the story: An embattled Vulcan ambassador requires rescuing.
what it's all about: Sometimes a bad situation stays bad because there's never a breakthrough in communications. That's the thing about Enterprise. It posits a relationship between humans and Vulcans that's a bad situation, because Vulcans find humans primitive. Anyone who saw Star Trek: First Contact knows humans were certainly in a bad place when they first met. It shouldn't be surprising. Cochrane certainly wasn't a "great man" until history started making its judgments. It definitely seemed to help, not only his achievement but his engine becoming so important; the Cochrane we glimpse in "Broken Bow" is a lot more civil than the one in First Contact.
Anyway, so despite that warm fuzzy moment at the end of the movie when we see the Vulcan remove his hood, relations themselves weren't automatically warm and fuzzy. That was merely a cathartic moment speaking for itself, after a tumultuous experience battling the Borg and making sure Cochrane's flight happened at all. Not only does it attract the attention of an alien ship, but it's Vulcan, and it feels like the birth of the future in a snapshot. But nothing's ever that simple. Vulcans ultimately find these human upstarts primitive. And I say again, is that really so surprising? The only surprise is the depth and persistence, but again, a bad situation tends to stay bad until there's a breakthrough, and Enterprise is all about making breakthroughs.
"Fallen Hero" doesn't seem like it's a breakthrough story. There are a lot of breakthrough stories in the first season, and subsequent ones. But ultimately, it is. It's the first time the crew encounters a friendly Vulcan, someone who will take them at face value rather than history or cultural development. The crew helps the ambassador out of a sticky situation, and that does the trick. It begins to thaw a sticky situation. Ironically, it's very similar to a couple of experiences with Klingons earlier in the season, and yet the results are the complete opposite. That should be telling.
Somewhat more intriguingly, however, is the plot itself, why the ambassador is in a tricky situation. It's politics. There was plenty of Klingon politics in Next Generation, and plenty of Bajoran and Cardassian politics in Deep Space Nine, but I think "Fallen Hero" still manages to mine new franchise territory. The Vulcan ambassador's situation turns out to be that her reputation has purposely been smeared for political expediency. The idea practically is politics, certainly politics as it's been practiced by Americans for over two hundred years. It's ridiculously petty, but it seems to work every time. This is an episode that seeks to point out the stupidity of it. Later, "Judgment" sort of echoes this lesson, with a Klingon. Irony.
- franchise - Insight into the eventual thaw of human/Vulcan relations.
- series - Another example of how Archer makes bridges.
character- The thrust of the episode is more the experience of it than a spotlight on Archer or T'Pol, or even the ambassador.
- essential - Intriguing insight into the pettiness of politics.
Vaughn Armstrong (Forrest)