Star Trek: Enterprise: Fusion   Rewatch 
November 26, 2018 10:14 AM - Season 1, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Enterprise's visit with a Vulcan ship probably needs a content warning.

Memory Alpha has some information here:

Background information
Title and script
> This episode had the working title "Equilibrium". (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 366) The reason why the title was changed was to avoid confusion with the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Equilibrium".(citation needed • edit)
> According to a system of alternative episode names that T'Pol actress Jolene Blalock assigned to each script as part of her dramatic preparation, this installment was called "Stone". The actress additionally attributed special characteristics to each alternative title and said about the example of this episode, "Stones represent strengths and weaknesses. One stone may be where you are presently, one for what you will learn, another for what you aspire to. That's some of how T'Pol will grow." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 137, p. 34)
> The final draft script of this episode was issued on 7 February 2002.

> John Harrington Bland, who portrayed Kov, replaced actor Kelly Connell, who was first cast as Kov but was unable to play this role due to illness. ("Fusion" call sheet, Kelly Connell) Actor Matt Malloy also auditioned for the part, and the role was offered to him too, though he couldn't commit himself to accepting it since the production period for "Fusion" conflicted with a movie he was doing. Malloy later described this episode as "the one where the hippy Vulcans show up." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, p. 28)
> Robert Pine (Tavin) is the father of Chris Pine; the actions of his son's character bring out the emotions in another Vulcan during a memorable scene in the film Star Trek.
Although the fact that Jolene Blalock did not have many scenes in this episode with other members of the series' regular cast meant that there was less joking around on the set than usual, Blalock still enjoyed being made responsible for much of the acting in this episode. "This is the first time we really get a glimpse into T'Pol […] This shows what T'Pol is made of and where her core beliefs lie," the actress commented. "I hate to sound biased, but it was so much fun to do. It was the first T'Pol spotlight episode […] It was really cool." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 137, p. 34)

> During the flashback scenes set in the jazz club, the grating behind T'Pol is a reused set piece that has appeared on Risa in the DS9 episode "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", aboard Ru'afo's flagship in Star Trek: Insurrection, and aboard the Reman Scimitar in Star Trek Nemesis.
> The exterior San Francisco street scenes were shot on Paramount Pictures' New York Street backlot, which has appeared numerous times throughout Star Trek.
> The limited set used as the captain's ready room aboard Enterprise had an effect on the filming of this episode's fight scene between Archer and Tolaris. Shortly after the sequence was shot, Stunt Coordinator Vince Deadrick, Jr. remembered, "I wanted to double Scott Bakula in one of the shots, where he gets thrown over his desk. But it's such a small room, and when you're in small areas it's very difficult to use doubles." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 42)

> Echo Three is referred to in this episode; it is also mentioned by Tucker in the previous episode, "Shuttlepod One".
> This episode marks the first time the interior of a Vulcan ship is shown.
> This is the first reference, in Star Trek: Enterprise and chronologically, to pon farr, though it is not named on this occasion. Kov states that Vulcan males are driven to mate only once every seven years. This is an essential point to the plot of TOS: "Amok Time". In reality, that episode introduced the concept of pon farr.
> Kov talks openly and freely about Vulcan mating practices, while stating that most Vulcans are extremely uncomfortable talking about it. Therefore, in "Amok Time" (set in the 23rd century) the mere existence of pon farr is initially unknown to both James T. Kirk and Leonard McCoy and even in the 24th century, according to The Doctor, the Starfleet Medical Database contains very little information about it.
> Chronologically, this is also the first time the Vulcan mind meld is shown. This episode also establishes that melding is extremely uncommon among Vulcans in the 22nd century, compared to later centuries and that at least some Vulcans have never even heard of the practice.
> T'Pol contracts Pa'nar Syndrome from the forced mind meld in this episode; this isn't revealed until the Season 2 episode "Stigma". She is ultimately cured in Season 4's "Kir'Shara" by another meld with T'Pau.
> This is the only reference in Star Trek to V'tosh ka'tur. However, Sybok could possibly be considered V'tosh ka'tur.
> The CG model for the Vahklas reappeared, slightly modified, in "Awakening" as several Vulcan cruisers.
> Jonathan Archer's childhood hope of becoming an admiral is revealed to later in his life be fulfilled, according to a biography seen in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II".
> Tucker mentions at one point in this episode that he has a brother. This brother is never mentioned again; later episodes only mention a sister, Elizabeth, who dies in the Xindi attack in "The Expanse".

