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When he is told of the death of an old rival, Archer reflects on his days in the NX test program.



Enterprise detects a nebula of what they believe to be dark matter. This would be the first time either Humans or Vulcans have seen such a large concentration of dark matter. Sub-commander T'Pol is skeptical, but Captain Archer wants to explore it. Although it is not visible at the moment, Archer recalls an experiment in which Vulcans excited dark matter using metreon particles, deciding to give it a try despite T'Pol's note that the experiment was on small dark matter concentrations.

Archer's excitement at discovering the nebula is dampened when Admiral Forrest contacts him and informs him that an old comrade, A.G. Robinson, had died in a mountaineering accident.

Act One

Archer and Trip Tucker enthusiastically talk preparations for the shuttlepod. After Tucker loads the six spatial charges to excite the dark matter with at 500 kilometers, the two briefly discuss Robinson and how he survived all the warp trials only to die in a random accident at Mount McKinley. Tucker offers to come along, but Archer would rather go alone. Before he can go, however, T'Pol enters and insists on accompanying him due to ship regulations prohibiting the captain from leaving the ship unaccompanied.

Shuttlepod traversing space

As they head to the first set of coordinates to launch the charges, T'Pol asks Archer about Robinson, having gotten the basic details from Tucker. Although Archer initially claims that he doesn't want to talk about it, he finally begins to tell her about him and how they were in the NX Project along with a couple of others and that they both wanted to be be the pilot of the first flight to break warp 2…

Commander Jonathan Archer meets with Commodore Forrest and proudly announces that he achieved a 92% efficiency in the warp reactor simulation. But he is disappointed when Forrest tells him that Robinson had been selected to pilot the NX-Alpha. Archer is clearly disappointed, but promises to fully support Robinson's flight. That night, he has a drink with Robinson and several other pilots at the 602 Club. Taking him aside, Robinson tells Archer that he did not get the assignment because he is too by-the-book and that Starfleet want someone with more than just piloting ability take command of the first starship.

T'Pol is confused, as she had thought Archer and Robinson were friends but it sounds like they were opposed to each other. Archer admits they were more rivals than anything at this point, but they both enjoyed the competition. T'Pol points out that Robinson was right, in that it takes more than piloting abilities to be a captain. Archer agrees, and T'Pol notes that he has developed the necessary skills. Archer is bemused that T'Pol just gave him what came close to a compliment, but tells her than the test flight didn't go as planned.

Jonathan Archer supervising the flight of the NX-Alpha in 2143

Two weeks later, however, Robinson easily breaks the warp 2 barrier, but problems arise. But when he ignores orders to drop to impulse, he accelerates further, reaching warp 2.2 at great risk. The warp field then collapses. The ship eventually slows down and the escape pod jettisons as the ship explodes. Archer can remember trying to contact him repeatedly.

Act Two

Particle density increases, meaning they should be entering the nebula. At this point, Archer and T'Pol launch two of the charges but fail to get a reaction. They decide to move deeper into the nebula, and T'Pol asks what happened next. Archer notes that Robinson did indeed survive and enter the history books as the first Human to deploy an escape pod at warp. However no-one was very happy as he almost derailed the Project. The Vulcan observers immediately claim that this proves that Humans are progressing in warp technology too quickly, and that the Program will have to be postponed and the warp engine built from scratch. Archer expresses outrage at the idea, and he is joined by (then Lieutenant) Tucker, working as an engineer in the Program. Both insist that the engine design is sound and is just undergoing some teething problems caused by the increased amounts of antimatter pumped into the engine. Robinson insists that risks will need to be taken if they want to make any progress, but Forrest puts an end to the discussion.

Later in the 602 Club, Archer and Tucker, talking for the first time, agree that it isn't the engine at fault, but rather the imbalance in the intermix ratio. However Forrest arrives with bad news… on the advice of the Vulcan Advisory Council, Starfleet Command has decided to put the NX Program on indefinite hold and wish to begin designing a new engine from scratch, a process that will likely take years, if not decades.

