(written from a Production point of view)
T'Pol tells Archer and Tucker a story about her great-grandmother and two other Vulcans, who crash landed in a small Pennsylvania town in the year 1957.
Jonathan Archer, Trip Tucker, and T'Pol are informally celebrating T'Pol's official one-year anniversary on board the Enterprise. Despite T'Pol insisting that she is only carrying out her duties and that a toast or a celebration are not needed, Archer tells her that it is indeed a special occasion considering that the previous record for a Vulcan serving on a Human ship was just two weeks. T'Pol corrects him, stating it was only ten days. Archer goes on to tell her that he has been filling out her annual crew evaluation. He points out that in her record he noted that while she was stationed in Sausalito, she took a five-day leave to visit an old mining town in Pennsylvania called Carbon Creek. T'Pol tells him that she went there for personal reasons. Both Archer and Tucker wonder what kind of personal business T'Pol could possibly have in Pennsylvania. She tells them that she went to Carbon Creek because she wanted to visit the site of First Contact between Humans and Vulcans. This comes to quite a surprise to Archer and Tucker, who both insist that first contact took place in Montana in 2063, over a century later.
Encouraged by her dinner companions, T'Pol begins the story of the first Vulcan-Human contact that took place in 1957 in Carbon Creek: A Vulcan survey ship is performing a survey from Earth orbit after the recent Sputnik I launch by Humans. Unfortunately, after three weeks of surveying, they experience impulse manifold problems and are forced into an emergency crash landing on Earth, or more precisely, near the small town of Carbon Creek in Pennsylvania. Their captain dies in the crash, leaving T'Mir (T'Pol's second foremother, which she explains is her mother's mother's mother) in command of the two other surviving Vulcans, Mestral and Stron. Their subspace transceiver is damaged in the crash and so they have no way of knowing if their distress signal has even been transmitted. To make matters worse, their emergency rations are used up within a week. After five days without food, their situation grows so desperate they decide to investigate all their options and pay a visit to the town nearby. Mestral and T'Mir disguise themselves by stealing clothes from a backyard clothesline and agree to limit their interaction with Humans as much as possible so as to not contaminate their culture.
They wander around town, somewhat confused as to all the things they observe, until they find a restaurant and bar where they learn they can acquire food. As soon as they enter, though, they draw looks from many there.
They have no currency to pay for the food, but this problem is resolved when Mestral decides to accept a challenged wager, from Billy, on a game of pool. If Billy wins, T'Mir must have a drink with him; if Mestral wins, he wins a quarter per ball. T'Mir protests, but Mestral assures her that this is simply a game based on geometry, and wouldn't even present a challenge to a Vulcan child. Finally, T'Mir relents. After a rough beginning to the game, Mestral rallies back to win.
While T'Pol is telling her story, a much-amused Tucker can't help but question it. He states that two Vulcans thrown into a bar, hustling for a game of pool, and then walking out with an armload of TV dinners seems more like an old episode of The Twilight Zone. While he and Archer have a good laugh over this, T'Pol continues with her story.
The three Vulcans, realizing that they cannot go on relying on gambling, begin taking whatever employment they can find while they wait for a rescue vessel to arrive. However, as the weeks pass, it seems less likely that their distress call had been received. Coming to terms with their situation, the three build a life for themselves. T'Mir takes a job at the bar that they visited earlier, which is run by a woman named Maggie. Stron has taken on a job as a plumber, using Vulcan technology when no one else is looking. Mestral takes a job in the local coal mine where Billy works, becomes very interested in and fond of Human culture and technology, and makes new friends. He even becomes romantically interested in Maggie, much to the dismay of T'Mir, who refuses to engage in a more meaningful relationship with Humans. Stron, on the other hand, is very unhappy about his situation, complaining about the trivial nonsense of Humans he is exposed to every day, such as being compared to one of the three Stooges; as a warp field engineer, he finds the situation intolerable.
T'Mir states that if they remain there they will die, because Earth seems to be on the brink of self-annihilation. Mestral, however, doesn't believe her, saying that if she spent a little more time observing Human behavior she might not have such a pessimistic view of them. He states that, despite their weaknesses, Humans possess great potential, such as empathy and compassion. Furthermore, he becomes more reluctant to take orders from T'Mir, leaving the house in broad daylight to get a waveform discriminator from the ship to enhance the television antenna.
T'Mir follows him at a distance to find him waiting for Maggie picking him up in an automobile.
