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4-13 United

reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley

Oh dear, this was a most excellent episode and since it was the first to air after the cancellation announcement it hurts all the more. With this quality going on and the show gets axed I'm at a loss to figure out what goes through the minds of Paramount. How can you kill a show that's gotten this good? It's frellin' unbelievable. Bastards!

In most cases middle episodes in story arcs aren't as good as the first and last instalments but this was an exception. Although Babel One was great too, this one is slightly better so I give it a 10 on my 10-grading scale. It was just awesome! Fast paced, action-packed and good character moments. Even the others besides the Big Three got something to do. God, I'm going to miss this show!

I really liked the harbinger of the Federation feel this aptly named episode had - United. All the talk about an "alliance" gave me a really warm feeling inside. Watching the combined Vulcan-Andorian-Tellarite ships in action was so cool. And now we won't see the ultimate culmination to this with the founding of the Federation. Bummer!

The Romulan strategy really backfired here. Instead of splitting the other worlds apart they've drawn them together. Makes one wonder why Admiral Valdore is revered in the future? Maybe he gets to be a big hero in the Earth/Romulan War? At any rate Brian Thompson, who I normally like, was miscast here. He's too buff to play a Romulan. He'd make a good Klingon or an Orion but not a sleek Romulan. Still, not all Romulans must have that same look! Even if I didn't like Nemesis much it was good to see the cameo appearance of those ugly Remans, for no other reason than continuity.

I'm a big fan of Shran and he absolutely rocked in this episode. He's come a long way since The Andorian Incident and his admission of friendship with Archer sent small shivers through me. What happened to the "that's one more you owe me, pink-skin", hehe? Obviously friends don't owe each other anything. That's what friendships are about. And I got the feeling he held back when he was duelling with Archer just because of that. I can't see how he could've lost otherwise. It was a great duel too. It didn't drag on too long and Archer clipping one of his antennae was actually rather funny. "It takes nine months to grow back"! Their scene in the ready room contemplating their respective ships' history was also a nice nod.

But I was really saddened by the death of Talas. Even if the chemistry between her and Shran didn't feel as genuine as the one she had with Malcolm in Proving Ground, their parting words were very moving. I didn't think she'd die, since it was stated in the last episode that the wound was only superficial, so it did come as a shock. However, they had to give a plausible cause for Shran to initiate the duel I guess. One might think that the duel was unnecessary but it actually showed us that if Shran can come to terms with a Tellarite killing his lover and shake hands with tehm in the end (another great scene) then there's truly hope for the alliance to come. Still, I grieve for Talas's death and not just because she was hot, but because I really liked her character and would've wanted to see more of her. The revelations about her background, both in this episode and in Proving Ground would've made great stories in the future.

What didn't feel completely right was the too nonchalant way Archer approached the duel. He said as much as that he probably had to die for the alliance to have a chance and he just shrugged it off. He liked that he did it but the way it was portrayed felt a bit... odd - almost as if he's got a death wish. And I didn't get T'Pol's hero worship either. I never have when it comes to Archer. It feels forced and out of place, especially the way he's been treating her (and let's face it, a lot of the other crew members) in the past. Still, I didn't see much of either Super Archer or Obnoxious Archer in this episode and that's always a plus.

The thing that really saved this from Super Archerhood was the fact that it was actually Travis Mayweather of all people who saved his Captain's ass :eek:! How's that for irony? It was great seeing him and Hoshi trying to come up with a solution to the dilemma. If it hadn't been for those two normally underused characters Archer would be pushing up the daisies by now. I hope he had the sense to properly thank them afterwards. And Hoshi giving the Captain some martial arts instructions was fun. You go, Hoshi!

The Malcolm and Trip scenes onboard the Drone ship was great too. Those two really have chemistry together. This is a friendship one can truly believe in. It was evident as far back as Shuttlepod One and it's a bit sad we don't get to see them interact more. Reed saving Trip's life and then overloading his phase pistol was in character. I loved the line: "You're good at building things, I'm at blowing them up"! And Trip pulling Malcolm's leg at the end was one of the best moments in the episode.

The Drone ship had me a bit confused though. It was much smaller than I thought and its ability of self-repair was a bit over the top. I mean, Reed's exploding phase pistol made a huge hole in it but still it was able to carry on. They way it manoeuvred was exciting though.

I understand that the ending caught many viewers by surprise, just like the ending of Babel One, and that's how it should be. I can see that seeing the blind albino Andorian behind that helmet was a shocker. I knew about it beforehand, though. That's the price I have to pay for being a spoiler hound I guess. Still, it didn't take away my enjoyment of the episode.

The effects shots were outstanding. I especially liked when the Enterprise came over Malcolm and Trip in their EV suits and the parting shot when they zoomed out of the conference room porthole into space. Remind me why this show got cancelled? T'Pol said "One man can summon the future". Alas it's equally true that one man can squander the future. Yes, Les Moonves, I'm talking about you!

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