Enterprise goes on an interesting mission: to find out what happened to Terra Nova – the first human colony outside our solar system. 70 years prior, the original colonists resisted Earth sending any more people, and after that argument no one heard from the colony again.
When they arrive at the colony they basically find a ghost town. They also detect low-level radiation, which T’Pol thinks might have killed them and dissipated over time. But there are no bodies and thus we have the making of an interesting story!
As they’re roaming the town they encounter some dirty-looking humanoids and they chase them into some caves. Some others, hiding nearby, open fire with the end result being the aliens capture Reed.
T’Pol, scanning, reveals she has found: “Those weren’t aliens: they’re human.”
Dun, dun dunnnnnnnn!
Archer guesses these people are the descendants of the original colonists, perhaps driven underground by radiation. Back in the situation room Archer revives his Mr. Grumpy Pants routine (see episodes 1-4) and snaps at Mayweather:
Archer: I don’t want to risk any more casualties. Despite how they look, they’re still human. We’ve got to find some way to talk to them.
Travis: They didn’t seem too eager to talk.
Archer: If I can’t make first contact with other humans I don’t have any business being out here. Malcolm was shot.
It feels like he’s taking it out on everyone because he feels insecure that he can’t even make first contact with other humans. Again, this kind of acting out of a sense of wounded pride after refusing to listen to pretty reasonable concerns of other crew members is not something I’d consider a good character trait for a captain.
Anywho, Archer and Phlox go back down and give themselves up to try to talk to the people on the planet. The people’s leader, Jamin, and the other Novans are very suspicious. They don’t believe themselves to be human and they believe the humans caused the “poison rain” that killed their parents and grandparents.
Phlox discovers Jamin’s mother has cancer, though, and he can only cure her if she comes back to Enterprise.
The plot from here on in becomes hackneyed and predictable but then again, it’s classic Trek to focus a story around getting a group of aliens to trust humans. The only twist is the “aliens” are humans as well – just so far removed from Earth culture that they might as well be aliens.
It’s also a bit of an improvement over the first few episodes in terms of T’Pol’s role. Archer wants to take the Novans back to Earth after they figure out the water they’re drinking in the caves caused Jamin’s mom’s cancer. But T’Pol stands up to him and he actually has to concede he’s wrong:
T’Pol: When you get them back to Earth, what will you do? Send them to school, teach them to read and write, wear human clothing, eat human food, teach them to live on the surface, enjoy the sunshine?
Archer: You’re damn straight. They’re human beings. It’s their birthright. It might take a little while, but they’ll adapt. It’s a hell of a lot better than dying down in those tunnels.
T’Pol: They’ve lived in those tunnels for three generations. You can’t just pluck them up and bring them to a strange world and hope they’ll learn to conform. You’d be destroying their identity, destroying the Novan culture.
In order to convince the Novans they are humans and they can trust the Enterprise crew, they show Jamin’s mother a photograph of her mother and remind her of her real name.
By this point, I wrote the note: “This is kind of a boring episode.” So I’ll just run through the rest of it super quickly.
Archer and Jamin bond when they work together to save a Novan who’s trapped under a log on the planet. Then the Enterprise folks figure they can relocate the Novans to the planet’s Southern islands, that aren’t poisoned. Nadet, Jamin’s mom, is the one who finally convinces them they have to listen, but that’s after a lot of pressure on her from the Enterprise crew.
And the crew flies away, job done and the mystery of Terra Nova solved.
What we learned this episode:
Not a lot. I feel like there was room for a lot more complication and explanation on questions like the following:
- Why did we see so few Novans?
- How did Jamin become leader?
- How many other extra-solar colonies are there?
- How far is Terra Nova from other human settlements?
- What is Novan culture other than face paint and wind instruments?
- Why didn’t the Novan ancestors leave more for the children, especially in the way of books/knowledge?
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail