Where Few Have Gone Before: “The Andorian Incident”
Now, that’s more like it. After last week’s disappointing-to-say-the-least “Terra Nova,” the following Enterprise episode, “The Andorian Incident” brings some level of excitement and enjoyment back to the series – and also highlights the show’s attempts to try and build its own mythology as quickly as possible, no matter how sloppily it does it.
On the one hand, “The Andorian Incident” shines compared with the lackluster “Terra Nova” just by not sucking; one of the best things about having such a weak episode of a series is, of course, the way that it makes everything around seem that little bit better in comparison. Yes, this is a better episode – I managed to make it all the way to the end without resisting the urge to throw the computer across the room and pretend that I’d never heard of Enterprise, which should tell you something – but it’s not necessarily a really good one; it’s… is “professional” an insult? Perhaps it is, but it’s not meant to be; this is an episode that gets everything done in such a fast and agreeable manner, with the plot building to an appropriate climax… but that strength is also, weirdly, the episode’s weakness.
The plot of the episode is, in short, that the Enterprise crew happens upon a Vulcan temple that has been broken into by Andorians, who believe that the Vulcans are actually using said temple as a base to spy on the Andorians in violation of a treaty between the two races. Of course, after the Enterprise crew defends the Vulcans with feats of cunning and derring-do, it’s discovered that the Vulcans are, in fact, spying on the Andorians, which… feels like it should be a much bigger deal than it seemingly ends up being. The Vulcans, after all, are humanity’s partners in spaceflight, but there’s been an undercurrent of distrust since the start of the show, and this revelation would seem to be some level of payoff to that… but instead of Captain Archer saying “I knew it! Get off my ship T’Pol, clearly you’re trouble!”, we basically get him frowning and doing nothing in response.
It’s foreshadowing, of course; we’ll get to the fallout of this discovery later, I assume, just as we’ll presumably find out more about the Temporal Cold War that was at the center of the first episode, and then never mentioned again in the episodes since. But it’s clumsy foreshadowing; we get these things that should be Big Events that reverberate afterwards, but not only are they not the center of the following episodes, they’re also not referred to at any point in the following episodes, making the Enterprise crew look either forgetful or stupid. Enterprise has a problem in that it wants to be two different shows at the same time: serialized with a heavy mythology, and entirely disconnected episode-to-episode to get as many new viewers as possible. But those two styles don’t play together easily, and definitely not in the way that Enterprise tries it, leaving this weird problem of big reveals that lead nowhere and undercut the integrity of the show’s heroes and the show itself. It’s a shame that “The Andorian Incident” falls directly into that trap right at the end of an episode that had, until that point, managed to make the crew look capable, smart and heroic for the first time in too long; ending on a note that makes them look weak and uncaring about the bigger picture doesn’t really promote the idea that these guys will one day lay the groundwork for James T. Kirk and the like, sadly.
The dichotomy, though, points to what Enterprise needs overall: Less talking, and more doing. Whether or not it’ll get that balance right at any point during its run – Given the problems that The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager had with the same thing, I kind of suspect that it won’t – might end up being one of the larger ongoing questions of the entire run.