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The Andorian Incident

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 1, 2001 - 3:33 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Andorian Incident' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Against T'Pol's advice, Archer decides to beam down to an ancient retreat for Vulcans seeking the spiritual enlightenment of Kohlinahr. When the away team lands, they find the retreat under the control of a group of blue-skinned aliens with antennae. These Andorians accuse the Vulcans of hiding surveillance equipment within the sanctuary, though the Vulcan elder initially tries to hide the takeover in the hope that Enterprise will leave before becoming involved in a hostage situation. Andorian leader Shran accuses the humans of collaborating with the Vulcans and tortures Archer to get information about the spy equipment.

In an effort to avoid human bloodshed, the Vulcans reluctantly admit that there might be a very old transmitter hidden in the catacombs beneath the sanctuary, with which Archer might be able to contact his ship. Archer works with Tucker to repair the equipment and uncover a hidden passage through the catacombs, leading directly behind the Andorians' center of operations in the sanctuary's atrium, from which Reed launches an assault by beaming down armed officers. The humans free themselves and the Vulcan prisoners, but several Andorians escape into the catacombs and hide in the reliquary.

Against the strenuous objections of the Vulcans, Archer, T'Pol and Reed follow the Andorians into the chamber housing ancient Vulcan religious icons. During the ensuing firefight, Archer discovers a secret door that leads to a room filled with equipment -- the surveillance post Shran claimed all along was hidden within the retreat. When Archer demands that T'Pol create a recording of their findings, one of the Vulcans threatens the captain. He throws off his attacker and turns the recording over to Shran, saying the Andorian people have a right to know that the Vulcans violated their treaty. Shran concedes that he is in the humans' debt.

Analysis: Like last week's 'Terra Nova,' 'The Andorian Incident' has a predictable conclusion, but it's a very enjoyable ride to get there. For original Trek fans, that enjoyment is predicated on forgetting everything we already know about Vulcan logic, history, spirituality, Kohlinahr, the sanctity of pon farr and just about everything else -- but really, after looking at T'Pol, it's quite simple to conclude she's a Vulcan from a different universe than Spock and Sarek, with curvy eyebrows and lips and bosom to go along with her inconsistent personality and intellect. Sure, it's frustrating for Vulcan fans, but we didn't see real Vulcans on Deep Space Nine or Voyager either -- remember those travesties 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' and 'Gravity'? I'm just going to let it go and watch as if this were a brand new series with brand new players.

T'Pol actually shines in this episode despite having a gratuitous and thankless sharing-a-bed scene with Archer, not to mention having to utter numerous stupid lines about how bad humans smell -- like she says, she's lived with them for nine weeks and worked with them a lot longer, so she's got to be used to it by now. It is she who initially suggests that something isn't right in the sanctuary, and she encourages Archer's explorations even as she spouts rhetoric about not fighting violence with violence. 'I have never disobeyed your orders,' she insists, though she hogs the covers when he questions her loyalty. She does not question his decision to share her imaging scans of the secret Vulcan base with the Andorians.

Tucker, who has easily become my favorite character, gets all the great lines in 'The Andorian Incident' -- it's not easy to outshine Jeffrey Combs, but Connor Trinneer has no problem turning Shran's lines back on him. From his initial witty observation that there's an awful lot of wreckage from Vulcans purging their emotions to his snide comment that for a species without emotion, Vulcans sure have a flair for the dramatic, he demonstrates that he's unfazed by any situation, can keep his sense of humor in a crunch and isn't about to accept something just because someone in authority says so, whether it's Vulcans or humans he's dealing with.

