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The Trek Nation - United

United

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 5, 2005 - 4:37 AM GMT

See Also: 'United' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Romulan drone ship on which Tucker and Reed are trapped takes on the appearance of Enterprise when it attacks a Rigellian vessel. While the Rigellians demand compensation and the arrest of Archer, T'Pol and Mayweather devise a means of tracking the drone and a sensor grid to do so, but it will require 128 ships - Andorian and Tellarite as well as Earth and Vulcan cooperation. But Talas is near death from her phase pistol wound, and Shran only wants Tellarite blood. Archer insists that he and Gral meet anyway, telling them that they're welcome to strangle each other but they should keep in mind that that's exactly what the marauder who's been blowing up their ships wants them to do.

Aboard the marauder, Reed and Tucker manage to shut down the warp drive, but the Romulans discover their meddling and trap Tucker in an area that they can flood with radioactive coolant. Disobeying a direct order from Tucker, Reed obeys the instructions of the invisible Romulan admiral and reconnects the warp drive in exchange for Tucker's life. The Romulan admiral then intends to kill the humans, as he no longer needs them to help repair the ship, but they manage to flee after Reed wires explosives into a power conduit, causing damage that makes the Romulans lose contact with the drone ship. However, the drone repairs itself and the Romulans regain control, retrieving both the ability to self-destruct and helm control.

Meanwhile, Archer has his own problems, for Talas dies and Shran, vowing revenge, challenges the Tellarite who shot her to a duel to the death using an ice miner's blade. Faced with the probability that the Andorians will withdraw if the Tellarite wins and that the Tellarites will withdraw if Shran wins, Archer offers himself to fight in place of the Tellarite, which Shran must reluctantly accept. Sato and Mayweather read the thousands of amendments to the Andorian honor code and advise Archer that the fight will end when one combatant renders the other defenseless. Archer manages to catch Shran around the throat with the metal rope that binds the combatants together, and he slices off one of the Andorian's antennae, thus ending the duel. Shran says that because Andorian tradition has been respected, the matter is settled, and he and the Tellarites agree to work with the Vulcans and humans to find the drone.

The vessel in question has now taken on the appearance of a Vulcan ship, but T'Pol can tell that the warp signature doesn't match up, and moreover she can read two biosigns aboard: Tucker and Reed. Because Enterprise can't beam them out from within the ship's shielding, the two open a hatch and blast themselves into space. Archer orders the allied ships to stop shooting while he retrieves his crewmen, and in that time - under the command of a Romulan senator unhappy with how the admiral has tested the prototype drone - the marauder escapes. Tucker and Reed are beamed back aboard Enterprise, and the Andorians and Tellarites agree to begin negotiations for a potential alliance broader than a trade agreement. While Enterprise takes them to Babel, the Romulans bring home their drone, which has been controlled by a pilot now revealed to be a white-skinned Andorian with red eyes.


Analysis: Though rougher around the edges than "Babel One", missing much of the humor and suffering from mid-trilogy syndrome, "United" remains an engrossing episode on the whole, with distinct A and B plots that involve a great many characters and that combine quite well in terms of action despite some technological quibbles. I feel sorry for anyone who missed "Babel One", because the "Previously On Enterprise" segment was disjoined and confusing, beginning with the Romulans and the drone, then backtracking to the trade conference and the potential Tellarite-Andorian conflict. Most of the interesting character moments occur between guest characters and between Tucker and Reed who are isolated from the rest of the crew, plus the two most neglected regulars, Sato and Mayweather, get a brief but charming late night study session that's more effective than any contrived "I ran a poker ring" scene. Lest anyone should get bored, there are space battles, hand combat, attempted murder by radioactive coolant and a recurring character death, too.

Let's take the plots one at a time. In three different recurring roles, Jeffrey Combs has yet to hit a wrong note, and he's in a very tough position here because the setup seems so contrived; we don't really know Talas well enough to mourn her and her death seems rather quick and gratuitous, but we have to believe in his mourning, and his rage, and accept his selfishness without coming to dislike him. Combs walks that line superbly, making Shran unreasonable and at the same time sympathetic: he doesn't want to fight Archer, either over the alliance or in a duel to the death, but he's not going to back down from what he sees as his obligations, always putting his own people and his own values ahead of those of others. It isn't that he'll always do what's best for Andoria -- what would be best for Andoria would unquestionably be for him to put his vow to avenge Talas on hold until after the marauder has been dealt with, so his personal feelings are clearly involved, but his personal feelings aren't going to stop him from trying to kill Archer, though he's also willing to allow honor to be satisfied with a result that might be embarrassing for him in the long run.

