Star Trek: Enterprise: A Night in Sickbay
February 24, 2019 11:38 PM - Season 2, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Captain Archer’s carelessness jeopardizes both his dog and his ship.

Memory Alpha has a lot to say about this one, including deleted scenes:

Deleted scenes
Scenes 24 – 25
Archer wakes up in sickbay and calls Commander Tucker – sleeping in his quarters – to come see him. Tucker crawls out of bed and, upon entering sickbay, remarks that the captain looks terrible, asking what happened. Archer says he's fine and that it's Porthos who's not doing so well. Tucker says he's sorry to hear it, asking if there is something that he can do. Archer asks Tucker how long it has been since he's been intimate with a woman. Tucker is baffled by the question. Dr. Phlox makes a noise to remind them that he is there.

Archer apologizes for waking Tucker, and asks about the faulty injector: What kind of stress will put on the other four if they take it off-line and try to repair it? Tucker says that it is a matter of time; the longer that they have to rely on four injectors, the greater the stress, the problem being that he has no idea how long the repair would take. If the stress gets too high, they'll end up with only three injectors, at which point Enterprise would be lucky to reach warp speed. Archer tells Tucker to get some sleep.

Before leaving, Tucker tells Archer a childhood anecdote: "I had a grade school teacher who was certain I stole a pencil off her desk. I think it was a pencil. She wasn't going to let me go on the field trip to Pensacola unless I apologized. My mother told me I should tell her I was sorry, but I said 'I didn't steal the damn pencil.' You know what she told me? 'It's okay to apologize when you shouldn't have to, just as long as you don't mean it.' "

Scenes 39 – 49
Archer enters the bridge at 4:26 am, remarking to T'Pol that he thought her shift didn't begin until 9:00 am. She replies that she took the liberty of temporarily synchronizing their clocks to the Kreetassans' capital city. Archer asks Ensign Sato to join him in his ready room.

Inside the ready room, Archer ask Sato to sit down, and asks if she's read "the list", referring to the Kreetassans' reconciliation demands. Sato says yes, that she and T'Pol "broke it down". Archer interrupts Sato, stating that he requires her assistance on pronouncing a phrase near the end of the document.

Background information
> This episode was discussed in the ENT Season 2 DVD special "Inside A Night in Sickbay", with interviews by Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Rick Berman, and Ronald B. Moore. Bakula described the work in the new surgical scrubs as a challenge.
> In a 2004 interview, John Billingsley nominated this episode as one of his favorites. "I loved working with Scott [Bakula]. That was the most time we'd had to work together, and that was fun […] I know people were a little in two minds of that episode. I rather liked that episode."
> Actor Vaughn Armstrong having previously played a Kreetassan captain in "Vox Sola", this episode features him making a return appearance as a member of the species. Vaughn later played Maximilian Forrest, his thirteenth and final character, in the season four episode "In a Mirror, Darkly".
> A couple of shots in this episode each used a prosthetic Porthos figure; one is shown suspended in the super-hydration tank and another is depicted resting inside the quarantine chamber. These prosthetic dogs were designed and constructed by Joel Harlow.
> The origami Pyrithian moon hawk used by Phlox was created by Production Accountant Suzi Shimizu. (ENT Season 2 DVD, Ronald B. Moore)
> In Captain Archer's dream, the "Dog Cemetery" contains two headstones for dogs, one for "Duffy" (2132 – 2145) and another for "Goldie". Since Archer says he "grew up with dogs", it is probable these were his previous pet dogs.
> During the apology ceremony, Archer wears what appears to be the bottom half only of a standard uniform jumpsuit. This indicates that either the jumpsuits are in fact two-piece garments with hidden closures or a previously (and subsequently) unseen uniform variant, or that a uniform was properly modified in order to conform to the Kreetassans' demands.
> In the first scene after the opening credits, a view of Kreetassa from space shows an exact reverse of the Great Lakes of North America.
> This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form".
> The scene with Hoshi Sato, Jonathan Archer, T'Pol, and Porthos was used in a Virgin 1 advertisement to show how more sexualized the show had become by first showing T'Pol and Archer clothed then cutting to them practically naked. The advert then said the show had become a bit more risque, showing T'Pol putting lotion on Sato while she rubbed it on Archer, who in turn was shown to rub it on Porthos.
> A website called Agony Booth cited this episode as the absolute worst Star Trek episode in their list of "The Worst of Trek". In their recap, they commented, "This episode completely destroys Archer, making him out to be an incompetent, childish moron. As such, it's probably responsible in no small part for sending Enterprise into a ratings death spiral." "There have been times I've disliked a character. There have been times when I think the writers ruined a character, or undid a lot of a character's development, purely out of laziness. But this… this is all-out character destruction the likes of which I have never seen before. It takes active, aggressive hatred for your own creations to annihilate them to this degree." "It's not terrible in the way most of the movies featured on this website are terrible, in that the filmmakers didn't know what they were doing, and just stumbled into making a horrible movie as a result of their own incompetence. It's terrible in that Epic Movie kind of way, where it seems everybody knew better, but the writers just hated the characters, hated themselves, hated their jobs, and most of all hated you for wanting to watch the shit they write."

