Star Trek: Enterprise: Fight or Flight   Rewatch 
August 19, 2018 11:41 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

The crew of Enterprise have second thoughts about a first contact.

The thing that caught my eye on Memory Alpha was that we had more deleted scenes:

Two deleted scenes were filmed, but not included in the aired version of the episode. These scenes can be found on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the first season. The numbers used are the scene numbers, indicating where the scene would have been located in the episode.

Scene 05
This scene has Archer and Mayweather heading down a corridor towards a turbolift as they discuss finding an area to test the ship's weapons. Mayweather comments to Archer on how, when he was a child, the ECS Horizon once went on a nine-month, two-and-a-half light-year journey from Lavinius to Bylaran Prime. To keep the children occupied, they were taught to play Geography. Archer and Mayweather proceed to play a quick round. The two soon begin to argue as to what can and cannot be used in the game. This leads Archer to comment that he thought the game was meant to avoid arguments.

The allusions to planets "Lavinius" and "Bylaran Prime" from this scene may have been in reference to Levinius V and the Bilaren system, respectively. The dialogue from this scene later went on to be used, almost word for word, in the episode "Desert Crossing", but with Archer starting the game this time and Tucker joining in. The two soon also begin to argue as to what can and cannot be used in the game.

Scene 28
Aboard the predominantly dark Axanar cargo ship, Archer, Sato, and Reed enter a room (after forcing the doors open) in which they find several consoles, still lit. While Sato and Reed wonder whether a specific deactivated console could have been used for communications, Archer studies what appears to be the ship's engineering display. He asks Sato if she can understand the schematic and shows the same display to Reed, who, after forming the theory that the diagram is showing an enormous power drain inside the ship, decides to investigate the source of the power drain.

Continuity
> Although Enterprise set course for an inhabited planet at the end of "Broken Bow", by the beginning of this episode no new lifeform has been encountered by the ship except for Sluggo.
> The squeak found in Archer's ready room floor that annoys him in the beginning of this episode is repaired by the automated repair station a year later in "Dead Stop".
> This is the first appearance of the Axanar, whose homeworld of Axanar was mentioned in TOS: "Whom Gods Destroy" in connection to the Axanar Peace Mission, referenced in TOS: "Court Martial". They went on to appear only once more, in the form of a captive aboard the automated repair station in "Dead Stop".
> This is also the first Enterprise episode to prominently feature EV suits, though a different variation of this safety gear was seen already on two spacedock personnel in "Broken Bow".

Memorable quotes
"Maybe we should go have a look."
"If you insist on allowing your curiosity to dictate your actions."
"We do insist."
- Tucker, T'Pol, and Archer

"I didn't realize you spoke slug."
- Phlox, to Hoshi Sato

"Crewmen Bennett and Hayden over there, do you see them? If I'm not mistaken, they are preparing to mate. Do you think they might let me watch?"
"It's good to see you're enjoying yourself."
- Phlox and Tucker

"Come on, Travis. We've gotta find Mr. Reed something to blow up."
- Archer

"Well, at least we know they're bipeds."
"What gives you that idea?"
"The ladder."
- Hoshi Sato and Malcolm Reed, while on the Axanar vessel

Poster’s Log:
Up until this point in the franchise, Star Trek was always competence porn. Worf once built a personal force field generator out of spare parts in a holodeck simulation of the Old West. B’Ellana was an Academy dropout, and the built a sentient doomsday weapon for the Maquis. Picard was an accomplished diplomat and trained archaeologist. Sisko was an expert at topics as diverse as African art and baseball. Almost everyone was an officer, except poor, long-suffering O’Brien.

Enterprise is the first time I have to wonder what these guys are even doing in space. Broken into some subsections because there is so very much to talk about:

* Who ARE these people?

> Hoshi’s character arc so far appears to be ‘why am I even on a starship?’ Her concern for Sluggo is a heavy-handed allegory for her own place on the ship: she is wracked with doubt, anxiety and fear, regretting even coming along. She can’t even sleep in her original quarters because the stars are ‘going the wrong way.’
> The ship’s tactical officer’s subplot this entire episode is cannot hit the broad side of a barn with a self-guided antimatter torpedo.
> We open on Archer obsessing over a mystery squeak in his floor, eliciting some deserved exasperation from T’Pol. He spends a good part of the episode second guessing himself, to the point where they turn the ship around to help out.

Right now, I have some idea of why these characters chose to be on the ship, but most of them don’t seem qualified to represent humanity out in the bigger picture. The only people who seem to belong here are Hoshi, (the Daniel Jackson of our situation), and Phlox, who is already from space. So far, it seems like Archer got the nod because of his father, rather than on his own merits. None of his behavior here screams ‘leader.’

* Who do they even work for?

I’m no expert on the military, but it’s my experience they have a protocol for everything. (I enjoyed Stargate SG-1 in no small part because they had military consultants to help them make their characters seem more professional.)

