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The Trek Nation - E²

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 6, 2004 - 3:14 AM GMT

See Also: 'E²' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: An aged T'Pol is visited by a young Vulcan captain who reports to her that everything has happened as before. She tells him that he must seek out Jonathan Archer. At the same time, a much younger T'Pol is visited by Tucker, who first pleads insomnia, then says he's worried about her because she rarely leaves her quarters. When he worries that she's been avoiding him, she snaps that she does not want a relationship with him. Later, on the bridge, she makes the startling discovery that an approaching vessel appears to be Starfleet. The ship hails, and its Vulcan captain tells Archer that he must alter his heading immediately from the Xindi subspace corridor that will lead him to Degra's ship.

Archer learns that the other ship is the Enterprise - his Enterprise, thrown 117 years into the past when it was attacked in the corridor. The Vulcan captain introduces himself as Lorian, son of T'Pol; his first officer is named Karyn Archer. When Phlox confirms these claims, he tells T'Pol that Tucker is Lorian's father. Because the ship could only travel through the corridor in one direction, the anomaly that made it travel back in time could not be reversed, nor could it risk visiting Earth and corrupting the timeline, so Lorian's Enterprise has been wandering, waiting for the Xindi to ready their attack so that they could try to stop it.

Lorian wants to alter Archer's injector assembly and reinforce the hull to allow Enterprise to travel at nearly warp 7 to reach the rendezvous with Degra, bypassing the corridor, but the elder T'Pol warns the younger that there's a greater than 20 percent chance the ship could be destroyed and suggests instead making modifications to allow the younger Enterprise to pass safely through the corridor. Archer asks Lorian to help bolster the ship to traverse the corridor, but the Vulcan captain is convinced that such a course of action will end the same way as the first time, with the time loop, and decides that he must use his Enterprise to stop the Xindi. To do so, he will need to steal Archer's warp plasma injectors, which he does, sending in a team and shooting Tucker himself.

Archer fires on Lorian's Enterprise and orders T'Pol to use the transporter to beam out Lorian's EPS manifolds and primary relays to shut down his ship's power. Then he demands a truce, warning Lorian that while he still may have the power to destroy his Enterprise, he's gambling that Lorian won't do that. In Archer's brig after standing down, Lorian admits that he blames himself for the first Xindi attack on earth, which he could have prevented, but only by destroying his ship and its crew; he hesitated, but he won't let his emotions prevent him from taking any necessary steps to protect Earth this time.

Archer and Lorian come up with a plan to trick the aliens protecting the nebula Archer must enter to meet Degra, allowing them to believe Lorian's ship is a sensor ghost until it turns and attacks. But Archer's Enterprise is badly damaged, and Lorian's ship tows it to the entrance to the corridor while taking the majority of hits from the alien attack. Enterprise successfully makes it to the other side and meets Degra, but there is never any trace of Lorian or his ship, and Archer wonders whether the ship might simply have ceased to exist because his own Enterprise - the one destined to become Lorian's Enterprise - never made the trip back in time.


Analysis: That very dry plot summary above doesn't really cover the emotional core of "E²", which is focused far more on the characters and the consequences of their contact with their descendants than it is on the vast technobabble resulting in a successful traverse of the Xindi corridor. There are some obvious superficial parallels with one of Trek's great episodes, Deep Space Nine's "Children of Time", which was the turning point in Odo and Kira's relationship as well as a look at what might have been in terms of who married and had children with whom. But the more important and obvious parallel is between Lorian and another Starfleet captain, one who a few short weeks ago justified the theft of equipment from another ship by claiming it as an essential step in a mission to save Earth. Lorian's speech is eerily similar to Archer's; one wonders whether he watched Archer on old ship's records, like the jittery footage we see at the start of the episode indicating what happened to the ship when it entered the corridor. Jonathan, meet your logical descendant, even if he is Trip and T'Pol's son.

