Star Trek: Enterprise: Vanishing Point   Rewatch 
March 31, 2019 10:07 PM - Season 2, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Hoshi beams up for the first time.

Memory Alpha is pretty light for this one:

Background information
> Filming for this episode began on 2 October 2002 and was wrapped up on 10 October 2002.
> Keone Young previously played Buck Bokai in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season one episode "If Wishes Were Horses".
> The term "vanishing point" in art refers to the point at which two lines converge and appear to disappear. It is likely also a double pun referring to Sato's fears about her birthmark disappearing.

Continuity
> This episode establishes that Hoshi initiated the convention of using the word "beam" as a verb.
While on the gyroscope, Tucker says, "You're upside down, Ensign." This is the same phrase he spoke to Ensign Mayweather upon encountering him in Enterprise's "sweet spot", in "Broken Bow"
> The illusory story of Cyrus Ramsey is not unlike the actual fate of Quinn Erickson in the fourth season episode "Daedalus". Hoshi's imagined experience is similar to that of Ensign Ro Laren and Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge during their encounter with a Romulan interphasic cloaking device in TNG: "The Next Phase", as well as Kathryn Janeway's experience with an alien parasite in VOY: "Coda".

Memorable quotes

"Your molecules get pulled apart."
"Then they get put back together again."
"Do you know how many molecules you're made up of?"
"Lots."
"All right, how many?"
"Uh, a few trillion."
"That's a pretty big jigsaw puzzle!"
- Sato, fretting to Tucker about using the transporter shortly before the two are beamed up to Enterprise

"Starfleet said it's safe. That's good enough for me!"
- Tucker, on the transporter

"It was very unsettling. Didn't you find it unsettling?"
"For a minute or two, but once I counted my fingers and toes…"
"I don't know, I just don't feel right."
- Sato and Tucker, discussing their recent experience with the transporter

"It's not a joke, doctor. If that machine could move a birthmark, who knows what else it could do?"
- Sato, to Phlox

"Transporter technology is very new. I'm sure Humans were equally frightened when the automobile was introduced, or the airplane. New forms of transport take a while to get used to. I'm not at all surprised at your reaction – you wouldn't catch me using that apparatus."
- Phlox, sharing his opinion of the transporter with Sato

"You're upside down, ensign."
- Tucker, to Sato while in the gym's gyroscope

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: There are no transporter accidents in Star Trek Online. Transporters are diverted sometimes and frequently unavailable, but beaming up is normally completely safe.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Averted.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: This is a transporter accident episode.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Averted, though Hoshi’s hallucination quite reasonably assumes aliens would be able to evade Enterprise’s sensors.

Poster’s Log:
I’m a little torn about this one.

On the one hand, this is a pretty watchable hour of television for a change. If last week was ENT’s take on The Naked Time, Vanishing Point feels to me like their take on Remember Me, the one where Doctor Crusher was caught in a collapsing pocket universe and everybody kept disappearing. Where Crusher was worried about losing others, Hoshi is more worried about being lost herself. And in the episode’s defense, Hoshi is a sympathetic character with enough character development that I would have guessed this ahead of time, and agreed with where the story took her fears. Further, her subconscious dreaming up the story of Cyrus Ramsey is both funny and consistent with dream logic, and the aliens felt a lot like Suliban without being a match.

On that level, this all checks out.

On the other hand, this suffers from the fact that it was all just a dream, and that fact is telegraphed before the reveal. Most of the story takes place in the span of two seconds, wherein we don’t really learn anything new. We already know Hoshi, the aliens were made up, the hostage situation never occurred and Baird isn’t a super secret language ninja.

So I don’t know whether to be relieved because the story made sense for a change, or frustrated because it didn’t ‘really’ happen.

Past that, my major issue here is that Vanishing Point should’ve taken place way back in S1, to help explain why nobody on ENT even really talks about using the transporter. The events in Strange New World offer some justification for that, but nobody talks about them and they were a bit of a special case. Given how important the device is to the franchise, it’s been weird having them discuss the option so rarely. So mostly, I wish they’d made this episode about a season ago and just referenced it sometimes. (This is similar to my take that The Communicator should’ve aired before The Seventh.)

I suppose overall, this was okay.
posted by mordax (22 comments total)
 
Hard agree- I really really hate “it was all a dream” as a conceit *but* at the very least this was a good episode that doesn’t fall into a typical enterprise pit of badness... so eh I’ll take it. Kinda makes me want to rewatch remember me though. (Or maybe just re listen to the greatest generation episode on remember me...)
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:49 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Loved this episode, so claustrophobic, but let down by the resolution.

