Star Trek: Enterprise: The Andorian Incident
September 17, 2018 8:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Captain Archer’s simple desire to annoy some Vulcan monks is poorly timed.

Memory Alpha notes that this was a contentious episode, but a favorite behind the scenes. Some highlights from the article:

Production
> This episode marks the first appearance of an updated makeup design for the Andorians, which was created by Michael Westmore and used for the species whenever they made subsequent appearances on Enterprise.
> This is also the first Enterprise episode which was directed by Roxann Dawson, who very much enjoyed helming the installment. She later reminisced, "I think we were just starting to define that world and it was so much fun to be at the inception and to really explore what the series was going to be like and look like."

Continuity
> This episode depicts the first contact between Starfleet and the Andorians. It was the first episode to prominently feature Andorians since TAS: "The Time Trap" in 1973. This episode additionally introduces Commander Shran, who became a major recurring character. It is also the first of many episodes dealing with Andorians owing Humans a favor or vice versa, others being ENT: "Shadows of P'Jem", "Proving Ground", "Zero Hour", "Kir'Shara" and "These Are the Voyages...".
> This is the first episode in which Reed commands the ship in the absence of Archer, T'Pol, and Tucker.
> This episode further establishes that Vulcan and Andor are neighbors, which was first implied in DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight".
> Surak is mentioned for the first time on Enterprise in this episode; he later appears in the Season 4 episodes "The Forge" and "Awakening".
> It is implied that Reed came up with the future stipulations that landing parties had to check in every ten minutes and scan for alien ships before arriving at their destination.
> T'Pol notes that she has been on Enterprise for nine weeks and four days, placing this episode on June 19, 2151.
> Before using the transporter, a concerned tactical crewman says he has heard "stories" regarding transporter usage by Humans. Some of these stories are elaborated in "Daedalus".
> While harassing T'Pol, Tholos mentions kal-if-fee although not by name.
> The fate of P'Jem is revealed in "Shadows of P'Jem".

Reception
> Roxann Dawson cited this, from the ten Star Trek: Enterprise episodes she directed, as the one she was personally fondest of. She based this opinion on the highly enjoyable experience of directing it and related, "It's my favorite, I think […] That one stands out in my head." [2]
> There were many complaints from fans about how this episode portrays the Vulcans. "We took a lot of heat on 'The Andorian Incident'," said Chris Black, "that [the Vulcans] flat-out lied – they flat-out lied – that they have this spy station [on P'Jem]." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, p. 30)
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 5 out of 5 arrowhead insignias and referred to it as the third best episode of Enterprise's first season, also naming Jeffrey Combs as the "Best Guest Star" in the same season based on his performance herein. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 78)
> Jeffrey Combs made frequent appearances on DS9, as the recurring characters Weyoun (a Vorta) and Brunt (a Ferengi).
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 361) comments about this episode, "If there was one person in the audience who didn't see the twist coming, it would be extraordinary. Despite that, it's a good episode for Archer and T'Pol, and an important one for the running plotlines. There's a fine mix of threat and intrigue, and a nice contrast between Archer's naive and direct approach and the Vulcans' shiftiness disguised as restraint."

Memorable quotes

"You say this is a place to purge emotions? Looks like somebody had to purge pretty bad. He bashed the door in."
- Tucker, to T'Pol when they come across the damaged entrance to the monastery on P'Jem

"Energize… before we change our minds."
- Reed, to Sato

"Take a look at the Vulcan database. See if it has anything on these Andorians."
- Reed, to Sato

"For people without emotion you sure have a flair for the dramatic!"
- Tucker, upon witnessing the Vulcan elder open the secret entrance to the catacombs

"Andorians, yes. I've been reading about them in the Vulcan database. Militaristic, blue-skinned?"
"That's them."
- Reed and Tucker

Poster’s Log:
Taken as a standalone story, this was a significant improvement in quality. That said, I do have some notes.

* It’s That Guy! And the rest!