Mestral returns with Maggie, having been at a baseball game. Sitting in the car, they talk for a bit. Maggie is curious about Mestral's hat he always wears, but apologizes when it seems to be a sore topic. Mestral asks about Maggie's husband, but it turns out he left her. Mestral, not picking up the clue that the conversation is over, sits for awhile and Maggie misinterprets it to invite a kiss. It surprises Mestral, but he assures her it was very pleasant. He does leave when Maggie notices T'Mir staring at a distance.
He explains where he was to T'Mir, and she confronts him. She even orders him to not see Maggie again, but he states that it was about time they realized that their mission is over and that no one will come to their rescue. T'Mir is slightly struck by this and, even if T'Mir is not willing to make deeper contact with the Humans, her opinion changes when she has a conversation with Maggie's son, Jack, who shows interest in meditation and astronomy and has a desire to learn. Jack is one of the few Humans T'Mir doesn't find repulsive and crude.
Later, when an accident in the coal mine traps twenty people, Mestral wants to use a particle weapon to free the trapped men. Stron and T'Mir are both reluctant to help save the miners because they fear being exposed. After an argument, Mestral states that they are his friends and he intends to help them. He warns them not to stop him.
T'Mir eventually decides to help Mestral. While he returns to the mine, T'Mir guides him to an unoccupied area. Crawling through an abandoned shaft, he eventually gets to a small blocking of rock and blasts through it, saving the miners and becoming a hero. They were successful in hiding any evidence of their technology.
Three months later, the Vulcan survey ship D'Vahl finally contacts them, saying their distress call made it to Vulcan through a Tellarite freighter. The three are taken by surprise at this new development, yet know that the time has come to finally say goodbye. When T'Mir says goodbye to Jack, he tells her that he cannot go to college after all, because he and Maggie can't afford the tuition. T'Mir decides to salvage the crashed Vulcan ship and finds a large patch of Velcro, something advanced and yet benign to Human technology, and sells it to Big Creek Manufacturing and Sales Co. in downtown Pittsburgh in order to be able to anonymously help out Jack with his college tuition.
Mestral, however, has decided that he doesn't want to return to Vulcan, not wanting to let the chance slip by to study an emerging species at the verge of countless social and technological advancements. T'Mir at first protests, but soon accepts (and respects) Mestral's decisions, telling Captain Tellus of the D'Vahl that Mestral had died in the crash together with the captain and that their bodies were cremated.
Back on the Enterprise in the present, Archer and Tucker are speechless at what they are hearing, for this new information shakes to the core their long-held beliefs about first contact with Vulcans. T'Pol says that the event is very well documented in the Vulcan archives, but maintains the ambiguity by saying that she just told them "a story" like they had asked her to. They laugh this off.
Later in her quarters however, T'Pol takes out and unwraps what is revealed to be T'Mir's now 195-year-old purse, holding it up in reminiscence of her great-grandmother's story and time on Earth.
"Every school kid knows that Zefram Cochrane met the Vulcans in Bozeman, Montana on April 5th, 2063. I've been there. There's a statue."
- - Tucker, after T'Pol tells him and Archer that First Contact with Vulcans actually happened in Carbon Creek in 1957
"T'Mir was your great-grandmother? I'd be the last person to question your math, but… aren't you missing a few generations? Sputnik was two hundred years ago."
"Don't forget how long Vulcans live."
"Rig-ght… (Tucker turns to face T'Pol) Just how old are you? (he turns to face Archer) It's gotta be in her record…"
"Trip – that's classified information."
- - Tucker and Archer, discussing T'Pol's age
"Some type of combat, no doubt."
"I believe it may be an entertainment."
- - T'Mir and Mestral, observing a group of Humans listening to a baseball game on the radio
"Yes. The paper appears to have value."
"What can I get you?"
"Do you have anything that doesn't require currency?"
- - T'Mir and Mestral, upon first contact with a Human, Maggie
"You folks married?"
"No, we're… business associates."
- - Maggie asks T'Mir about her and Mestral
"The game is based on simple geometry. It wouldn't challenge a Vulcan child."
- - Mestral, describing the game of pool after observing it
"Cryogenics… do you suppose they've experimented with protein replicators?"
"Why didn't you ask the merchant? You seemed eager to engage everybody else in conversation."
- - Mestral's thoughts on frozen dinners receive an acid response from T'Mir
"Two Vulcans stroll into a bar, hustle a few games of pool and walk out with an armload of TV dinners. Sounds like an old episode of The Twilight Zone!"
- - Tucker
"I'd hate to see Humanity destroy itself."
"That makes two of us."
