For this episode, I have to give some serious kudos to writer John Shiban, veteran of
the writing staff of "The X-Files". This is the first episode of Enterprise I saw that
actually successfully focused on exploring one of the characters. We learn a lot of nice
details about Ltn. Malcolm Reed and his relationship with his captain, and this is all
integrated quite well into an action story with stronger emotional investment than most
others I'd seen on Enterprise to this point.
Of course, a fine line needs to be observed here if this first encounter between
Humans and Romulans is to fit seamlessly into the extensive backstory detailed in
The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror". Romulan ships are seen here to be
quite similar to the design in season one and two of TOS, and luckily the Humans and
Romulans are prevented from seeing each other face to face. Okay, good.
But as we watch the episode limit these opposing groups to talking to each other on the radio,
it becomes painfully obvious that this Enterprise spinoff hasn't limited itself to using
technology that would make the "Balance of Terror" backstory at all credible.
How can you put a crew on a fully functioning Enterprise in this time period
without having them make better, proper attempts at communication? Was it really wise to park a
series in this part of Trek's past while still hoping to use all the old Trek formulas
and conveniences? Historically, "Balance of Terror" had relied upon the fact that many
such luxuries hadn't come into existence yet for its Romulan War backstory.
On the plus side, this episode does seem to be building up the role of ongoing development
within this new show's own second season, redeploying a cloaking device counter-jammer
that had popped up in "Shockwave". Nice to see that maybe that story did count for something
after all, but if this device is now a more permanent fixture here, it grates against
the newness of cloaking technology as discovered in "Balance of Terror".
All that said, this episode actually managed to have me hooked BECAUSE they were dealing
with Romulan first contact. It was much more interesting than random freighters attacked by pirates
and Earth colonies that had regressed to "Lord of the Flies" situations, or empty parks full of
Perhaps even more successful yet is the way that this episode has consequences for the next one....
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