"Carbon Creek" is the second episode of the second season of the science fiction television series Star Trek: Enterprise, the 28th episode overall. First broadcast on September 25, 2002, "Carbon Creek" was actually the first episode produced for the second season.
Captain Jonathan Archer, Commander Trip Tucker and Sub-Commander T'Pol are having dinner in honor of the first anniversary of T'Pol's assignment aboard Enterprise. During conversation, Archer asks why T'Pol traveled from San Francisco to Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania (shown during the episode to be on Pennsylvania Route 138) before she joined the Enterprise. T'Pol reveals that, contrary to human belief that the first contact between humans and Vulcans occurred in the mid-2060s (see Star Trek: First Contact), it actually occurred a century earlier. Trip and Archer react incredulously to this claim, so T'Pol offers to tell them her great-grandmother's story.
T'Mir is a member of a four-Vulcan crew studying Earth from orbit in 1957, where they witness the launch of Sputnik, the planet's first artificial satellite. A mishap with their impulse manifold forces the craft to crash-land in Pennsylvania. The captain is killed and T'Mir, as second-in-command, takes charge. A distress signal is sent, but after more than two weeks no reply is received and the crew's rations run out. With his shipmates starving, one of the Vulcans, Mestral, chooses to enter a nearby human town. T'Mir reluctantly accompanies him.
Over the next few months the surviving Vulcans integrate themselves with the townsfolk, successfully hiding their alien nature: T'Mir helps at the local pub, Stron becomes a handyman, and Mestral works in the coal mine. Stron, because of his haircut, has to endure being compared endlessly to Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. Mestral enjoys the simpler pleasures of human life such as baseball games and watching I Love Lucy on television. He finds himself becoming involved with the pub's female owner. There is a firedamp explosion in the mine; Mestral helps in the rescue, gets to the trapped miners by radio contact with T'Mir who directs him through open passages over a radio link by reading a hand-held sensor device, and rescues a dozen trapped miners by blasting through a rock wall using a powerful hand-held energy pistol.
Eventually, a Vulcan vessel signals that it will arrive to retrieve the crew. Before leaving, however, T'Mir learns a human lesson in compassion, and travels by train to Pittsburgh where she 'sells' the rights to Velcro. The money she receives is more than enough to ensure the publican's son's future education. As the Vulcan ship nears, Mestral announces that he intends to stay on Earth and observe the great advances he knows lie ahead. T'Mir reluctantly agrees, and tells the rescuers that Mestral had died along with the captain. The episode ends with Archer and Trip not sure whether to believe T'Pol's story. However, the last image of the episode is of T'Pol returning to her quarters and retrieving T'Mir's 1950s-era handbag.
An alternate take of one of the captain's mess scenes was filmed, with the actors (including Jolene Blalock) acting as though they were intoxicated. The scene was played straight in the broadcast version, while the "drunk take" was included on the Season 2 DVD release as part of the season's blooper reel, due to actor Connor Trinneer breaking character at the end of the take.
One gross inaccuracy that occurs towards the end of the episode is that after T'mir is depicted with a handful of $50 bills (with designs appropriate to 1957), in the following scene the deposited cash in the jar contains (rather obviously) Series 1996 $50 bills with distinct designs and features not present in 1957.
Another inaccuracy is that the baseball game attended is in Doylestown, PA which is a suburb of Philadelphia, not Pittsburgh.
This episode contains a number of visual homages to the Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," including a Vulcan shown working on an electronics project in a kitchen, Mestral wearing a wool cap to cover his ears (as Spock did in the TOS episode), Mestral and T'Mir raiding a clothesline for proper period apparel, and the Vulcans getting menial jobs much as James T. Kirk and Spock got jobs as labourers during their adventure (Mestral and T'Mir are both seen sweeping floors as Spock did).
This was one of several episodes to feature a minor running joke involving T'Pol's age. Her age would finally be revealed at the end of the third season.
In the beginning of the episode, Trip Tucker delivers an off-hand remark about there being a statue at the site of First Contact between humans and Vulcans; a reference to Star Trek: First Contact, in which several characters (including the statue's then-future model) discuss the future statue on its site.