Later, after Forrest has left, Robinson arrives after his debriefing. Archer and Tucker ask him what he told Starfleet and the Vulcans and he tells them he told the truth, that the engine destabilized and the subspace field collapsed. This just adds to Archer's anger, since if Robinson had admitted the possibility of pilot error then Starfleet may not have taken the Vulcans recommendation to delay the Program indefinitely. Or, if Robinson had stopped the ship when ordered, they still would have had the ship and could have continued the Program by fine-tuning the engine. Robinson tells him that he had no intention of taking the blame and confronts Archer with his frequently blaming other factors for his father's warp engine design other than the design itself. Archer is incensed and the two get into a fistfight, which is shortly broken up.

Act Three

The shuttlepod's systems are affected by the dark matter, but T'Pol doesn’t think the power surge in the shuttlepod has been caused by dark matter. T'Pol is unsure if they should proceed, but Archer tells her that taking risks is part of their job, something Robinson taught him. He admits that the fight turned out to be the beginning of his friendship with AG, who may have been responsible for nearly derailing the program but was also partly responsible for getting it back on track.

Archer discovers Robinson in the locker room packing, and convinces him that if they could get the intermix right, the ship would achieve stable warp flight. The two apologize for their earlier words, with Archer admitting that he had problems being objective about the engine but knows that if they prove the findings they can stop the program being scrapped. Robinson points out that the Vulcans will need a lot more than just findings, and reminds Archer they still have the NX-Beta. Archer knows they'll never get clearance, but Robinson never said anything about getting clearance and reminds him that a good captain will need to take risks. Archer is reluctant, knowing this will likely lead to dismissal from Starfleet and possibly even prison, but agrees.

Archer and T'Pol are now 20,000 kilometers inside the nebula with a doubled particle density and fire the second round of charges which again fail, leaving them with only one more attempt to excite the dark matter. T'Pol notes there is no record of Starfleet pilots stealing the NX-Beta. Archer thinks T'Pol doesn't believe him, and she responds that the part of the story she has trouble believing is that he had to be convinced to take the risk. Archer tells her he was quite different back then, an officer who always followed the rules. T'Pol wants to hear what happened, and Archer agrees on the condition she doesn't enter it into the Vulcan database.

Archer and Robinson decide to launch at night, and Tucker quickly agrees to assist on the ground. Tucker notes how much he wishes he could go out there too, and Archer promises to have the engineer on his crew if he ever gets his own ship. Tucker disables the tracking sensors and creates false data to make it appear the NX-Beta will still be in its hangar. NX-Beta launches and it goes unobserved by people outside, but the three officers know it won't be long before New Berlin's sensors pick the ship up. Archer and Robinson are unconcerned, knowing they'll be too far away to be caught before then.

Indeed, New Berlin quickly detects the ship and Commodore Forest realizes what has happened almost immediately. The NX-Beta maintains a stable warp field, and Robinson allows Archer to pilot since he got to do it last time. The NX-Beta jumps to warp. Watching the intermix closely, they receive a communication from Forrest ordering them to return immediately, promising he'll do his best to see they avoid criminal charges if they do. The officers cut him off and, just as Forrest thinks things can't get any worse, two Vulcans enter, ruining any chance he had of keeping this incident from them.

NX-Beta reaches warp 2, but then starts to have the same engine problems that the NX-Alpha had.

Act Four

As Tucker and Forrest monitor from Earth, Robinson quickly brings it under control through the right intermix ratio and the ship holds steady at warp 2.5, a new record. Forrest congratulates them, and sternly orders them back to Earth.

Archer and Robinson are hauled to Forrest's office where he furiously reprimands them for their actions, telling them their actions were irresponsible, reckless, and verging on criminal. He immediately suspends them from duty and reminds them that they've undermined the program by making it seem like Starfleet can't keep its pilots under control. Archer and Robinson accept they're likely to be kicked out of Starfleet for this, but its a small sacrifice to keep the NX Program going. Every engineer on the staff believes the engines work, and Archer asks Forrest why they're waiting to explore the galaxy.