Memorable quotes
"There are some things more important than plasma injectors."
"Are you referring to your pride?"
- Archer and T'Pol

"Captain, please. You needn't be concerned. I hold six degrees in interspecies veterinary medicine."
"I thought you were just, you know, a people doctor?"
"As a matter of fact, I've also earned degrees in dentistry, hematology, botanical pharmacology,…"
"I'm impressed."
- Archer, inquiring about Phlox's qualifications

"This isn't so bad. I was sure there would be something in here about standing on one foot with my eyes shut reciting 'The Night Before Christmas'."
- Captain Archer, while studying a PADD with a list of requirements for issuing an apology to the Kreetassans

"Do we have a chainsaw on board?"
- Hoshi Sato to T'Pol, looking over the PADD as Captain Archer leaves the bridge

"Why haven't you adjusted your time to our capital city?"
"I'm sorry, we didn't know it was a requirement."
"It isn't a requirement, it is simply a courtesy. Something your species has yet to understand!"
- A Kreetassan civil servant berates Hoshi Sato

"What's the tank for?"
"I'll need to super-hydrate the canine in order to minimize the shock to his pulmonary system."
"You're going to drown my dog?"
- Archer and Phlox discuss the emergency procedure to save Porthos

"If Porthos pulls through, will he need special diets or treatments, having a chameleon's pituitary gland?"
"You may have trouble finding him. He'll have the ability to blend into his background when frightened."
"You're kidding?"
"Yes I am. Ha ha."
- Archer and Phlox in sickbay while performing the procedure on Porthos

"Does your knowledge on sexual tension come from from professional training or first hand experience?"
"Well, I do have three wives."
"And they each have..."
"Two husbands, besides myself."
"Sounds very complicated."
"Very, why else be polygamous?"
"So, these three wives..."
"... each have three husbands, a total of 720 relationships, 42 of which have romantic posibilities.
- Archer seeking Phlox's advice

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Star Trek Online offers captains a wide variety of pets. Some of them can be used in combat, (I really like the dinosaur with frickin' laser beams), and some of them cannot. Porthos has yet to get a specific nod in-game this way.
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol is right about everything here.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Enterprise is down one plasma injector.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Averted. Kreetassan tech looks to be valuable specifically because it is so compatible with Federation specifications, meaning that they’re likely technologically par.

Poster’s Log:
This is a very bad, no good episode. Some specifics:

* The ‘Archer is attracted to T’Pol’ thread.
Every Star Trek series has its cliches: TOS loved transporter accidents and using Hodgkin’s Law to save on the wardrobe budget. TNG loved its holodeck mishaps. VOY had Chakotay wreck maybe all the shuttles they brought from the Alpha Quadrant. DS9 loved to torture the O’Brien family in truly spectacular ways.

ENT likes to be gross about women, most often in the form of inappropriate sexual attention directed at T’Pol, and it is fucking wearying. The entire subplot about Phlox insinuating Archer is attracted to her, followed by a bunch of Freudian slips that were probably supposed to be funny was absolutely shameful. The decon gel scene was gratuitous. The whole thing was deeply unpleasant.

* Captain Archer is incompetent and immature.
The Agony Booth already covered this, but I feel the need to add to it.

The Kreetassans are a prickly bunch, but they’re offering to help Enterprise, and they were willing to accept an apology the last time things went south diplomatically. They’re pretty clearly potential allies or trading partners who require kid gloves due to having a very alien and rigid culture.

