Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “The Forge”

“The Forge”
Written by Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by Michael Grossman
Season 4, Episode 7
Production episode 083
Original air date: November 19, 2004
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. We open seventeen years ago, with a lone Vulcan going through a cave and unearthing an old artifact. He mutters Surak’s name as he uncovers the writing on the artifact.

Forrest meets with Soval at the United Earth embassy on Vulcan. Forrest is hoping for good news from High Command about joint missions between Earth and Vulcan. Soval, to Forrest’s surprise, also doesn’t know the High Command’s final decision. However, the ambassador urges the admiral not to get his hopes up. Vulcans are concerned at how complicated and fast-moving humans have been. Vulcans took a millennium-and-a-half to go from savage and warlike to peaceful explorers. It only took humans a century. Humans are a provocatively dangerous mix of Andorian arrogance, Tellarite stubbornness, Klingon emotionalism, and Vulcan logic.

And then a bomb goes off. Forrest is killed protecting Soval.

Enterprise is summoned to Vulcan to investigate, since the embassy is Earth soil, and therefore in Starfleet’s jurisdiction. Archer and T’Pol meet with the battered and bruised Soval, as well as the head of High Command, V’Las, and an investigator, Stel. Stel says there are two suspects: the Andorians and the Syrrannites. The latter are a sect of Vulcans who believe in a radical version of Surak’s teachings.

Reed and Mayweather comb the wreckage. (Why the alpha-shift pilot aids Reed when there’s an entire security staff on board is left as an exercise for the viewer.) They’re able to download some security footage, and they also find an explosive device that didn’t go off for some reason. Reed is able to scan it for a bit before it arms, and they’re beamed out before it explodes.

Reed’s scan picked up Vulcan DNA on the explosive, and Phlox’s examination reveals that it belongs to a woman named T’Pau. She’s a Syrrannite. At this point, the Vulcans take over the investigation, Stel saying that if they find anything of interest to Earth, they’ll let Soval know.

Archer stands in the cargo bay with all the coffins containing the human victims of the bombing. Soval joins him, crediting Forrest with saving his life, and also informing Archer that there is no reason for the Syrrannites to bomb the embassy. He urges Archer to continue investigating on his own, to not trust the High Command, and he also promises support from his office in this.

Koss comes on board and gives T’Pol a gift from her mother, who has gone missing. It’s an IDIC pin; T’Les told Koss that it’s an old family heirloom and it’s now time for T’Pol to take care of it. Koss also reveals that T’Les is a Syrrannite…

T’Pol goes to Archer immediately. The pin isn’t an heirloom—she’s never seen it before. But it also has a holographic map inside of the Forge, a brutal desert. The path on the map is the same one that Surak supposedly walked two millennia previous.

The Forge itself is full of electrical sandstorms, and the region is one that sensors and communications can’t penetrate. Nonetheless, Archer and T’Pol beam down, aided by Soval, who provides a guide to beaming down without Vulcan security detecting it.

On Archer’s instructions, Phlox checks the DNA on the bomb more thoroughly, which reveals that the DNA signature in question is from someone barely developed. It’s likely taken from the sample of T’Pau’s DNA taken shortly after birth. On top of that, the surveillance footage Reed and Mayweather retrieved showed that someone entered the embassy with a package but avoided having their face seen. However, that person’s face was seen by a corporal at the security desk—who survived the bomb, but who is in a coma and probably won’t live much longer. They can’t question him—but they can mind-scan him.

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Screenshot: CBS

Tucker pleads with Soval to find a Vulcan who is willing to do a mind-meld. Soval eventually agrees to do it himself, to everyone’s surprise. The person who planted the bomb turns out to be Stel. However, V’Las and Stel refuse to accept Soval’s evidence, coming as it does from a mind-meld. (Not that Stel is likely to admit to his guilt in any case…)

Archer and T’Pol trek across the Forge. They encounter a wild sehlat, and have to hide on a ridge—sehlats don’t climb, apparently—and then a Vulcan named Arev drives them off. Archer says he’s learning Vulcan ways from T’Pol. When Arev asked when he started this particular quest for knowledge, Archer actually tells something like the truth: Since he first met T’Pol. Arev is suspicious, but before he can act on those suspicions, a nasty sandstorm hits. They hide in a cave, and Arev sees the IDIC symbol, recognizing it at T’Les’.

