"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 Archer, Commander 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 to Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania before she joined Enterprise. T'Pol reveals that, contrary to human belief that the first contact between humans and Vulcans occurred in the mid-2060s (as seen in Star Trek: First Contact), it actually occurred a century earlier. Tucker 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, when 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. One of the Vulcans, Mestral, chooses to enter a nearby town, and T'Mir reluctantly accompanies him. Over the next few months the Vulcans successfully integrate themselves with the townsfolk.
One day there is a firedamp explosion in the mine; Mestral helps rescue a dozen trapped miners by blasting through a rock wall with a phaser. Eventually, a Vulcan vessel signals that it will arrive to retrieve the crew. Before leaving, 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 story ends with Archer and Tucker not sure whether to believe T'Pol's story, but the final scene 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.
Early in the episode, Trip remarks that T'Pol's story is like "an old episode of The Twilight Zone." The night this episode originally aired, a new version of Twilight Zone debuted on UPN.
The episode contains a fictionalized account on the origins of Velcro. In reality, Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral. The Vulcan character Mestral is named after the inventor.