And so Archer brought his dog to their planet and let that dog pee on their sacred trees. And then Archer was mad at them. Moreover, Archer blamed them for failing to predict every possible biohazard to his dog when Porthos should never have been there in the first place.

When it came out that Archer was supposedly a trained diplomat, all I could wonder was if he got his credentials from a diploma mill, or possibly just made that up. (When ENT was on its initial airing, my personal nickname for Archer was ‘Captain Dumbass.’ I’d given up on the show before hitting this episode, but it really reminded me of that.)

* On a worldbuilding note, this doesn’t make much sense.
The Kreetassans have a bunch of protocols and customs not shared by other warp-capable races we’ve seen. The ‘no eating in public’ thing is unprecedented. It doesn’t make much sense to me that they wouldn’t have some kind of pamphlet to offer newcomers to try and avoid snafus, especially if they engage in trade of any kind at all.

Unless this is literally their first rodeo, it seems to me like they’d have some standard protocols about ‘how do we decide who to sell starship parts to and for how much?’ rather than just waiting for everything to go sideways.

It all feels like a failure of imagination to me, nobody asking themselves ‘how would people like this actually interact with others out in the bigger picture?’

* This is not the worst of Trek, but that’s not a compliment.
I’m not sure this even cracks my top ten list for ‘worst Trek stories,’ but that’s only because we’ve had stuff that made me way angrier. I mean, this one goes with the whole thing of ‘that guy who’s an asshole secretly likes you,’ but ENT had a pro-genocide episode, and for me, that one still wins.

This certainly deserves an honorable mention for trying to be the Worst Trek though, and the Agony Booth’s commentary feels pretty reasonable, given givens. (I admit I have not read all 8 parts of their review yet, just the MA content, but of all the things to dig into, this is certainly a reasonable choice.)
posted by mordax (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
About ten minutes in, I turned to my dog - who was napping on the couch - and observed that this was a bad episode, and that everyone involved in it should feel bad. Nothing happened the rest of the way to change my mind.

How they've chosen to portray Archer - immature, whiny, angsty - is really baffling to me. Starfleet Captains have all be different from each other, but there's a similar core of maturity, and a sense of duty and obligation, that they all have. They may have had their moments of weakness, of self-pity or complaint, but those happened in private, with people they were close to, and that was it. So watching Archer pout and bitch about the Kreetassans is really off-putting - this is the behavior I expect of someone who quickly gets supplanted as a Captain because of their behavior.

Anyways...then the episode makes the Kreetassans incredibly bizarre, equally obstinate, and someone will have to explain to me how the offense of a dog peeing on their sacred trees is remedied by Archer ritually chainsawing one of the sacred trees and laying out the sections while wearing beads and red bodypaint. They just come across as not worth making the effort to deal with.

The we get the stupid Archer & T'Pol bit, which...yeah. Horrible, not only in the treatment of T'Pol, but also in the depiction of Archer as just a slave to that ol' sex drive and unable to function properly if he isn't getting laid. For me, it's a pretty offensive way to depict men. And the decon room as the soft porn of the series just needs to go.

I’m not sure this even cracks my top ten list for ‘worst Trek stories,’

I agree, it's not the worst - there are episodes where the larger social commentary is far more problematic. This is bad Trek, which is Trek in which the characters are handled poorly and story decisions appear to be made out of the idea that "this will be funny" as opposed to treating the idea seriously.
posted by nubs at 8:07 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I felt a bit of apprehension when I started watching this episode and noticed that Berman & Braga were the sole authors, and my apprehension was more than justified. I mean, for fuck's sake, it's about--or supposed to be about--a guy worried about his sick dog, and they managed to fuck that up. What right does Archer have to bitch about the Kreetassans when he brought Porthos along for no discernable reason whatsoever? There are a lot of people who would be mad about someone bringing a pet (not a service dog in any sense, just a pet) who was so badly trained that they marked their territory on the first plant they saw, and by "a lot of people" I mean me, even though I generally like dogs. And they were already on not-great terms with the Kreetassans because of the earlier thing.

