Star Trek: Enterprise: Precious Cargo   Rewatch 
April 8, 2019 12:42 AM - Season 2, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Trip agrees to work on his day off.

Memory Alpha has plenty to say about this one:

Background information
Story and script
> This was the first Star Trek: Enterprise episode on which David A. Goodman worked. He explained, "With 'Precious Cargo' I was new to the staff, I didn't fully understand the rules and I definitely didn't – a lot of my problems with that episode were my fault, in terms of how I approached writing it. You learn as you go […] I definitely had a lot to learn… Even up to that point I had not written for one-hour television which was definitely very different from writing for half-hour. I had a big learning curve, and I learnt a lot."
> The producers of Star Trek: Enterprise had the idea of including references to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Perfect Mate" in this installment, a concept they proceeded to execute.
> The first draft script of this episode was submitted on 1 October 2002. The installment's final draft teleplay was issued on 10 October 2002, with revised pages being submitted until 14 October 2002. The archival final draft of the script was submitted on 4 December 2002. That draft of the script contained a couple of errors, such as its pronunciation guide referring to the language spoken by Kaitaama as "Tiburrian" and the captain's log being dated "August 17, 2152" rather than "September 12, 2152".
> Executive Producer Brannon Braga performed a rewrite on the episode, trying to treat it as a screwball comedy but later admitted, "I struggled through it." (ENT Season 2 Blu-ray "Destination: Unknown" special feature) Said David A. Goodman, "To be fair, I was rewritten a lot on 'Precious Cargo'." ("Judgment" podcast/audio commentary)

Cast and characters
> Leland Crooke previously played Gelnon in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "One Little Ship" and "Honor Among Thieves".
> Scott Klace had previously played Dremk in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Juggernaut".

> This episode was filmed between 11 and 22 October 2002.
> The Ardanan power relay was a reuse of the chrono deflector used by the future Admiral Janeway in VOY: "Endgame".

> The similarities between this episode and TNG: "The Perfect Mate" include the fact that Krios Prime is heavily referenced in both episodes. Both characters central to the plot (Kamala and Kaitaama) were also from that planet.
> T'Pol wears her Vulcan robes during Plinn's "tribunal" for the first time since her introductory scene in ENT: "Broken Bow".
> Tucker's ruse of using his Starfleet uniform as bait for Goff to attack him is similar to what Miles O'Brien did to Vinod in DS9: "Paradise".
> Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) does not appear in this episode.

Reception and aftermath
> David A. Goodman has repeatedly stated there were two very different forms of this episode, describing both as a "piece of crap." These were, specifically, his original scripted version of the outing and the final edit in its aired format. ("Judgment" podcast/audio commentary)
> Even from the time of its origins, this episode provoked disappointment from the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise. "They were pretty much ready to fire me," David A. Goodman recalled about their reaction to the episode's script. ("Judgment" podcast/audio commentary) Thinking he himself did not manage to do "a very good job" of rewriting the episode, Brannon Braga even asked Rick Berman if there was a way to not have the episode broadcast. (ENT Season 2 Blu-ray "Destination: Unknown" special feature) Thanks to Braga, Goodman remained on the series, contributing to the writing of some later episodes. ("Judgment" podcast/audio commentary)
> In 2013, Brannon Braga stated that he considers "Precious Cargo" to be one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever. (ENT Season 2 Blu-ray "Destination: Unknown" special feature) Though David A. Goodman did not take full responsibility for the end result of his initial script, he laughed, "I'm very proud of the fact that I've written one of the most hated episodes of Star Trek ever."

Memorable quotes
"Well, we started out with 83 crewmen on board. We're down to 76."
- Archer about T'Pol's supposed strictness about unbecoming conduct for an officer

"How much do you weigh?"
"Your weight?"
"72 kilograms."
"1.8 meters. Why are you asking these questions?"
"Does your culture observe any postmortem rituals?"
"This is not fair! I demand to speak with someone from my government!"
- T'Pol pretending to be Plinn's judge and executioner

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Thankfully, I’m drawing a blank here.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Archer’s ruse includes the notion that Vulcans have more clout than humans.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: None on Enterprise.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: The alien vessel manages to temporarily disable the NX-01’s warp drive, despite being a total piece of junk.

Poster’s Log:
Though Precious Cargo meets the technical requirements to be called a story, it is less a real narrative than a shambling assemblage of cliches haphazardly stitched together into the crude mockery of one. And I realize that may sound a little negative, but it's never good when the writer explains how their script was so bad it almost got them fired, or when even Brannon Braga realized it shouldn’t air at all.