At this point, Archer and T’Pol drop the act, especially since Arev knows exactly who they are—and respects them, particularly for what they did at P’Jem. He promises to lead them to where the Syrrannites are hiding. Archer, in turn, tells Arev about the accusations.

Arev also tells them that it is believed that the Syrrannites have found Surak’s katra and one of the Syrrannites is carrying that katra and that any who mind-meld with him will be able to meld with Surak. This will probably be important later.

Another sandstorm hits, and both T’Pol and Arev are injured—the latter fatally so. Arev briefly melds with Archer, saying “Remember” in Vulcan.

Archer and T’Pol continue to the sanctuary that Arev was leading them to. Archer is acting strangely, including thinking he doesn’t need water and having to be reminded by T’Pol that he’s not Vulcan. When they arrive, they’re surrounded by Vulcans, though Archer seemed to know they were coming.

To be continued… 

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Screenshot: CBS

The gazelle speech. Archer is mostly passive in this one, as things happen around him and, while he does take action, even in the Forge, T’Pol and Arev are doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s weird.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol has to remind Archer at one point that she is part of a species that evolved on Vulcan, so she’s way more suited to wander across the Forge than his human ass. One of the things she mentions is the nictitating membrane, or “inner eyelid,” something Spock needed the better part of a day to even remember he had…

Florida Man. Florida Man Talks Alien Into Mind-Probe!

Optimism, Captain! Phlox is apparently a basketball prodigy, able to make perfect nothin’-but-net shots while just standing there. In the game we see on Enterprise, he is constantly traded back and forth between teams. (He also compares it to a particular alien mating ritual, except humans leave their clothes on, which, he adds, is probably for the best.)

Ambassador Pointy. Soval is very obviously humbled by Forrest’s selfless gesture, and he rebels against the High Command from the minute they start accusing Andorians and Syrrannites of the bombing.

He also admits to being able to do mind-melds.

Good boy, Porthos! When Archer expresses disbelief that Vulcan children have sehlats as pets, T’Pol reminds Archer about Porthos. Archer’s riposte is that Porthos won’t eat him if he’s late with dinner, to which T’Pol replies that Vulcan children are never late with their sehlat’s dinner. (Well, at least not twice, anyhow…)

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… We learn of another disliked sect of Vulcans, but unlike the V’tosh ka’tur, the Syrrannites are on Vulcan and in hiding.

Blue meanies. Stel initially mentions the Andorians as suspects in the bombing, though Archer pokes holes in that notion pretty quickly, as humans have remained neutral in the Vulcan-Andorian conflict.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. T’Pol is hilariously disinterested in seeing Koss. When they do the two-finger-touch thing that Vulcan couples do, you can tell by Jolene Blalock’s body language that she’s only doing it by rote and breaks contact as fast as she possibly can.

More on this later… Arev’s dying mind-meld with Archer is similar to that done by Spock on McCoy before the former sacrificed his life in The Wrath of Khan, with Arev also saying, “Remember” before transferring his katra.

Surak dying on Mount Seleya explains why the Hall of Ancient Thought, where katras are deposited, will wind up, as seen in The Search for Spock.

T’Pau will be a major figure on Vulcan in the twenty-third century, as seen in “Amok Time,” known at that point as the only person to turn down a seat on the Federation Council.

I’ve got faith…

“You keep saying ‘supposedly.’ You don’t believe Surak did the things they said he did?”

“He brought logic to Vulcan, in an age we call the Time of Awakening. But his writings from that period no longer exist.”

“There must be some record of it.”

“Over the centuries, his followers made copies of his teachings.”

“Let me guess—with the originals lost, whatever’s left is open to interpretation.”

“You find this amusing?”

“I find it familiar.”

Archer and T’Pol discussing Surak. 

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Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Robert Foxworth plays V’Las; he last appeared as Admiral Leyton in DS9’s “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.” Larc Spies plays Stel, while the great character actor Michael Nouri plays Arev.

And we have three recurring regulars who were all last seen in “Home”: Vaughn Armstrong, making his final appearance as Forrest (though he will return as Forrest’s Mirror Universe counterpart in “In a Mirror, Darkly”), Gary Graham as Soval, and Michael Reilly Burke as Koss.

Foxworth and Graham will return next time in “Awakening.” Burke will be back in “Kir’Shara.”

Also, while Kara Zediker doesn’t make a credited appearance as T’Pau, her image is seen on Phlox’s viewscreen after the DNA scan. She’ll appear for realsies in “Awakening.”