Jeffrey Combs is in all sorts of stuff I love: Justice League, DS9, endless schlocky horror, even Babylon 5. Apart from that, we had a number of familiar faces: the senior Vulcan monk was an Ocampan in Caretaker and a Son’a in Insurrection, the horrible creeper Andorian had multiple roles on VOY.

* Again with the ‘foreigners are smelly’ complaints.

I don’t want to go on about this every time, but the theme of ‘different people smell bad’ is pretty tiresome, and a recurring notion on ENT.

* Some more ‘nobody here is real military.’

Reed coming up with ‘scanning stuff and checking in should be standard practice’ is clearly an attempt by the writers to show how Starfleet developed their rulebook… except that this stuff is so basic we’re running into more of the whole ‘these guys feel incomptent’ issue from Strange New World.

Additionally, I have a hard time believing that nobody on board is tasked with just studying the Vulcan database all day to learn about where they’re going.

* I don’t really know how to feel about the Vulcans here.

I generally remember how the ‘bad Vulcans’ stuff shakes out from my one earlier viewing of the show. I don’t know that it’s really working for me here though. I mean, I’m not *mad* like some of the fans presumably were, but it really is a weird choice.

* I don’t know how to feel about the Andorians here.

On the one hand, we’re clearly supposed to empathize with the Andorians, and parts of it work: Shran is right in the end. But on the other hand, I mean, he tortured Archer, bashed the comms with a *rock*, and one of his men was sexually harassing T’Pol. By the end of this, it felt like a case of ‘man, everybody in space is assholes, amirite?’ instead of ‘hmm… I wonder where this will lead?’

I was also surprised the Andorians hadn’t even *heard* of transporters. Like, not having them? Okay, sure. Vulcans are established as more technologically advanced. But not even knowing they exist and may be a strategic issue in this scenario? That was a weird call, and it raises more questions about the association between humans and Vulcans to date.

Anyway, even though I just wrote a whole bunch about what they did wrong, this was a better episode overall. Stuff happened. There was action, political intrigue, character-building and groundwork laid for future continuity. It’s not a great story, but it does feel like the writers are finding their footing.

Pointless STO Comparison: P’Jem pops up a couple of times in Star Trek Online: there’s an early (Starfleet-only) mission that mostly happens at the monastery, and a Duty Officer Assignment where you can send one of your crew to a pilgrimage there.

Jeffrey Combs also did voice work in the MMO: not only is he a significant presence in the Victory Is Life storyline, but the devs also retconned out the Vorta Eraun (from the old 2800 storyline) and pasted Weyoun into all his old scenes.

* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans can withstand extremes of temperature much better than humans.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Skipped. For once, Enterprise has better equipment than the Andorians. The propensity is alluded to in the transporter sequence though.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Also skipped this week, which surprised me a lot. Shran even described Enterprise as ‘well-armed.’
posted by mordax (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
By the end of this, it felt like a case of ‘man, everybody in space is assholes, amirite?’ instead of ‘hmm… I wonder where this will lead?’

My takeaway from this episode, at least in part, boiled down to "Everyone in the 22nd Century is Racist." The "smelly aliens" bit again, Archer's "I'm all ears--no offense" thing, and most of all, Andorians reflexively using "pinkskin" as an insult within minutes of meeting humans for the first time. (And, yeah, Tholos being a creeper.) About the only justification for the Andorians being so brutal and nasty in a First Contact situation (even with the Vulcans present) is that Shran and his team could be the Andorian equivalent of MACOs who are there to find the listening post/sensor station, and aren't going to let any diplomatic considerations get in their way; they may have even come up with "pinkskin" previously as an insult for Vulcans (who are generally not as green as you'd think, although the TOS episode "Patterns of Force" showed Spock with green bruises). That having been said, it's still really weird that they assumed that humans were unshakeable allies of the Vulcans; a cannier, less volatile team leader might have teased out the decidedly mixed nature of the Vulcan-human alliance. (Part of the problem may be that I'm subconsciously expecting some Weyoun-ness out of another Jeffrey Combs character; even Brunt wasn't this aggro.) For that matter, it's pretty weird that the Andorians, who knew about P'Jem, had no idea that humans existed--despite the Earth Cargo Service, and Earth basically being a client race of the Vulcans for a century.