Archer tells T'Pol that he and Robinson managed to avoid a court martial, but were suspended for three months. However the NX Program continued, and for over a year the Vulcans ran every test they could on the engine before finally confirming the design worked. Eight months later, the NX-Delta broke the warp 3 barrier and five years later Enterprise was built.

The particle density of the dark matter has increased, so they decide to fire the last two charges. At first, nothing seems to happen… but then, a few seconds later, the nebula begins to appear. T'Pol admits this is going to cause a debate at the Vulcan Science Directorate, however Archer is enraptured at the beauty of what's happening, and he urges T'Pol to leave the sensors alone and just watch what is happening. He tells her that this sort of thing is why he and AG worked so hard and risked so much. T'Pol notes that Robinson obviously wanted to command Enterprise as much as Archer did. Archer tells her that while there were plenty of candidates, he and Robinson were the final two remaining. Six months before Enterprise's launch, Archer was selected to command the new starship.

Captain Robinson congratulates Captain Archer on getting the much-wanted assignment, joking that he'd rather wait for the NX-02 so that Archer can make all the mistakes first. He then leaves to get an early night as he has survival training the next day, but promises he'll see Archer 'out there'.

Archer is sad at the thought that Robinson never did make it into deep space, as he and T'Pol head back to the Enterprise. Docking, T'Pol reminds him of the Human custom that when someone makes a discovery of merit they have the right to name it. Archer suggests the T'Pol-Archer Nebula, but T'Pol believes the Robinson Nebula would be a more appropriate choice. Archer is touched by her thoughtfulness.

Memorable quotes

"All the close calls he had flying warp trials and he gets himself killed climbing Mount McKinley."

- Archer on A.G. Robinson's death

"There were just a few of us; Gardner, Duvall, A.G., and me. We all wanted the first flight."

- Archer reminiscing to T'Pol about the NX test program

"You remember what Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped onto the moon?"
"Nobody does. Because Armstrong went first."

- Archer and Ruby

"You mean that?"
"Of course not. I'm waiting for Forrest to realize what a horrible mistake he made."

- Robinson and Archer
"As Doctor Phlox would say: optimism."
"Optimism doesn't alter the laws of physics."
- Archer and T'Pol

"When the first warp five starship is built, its captain won't be able to call home every time he needs to make a decision. He won't be able to turn to the Vulcans. Unless he decides to take one with him."

- A.G. Robinson, to Archer

"Don't worry, you'll get out there some day. If I had my own ship, I'd sign you up in a second."
"I'm going to hold you to that!"

- Archer and Tucker

"We didn't build this engine to make test runs around Jupiter. We built it to explore! If my father were alive today, he'd be standing here asking: 'What the hell are we waiting for?' "

- Archer, to Commodore Forrest

Background information

A.G. Robinson actor Keith Carradine laughing with Director LeVar Burton, during the creation of this episode

Keith Carradine discussing, with Director of Photography Marvin V. Rush, a fight scene from this episode

Production timeline


  • The NX-Beta itself and its launch process on rails are both similar to the 1962-1963 British science fiction themed children's television show Fireball XL5 spacecraft and its launch process.
  • The NX hangar exterior was previously seen in the sci-fi series Seven Days as the "Never Never Land" facility. (citation needededit)


LeVar Burton with actors Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer as well as a trio of sailors from the USS Enterprise (CVN-65)



