Star Trek: Enterprise: Vox Sola
December 30, 2018 6:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 22 - Subscribe

Archer, Tucker and some redshirts are stuck together awhile.

Memory Alpha puts it all together for us:

Background information
> The initial story for this episode was originally titled "The Needs of the One", a twist on the opening of a Vulcan saying made famous in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The title was still in use for costume prep, and turns up on the tag inside a Kreetassan costume sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. The script was then briefly called "Vox Solis", such as used on the final draft script, which was issued on 13 February 2002. Eventually, the Latin grammar was corrected. The title ultimately ascribed to this episode is Latin for "Lone Voice". This episode is one of nine Star Trek episodes with Latin names; the others are TNG: "Sub Rosa", DS9: "Dramatis Personae", "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", VOY: "Ex Post Facto", "Non Sequitur", "Alter Ego", ENT: "Terra Nova", and DIS: "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum".
> The Kreetassan captain is the twelfth character played by Vaughn Armstrong, including his regular role as Admiral Maxwell Forrest. It is also the final new alien character he played, though said character later reappeared in the season two episode "A Night in Sickbay".
> This marks the first time that an Earth ship uses a force field.
> Joseph Will, who plays Michael Rostov in this episode, had previously guest starred as Kelis in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Muse" where he shared significant screentime with director Roxann Dawson, who was then performing her regular role as B'Elanna Torres.
> T'Pol and Phlox have no name tag on their environmental suits.
On the first broadcast of this installment, the episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 3.4 and was watched by a total of 5.4 million viewers.
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 4 out of 5 arrowhead insignias and named it the fourth best episode of Enterprise's first season. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 79)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 368) calls this installment "an episode that doesn't work, mainly because the alien looks a bit silly and the weirdness of the threat never quite comes across. Not a bad episode, but not a terribly exciting one either."
Dialogue in Act Four between T'Pol and Hoshi is the first on-screen confirmation that T'Pol is Enterprise's first officer, in addition to science officer. This was frequently implied in previous episodes, with T'Pol asserting that her Vulcan sub-commander rank superseded Trip's Starfleet commander rank (ENT: "Broken Bow"), and with Archer consistently assigning command to T'Pol first when leaving the ship (and/or the bridge).

Memorable Quotes
""You eat like you mate?""
"You sure that thing's working?"
- Sato translates what the Kreetassans say while Tucker asks if the universal translator is functioning properly

"Well, this is one for the books. Briefest First Contact."
- Tucker, when the Kreetassans storm off Enterprise

"Are you staying for the movie tonight?"
"What's playing?"
"Uh, Wages of Fear. Classic French film. No, you'll like it. Things blow up."
"Oh. Sounds fun."
- Mayweather and Reed

"Reed to Bridge."
"Go ahead, Lieutenant."
"We're trying to watch a movie down here, but instead we're being treated to a view of you. So unless you plan on giving us a little song and dance maybe you could see what's gone wrong."
- Reed and Bridge Personnel when the movie isn't working at Movie Night

"That will be quite enough!"
- Phlox, after a tendril from the symbiotic lifeform attaches itself to his hand

"I was going to save this for a rainy day, but… Stanford vs. Texas."
"The finals?"
- Tucker, pulling out a recording of a water polo match to cheer Archer up

"Captain?"
"Yeah?"
"I imagine in a situation like this, they'd cancel the movie?"
- Rostov asks Archer about movie night while they are trapped in the symbiotic lifeform

"At some point in the very near future, there won't be six lifeforms in that cargo bay; they'll only be one."
- Phlox

"Starfleet's been working on creating a stable EM barrier for the last five years."
"A force field."
"Right. They just haven't found a way to control the particle density. All the specs are in the database. I've been trying to jury-rig a prototype of my own."
"And?"
"I've got it stable enough to absorb a phase-pistol blast 60 percent of the time. I think I can improve on that."
- Reed and T'Pol

"As soon as you give up, the game's lost."
- Archer to Tucker, while they are trapped in the symbiotic lifeform.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't our mission to try to better understand unique forms of life?"
"Not if they're trying to kill the captain."
"We don't know anything about this creature's intentions."
"I admire your interspecies ethics, but until Hoshi tells me she's found a way to communicate with it, I have to assume its intentions are hostile."
- Phlox and Reed