Archer plays the Kirk role from "Amok Time" right down to learning to handle the bat'leth...all right, I'm mixing my species and episodes, but there's something very familiar about the human sticking himself into a combat to the death in the name of honor. The difference here is that they're on his ship, with his crew around to do his homework for him, and unlike McCoy who has to find a way to cheat the Vulcan atmosphere or Worf's shenanigans to protect his family pride, Archer comes in armed with the knowledge of exactly what he has to do and no emotional upheaval distracting him like his opponent faces. It's not really clear to me whether he's serious when he says he's just letting Shran get in a few blows so he can save face in front of his soldiers; for all we know Phlox gave Archer a shot of steroids and he went in absolutely confident of victory, which under the circumstances I wouldn't consider a bad idea. Once again, is there no MACO he could persuade to take the job? Why is the captain always risking his own life? Any human could have substituted for the Tellarite, right? But obviously as far as television entertainment goes, it has to be Archer, and it's a rather entertaining little duel in those claustrophobic quarters with the metal rope tying the combatants together.

Then there's the aboard-the-drone storyline, in which Malcolm disobeys a direct order and saves Trip's life, then tries to compensate for this lapse with some kick-ass pyrotechnics and one of the best lines he's had all series: "You're good at building things, I'm good at blowing them up." Visually their sequences are all claustrophobic, giving us tight little glimpses of the Romulan ship without ever really conveying a sense of scope, which creates a kind of intimacy like "Shuttlepod One." Believe what you like about stoic Tucker and newly cold fish T'Pol, but Trip and Malcolm have the closest relationship we've seen between any two characters on the show, and this week ups it a notch by having Reed disobey an order and possibly risk an alliance to save Tucker's life, then having Tucker tease him about the report he's never going to file on the incident. (Tucker/Reed fans: I behaved last week and did not comment on Malcolm's insistence that he didn't ask about T'Pol because he's interested in her, but we're allowed to have a little fun this week, aren't we?) Seriously, though, the banter between Tucker and Reed is both witty and understated, exactly the way friends should talk and do talk on character dramas that aren't Star Trek. Mayweather and Sato seem a little stiffer, but that's probably because, after three and a half years, I still don't have much of a sense of how they should talk even when they're written well, because they get so little screen time.

Last week, I behaved as well in that I did not rant about Talas' skimpy underwear -- something three of my male colleagues did in their reviews, as I discovered in my review round-up -- though I did gripe a little about the lack of women in high-level positions among the Romulans or anyone else. This week it stuck out even more obviously. Archer is forming an alliance among four species, yet the woman who's apparently in charge of Vulcan's fleet of ships at present, T'Pau, is offscreen, while the Andorian woman we know best, Talas, gets to die prettily so there's an excuse for a feud, and if there are women among the Tellarites at all, I can't tell them from the men, and T'Pol and Sato aren't the movers and shakers but the order-takers and support staff. If we're going to found a Federation on this series, how about a teeny hope of equal opportunity that doesn't involve slave girl costumes, Andorians in bikinis or T'Pol's relationship crises? It's irritating enough to listen to Archer blab about how humans are awesome role models in that they cooperate when faced with a common threat; that's a pretty recent development, buddy, and taking the holier-than-thou tone with species who have been in space longer just rubs me the wrong way, though I guess it works for people as belligerent as Gral and Shran.

There are a couple of little moments in this episode, however, that I just adored and want to mention for that reason alone. One is the bit in Archer's ready room where Shran is admiring the different Enterprise sketches -- Archer mentions the tall ship, but we get a good look at the sketch of the shuttle orbiter. Another is T'Pol's quoting the Vulcan saying that one man can summon the future...and Archer saying that if he's learned anything out there, it's that the future isn't fixed. (Please, please tell me that this means someone will make an attempt to clean up the temporal cold war loose ends before the show goes off the air.) Then there's Shran's eulogy for Talas, in which we learn posthumously all the things I wish we had discovered while she was alive, preferably in a show not tell sort of situation. Given their extremely high numbers of coincidental similarities, how did the Andorians and Klingons manage never to become fast friends, or the bitterest of allies? There seem to be an awful lot of borrowed similarities. And, ooh, okay...when Shran's antenna came off, who else thought for half a second that he was about to be revealed as an Orion in disguise?

I had technical quibbles involving various things on the drone ship, the fact that I have no idea what killed Talas exactly and the like, but overall I liked the episode far more than not, even the freaky albino Andorian at the end. Considering the number of original series aliens, it has a very Next Gen/DS9 feel...Picard trying to get all the races of the Alpha Quadrant together to search for common origins, Sisko trying to form a coalition to fight the Dominion. Where were these sort of episodes when Enterprise still had a chance?


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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.