[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Andorian Incident"
- 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
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?"
"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
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.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...