But it's still a significant episode in that it shows that a) Vulcans aren't perfect and b) some of the human misgivings and suspicions about their motives might have a basis in fact. Really, all of the Vulcans' vocal misgivings about humans gets knocked into a cocked hat when it turns out that they risked pulling Earth into a hostile relationship with a species that is ready to throw down. I can just see Soval back on Earth, insisting that there's a logical explanation for all this, but not finding Starfleet very receptive to his rationalizations. (We'll eventually get an explanation for why the Vulcans here seem so different from their 23rd century versions.)

Side note: I'd headcanoned that the reason that the Andorians knew about P'Jem--which they maintained had the listening post, even though two previous "visits" hadn't revealed the equipment--was that someone in the Andorian Empire, maybe even the Empress herself, had some sort of clairvoyant/precognitive/super-intuition power that revealed its presence. Otherwise, I couldn't see how the Andorians could hold their own against the Vulcans, being super-smart, focused on science, etc. You'd have this sort of living goddess-prophet hidden away and occasionally giving the civilian government tips.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Definitely a better episode than most of the season so far, despite some misgivings and what I would argue are missteps: I actually did fall for the twist, mostly because I haven't been sure what to make of the show's 'perhaps a preponderance of Vulcans are Lawful Evil' stance, and because I thought that putting Archer and Tucker in the position of defending Vulcans against other people's racism & conspiracy-mongering was supposed to be the twist -- to force them to rethink their prejudices, rather than have them justified. But nope! The twist is that their anti-Vulcan sentiments are at least partly justified, and then the episode ends without addressing any of the implications of that.

The bulk of the episode works, decoupled from the over-arching context of the season, and it's actually pretty good -- mordax already covered most of the problematic bits that I would otherwise bring up. Jeffrey Combs is great, as always, and the Andorian get-ups are a good blend of TOS and modern-era makeup; I can quibble with the central plot but it at does feel like something of consequence both to our core cast and to the world they live in, and the central premise of the problem -- a treaty-violating hidden surveillance outpost -- feels reasonable if you don't think too hard about how the Andorians found out about it in the first place, or why the Super Secret Station didn't have a lock on their front door, and limits its security to being...behind a curtain. Which the Andorians didn't check the last two times they raided the place. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don't remember where -- if anywhere? -- they're going with this Vulcan stuff, but at this point the main thing they seem to be going for is "T'Pol isn't like other Vulcans" with a side helping of "human anti-Vulcan biases are justified" but maybe that's just the set-up for a twist later, or some timey-wiimey nonsense from the pilot making a return. I don't object to it, exactly -- it's not unreasonable that the Vulcan government might have had a major shakeup between now and TOS -- but at the same time the show hasn't quite given us a justification for this yet. Maybe that will pay off down the road, but evaluating this in the moment it's more weird than it is good or bad.

(We'll eventually get an explanation for why the Vulcans here seem so different from their 23rd century versions.)

On preview, I look forward to seeing what I've apparently forgotten about the show!

--

Limits of the time: the back-and-forth shots of the everyone looking into the listening post and the matte painting + minimal CGI (I'm presuming) of the listening post didn't quite work, but I appreciate them not even trying to green-screen that.

(On a non-technical note, the scanning-station Vulcans seem remarkably blasé about being discovered (to the point of not noticing the intrusion). And Archer seems remarkably okay about the whole torture-of-prisoners bit. There's a lot about this that felt mildly off, even though is mostly just works.)

Cave of the day: this is the third episode so far (following Strange New World and Terra Nova) where a lot of the action is set in Definitely Not The Same Cave Set As Last Time. That's an almost 50% cave rate, so far, for a show nominally set in space.
posted by cjelli at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I mean, I’m not *mad* like some of the fans presumably were, but it really is a weird choice.