There's a wonderful scene at the beginning where we see how well Tucker and Archer work together, as Archer conveys silently that they need to crash the panel where an Andorian is hiding and Tucker catches on right away. He catches on just as quickly when a suspicious Archer tells the Vulcans he's out of ideas and will wait for his crew to send down an ambush unless they do something, refuting T'Pol's suggestion that Reed will probably behave more prudently. Tucker's hilarious dissing Vulcan tradition, suggesting that T'Pol call Starfleet about a tilted icon and wryly commenting on the mess in the retreat, but that wit could easily become scorn unbecoming an officer -- if he'd paid slightly more attention to typical Vulcan behavior, Tucker might have realized a bit earlier that something was seriously wrong. He's lamentably absent from the conclusion, probably so Reed gets something to do for a change; I say forget Reed and stick with the big three, because they've got better chemistry and much more interesting personalities. If Mr. Weapons Officer can't figure out what to do about the hostage situation before Tucker calls him with instructions, who needs him?

The top point of the pyramid, Captain Archer, has an exceptionally good episode. It's obvious he's suspicious of the Vulcans from the very beginning, but he keeps a lid on it, in part because he might be wrong and in part out of respect for T'Pol, who introduces himself and Tucker as her distinguished guests. He puts up with torture by Shran without adding fuel to the fire by suggesting that he doesn't trust the Vulcans or trying to make a deal, but he makes sure not to take anything the Vulcans say at face value, either -- his retorts to the elder are pointed and forceful enough to get his people the run of the place.

In this episode Archer reminds me more of Sisko than any other Trek captain -- Kirk and Spock would have figured out the game in the first ten minutes, Picard would have started wordy negotiations with both sides, Janeway would have found a way to use Seven's x-ray vision or wonder-nanobots to find the spy stuff and shaken her head sadly at the humanity. Sisko would have done just what Archer did, playing Weyoun off the Romulans -- I mean, Shran off the Vulcans -- until he figured out what was going on. His refusal to fight with Shran shows remarkable restraint -- he must have felt overwhelming desire to knock the guy upside the head. His concern for T'Pol is also rather touching considering that she's mostly treated him like crap even if she does take his orders.

Shran has a bit much in common with Weyoun, Brunt and Penk, but that also gives him a pleasant sort of familiarity, like we know the Andorians better than we do. Combs plays him with anger that seems almost gleeful, backing up the Vulcan claims that Andorians like to fight for the sake of fighting, yet he doesn't seem as dangerous as slinky Thelev from 'Journey To Babel' -- of course it turned out that Thelev was an Orion spy, so that makes sense. The Andorians seem rather like the original Klingons, which could make them interesting or hopelessly derivative depending on how much else we see of them. It is sort of hard to think of them as the near-equals of the Vulcans, given how little we've seen of them in subsequent series.

The New Vulcans themselves are an interesting race, with an impressive temple-fortress and surprising artwork -- praying sculptures, metal icons -- not to mention the fetishizing of the dead bodies of their predecessors rather than the veneration of the disembodied katra. I'm going to assume we can't take for granted anything we think we know about Vulcans -- even their secrets aren't, since Shran knows about the koon-ut-kal-if-fee which Spock told Kirk was top-secret among off-worlders. The temple is beautiful, a cross between a Catholic cathedral and an ancient Egyptian tomb, minus the glasswork. One of the finest shots of the episode features a dissolve from Tucker's crude triangular map of a pattern of lights he saw in the catacombs to the trio of holes that created it from the openings in a giant mural of a face. How does this help with the purging of emotions? We never learn. I wonder if we ever will.

Roxann Dawson is to be commended for directing one of the more memorable episodes visually, with nice lighting effects in the different chambers and interesting camera angles during the fights. I'm still less than impressed with the caliber of scripts on this series -- completely forgetting continuity issues with other Treks, 'The Andorian Incident' recycles the basic plot of Deep Space Nine's "Defiant" and Voyager's "Nemesis," in which you knew from the beginning that the supposed bad guys knew the real score while the supposed victims were up to something sneaky. The originality lies almost entirely in the characters, and at this point the credit goes mainly to the actors. This show will not hold even a young audience that never saw original series Vulcans and can't make comparisons if it doesn't bring better drama to the screen.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written television reviews, interviews and other features for sites such as Cinescape and Another Universe, as well as a a number of other web sites and magazines. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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