So this was aggravating in particular:
ARCHER: Run this through the translation matrix. My name is Jonathan Archer. I'm Captain of the Starship Enterprise. We're on a mission of peaceful exploration. Oh, we come from the planet Earth. We're sending you a pulsar grid that should help you locate our star system.
Why is he giving out the location of Earth to people he just met, who might be hostile? The mystery ship that assaults them later could’ve picked that transmission up and forwarded it to more of their organ-harvesting friends.

Star Trek has always been Mildly Military (warning: TVTropes link, do not click). The Prime Directive has literally never been laid out on screen. Discipline is poor. Rules are inconsistent and frequently forgotten. None of this is precisely new. All the same, Enterprise takes it to new heights here, because they don’t even have an official stance on ‘do we broadcast the location of our new planet to everybody without even being asked?’ or ‘Do we help nonthreatening strangers in need?’

The only fanwank I’ve got about this is ‘maybe the Eugenics Wars destroyed institutional military knowledge for a generation,’ but it’s still pretty disheartening, and it's a theme going forward.

* What is even the plan here?

So they’re just… cruising. Looking for stuff. Taken at face value, that’s exactly how the franchise started: the OG Enterprise was on a five year mission to find cool stuff, and I’m barely even paraphrasing.

The difference is that this Enterprise is operating in Earth’s backyard. They’re close enough to home that a lot of things in range should be visible from Earth via telescope. Worse, several interstellar civilizations are right next door, including a major military power. They should really have a wish list of places to visit already: weird stellar phenomena. Exoplanets. Potential trade partners that the Vulcans know about. They should also have some sense of what’s out of bounds - the Klingon border, etc.

Between all this stuff, the show is making Starfleet out to be a pretty half-assed organization that is maybe cool with nepotism.

* Low on diversity here.

This came up in our discussion of the pilot: the show has focused on cis het white men in a way that feels wrong for Trek. We only have two women, neither of whom are proper military officers the way that the guys are - T’Pol is a foreign agent, and Hoshi comes across like a civilian contractor, (whatever her official status is). Past that, we only have Mayweather to break things up a bit.

It feels like a weird choice.

* The mission is still right.

So I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about this episode, (and that will continue to be a theme going forward - I'm sticking at least one week ahead and didn't much care for the next one either), but I did want to call one good thing out: at the end of the day, the crew are still trying to discover new things and make new friends. The resolution does feature Hoshi talking stuff out with an unfamiliar race, and the crew leaves with a successful - if rocky - first contact. Almost everybody is excited to be in space, whether they thought this through or not.

To me, that means that for all its faults, Enterprise is still ‘real’ Star Trek: diplomatic SF instead of standard military SF. That means I still think the show is worth looking at and taking seriously, no matter how hard I’m going to be on it. I said the same about VOY pretty much any time it came up - to me, Trek’s underlying utopian ideals are important, even if the body of work itself has lots of problems.

I really *want* to like this show, even when I don't.

Pointless STO Comparison: This came up in VOY too, but EV suit missions are the absolute worst. The suits themselves occupy your armor slot, potentially breaking set bonuses and reducing defense. They also have to be toggled on manually, and may be deactivated at your leisure, (meaning that it is possible to deliberately open your suit in the vacuum of space or on a demon class planet for some reason). Worst of all, these missions tend to feature limited mobility: it’s very common that you’re using magnetic boots with one, with all the grace and alacrity that implies.

This Week In:
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol notes that Vulcans never would’ve gotten into this mess in the first place, thank you very much.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Multiple. Their torpedo system is an ongoing issue all episode, and Hoshi has to wing it instead of using the translator in the finale.
* Aliens Incapacitate the Ship: We’re 2 for 2 here, with the mystery ship completely chumping Enterprise.
posted by mordax (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not mistaken, they are preparing to mate. Do you think they might let me watch?

Phlox, my friend, humans have been recording themselves mating for as long as recording technology has existed. I'm sure someone can let you borrow their personal collection.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:44 AM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


One thing I like about this episode (and a few subsequent ones) is the extent to which everybody settling into their roles is in the forefront. It feels natural and proper, given the pilot. IIRC this is one of the things that was a bit off about TNG's first season.

And that brings us back to mordax's important point about Trek being (or perhaps, having been) competence porn. It was no great leap (zing!) for audiences at the time of the pilot's airing to infer from the pilot that this show would, by design, move away from competence porn. And a great deal has been said about how that introduces a quality issue for the show, probably not only by butthurt MRA types (and we know they existed back then, if not by that name, due to their response to Janeway).

What I find myself wondering, now that I'm roughly six or seven episodes into this rewatch (and, by the way, reserving the right to skip a couple, and allow FF to fill in the gaps for me), is how close Brannon/Braga/et al. came to striking an appropriate balance between competence and incompetence, and whether any such balance was even achievable.

