one of the tunnels and saw the three holes in the wall, the
      thing that instantly came to my mind was that those three holes were the
      same three holes in the wall on the other side of the face. This later
      occurs to the crew as they're planning their escape. But they need to be
      sure that the tunnel leads to the room with the big face.

      So what does Archer do? He tells the Andorians he wants to talk, so that
      they will take him back to the room with the big stone face. When he plays
      around with them instead of giving them information, they beat him up some
      more, during the course of which he secretly throws a small artifact through
      one of the holes in the big face. Then, on the other side, when Trip finds
      the artifact, the crew then knows that this tunnel exits to the room where
      the Andorians are.

      Hello? Why not just go through the tunnel and *look* through the holes in
      the wall to see if they lead to the room where the Andorians are? Why go to
      all the trouble to throw an object through from the other side and then find
      it in the tunnel? Either Archer is an idiot or he really likes getting beat
      up. More likely is that the whole concept of the artifact being thrown into
      the tunnel is to pad out the script and draw out the conflict. What could've
      been half a page of the script -- or indeed, even one line ("We can ambush
      the Andorians from this tunnel!") -- is stretched out into pages of
      extraneous actions and dialog.

      The ensuing chase scenes and shootouts are competently staged but not
      particularly surprising. What makes "The Andorian Incident" work is not the
      hostage plot that exists for most of the hour but rather the destination the
      story reaches. It turns out the Vulcans *are* in fact hiding a massive spy
      facility underneath this monastery. We find out that the Andorians'
      suspicions *don't* arise from paranoia that makes them into stock villains
      of the week, but instead that the Andorians are right and the Vulcans have
      been lying all along.

      This ending effectively shatters many of the assumptions from earlier in the
      episode that were held by the characters in the story and also perhaps by
      viewers watching. We find ourselves re-evaluating the meaning of some
      scenes. Consider, for example, the T'Pol/Archer argument on self-defense. It
      takes on an entirely new meaning in light of the fact that this whole time
      the Vulcans have been lying and in fact have been spying on the Andorians --
      probably in the interest of self-defense. T'Pol, I believe, had no idea
      about what was going on here, and likely finds herself as surprised as
      Archer. I wonder if the Vulcans are hiding things within their own ranks.

      Archer's actions are interesting as well. He lets the Andorians have the
      records as proof of the Vulcans' espionage operation -- an operation that's
      in violation of the Vulcan/Andorian treaty. Archer, I'm sure, feels
      completely justified in doing so, since the Vulcans had been lying all along
      to everyone. The truth is, after all, the truth.

      It's especially important that there be *consequences* to this episode. The
      ending has shown that the Vulcans can be secretive, militaristic, and
      persuasive liars. The story presents this information without further
      discussing it. Archer's actions have shown that he's willing, on principle,
      to sell out what at this point is humanity's only real ally. By giving the
      Andorians the proof of the spy facility, he's possibly opening up a
      Pandora's box for increased tensions between the Vulcans and Andorians, and
      probably between humans and Vulcans as well. The Vulcans' unwillingness to
      be straight with humans shows once again that this is a strained
      relationship. Meanwhile, we have Shran telling Archer, "We're in your debt."

      I'm giving this episode a borderline recommendation. There's plenty of
      stock-issue plotting and broken logic in the course of this story, but I
      liked where it took us. It shows that Archer is stubborn, principled, and
      righteous. I only hope that down the road we see what kind of trouble such
      characteristics get him into.

      --
      Next week: Ice, ice, baby.

      -----
      Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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