Star Trek: To the Farthest Stars S1 E01 “The Starship Enterprise,” 14/03/2015

The first episode would start in an office at Starbase Rainbow, where Ensign Quentin Nichols, freshly graduated from Starfleet Academy, reports to receive his first starship duty assignment. He can barely contain his enthusiasm when he learns that he’s been assigned to the Enterprise under such an exemplary captain as Sidarth Bajwa. The Galaxy-class starship is currently docked at Rainbow, and its crew is on shore leave, except for a skeletal crew doing repairs and maintenance.

The Starship Enterprise
Nichols reports to Engineering on the Enterprise, finding the engine room empty. He wanders around the displays and the warp core, in awe of its size and beauty. But he’s getting just as confused as he is happy to be here, because no one is in engineering.

“Hey! You’re not supposed to be here,” Nichols hears from off screen, and he turns, embarrassed, to face Chief Engineer Katy Zhang. She was sitting quietly at a wall display in an isolated upper corner of Engineering, absorbed in her own work. He awkwardly manages to stammer out that he’s the new transporter technician, reporting for duty since his section superior is the Chief Engineer.

This is the exposition scene for Nichols’ character, as he talks with Zhang about hearing of the exploits of the Enterprise and Captain Bajwa, which had become legendary at Starfleet Academy. He names a bunch of ridiculous-sounding adventures: the Barzan wormhole gambit, the wreck of the Stargazer, the Yeti of Tau Ceti. Zhang also starts quizzing him about engineering problems as they walk around the warp core. She’s impressed with his answers, but not too impressed. Finally, Nichols asks what Zhang is doing working on the ship herself during a shore leave. 

“My shore leave is being able to relax on my ship and get my maintenance work done without being bothered by everyone else who works in Engineering. My shore leave is not having to give anybody orders for a week. Welcome to the crew, Ensign Nichols. I’m glad to have you here, especially someone dedicated enough to his job to report for duty in the middle of vacation. Now, consider yourself dismissed until shore leave is over at the end of the week. Go get drunk. That’s where the rest of the crew is anyway.”

After some research into Star Trek's aliens, I've
concluded that Rhaandarites are the embodiment
of pure Alpha Quadrant disco.
I’d never be able to resist making Starbase Rainbow’s bar a hipper version of the Mos Eisley cantina scene: blue and red neon lights criss-crossing the ceilings, a band of Rhaandarites playing electro-clash on touchpad synths and theremins. Nichols is wandering through a huge crowd of people in Starfleet uniforms and casual clothes, knowing that most of these people are his new shipmates on the Enterprise. Finally he finds the bar and orders a drink, when a sexy young player wanders into the shot wearing an ostentatious suit including a Han Solo vest.

“Well, hello there!” he says with a curl on his lip. “Paul Diamond, pilot of the Enterprise. And who might you be?” There follows the most awkward pick-up conversation anyone can have, to the point where Diamond is getting exasperated. Finally, Alex Solomon appears from the crowd and explains that his friend is just trying to get laid. Nichols is embarrassed again, even more so than last time. But Diamond laughs it off. He welcomes the young Ensign to the crew, then walks into the crowd to start dirty dancing with a very hairy Tellarite woman in a non-regulation TOS-style miniskirt. 

Solomon slaps Nichols on the back and congratulates him, ordering two greenish-blue shots. “Whenever a new crewman can keep Diamond’s hands off him, he deserves a drink.”

Cut to a closeup of Captain Bajwa’s hands as he pours three small glasses of red wine. He’s in his ready room with his first officer, Cmdr. Erib P’Trell, and Starfleet Admiral Cooper. Passing the drinks around, Bajwa jokes with the Admiral about consuming synthahol on duty, “If we pretend this is real liquor, we might all end up pretending to be drunk on the job.”

The recurring character of Admiral Cooper I imagine
as a smolderingly intense Jon Hamm.
Admiral Cooper smirks, but knows that this is just how Bajwa deals with stress. And things are getting stressful: Romulan ships have been observed in the Turkana sector for the first time in 15 years. They suspect the Romulan government is trying to access a mysterious superweapon in that star system. “Just like before,” says Bajwa.

The star system’s government is stable now, at last. But things are still fragile. Cooper is concerned that Romulan operatives have begun infiltrating positions of power on that planet. The Enterprise, however, is weeks away, and Cooper confirms that P’Trell is right when she says there are plenty of Federation ships closer to the system to investigate. 

Admiral Cooper instead wants the Enterprise to track down Lovanek, the Romulan covert operative who helped arrange the first uprising on Turkana IV, which began the civil war that brought the Federation back to the planet. Bajwa accepts the mission, but it cracks his confident, sarcastic attitude, and he asks for a moment alone with his First Officer.