"If you want information to help you construct your force field, you'll acquire it under my supervision."
"I'm sure I don't have to remind you, Doctor, I am the ranking officer."
"Not in my sickbay, unless the captain says otherwise."
"The captain is in no condition to offer an opinion."
"Precisely."
- Phlox and Reed

"When Zefram Cochrane… talked about new life and new civilization… you think this is what he meant?"
- Tucker, to Archer

"With all due respect, we're not dealing with nouns and verbs."
- Reed, on Sato's wish to try communicating with the symbiotic lifeform

"You don't think I belong on Enterprise, do you?"
"On the contrary. It would be a great loss to Starfleet if you were not a part of this crew. If you feel I've been unfair to you, I apologize. But I hold you to a high standard, Ensign, because I know you're capable of achieving it."
- Sato and T'Pol

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Hoshi’s efforts to communicate with the weird alien reminded me of nothing so much as Star Trek Online’s waveform modulation minigame, which, yes, is totally a thing.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Averted. In TOS, Spock would’ve probably solved this with a mind-meld, but ENT-era Vulcans don’t do that sort of thing.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: The universal translator is still pretty wonky in this era.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Averted. We have no sense of the relative efficacy of the Kreetassans versus Starfleet.

Poster’s Log:
This was a very Trek episode of ENT. Some specific thoughts:

* Dr. Phlox took a moral stand.
Dear Doctor aside, Phlox is comes across as the moral center of the show: he’s the explorer, the one most excited to make contact with new species and so on. It was nice to see a return to that, with him refusing to aid in vivisection or torture.

* The critter is suitably weird and alien.
The whatever-it-is does look sort of goofy, per the MA notes, but it’s still nice to see them interacting with something besides rubber forehead aliens. I like that it never speaks directly, even though it has a neural link to several people.

* The force field thing was irritating.
I don’t really like the idea that the crew of the NX-01 invent everything we saw in TOS onward. It makes the universe feel really small. Watching Reed just figure out an entire new branch of technology that eluded scientists working on it full time for years was annoying.

* The resolution is good.
I liked that they just took the critter home.

* The NX-01 feels more lived-in than Voyager.
I like that the crew do stuff together on this show.

* The Kreetassans were okay.
The whole ‘eating in public’ taboo was funny, but is within the realm of plausibility. I liked that they were perfectly willing to help out after receiving an apology too, instead of some over-the-top duel to the death or something. Just having Mayweather be like, ‘okay, sorry, we didn’t mean anything by it,’ and have them cooperate was good.

So yeah, this was fine. It didn’t really stand out, but it was a decent monster of the week installment for the show.
posted by mordax (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I alluded to this episode in the comment for the last episode but this episode plus the last one are the two first episodes of this series that really FEEL like proper Star Trek. The last one because it’s a proper “issue” episode done (fairly) right- and this one because it’s a proper “We can solve this problem with communication not violence because we are better than that.”
Top notch classic Trek lesson, good sci-fi, good episode. Not perfect- but most of the classic and later good eps weren’t perfect either- it’s just good Trek. Which is something I didn’t realize I was missing until I watched this episode.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:26 PM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I appreciated the multiple parallel threads of translation and communication here; both the A plot (the symbiotic lifeform) and the B plot (Kreetassans) are substantively problems of communication that are quickly resolved once everyone involved can actually talk to each other, but there are plenty of touches beyond that -- Tucker is, essentially, learning to talk water polo with Archer; Hoshi and T'Pol's tensions are entirely the result of not talking to each other forthrightly; and, less seriously, the ship's film of the night is subtitled. It's not subtle, but it is effective.

I didn't appreciate the bits in the middle of the episode where eveyone's doing a lot more shooting and force-fielding and sports-metaphoring ('As soon as you give up, the game's lost.') than actually talking; the first and last third are great, but there's a bit of a middle-inning slump (so to speak) that makes the deployment of the forcefield doubly annoying -- I agree with the complaint that it narrows the scope of the universe -- because it's a lot of dialogue that doesn't really say anything interesting that hasn't been said before (sometimes with the polarity reversed). In an episode that's all about communication, it seemed a needless digression.

On balance, there really is a lot here to like; it's true to what I think of as the core values of Star Trek, if not necessarily to the show's traditional pacing or setup.
posted by cjelli at 9:40 PM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


For me, the weird imbalance here was between the weight and interweaving of the communication theme (which, yes, was well handled for TV writing) and the nature of the monster. The character stuff, particularly with Hoshi, kept me engaged because it felt authentic, and a natural outgrowth of this show and this franchise, in ways that the spooge monster did not. And I'm not normally one to look gift-body-horror in the gibbering mouth (see VOY: "Macrocosm"), but if it were me, I'd have taken the monster concept back to the drawing board, tried to come up with something less Alien-y, and kept everything else.