Easy fix: It was all a dream, or everyone thinks it's all a dream but there is one small element that makes you maybe dout it, somebody that nobody notices, but definitely there, a la Twilight Zone.

Mostly because Hoshi is an intelligent and developed character who does not deserve "it is all in your head".
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 4:47 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


The "it was all a dream" resolution was a real bummer, even though it's still good for ENT when graded on the easy curve. The episode has a real emotional heart when at first it seems like people are ignoring Hoshi, then she's being pressed to translate an unknown language almost immediately with very little to go on and a crewman can manage it when she can't (even though that's why she was drafted to come on board); it's like sudden-onset impostor syndrome. It does have a somewhat nightmarish quality to it, and in retrospect everyone's harsh treatment of Hoshi is out of character, but the episode doesn't even really resolve any of the emotional issues brought up during her experience, or even hint that she might need to process them--there's the ten percent rule again. Going that extra step, and placing the episode ahead of all the why-aren't-they-using-the-transporter instances already cited, could have elevated this episode.

I also liked the bit about Cyrus Ramsey, and it's a nice call-back to Travis' ghost story in "Strange New World". I've already mentioned the Stephen King story "The Jaunt" in a previous Trek thread (not sure which one), about a long-range teleportation system in which the transportees have to be unconscious to use it, and part of the story is a bit that's assumed to be apocryphal (but, as it turns out, probably isn't) about an early test subject, a death row prisoner who's promised a pardon and a chicken dinner if he goes through fully awake. Needless to say, he doesn't get his chicken dinner.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:36 AM on April 1 [2 favorites]


I've already mentioned the Stephen King story "The Jaunt" in a previous Trek thread

Good callback, very appropriate.

Also, now I'm picturing Hoshi being all, "Longer than you think, Trip! Longer than you think!"
posted by mordax at 9:15 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


For once, I was actually relieved when It Was All A Dream because that made it easier to reconcile how the crew had been treating Hoshi -- as metaphorically invisible, not actually invisible. The height of that was T'Pol's offhand comment that Hoshi had been relieved of duty and not personally told about that, which is about as horrific a moment of imposter syndrome fear as you could get.

At the same time, I don't love taking a Hoshi-centric episode -- which have been all too rare -- and turning it from Hoshi Does Things And Solves A Mystery to Hoshi Worries That She's Not Good Enough In A Dream And Actually Does Nothing. Taking a character who has been under-utilized and under-characterized and making a big episode for them be about how they feel like they're often unseen -- when that character is actually often not as present on the show as Archer/Trip/T'Pol -- is, I would submit, not the best? Better to have had Hoshi doing something or else have someone else (Archer, whose imposter syndrome could give a different shade to his nepotism?) here and give Hoshi a bigger role someplace else.

But that's more of a critique of the series-to-date than of this episode. As an episode in isolation, it actually works really well; it's a fun hour of television. It's sort of Realm of Fear meets The Next Phase but also very much its own prequel-y thing; not necessarily better, but definitely its own thing, and an enjoyable thing!

As a series marker, though, it absolutely should have -- I could not agree more -- come either much earlier in this season or back in Season 1, because there have been so many episodes so far that could have been solved by a transporter it's been weird to have in hanging out there as an option.
posted by cjelli at 2:07 PM on April 1 [5 favorites]


Also, now I'm picturing Hoshi being all, "Longer than you think, Trip! Longer than you think!"

Thank you for putting me out of my misery. A few years ago on Metafilter somebody said, "It smells worse than you think, Daddy! It smells worse than you think!" I can't remember the context and now I can't even find the original thread, but the phrase haunted me ever since. It seemed familiar somehow but I just couldn't place it. Googling never turned up anything and I feared I'd go to my grave without ever knowing where the hell it came from. Thanks to a couple of posts in this thread I now know the person was paraphrasing the ending of The Jaunt. Now if I only knew why the hell they were paraphrasing it, and making it about a bad stink!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:15 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what I think about having members of the crew be unsure about the safety of being beamed up. In the other series, there's an assumption that the philosophical issues have been worked out and that the transporter is perfectly safe. The engineers can just say, "tech tech isolinear tech tech neuroleptic tech tech subspace manifold; there's nothing to be worried about," and we take them at their word. Starfleet scientists and philosophers have figured it out. When Barclay is scared of being transported in TNG, his fears are presented as irrational and expressing his anxious nebbishness. The creation of Tom Riker is presented as an unfortunate malfunction and not a condemnation of the technology when it's working properly.

