632. Strange New World
FORMULA: Resolutions The Galileo Seven + Empok Nor + the Shore Leave planet
WHY WE LIKE IT: Ensign Cutler. Mood lighting.
WHY WE DON'T: Planet doesn't seem that strange or new.
REVIEW: It may be a little early to develop supporting characters when the cast itself is so fresh and new, but we have to remember that Garak appeared in the second DS9 episode, and that I've always liked Ensign Cutler. There are a couple of good reasons to use supporting characters like Cutler and Novakovich. 1) They add to the life of the ship and make it a more realistic and compelling place. And 2) they are more easily killed off.
Novakovich was apparently scripted to become Enterprise's first redshirt, but Bakula intervened, convincing the producers that the first casualty should be a major event for the crew to reflect on. Seems like he was born to play a Starfleet captain. so not the first redshirt, though he is the victim of the first transporter accident (showing how this untried technology still has some bugs to hammer out). We also see the first (understated) nerve pinch, and Earth plants its first flag on a planet outside the system, basically the first M-class planet Enterprise encounters. M is for Minshara, apparently, and here I thought planets were simply graded with letters of the alphabet.
Aside from looking a heck of a lot like the one in Shore Leave, the planet in Strange New World (great title) has some nasty psychotropic pollen that turns the members of the away team against each other. Though we've seen this kind of thing before on Star Trek, lighting the confrontation only with flashlights creates a tense and moody atmosphere, perfectly in line with the tone of Travis' ghost stories. Archer's solution is to put a lie to the hallucinations so that Trip in effect "suspends his disbelief" and allows himself to be forcibly medicated. I suppose T'Pol did try to warn Archer, but as the voice of Vulcan protocols, his first reflex is to dismiss her caution. It's a fun rivalry that doesn't take the usual confrontational, aggressive road, but rather has Archer chuckling to himself and doing what he feels like doing.
So it is that humans start their great adventure as glorified tourists, taking holiday snaps, letting the dog mark its territory ("where no dog has gone before" is pretty funny), and telling campfire stories. We're the same people who played golf on the moon. We bring grandeur back down to our level. Though I mentioned Cutler above as a favorite, and she gets a nice, enthusiastic introduction (seeing a planet come into view in the window, a beautiful shot), she doesn't quite have enough to do here. We do see that she's open-minded about other cultures, which will no doubt make her approach Phlox in future episodes. Speaking of Phlox, the first crack in his armor appears here, where Novakovich almost dies. Though largely upbeat, we see that he isn't callous, and that casualties and mistakes carry a heavy burden with him. John Billingsley is da bomb, no matter how much or how little screen time he gets.
LESSON: Scan before you leap.
REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: It's one of those "the characters aren't quite themselves" episodes, routine perhaps, but it features a great atmosphere, a promising guest-star, good acting, and a Space Dog peeing on an alien tree.