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The Trek Nation - Terra Prime

Terra Prime

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 14, 2005 - 4:05 AM GMT

See Also: 'Terra Prime' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: With Paxton showing the half-Vulcan baby on all frequencies as proof that human genetic heritage will be destroyed if Earth enters an alliance with people from other worlds, Archer first tries to rescue T'Pol and the baby via scans from space, then refuses an order from Samuels to destroy the array until he has had a chance to try to rescue both of them and Tucker from the Martian surface. Reed uses his contact in Section 31 for advice on how to approach the planet and learns of a comet whose tail they can hide behind. Leaving Sato in command, Archer takes Mayweather, Reed and Phlox on a rescue mission, where a rough ride is followed by a nearly fatal landing.

Paxton allows Tucker and T'Pol to see their child in exchange for Tucker's help focusing the verteron array, which he says may destroy most of San Francisco rather than just Starfleet if his demands are not met and he fires on Earth. While working, Tucker attempts to talk to Josiah about how he used to understand hatred of Vulcans until he met them, but Josiah insists that the Vulcans allowed World War III to progress so Earth would be easier for them to control. Tucker punches him after attempting to sabotage the circuits, and Paxton says that he will be responsible for millions dying instead of a few hundred, locking him up. The engineer escapes from his confinement and meets up with Archer and the Enterprise crew. Meanwhile T'Pol accuses Paxton of being a hypocrite: she has recognized that he has Taggart Syndrome and is obviously getting Rigellian gene therapy, making him less than pure according to Colonel Green's standards.

T'Pol is concerned because her daughter is ill, which Paxton says is inevitable because she's a half-breed. Paxton prepares to fire the array while Samuels insists to Sato that she needs to give the order to destroy it immediately, whether or not Enterprise's senior officers are still there. She holds out long enough for Archer to lead his team against Paxton's men and take over the controls, but when the room begins to depressurize after one of the viewports shatters, Paxton regains control and fires a beam at Earth. It shoots harmlessly into the water by the Golden Gate Bridge. Tucker says that Paxton's aim must have been off, and Archer asks, "With a little help from you?"

Mayweather tracks down T'Pol and learns that the baby is very sick. Back on Enterprise, she and Tucker name the child Elizabeth after his sister, but Phlox discovers that there was a flaw in her DNA and cannot stabilize her. Mayweather - who has already been told by Brooks that she worked for Starfleet Intelligence rather than Terra Prime and that the real enemy agent was still on the loose - discovers that his shuttlepod was sabotaged. The person responsible is Ensign Masaro, who apologizes to Archer, then kills himself. Samuels addresses the conference delegates, saying that they have all seen humanity at its worst but they cannot allow the dream of a coalition to end there - a sentiment with which Archer agrees, to great applause. Some of the delegates want to go to the funeral service for Elizabeth, Tucker later tells T'Pol. He also learned from Phlox that there was a flaw in Paxton's doctor's cloning process, and a human and Vulcan should be able to have a child if they wished. He weeps, and she holds his hand.


Analysis: While "Terra Prime" doesn't resolve all the issues brought up in "Demons" and has some obvious plot holes, it still feels like a real Star Trek episode, despite its bleak ending. For once we get a multi-parter where the pacing and characterization match the first installment, and where plot and character aren't sacrificed to action. Again there is surprisingly little violence considering that this is a storyline focused on terrorists; Tucker throws a few punches, Paxton tries to blow up a city, but there aren't any gratuitous space battles and Enterprise under Sato's command never even gets off a shot. This is in large part because Hoshi stands her ground and has her finest moment all series - the hell with Empress Sato, this is a crewmember who proves that she knows which orders to follow and when.

I'm of a double mind about T'Pol in "Terra Prime." On the one hand, she's unrecognizable as the very sort of Vulcan that Paxton's people despise her for being; she's emotional, irrationally attached to an infant she knows for only a few hours, and she's passive while the rest of the crew do the fighting, staying in quarters cuddling the baby instead of fighting to escape as Tucker does. On the other hand, those are precisely the reasons one might give to Paxton to point out the absurdity that any fundamental differences between humans and Vulcans or any other species should inevitably result in hostilities. Paxton tries to appeal to her logic at one point, saying that her people are at much at risk from miscegenation with humans as humans are from breeding with Vulcans, and she argues that her people have changed so much over time, as have his, that it's absurd to fight growth. Given that her character has changed and grown the most of any Enterprise crewmember of the course of their mission, for better or worse, it's hard not to appreciate her having feelings on the subject.

Wisely, the Mayweather and Brooks romance gets very little screen time - it got too much in "Demons" - and there are a few moments of lightness, notably involving Reed and an airsickness bag. It's a disappointment that there isn't more interaction with Earth and the delegates, whom we hear are being besieged by humans who may be sympathetic to Terra Prime but who may simply be terrified at the idea of being fired upon by the giant array on Mars and want to protect their own children. It's one thing to support an interplanetary alliance in theory, quite another to stand on the front lines and be willing to die for principle, and the Xindi attack isn't that far in the past. I think the delegates from Tellar and Vulcan are too quick to judge human behavior; it isn't as if Andorians aren't still using the contemptuous phrase "pinkskin" themselves.

I also wish we'd seen more of Mars apart from the glimpse of the Carl Sagan Memorial Station (thank you Reeves-Stevenses) and the terraforming that we hear has given the planet a warmer, higher-pressure atmosphere. Given that this pair of episodes has focused on all the things humans get wrong, it would be nice to see more of people getting things right...and I don't mean the Starfleet officers, who tend to be noble and hardworking more often than not, but the civilian engineers and doctors and lawyers and scientists who are presumably the reason there are colonies thriving on Mars. I'm unclear why in such an environment Brooks couldn't have declared that she worked for Starfleet Intelligence the moment she was accused of spying, to Archer in confidence at least, and I really don't understand why Paxton was so stupid as to leave no guard outside Tucker's cell, why his own command center had so few people protecting it and particularly where he was getting the gene therapy that one would think all his followers would have repudiated.

"Demons" and "Terra Prime" are by no means perfect episodes, but they're reaching very earnestly for what Star Trek was in the beginning. Kirk ran into people on his own crew and in every alien culture who chose the wrong path, let prejudice overcome hope and used technology for violence rather than progress. It didn't stop him and it didn't make him cynical. The intensely personal pain of T'Pol and Tucker - whose story would have been better had it ended here, rather than in "These Are the Voyages..." as well as their ability to reach out to each other in spite of it and Phlox's discovery that they had all formed a new family form one of the most moving endings of any Enterprise episodes.


Note: With the end of Star Trek: Enterprise approaching, this will be one of the final Enterprise reviews by Michelle Erica Green. However, that doesn't mean you'll no longer be able to read Trek reviews here at the Trek Nation, as Michelle will soon embark on a series of Retro Reviews of the original Star Trek series! Check back the week after the airing of the Enterprise finale for an introductory article to her TOS reviews, and then each week from late May onwards for a new review of the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the NCC-1701!


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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.