Enterprise: First Flight (S02E24)

One thing I have grown to appreciate about Enterprise (in and of itself an origin story of sorts) is the way it also explores the origins and backgrounds of its characters.  This episode, despite being ranked rather obviously in the pantheon of  “save the budget” episodes, did a good job of exploring more of Archer’s background and gave us some additional insight into his longstanding friendship with Trip.  It was a nice counterpoint to Regeneration’s relentless and frentic action, and I rather enjoyed it–probably in no small part due to the superb direction of series veteral LeVar Burton.

Things got started, as they so often do, with a mission that led to much more than the crew was ready to handle.  Turns out the ship might be headed into a nebula full of dark matter, but they aren’t exactly sure just what is out there.  Everyone is pretty stoked at the possibility of exploring this in a shuttlepod when Archer gets some bad news that someone named “A.G.” has died.  Turns out that A.G. is a longtime friend of both Archer and Trip, and the news of his death immediatly sends the Cap’n into one of his emo moods, which left me holding my breath for another embarrassingly bad show (Hugo Award nominations be darned!).

Archer and T’pol soon head out to check out the dark matter, but instead of encountering aliens or hostile environments, they run into the memories of the captain’s days of testing the NX space program–the same program that eventually led to the creation of the Enterprise itself.  What follows is a rather tender and warmhearted of Archer’s friendship with a very Kirk-like friend who was directly responsible for the near-implosion of the NX program altogether.  The program was saved (obviously) thanks to Archer’s intervention and some help from Trip along the way.

While origin stories can be a dicey affair, as they have a tendency to mess with established canon for what, sometimes, seems like no good reason, I enjoyed this trip through Starfleet history from the very intimate standpoint of our fearless captain.  At its heart the episode was also an exploration of the meaning of manhood, and what lengths friends must go to to save, or to encourage, each other.  That, and the nice inclusion of a good old-fashioned barroom brawl, have made this one of the show’s highlights late in season 2.  I’m anxiously awaiting the conclusion of this season, and can’t wait to see what they have in store for the opening of season 3 too.  And that’s a hope that I haven’t always had as of late.

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