the story: The Vulcans are upset about the crew's interaction with the Andorians.
what it's all about: Though to this point in the series less serialized than it would be later and certainly less than fans liked at the time and probably less even now, "Shadows of P'Jem" certainly catches Enterprise early in its run with an episode drawing directly from previous material. It's a direct sequel to the events of "The Andorian Incident." It also involves the nature of the human-Vulcan relationship as depicted in the pilot episode ("Broken Bow"), representing the first time in the series the Vulcans attempt to cut short the crew's mission.
One of the things this accomplishes is allowing the growing family of recurring characters to show exactly what they add to the series. Recurring characters had really only been similar to this, and on a much larger scale, eventually, in Deep Space Nine. To see Admiral Forrest and Ambassador Soval again is one thing, but we get to see Shran again, too. It's his relationship with Archer that grows the most over the course of the series. Word has it that if Enterprise had gotten a fifth season, Shran would've become a regular. If only! Here we get to see his love-hate relationship with Archer, his vaguely racist term of affection, "pink skin," becoming a trademark already, a touch that helps add dimension to him.
T'Pol's position with the crew is threatened; her immediate recall is asked for, and only the events of the episode spare her such a fate. This is usually something that happens in a season finale, so it's nice to see that in this series, such danger can come at any turn, sort of suggesting the later constant volatility of Discovery.
Of course, the whole thing's a further exercise in watching how Archer is put in-between the conflict between Vulcans and Andorians, a precursor to his helping build a lasting coalition between them and other aliens: the Federation.
- franchise - Seeing relationships evolve between classic aliens like Vulcans and Andorians.
- series - And how our crew helps make that happen.
- character - Specifically Archer, thanks to his relationship with Shran.
- essential - Crucial further development in the overall arc of the series.
Jeffrey Combs (Shran)
Vaughn Armstrong (Forrest)
Gary Graham (Soval)