If you read my last two posts you’ll know I wasn’t a big fan of the first couple of episodes of Enterprise. But I actually enjoyed this episode: it was the first time I felt the women characters didn’t get the short end of the stick.
The first scene is set in the mess hall, where a new girl and new guy are eating and chatting (later we find out their names: Elizabeth Cutler and Ethan Novakovich). The ship is headed for a nebula but soon a planet becomes visible in the windows and everyone rushes over to look.
On the bridge, T’Pol’s scans reveal the planet is very similar to Earth. Again she proposes a very logical plan, arguing they should send down probes and survey from orbit before sending people down where it might be dangerous. Again, Archer totally ignores her very sensible advice and decides to lead an away team to the planet straight away.
The rest of the crew is also still having issues dealing with T’Pol. Cutler gets upset when T’Pol rebuffs her friendly conversation, causing Tucker to comment: “You’d have better luck making friends with a housefly.”
On the planet Archer teases and tries to embarrass her by ordering her to put her tricorder away and pose for a picture with the group. After a cheezy but still kind of inspiring montage of the crew exploring the picturesque new planet, Archer and Reed go back to the ship.
The rest – Tucker, Mayweather, Cutler, Novakovich and T’Pol – plan to stay and camp out overnight. T’Pol is particularly interested in studying some of the local nocturnal marsupials, which we tragically don’t get to see.
There’s a pretty cute scene where the humans tell ghost stories around the bonfire and T’Pol, of course, has to point out the illogical elements. But soon things start getting a bit eerie for real. The fireflies go away and the wind starts to pick up. They return to their tents but the wind soon gets so severe they have to leave. They decide to take shelter in some nearby caves since the ship can’t land a shuttle in the storm.
Once in the cave, people start to act a little bit…off. Travis goes outside to retrieve their food packs and thinks he sees people in the trees. Novakovich says he notices movement in the back of the cave but T’Pol’s scans says there’s no one there. Novakovich basically freaks out and runs out into the storm. Tucker and Travis go after him. They don’t find him, but Tucker thinks he sees a figure emerge from a rock.
T’Pol goes farther back into the cave to explore and Cutler starts to get a bit squirrely. She follows T’Pol and finds her talking to a couple of aliens, but when she steps closer they disappear and T’Pol says she wasn’t talking to anyone.
When the guys get back, Cutler rats out T’Pol and says she was meeting with aliens in secret. The others believe Cutler and get even more suspicious of T’Pol. They’re forced back into the cave when a rescue shuttle can’t land. Novakovich still won’t come in with them so they beam him back to the ship.
The transporter malfunctions and when Novakovich materializes, he has rocks and leaves embedded in his skin. While treating him, Phlox finds he’s been affected by pollen from the planet, which could also be accounting for the away team’s strange behaviour.
Speaking of that, it’s only getting stranger. Cutler and Travis are kind of woozy and Tucker’s totally delusional, waving around his phaser and suspecting T’Pol of all kinds of treachery.
Tucker: We know you’re here. Why don’t you show yourselves? You’re not afraid of us, are you?
T’Pol: There’s no one there, Commander.
Tucker: Maybe you’re waiting for the others to come down so you can kill us all at once. Did you see that?
T’Pol: All I see is a delusional engineer.
Tucker: Sounds like you’re getting a little volatile yourself, Sub-Commander. I thought you had your emotions all locked up. Having a little problem, are you?
When she moves to go get them water, Tucker disarms her and orders her to sit. Even T’Pol starts to crack a bit under the pressure and the influence of the pollen but she’s the only one who can possibly hold out and get them out of this mess.
Archer soon hails to let them know they’ve been affected by the psychotropic pollen. He orders Tucker to put down his weapon and tells T’Pol to hold on. Tucker doesn’t stay unarmed for long, though. And shit gets even more real when Phlox discovers the pollen releases a toxin that might kill everyone without treatment. They can transport an antidote down but T’Pol needs to get Tucker less crazed so she can administer it. That is challenging when he’s basically trying to kill her.
Archer comes up with a plan to play into the paranoia. He tells Tucker there was a secret mission and T’Pol was the only one authorized to make contact with the rock people. Hoshi gives T’Pol instructions in Vulcan and she plays along, pretending to talk to thin air. It fools Tucker long enough that she can stun him with her phaser and administer the medication to everyone. The next morning everyone’s fine, the storm is gone, and they can get picked up by the shuttle.
So overall “Strange New World” was just fine. It wasn’t incredibly creative but it was a solid story that got a chance to show the plus side to T’Pol’s ability to control her emotions. Although she’s held at phaser-point it didn’t feel like a typical damsel in distress scenario since she was the least helpless of the group.
What we learned from this episode:
- When T’Pol says you should run a few scans before beaming down to a strange ship or planet, you should really listen to her.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Cutler and T’Pol speak during the away mission and Hoshi and T’Pol speak in Vulcan near the end of the episode.