FORMULA: Balance of Terror + Booby Trap + Silent Enemy + Shuttlepod One + First Contact
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Romulans. The outer space stuff.
WHY WE DON'T: Makes us think maybe Reed's right about Archer's approach?
REVIEW: Why is it that every episode involving a hidden enemy must also focus on Malcolm? I'm not complaining, as he's one of the better characters on the show, often contradictory and certainly the most difficult to pigeon-hole. Minefield is a good showcase for him, and we learn why he didn't go in the Navy (shameful aquaphobia) and why he thinks Archer's command style is wrong-headed. I can totally understand a military mind not wanting to be friends with his CO, but we're seeing Starfleet's first footsteps into space here, and Archer's style prefigures that of Kirk. Malcolm would probably be more at ease on Picard's Enterprise.
The big draw here, of course, is the first chronological appearance of the Romulans (though, of course, unseen to respect TOS continuity). If they are one of the things the Vulcans are hiding, T'Pol doesn't seem to be in the know, though she's heard of them. Enterprise is warned away from staked territory (though star charts don't put that region under later Romulan control) after the ship rather dramatically hits a cloaked mine. Then things go from bad to worse when another mine attaches itself to the hull without detonating and Malcolm has to go out to defuse it.
Defusing bombs on screen is always a matter of keeping up the tension through music, movement, silence and the bomb having back-up systems. That's all played out well here, and things get dire indeed when one of the mine's magnetic prongs stabs Malcolm right through the leg and traps him there. The crew of Enteprise sensibly works on back-up plans of its own, preparing to remove the hull plating if the mine can't be defused or detached, but that's undercut by Malcolm's predicament. More beautifully shot outer space work follows when Archer gets out there to help, and we really get a sense of scale from the ship because of it.
The final solution stretches reality just a little bit, but is one of those nice "cowboy" action pieces the show likes to indulge in. It was that or Reed's sacrifice, which makes him a hypocrite of sorts considering he tries to commit suicide like Trip did in Shuttlepod One. Obviously, this is heavy on Archer and Reed, but every other character gets something to do in the wake of what is a rather disastrous accident. Even Travis gets to push his piloting skills.
LESSON: Going far from home without a spare tire may not be the best idea.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Minefield is a nice surprise, keeping the Romulans very much a mustery in the background and focusing on Malcolm and Archer's relationship.