Because the mere fact of Phlox's presence on Earth means that Humans have some experience with aliens beyond just Vulcans (thank goodness), and therefore, shouldn't they enter into these strange new situations with a little more caution and a little less presumption? Mordax mentions nepotism, but I don't recall any evidence that the creators intended us to reach that conclusion. In fact, the wonderful letter-to-the-kids scene in the upcoming "Breaking the Ice" seems to subtextually suggest that this crew really is the best and brightest that Starfleet has to offer.

Maybe the incaution and presumption is just Archer overreacting to the presence of a Vulcan, and influencing the rest of the crew by his example.

Another quibble: I sometimes wonder if T'Pol is just making shit up about ways that Vulcans differ from Humans. No interest in exploration? No curiosity? Then how come so many of them are scientists? Doesn't a passion for logic sort of demand curiosity? And I mean, it's not like half-human Spock was the only Vulcan to demonstrate fascination with new phenomena. Tuvok did too.

Maybe T'Pol is just overreacting to the presence of Humans!

Anyway, not too bad of a second episode. Second episodes can be damn rough.

To me, that means that for all its faults, Enterprise is still ‘real’ Star Trek: diplomatic SF instead of standard military SF. That means I still think the show is worth looking at and taking seriously, no matter how hard I’m going to be on it. I said the same about VOY pretty much any time it came up - to me, Trek’s underlying utopian ideals are important, even if the body of work itself has lots of problems.

Well put. For all of ENT's flaws, I don't recall ever thinking (on my previous and so far only full watch) "This isn't even Star Trek anymore," even if they actually took the "Star Trek" off the title :)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:15 AM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have to admit I am not following along, I just like reading the recaps. With that said...
Memorable quotes
"Maybe we should go have a look."
"If you insist on allowing your curiosity to dictate your actions."
"We do insist."
- Tucker, T'Pol, and Archer
I remember this exchange and reading here brought back hard my feelings for why this show got off on the wrong foot with me. As mordax goes on to talk about, Archer and the crew show NO caution in their actions nor do they even have a basic strategy. It's hard to fault the Vulcans for treating humans like children if the humans are going to act like children and just reach out and touch whatever, regardless of it's hot or cold or whatever. It was very rare where in TOS or TNG they went someplace where Spock or Data couldn't provide at least some cursory exposition detailing the historical context, with at least some detail about "the last ship to visit here disappeared one hundred years ago," enough to give the crew a measure of warning.

First season shouldn't have been about the cold war, it should have been about Archer giving Earth's location to the wrong species.

As far as the lack of over-competence, I chalk that up to them not having the mature Starfleet Academy yet, where everybody double majored in zenobiology or temporal mechanics or something while running marathons and playing out the Kobayoshi Maru simulation.
The only fanwank I’ve got about this is ‘maybe the Eugenics Wars destroyed institutional military knowledge for a generation,’ but it’s still pretty disheartening, and it's a theme going forward.
But remember, the US survived more or less intact (depending on how various details are interpreted). In TOS, when Enterprise went back in time and picked up Christopher, there was his son who would lead an interplanetary mission, and in TNG when they picked up that ship fragment with the US flag that led Riker and friends down to the Royale.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


He spends a good part of the episode second guessing himself, to the point where they turn the ship around to help out.

Oh that's just a tribute to all of the times on TNG when the senior staff sat around the observation lounge conference table and said "We can't afford to second guess ourselves. We'll keep the ship on this course." See: "Time Squared", "Cause and Effect", "All Good Things", etc.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:08 AM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Up until this point in the franchise, Star Trek was always competence porn...Enterprise is the first time I have to wonder what these guys are even doing in space.

A theme we'll revisit immediately with Strange New World -- but more on that next time.

Star Trek has always been competence porn, but it's also had a weird relationship with what it thinks competence is: there's a strain all through TOS of Starfleet (or the Federation generally) being ineffective, usually by virtue of absence -- the Enterprise is too far away to get assistance, so competence is bare-knuckled Kirk's personal, innate ability to out-think, out-fight, and out-bluff the world (and Spock's out-sciencing, Scottie's out-engineering, etc), and the ship is frequently out-classed or out-matched by other space-faring groups or by literal or metaphorical gods. By Voyager's time, Starfleet outmatches the Kazon and although Janeway sure as heck bluffs a lot, the show has developed a whole set of Starfleet Best Practices that are, well, totally lacking in Enterprise.

And while we could reasonably say 'they haven't come up with them yet,' it does feel super weird that they haven't come up with something -- this ship took a long time to build; the pilot spent time establishing how long they've been planning for exploration. But the crew's approach is, essentially, "we'll do it live." That feels a bit like a return to TOS, and not in a good way.

One of my favorite exchanges from this episode illustrates this:
ARCHER: Going to war, Lieutenant?
REED: Can't be too careful, sir.
ARCHER: You've seen too many science fiction movies. We just need the three phase pistols. Put the rifles back. (to Hoshi) What are you rated for?
HOSHI: I've been cleared on EM sidearms and class three pulse rifles. I've never seen one of those.
ARCHER: Malcolm will check you out on it first chance he gets. Don't worry, it handles pretty much like an EM-33.
HOSHI: Is this necessary?
ARCHER: Just a precaution.
What's nice about that is, for once in television, Archer's call to not bring weapons onto the spooky, scary ship is the right one: it's not a setup for 'and then they get attacked and could really have used those rifles,' unlike a whole lot of TNG episodes. Noting that Hoshi -- who so far as has been presented as basically a school-teacher civilian -- is actually trained on and ready to use sidearms and rifles, just not these particular rifles, adds some needed depth to her background.