Admiral Cooper leaves Bajwa and P’Trell to have an intense conversation. P’Trell knows how ruthless Lovanek was, and that even though he’s old, he’ll be difficult to find. And he would never cooperate with Federation representatives. Bajwa knows Lovanek is especially hostile to him, because he spent years trying to have the Romulan prosecuted for war crimes. 

Ming Na brings a sense of gravity and professionalism
that I think would suit Chief Engineer Zhang.
Sardonic laughter escapes him when he tries to remember which Turkana peace treaty contained the clause granting amnesty to that long list of belligerents. P’Trell notes that the Turkana civil war included nine peace treaties over ten years, and wonders why we still honour peace treaties that couldn’t stop a war for longer than six months.

“Because the Federation is a government of laws,” says Captain Bajwa. But he looks down through his window at the surface of the planet as he contemplates all the casualties of that war. He and P’Trell both know that when they eventually find Lovanek, the old Romulan secret agent will only be the second-most dangerous person around.

We cut to the planet’s surface, where Lt. Cmdr. Bondar is jogging on a bright afternoon through a forest path. As the trees grow more sparse, she runs up a rocky hill and finds Dr. T’Laina taking in the sunlight as it starts to set. 

“I thought I’d find you here,” says Bondar. “You told me before how much you loved this part of Sirtis Park.” Rocks rise out of the forest, describes the Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer, like a piece of Vulcan rising out of a piece of Earth, yet it’s on a planet in the Dorn system. They discuss meditation, and the necessity of a path to inner peace. “I thought that path was logic for Vulcans.” 

“Everyone has their own paths, all of which have their own order and logic,” answers T’Laina. But to Bondar, the ship’s doctor either speaks barely comprehensible medical terminology or riddles. For T’Laina, nothing is a riddle if you understand it. 

“I’m sure as a Vulcan, you have such an advanced understanding.” Not as a Vulcan, she says, just herself. 

The actor playing Paul Diamond would
have to be just as sexy as Harrison
Ford in 1977. And he would leave the
Tellarite's quarters still wearing that
vest. He's back in uniform once he's
back on the bridge, though.
Their good-natured philosophical banter is interrupted by a call from the captain to return to the bridge as shore leave is officially ending. We cut to a montage sequence of the main cast getting ready to return to work. Zhang welcomes her crew back to engineering, Diamond kisses his new Tellarite friend goodbye at the door of her quarters on the station, Nichols replicates a large orange juice as he steps, bleary-eyed, from his shower, P’Trell fastens her sheathed ushaan-tor blade on her belt, and Solomon signs in to his station on the bridge as Captain Bajwa enters from his ready room and takes his seat in the big chair. 

A Steadicam shot tracks out from Bajwa to reveal the bridge crew at their stations: P’Trell in her chair next to the captain, Diamond at the helm, Solomon at the sensor station next to him, and Bondar at the ship’s internal logistics station behind the captain and commander. The music swells as the ship leaves the starbase. Bajwa smirks to the fourth wall as he gets to say, “To warp!” for the first time.

After a fade to show that time has progressed, the Enterprise gets a distress call from a small Federation freighter that’s experiencing engine trouble, and the resulting systems failure has knocked out quite a few things, including the transporters. They’ve parked in orbit of an uninhabited planet for maintenance, but they could use some help with repairs. The Enterprise can be there within a few hours, so Zhang assigns Solomon and the new recruit Nichols to prepare the repair team.

In engineering, the boys get their toolboxes ready and joke about the previous night. Nichols is still feeling tired, so Solomon offers an old Vulcan hangover cure that he knows. Nichols is puzzled, because he didn’t think Vulcans drank catastrophically. “I grew up in Khohav,” says Solomon. “The Vulcans there learned a few things from us.”

It takes a moment for Nichols to realize that Solomon was raised on a world-ship the size of a small moon. “I’ve never met anyone from there before.” And the science officer waves hello.

On the bridge, another call comes from Captain Stevens on the freighter: their engine troubles are getting worse, and their orbit may start to decay. Bajwa orders P’Trell to lead the away team, then calls Dr. T’Laina in sickbay to prepare for possible injured.

When they reach the freighter, little more than a grey box with some windows and a warp drive, there are sparks coming from its nacelles. The repair team beams down: P’Trell, Solomon, Nichols, and two other yellow-shirts. The four engineers get to work, and P’Trell gets a briefing from Captain Stevens, who is a little too adamant that no one from the Enterprise see their cargo. P’Trell keeps an eye on him.

We can tell, by the time this sequence starts, that
something is going to explode.
Naturally, the freighter’s engine goes haywire before the repair team can get much started. Solomon hauls an extra out of range of a small explosion and the ship’s orbit starts to decay. The repair team and the skeletal freighter crew run at the ship’s systems in a frenzy of technobabble making emergency repairs to stabilize it, but it looks as though the engine is screwed.

