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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “United”


Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “United”

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Rereads/Rewatches Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “United”


Published on October 30, 2023


Written by Manny Coto and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 13
Production episode 089
Original air date: February 4, 2005
Date: November 15, 2154

Captain’s star log. After getting a summary of “Babel One,” we see Tucker and Reed being bounced around the drone ship. However, they are now approaching their next target, so Valdore orders the bouncy maneuvers to cease, and for the holographic skin to be that of Enterprise. Thus disguised, it ambushes a Rigellian ship, destroying it, but making sure they have time to send a distress call first.

On Enterprise, Archer learns of the attack on the Rigellian ship and that the Rigellians are calling for his arrest. T’Pol and Mayweather tell him that they’ve come up with a way to detect the drone ship with a sensor grid, but it would require 128 ships.

Shran tries to cheer Talas up in sickbay. While the shot that she was hit with was just a graze, it was with a phase pistol set to kill. Talas doesn’t buy Shran’s reassurances that she’ll be all right and begs him to avenge her.

Archer approaches Shran about a plan to use Starfleet, Vulcan, Andorian, and Tellarite ships to find the drone. Before he can even get the plan out of his mouth, Shran says that he’s fine with any plan Archer has as long as it allows him to kill Tellarites. This puts a damper on Archer’s optimism.

On Romulus, Senator Vrax shows up with two Reman commandos and expressing displeasure with the drone ship being adrift following its destruction of the Rigellian ship. Valdore assures him that the auto-repair system is working just fine and the drone will be underway soon. The senator tells Valdore that they cannot allow the drone to fall into Vulcan hands, as they’ll recognize the propulsion system as being Romulan in design. Valdore says there’s nothing to worry about, but Vrax makes it clear that he’ll declare the mission a success to the rest of the senate, but only if he brings the drone home as soon as it’s repaired.

Image: CBS

Starfleet is sending some ships, but they’ll take a while to get there. The only ship that’s as fast as Enterprise—the NX-02, Columbia—is still in drydock with engine trouble. Vulcan can only spare twenty-three ships, as they’re in turmoil following High Command’s disbanding. They have to get the Andorians and Tellarites on board to make this work. Since humans are the only people that all three species get along with, Archer thinks they can coordinate this. If not, the Romulans will view this as a success and come back in greater numbers.

Tucker is able to finally find a life support system and get it running, so they can take off their helmets. They figure the ship is automated, so they try to figure out ways to stop it. Eventually, they’re able to take the warp drive offline, which brings the ship to a stop. Tucker goes to a service junction where there are more controls and starts messing with the ship some more.

On Romulus, Nijil reports that one of the humans has moved to the service junction and is sabotaging the warp drive. It’ll take the auto-repair more time to fix it than Vrax has given them. On Valdore’s order, Tucker is sealed inside the service junction, which Nijil floods with coolant. Tucker—who stupidly left his helmet on the bridge—starts to cough and collapse from the radiation.

Archer convinces Shran and Gral to put aside their differences, because if they don’t, the Romulans get exactly what they want. They agree, and provide communication codes to each other so they can coordinate the search grid. When Shran provides the codes to Archer, the pair of them discuss the illustrations on Archer’s ready-room wall, which are all previous vessels with the name Enterprise. Shran says that the Kumari was named for the first ice-cutter to circumnavigate Andoria. They speculate that future ships might be named Enterprise and Kumari if they accomplish great things together, and they shake hands.

Reed tries to save Tucker, to no avail. Finally, against Tucker’s orders, Reed restores the warp drive. Valdore then opens the door to the service junction—but as soon as Reed enters (with the helmet to Tucker’s EVA suit), Valdore seals them both in. Reed then recommends that they move very far from the bridge, though he doesn’t explicitly say why, as Valdore is likely still listening. Reed left a phase pistol on overload in a console on the bridge. They open an access hatch port and start moving.

Image: CBS

Phlox informs Shran that Talas has died. The doctor tried everything, but was unable to save her. Shran interrupts a meeting between Archer and Gral to challenge Gral’s aide to a duel of honor. As Sato later informs Archer, the Ushaan is a fight to the death with ushaan-tors, ice-cutting blades that Andorians play with as children. Gral’s aide wouldn’t last five seconds—not that Gral is even allowing him to participate. This means the Andorians won’t stay with the sensor grid.