My headcanon rationalization for these Vulcans outright lying is that, being monks and/or spies, they've presumably spent huge portions of their lives outside of normal Vulcan society. A Trekker insisting that Vulcans never lie is just the Planet of Hats in another form.

this was a better episode overall. Stuff happened. There was action, political intrigue, character-building and groundwork laid for future continuity. It’s not a great story, but it does feel like the writers are finding their footing.

Agreed: I feel like this was the first episode of this rewatch to still be actually exciting and really continuously watchable (except for the T'Pol creeping, of course).

Part of the problem may be that I'm subconsciously expecting some Weyoun-ness out of another Jeffrey Combs character; even Brunt wasn't this aggro.

That could be. Let's also not forget that this is only the second(?) significant opportunity in franchise history to characterize Andorians, so they kind of had to "go big." Indeed, from a worldbuilding perspective, I enjoy this episode that much more, because bringing Andorians in is just damn smart. (Hell, the pilot should've been about an Andorian crash-landing in a farm, not a Klingon. Just think of how many problems that would have solved.)

This is as good a time as any to note that ENT often drew inspiration from noncanon Trek works that had previously developed background about TOS and pre-TOS stuff. In the case of Andorians, the Last Unicorn RPG book Among the Clans had some direct and, I believe, indirect influence on how the show develops them.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I remember reading years ago that the reason we never saw Andorians in TNG/DS9/VOY (minus a quick cameo appearance in one episode of TNG on a holodeck) is that head Trek honcho Rick Berman thought they had a stupid design and forbade their use which is why we went 21 seasons of Star Trek before we saw them again. I think they turned out great here and this is one of my favorite episodes of the season. Shran! We want Shran! Give us more Shran! Watch him closely; Combs does a hell of a job over the series selling the idea of how he and Archer become fire-forged frenemies.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:37 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


This episode works pretty good! I found it pretty obvious, but it was enjoyable and well done. It felt very much like Trek.

The bit that really bugged me was how T'Pol was treated - not just by the Andorian creeper, but by Archer and Tripp as well. They pretty much bully her into the trip to P'Jem despite her objections, and while they back her up when she senses something is off, Archer's treatment of her when the listening post is discovered is...odd. Like she is somehow culpable for what the Vulcans have been doing, without her knowledge. And, for the love of Roddenberry, could somebody have let the writers know that being vegetarian does not mean only eating salad?

Anyways...the fact that the Vulcans inside the listening post had no reaction to the door being opened and a group of humans and Andorians standing there gawking was amusing. But the fact that the end reveal doesn't really lead anywhere in terms of what this means in the larger scheme of things means the ending falls flat for me, and I guess maybe I just don't trust the show enough yet to think that this will be followed up on? I mean, I know that it will from other comments in this thread, but...it was just a really big thread to leave dangling; I wanted to see Archer report this back to Starfleet, or something (I guess I want the companion series where we follow the admirals at Starfleet Command, responding to the information and discoveries Enterprise is sharing).
posted by nubs at 11:00 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I remember reading years ago that the reason we never saw Andorians in TNG/DS9/VOY (minus a quick cameo appearance in one episode of TNG on a holodeck) is that head Trek honcho Rick Berman thought they had a stupid design and forbade their use which is why we went 21 seasons of Star Trek before we saw them again.

I think that Gene Roddenberry himself may have had second thoughts about the Andorians, as we only got to see them a handful of times on TOS: "Journey to Babel", the only appearance where we get named characters with lines, and a few others. Roddenberry used to complain about how Star Trek fans were treated in the media, and when an old issue of Newsweek did an article on Star Trek conventions in the seventies, the two attendees that they had photos of were a fan with one of those vests covered by buttons with Trek in-jokes, and a guy cosplaying an Andorian; if Roddenberry saw that, that probably didn't help things. There was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of an Andorian crew member in the big crowd scene in TMP, an Andorian officer in Star Trek IV who likewise wasn't there for very long, and the aforementioned TNG thing where Data was looking at different skins for Lal. Generally, they've been compared to goofy comedy/cartoon aliens like My Favorite Martian or The Great Gazoo; the deely-bobber aliens, if you will.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:17 PM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think that Gene Roddenberry himself may have had second thoughts about the Andorians [...] Generally, they've been compared to goofy comedy/cartoon aliens like My Favorite Martian or The Great Gazoo; the deely-bobber aliens, if you will.

