Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Star Trek Enterprise Retro-Spective "Breaking the Ice"

Breaking the Ice is a fun episode, one that I enjoyed when it first aired and again the second time around.

It is another fairly simple episode. The crew are looking at some drawings from Trip's nephew's fourth-grade class when Enterprise comes upon a comet that isn't on the Vulcan starcharts. Archer is intrigued while T'Pol is, as usual, unimpressed. There is a brief interlude in the mess hall. T'Pol is tired, not sleeping, and Trip talks to her essentially about the virtues of comfort food. He explains that he's had a long day and missed dinner. Then someone told him that Chef made pecan pie, which has been his favorite since he was a kid. That brightened his life and made him feel better. She looks down on it as being mostly sugar. She goes to bed.

In the next scene, they discover that the comet contains large amounts Eisilium, a rare mineral. That means that T'Pol is now interested. They need to get a drilling rig down to the surface, so Reed and Mayweather suit up and off they go in a shuttlepod. Soon afterward, a Vulcan starship shows up, gives Archer a hard time, and seems to just want to watch them. Archer bristles under the surveillance while T'Pol appears to make excuses for them. While this goes on, Travis and Reed head down to the comet.

In the meantime, Hoshi picks up an encrypted transmission sent from the Vulcan ship to T'Pol's quarters. Concerned that they're being spied on, Archer orders Hoshi to decrypt it.

While this goes on, the crew uses a new comm relay system to answer questions from the fourth-grade class. There are a few interesting questions, then we get to the funny bit where Trip has to explain how they recycle waste products to help make their food. Very funny.

On the comet, Reed and Mayweather have taken time out to make a snowman before they set the charges to excavate the comet. More to come on that...

Hoshi decrypts the message and gives it to Trip, who has to put it through a translator. Turns out that it was a very personal letter. He admits it to T'Pol, who is not amused. Fortunately, she lets it go.

In the meantime, Archer decides to invite the snooping Vulcan captain, Vanik, to dinner, with the goal of getting him to leave.

Meanwhile, the snowman has gained a huge set of Vulcan ears. Very funny. Worth remembering unquestionably. Not necessarily nice, but definitely funny. Then they blow the charges.

After that, it really gets funny. Archer has Vanik over for dinner. Archer does his best to annoy Vanik while Vanik sits as still as a statue. He doesn't eat, he doesn't drink. He just sits there being rude. Among great lines in the conversation is Archer saying that "it's nice to know that no matter how big the universe is, there'ws always a Vulcan ship nearby." Again, very funny. The conversation struggles on for a while longer, until Vanik caps it off by saying "Humans have never held much interest for me." Archer then accuses him of spying, Vanik says something snooty, and the love-fest is over.

Shortly thereafter, they discover that they set off the charges on the comet, they shifted the its rotational axis, and in two hours, the spot where the shuttlepod landed will be directly facing a nearby star, and the ice will melt.

T'Pol has decided that she needs to talk to someone about the letter, and since Trip already knows, she talks to him. Seems that she has a prearranged marriage to a guy named Koss. She has been postponing the wedding while she's on Enterprise, but Koss's parents are insulted that she's put it off to serve on a human vessel. She doesn't want to go, and seems to be looking for a way out. Tucker insists that arranged marriages went out with slavery, she defends this custom that she doesn't like, and it isn't resolved.

On the comet, they are prepping to leave when Mayweather gets hurt. They grab a core sample and make it back to the shuttlepod as the comet starts to crack apart under them. As they start to lift off, the shuttlepod falls through the weakened ice. They try the grappler, which doesn't help. Vanik offers to help, using their tractor beam, but Archer doesn't want to accept the help. Finally, T'Pol reminds Archer that Vanik expects Archer to refuse due to human pride and arrogance. He agrees, and moments later, the shuttlepod is being tractored up to safety. Archer offers to share some of the data. Vanik of course refuses. At that point, T'Pol asks permission to contact the Vulcan ship. Archer agrees. The episode ends with T'Pol meditating after having finally tried the pecan pie.

There is really nothing to dislike about this episode. The only fault I can see is the continued rudeness between humans and Vulcans. There is a reason, and this is really still early in the series, and I have to admit that it does make for some funny moments. I just don't always care for it. Aside from that, the comm relay ends up making realtime communication with Earth possible, which they couldn't do a hundred years later in TOS. The Vulcan snowman is hilarious, as is the dinner with Archer and Vanik. The chemistry between Trip and T'Pol is starting to show itself, which is welcome. And of course, we see that the Vulcans had a tractor beam before humans.

And there you have it. "Breaking the Ice" is a good, solid episode, better than most Trek first season episodes. This is an episode to rewatch. It rates an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Next Up: "Civilization"

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