718. The Aenar
FORMULA: Interface + The Breach + United
WHY WE LIKE IT: First look at Andoria.
WHY WE DON'T: Uneven pacing and lazy writing.
REVIEW: The Romulans' incursions into Near Space have had the opposite of the intended effect. They're in fact responsible for the first union between usually warring factions. So they get desperate before their project is shut down, throw more marauders into the fray (from out of nowhere, all piloted by the same multi-tasking guy), and go suicidal. The pace isn't so frenetic on the proto-Federation side though, with Shran and Archer taking a walk on Andoria and even spending the night.
Data brought back by Trip and Malcolm has revealed that the remote pilot's brainwaves match those of a reclusive, pacifist, telepathic subspecies of Andorian, the Aenar. Archer and Shran set out to find out what involvement they might have and if one would be able to disrupt the remote pilot using a makeshift remote interface (this assumes they Aenar are NOT responsible, so the first mission is suspect). At least it gives us a chance to visit Andoria for the first time: the frozen moon of a ringed gas giant, all the cities are actually underground. The Aenar's is a rather beautiful place, though I question the use of the same paneling found on Andorian warships as a design element. Through Shran, we discover plenty of local color, the fauna, the terrain, etc.
The Aenar are in fact a lot more telepathic that one might have thought, but a kindly, peaceful folk. Shran bonds with the young sister of the man believed to have been abducted and slaved to the remote pilot system. Jhamel defies her people by joining Enterprise to find her brother, which makes her the real hero when she telepathically makes a plea for her brother to stop what he's doing. He redeems himself by allowing the marauders to be destroyed and is poisoned for his trouble. While these moments are well done, it's still a bit of a let-down when a one-shot guest character wins the day instead of one of the regulars. Never as satisfying certainly. That last battle features the usual strong effects, but it does start with a silly dilemma about whether or not a freighter is actually the marauder, as if they hadn't already established sensors could get the skinny on the Romulan ship.
The epilogue seems to say goodbye to Shran, who's lost his ship and is unlikely to be rewarded for it by another. The way he's become as much a protagonist as the crew of the Enterprise (more so than some of them!), it reads like a set-up to get him on the crew in some capacity. This was discussed in the plans for a fifth season, though it's an oddity here as the show had already been canceled (though the script possibly predates that). In other endings, Trip admits that he was thinking about T'Pol when he thought he was about to die. She's still not interested, so he asks for a transfer to the newly-minted Columbia. It's a strong scene between him and Archer that leaves things unspoken but understood between them (and is an interesting development).
LESSON: The Planet Hell set has been equipped with a leg-breaking slide since The Breach. Actors and characters beware.
REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: Seeing Andoria makes this worth the viewing, but it's definitely the weakest episode of the story arc.