The first time T’Pol and Archer ran into Shran (”The Andorian Incident”), T’Pol was put in a damsel-in-distress situation, with Shran’s men creeping on her, while she shivered in her catsuit. The second time (”Shadows of P’Jem”), Archer and T’Pol are tied up together again, only this time Shran is the one who actually helps them out.
So third time feels like the charm in “Cease Fire,” an episode featuring a classic Trek storyline and message, a great fight scene, a decent role for T’Pol, and most importantly – Suzie Plakson as a badass Andorian woman, Tarah.
The episode revolves around a planet that’s contested by the Vulcans and Andorians, Over dinner, T’Pol explains to Archer and Trip that the Andorians terraformed and settled the planet, but the Vulcans annexed it and “removed” the settlers, assuming the Andorians were establishing a strategic military base there.
Shran asks Archer to negotiate a cease-fire, but Soval is not super thrilled about it. He insists Archer take a Vulcan to the planet, so Archer says at least he’ll take “the one I trust”: T’Pol. After his patronizing and occasionally hostile attitude towards her in early episodes, I’m down with Archer supporting T’Pol as a trusted officer by this point.
Once he arrives at the Andorian camp, Archer persuades Shran to release one of his Vulcan prisoners in exchange for Archer bringing back Soval to meet face-to-face. But when Archer leaves, Shran gets some flak from Tarah, who doesn’t believe a peaceful solution is possible, or desirable.
Shran:I know what you’re going to say. We discovered this planet. We made it livable. It belongs to us. Don’t worry, it’ll be ours again.
Tarah: How? By talking? We’ve been trying that for a hundred years, and it’s gotten us nowhere. They stall and lie and make promises they never intend to keep. We came here to fight. Why back down now?
When Shran still insists on a diplomatic approach, Tarah takes another Andorian to ambush Archer, T’Pol and Soval’s shuttlepod.
Bonus points: T’Pol gets a jacket over her catsuit when she’s out in the cold this time!
Oh, in case you were curious what’s happening on Enterprise during all this, it can basically be boiled down to the Vulcans and Andorians on their ships squabbling, and Trip responding with this face:
Back on the planet, the Andorians get in a fire-fight with Archer and T’Pol. Archer gives his phase pistol to Soval and sneaks off to ambush the Andorians from behind.
Archer: No offence, but my ears are less likely to draw fire than yours.
Soval: What is their fixation with our ears?
T’Pol: I believe they’re envious.
At this point, Soval gives T’Pol a disappointed dad lecture about how much more awesome her career could’ve been if she’d stayed with him in diplomatic work, but she is having none of it. Calmly, she defends her decision to continue serving on Enterprise, and refutes his accusation that she is being tainted by human emotions.
It’s great to see T’Pol making her voice heard, without being prodded by Archer or Trip or Phlox.
But what comes next is truly epic: a Kirk-Fu style fistfight between Archer and Tarah. Seriously, first she punches him in the face. Then, she hauls herself up on a beam and swings her feet to kick him in the chest.
They’re knocking each other down and flipping each other over and it’s so great because there is no gendered weirdness about it at all. Part of what makes Tarah a great one-off woman villain is that, in addition to having a solid motivation for her actions, she’s not portrayed as a romantic or sex interest for Shran or Archer. She’s sexy, sure, but without being sexualized by the male characters.
So when Shran is disappointed in Tarah, he’s disappointed in her as a soldier, who never previously disobeyed him.
Tarah’s position in “Cease Fire” is similar to Valeris in Star Trek IV – she doesn’t trust that diplomacy will work, and cannot let go of her people’s history of racial prejudice. But Tarah might even have stronger motivation than Valeris, because of how the Vulcans treated the Andorian settlers on the disputed planet. For no other reason than suspicion, the Vulcans, displaced an entire colony. How do you compromise when you suffer that kind of injustice?
Nevertheless, with Tarah and her accomplice apprehended, Soval and Shran do reach a compromise, in the interest of ending bloodshed. They make it clear it’s not easy. In fact, both sides are explicitly dissatisfied with the terms of the cease fire, but it is progress.
And so diplomacy triumphs over peace, and tolerance over prejudice, in this very Trek-y Enterprise episode.
Finally, let’s all never forget this amazing Tucker quote: “My underwear is flame-retardant. That doesn’t mean I’m going to light myself on fire to prove it.”
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail – T’Pol and Tarah have significant roles and Hoshi does talk, but none of them speak to each other.