> Executive Producer Rick Berman once referred to this episode as "a very interesting story." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 137, p. 85) In retrospect, fellow Executive Producer Brannon Braga stated, "I thought 'Fusion' was good." ("To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise, Part III: First Flight", ENT Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
> On the first broadcast of this installment, the episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 3.0 and was watched by a total of 4.49 million viewers. As such, this was the least-watched installment from the whole Enterprise's first season (on first airing). It had even lower audience figures than "Detained" and "Desert Crossing", the only other episodes from the season to have a Nielsen rating as low as 3.0. [1]
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 3 out of 5 arrowhead insignias. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 79)
> The unauthorized reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 366) regards this episode's atypical portrayal of Vulcans as "intriguing" and comments of the episode, "It cleverly plays with our sympathies – starting off by suggesting that these emotional Vulcans are in the right, before reminding us just how dangerous they could be."

Memorable quotes
""From the library of Admiral Jonny Archer"?"
"I had high hopes when I was a kid."
- T'Pol reading the cover page of Archer's childhood book The Cosmos A to Z

"Just because they smile and eat chicken, doesn't mean they have learned to master their emotions."
- T'Pol

"They're not trying to kill the quarterback."
- Trip Tucker

"Well, I've learned about your marriage customs, how your parents arrange the whole thing when you're young, stuff like that. But, what about… you know?"
"Ah, you mean sex!"
- Tucker asks Kov about Vulcan mating practices in Enterprise's mess hall

"Vulcan males are driven to mate once every seven years."
"Seven years?!"
- Kov, Tucker and Reed

"Captain, do you… dream?"
"Sure. Sometimes, they're even in color."
"Is it enjoyable?"
"Most nights."
"I envy you. Good night."
- T'Pol and Archer (last lines)

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: In the MMO, telepathy is just a minor boost to shooting things.
* Vulcans Are Superior: I'm troubled by authorial intent here, see below.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: None.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: The aging Vulcan ship still has better sensors than Enterprise, leading to the worst events of the story.

I also feel like I need some kind of counter for the number of times T'Pol's been mistreated, but maybe I can go over it at the end of the season instead or something.

Poster’s Log:
... so that was certainly a thing that happened. I didn't remember this one, and at this point, I'm wondering if I just skipped S1 wholesale when I reviewed the series because good goddamn. Also, my serious recollection of events doesn't really start until S3.

There's actually a few things that leapt out at me here, not just the obvious one, so I guess I'll start with the small fry:

* The crew gender ratio.

So one thing here really leapt out at me in the early part of the episode: when Tucker is talking to Kov, he says ‘almost one third of the crew’ are women. On the one hand, this feels true enough to the Star Trek universe: TOS is set later, and all manner of sexist. On the other, it just felt sad to hear, and a pretty good argument against the show in the first place: ENT was constrained by continuity to be the least progressive Trek of its time, so it is obviously the least warranted Trek spinoff.

* Kov.

I liked Kov, and for most of the story, his friendship with Tucker was the only thing keeping me going through the episode. That persisted right up until the end, where Archer and Tucker convinced him to contact his horrible father, and Kov ended up thankful. That was some bullshit, particularly for portraying clueless meddling in the familial interactions of foreign cultures as a good thing.

* The assault.

So on the one hand, I believed the whole thing, start to finish. I guess I'm going to give everyone - particularly the actors - some props about that. Tolaris comes off as boundary-pushing from the jump, telling T'Pol about herself instead of listening to her. T'Pol ends up spending a lot of time with him because Archer places her on that ship despite her obvious discomfort, which is probably a familiar scenario to a lot of women. After the incident, T'Pol is left harmed, while Tolaris is free to go.

On one level, this all checks out. I did a little poking around to see what others said, and Trekkie Feminist had an entry on this that I found thoughtful. For what it's worth, she liked the story more than I did.

My main point of contention here is Archer's handling of the whole thing after the fact: a member of his crew was assaulted, and rather than call security and escort the perpetrator to either the brig or back to his own ship, Archer confronts him privately to ascertain the truth of the charges personally, and keep the whole thing as quiet as possible, even though Tolaris poses a significant physical threat. Tolaris is allowed to go his merry way, and there's no indication anyone on his ship even knows what happened, allowing him to do this again if the opportunity presents itself, with a Vulcan or other compatible species.

We may infer that T'Pol preferred that to leveling any charges, but we're not shown this, and we know that Archer has a history of ignoring her agency, (including sedating her to prevent her transfer off his ship), so I see no reason to give the writers the benefit of the doubt here.

Tolaris got the Broken Stair treatment, and this is supposed to be the supportive ending, and that's depressing. To me, the point of science fiction like Trek is to imagine things being better one day, rather than 'only about as good as now, but also there are lasers.'

I also don't like the implication that this occurred because emotion-embracing Vulcans are extra dangerous, which was clear authorial intent. The last time T'Pol was being forced into something she didn't want, it was over an arranged marriage within the confines of traditional Vulcan culture. Making this about 'these guys are an outlier' feels like an especially bad message to me.

