A military conflict erupts between the Vulcans and Andorians over a small terraformed planet that both sides make claim to. In the midst of the skirmish, the Vulcans announce they wish to discuss terms for a cease-fire, but Imperial Guard officer Shran believes the only one he can trust to mediate such a negotiation is Jonathan Archer, so the captain and his ship are called into the fray.
The Andorians and the Vulcans are locked in battle over a small planet, situated on the frontier between their two systems. Both sides claim that it belongs to them - the Andorians refer to it as "Weytahm," while the Vulcans call it "Paan Mokar." Andorian Commander Shran has landed a force on the planet and occupied the settlement. Now, the Vulcans are calling for a cease fire and Shran wants Archer to help the two sides negotiate. Vulcan Ambassador Soval is reluctant to bring Archer in as mediator, but three Vulcans have been taken hostage, and Shran has made his position clear: he only trusts Archer.
Archer and T'Pol head down the planet for a meeting with Shran. Shran's lieutenant, Tarah, is especially wary of T'Pol, but Archer manages to convince Shran to release one of the Vulcan hostages as a show of good faith. He also agrees to bring Soval down to the planet for a meeting. Soval is skeptical, but agrees to go. Meanwhile, on the planet, Shran has a tense moment with Tarah, who objects to his attempts to negotiate with the Vulcans. She would rather continue the fighting and reclaim the planet for the Andorians. Shran notes her suggestion, but still wishes to proceed with the negotiations.
As their shuttlepod nears the planet, Archer, T'Pol and Soval find themselves being fired on - they are forced to crash-land right in the middle of the conflict. Soval suggests the Andorians are trying to sabotage the peace talks, but Archer doesn't believe Shran would resort to such tactics. Back at the Andorians' position, Shran, for his part, is furious that Archer's shuttle was fired on. Tarah claims that it was the Vulcans who fired, but Shran doesn't believe her - he orders her to find Soval and Archer and bring them to him alive.
Meanwhile, on Enterprise, acting captain Trip is having troubles of his own. As the crew tries to pinpoint Archer's location, Trip must keep a Vulcan ship and an Andorian vessel from firing on one another. He maneuvers Enterprise right between the two ships, hoping to avoid bloodshed.
Down on the surface, Archer, T'Pol and Soval are attempting to make their way to Shran's location, when Soval is injured by weapons fire. Archer discovers that Andorian snipers are behind the attack, so he has T'Pol and Soval distract them with weapons fire while he disables them. As he sneaks up behind the second sniper, he discovers that it is none other than Tarah, Shran's lieutenant. He manages to subdue her just as Shran and his men arrive on the scene. Even though Tarah denies it, Archer manages to convince Shran that his officer has betrayed him. Tarah eventually confesses, but angrily informs Shran that there are others who feel the same way she does.
Now that the situation's under control, Shran and Soval are finally able to sit down for a series of difficult but productive negotiations. With Archer's help, the two sides agree to cease fire and continue the peace talks on Andoria.
"Cease Fire" is a much stronger follow up to "The Andorian Incident" than the rather mediocre "Shadows of P'Jem," which saw Enterprise's entire command crew blunder into getting captured and remaining outside observers to much of the action. "Cease Fire" by contrast sees Trip taking a strong command posture where in "Shadows" he was reduced to yelling ineffectually at the Vulcan commander. Archer and T'Pol again find themselves in hostile territory but Archer maintains control of the situation...
Sometimes, simple is best. "Cease Fire" doesn't break a whole lot of new ground, but it plays to the series' core strengths and sets up some nice ideas for the future in the process.
It's not all that new to find a Starfleet captain trying to mediate a dispute in order to prevent a war - Kirk certainly did it on occasion, Sisko did on occasion (mostly early on, before the Fed's own war with the Dominion took precedence), and Picard did it whenever his tea got cold. It's a common enough theme...
Lukewarm indifference can be an awful feeling when experienced for a prolonged period. I look at my last four reviews in a row now: 5 points, 5 points, 5 points, 5 points. I tell myself that at least it means competently constructed television, but somehow that's cold comfort. I want a spark of life and ingenuity in my entertainment, and not simply responsible messages inside bland containers.
"Cease Fire" is more average Trekkian fare that inspires more indifference from me. The story is...
An entertaining action hour that at times almost seems politically relevant, "Cease Fire" bolsters the status of Archer in the intergalactic community while making Shran look bad and Soval look about as illogical as usual. The pace is terrific - good balance of incidents shipboard and planetside, excellent use of the main trinity, no heavy-handed recapping of previous incidents but enough mention to keep them fresh in viewers' minds - and it's wonderful to see Suzy Plakson back on Trek, though...