Star Trek 678: First Flight

678. First Flight

FORMULA: Final Mission/Tapestry + First Contact

WHY WE LIKE IT: The prequel to the prequel.

WHY WE DON'T: Mission control.

REVIEW: When another Starfleet captain dies in an accident, Archer has cause to revisit the early days of the NX project, and it's a little like the secret origin of Archer, Trip and the Warp 5 engine. T'Pol's interventions while listening to the story are lightly comic, making me realize I started liking her a lot more sometime in Season 2. Huh.

Archer's story is basically a homage to his friend and rival, A.G. Robinson, played with great presence by Keith Carradine. Robinson could well have become captain of the Enterprise, and for a while there, really was on top, getting to be first to fly the Warp 3 engine, and leaving Archer the Buzz Aldrin of Starfleet. First Flight keeps the feel of those old NASA missions, or of The Right Stuff, throughout, though with some notable differences. For one thing, mission control is a rather disappointing room, with none of the scope you'd associate with a mission of this importance. For another, there isn't the same professionalism, security or government oversight (except from the Vulcans) as in the real world. This is correct however for the world that will give rise to someone like Kirk 100 years later. These guys are mavericks and cowboys.

In First Flight, we see Archer before he was Archer. Not that far from the captain, but more by the book certainly. Robinson tells him it takes more than that to earn the captain's chair, and we get the feeling it didn't fall on deaf ears. He's also right about another thing: For Archer, the NX project was never anything but personal, and remains so today. He is driven at once by fulfilling his father's dream and sticking it to the Vulcans who robbed his father of that chance himself. It's that attitude about the Vulcans that creates bond between him and Trip (whose nickname is finally explained here). First Flight shows how instrumental both men were in getting Enterprise built. By having the Vulcans recommend going back to the drawing board after the initial failed test, it makes their antagonism towards the Vulcans more personal as well.

As for the present day dark nebula story, it may seem like merely a backdrop for the telling of this tale, but it also provides a funeral pyre for A.G. Robinson when it finally lights up.

LESSON: Risk has been our business since day one.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Fulfills the promise of telling us more about Starfleet's early days, while also paying tribute to all the early space explorers (and I think, the crew of Columbia who had died not long before).


De said...

What really makes this episode for me are all the little touches: finally seeing the 602 Club, the picture of the ringed-ship Enterprise in said club, the retro-styled spacesuits, Trip's CO being Captain Jeffries, the return of the commodore rank (on Forrest no less), and easily a dozen other items.

The weakest part for me was the bar fight. Not only is it a cliche, but this one was also poorly choreographed. However, it's easy to overlook this when the overall episode is so strong.

Jayunderscorezero said...

This certainly is a series highlight. A nice taste - I thought - of the rumoured alternate first season that would have been entirely made up of the build up to the first NX-01 warp flight. I think Enterprise is vastly better when it does more "astronauty" stuff, as opposed to the more typical "Star Trek-ky" stuff that was becoming so tired and done-before by this point.

Siskoid said...

De: I agree. The fight scene is a cliché, but having Trip take the beers away just before someone hurts themselves is high-larious!

Jay: Totally.


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