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The Trek Nation - Babel One

Babel One

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 29, 2005 - 3:50 AM GMT

See Also: 'Babel One' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: After an attack, Shran stands on his ruined bridge, sends a distress call and calls for all hands to abandon ship, saying the Tellarite swine will pay. Meanwhile, on Enterprise, Archer rehearses with Sato in preparation for a visit from a Tellarite ambassador whom the Starfleet ship will transport to a trade conference on the far side of Andorian space. He is concerned that a shooting war will result of an agreement cannot be reached, and is prepared to do what is necessary to keep the peace...including trading insults with the Tellarites, who are distrustful of the humans because Earth owes a debt to the Andorians for their help during the Xindi crisis. Indeed, when Archer receives Shran's distress call, he diverts course from the conference at Babel and goes to pick up the Andorian escape pods. He learns that Shran and Talas believe that Tellarites attacked and destroyed their ship - a charge that Ambassador Gral vehemently denies.

Upon learning that Gral is aboard Enterprise, Shran warns Archer that there will be bloodshed if the 19 survivors of his crew of 86 get ahold of the Tellarites. Privately he reveals that he and Talas have become romantically involved and claims the Tellarites have been provoking his people for months, attacking their ships on the border. Gral insists that the reverse is true and adds that Tellarite ships are no match for Andorian cruisers anyway. He wants to be taken home rather than through Andorian space, but Archer is determined to make the conference proceed.

Then Enterprise is attacked by an Andorian ship that refuses to answer Shran's summons and, further, has an unexpected power signature. As the Tellarites and Andorians accuse one another of duplicity, Archer is forced to have MACOs guard each group while T'Pol attempts to figure out why the power signatures of the ship that attacked Shran's and Enterprise are identical even though one appeared to be Tellarite and the other Andorian. Reed tracks the ship, which proves to be an unknown vessel with no life support and numerous spectral emitters on its hull. Reed and Tucker take a team on board, but when the ship powers up and fires on Enterprise, Archer is forced to leave the engineer and armory officer aboard so his crew can make repairs.

T'Pol identifies the alien technology as possibly being Romulan, but Archer doesn't understand why the Romulans would start trouble so far from home -- unless their plan all along has been to prevent an alliance between the Tellarites and Andorians. Meanwhile Talas attempts to seduce a MACO to give Shran and herself a chance to sneak out of their quarters and attack Gral and his contingent. Archer stops the fighting and asks all of them to please look at the evidence that their people have not been attacking one another, but not before both Talas and a Tellarite are wounded in the fracas. The Enterprise crew has been able to prove that the alien ship uses holographic emitters to mimic both Andorian and Tellarite vessels, but it is, in fact, Romulan, being controlled remotely by a team that has discovered Reed and Tucker on the vessel, searching for the bridge.


Analysis: This week's episode shows up everything I thought was wrong with last week's episode. Sure, it takes a lot of themes and sci-fi gimmicks and alien species and character types that we've seen since the original Star Trek, but instead of simply giving us one more Evil Aliens Possess Crew storyline, it twists it in a way that enhances our understanding of the original series while creating good, consistent drama for Enterprise I say this with particular confidence because, for the hour before "Babel One" aired, my family watched "Journey to Babel" - you know, the one where Spock's father is on his way to an economic conference with argumentative Tellarites and Andorians, and it turns out mysterious manipulative aliens are killing people to cause suspicion and ruin any peaceful agreement.

On the surface "Babel One" has a very similar plot, yet it plays out like an original take on the situation rather than a retread. Part of this is because the aliens are just plain fun; Archer and Gral spit gleeful insults at one another, Archer and Shran swap barbs when they're not sitting around reminiscing, and Shran and Gral dive over a conference table to wrestle, with the one's antennae twitching and the other's eyes getting even beadier. I can't say I'm thrilled to learn that sexual harassment is a joking matter among Andorians but at least we know Shran's not afraid of a woman who's stronger than he is. And I'm a little story that Gral kept his snide comments to the ship and the food; I was really looking forward to hearing what he'd say about certain crewmembers.

But there's plenty of opportunity for humor, from Sato's warning to Archer that he'd better keep Porthos locked up or the dog might become dinner to Archer's straightfaced gripe to Tucker that he'd better change before his sweaty uniform stank up the mess hall. There's also no doubt that the antennae are the best thing ever to happen to Andorians, even more so than the casting of the inimitable Jeffrey Combs: the combination of his facial expressions and the curls of disappointment and flares of outrage going on atop his head mean that there is literally never a dull moment with him onscreen. It would be very easy for a lot of this stuff to tip into over-the-top silliness, between Talas parading around in pink underwear and Shran taking taunting guesses at which setting on a phase pistol is "kill", yet the actors make it work; these are characters, not caricatures.

And there's plenty of other stuff going on as well. In the midst of all this chaos, T'Pol learns that her marriage has been dissolved, which she explains to Archer with very Vulcan stoicism while Reed tries to provoke Tucker into declaring his intentions. We get a great scene with the real Sato - not the mystery chick from last week who ran poker tournaments, but the linguist and communications expert who gleefully teaches Archer how to hurl Tellarite insults, plus later she works with both Shran and Archer to try to talk to the "Andorian" ship, and later she helps T'Pol figure out that there are holographic emitters on the mysterious vessel. (And incidentally, to the people who wrote to me last week to point out that at least we got to see Mayweather do something last week: no, we didn't. We got to see an alien in Mayweather's body, but Mayweather himself said almost nothing!)

Since I just watched "Journey To Babel" I might as well make a few gratuitous comparisons. If Andorian makeup and costumes have improved a hundred percent, the Tellarites have improved at least that much even without antennae. The Romulans seem sort of flat to me, though, for all their angular ears and noses and shoulder pads; the ones we've seen have all been pretty one-dimensionally terse guys, and given the fabulous female Romulan Commander of "The Enterprise Incident" would it hurt to throw in some women in senior positions? The food at the 22nd century diplomatic functions looks a hell of a lot better than the food on 23rd century starships: Gral might not have been in the mood for Chef's version of Tellarite delicacies, but compared to that pastel sherbet the aliens were eating on Kirk's Enterprise, it looked pretty good.

You know what last week's Derivative Evil Aliens needed? A sense of humor. What's not to enjoy about hearing a Starfleet captain say "You people are even uglier than I remember" as a negotiating ploy? That whole scene, really - Gral announcing that Enterprise is small and unimpressive, and Archer noting, "I was about to say the same thing about you." Whee, Scotty should have tried that on the Klingons when they said his Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage! I'm with Tucker: it's very refreshing to hear people speak their minds without having to hear them making speeches. It's even better when some of those people have little excited antennae bouncing around. I had nits, like I'm not sure why the transporter could beam anyone out once the Romulan ship had polarized the hull plating, which I thought was the equivalent of raising shields, but who cares really. The MACO getting blown off the transporter pad right afterward to convince us that, yep, it was really truly out of commission and not Archer's fault that he had to leave Tucker and Reed was a little much, too; Sarek would have said the needs of the many outweigh the need for Archer to wait around and pull off a rescue like Kirk would have.

Does anyone else get the feeling that we're going to get a big reveal when the VR mask comes off the Romulan in the suit controlling the remote ship? Who're we expecting? Who'd be working with them, at this point in history? And what are they afraid Tucker and Reed will find on the bridge, since the Romulans are not, in fact, on the bridge? With the great aliens, the space battles, the humor and the fine and subtle character work, I do hope part two lives up to the entertainment value of part one.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.