What's not-so-nice is, well, is Malcolm just making this up? Is Archer just making a judgement call? It reads like they both are: Archer doesn't chastise Malcolm for unnecessarily following regulations, or argue that the regulations don't cover this situation; instead, he implies Malcolm is basing his decision on 'this is how it works in the movies.' That is super weird.

It's also weird, in terms of how the show is or isn't competence porn, that Hoshi can translate at all based on a few hours of learning; the Universal Translator was always a conceit to get around this, and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief here for the sake of good television, but I could have done without the 'just believe in yourself and you can do it!' motivational speech: it locates competence not as something derived -- as in Hoshi's case, supposedly -- from training and practice and experience and instead in confidence. Against the background of the Human/Vulcan debates in this episode and others, it reads as one facet of a weirdly anti-intellectual strain running through the show:
ARCHER: Then forget the translator. Do it yourself.
HOSHI: Do what myself?
ARCHER: Talk to him.
HOSHI: That's impossible, sir. I haven't even learned their basic conjugations.
T'POL: Talk to him, Hoshi. It doesn't have to be perfect.
HOSHI: You don't understand. I don't even know how to say pump. I'll get it all wrong, it'll just make things worse.
ARCHER: Things can't get much worse.
HOSHI: Sir.
REED: Captain, they've started drilling into the hull.
ARCHER: Hoshi, Hoshi, I need you to do this. We all do. That's why you're here.
I mean: she's there to translate using the translator which exists for this very purpose, which people have dumped a lot of time and effort into designing and perfecting; she's explicitly not there to 'just wing it.' Winging it works; science does not. That's both a very Star Trek message (viz., Kirk, Corbomite, &c) and also not a very Star Trek message.

Stepping back to think about production, I think this is basically the fault of the show wanting to be like every other Star Trek and, for example, talk to aliens right away; but also wanting to be a prequel and have technology be less advanced. They're basically keeping the exact same show framework as Voyager, rather than seriously interrogating what Star Trek would look like narratively in the absence of 24th-century technology.

...

That aside: while I really like how they don't make the spooky ship be a trap, it makes absolutely no sense to me why the aliens would have brought a lot of heavy machinery onto the attacked ship rather than removing the incapacitated aliens onto their own ship. I can headcanon some kind of cultural irrationality -- 'we don't want to pollute our own ship with their bodies' -- but the show definitely never makes that case; it's just unaddressed. Clearly, the real reason here is the writers wanting to pull together 'spooky ship with body horror' and 'Enterprise attacked, but makes friends' plots, but I don't know what they were going for with the in-universe explanation. The timeline of broadcasting the distress call with both ships arriving at the same time, in relation to spacial geography, is...weird. I'm not going to dwell on that.

Having the Enterprise be absolutely chumped and needing help, though, was nice, especially to set the tone with the first episode post-pilot, even though it (being the second episode) didn't feel especially dramatic since, well, there's a whole season left: they're not going to all die. The 'can't make the torpedoes work' bit was dumb -- mostly because it felt like a missed opportunity to do character development, rather than 'ship technology' development. We need to know who these people are, and so far we know Malcolm really likes doing torpedo calibrations.

What we don't know: the environmental impact of transplanting a slug from one planet to another. I missed this watching the show years ago (maybe I just missed the opening?), but Hoshi is taking that slug from one alien planet and putting it on another; there's definitely a fifth-season episode you could write about the planet being overrun by slugs, because this one was accidentally pregnant (or capable of self-replication -- remember that, in the opening scene, they haven't been able to determine the slug's gender, or if it has one). Invasive species are serious business! This feels like another mark in the show's 'feelings matter more than science or intellect' theme -- it's an emotionally resonant moment that's clearly symbolic (as noted) of Hoshi's own journey, her own feeling out-of-sorts and feeling confined, and the eventual lifting of those burdens as she comes to terms with being in space. But why on non-Earth do Starfleet regs allow it to happen? This isn't even a space issue: invasive animal/plant management is a current issue in our time, and was in 2001. Why are they doing this?

...

Final quibble: when the ship is being attacked, Phlox uses his own hand-held scanner:
(A vertical beam goes around the Bridge.)
TRAVIS: What was that?
PHLOX: A sub-molecular bio-scan. You've been probed, Ensign. We've all been probed. They have no doubt discovered that your lymphatic systems contain some useful compounds.
The theme of the pilot was 'Vulcans are holding us back' but here is Phlox just...using a hand-scanner to learn more than the entire sensor suite of the Enterprise. Has Starfleet offered to, say, buy that off him? Is that something they're choosing not to do? There's a lot of that's a bit hand-wavey about what Starfleet's approach to technology and self-improvement actually is, and I get the sense it's just that the show hasn't thought about it.