- - Mestral and Maggie, after watching the testing of nuclear weapons in White Sands, New Mexico on TV
"Please, I – I was simply surprised. It was – very pleasant."
"Wasn't that an appropriate response?"
"Well, it's been a while since I kissed a man but still I was hoping it'd be a little bit more than "pleasant"."
"I did say very pleasant."
- - Maggie and Mestral, after she impulsively kisses him
"You sit for hours each day in front of this idiotic device…"
"I'm doing research."
- - T'Mir and Mestral, on TV
"I need to go now. I Love Lucy is on tonight. "
- - Mestral
"It's unfortunate that you'll be leaving these people without experiencing one thing they have to offer."
"Such as? Alcohol? Frozen fishsticks? The constant threat of nuclear annihilation?"
- - Mestral and Stron
"They revel in violence. They devote what little technology they have to devising ways of killing each other."
- - T'Mir, and her pessimistic opinion of the Human race
"Do you realize you've just rewritten our history books?!"
"A footnote, at best."
"Footnote!? This is like discovering that Neil Armstrong wasn't the first man to walk on the moon!"
"Perhaps he wasn't." (Tucker groans.)
- - Tucker and T'Pol, regarding the importance of the story
Story, script, cast, and production
- This episode was shot before "Shockwave, Part II", though aired after.
- In reality, Velcro was invented by George de Mestral. This is where the character of Mestral got his name. (citation needed • edit) Also, De Mestral's Velcro patent was granted in 1955, two years before Sputnik and the events depicted in this episode.
- As evidenced by the episode's script, this installment had the working title "Population: 612". The final draft of the teleplay was issued on 18 September 2002.
- This is the 14th consecutive episode to carry either a teleplay or story credit for Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, ending a run that began with "Shadows of P'Jem" the previous season. As of 2020, this remains the record for most consecutive Trek episodes credited in some way to the same writers.
- Although credited, Dominic Keating (Lt. Malcolm Reed), John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox), Anthony Montgomery (Ensign Travis Mayweather), and Linda Park (Ensign Hoshi Sato) do not appear in this episode. This is the first episode of the series in which Keating, Montgomery, and Park do not appear.
- The Season 2 blooper reel includes an alternate take of the final dinner table scene (after the conclusion of T'Pol's story), which the actors performed as if the characters were inebriated, including Jolene Blalock as T'Pol. The take broke down when Tucker actor Connor Trinneer began laughing. (citation needed • edit)
- In this episode, the television program I Love Lucy is mentioned by one of the Vulcan characters. In reality, Star Trek: The Original Series was a Desilu production, filmed at that studio, which was owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the stars of I Love Lucy a decade before.
- The Twilight Zone is also mentioned by Tucker. During the 2002-2003 season, the revived version The Twilight Zone aired immediately after Enterprise on UPN. Ira Steven Behr was an executive producer of this incarnation of the series.
- Scenes of the town were filmed in Crestline, California.  
- This episode bears some similarities to VOY: "11:59". In both episodes, a main character tells a story to other main characters about an ancestor of theirs on 20th century Earth. In both cases, much of the episode is set on Earth of the past, centered around the main character's ancestor (who is played by the same actress).
- Tucker mentions the statue of Zefram Cochrane, as described in Star Trek: First Contact.
- This episode takes place on the first anniversary of T'Pol's assignment to Enterprise. It is also revealed that the previous record for a Vulcan serving on an Earth starship was ten days.
- This episode has one of the few on-screen depictions of a Vulcan drinking alcohol.
- Mestral is also seen eating a pretzel with his hand, which was noted as a contradiction of statements made by T'Pol in "Broken Bow", regarding Vulcans not touching food with their hands (hereafter, T'Pol herself was seen on occasion breaking the apparent taboo, as well). Taboo aside, Mestral may have simply been trying to act "Human," so as to remain relatively inconspicuous.
- Although it has been established that Vulcans are apparently not supposed to tell lies, Mestral lies to T'Mir about his "date" with Maggie. Also, towards the end of the episode, T'Mir tells the Vulcan rescue team that Mestral died as well and his remains were cremated, when in fact, he had chosen to remain on the planet. However, before the Kir'Shara was discovered (as is depicted in the fourth season outing "Kir'Shara"), it was not against Vulcan culture to lie. Furthermore, some Vulcans were known to engage in deception afterwards, such as Valeris' involvement with the Khitomer conspiracy or Tuvok when infiltrating Chakotay's Maquis crew.
