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Recap / Star Trek Enterprise S 02 E 016 Future Tense

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Enterprise encounters a derelict ship. Scans indicate no life signs or weapon signatures, but its hull does seem to be interfering with the sensors including to T'Pol. Archer orders the ship be brought into Launch Bay 2, where they fail to make sense of its design, and upon opening a hatch, find a dead human body. In sickbay, Archer tells Phlox to do a DNA test on the dead man and check the Starfleet genetic database for any matches. T'Pol enters and says that there are no inhabited systems for several light years. Archer wonders if the dead man is Zefram Cochrane, who did disappear while apparently working on an experimental warp ship.


In the hangar, Travis and Trip are making an analysis and determine that the ship's hull absorbs EM radiation, meaning it would have gone unnoticed if not for the damage, suggesting it is a stealth ship. They also determine that it must have arrived in a cargo ship, and Trip finds out that it lacks a propulsion system, engine, and power source. Archer contacts Admiral Forrest for info on the ship, and Forrest tells him that there haven't been any new missions, but he will ask around for more information.

Trip continues his analysis with Malcolm Reed, and they both find another hatch. Upon opening it, they find out that the ship is apparently bigger on the inside. They enter and find a large chamber. Meanwhile, a Suliban ship hails the Enterprise and its captain claims ownership of the mysterious ship. Archer replies that it's clearly an Earth ship since the corpse is human, and that it's too damaged to be of any use now anyway, but the Suliban still demand they get it "back" and open fire.


In the launch bay, Trip and Malcolm get a box out of the ship's chamber and, realising the Enterprise, is being attacked, leave the abandoned ship. Trip tries to contact the bridge, but two Suliban appear and attack him. Malcolm starts fighting them, and one of them leaves for the control room. Thankfully, the Enterprise manages to force the Suliban to withdraw, beaming out the two intruders.

Trip shows the box to Archer and suggests that it's the black box. Phlox then calls Archer to sickbay, where he tells him that the dead man isn't anyone in Starfleet and is in fact a hybrid of a human, Vulcan, Terellian, and another, unknown species.

Archer wonders if the Temporal Cold War is involved and he and T'Pol go into Daniels's quarters to read the future database, all the while wondering if a human and a Vulcan could have a child. They find out that the ship is from the 31st century and may be a time machine used by future historians. They also find out that it's powered by a "temporal displacement drive", which is probably why the Suliban are after it, and Archer fears they will use it to meddle with the Temporal Cold War.


He is then called to the bridge because another alien vessel has arrived, and it turns out to be a xenophobic species called the Tholians. They also want the vessel, claiming it's radioactive and therefore dangerous to the crew, and when Archer says no, they grab hold of Enterprise with a tractor beam. When he threatens to destroy the derelict ship, they let go.

In the mess hall, Phlox and T'Pol discuss their findings on the body and the ship respectively. He believes Archer's hypothesis that time travel is real, but T'Pol is still unsure. Meanwhile, in engineering, Trip and Malcolm try to get the box device to work and they discuss whether it's good or bad to know the future. Trip gets the device working and they go to the ship to get some equipment. However, due to a temporal anomaly, they end up having the same conversation three times.

They go to sickbay, but Phlox finds nothing wrong with them. T'Pol points out that the ship is emitting particles, but Phlox reckons they're mostly harmless. Archer orders the launch bay sealed to prevent the radiation from spreading, and T'Pol talks to him in private, telling him that the ship is too dangerous due to its radiation and high demand and she wants it destroyed. Archer disagrees, wanting to actively participate in the Temporal Cold War, but she thinks that's a bad idea as well. Eventually, she lets him carry on, as long as he puts the ship on tactical alert.

In engineering, Archer asks Trip what he's found out about the object, and he replies that it isn't a black box, but rather a device that sent a subspace signature as an emergency signal. T'Pol then calls Archer to the bridge because more Suliban ships have arrived. The Enterprise tries running away, but the Suliban give chase, then Archer tries to contact the Vulcans but gets no reply. He warns them that they have the Vulcans on their side, but the Suliban don't believe him, and open fire. They rendezvous with the Tal'Kir, only to find it nearly destroyed by Tholians... who then notice the Enterprise.

The Tholians, the Enterprise, and the cell ships start a fight, during which the Enterprise gets severely beat up. Archer orders Trip to use the mysterious device to call the future ships over to help, and Trip orders Malcolm to bring him a torpedo.

Malcolm and Trip try to use a warhead from it to destroy the future ship, and their attempts cause time to loop again. Meanwhile, the Suliban are defeated, and the Tholians try to blast through the airlock. Trip gets the future device working and Malcolm puts the warhead on the ship and sends it out into space, but the Tholians neutralise it. Then, the future device, corpse, and ship vanish and the Tholians end the fight. With the fight over, Archer sets out to help the Vulcans on Tal'Kir.