But for those who can't get enough of this sort of hive-mind nastiness, be sure to check out James Gunn's excellent horror-comedy Slither.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:59 AM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd agree that the effect of the webbing-in was very much like the bit in Aliens where the victims were glued down preparatory to getting face-huggers, only, and I'm sorry to put it this way, even more semen-y. Kind of distracting, especially as the original appearance of the life-form was a pretty effective use of CGI, with that wispy cohesive smoke effect.

But the rest of the episode was very good, I think, because of the way that the crew broke down their respective tasks and set to them, even if, in Archer and Trip's case, the task was simply not losing their shit as they realize that they don't even have the privacy of their own heads any more. I loved Travis' realization that he was the only one on the bridge just as the Kreetassans are coming back, and his being able to handle a touchy diplomatic situation just fine is both in line with his background as a space crew member with literally life-long experience, and having the second episode in a row with a good Mayweather scene. Ditto with Hoshi and T'Pol working together and establishing more effective communication with each other even as they try to do the same with the critter, and yes, even Malcolm working with the force-field, although I'd think (really, hope) that he'd have a safer way of testing it than firing a phaser, even one set on stun, in a cramped armory. (I can let the "they're inventing all the tech" thing slide, since this and the transporter are still not 100% reliable, although it's amusing to picture the cargo hold being full of crates marked "Replicator--Experimental" (although the protein resequencer is virtually the same thing anyway), "Holodeck--Experimental" and whatever else.) It's not just a Hail Mary pass or pulling something out of their asses, it's competently-executed competence porn.

Cheeses: Slither? Hmm. That one seemed like it had some pretty intense body horror, but I might watch it if I don't have to pay extra for it. (Just found out that, if you do a Google search for a movie, at the top of the results is a list of which streaming services have it and how much it would cost if it's not included.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


it's competently-executed competence porn.

Which honestly sometimes is all I want out of Star Trek. Also screw all of you for making semen comparisons re: the alien life form I didn't get that and now it's all I can see, I retract my good review of this episode I now give it a 0/10 for too much jizz.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:03 PM on December 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don’t really like the idea that the crew of the NX-01 invent everything we saw in TOS onward. It makes the universe feel really small.

Yes; that was an annoying detail in an otherwise strong episode. Solid Trek competence porn overall, with the forcefield thing being the bit that just felt excessive. They have to be the first ship that is going out and meeting new aliens and discovering new things and also being the first one to tech all the tech! At this point, why should they ever return to Earth? The Enterprise can do it all, baby! Except have a pool.

Really, though, if that's what I'm down to complaining about, then this was a good episode - they problem solved, communicated, displayed curiosity, and so forth. I remain boggled that the crew's social calendar revolves around watching 200 year old films together, but I'm always somewhat bemused by the assumption that humans in the Trek universe will remain attached to cultural artifacts of such age.
posted by nubs at 8:29 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Cheeses: Slither? Hmm. That one seemed like it had some pretty intense body horror, but I might watch it if I don't have to pay extra for it

I don't remember Slither very well, but I do remember liking it both for humor and for the hive mind premise. It probably is pretty disturbing though.

I remain boggled that the crew's social calendar revolves around watching 200 year old films together, but I'm always somewhat bemused by the assumption that humans in the Trek universe will remain attached to cultural artifacts of such age.

So this obviously got started as a budget thing - old school TOS was obsessed with the 20th century because they couldn't always afford stuff. I mean, the transporter was literally invented to save on filming shuttle sequences and the Horta is a just a rug. I have to assume half of TOS was written around whatever they could scrounge in the costume department.

However, my personal fanwank/justification for this sort of behavior is that it makes sense in light of the Eugenics Wars: current human culture represents a sort of Golden Age right before Earth went to shit. It makes sense for it to be idealized the way that, say, Hellenic culture has been historically, where people fixate on a particular time period as representative of the idea of civilization even though the reality is a lot more complicated, (and the era a lot messier than advertised).
posted by mordax at 10:03 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


So this obviously got started as a budget thing - old school TOS was obsessed with the 20th century because they couldn't always afford stuff. I mean, the transporter was literally invented to save on filming shuttle sequences and the Horta is a just a rug. I have to assume half of TOS was written around whatever they could scrounge in the costume department.