But Hoshi's fears seem justified. And from that point of view, Archer and everyone else continuing to use the transporter seems just crazy. They're treating it as a solved problem when it is not. I get why the show wants to do storylines about the origin of the transporter and attitudes toward the transporter, but every fantasy has certain pieces of background scenery that can't be interrogated too closely without breaking the fiction, and I think this might be one of Star Trek's. The safety of the transporter needs to be a premise.
posted by painquale at 9:12 PM on April 1 [3 favorites]


There's a subtle but possibly relevant connection in that Phlox, at least transporter-dream Phlox, won't use the transporter, making him the second ship's doctor--after (or before, depending on your POV) Leonard McCoy--to have such objections.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


And lets not forget Dr. Pulaski, who would use the transporter, but prefered not to if possible. The EMH didn't have strong opinions, for obvious reasons, and Disco's doctor staff isn't that fleshed out yet. I think Dr. Crusher might be the only one who doesn't object to them at least slightly, even in Remember Me, the events of which start right after she and a friend beam aboard. Even then, she doesn't leap to blaming the transporter, but rather blames human health issues. Also Bashir, but I'll assume he just keeps quiet out of respect for O'Brien's former career.

As far as safety goes, I too would like to see more quibbling about that in the shows, but I have a mental fix for it. Humans are real real good at accepting risk for great convenience. Think of transporting as the safer version of 'driving cars' of the 24th century. It's inherently dangerous, has unsolved problems, sounds crazy when you describe what is happening literally, but most people still do it because it's so darn convenient. Sure, sometimes it creates a new version of you, and sure, sometimes you get phased back into a slightly off dimension a la Ensign Ro, and probably all sorts of other 'minor' issues all over the star fleet fleet, but hey, the timesavings!
posted by neonrev at 4:41 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I've always read the transporter-phobia (which has been in Star Trek going back to Bones in TOS) as an airplane analog: actually quite safe in practice but capable of failing in ways that trigger human fear reflexes. There are a nonzero number of people who won't fly, and who will -- in an attempt to minimize their risk -- drive for hours and hours and hours.

Opting to take a shuttle is the Star Trek equivalent of driving to avoid flying: shuttles crash all the time! But we never get shuttle-phobia as a plot point.
posted by cjelli at 7:23 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


OT: Vonda McIntyre died yesterday. In addition to some original Trek novels, she did the novelizations for some of the TOS movies, and gave Sulu his first name.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:10 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Isn't it a little strange that Hoshi's subconscious seems to follow the structural rules of teleplay writing from the late 20th century?

Anyway, snark aside, this is indeed a pretty effective ENT outing. The script is downright B+/A- by ENT standards; I recall on my first watch that I didn't anticipate the All In Her Head ending. I noted fine acting all around (e.g. Archer clearly fighting back tears) and some cool camerawork (e.g. panning away from Hoshi and toward the lads at the lads' table). It surprised me, then, to learn that the director also did "A Night in Sickbay"! What a difference a competent script makes.

I now find myself wondering what horrific sorts of protracted mental phantasmagoria were generated in the minds of other early-transportees. Not that I particularly want to know what Trip and Malcolm's subconsciouses conjured up.

I just happened to rewatch TNG: "Remember Me" last week, and yes, they are undeniably comparable. Yet also not an identical copy, as some post-TNG shows have been guilty of. And you could argue that this episode is better overall, because the big Nameless Alien reveal here* is less dopey than the Traveller Ex Machina in "Remember Me."

* = And kudos to them for resisting the urge to shoehorn in, say, Cardassians or Remans or something as the saboteurs.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:43 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I've always read the transporter-phobia (which has been in Star Trek going back to Bones in TOS) as an airplane analog

Same. I'd actually expect a heavy dose of transporter-phobia in the general population of the Federation right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if it remained non-trivial in later eras for that reason. It mostly bothers me on the NX-01 because these guys are supposed to be the best of the best, where I'd expect this kind of thing to be screened out as much as possible.

A few crewmen have backgrounds that support being a little more touchy about stuff while still bearing inclusion in the mission, Hoshi included, but it shouldn't be the norm, IMO.

I just happened to rewatch TNG: "Remember Me" last week, and yes, they are undeniably comparable. Yet also not an identical copy, as some post-TNG shows have been guilty of.

Yeah. Apart from the ending, Vanishing Point is actually a pretty good example of how to use an earlier episode as a springboard for a new one.
posted by mordax at 9:57 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Isn't it a little strange that Hoshi's subconscious seems to follow the structural rules of teleplay writing from the late 20th century?

If my dreams are any indication, so does mine.

That's kind of a joke, but also true: I think our culture shapes our worldview anyway so it's no surprise that the stories in my head about life and myself are influenced by the stories I read and watch about fantasies.