Later, Trip, T'Pol, and Archer are eating together, and they mention that there was no evidence for or against the idea that the stuff was sent back to the 31st century. They also mention that the reason it disappeared so quickly was probably because the future people went back in time. Archer then plans to contact the Vulcans to apologise for the trouble and thank them for the help.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Aborted Arc: At the time of airing, it was mused by the writers that the Tholians would become players in the Temporal Cold War and make return appearances. Any such plans were quickly dropped, though, when the writers embarked on the Xindi arc.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: T'Pol's stubborn insistence that time travel is impossible, despite having a time machine sitting in the launch baynote , a dead human pilot with several generations of alien DNA in his genome, and being shown Daniels' holographic database with information on ships that haven't been built yet.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: In-Universe—Malcolm's clearly not up on his dino-studies.
    Trip: Now if I had a chance to see the past, I'd jump at it. I always wanted to meet a Stegosaurus.
    Malcolm: He'd probably make a quick meal of you.
    Trip: The Stegosaurus was an herbivore.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Discussed. While talking about time travel, Trip asks Malcolm if he would travel to the future and learn the identity of a theoretical wife. Malcolm says he would on the grounds that it would save him trouble, but Trip says he'd only be getting married to said woman because a book told him to.
    Trip: Suppose you could look into some future book and find out the name of the woman you're going to marry. Would you want to know it?
    Malcolm: Absolutely. Think of all the awkward first dates I could avoid. (chuckles)
    Trip: Fine. So one day you meet Jane Doe. You go out a few times, and you pop the question. She says "I do," and the two you live happily ever after.
    Malcolm: Sounds perfect.
    Trip: Now, did you marry her for love, or because some book told you to?
    Malcolm: If we live happily ever after, what difference does it make?
  • Bigger on the Inside: The pod is small enough to fit inside the launch bay, yet it has another level inside.
  • Boldly Coming: Exaggerated— the dead guy turns out to be a hybrid of a human, Vulcan, Terellian, Rigelian, and an unknown species, indicating that many different species got it on.
  • Call-Back:
    • It's very subtle, but back in the pilot, Klaang apparently said something about Tholia. It didn't mean anything back then, but now it turns out that the Tholians are players in the Temporal Cold War.
    • In the last episode, T'Pol and Soval discuss humans seeming to obsess over their ears. Archer again talks about the Vulcan ears when talking about a human/Vulcan hybrid.
  • Call-Forward: The discovery of a Vulcan Half-Human Hybrid.
    Archer: If a human and a Vulcan did have a child, I wonder if he'd have pointed ears.
  • Continuity Nod: It's initially believed that the corpse is Zefram Cochrane. In TOS, it was mentioned that Cochrane disappeared to parts unknown in the early 22nd Century.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Tholians effortlessly stomp Enterprise, the Tal'Kir, and the Suliban.
  • EMP: The Tholians have a weapon which disables any ship it hits, knocking out engines, weapons, defenses, and main power.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: While discussing time travel with Reed, Trip says he'd jump at the chance to travel to the past—saying he always wanted to see the dinosaurs.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Suliban vs. the Tholians, with the NX-01 disabled. Ultimately, the Tholians triumph.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Averted; the database from the future is retrieved from Daniel's sealed quarters.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Daniels' future database has schematics for a Klingon Raptor-class ship, an Intrepid-class starship (possibly the USS Voyager itself), an Intrepid-class aeroshuttle, the Mir space station, the US space shuttle, a Nygean ship, a Romulan D'deridex-class warbird, a Nova-class starship, the alien ship that attacked Enterprise in "Fight or Flight", and a Vulcan Suurok-class starship. Also in the database is an excerpt from President George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pursued by Suliban, Enterprise reaches the Tal'Kir—finding it disabled. Shortly afterwards, the Tholians reveal themselves.
  • The Ghost: No Tholians are shown in the episode.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: A Downplayed example—anyone standing next to the pod might end up repeating the last few minutes. After several loops, the afflicted characters begin to notice what's happening. Also, time proceeds normally for those not stuck in the loop.
  • Heinz Hybrid: The corpse in the pod has human, Vulcan, Rigellian, and Terellian DNA, among others.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Pod and its occupant play a part in a story arc in Star Trek Online which gives him a name, a backstory of a sort, an identification for that other species in his DNA, as well as his ultimate fate, and why he ends up here and now.
  • Hope Spot: Under pursuit by the Suliban, Enterprise manages to reach the Tal'Kir—only to find her disabled by the Tholians.
  • I Don't Think That's Such a Good Idea: T'Pol is unsure about Archer keeping the time ship and participating in the Temporal Cold War; she thinks he's endangering the ship with his curiosity.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: The Suliban are soundly defeated by the Tholians.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Archer decides to destroy the pod rather than let the Tholians capture it. Unfortunately, they successfully grab it and prevent its destruction—and then the pod, the corpse, and the distress beacon that Trip recovered mysteriously vanish...
  • Not Worth Killing: Once the pod vanishes, the Tholians leave without further harassing Enterprise. They also didn't destroy the Tal'Kir, presumably knocking it out of commission with the same weapon they stopped Enterprise with.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After fending off the first Suliban and Tholian attacks, Archer quietly wonders who else out there thinks they have a claim on the future ship.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Trip and Malcolm when they realize the ship is causing them to relive the same few minutes.
    • Also later when the Enterprise crew reaches the Vulcan ship sent to assist them, only to realize it's already been attacked and disabled.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why the Tholians want the future ship isn't explained, though Archer speculates they're working for another faction in the Temporal Cold War.
  • Shout-Out: The design of the pod's lower level is remarkably similar to a TARDIS control room. Doubles as a hilarious Genre Blindness gag when resident Brit Malcolm Reed is quite nonplussed at the idea of a ship bigger on the inside. Someone never hid behind the couch from Daleks as a kid, apparently.
  • Starfish Language: Tholian sounds like a string of shrill squeals and clicks. Even when it's run through the translator, it sounds kinda like a CD that keeps skipping.
  • That Came Out Wrong
    T'Pol: It's unlikely we could reproduce. (off Archer's look) Humans and Vulcan.