However, my personal fanwank/justification for this sort of behavior is that it makes sense in light of the Eugenics Wars: current human culture represents a sort of Golden Age right before Earth went to shit.


I've always understood the larger reasons behind it - cost, copyright, and having a common touchpoint with the present day audience (I mean, you could have everybody all agog over the 22nd century equivalent of Game of Thrones or something, but it would be harder for the audience to relate). And I can buy that there would be some people for whom the art and culture of 200-300 years ago would be a fascination (I mean there's an ongoing love affair between Starfleet and Shakespeare, and that's several centuries older); it just strikes me as odd that a show that celebrates the idea of diversity gets so tied into certain time frames or things from Earth Culture and that everyone is apparently into it.

It's a minor bugaboo, really, but I also look at the Trek universe as being at least a few "singularity" type events (limitless energy, faster than light travel, contact with aliens) removed from us, so I feel it would be more interesting if these films or whatever were being shown as part of a series of curiosities, of what we used to be like or somesuch, as opposed to what appears to be genuine entertainment for the crew. Anyways, I guess I gotta find something to nitpick.
posted by nubs at 10:33 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


(I mean, you could have everybody all agog over the 22nd century equivalent of Game of Thrones or something, but it would be harder for the audience to relate).

So here's one I almost never say, but VOY actually did the best job with that sort of thing:
- The Adventures of Flotter
- The Doctor's holonovel from Author, Author.
- I'd also argue Captain Proton fits into this sort of thing because it feels like 23rd century fanfic instead of slavish recreations of real places or events. (Rendering everyone in monochrome was very clever.)

There were... dunno, glimmers of a slightly less limited pop culture peeking around the edges there.

it just strikes me as odd that a show that celebrates the idea of diversity gets so tied into certain time frames or things from Earth Culture and that everyone is apparently into it.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we're only seeing this through the lens of Starfleet, and not necessarily the whole Federation. Military organizations tend toward monoculture for lots of reasons, often featuring historical fetishes.

I'd like to think art and culture are a little more interesting further afield, although this is also just fan speculation.

Anyways, I guess I gotta find something to nitpick.

Heh. Can't argue with that.
posted by mordax at 4:27 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Y'all seem to be forgetting all about the apparently highly successful Vulcan Love Slave franchise though I can't say I blame you.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:14 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


However, my personal fanwank/justification for this sort of behavior is that it makes sense in light of the Eugenics Wars: current human culture represents a sort of Golden Age right before Earth went to shit. It makes sense for it to be idealized the way that, say, Hellenic culture has been historically, where people fixate on a particular time period as representative of the idea of civilization even though the reality is a lot more complicated, (and the era a lot messier than advertised).

This is brilliant and I love it. I'm going to add one extra part in my own headcanon, which is that current and recent human culture would also represent the last time 'all', for certain definitions of 'all', people have a singular planetary culture, and that for a star fleet person, being really into specific earth culture might be a sort of team short-hand.

Sure probably every planet and starbase and colony ship, and every group bigger than a few hundred has a local artistic and musical culture, but out of general interest those things don't come up often, and instead people focus on a few culturally designated 'important' sorts of art, really a lot like things are RIGHT NOW, but in space and with much more communication restraints (I think? It's implied sometimes and sometimes not. Does Star Trek have FTL communications or not?).

This is backed up a little by DS9 I think, where anchoring starfleet to a single planet system made it so we heard about various kinds of Bajoran art and culture (more talked about than shown, but it was a major theme) in a way you wouldn't when you're zipping between planets every episode.

It's still a really weird and kinda busted thing that only human culture is represented, and more specifically that outside of Sisko being into old African masks as art (and it that wasn't an Avery Brooks original character moment I will eat several of my hats) it's only very anglo-centric western culture that is represented, but that much I can accept as production limitations because it's directed at an audience well versed in that culture. That's a hard one to avoid.

And just because I vaguely remember it, Disco I think only mentions one form of art, some kind of opera that the mushroom doctor and his boyfriend met and bonded over that was from another planet, so insofar as Disco did worldbuilding, we have that. The only art in canon that people like is not from Earth. It is still opera, which it's also pretty weird that opera is a seemingly universal form of music.

I don't watch Enterprise, but I do read these threads, and that sort of nonsense revelatory moment is why. Thank you for the reason to nerd out!
posted by neonrev at 6:48 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


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