Broken Bow (***)
It must not have been easy to come up with this pilot, they had to struggle to reintroduce us to a universe we already know very well during an era we knew almost nothing about. One of the things that I like about this episode, and the universe at this time, is that Humanity is shown to be a minor player known by only a small number of races, it makes an interesting change to the later Trek series where Humanity and the Federation seem to be running everything. That's the potential of this series right there, to watch how Humanity went from nobodies to become the predominant force in the galaxy. Unfortunately the show only started to scratch that potential when it was cancelled.
One thing this pilot doesn't do well is give the entire cast something important to do. In Caretaker
each of the main cast plays a part in the plot, but in Broken Bow
the only important characters are Archer, T'Pol and Tucker while the other four are just tagging along for the ride. This might have been a conscious decision by B&B since that is the direction the show itself went down, but that is not the way I wanted the show to go, I like the feeling of a big ensemble cast. All the characters are introduced competently, but you're left waiting for the next few episodes to really get a grasp of what they are capable of.
The episode is mainly about Archer's childhood desire to get out of Sol and explore the unknown, which makes sense but doesn't make for fascinating entertainment, and the scenes of child-John and his his dad flying a model spaceship are a little hokey. The only other characters in this episode to get serviced are Trip and T'Pol, and that involves some gel and a blue room. But the less said about that the better.
The episode takes place on a a larger canvas than your typical Trek episode and that is always a good thing in my opinion, but the problem is that I look back on this episode now and see how little most of the plot matters. I was wary of the Temporal Cold War to begin with because Endgame
gave me time travel burnout, but it is even worse now that I know the TCW (henceforth known as the Tasty Coma Wife) was not plotted out and will end abruptly without being explained. What did the Klingon civil war have to do with anything? Nobody knows. Why was Sarin working against Silik? Nobody knows. Who is Future Guy? He was probably a Romulan, but the truth is that nobody knows.
This is a pilot which seems to contain important information about the future of the show, but it doesn't really, which is unfortunate because so much of the action is focused around this stuff. If Enterprise hadn't managed to return Klaang to Qo'nos would it have made much of a difference to the Tasty Coma Wife? Probably not, the whole thing would still have failed to make any sense. If the seasons that followed had built upon and explained the mystery around the events of Broken Bow
then this could have been a 4 star episode, but it didn't and as such it is a plot that happened for no reason other than to have people shooting at one another.
I'm only going to count alien species that are named rather than counting all the different aliens that appear in the background on Rigel X, so we have two new aliens this week, the Suliban and the Lorillians. (The Denobulans haven't been named yet, which shows you the time which went into exploring the main cast in the episode.)
Disappearing Aliens: 2
Archer was knocked out after being shot in the leg and Silik beat him up and stole his gun.
Archer Abuse: 2
I've also decided to count the number of times when Archer put himself in needless danger by going on a dangerous away mission rather than delegating to his capable crew. In this episode Archer went down to Rigel X and he flew over to the Suliban base with Trip because the trained security officer was too busy styling his hair.
Captain Redshirt: 2
I'll also count the number of times they use the "dangerous" transporter on a person.