However, Sato finds a loophole: there is a right of substitution. Archer will fight in the aide’s place. Shran doesn’t wish to fight Archer, but he has already lost his love and his ship—if he doesn’t avenge Talas’ death, he will lose face in the eyes of his surviving crew.

Sato and Mayweather pore over the (lengthy) literature on the Ushaan, looking for ways for Archer to survive this. T’Pol tries to talk Archer out of it, but the captain explains that he’s the only expendable person: if Shran or Gral’s aide are killed, it’ll just raise tensions and kill the alliance. If Archer is killed, it’s no big deal—T’Pol can take over as captain, the Andorians and Tellarites will both be happy, and they can get back to fighting the Romulans.

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The fight begins—the combatants have ushaan-tors in one hand and gauntlets that can serve as shields in the other. The gauntlets are linked by a long chain that tethers the fighters to each other. Shran mostly has the upper hand—with Archer boasting that he’s just letting Shran do better to look good to his soldiers—and then Archer manages to wrap the chain around Shran’s neck.

Then he cuts off one of Shran’s antennae. This actually fulfills the criteria for the Ushaan, as it ends when a combatant can no longer defend themselves. The loss of balance that comes with losing an antenna qualifies. Honor is fulfilled, nobody died, and they can get on with the mission.

The sensor grid finds the drone ship, and Enterprise heads there. They arrive to find what appears to be a Vulcan ship, but it has the same power signature as the drone ship. The two ships exchange fire, with Archer urging Tucker and Reed to move closer to the hull so they can beam them out. That doesn’t work—the ship is moving around too much for T’Pol to get a lock.

On Romulus, Nijil is just waiting for the warp drive to finish auto-repairing.

Tucker and Reed blow a hatch and are floating freely in space, but now Enterprise has sustained sufficient damage that they still can’t get a transporter lock.

The Romulan ship warps away. Enterprise is able to rescue Tucker and Reed now, but the drone ship is gone. When they’re changing out of their EVA suits, Tucker reluctantly says that he has to put Reed on report for disobeying orders. This outrages Reed, who did save their lives. Tucker strings him along for several seconds before making it clear that he’s joking. Reed is not amused…

Once the drone ship is safely inside the Romulan border, they disconnect the remote pilot from the controls. When they remove the helmet we see what looks like an Andorian, albeit a blind albino one…

To be continued…

Image: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Mayweather comes up with a fancy-shmancy sensor grid to find the drone ship.

Also, the drone ship doesn’t have inertial dampeners working in order to bounce Tucker and Reed around the ship. This should pulverize them against the hull…

The gazelle speech. Archer shows impressive political acumen and capacity for self-sacrifice by recognizing that his dying is virtually the only way for the Ushaan to play out in such a way that preserves the very fragile alliance that is barely holding together as it is…

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol is not sanguine about Archer’s prospects in the fight, and feels that losing him is too big a price to pay.

Florida Man. Florida Man Repays Armory Officer For Saving His Life By Playing Practical Joke.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox tries to do everything he can to save Talas, but is unsuccessful. He also has advice for Archer on how to survive the fight.

Blue meanies. Apparently Andoria is covered in ice (we’ll see more of that next week). The ushaan-tor is an ice-cutting blade, and the Andorians have sea-faring vessels that are referred to as ice-cutters. Also we meet our first Aenar in the person of the remote pilot, though we don’t know he’s an Aenar, yet.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Shran tells Talas that Phlox has a crush on her, by way of explaining why she’s still in sickbay even though he said her wounds were superficial. Her loss devastates him.

Image: CBS

More on this later… T’Pol says that a Vulcan saying is “One man can summon the future.” In the original series’ “Mirror, Mirror,” the alternate Spock said, “One man cannot summon the future.”

Also, Archer’s conversations with Shran (about future ships named after their vessels) and T’Pol (about humans’ ability to bring people together) presage the Federation that is to come. And Archer mentions the possibility of thousands of Romulan ships attacking, which presages the Earth-Romulan War that we’ve known is imminent since the original series’ “Balance of Terror.”

I’ve got faith…

“You should’ve cut off my head.”

“I considered it, but I still need your help.”

–Shran and Archer after fighting to the not-death.

