“Under stress, you become volatile. You’re a far more dangerous species than I previously believed.”
The second episode of Enterprise in regular production, “Strange New World” gives viewers everything they would expect from the beginning of man’s flight into deep space, warts-and-all. The series had promised to show what exploration would be like a hundred years (give or take) before the adventures of Captain Kirk; the rocky start of Starfleet, bad first impressions with alien races, spartan crew accommodations, and clumsy weaponry. The ship arrives at a Minshara-class planet (the first chronological “canon” use of the Class-M designation), suitable for humanoid life, and almost identical to Earth. Archer decides to take a shuttle crew (and Porthos) down to the surface to check it out. It seems almost too good to be true. T’Pol and Archer lock horns over his science officer seeing no reason to explore this planet.
Archer reminds T’Pol of Enterprise’s primary mission. Curiously, the Vulcans have very little interest in exploration. Archer and Porthos return to the ship, leaving T’Pol, Tucker, Travis, and crewmen Cutler and Novakovich to spend the night in tents. The wind picks up and Novakovich begins to show signs of neurosis, even panic. He swears he sees bipedal lifeforms of a kind (like Shatner’s fabled rock-men from Star Trek V) wandering about. He runs off as the crew finds shelter from the wind in nearby caves. Archer beams up Novakovich and Phlox determines that pollen from the mountains has been kicked up by the wind storms. The pollen has hallucinogenic properties that begin to have an effect on everyone in the landing party, but only to a limited degree in T’Pol.
Cutler swears she sees T’Pol talking to strange rock creatures. Tucker and Travis also see the rock creatures. T’Pol tells them she is not colluding (sorry to use that word) with any rock monsters, but nobody believes her because she is an untrustworthy, duplicitous Vulcan. At least that’s how Tucker sees her in his haze of suspicion. Archer engages T’Pol in a bit of play-acting in an effort to get Tucker to lower his gun (which he has trained on T’Pol). Archer tells Tucker that the ship is on a secret mission to communicate with silicon-based lifeforms and that Tucker has upset them with his behavior. When Tucker is compelled to lower his gun, T’Pol knocks him out and sets about administering some medication to the landing party.
This is a good history lesson (and an impressive early episode) for anybody wanting to know how alien races eventually learned to work together. It was a treacherous road to enlightenment (particularly for Humans, Vulcans, and Andorians) and there was still conflict. All of these advanced alien species were capable of bigotry and prejudice (the Vulcans were particularly deceptive and elitist in their views of non-Vulcan species), manipulation and deceit. Sometimes all we need is a little push in the wrong direction.
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