...

I can't say I exactly enjoyed this, but I did really enjoy parts of it; Star Trek as a show about exploration and diplomacy and aliens is generally always a good well to draw on, and this is no exception. At its core, it's still -- I agree -- very much Star Trek, even if it sometimes seems not quite sure what to do with that: whether to draw on the narrative pacing of the prior Treks, or lean into the themes that underpin them.
posted by cjelli at 9:15 AM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Two codas to the above:

1. If there was one mis-step in this episode, I think it was having Phlox almost immediately identify a reason for the alien bloodletting. Mystery is creepy and invites answers; explanations are rarely creepy, and invite questions. It pulls a lot of the dramatic from this to have that question pulled away so early.

2. Along the same lines, I think this would have been more interesting if they have omitted an explanation (per above), and then omitted the returning alien ship -- but kept the Axanar, and made the translation more of a focus. They could even have kept the 'Enterprise immediately outclassed bit' and had that be the reason the Axanar were willing to talk: "we were ready to destroy you, but wow, you folks clearly were just totally incapable of successfully attacking our friends, why are you even out here?"
posted by cjelli at 9:39 AM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I could have done without the 'just believe in yourself and you can do it!' motivational speech: it locates competence not as something derived -- as in Hoshi's case, supposedly -- from training and practice and experience and instead in confidence. Against the background of the Human/Vulcan debates in this episode and others, it reads as one facet of a weirdly anti-intellectual strain running through the show:

ARCHER: Then forget the translator. Do it yourself.

[...] Invasive species are serious business! This feels like another mark in the show's 'feelings matter more than science or intellect' theme


And maybe this is a piece of my unidentifiable discomfort (mentioned in the previous thread) about the Vulcan-Earth special relationship. Making Vulcans into villains invites anti-intellectualism (1) in basically the last franchise that should have it, and (2) during basically the worst time period for it in terms of when all this aired, though admittedly #2 might be me being a little touchy, because I remember those years very well.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:43 AM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've got a few complaints and differences of opinion, but I'll start out with something that I liked about the episode: even if it's still a white cis het male-centric program, the first character focused episode was about Hoshi. That's nice, even though her personality is treated as if it's a problem that needs to be solved, and the episode wraps it up a bit too neatly and quickly. I'd still give them credit for not simply going with Archer, Trip, or T'Pol.

But there's still a lot of sloppy execution. The "here's exactly where our home planet is, unknown aliens who we're going to treat as uncomplicatedly friendly until proven otherwise" thing was just staggeringly dumb. So was their assumption that the aliens were murdered; it would have been just as logical to assume that the dead aliens were being embalmed. It also makes zero sense for the triglobulin-stealing aliens to have set up their extraction process on the Axanar ship; you're going to murder them, set up your extractors on their ship, and just leave them there, possibly for the Axanar to find them and send out a distress call to their own people? Really?(Or what cjelli said) (At least the Vidiians scooted off after they'd snatched some organs and had some pretty clever ways of hiding themselves.) Even the business around Sluggo seems odd: you take a member of the most advanced species that you can find on a planet, and... just stick it in a plastic cage in sick bay, and... hope that you can keep it alive? Is that 22nd-century science, or a kid collecting fireflies to keep in a jar and use as a nightlight until they all die? Did Sluggo get the decon gel treatment? How does Phlox know if his bat can even eat Sluggo? (WRT Phlox's prurience, I'm going to believe that he knows perfectly well how humans do the nasty, and he just likes to watch. As we'll find out, Denobulans' sex lives are super complicated.)

As far as the general level of competence goes, well, it may have been the lingering effects from World War III and the "post-atomic horror" depicted in "Encounter at Farpoint." Or it may have been the Vulcans being unwilling to share more than their warp drive secrets; not only did their first contact with humans happen right after WWIII, the post-atomic horror era happened after first contact, so while there may only be a handful of humans who can remember pre-First Contact Earth at all, probably every Vulcan who'd been to Earth and wasn't really old at the time or died of other causes can remember what it was like. Thus, the Vulcans may be deliberately trying to delay Earth's entry into interstellar politics because they're just out of their warlike era by Vulcan standards. (Surak, the founder of modern Vulcan civilization, lived 1800 years before this time.) Thus, not only is Earth mostly on its own WRT developing warp drive, we can assume that they have had no help from the Vulcans in developing spaceborne weapons, and likewise no particular guidance WRT contact with other species. (I wonder if the NX-01 is literally the first Earth starship to have been in a battle with another species.) T'Pol may even be flat-out lying to them about not being interested in exploration; again as noted above, it makes no sense for a people who value science as heavily as the Vulcans do--one of their greatest honors is admittance to the Vulcan Science Academy, as noted in Spock's personal history--and it was their response to a warp signature in the Sol system that resulted in first contact. (Although we'll find out early in the next season that that wasn't actually the first meeting between Vulcans and humans, which further makes my point.) There's a bit in Better Call Saul in which Chuck McGill calls his brother Jimmy "a chimp with a machine gun", and Vulcans may regard all humans as such right now, and interact with them accordingly. They don't actually quarantine Earth, though, and they may be starting to regret that, especially as the crew meets another legacy Alpha Quadrant race soon. Further, WRT the Vulcans themselves, the fourth season will come up with yet another reason why they're not behaving like the Vulcans that we know from the 23rd century forward.