And that's the other whopper of a storyline lurking in the background of the technobabble: T'Pol's discovery that, in one timeline at least, her emotions will never return to what she considers a Vulcan norm, and she will not only procreate but apparently be happy with Trip until the untimely death that leaves Lorian without a father in early adolescence. We get only hints of the family dynamics: clearly Lorian isn't afraid to talk back to his mother, but clearly she isn't afraid to go behind his back and manipulate her past self when she believes he's wrong, even though he's the captain (it's never clear why the dying Archer of Lorian's universe left the ship in the hands of the young Vulcan, rather than his still-living science officer). Tucker observes that it must have been hard for Lorian, growing up without his father, but we don't hear about what it must have been like for T'Pol, saddled with emotions she didn't grow up with and faced with a tragedy of that magnitude.

The present-time Tucker and T'Pol continue to squabble, each denying that they want a relationship and pointing out flaws in one another - his immaturity, her stubbornness - that they claim would make any romance unpleasant, when it's perfectly obvious that they're both immature and stubborn and unquestionably deserve each other and are genuinely attached to one another besides. I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of Vulcan drug abuse and brain damage as the foundation for a love affair, but the characters have great chemistry and it's much more fun to watch them now that they're exchanging clever barbs instead of getting naked and giving each other backrubs (sorry, neuropressure) every week. The elder T'Pol seems afraid to see the young Trip, as if it might open old wounds; there's the suggestion of very great love and pain just beneath the surface, with a sort of Vulcan restraint that's missing in the present-day T'Pol, which lends great pathos to the romance-that-may-never-be.

And then there's their son, who in a wonderful bit of casting looks like he could be Tucker and T'Pol's son yet talks like Archer. Did he hesitate to sacrifice his Enterprise, when he knew it's necessary to save Earth, because he had promised Archer to take care of the crew? Because destroying the ship meant killing his mother? Because the loss of his father left him emotionally weak in a crisis, even though he claims that he combines the best of Vulcan and human strengths? We don't get to know Lorian well enough to get at his psychology, but he seems to be a man alone; if he's married with children, we don't meet the family, and he seems to take his first officer along out of rote duty more than any real closeness. By the time she stands up to him and announces that she won't help kill their ancestors, he's already slumping in defeat, accepting that he's not going to kill Archer's crew any more easily than he could kill his own.

We get glimpses into the possible futures of the others. Phlox will have nine children with someone named Amanda, presumably Tucker's onetime interest. Sato will have two children with a man whose name she opts not to learn, while Mayweather will marry the MACO McKenzie. Poor Reed's family line will come to an end, as he sulks about not having a woman of his own (in a bit of heterosexist conservatism, Sato assumes that there are certain to be some bachelors because there are more males than females among the crew complement; you'd think some of that large crew would end up in same-sex relationships, in triads, or reproducing artificially just to keep their DNA in a healthy, diverse gene pool). Archer's future wife is an alien we've not met yet. Karyn Archer's genetic background includes two other alien species.

The implication of all this is that, despite the horrific situation in which the crew finds itself - trapped in the past, unable to go back to Earth, incapable of fulfilling the mission to stop the Xindi in their own lifetimes - these people adapt and grow and find ways to be happy. They make the ship stronger, they forge alliances, they advance their knowledge of science...ironically, they carry out the very tasks for which Enterprise was intended before it was diverted into the Expanse to defend Earth from the Xindi. There is one great plot hole in this episode, and it's that Archer doesn't immediately start downloading the other Enterprise's entire database as soon as they meet up, to take what they have learned with him in case the other ship does not survive. It's thrilling to see this, even though we as the audience know from TNG's "All Good Things..." and Voyager's "Deadlock" and various other reset-button episodes that of course one of the Enterprises will have ceased to exist by the episode's end.

In the end, Archer asks T'Pol why they remember the other Enterprise if its timeline has been erased. That's the great reset-button-episode question. In Voyager's "Year of Hell", the reset button on the timeline erases the crew's memories of all events leading up to the point of origin, but in "Children of Time", the destruction of the alternate timeline does not erase it from the memories of the crew. "E²" works like the latter, but we never get a conclusive answer about what happened to Lorian's Enterprise, and somehow that's very satisfying. It existed, it is remembered, and therefore everything that happened here exists, even if it's only in the tiny changes in the crew: the possibility of changing values and hope and love where none existed.


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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.