Episode Guide/Review by Christopher Jones
Season 1, Episode 1
Story Date April 16, 2151
Episode 1 of 97 Released in Enterprise
Episode 1 of 97 Produced in Enterprise
Production Number: 001
Original airdate: September 26, 2001
Directed by James L. Conway
Written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
A hundred years after the events of the film First Contact, interaction between Vulcans and humans has resulted in a permanent Vulcan presence on Earth. But the Vulcans have not been entirely generous in sharing information and technology, and mankind is still being held back. When a lone Klingon crash lands in Broken Bow, Oklahoma—the first ever seen by humans—a series of events transpires that thrusts mankind into deep space for the first time. Once en route to Qo’noS, the Enterprise encounters a genetically altered time traveling race called the Suliban, who are apparently involved in some sort of temporal cold war using the unwitting Klingons as pawns. The Enterprise crew must transport Klaang, the Klingon who crashed on Earth, safely back to Qo’noS to avert a Klingon civil war.
There are several themes running through “Broken Bow,” but the primary one is the adventure and uncertainty of setting out on one’s own. Since first contact, the Vulcans have been feeding humans information about the larger world piece by piece—like a parent. They haven’t given humans much freedom to do as they please with regard to venturing out into space. Stressing that mankind must first let go of their provincial attitudes and volatile nature, the Vulcans have held back just enough information to prevent humans from developing the Warp 5 engine—which would free them from the shackles of their own star system. This engine has just been completed as “Broken Bow” begins.
But like a child who has patiently waited under their parents’ wings and can wait no more, the humans take the opportunity afforded by the Klingon incident to leave the nest. Just as in real life, there are pitfalls along the way. The Enterprise crew nearly finds themselves dead on a number of occasions (something that most of us don’t have to deal with, fortunately), and they encounter things they never imagined. From cave dwellers to spacefarers, humans finally complete one stage of existence and enter another. As the opening theme song says, “It’s been a long road, getting from there to here.”
In addition to this primary theme, “Broken Bow” also touches on genetic manipulation and the difficult necessity of accepting new ideas and expanding the mind. The latter will be explored more in the next episode, “Fight or Flight.”
It is unavoidable to think of the original series with Kirk and Spock when thinking about Enterprise. But “Broken Bow” is much more complex than the stories from TOS, and it is certainly on par with the premieres of the last three series. The inclusion of the time traveling Suliban throws in an interesting twist. Sadly the Temporal Cold War and the Suliban are elements that the writers fail to use successfully as the series goes on, but within this initial story it is intriguing.
The primary strengths of this first episode are the writing and the production value. It shows not only in the traditional Trek elements, but in the ways in which this show takes more chances than its predecessors. It’s sexier, more down-to-earth, and yet retains the message that Roddenberry sought to share. In fact, it conveys that message better in many ways than either Deep Space Nine or Voyager.
Visually, “Broken Bow”—and Enterprise as a whole—is a real delight. The 16:9 widescreen format adds a new dimension to episodic Star Trek. Sure, in today’s world of HD television this format has become ubiquitous, but remember that when Enterprise premiered in 2001 this was very unusual and almost all TV shows were still aired in standard 4:3. What this gives Enterprise is a cinematic flare that we don’t get in the other series, and the lighting and camera work are the best of Trek. Of particular note in “Broken Bow” is the snowy planet Rigel X. The whipping wind and swirling snow have a realism that rises above anything previously seen in the franchise.
Is it a flaw or just design? The nature of the Suliban time incursions and their overall purpose remains more or less a mystery. Why do the Suliban want to throw the Klingon Empire into chaos? I’m all for mystery and setting up stories that can unfold over time, but a little more information would have prevented the slight feeling that the whole thing is just a plot device to complicate the voyage to Qo’nos.
Likewise, the revelation that Klaang was carrying some kind of data in his blood—and the scene in the chambers of the High Council in which the blood is examined—is a total letdown. What was the information about? Couldn’t a little more have been revealed? After sitting through the two-hour story, you can’t help but feel a little gypped at the end.
Enterprise is generally dismissed by Star Trek fandom at large. It’s too bad, because there is so much to like in this series. I think it all depends on what you look for in Trek. For some, Star Trek is about the adventure of exploring space. For others it is about the futuristic gadgetry and technobabble. And there are still others who focus on the character relationships and the social messages. If you fall into the former camps then Enterprise may not be for you, but if you look for the latter in your Treks and you’ve never given the show a chance then Enterprise may be just be the gem in the rough you’ve been looking for.
“Volatile? You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from knocking you on your ass.” —Archer to T’Pol, who has called humans ‘volatile.’
“If you’re going to try to embrace new worlds, you must embrace new ideas.” —Dr. Phlox
“No kiddin’. I lived a few blocks from there when I first joined Starfleet. Great parties at the Vulcan compound.” —Trip, with sarcasm
“They’re called phase pistols. They have two settings: stun and kill. It would be best not to confuse them.” —Malcolm
“If I’m gonna pull this off, there are a few things I need to leave behind. Things like preconceptions, holding grudges. This mission would have failed without your help.” —Archer to T’Pol
“Let’s go.” —Archer giving Mayweather the order to engage.
The Temporal Cold War. It does eventually lead to something.
“Broken Bow” is the first chapter in the Star Trek saga and in my opinion the best pilot of any Star Trek series. To be precise it is not the start of Trek history—which is actually our own history that begins to split with reality in the 1990s—but it is the beginning of Starfleet and everything that comes to mind when we think of Star Trek. In setting out to give a proper beginning to this vast universe, Berman and Braga have managed to stay surprisingly true to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. I’m not sure that Gene would approve of the shower/decontamination scene—which prompted one magazine writer to say that Enterprise has “more underwear shots than a Hanes commercial”—but his message and ideals come through loud and clear in “Broken Bow.” The pilot episode set the bar high for the series. It’s at a level that the writers often failed to reach again in the first few seasons, but even if you think you don’t like Enterprise you owe it to yourself as a Trekker to at least watch this one episode.
(9 out of 10)
John Fleck as Silik
Melinda Clarke as Sarin
Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr. as Klaang
Vaughn Armstrong as Admiral Forrest
Jim Beaver as Admiral Leonard
Mark Moses as Henry Archer
Gary Graham as Soval
Thomas Kopache as Tos
Jim Fitzpatrick as Commander Williams
James Horan as Humanoid Figure
Joseph Ruskin as Suliban Doctor
Marty Davis as Young Archer
Van Epperson as Alien Man
Ron King as Farmer
Peter Henry Schroeder as Klingon Chancellor
Matt Williamson as Klingon Council Member
Byron Thames as Crewman
Ricky Luna as Carlos
Jason Grant Smith as Crewman Fletcher
Chelsea Bond as Alien Mother
Ethan Dampf as Alien Child
Diane Klimaszewski as Butterfly-eating Dancer
Elaine Klimaszewski as Butterfly-eating Dancer