This may all matter quite a lot if, once the humans and Vulcans become better friends, the Vulcans help the humans become competence porn stars, either through an application of their own pedagological methods, or by having a perspective on human learning and behavior that humans wouldn't get on their own, or some combination of the two. Although humanity might be on its way to having a breakthrough in its intellectual development anyway, if Hoshi learning an alien language after listening to it for a short while is any indication. (Speaking of the Bad Times on Earth, ENT will eventually describe the notorious Colonel Green as committing genocide against post-WWIII mutants; perhaps the mutants who he missed will eventually become the X-Men.) In general, as I hinted above, I'm not crazy about how Hoshi's breakthrough is depicted; having her learn enough about a completely alien language to negotiate a new alliance with a hostile species in the middle of a battle, and showing it as just being a matter of trying real hard, you know, having heart and the eye of the tiger, really is just trying to rework any number of underdog sports cliches; I'm surprised that they didn't pull a grizzled linguistics coach out of nowhere and have her doing calisthenics in the corridors to the tune of "Faith of the Heart", their having already blown their power ballad budget for the season.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:00 AM on August 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Did Sluggo get the decon gel treatment?

That's in the special Enterprise: Too Hot for TV edition.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ah, yes, right after What the Denobulan Saw.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:34 PM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's always interesting watching Trek season 1 episodes.

Prequels give writers the opportunity to show how certain things developed such as the transporter, warp drive after the first flight, the universal translator, etc. This is what the writers wanted to do but the marketing executives and whomever else above were interested in rehashing the model with a different skin so insisted that much of these things are already developed or in development.

This results in some rather rushed explanations throughout the first season and in some instances I think it's a mistake to concentrate on how things develop, such as the universal translator, but I realize I may stand along on this as it seems to be a subject people discuss. For me, the reason everyone speaks English for the most part (the Klingons apparently speak English so often that Klingon is no longer translated by the Universal Translator - see DS9) is because the show is produced in the States, originally and still largely (with the exception of DS9 and Enterprise itself it turns out) an episodic format, which tends to compress all aspects of the story except the action scenes (Americans still insist on these or is a perception of the executives?), and really no budget to create other languages and have even a Universal Translator translate words after they're spoken by the alien language character. It would double in many cases the time to shoot an episode, and with little time, a sci-fi technology explanation will do.

It's also a little strange to realize with AI and some of the translation technology we have today that Universal Translators are most likely quite possible, though with the translation step still necessary (at least at this point).

Giving Hoshi magic language powers while she works rapidly with the vague "translation matrix" just isn't a good back story for the technology. It seems muddled, but this is a season 1 episode so that tradition continues. I saw a documentary once on autism and one person could pick up languages very quickly, in less than a week he picked up Finnish and was fluent, so it is possible but I don't believe this is any way given as a possible explanation for picking up language so quickly.

As others have mentioned, the entire plot is a mess and Archer continues to be an ass to T'Pol. Apparently subtlety is something that suffers at this point in the show. We have to be reminded, in case we've forgotten, that there's longstanding species (is it special?) issues and tension. It's just childish really. T'Pol comes off as far more professional. The looseness of the crew is almost at the level of the crew dancing on the bridge in that TOS space hippie episode.

As has already been addressed, the aliens leaving the raided ship floating in space with their gear extracting fluids from the murdered crew because they can come back for it later might have made sense if, when the ship arrived, it was much smaller, but it appeared huge. I know one shouldn't assume it was the same ship, perhaps a scout or small ship with a small crew makes the kills and leaves the collection to the other ship but the amount of fluid or the compound they could extract would be minuscule. One could go on and explain away almost every possible reason for this but the point there is no attempt to do so whatsoever in the episode.

Then at the end the ship is totally destroyed rather than disabled so they could get more information or did I miss something?

I laughed out loud again when T'Pol again mentions to Archer that space is big.
posted by juiceCake at 7:47 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's always interesting watching Trek season 1 episodes.

It's better than that. It's always interesting watching the first Trek episode after the pilot. The first episode is always a big "let's see what's out there" adventure that sets up the premise with whatever amazing idea led to the creation of the series in the first place. Once the pilot is written and cast and shot and everyone now knows what is going on, the writers have to come up with "and then what happened?" and show that, after the big splash of the premiere, they have more ideas to continue making this overall story worthwhile.