Which may also partly explain their behavior in this and subsequent episodes: the writers probably figured that, to offset their goofy appearance, their behavior needed to be really aggressive and threatening. It's like, if they could have cast Michael Shannon as one, they totally would've.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:32 AM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


if they could have cast Michael Shannon as one

Oh, hell yes. Even if they're less aggro in the 23rd century, this should get into the ear of whoever's the showrunner on Disco now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:23 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


the writers probably figured that, to offset their goofy appearance, their behavior needed to be really aggressive and threatening

I don't know about that; I had a friend who was huge into Star Trek at one point, when TNG was really just ramping up; he got us playing the Star Trek roleplaying game, and I remember considering playing an Andorian who were very much depicted as physically strong, aggressive types who didn't get along with Vulcans. To me this episode really just pulled on what I thought was existing lore about the Andorians.
posted by nubs at 8:22 AM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Reintroducing Andorians to Star Trek was an idea that most fans liked I'd say. Of course this episode features classic Star Trek prisoner protocol, namely, barely monitor your prisoners, check in on them seemingly hours apart, don't post a guard with the prisoners, don't use any surveillance devices, etc. Without this protocol, many a plot would not be possible on Star Trek (this is addressed in meta-fashion in DS9 when Ezri mocks Worf for his escape strategies while being held by the Breen).

Great to have Jeffrey Combs playing Shran. His seething anger matches Archer's seething anger and short temper so they'll get along great.

I don't mind the portrayal of Vulcans as not perfect and always following their principles. This is a more realistic portrayal of a species with varied people within it, though as usual Trek uses a hammer to tell that tale.

Improvement even if it doesn't have much substance. It does manage to setup future stories.
posted by juiceCake at 8:58 AM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't get the Vulcan controversy. AFAIK "never telling lies" isn't a Vulcan quality. Besides, always telling the truth regardless of circumstance or context is illogical.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't get the Vulcan controversy. AFAIK "never telling lies" isn't a Vulcan quality. Besides, always telling the truth regardless of circumstance or context is illogical.

I don't personally have a real issue with the 'Vulcans lying' part, but the idea that Vulcans only lie under extreme circumstances and only when it is absolutely necessary goes all the way back to TOS, and I can where people might object to hinging an entire episode on 'Vulcans lying' but not actually addressing (1) what the need was or (2) what the circumstances really were or (3) the fact that they lied. The twist of the episode is the lie, and yet that's not where the episode dwells; I get how one might find that aggravating. (I, again, don't: Spock lied when he had to, and people might reasonably have different formulations of 'had to.' That's fine.)

As an issue of canon, I don't mind, but I do find the show's formulation (at this point in time) of 'humans being angry at lying aliens who are holding back humanity' problematic, going back to the pilot, because it paints of picture of needful distrust rather than of, say, paranoia or xenophobia -- which might later be justified within the context of the show w/r/t these specific Vulcans, but it's not a super welcoming or particularly nuanced message (in this episode, or the pilot, or in an upcoming episode that I'm thinking of) to take away into the wider world, which is something Star Trek has often aimed to accomplish.
posted by cjelli at 12:08 PM on September 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Can Vulcans lie? Let's check in with Memory Alpha:
One of the great myths surrounding Vulcans was that the race was incapable of telling a lie. While generally believed to be accurate, Vulcans were, in fact, capable of telling lies, usually justifying this action as a logical course towards a means to an end. An example of this would be lying to carry out a secret mission or lying to protect the lives of others. Both Spock and Valeris were capable of lying, although Valeris' motives were somewhat dubious. Tuvok admitted that Vulcans were capable of telling lies but added that he had never found it prudent or necessary to do so, after an inquiry by Seven of Nine into whether or not they were capable of lying.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:36 PM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


My takeaway from this episode, at least in part, boiled down to "Everyone in the 22nd Century is Racist."