Speaking of whom, I think that the Kreetassans' obsession with customs and protocols could have been explained if Archer had had an actual conversation with one of them, and their diplomat explaining that they'd previously been part of a confederation that had discouraged their customs and taboos in the name of everyone getting along, and then the confederation had collapsed and the Kreetassans were left without their own identity and were slowly regaining a sense of their own culture, thus a bit touchy about foreigners coming in and insisting that none of that stuff should matter. They might also have picked up on Archer's weird, stubborn, and slightly arrogant chauvinism that we've seen before, the whole "well, on my world we shake hands" thing. Bending the diplomatic issue in this direction might have helped the episode in a more traditional Trekkish direction, that of different cultures meeting each other and the two sides (and particularly the Starfleet side, because that's what they're really supposed to be about) learning to accommodate each other. The little ritual that Archer is doing, which is played purely for laughs, might even have been explained as something that was deeply meaningful to the Kreetassans, in the manner of Picard figuring out what "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra" meant. But that would have required Berman and Braga to do something better and deeper than just handing Archer the idiot ball once again.

And the whole fantasizing over T'Pol thing is likewise not only dumb and offensive, but the same shit, different episode. Just recently, I shotgunned Netflix's Big Mouth, which I'd previously sampled and rejected as crude and over the top. It absolutely is crude and over the top, on one level, but it's also a surprisingly canny and observant depiction of adolescence and how the principal characters negotiate their increasing awareness of not only sex, but love, affection, respect, and their changing relationships with their families and friends. Even if things sometimes get worse before they get better, first with Jessi and now Andrew, there's still a sense that the protagonists have actual arcs. I don't necessarily get that here; especially where Archer is concerned, I feel like I could probably tell that B&B wrote it without looking at the credits.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:08 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Maybe Archer is the reason Starfleet introduced psychosimulators that would eventually weed out the likes of Merrick in TOS "Bread and Circuses"?
posted by Fukiyama at 9:41 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Speaking of whom, I think that the Kreetassans' obsession with customs and protocols could have been explained if Archer had had an actual conversation with one of them, and their diplomat explaining that they'd previously been part of a confederation that had discouraged their customs and taboos in the name of everyone getting along, and then the confederation had collapsed and the Kreetassans were left without their own identity and were slowly regaining a sense of their own culture, thus a bit touchy about foreigners coming in and insisting that none of that stuff should matter.

This totally would've worked for me. :)

They might also have picked up on Archer's weird, stubborn, and slightly arrogant chauvinism that we've seen before, the whole "well, on my world we shake hands" thing.

Heh. Yes. My headcanon for this episode is that they made Archer do something so elaborate specifically because he was being such a tool. After all, they accepted a verbal apology from Mayweather last time, but he was earnest and sincere and didn't drag his feet.

(Of all the stuff going on here, Archer refusing to just get the apology done while waiting to hear about Porthos is the most baffling - refusing just meant if Phlox had needed medical resources from the planet, the Kreetassans probably would've said no.)

I don't necessarily get that here

Me neither. Phlox's analysis is incredibly facile. It's also not the first time we've encountered the whole 'get laid or perform poorly' idea either - they had T'Pol espouse that in the Risa episode, which mostly makes me think B&B would be personally very unpleasant to work for.
posted by mordax at 9:48 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


If this was my first watch of this show, this would be the episode where I say here, "Listen, you guys, you're great to discuss Star Trek with, but I can't stomach this show anymore. See you in other FF threads, I guess." (Luckily, I already know that subsequent episodes do not stay at the same general level of quality as this one.)

I mean, for fuck's sake, it's about--or supposed to be about--a guy worried about his sick dog, and they managed to fuck that up.

So much this. I owned two beagles in a row that I had to put down when they, and I, were too young. This episode should have had me.

After all, they accepted a verbal apology from Mayweather last time, but he was earnest and sincere and didn't drag his feet.

If Mayweather had spearheaded a mutiny, I would've sided with him.

It kind of seems like what's really been getting to Archer isn't lack of Gettin' Some, but rather having been given a command for which he was in no way prepared. But that's nepotism for ya.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:55 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I have watched this episode exactly one time, when it was aired. Under no circumstances will I watch it again. Bleh.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:18 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


When it came out that Archer was supposedly a trained diplomat, all I could wonder was if he got his credentials from a diploma mill, or possibly just made that up.

ha ha ha! If there's one thing we can be thankful for about this episode, it is this bon mot. I remember just absolutely cringing in horror at the decon gel scene, and I remember beginning to wonder about how horrible working for Berman and Braga could be.

