The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Breaking the Ice

When Enterprise discovers the largest comet yet encountered, Reed and Mayweather are excited to land on the surface and do some exploring. But a Vulcan starship is also in the region, and seems to be keeping a closer eye on Enterprise than Archer is comfortable with. Meanwhile, T’Pol has a personal matter to deal with.

Breaking the Ice is a bit of an odd episode. It has several strands running through it, but doesn’t seem to be about anything in particular. There’s even a lengthy interlude where the crew answer questions sent by a class of fourth-graders – you know, the kind of thing you add into an episode when you realise the script you’ve written runs short. On the other hand, we do get to see Reed and Mayweather making a Vulcan snowman, so this episode isn’t completely devoid of entertainment.

One thing I’m struggling with here is the characterisation of the Vulcans. We’re repeatedly told that the Vulcans lack curiosity and don’t care for exploration, which seems completely at odds with their advanced technology, prestigious Science Academy, and frequent voyages into deep space. Why does any of that exist if the Vulcans don’t care about learning new things? I’ve always seen Vulcans as a society who values science and the uncovering of new knowledge above pretty much everything else. Science is rational, with definite rules – just the kind of thing that would appeal to a society based on logic.

Then we have the addition of the T’Pol fiancé storyline. Her prospective in-laws have made an ultimatum – unless T’Pol returns to Vulcan to get married and live with her new husband for a year, then the whole deal is off. T’Pol is conflicted between her desire to remain aboard Enterprise, and the need to respect tradition, but of course we all know that she isn’t going to leave the ship. All this storyline does is make us feel a bit uncomfortable that a female character is being expected to put her life and career on hold so that a man isn’t inconvenienced.

Points of Note

  • The fact that Trip and Archer are so surprised that T’Pol has been encrypting her messages suggests that encryption is not done as standard in the 22nd century. Why not? Does humanity just trust that some kind of honour system will stop hostile forces from reading all their messages?
  • For that matter, how is Hoshi able to decrypt the message? Not only is she a linguist rather than a crypt expert, but are the Vulcans really using insecure or broken algorithms? That doesn’t seem very logical.
  • I know Star Trek has had bad CGI, obvious matte paintings and dodgy sets before, but I was utterly unable to suspend my disbelief for the comet scenes. They felt like they were obviously on a set, and didn’t even give the vaguest impression that they were in space.
  • Presumably the drawings done by the children were sent via e-mail or its 22nd century equivalent. Why did Trip waste precious ship’s resources printing them all out?

Summary – Breaking the Ice: In which T’Pol gets her first taste of pecan pie.

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