- Mestral's Vulcan claim that the Human game of pool is a simple exercise in geometry echoes what Tuvok says to Tom Paris in VOY: "Jetrel".
- Despite Tucker's shock at the revelation that extraterrestrials had visited Earth more than a century before the official First Contact, extraterrestrials had visited Earth even further back than that. TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?", TOS: "Plato's Stepchildren", TAS: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth", and VOY: "Tattoo" established the respective visits of the Greek gods, the Platonians, Kukulkan, and the Sky Spirits to Earth in the distant past. Q, a Q, visiting at various times during the 17th, 19th, and 20 centuries, as revealed in VOY: "Death Wish", Guinan, an El-Aurian, was living in San Francisco, as well as two Devidian visitors, in 1893, as established in TNG: "Time's Arrow" and "Time's Arrow, Part II", while ENT: "North Star" and VOY: "The 37's" established that hundreds of Humans were abducted from Earth by the Skagarans in the 1860s and again by the Briori in 1937.
- Archer suggests Mestral could have lived on Earth for 100-150 years. Given that length of time, it's possible he could have lived long enough to see the official First Contact between Humans and Vulcans in 2063, had he survived the decimation of the population of Earth in World War III as referenced in Star Trek: First Contact.
- This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form".
Links and references
- Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
- Jolene Blalock as Sub-Commander T'Pol and T'Mir
- Connor Trinneer as Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III
- Ann Cusack as Maggie
- J. Paul Boehmer as Mestral
- Hank Harris as Jack
- Michael Krawic as Stron
- David Selburg as the Vulcan captain
- Doug Wax as a train passenger
- Unknown actors as
1978; actor; alcohol; aliens; apple; Armstrong, Neil; annual crew evaluation; astronomy; atomic bomb; baking powder; baseball; bean; beef roast; Big Creek Manufacturing and Sales Co.; blinds; Bozeman; Buddhist monks; business associate; candy machine; Carbon Creek; Carlsbad Caverns; chewing gum; Chevrolet Fleetline De Luxe; Chrysler 300 C; Chrysler Imperial; Clabber Girl; classified information; clothesline; Cochrane, Zefram; college board; comic; contamination; county; crash landing; Crazy Arms;cremation; Crest Forest Fire District; crew evaluation; Crosley; cryogenics; day; decaying orbit; deer; De Soto Custom; distress call; Dix; Dodge Half-Ton Pickup Truck; doubleheader; Doylestown; D'Vahl; D'Vahl-type; Earth; egg; Ellis; emergency rations; episode; fakirs; First Contact; fishsticks; Fladung Bottling Works; footnote; Ford Super De Luxe Fordor Sedan; Ford V8 Tudor; Garrett; Garrett (the son); Gavin; generation; Gently Falls; geology; geometry; green beans; GM Suburban; handkerchief; heart; high orbit; Hudson Super Six; I Love Lucy; impulse manifold; India; International Harvester L-Series; Johnnies Market; ketchup; kilometer; logic; loitering; Madeline's Cafe; Maggie's husband; Mars; mate; mechanical engineering; meditation; Mercury Custom; meter; miners; Moe; Montana; movie; mustard; napkin; napkin holder; neon sign; New Mexico; no loitering sign; nuclear device; Nyals family remedies; particle weapon; Pennsylvania; Pepsi-Cola; Phoenix; Pine Tree; Pittsburgh; Plymouth Belvedere; Plymouth Cranbrook; pool; President of the United States; patty melt; Pontiac Chieftain; pork; protein replicator; pretzel; purse; quartz; radio; rescue vessel; satellite; sauerkraut; Sausalito; scouring powder; soda machine; Space Council; Sputnik I; statistical scan; State Highway 138; Studebaker Champion; Studebaker Commander; Studebaker Half-Ton Pickup Truck; subspace transceiver; sweeping; T'Les; Tellarite freighter; Tellarite; Tellus; television; Thompson; survey ship; Three Stooges, The; Tibet; Tim; tip; tip jar; toast; train; tuition; TV dinner; Twilight Zone, The; typewriter; undertaker; vacuum cleaner; Velcro; vinegar; Virginia; Vulcan; Vulcan; Vulcan High Command; Vulcan-Human history; Vulcan crewmember on Human ship (previous record holder); Vulcan particle weapon; Vulcan Science Directorate; Vulcan survey ship (ship); warp field engineer; waveform discriminator; Wedgewood; White Sands; Wilcox; willpower; window box; Yellowstone Park; Zefram Cochrane's statue
- "Carbon Creek" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Carbon Creek" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Carbon Creek" at Wikipedia
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