At about this time I was just getting my feet wet writing about genre TV for a magazine called Cinescape and when I asked about the possibility of looking into this, I was shot down so fast! Entertainment journalism is 100% built on access and actively looking for evidence that a given show's heads were creeps was not what my editors were interested in. I shrugged and moved on to less loaded topics.
posted by mwhybark at 3:31 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


This is, now, in my personal top ten worst episodes, because I love when Trek veers towards small and personal stories; this ep has one of the highest ratios of 'potential for being an episode I would love' to 'actually being an episode I loathe.' 'Archer hangs out with Phlox and helps deal with his crazy animal collection' is, on spec, absolutely my jam. This actual episode was not. I wouldn't expect it to make most people's list of the worst, but wow: there is something particularly amazing at making a whole episode centered around someone's fear of losing their pet and then having your audience feel less sympathy with them by the end.

It's a bad episode. It's not uniquely bad: in fact, one of the things that's bad about it is that it copies a prior bad episode in having an alien crewmember suggest that Archer needs to get laid; it copies prior bad episodes by having an unnecessary exploitative decon scene; it copies prior bad episodes by having a member of the crew lust after T'Pol (this is either the third or fourth, I've lost track; I agree that part of the problem here is also in how the show depicts men, and it is legitimately concerning that Berman/Braga keep going back to this weird well); it copies prior bad episodes by having the central problem of the episode come down to, essentially, Archer being bad at this job.

But that's nepotism for ya.

Well, that's definitely my headcanon now, thank you.

I actually had to switch this off and walk away for a bit after the initial reveal of the nature of the breach of diplomatic protocol, and Archer's anger at the Kreetassans for what is basically Archer's own fault, driven by his own sense of entitlement and privilege. 'They should have told me not to bring him!' is, geeze, what a revealing line of dialogue.
posted by cjelli at 7:24 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, Todd McFarland was watching this episode and going "AHAHAHAHAHA! This is GREAT!"

I mean if you look at it right, couldn't this be used as an episode of The Orville?
posted by happyroach at 3:21 PM on February 26


If this is an example of what the Orville is like, I'm glad I've never watched it.
posted by nubs at 6:11 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


fwiw Braga is a producer on The Orville.
posted by mwhybark at 3:18 PM on February 27


which makes me wonder again about Archer and nepotism. What do we know about the guy, really?
posted by mwhybark at 5:04 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


Like, what if Sterling Archer was his grandfather?
posted by mwhybark at 5:06 PM on February 27 [5 favorites]


Suddenly everything makes sense!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:56 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


It literally checks as well as all the continuity seen on the show thus far, down to 'it means Sterling had a kid with someone besides Lana later on.'

Also, if I were a fanfic type of person, I would definitely extend this notion to putting a connection between Dr. Krieger and Dr. Zimmerman from VOY due to their shared interest in holograms.

More seriously: the idea Archer got the job due to nepotism is basically canon within the text of the show. There are constant references to how important his father was. He's objectively a bad captain from the jump. (This is unlike Janeway, who was probably a victim of the Peter Principle - I could totally believe she was a capable science officer.)
posted by mordax at 9:03 PM on February 27 [4 favorites]


Memory Beta says the Captain's great-grandfather was Nathan and notes he was canonically mentioned but not named in an ENT episode. So Sterling's not ruled out!
posted by mwhybark at 11:07 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


Never have I wanted to possess the skills of an artist more than when contemplating an Archer/ENT mash-up. The next time one of my favorite fan artists opens up commissions, I'm going to see if they can do Pam in an Earth Starfleet uniform.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:28 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, Todd McFarland was watching this episode and going "AHAHAHAHAHA! This is GREAT!"

Interesting typo, because I think you meant Seth MacFarlane, and Todd McFarlane is the comics artist (Spawn) and entrepreneur, but I bet he'd like it too. (Todd M. got into a long and ugly fight over character copyrights with Neil Gaiman, and also spent millions on a record-breaking home run ball from Mark McGwire, only to see both the record broken and McGwire outed as a steroid junkie.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:37 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Never have I wanted to possess the skills of an artist more than when contemplating an Archer/ENT mash-up.

The next season of Archer, notably, is 'Archer in Spaaaaace:'
The A.V. Club: Let’s dive right in: Can you confirm that season 10 is going to be set in space?

Adam Reed: Yes!
Do you want a mash-up episode? Because that's how you get a mash-up episode.
posted by cjelli at 8:23 AM on February 28 [3 favorites]




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