You pretty much have to be right by this point, which is super vexing to me because that was so tiresome on VOY. (It even tracks, because everyone was a racist in TOS - see Bones - and loads of people were racist in the TNG era, even letting go of VOY a sec and sticking to the other two.)

For that matter, it's pretty weird that the Andorians, who knew about P'Jem, had no idea that humans existed--despite the Earth Cargo Service, and Earth basically being a client race of the Vulcans for a century.

Right? The implications there for me are probably twofold:

1) The Vulcans pretty much have to be keeping Andorians out of their space by force or the threat of it, which is in stark contrast with their nonviolence on P'Jem (but maybe lends credence to the monks' story - 'we'll shoot you for crossing x boundary, but not beating up our clerics').. because that's the only way guys like Shran aren't also checking every Vulcan transport ship across the region.

2) The Vulcans are really, really curtailing Earth Cargo Service. This one is almost explicit - it would jibe with Trip's assertion in Terra Nova that 'Vulcan favors come at too high a price.' Maybe the price is where humans can go - it makes sense given their reaction to Archer at all.

On a non-technical note, the scanning-station Vulcans seem remarkably blasé about being discovered (to the point of not noticing the intrusion

That did momentarily yank me right outta the episode.

Cave of the day:

As one header-maker to another, I must tip my hat over this.

The bit that really bugged me was how T'Pol was treated - not just by the Andorian creeper, but by Archer and Tripp as well.

Yeah.

Hell, the pilot should've been about an Andorian crash-landing in a farm, not a Klingon. Just think of how many problems that would have solved.

*facepalm*

I think you may win the thread. I kept noticing how Klingon-y the Andorians were on the first run overall, Shran in particular, but I never really considered that and you're absolutely right.

I think that Gene Roddenberry himself may have had second thoughts about the Andorians

That may be. I mean, you really need some serious makeup SFX (on the order of what we got) to make them look good enough to take seriously, and antenna-dudes really were a big silly trope in the era.

I don't get the Vulcan controversy.

Beyond the 'lies' thing, there's a couple issues at play I think:

- Vulcans are a huge fan favorite. Depicting them as un-Spock-y, for lack of a real adjective, was going to rile up a lot of fans with big nostalgia for very little clear gain in this moment.

- As a reviewer all this time later, I'm bothered by ENT's anti-intellectual bent. Some of that is definitely fed by this whole 'Vulcans bad' narrative because there's clearly some authorial intent that we're supposed to side with Archer and Trip over the stuffy intellectuals, who are now being depicted as shifty. It rubs me the wrong way because of this.
posted by mordax at 1:24 PM on September 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I remember reading years ago that the reason we never saw Andorians in TNG/DS9/VOY (minus a quick cameo appearance in one episode of TNG on a holodeck) is that head Trek honcho Rick Berman thought they had a stupid design and forbade their use which is why we went 21 seasons of Star Trek before we saw them again.

So that's it. Back when DS9 was on I kept wondering if those blue guys with the antennae would have been able to sense the Jem Hadar when they were cloaked, and that it would've been cool to have one of them join the cast.
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on September 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, one further thought:

While I dislike the route they are taking about human and Vulcan interaction, I will concede that they needed to have a reason that the Federation did not predate Earth's arrival on the interstellar scene because TNG established humanity as the leaders of the whole deal*.

Andorian/Vulcan tension solved by humanity later is actually a pretty slick way to handle that and establish why the founding Federation races end up both fast friends later, and let humans run things - Earth would only need to mediate so many of these conflicts before getting a reputation as peacemakers. I just think some of this was mishandled or not thought through very well.