Trivial matters: This starts Enterprise’s second three-parter in a row, as the story will continue next time in “Awakening” and conclude after that in “Kir’Shara.”

This is the first script by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who were hired as executive story editors in season four, and who got their start in the franchise writing Trek novels. Among their credits are the original series novels Memory Prime and Prime Directive, the first original series/TNG crossover novel Federation, the DS9 trilogy Millennium, and collaborating with William Shatner on all ten of his Kirk-focused novels. This is the second time someone has been hired to the writing staff after penning Trek fiction, the first being Melinda M. Snodgrass, who parlayed writing the original series novel Tears of the Singers into being in the writers room for TNG’s second and third seasons. The next will be Kirsten Beyer, author of eleven novels, and a producer on Picard (which she also co-created), Strange New Worlds, and Discovery.

The titular Forge was first seen in the animated episode “Yesteryear,” as the desert Vulcan youths go across as part of the kahs-wan ritual. It was mentioned as a potential honeymoon spot by Worf to Dax in DS9’s “Change of Heart,” and will later be seen in both Spock’s and Burnham’s memories in Discovery’s “If Memory Serves.”

Surak was established as the person who brought Vulcans on the path to logic after their violent history in the original series’ “The Savage Curtain.”

Sehlats were established in the original series’ “Journey to Babel,” where it was also established that Spock had one as a pet as a child. That pet, I-Chaya, was later seen (and killed) in “Yesteryear.” We learn in this episode that T’Pol—despite her previously stated disdain and confusion regarding Archer having Porthos—also had a pet sehlat as a child. This is the first appearance of a feral sehlat.

Koss and T’Pol touch their first two fingers to each other upon greeting, which was established as the method by which spouses greet each other on Vulcan in “Journey to Babel.”

The IDIC symbol was established in the original series’ “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Vulcan’s “inner eyelid” was established in the original series’ “Operation: Annihilate!”

The test questions Arev asks Archer are both from the quizzes that Spock was taking as memory aids at the beginning of The Voyage Home. Arev later congratulates Archer and T’Pol on their exposure of the misuse of the P’Jem monastery in “The Andorian Incident.”

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Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “Are Vulcans afraid of humans?” The episode starts with yet another non-teasing teaser, as some random Vulcan dude walking through a cave to uncover a statue does absolutely nothing to make me care about what happens next. They’d have been much better off having Forrest and Soval’s meeting be the teaser and ending it with the explosion.

Forrest’s death is a total shock—this isn’t the kind of character who’s killed in his fourteenth appearance—which makes it extremely effective, and ups the stakes. It also helps continue the sea-change in Soval, who has gone from obdurate bureaucrat in “Broken Bow” to rebellious ally here. Gary Graham’s performance has also improved in concert with the character’s.

The obvious purpose of this trilogy was to address some issues with how Vulcans had been portrayed, some of which weren’t actually issues at all. But that’s not really part of this particular episode, which is a taut thriller that sets everything up beautifully. And it’s clear that the whole nonsense about mind-melds being forbidden and verboten is at least being dealt with.

Casting Robert Foxworth as your politician bad guy is never a bad choice, though it points to V’Las being dodgy from the moment he walks into the door. Alas, casting Larc Spies is less effective, as he makes the mistake far too many Vulcan actors make, mistaking emotional control for emotionlessness. Luckily, he won’t be returning for Parts 2 or 3. Neither will Michael Nouri, which is more of a disappointment, as he brings a certain gravitas to Arev.

Jolene Blalock is particularly good in this one, from her utter indifference to Koss to her subdued passion in wanting to search for her mother to her having to hold Archer’s metaphorical hand pretty much the entire time they’re in the Forge. Really, Archer’s the biggest problem here, as there’s no reason, none, why he should be coming along, except He’s The Hero and that’s what The Hero does. Snore. T’Pol should’ve taken the trip alone. Meantime, as I said above in the captain’s section, he’s entirely passive in this one, until the very end, anyhow. And that’s not so much Archer as who else is running around his cranium…

Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that there’s not much time left in the “Picking Up Steam!” crowdfund from eSpec Books, which is funding three steampunk anthologies and one steampunk short story collection. The former includes A Cry of Hounds, stories inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and which will have a Professor Challenger story by Keith; the latter is by Keith’s erstwhile collaborator on the ”18th Race” trilogy, the late great David Sherman. Check it out!


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