Miscellanea and Ephemeron
06/16/2004 Archived Entry: "A Trek Back - "Broken Bow" review"
Reviewed by Jane Melander
How did humankind finally take those first bold steps into space? What were the struggles that they had to overcome in getting there? What dangers did they encounter? What beauty and incredible sights did they discover? How did humankind, itself, evolve as their horizons grew beyond their own solar system? And how did a fledgling, Earth-based organization called Star Fleet eventually evolve into a far greater entity--forging a Federation of Planets that reached across an entire galaxy and countless cultures and life forms?
Those questions, or the promise thereof, are what launched the fifth reincarnation of the venerable Star Trek franchise--Enterprise. They are also the basis for the novelization of the series premiere episode, "Broken Bow."
"Broken Bow," a novelization by Diane Carey for the UPN series, is a well-written book that does an admirable job, given the constraints all novelizations based on TV episodes face, in laying the foundation for the fledgling fifth series of the Star Trek franchise. Set in the year 2151 (long before Captain Kirk, Spock, and 'Bones' McCoy came on the scene), "Broken Bow" opens with a rare glimpse into the childhood of a future starship captain--Jonathan Archer. As he and his father, Henry Archer, share a quiet moment painting a model starship in the book's Prologue, we learn a lot about the history of humankind since Zephran Cochrane developed Earth's first warp-capable engine in the 21st Century. Walking in Cochrane's footsteps, Henry Archer has become a renowned warp engine designer in his own right in the 22nd Century. It's a model of his own starship design that he and Jonathan are carefully painting in the opening scene.
Ms. Carey does a fine job of fleshing out the frustrations that the Terrans from Earth experience in the company of the technologically advanced Vulcans. We witness much of this friction in young Jonathan's eyes as he recognizes that his father's work is being held back on purpose by the Vulcans. Knowing that the Vulcans look upon the human race as primitive and illogical, it's understandable that young Jonathan would want to preserve his father's honor--and that of his planet--by pushing back at the underlining racism of the time. In one of the more humorous moments, young Jonathan refers to the Vulcan Ambassador Soval as "Ambassador Pointy" (due, naturally, to the alien's pointed ears). Even at a tender age, politically correct Jean-Luc Picard he is not!
This attitude continues as we catch up with Jonathan Archer thirty years later. We've learned he's grown into his own, landing the enviable job as captain aboard the Enterprise NX-01-- Earth's first Warp 5 capable starship. In spite of his success, however, Jonathan still harbors a great deal of resentment towards the Vulcans. For one, his father never lived to see the fulfillment of his hard work and fervent dreams. It's Henry Archer's engine that powers the great starship and Jonathan feels he needs to prove that his selection as her captain wasn't based on sentimental reasons but because he earned it on his own terms. He also needs to prove that humankind is ready to take that first step into space. Although the Vulcans continue to say that they are "not ready," Archer is itching to prove them wrong. All of this comes to play when Captain Archer is called into Admiral Forrest's office to discuss an important matter with the Vulcans, including "Ambassador Pointy" Soval himself.
What is set in motion at the meeting is a bold mission by Captain Archer and his crew to return an injured Klingon to his homeworld. Nevermind that Soval and the other Vulcans are dead set against it. Nevermind that Archer doesn't understand the Klingon warrior culture. Archer argues his case and wins--perhaps one of the few hard-won victories for the Terrans against their superior benefactors. Even though this is considered a humanitarian mission, Jonathan knows this is his moment to prove himself and his crew. Captain Archer is given only days to assemble the remaining members of his crew. However, at the last minute, Ambassador Soval adds one final ultimatum. He will allow Enterprise to return the Klingon to Qo'noS as long as a Vulcan is added to the mission crew. That Vulcan officer is the quite alluring female Sub-Commander T'Pol--who becomes Enterprise's Science Officer. Throughout the course of the novelization, Archer and his crew find themselves dealing with mounting stakes to complete their mission, all the while facing their own prejudices and misconceptions about their Vulcan "chaperone."
The book does its best to introduce the other members of the ensemble cast. One of the more rounded depictions is afforded to Archer's close friend and Chief Engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker, III. Tucker and T'Pol immediately hit it off about as well as Spock and McCoy did in the original series. With Tucker's willingness to speak his mind and T'Pol's stubborn logic, the two are at one another's throats from the get go. T'Pol supplants Tucker as Enterprise's First Officer, which understandably doesn't sit well with the young engineer. It is Tucker who most vehemently voices his wariness of the Vulcan Sub-Commander, raising the questions that others may only be thinking about their alien shipmate. Thus, Tucker garners some of the best lines in the book. The other characters receive a minimal amount of introduction, though that is mainly because the action begins quite rapidly once the mission is under way. The assumption is that we'll learn more about Security Chief Malcolm Reed, Communications Officer Hoshi Sato, Helmsman Travis Mayweather, and Chief Medical Officer Phlox during the course of the story (and, of course, the series itself).
Although the series has struggled to find an audience since its premiere in 2001, the latest word is that Enterprise has been renewed by UPN for a fourth season. Captain Archer has lost his "golly gee whiz" innocence after three years in deep space. With a new writing team in Season 3 and a story arc involving a surprise attack on Earth, Enterprise finds itself not just as an exploration vessel, but vital to the future of Earth, Starfleet, and the future Federation of Planets. Thanks to the fans who promoted the show relentlessly in an intense letter and ad campaign, and the strength of the writing this past season, we'll be able to see more of the story unfold on the founding of the Federation and the continuing adventures of Archer and his crew.
"Broken Bow" is a straightforward telling of the series premiere, and also an easy and enjoyable read. It adds some extra insights into the various characters that couldn't be easily rendered in the episode itself, especially that of Captain Archer. There is also a "Behind the Scenes" look at Enterprise tagged onto the end. Written by Paul Ruditis, the 38-page addition is well worth the purchase price itself. If you missed the beginning of the series, "Broken Bow" is a must read for new fans.
The Wapshott Press
Ontology on the go!
"Ontology on the Go!"
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