Anyway, this was yet another really frustrating outing, and my indecision over what to even say played into the post being on the late side.
posted by mordax (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pressed for time this week, and I may have more to say later, but:

- Seconding the Kov stuff being good until the end, where you wonder if the writers previously worked on frickin' Leave It to Beaver or something; and

- Seconding the guhhhhhhh re: the assault. The uncharitable way to interpret this episode is that Berman or others of the Trek PTB consider it a bedrock principle that "It Ain't Star Trek Unless a Female Crewmember Gets Raped," so they wanted to make sure they got to that during season one. (I mean, from Tolaris's very first scene, TNG-familiar viewers would recognize him as obviously slotting into the Troi Mind-Rapist story template.)

A slightly more charitable interpretation is that this is a writing room that isn't big on self-reflection, which we could hope might have caught the unfortunate elements mordax described and the fact that TNG did this at least twice IIRC.

A much more charitable interpretation is that the writers are subtly calling back to the uncomfortable scene in TUC when Spock force-mind-melds with Valeris, and are not so much establishing a dark underbelly to Vulcan mind stuff here, but rather trying to explore the dark underbelly that TUC already established?

But yeah, I'm disinclined to be charitable. They needed a way to convey their notion that emotional Vulcans are extra dangerous, okay, but it didn't have to be via yet another mindrape. Like, if this main cast had no women at all, they would've come up with some other awful thing for Tolaris to do.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:49 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ah yes the mind-rape episode where T'pol (as we later find out) contracts space-aids. I'm just not re-watching this episode. I'm just not.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:44 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think that, on the one hand, this episode meant well, in terms of making the points that no means no and that Archer believes her (although, as cjelli points out, he doesn't pick up on clues that T'Pol would rather not be around these people at all). And I get the points that Trekkie Feminist makes. But they also have this to say:
Brannon Braga and Rick Berman came up with the story idea and Braga said this show would be the “Vulcan version of 9 ½ Weeks”.

According to Michelle Erica Green:

“Many victims of physical or emotional abuse find [9 ½ Weeks] upsetting…I found it disturbing that Braga would even consider producing an episode that might blur the line between sexual experimentation and degradation.”

Braga is also quoted as saying:

“We have a show coming up where T'Pol gets nasty with a Vulcan. And that’s a real sexy show.”

Braga’s comments make me really glad he didn’t have a hand in the teleplay, because it’s pretty disturbing that he’d feel rape made for “a real sexy show”.
Prophets almighty. Plus, again as already noted, Tolaris getting off lightly, and this being already done on TNG, twice. And did T'Pol really get tempted from the righteous path of logic by the diabolical influence of jazz? There's some, um, not-great historical overtones to that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:59 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure that anymore needs to be said than has already. This is a bad episode, one that went from an initially interesting premise to just downright traumatizing.

Archer's smug cluelessness about dealing with other cultures has gone from being annoying to dangerous; instead of listening to T'Pol - who is someone he should be trusting by now - about her opinions and discomfort with this group he acts like a paternalistic jerk and assumes he knows best. She gets hurt because of this, and yet by the end of the episode, Archer is still somehow the good guy. His confrontation with Tolaris is laughable - I thought he would have a security team outside in the corridor, but no - his hole card is a phaser that isn't the most easily accessed despite knowing that Tolaris is much stronger. There was a lot in this episode to dislike, but his confrontation with Tolaris made me angry because (a) it was stupid and (b) nothing really happened as a result! There were no consequences for anything that happened; the confrontation felt more like Archer proving to himself and Tolaris that Archer still is the big man 'round these parts. Tolaris isn't held to account, and Archer learns nothing.

Anyways, hated it. Can they do something good soon?
posted by nubs at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Speaking of when ENT was disappointing, we set up our Christmas tree last weekend. I've lived alone for the past 20 years of my adult life in condos and apartments, so I only had a pitiful 4' tree, but now that my girlfriend and I have a house, we sprang for a nice 9' tree with lots of space for decorating which meant that I got out my whole Star Trek ornament collection to hang. For years in my teens my family bought them all from the ships to the characters, and when I moved out on my own at 18 I took them all with me. They've been boxed ever since (some with their original sales receipts).

So now with a large tree and with both of us Trek fans, we happily unpacked the box of ornaments and started hanging them, and you can see exactly when my enthusiasm for 2000s Star Trek began to fade. We started hanging ships and crew... 1701-D, Picard, Riker, Data, Klingon bird of prey, Romulan warbird, DS9 runabout, Defiant, Sisko (with baseball!), Worf, Voyager, Janeway, the Doctor, Seven of Nine, the Delta Flyer, 1701-E, Locutus and the Borg Queen, a Borg cube, Archer, T'pol... then nothing. I was surprised to see I didn't bother picking up the NX-01. The last ship I bought was the Reman escape shuttle from Nemesis that Picard and Data use to smash their way out of Shinzon's flagship, and I guess I figured Trek inspiration was running thin if the Scorpion-class shuttle was the best Hallmark could do that year.