And yes, weird it may seem but my dreams often do end up maddeningly similar to a tv plot. I suspect that my subconscious creates a setup and twist in a more traditionally dreamlike, random way, then my media-trained brain grafts some sort of third-act resolution onto the "story".
posted by traveler_ at 9:19 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


It's not so much the transporter-phobia that bothers me as the fact that the show has established that these things weren't designed to be used on people and they haven't been fully vetted as person-safe.

By the time you get to TOS and TNG, everyone is using the transporters so freely that the audience can just assume that they've been deemed safe by Starfleet philosophers in earlier centuries. That's why Barclay's phobia comes across as irrational. But Enterprise doesn't let you make that assumption. The transporters were made for moving around crates full of self-sealing stem bolts or whatever; beaming up Archer in the pilot was explicitly an act of desperation. With that having been established, Hoshi is the only one acting rationally.
posted by painquale at 9:34 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


With that having been established, Hoshi is the only one acting rationally.

Hmmm…yeah, I mean, it's not as though they included any dialogue about Starfleet/Trip having made gradual refinements to the device, prior to this episode, to increase safety w/r/t biological transport.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:44 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


It's not so much the transporter-phobia that bothers me as the fact that the show has established that these things weren't designed to be used on people and they haven't been fully vetted as person-safe.

The thing is, it does:
TRAVIS: I heard this platform's been approved for bio-transport.
REED: I presume you mean fruits and vegetables.
TRAVIS: I mean Armoury Officers and Helmsmen.
REED: I don't think I'm quite ready to have my molecules compressed into a data stream.
TRAVIS: They claim it's safe.
REED: Do they indeed. Well, I certainly hope the Captain doesn't plan on making us use it.
TRAVIS: Don't worry, from what I'm told, he wouldn't even put his dog through this thing.
- Broken Bow
Command claims it's fine, the crew thinks it isn't, and we're left to wonder what the disconnect is. Meanwhile, both episodes with transporter accidents to date featured inclement weather, and this only the second time it's happened. Meanwhile, the device worked fine during the incident at P'Jem, where they were actually dealing with hostile aliens.
posted by mordax at 10:55 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


TRAVIS: Don't worry, from what I'm told, he wouldn't even put his dog through this thing.

You don't say.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:27 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


This was a pretty solid outing that actually built on what we know about Hoshi and her fears; not just of the transporter but her fears of inadequacy and being valued and acknowledged. I liked it for that.

But here's what bugs me about episodes like this...Hoshi is supposedly fading from existence or out of phase to the point that water passes through her, she can slide her hands into equipment (but still manipulate it somehow) but she can't open doors on her own, can't pass through walls, and the floor apparently remains completely solid for her at all times. In other words, the rules for how she interacts with the "real" world are inconsistent. It's easy to write this off as dream logic for this episode, but it's been a consistent thing in other episodes where someone is "out of phase" with the rest of reality, and it is becoming a little bit of an annoyance for me. No one can see them, they can reach into & through things, but the floor is always solid.

Command claims it's fine, the crew thinks it isn't, and we're left to wonder what the disconnect is. Meanwhile, both episodes with transporter accidents to date featured inclement weather, and this only the second time it's happened. Meanwhile, the device worked fine during the incident at P'Jem, where they were actually dealing with hostile aliens.

This would be an interesting thing to explore at more depth. Trek is largely a tech-philic show, so dealing with the fact that the brand-new technology of transporters has adoption issues would be interesting; there's a psychology thing there that maybe they could do something with. Show us how command deals with change management on this front.
posted by nubs at 12:40 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Command claims it's fine, the crew thinks it isn't, and we're left to wonder what the disconnect is.

Oh yeah, you're right. I had forgotten or missed that conversation in the pilot.

In the meanwhile, I've watched Deadelus (S4E10), and there they do state that the worries about the person coming out the transporter being just a copy have been solved by scientists.
posted by painquale at 8:37 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I had forgotten or missed that conversation in the pilot.

To be fair, they talked about it the way you were thinking most of the time.

I mean, it's not as though they included any dialogue about Starfleet/Trip having made gradual refinements to the device, prior to this episode, to increase safety w/r/t biological transport.

I meant to address this but I was in a hurry before: this would've been a much better use of their time than having Reed reinvent the wheel a bunch. Just a slow burn on 'Trip gets the bugs out of the transporter,' up until they were ready to feature it in more stories.
posted by mordax at 9:42 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Even if they establish that transporters aren't for people, there are still TONS of situations that could have been solved by beaming down inanimate tools and supplies, or beaming up lost communicators.
posted by fleacircus at 2:48 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]


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