662. The Communicator
FORMULA: Patterns of Force + A Piece of the Action + Tomorrow Is Yesterday + Little Green Men
WHY WE LIKE IT: The biggest "Prime Directive" cock-up since TOS.
WHY WE DON'T: The invisible man.
REVIEW: Another bad experience in the long line that will lead to the creation of the Prime Directive, Malcolm leaves a communicator behind on a pre-warp planet, and in trying to get it back, makes things much, much worse. It's a good example of Enterprise creating stories out of things we've been taking for granted for over 15 years of Trek. The more modern Trek crew is well versed in alien contact protocols, etc., but these guys are just making it up as they go along, and a blunder or two should be expected.
In this case, things go from bad to worse when Archer and Reed get mistaken for spies from another superpower, delivering phase pistols into the hands of militaristic aliens. Even worse, their disguises are revealed during a violent interrogation, as the flimsy make-up rips off and their blood turns out to be red. Even a cover story about genetically engineered soldiers won't save them from a postmortem autopsy and some rather grisly gallows.
It's all down to Trip and Travis. You may be surprised to know that the Suliban cell ship captured in Broken Bow is still in the hold (because I certainly was), and its cloaking abilities are put to some use in retrieving the captured crew and equipment. There's a ridiculous sequence in which the cloaking effect renders Trip's arm invisible for a few days, which is the usual "Trip-up", and bizarrely doesn't feature into the escape plan whatsoever. I'm not sure I wanted a repeatable plot device for invisible men, but here, I'm left wondering what the point was (other than once again humiliating Trip).
The rescue itself is well choreographed action, including a short dogfight that reminds one a lot of Star Wars, just from the craft profiles. Though the evidence is more or less all taken, first hand accounts will probably be inciting a nation to war in the near future (or perhaps deterring one, who knows). Either way, lesson learned. The Archer and Reed pairing continues to work well, and the other characters do ok.
LESSON: Always double check your motel room before going to the airport.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A bit if a deus ex machina and some silly padding, but The Communicator creates something worthwhile from a very simple idea.