I can't think of any Trek episode after the pilot that is legitimately good. I don't know TOS well enough to judge it, but TNG gave us "The Naked Now" with the drunken polywater hijinks and DS9 gave us a Bajoran terrorist seeking asylum (and it introduced Garak, so it's actually the strongest second episode in that is gave us something that matters). VOY went right for "here's a weird space thing you won't find in the Alpha Quadrant" and teased us with potential serialization by promoting Torres to chief engineer and making us think the Maquis/Starfleet divide would continue to matter. And now ENT does this. I can't say that any of these episodes are any that I clamor to rewatch when I revisit Trek shows.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:52 AM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


TOS was a weird case in comparison to the other shows (in more ways than one, really; it started strong, then had a pretty not-great last season) in that the pilots were not shown as opening/introductory episodes; "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was stuck in the first season without explanation as to why the crew, uniforms, etc. were different from the main run of the show. (It was the third episode shown; MA says that "because this segment was 'too expository' in nature – a common fault with pilots – it would not have made a good premiere episode for the series.") "The Cage" was reworked with a framing narrative as "The Menagerie", TOS' only two-parter. The actual planned first episode of the series, "The Corbomite Maneuver", didn't air first because the FX took too long to complete. One of the episodes that was considered for the first aired episode was "The Naked Time".

As for the TNG-era shows, "The Naked Now" was thoroughly embarrassing; "Past Prologue" was... well, it introduced Garak, so how bad could it be? (Confession: since I didn't join the DS9 rewatch until later, I haven't seen this episode for a while, and the description on MA makes me think that I should correct that.) As for "Parallax", well, I've already gone on about that at some length, as I do.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:56 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


P.S. Watched "Past Prologue" last night, and its a surprisingly good first-season/early-show episode. It's also kind of a Kira-centric episode, and fits in well with the general theme of her character arc, i.e. her past as a Bajoran freedom fighter and survivor of the occupation and how that affects her present life and career, especially when she runs into people that she knows from her old life (as she does in this episode). The rewatch crew seemed to like it, as well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can already feel that I may end up being the Enterprise stan in this rewatch.

I think those pointing out the seeming incompetence and lack of discipline among the characters are missing the entire point. Enterprise is a show about the first ship to explore the frontiers of space. There is no Star Fleet, not really. It's one ship. There's no Prime Directive. There aren't any protocols about first contact or away missions or any of that (though maybe there should be). People's roles aren't well defined. The point is that throughout the run of the show we're going to see those sort of things start to take shape. There's definitely a case to be made that they don't nail the execution of these ideas but that is explicitly what the show is about. To use an analogy, they're not the crew of the space shuttle or the ISS doing experiments like a well oiled machine. They're Gus Grissom and John Young sneaking a corned beef sandwich onto gemini. Though again, maybe they don't make that clear enough.

Also, the reason the weapons don't work is because they've never been used... ever. And, they weren't planning on using them so they've literally never been calibrated. So Reed (Reid?) is trying to calibrate them on the fly in space with whatever rocks are floating around. Remember, the ship left before its original launch date to return Klaang to Qo'onos and then at the end of the pilot they just decide to keep going. There's no plan. They just want to explore because they can.

This episode is about their optimism and curiosity slamming up against the harsh realities of interstellar exploration. Seeing how shitty things can get Archer turns tail and runs, and then realizes that if he runs now he'll never stop. So they go back and ask for help and confront the bad aliens. Does he do things wrong? Absolutely. Everybody in this episode makes a wrong decision or does something that we would think was stupid if Worf or Dax or Chakotay did it. That's because they're the first ones to do it and we get to see all the mistakes they make on the way to those hyper-competent descendants. It's all messy and it only gets messier as the show goes on.

Hoshi's story parallels Archer's. She can go back to teaching at the university, being the biggest linguistic fish in Earth's little pond or she can overcome her fear and accept that she might fuck up first contact with an alien civilization. Her skills aren't magic. They explicitly show her using the alien ship's own database to start constructing a translation of the alien language. The problem isn't that she's able to become fluent in an alien language in a few hours. The problem is that she can't and she's afraid that if she says the wrong thing they'll all die. The resolution isn't that she magically understands their language through sheer willpower. Instead she says a bunch of gibberish to them like a tourist in a foreign city they've never been to but gets enough right to get the general point across.

I think everyone will have a much better time watching this show if they keep in mind that the Enterprise crew is absolutely just kind of stumbling around space doing the best they can while often fucking things up.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


There aren't any protocols about first contact or away missions or any of that [...] Everybody in this episode makes a wrong decision or does something that we would think was stupid if Worf or Dax or Chakotay did it.

You raise some good points here, runcibleshaw. Thus far in the rewatch, I've alternated between feeling that their mistake-making is either (1) a reasonable consequence of their green-ness w/r/t interstellar everything or (2) them just being dumb. Somebody else in this thread or the last one mentioned that if a crew of reasonably-thoughtful Earth folks from today were on this exact mission together, they'd have handled some of these things a little better. It's certainly possible that we are making such judgments from a POV too close to Trek, since we are, well, here doing this.