DVD releases

Links and references


Guest Stars


Special Guest Star


Uncredited Co-Stars

Stunt doubles


602 Club; Aldrin, Buzz; Alice Springs; Ariane 1; Archer, Henry; Armstrong, Neil; auxiliary power; background radiation; beer; blinds; bourbon; Bread Salad; Burger and Fries; Caroline; checklist; Chester; circuit breaker; consolation prize; court martial; Cyrus; dark matter nebula; debriefing; density; Duvall; Enterprise NX-01; EPS grid; escape pod; field gen overthruster; field impeller; flight surgeon; Fontana: forward field flow sensor; Gardner; GNDN; ground control (GC); history book; Holmes, Sherlock; hydraulic manifold; intermix controls; intermix ratio; International Space Station; Italy; Jefferies; Jupiter; Jupiter, moons of; kilometer; lanyard; last call; logic; Luna; Mount McKinley; midnight oil; mushrooms; namesake; New Berlin; NX-02; NX-Alpha; NX-Beta; NX-Delta; NX-class; NX-Control; NX Program; paragraph; phenomenon; pilot error; piloting ability; plasma conduit; pretzel; O'Herlihy; Potato Gratin; "powers that be, the"; pylon torsion regulator; quantum field; record book; rib; Robinson Nebula; Rosalie; Rosti a la 602; Sandwich de Jour; San Francisco; shuttlepod; skipper; software; spatial charge; Starfleet Mission Control; Starfleet Museum; Starfleet Research Center; Steamed Veggies; surge tank; test run; tracking sensor; trajectory operations officer (TOPO); Tucker I, Charles; Tucker II, Charles; Tycho Base; Vulcan; Vulcan Advisory Council; Vulcan database; Vulcan Science Directorate; warp 2 barrier; warp barrier; warp drive; warp five starship; warp ship; Zefram Cochrane Space Flight Center

Background references

Akers, Thomas; Anders, William; Anderson, Michael Phillip; Antarctica; Apollo; Apollo missions; Apollo program; Apollo spacecraft; Bean, Alan; Ariane 1; astronaut pin; Baker, Michael A.; Barry, Daniel T.; Belgium; Bluford, Guion; Borman, Frank; Brandenstein, David; McDowell Brown, David; Buchli, James; Canada; Canadian Space Agency; Casper, John; Cernan, Eugene; Chaffee, Roger B.; Chawla, Kalpana; Chilton, Kevin P.; Clark, Laurel; clipper ship; Coats, Michael; Conrad, Pete; Covey, Richard; Creighton, John Oliver; Cunningham, Walter; Denmark; Duke, Charles; eagle; Earth; Eisele, Donn F.; Endeavour (OV-105); Endeavour, HMS; Enterprise (XCV-330), USS; Evans, Ronald; European Space Agency; France; galaxy; Germany; Gidzenko, Yuri; Gordon, Richard F., Jr. Great Britain; Grissom, Gus; Hammond, L. Blaine ; Harbaugh, Gregory J.; Hauck, Frederick; Helms, Susan J.; Hieb, Richard; Hilmers, David C.; Husband, Richard Douglas; International Space Station; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Irwin, James; Jernigan, Tamara E.; Kerwin, Joseph P.; Krikalev, Sergei; Latin language; Lounge, John M.; Lovell, Jim; Luna; MacLean, Steven; maple; Mattingly, Ken; McCool, William Cameron; McDivitt, James; McMonagle, Donald R.; Melnick, Bruce E.; Mission Control Center; Mitchell, Edgar; Mullane, Mike; Nelson, George; Netherlands; North America; Ochoa, Ellen; Old Britain; olive branch; Onizuka, Ellison; Payette, Julie; Payton, Gary; Phoenix; Ramon, Ilan; Rominger, Kent; Roosa, Stuart; Runco, Mario, Jr.; Russia; Russian Space Agency; Saturn; Saturn V; Schirra, Wally; Schmitt, Harrison; Schweickart, Rusty; Scott, David; Shepard, Alan; Shepherd, William; Shriver, Loren; Skylab; South America; Soyuz; space shuttle orbiter; space shuttle missions; Spain; Stafford, Thomas P.; Sweden; Switzerland; Thornton, Kathryn C.; Thuot, Pierre J.; Tokarev, Valeri; United States of America; Veach, Charles L.; Weitz, Paul J.; Wetherbee, Jim; Higgins White, Edward; Worden, Alfred; Young, John

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