Looking up what I skipped over, I passed on ornaments like a Vulcan ship, Trip Tucker, "All Good Things" 1701-D, the Abrams Trek ships, and a few other things that, in hindsight, I wish I'd picked up but even now feel kinda meh about. The 2000s were not kind to Star Trek.

I started buying Trek ornaments again in 2015 with 1701-C, a Picard & Data tableau, and now this year with NCC-1031 Discovery. I guess what I'm getting at is that I buy the Trek ornaments that capture feelings of hope and nostalgia, but the lackluster elements don't inspire me to spend my money. ENT truly had some doldrums if the show didn't spark a solid Hallmark ornament.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:53 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh, right, the dopey jazz thing. Well, it does show that Earth started becoming beige and anodyne well before the 1701-D, if a jazz club was the most out-there human cultural experience she could find in San Francisco.

And did T'Pol really get tempted from the righteous path of logic by the diabolical influence of jazz?

Nah, it was the marijuana haze all throughout that bar and even out in the street. You thought it was flashback haze, but it was marijuana.

She got the … Reefer…Madness!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

There are Arex and M'Ress ornaments? Uh... looks like I got some hunting to do.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:32 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

A slightly more charitable interpretation is that this is a writing room that isn't big on self-reflection

I'm even more convinced of that because they kept naming stuff names that had already been used in earlier shows, which seems pretty amateur hour to me.

I'm just not re-watching this episode. I'm just not.

Good call, seriously. Some of these episodes are pretty upsetting.

This is, in addition to everything that's been said, also downright confusing in terms of what it's trying to convey about Vulcans

Yeah. The more I noodle on that, the more irritated I am. It also speaks to a difference between ENT and VOY: VOY was really committed to a particular set of sexist and racist notions that it tended to embrace when possible. ENT is more just... passively and reflexively awful, but less sure of what it's even trying to say most of the time. I think I might honestly hate that more, but it's a tough call.

(ENT is definitely the Clueless White Guy Trek, and finding out how much they wanted to shill Archer as, like, the New Kirk or something makes it even more gross in retrospect. I thought Archer was supposed to be sort of a bumbling idiot when last I watched these. This being their idea of a heroic captain is... full body shudder time.)

And did T'Pol really get tempted from the righteous path of logic by the diabolical influence of jazz? There's some, um, not-great historical overtones to that.

Man, I'm off my game for missing that one. Thank you for pointing it out.

Anyways, hated it. Can they do something good soon?

I'm careful to stay right with the rewatch to avoid unwarranted editorializing or spoilers in the posts, so I must defer to cjelli's take. I mostly don't remember S1 at all, apart from the starting handful and Dear Doctor.

ENT truly had some doldrums if the show didn't spark a solid Hallmark ornament.

That mirrors how I stopped watching, the first time. I realized I simply didn't care about these people. Watching it now, I still mostly don't, although I am interested in Phlox, Mayweather and Hoshi. I'd totally take a version of this that was an office sitcom that focused more on them, Lower Decks style.
posted by mordax at 11:17 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd totally take a version of this that was an office sitcom that focused more on them, Lower Decks style.

Careful with that monkey's paw!
posted by Servo5678 at 11:46 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

... hmm. Is it wrong that I'm actually hoping that'll be good? Hahaha.
posted by mordax at 12:00 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend asked that I point out that the Archer and T’Pol ornaments are on the backside of the tree, such is her contempt for ENT.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

My takeaway from Servo5678's story is

Enterprise: No Hallmark Moments
posted by nubs at 7:49 PM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

...and the Arex and M'Ress ornaments are not only more expensive, but "Hallmark club exclusives." Feh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:59 PM on November 28, 2018

The dream sequence was cute, it's kinda fun to see Trek get a little bit expressive. Tolaris was very creepy, actually very well written and acted I thought. His attitude and body language felt like a kind of predatory that might be confused for sexy. The actor reminded me of Jake Gyllenhaal a bit.

I have no idea what this episode is supposed to prove about Vulcan emotions and T'Pol and I refuse to think about it.

Y'all covered a lot of bases and I find myself in agreement a lot, which is not my usual FanFare experience, it's kind of awesome, I wish I was a year back in time lol. And I like that we all just see with pretty clear eyes how much Archer sucks.
posted by fleacircus at 3:04 PM on October 13, 2019

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