Fallen Hero--the finest outing of ENT to date, though not “Tucker intensive”. On a par with “Cold Front.”
Plot--Enterprise receives orders from Admiral Forrest to retrieve V'Lar, the Vulcan ambassador to the planet Mazar from her post and to take her immediately to Vulcan. Of course, the Vulcan High Command will not explain why. While V’Lar is en route to Enterprise in a shuttle from the planet surface, Mazar’s chancellor reveals that she has been charged with criminal misconduct, though neither he nor (later) the ambassador herself reveals exactly what it is she has supposedly done. After her arrival, it becomes obvious that V'Lar is not what an anxious T'Pol expected. While not overtly emotional, the ambassador does not expect nor does she desire the protocols of which T'Pol has asked the captain to make the crew aware. T'Pol’s thinly veiled anxiety makes clear the fact that she admires the ambassador's accomplishments; in fact, it is later revealed that she met V’Lar many years ago during her education. It comes as no surprise that T’Pol’s peculiar brand of apprehension is most aptly demonstrated during two encounters with V’Lar at which Commander Tucker is present.
During the first encounter a look of astonishment crosses the lovely young Vulcan’s face as she observes V’Lar offer her hand first to Commander Archer, then to Commander Tucker, in greeting as she boards Enterprise—something that she has assured Jon that the Ambassador will not do. The second, more pertinent, encounter takes place at Captain Archer’s dinner table. Asking an innocent question about how long the ambassador has been a diplomat, Trip is charmingly flummoxed by V’Lar’s feigned offense and her delightfully wicked rebuke, “Commander Tucker! I was under the impression that on your world it is considered bad manners to ask a lady her age.”
Preternaturally adorable, the good natured Trip stumbles around an apology until he is rescued by V’Lar’s own apology of sorts, “Forgive me, Commander Tucker, my attempt at humor. Rest assured that with T’Pol and myself, you are almost certainly dining with the two oldest people on this ship.” Then, a shockingly sexy look which seems to say “hmmmmmm,” communicated with his expressive eyebrows, crosses our favorite engineer’s face. Charmingly nervous, T’Pol flashes the commander a slightly apprehensive look in response that seems reminiscent of an adolescent girl who is rendered speechless by the boy to whom she will never admit she is wildly attracted. It’s a ‘shipper moment extraordinaire.
Later, a ship of rogue Mazarites appears and tries to trick captain Archer into giving up the Ambassador. When he doesn't fall for their ruse Enterprise is fired upon; the Mazarites give chase to the fleeing Earth vessel. Angered by the encounter, Captain Archer is unwilling to risk his crew if V'Lar won't tell him why the criminals want her. She says she can't, so he orders the ship turned back. Meanwhile, our intrepid Commander Tucker has a lovely encounter, seemingly about nothing, with Lieutenant Malcolm Reed during which they exchange “man talk” about the fun of returning weapons fire and, more importantly, about masseuses with twelve fingers on each hand who reside on a vacation planet, Risa, recommended earlier by T’Pol (who is fraught with concern that the commander--and perhaps other crew members--are suffering from a lack of sexual activity).
While Tucker and Reed continue their adorable Bashir/O’Brien quest, V'Lar asks T'Pol for help; the ambassador reveals that she'll be killed if she is returned to Mazar though she still won't say why--only that she's not really a criminal and that she is engaged in a covert mission, the specifics of which she cannot share. In a pivotal scene underplayed perfectly by Blalock, T’Pol asks the captain not to take V'Lar back to Mazar. When he refuses, T'Pol reminds Archer that she's never asked him for anything but quietly implores him to grant her this favor. He agrees and pushes Trip’s beloved engines to warp five for the first time in order to escape three pursuing Mazarite ships. Still, Enterprise's nacelle is damaged and she is forced out of warp.
Fortunately, with V'Lar's help a message gets through to a Vulcan ship through the Mazarite’s jamming interference. V'Lar, persuaded by some "gentle prodding" by Archer, at last reveals that she's been gathering evidence against the corrupt Mazarite government. He refuses to give her up to the enemy ship in spite of her protestations that” it’s the most logical course of action.” While Enterprise is held in check by three Mazarite ships, their captain and two security guards come aboard to retrieve V'Lar. A clever ruse in sickbay deters them as a Vulcan ship arrives to fight off the Mazarites. In an extremely well played moment at episode's end, V'Lar tells T'Pol to "live long and prosper."
My appraisal--character development driven by plot is what makes "Fallen Hero" so outstanding. Fionnula Flanagan is superb as V'Lar who, while still reluctant to trust humans, is a precursor to the more humane and open-minded Vulcans of the twenty-third century; such is indicated by her aforementioned willingness to shake hands with both Archer and Tucker when coming aboard and her attempt at "humor" with a hilariously flummoxed Tucker. Without hamming it up, Flanagan's V'Lar is an instrument that furthers Jonathan's trust of Vulcans while simultaneously frustrating him (her unwillingness to trust him with the truth until a critical moment in the crisis). A savvy V'Lar points out to T'Pol during a private moment between the two that Vulcans share the same emotions as humans, but that they are proficient at hiding them. At episode’s end she notes that she senses a bond of respect forming between first officer and captain . V'Lar is a most excellent device for the writers to strengthen the bond of friendship between Archer and T'Pol. I liked it. It wasn't lovey dovey crap, but rather a bond of caring friendship that is noticed by the smart and savvy ambassador as it is demonstrated (a bit too forcefully, perhaps) that Jonathan and T'Pol are a microcosm of human/Vulcan relations. The scenes during which Archer pushes Enterprise to warp five are exciting and he seems quite strong and capable of leadership for a change. Also, several humorous scenes at the beginning of the episode add some very nice touches as the scarily pragmatic T'Pol points out in her tactful Vulcan way that the crew needs to get laid to release tension and "improve efficiency." The scene between her, Archer, and Tucker during dinner is jaw droppingly funny, as is Tucker's "I want to get noticed" shirt that he dons later on the bridge. Final grade: A+