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 ten days. He 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. Tucker wonders what kind of personal business T'Pol could possibly have in Pennsylvania. She tells him that she went to Carbon Creek because she wanted to visit the site of first contact between Humans and Vulcans, which in fact did not take place in Montana in 2063, as many believe, but over a century before.
T'Pol begins the story of the first Vulcan-Human first contact that took place in 1957 in Carbon Creek: A Vulcan survey ship is performing a survey from 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) in command of the two other surviving Vulcans. 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. They disguise themselves by stealing clothes from someone's backyard and decide to limit their interaction to Humans as much as possible so as to not contaminate their culture.
They wander around town, somewhat confused as to all the things they are seeing, until they find a restaurant and bar where they learn they can acquire food. One of the Vulcans, Mestral, decides to play a game of pool in order to provide his crewmates with local currencies so they can purchase food.
While T'Pol is telling her story, a much-amused Tucker can't help but question her story. He states that two Vulcans thrown into a bar, hustling for a game of pool, and then walking out with an arm-load 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 has been received. Coming to terms with their situation, the three build a life for themselves. Mestral, in particular, becomes very interested in and fond of Human culture and makes new friends. He even becomes romantically interested in a Human female, Maggie, much to the dismay of T'Mir, who refuses to engage in a more meaningful relationship with Humans. Stron, who has taken on a job as a plumber, on the other hand, is very unhappy about his situation, complaining about the trivial nonsense of Humans he is exposed to everyday, such as being compared to one of the three Stooges; being 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 posses great potential, such as empathy and compassion. Furthermore, he becomes more reluctant to take orders from T'Mir, stating that it was about time they realized that their mission is over and that no one will come to their rescue.
Even if T'Mir is not willing to make deeper contact with the Humans, her opinion changes slightly when she has a conversation with a boy named Jack, who shows interest in meditation and astronomy and has a desire to learn. As a matter of fact, he is one of the few Humans T'Mir doesn't find repulsive and crude.
When a later accident in the coal mine traps twenty people, Mestral wants to use a particle weapon to free the trapped men. T'Mir, who is initially reluctant to let him save the miners because she doesn't want to be exposed, eventually ends up helping Mestral free his friends.
Three months later, a Vulcan survey ship 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. As a parting gift for Jack who tells her that he cannot go to college after all because he cannot afford the tuition, T'Mir decides to sell the Velcro found on board the crashed Vulcan ship at a patent office in order to be able to help out Jack with his college tuition.
Mestral, however, decides that he doesn't want to go back to Vulcan, as he doesn't want to let the chance slip by to study an emerging species at the verge of countless social and technological advancements. T'Mir, who has come to gain an understanding for what Mestral is saying, especially with regards to his views on Humans, tells Captain Tellus from the Vulcan ship that Mestral has died in the crash together with the captain.
Back on the Enterprise and in the present, Archer and Tucker are speechless at what they are hearing, for this new information shakes their long-held beliefs about first contact with Vulcans to the core. 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.
Later in her quarters, T'Pol takes out an old, vintage purse, holding it up in reminiscence of her great-grandmother's story and time on Earth.
"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 200 years ago."
"Don't forget how long Vulcans live."
"Rig-ght...(Trip 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
"One of those creatures could sustain us for some time."
"Are you suggesting we eat it?"
"It's logical to take extreme measures in order to survive."
"Even resorting to savagery?"
"That may not be neccesary - our scans showed a settlement approximately six kilometers away."
"If we're exposed, we could contaminate their culture."
"And when they find our bodies after we starve, will that contaminate their culture?"
"Better to leave them with a mystery than with three living aliens."
"It's too dangerous."
"I'm willing to take the risk."
- - Mestral, Stron and T'Mir, arguing about how to survive
"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
"The game is based on simple geometry. It wouldn't challenge a Vulcan child."
- - Mestral, describing a pool game
"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
"This is the third time this week I've had to fix Mrs Garrett's sink."
"Perhaps she enjoys your company."
"It might be tolerable if her son didn't insist on calling me "Moe"."
"Why does he do that?"
"There is a comic actor known as a 'Stooge' who shares that name. The boy believes we have similar hair."
"There is a resemblance."
- - Stron complaining to Mestral
"You sit for hours each day in front of this idiotic device..."
"I'm doing research."
- - T'Mir and Mestral
"It's a shame you'll be leaving this world without experiencing some of the things it has to offer."
"Such as? Alcohol? Frozen fish sticks? The constant threat of nuclear annihilation?"
- - Mestral and Stron
"They revel in violence. They devote what little technology they have to finding new ways of killing each other."
- - T'Mir, and her pessimistic opinion of the Human race
"There's been an accident in the mine. At least 20 men are trapped - it could take the humans days to free them."
"We can't interfere."
"They'll die...(The silence of his comrades is as infuriating as anything they might have said) You'd let them suffocate, even if we could prevent it."
"What if they see the weapon?"
"We'll be certain they don't."
"At best, these humans only live to be 60 or 70 - is it worth the risk just to extend their lives a few more years?"
"We can't contaminate their culture."
"This has nothing to do with contamination...it has to do with compassion."
"Compassion...is an emotion."
"They're my friends, and I'm going to help them - don't try to stop me."
- - Mestral, T'Mir, and Stron, after the mine collapses
"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 and production
- This episode was shot before "Shockwave, Part II", though aired after.
- 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).
- In reality, Velcro was invented by George de Mestral. This is where Mestral got his name.
- 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 T'Pol. The take breaks down when Trinneer begins laughing.
- New, lighter blue-colored Starfleet jumpsuits were produced for the second season, but not seen until this episode. At first worn by only the regular cast members, the new uniform color eventually became more widely used as the season continued.
- Although credited, Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), and Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) do not appear in this episode.
- J. Paul Boehmer previously played Vornar in DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind", an unnamed Kapitän in VOY: "The Killing Game", and One in VOY: "Drone". He went on to play a Nazi SS officer in ENT: "Storm Front".
- 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 not supposed to tell lies, towards the end of the episode T'Mir says that Mestral died as well and his remains were cremated when in fact he chose to remain on the planet. However, before the Kir'Shara was discovered, it was not against Vulcan culture to lie.
- 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".
- 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 Subcommander 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 performers as
alcohol; aliens; Armstrong, Neil; annual crew evaluation; astronomy; atomic bomb; baseball; Big Creek Manufacturing and Sales Co.; Bozeman; Buddhist monks; Carbon Creek; Carlsbad Caverns; Cochrane, Zefram; cryogenics; deer; distress call; Doylestown; D'Vahl; D'Vahl type; emergency rations; fakirs; first contact; fish sticks; Garrett, Mrs.; Gavin; geology; geometry; India; I Love Lucy; Mars; mechanical engineering; Moe; Montana; movie; nuclear device; particle weapon; Pennsylvania; Phoenix; Pine Tree; Pittsburgh; pool; President of the United States; protein replicator; pretzel; quartz; satellite; Sausalito; Sputnik I; subspace transceiver; Tellarite freighter; Tellarite; Tellus; television; Three Stooges, The; Tibet; Tim; TV dinner; Twilight Zone, The; warp field engineer; waveform discriminator; White Sands; Velcro; Vulcan; Vulcan High Command; Vulcan Science Directorate; Vulcan Space Council; Vulcan survey vessel; Vulcans; warp field engineer; Yellowstone Park
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