(* Interesting note: It's my understanding that the dismally horrible Kevin Sorbo vehicle Andromeda was loosely based on the pitch that made VOY - Federation ship launched into a post-Federation future and having to rebuild it, instead of simply slogging home. In both Andromeda and TOS, it is far less clear that humans are the center of interstellar politics. Andromeda's 'Systems Commonwealth' appears to predate humanity and was founded by a far more powerful race.

TNG could've gone other directions that 'humans rule' without going against Roddenberry's original napkin-notes, is I guess what I'm saying.)
posted by mordax at 1:35 PM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Vulcans are a huge fan favorite. Depicting them as un-Spock-y, for lack of a real adjective, was going to rile up a lot of fans with big nostalgia for very little clear gain in this moment.

Part of the reason that Spock became so popular is that he was an outsider, but an outsider portrayed sympathetically - he struggled to reconcile his two halves and to figure out his place amongst a human crew. The Vulcans here are being portrayed as outsiders too, but in a very xenophobic way, which is where some of my reaction is coming from. Because, yeah, it looks like everyone in the 22nd century is racist, but when you include the main characters in that, it kind of makes it hard to root for anybody.

When TOS played up Spock's outsider nature, it was generally meant to be wrong/transgressive. Here, they do it for laughs (which, yes, TOS did as well at times with McCoy; the difference being that Spock gave as good as he got. He was mocked for his outsider nature, and in turn mocked the "normies" to their faces). That's what I've been thinking about as I'm working my way through the first few episodes here and why things are rubbing me the wrong way.
posted by nubs at 2:04 PM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


When TOS played up Spock's outsider nature, it was generally meant to be wrong/transgressive. Here, they do it for laughs (which, yes, TOS did as well at times with McCoy; the difference being that Spock gave as good as he got. He was mocked for his outsider nature, and in turn mocked the "normies" to their faces). That's what I've been thinking about as I'm working my way through the first few episodes here and why things are rubbing me the wrong way.

... I really think you're onto something that's been bothering me basically since the era of B&B: Star Trek has always contained some pretty racist stuff, but as you right point out, most of the time it is regarded as bad. We're not meant to agree with Bones about Spock. We're not meant to agree with Dr. Pulaski that Data is a toaster. We're supposed to be uncomfortable about the wartime horrors that made Kirk bitter about Klingons or O'Brien uncomfortable around Cardassians. Like, it's there, we face it, but we all agree it's not what we want.

VOY engaged in this stuff without really examining it - it was just totally normal to everyone that people were racist about Klingons. No greater commentary or perspective, it simply was. That came up about other stuff too: the inherent mindset behind everything just favors 'races as easy stereotypes.'

ENT is, if anything, somewhat more aggressive about this underlying theme because the early plot hinges on racial tension so much instead of it being a side issue. I also feel like the racist behavior from the Vulcans and the Andorians is a bit of projection: the mindset that everybody secretly thinks this way. Like, of course Vulcans can't stand the smell of humans either, and of course the first thing Andorians would break out are racial slurs instead of some other aggro behavior/talk because, well, who isn't like that deep down?

It's... well, like you said, it makes it lot harder to root for these people. So far, my main stability here is Dr. Phlox, who is enthusiastic about everything instead of xenophobic and judgmental. I'm also taking to Mayweather, Reed and Hoshi a bit for not getting caught up in this so much.
posted by mordax at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Spock also had the advantage of being a competence porn star. One of my favorite Spock sequences is in "The Menagerie" when he calmly, methodically hijacks the Enterprise by himself. (He has his rank as first officer to help, but has also faked voice recordings of Kirk to get the bridge officers to cooperate, and doesn't hesitate to neck-pinch a dude if necessary.) T'Pol gets some of that, in "Strange New World", but not enough, and Archer is pretty slow to drop his attitude. (That may be realistic--prejudice isn't something that goes away overnight, usually--but we never see Archer thank T'Pol for saving his crew.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


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