Welcome aboard. Back from “Babel One” are Jeffrey Combs as Shran, Brian Thompson as Valdore, Lee Arenberg as Gral, J. Michael Flynn as Nijil, and Molly Brink as Talas. We’ve also got Geno Silva as Vrax. Combs, Thompson, Flynn, and Silva will be back next time in “The Aenar.”

Trivial matters: The is the second part of Enterprise’s final three-parter, continuing from “Babel One,” and concluding in “The Aenar.”

The Columbia was first referenced in “The Expanse” and was established as still being in drydock in “Home.” It’ll finally be launched in “Affliction.”

T’Pol mentions that T’Pau is now in a position of authority on Vulcan, as was implied by the ending of “Kir’Shara,” which is also when High Command was disbanded.

This is chronologically the first cooperative endeavor among the four founding species of the Federation: humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites.

This is only the second appearance of Remans since their introduction in Nemesis.

This is the last of sixty-two episodes of Trek directed by longtime producer David Livingston, whose first-ever directing credit was TNG’s “The Mind’s Eye” in 1991. It’s also his final screen directing credit, and indeed, his only IMDB credit that is more recent than working on Enterprise is two episodes as a producer on Threshold (which Enterprise co-creator Brannon Braga was show-runner for).

“United” was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or Special. It lost to HBO’s The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

Image: CBS

It’s been a long road… “You’re good at building things, I’m good at blowing them up.” I really need there to be a moratorium on fights to the death in which neither of the combatants actually dies. One of the reasons why TNG’s “Reunion” was effective was because Worf really did kill Duras. But most of the time on television, including on the various Treks, nominal fights to the death do not end with any fatalities (also true of far too many suicide missions, which is also why the ending of TNG’s “Lower Decks” was so powerful).

It’s too bad, because having Yet Another Tiresome Fight To The Death (one which doesn’t even have cool fight music like the iconic score the original series gave the Spock-Kirk fight in “Amok Time”) is the only real blot on this powerful episode. It’s especially nice having scripters like Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens who understand how pacing works, as we not only have a teaser that genuinely teases—with the drone ship taking on Enterprise’s image to blow up an innocent Rigellian ship—but we also have Archer slicing downward toward Shran’s head before going to an act break, a genuine bit of suspense. Not that we were really expecting Archer to behead Shran, but hey, Shran is a guest star, not an opening-credits regular, so you never know…

It’s obvious the Ushaan was put in the script to up the action quotient, and I must confess to liking the tethered-fighters aspect of the Ushaan, an aspect of the setup that Archer does a good job of exploiting for his own gain. But the episode doesn’t actually need it. The back-and-forth of sabotage and threats between the Romulans and the Enterprise away team on the drone ship is very compelling, as is watching Archer try to hold the nascent alliance together with both hands. I particularly like that Archer doesn’t try to break up the fight between Shran and Gral after they trade insults, preferring instead to talk to them and remind them that they’re acting like idiots—more to the point, exactly the type of idiots that services the Romulans’ cause.

I also really like that the Romulans only don’t succeed to the degree they’d hoped because of human ingenuity and compassion. Last week, their deception is uncovered really only because Enterprise diverted to respond to Shran’s distress call. This week, the Romulans are confident that they won’t be discovered as long as the Vulcans don’t capture the drone ship—but the joke’s on them, because Enterprise figured out it was them in “Babel One.” And, more directly, Tucker and Reed do a wonderful job of being sand in the machinery of the Romulan ship.

Plus we get the first true murmurings of a United Federation of Planets, with ships from Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, and Tellar Prime all uniting (ahem) in the common goal of stopping the Romulans. Which is especially heartening, since the entire objective of the drone ship was to sow discontent and division….

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest work is The Four ???? of the Apocalypse, co-edited by him and Wrenn Simms, on sale today from WhysperWude. It features alternate takes on the end-of-the-world quartet, such as the four PTA Moms of the apocalypse, the four cats of the apocalypse, the four Hollywood executives of the apocalypse, the four lawyers of the apocalypse, and so on. Among the contributors are Star Trek scribes David Gerrold, David Mack, Peter David, Derek Tyler Attico, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg, as well as New York Times best-sellers Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, and Jody Lynn Nye, and tons more.

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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