Captain Stevens has disappeared, however, and P’Trell suspects he’s disappeared to the cargo bay. She finds him there, planting some small charges strategically on the cargo boxes. When Stevens leaves the room, P’Trell sneaks in, deactivates one of the bombs, and pops open a box. We only see her enraged face as she sees what Stevens’ ship is carrying. As she reaches into the box, we cut away.

The freighter’s engine room is going critical. Solomon leads his team and the freighter’s engineering crew outside. The ship starts falling into the atmosphere. Bajwa, Bondar, and Diamond freak as they realize that interference from the heat of the atmosphere will prevent them from beaming away the freighter crew.

Nichols calls the bridge directly, saying that if the Enterprise can get close enough to get a tractor beam lock on the ship, he can use the freighter’s own transporters to beam everyone to sickbay. “That sounds absolutely insane and dangerous, Ensign!” says Captain Bajwa, “Mr. Diamond, take us in.” The captain and the helmsman are both much too enthusiastic about this.

Bondar reports that the stress of flying shield-less into the atmosphere after the freighter will strain the hull and cause dangerous breaches if they’re longer than three minutes. “I hope you heard that, Ensign,” says the Captain. He did, and is furiously plugging wires back into boxes with Solomon in the freighter’s transporter room. After a few more reports of danger from Engineering so Zhang can get some lines in the sequence, they get a tractor lock, beam the away team and the freighter’s crew into sickbay, and haul the Enterprise back into space with minimal damage and no one lost. Dr. T’Laina confirms that everyone is aboard. The freighter breaks into pieces in an awesome effects shot.

Captain Bajwa is the type of person who would want to
tell Stevens, "You play with fire, you get burned . . .
bitch!" but wouldn't because Starfleet decorum is
unfortunately important.
As the episode wraps up, Captain Stevens is stressed and frustrated in the observation lounge, ranting to Captain Bajwa that the Federation government owes him for his lost vessel and cargo. Bajwa tries to calm him down, telling him that they’re returning to Starbase Rainbow to see about all the legal matters regarding the incident. But the freighter captain will not listen.

The door beeps, interrupting them. “Ah,” smirks Captain Bajwa. “That would be my First Officer. You met her already. She has at least one piece of cargo that she managed to get from your ship. Perhaps something productive will come of it.”

P’Trell enters carrying a bulky metal object, and slams it on the conference table. It looks to us like a microwave, but as soon as Stevens sees it, his face blanches. 

“Your ship’s cargo manifest said nothing about replicators,” the Andorian says. “I’m sure you must know that they’re a controlled commodity.”

“An extremely controlled commodity,” says Captain Bajwa. “The authorities at the starbase will have a lot to say to you.”

The last major scene takes place in a transporter room, as Ensign Nichols is looking busy at the console. Captain Bajwa enters, and Nichols tenses up into an erect stance.

“At ease, Ensign. You know I’m not that formal. You did an excellent job on the mission today, and I wanted to let you know that I’ve mentioned it in my report to Starfleet Command.” Nichols thanks him, and is a little embarrassed. Bajwa continues. “Getting a commendation on your first day in service is quite something, you know. It’s almost like some awful story about adventures and derring-do on a starship. But I had a look at your Academy records, and it showed me that I shouldn’t expect much less from you.”

Donald Glover is a great casting idea for Quentin
Nichols. If I can drag him away from his rap career
for 13 episodes.
Lt. Cmdr. Zhang is on the bridge doing some systems work, and Captain Bajwa wants the young ensign to join her. “You’re a fine addition to my crew, Quentin. Follow me.”

So Captain Bajwa leads Nichols onto the bridge, where he takes a seat with the Chief Engineer at a rear station. The Captain is sitting in his chair, P’Trell the First Officer next to him, chatting with Chief Medical Officer T’Laina as she stands nearby. Solomon and Diamond sit at the front consoles, and Bondar is behind them at the weapons desk. 

“Mr. Diamond, to warp,” says Captain Bajwa. “We have a lot to do.”
• • •
The first episode of Star Trek: TFS is clearly a Mary Sue plot, the point of which is to demonstrate that there’s nothing wrong with Mary Sue plots. Quentin Nichols in this episode is an audience point of view character, which I think an audience would need to be introduced to a new crew of the Enterprise whose existence is a gleaming eyesore on the face of canon, and whose existence would appear (to the least charitable) to overwrite the beloved Enterprise crew of Captain Picard et al. 

But the stories of TNG didn’t go away. They’re still right there on Netflix, our DVD shelves, and syndicated cable TV reruns. TFS is simply a set of new, different Star Trek stories. There can always be new Star Trek stories, new paths to explore the ideas that 50 years of accumulated Star Trek has given us, new visions of what Star Trek can be. We all have this power.

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