The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: The Communicator

Malcolm Reed is delighted to have completed his first visit to a pre-warp culture – at least until he realises that he left his communicator behind. Now, Reed and Archer must venture back to the planet’s surface in order to retrieve it, but in short order they are arrested as enemy spies.

Remember that time in A Piece of the Action where everyone had a good laugh about McCoy leaving his communicator on Sigma Iotia II? This is the more responsible equivalent of that episode, in which Archer and Reed end up suffering and almost losing their lives to retrieve some lost technology.

It all feels a bit much, though – yet another hammering home of the “we don’t know what we’re doing; if only there was some sort of Prime Directive to help us” message. The moral of the story is that Archer and Reed’s actions have caused cultural contamination regardless of the fact that they retrieved all their technology – and it’s one that’s pointed out by T’Pol for all the viewers who couldn’t figure it out for themselves. I approve of Star Trek doing morality plays, but this episode just feels like one too many. It isn’t even all that entertaining as it goes about delivering its message, with the Suliban cell ship rescue in particular feeling far too convenient.

Points of Note

  • Clearly the universal translator is on the fritz, as “your haemoglobin is based on iron” is a trivial statement – that’s why it’s called haemoglobin. There are other oxygen-binding proteins, some of which aren’t based on iron, but there might not be a direct translation of the one the aliens use.
  • For that matter, where is the universal translator? If it was present, wouldn’t it have been confiscated, rendering the aliens incomprehensible to all but Hoshi?
  • Could a humanoid alien civilisation evolve if iron was poisonous to them? I’m sure such a civilisation could evolve, but it would look very different to “extremely Earthlike”.

Summary – The Communicator: What happens when you actually bother to go and retrieve a lost communicator?

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