And this question is kind of what I was getting at above about whether the writers attain the proper balance of plausible competence and plausible stumbling. (I imagine there's no small bit of personal taste at play, too, when it comes to assessing any given episode's spot on the Crew Competence-Stumbling Continuum.)

This episode is about their optimism and curiosity slamming up against the harsh realities of interstellar exploration.

Yeah, this and others as well. Great thing for ENT episodes to be about. Even allowing for vast gaps in execution, I think I will find that I definitely prefer episodes like this to the "twice-reheated TNG plot" episodes.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:38 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


NASA's Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft both contained golden media (plaques for Pioneer and records for Voyager) that showed where they had been launched from. Voyager's record contained greetings to extraterrestrials in dozens of languages as well as the story of our planet and culture. In 50 years, we've become more cynical in our science fiction about inviting others to our home planet. (David Brin likens this impulse to waving a giant spotlight around and screaming, "YOO HOO! BEASTIES! COME AND EAT US!")

Caution makes sense. It is prudent.

But those media, their contents and those ships were created by the brightest scientific minds of a generation. They were conceived and launched by super-competent people. So there's precedent in real life for idealism. For naive enthusiasm. For assuming your first toes in the water will be greeted with welcoming limbs.

Watching those things backfire on this crew is part of their overall character arc. It will happen time and time again in large and small ways until they learn from their experiences and change their behaviour and attitudes over time and the development of four seasons.

Keep in mind, Enterprise is the story of the development of the Federation. A coming together of species that were antagonistic to each other, in pursuit of peace, community and common goals. The Vulcans couldn't make that happen, but humans did. Through diplomacy and trust and humor and kindness and force. The fist inside a velvet glove. The promise of strength through multitudes. It takes a certain amount of guileless idealism to even think such a thing might be possible. And unique qualities to make it happen.

The crew aren't competent yet. They're writing their own rule books and screwing up as much as they succeed.

That's deliberate.
posted by zarq at 7:17 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Hoshi’s character arc so far appears to be ‘why am I even on a starship?’ Her concern for Sluggo is a heavy-handed allegory for her own place on the ship: she is wracked with doubt, anxiety and fear, regretting even coming along.

I very much appreciated Phlox just outright calling out the allegory; it was so heavy handed even the characters saw it! And gah, the fact that she just plops it down on another planet without concern. Earth has enough history with doing that kind of thing to know it's often a bad idea.

The crew aren't competent yet. They're writing their own rule books and screwing up as much as they succeed.

This is my first time with Enterprise (I just pretty much skipped it the first time around, though I think I paid attention for a bit of the third season) and I'm enjoying seeing them screw up and make mis-steps, but they should be mis-steps that are reflective of a group of highly trained people might make. The Vulcans may have been holding them back from the last century, but surely humanity has some ideas based on their own history and experiences with things like colonization and even the idea of "stranger danger" to not just broadcast their home position to anyone they meet? I mean, I'm not the brainiest guy around, but I know enough to not give the person I just met my home address.

I get what they are going for - this is new, we don't know what we are doing yet, but I think they can do that in such a way that doesn't require some idiot ball moments. Having their first encounter with a new species be something horribly unexpected and creepy is good; have them learn something from it in terms of a good protocol going forward would also be good; having them just blindly broadcast where they are from makes them seem like a bunch of over-eager puppies out on their first walk.
posted by nubs at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


The post and comments are really good. Having read them, it's hard not to want to comment..

Yes I love Phlox blasting right through the symbolism and saying perhaps the slug should teach. It's also Phlox who just straight up suggested that maybe Hoshi should quit in the first place. I loved that.

I do understand the show is trying to demonstrate people learning and things being discovered. Yes the pitfalls are that they will make the characters too incompetent and unlikeable. And even then it feels like some things could just be patched up with a line here and there because it doesn't even quite seem like the writers know that's what they are doing. Especially IMHO with Archer where it's not clear to me AT ALL that the show knows he's being a shitty captain or how much of a problem that is.

I was actually okay with Hoshi winging it and rising to the occasion. I wasn't okay with just how much shouting at her Archer had to do. They played the "JUST DO THE THING" "I CAN'T :(" notes a couple times too many. But I think it was a good approximation of a character growth plot.

Malcolm and the weapons are, I think, the best example of competent incompetence in the show. The state of things is not great but he himself is pretty focussed on his job and improving the situation.

Tripp's a little weird. He's the engineer, but the show is way more interested in his kind of "young cowboy" aspect, naive and swaggering golden boy. They really sock it to him in the next two episodes (getting high in caves to shout at T'Pol; being bad at decompression and getting knocked up on a holodeck). Because they are more interested in his personality than his job he almost feels like the show's main character.

I am fine with a break from standard Trek hypercompetency porn, they really just need a character who also knows they're going through growing pains and comments on things. Not just because that would reassure the audience, but it seems like the kind of leadership and guidance the crew would need too.
posted by fleacircus at 5:45 AM on October 3


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