Some random thoughts:
* The misogyny here was pretty brutal to sit through. (On that note, "The Perfect Mate" is maybe the last thing ENT should've wanted to copy.)

* I almost wrote this post pretending that Archer and T’Pol’s dumb tribunal subplot was the actual A-plot of the episode, because as stupid as it was, at least it was weird enough to surprise me. (‘Cause seriously, what the hell was that? ‘We’ll leave the outer hatch to the airlock open in case you want to take a walk?’ Pretty sure that defies any number of regulations.)

* Starfleet Chief Engineers need to get security escorts when they go to unvetted alien ships.

Poster’s Log, Supplemental:
I went looking at David A Goodman’s imdb entry and discovered he wrote Fred: the Movie in collaboration with Fred himself. I used to have a friend that I watched bad movies with so we could make fun of them, (like, I've seen Santa Baby 2, but somehow managed to miss the first one). She picked that turkey one time, and it was one of the most hateful, awful things I’ve ever seen in a life littered with deliberately poor cinematic choices. Based on that, I'm not surprised this would be Goodman’s idea of acceptable Star Trek upon joining the franchise.
posted by mordax (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This was bad on multiple fronts. In addition to the misogyny of the main plot, the T'Pol and Archer "tribunal" subplot was aggravating - both that Archer would come up with the idea and that T'Pol would play along with it.

Nitpicky point of the week - when Tripp and his princess are in the escape pod, it's going to take them 24 hours to reach the planet where they wound up. There's no space in there, including no apparent bathroom facility - that would have been a really awkward ride, operating on the assumption there was at least some type of tube/hose system for managing waste.

This was bad and everyone involved in it should feel bad.
posted by nubs at 7:35 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

So, there's a bunch of TNG episodes that I haven't seen, in part because there's a stretch of the late eighties in which I didn't have a TV--not out of choice, I just couldn't afford one--and in part because the first season was so bad that I didn't think that I was missing out on much. When I was able to start catching up on the series, I tended to focus on episodes that featured plots, characters, or alien races that either got a lot of attention (Borg), that were personal favorites (Worf), or that figured in the later series that I did follow pretty much from the beginning (DS9, VOY). That still left a bunch that I may eventually get around to watching, although I'm in no hurry; "Sub Rosa" is one, "Shades of Grey" another, and yes, "The Perfect Mate," which, even though I liked Famke Janssen in the X-Men movies, struck me as just a redress of TOS' "Elaan of Troyius", which I never really liked, not back in the day and not now.

This episode is just kind of painful to watch, since it takes the same kind of idea and tries to put a rom-com spin on it. Rom-coms have their own issues, since, if a writer has even a single problematic idea or history with relationships, it will not only appear in the plot but will be framed with the assumption that it's somehow cute. It's not like there's anything in particular that works about this episode, but the trope of the powerful woman who "needs" to be put in her place by a man (the worst thing about "Elaan") is especially rank. And the series' propensity for nominating Trip as designated ladies' man also has problems, because Trip often seems incredibly short-fused. That's not necessarily the worst thing for a character to be, as it can work pretty well in terms of interactions with other characters; Bones McCoy was an effective grumpy Southern man, especially regarding Spock, and recreating that dynamic with T'Pol sometimes seems to be one of the series' goals; YMMV as to whether they succeed, especially as their relationship becomes something serious. Here, with Kaitaama, it seems more like "Trip bitches at her a lot, and apparently she finds that incredibly erotic." Not good. If they'd taken a chance on skipping the romantic angle entirely and had the two of them bond over needing to depend on each other for survival, and maybe even gotten into what the life of a monarch in a warp-capable civilization might be like, there might have been something there worth watching. As it was, it's a shabby imitation of a story that wasn't worth imitating in the first place. Damn shame, really, as Padma Lakshmi has had an interesting resume.

Also regrettable is the B-story, with T'Pol as bad cop. Not only does it use the unpleasant implicit threat of spacing the guy, and just seems unlikely to work as the Retellians have already seen a more relaxed Archer in charge, but it misses a chance at what would have been a genuinely funny B-story: T'Pol takes charge of the ship to better simulate Vulcan tyranny, but Archer is surprised to find out that the crew likes her better (at least on a short-term basis) because she has logical reasons for everything she does, and it's Archer that ends up being the bad cop.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

the trope of the powerful woman who "needs" to be put in her place by a man (the worst thing about "Elaan") is especially rank.

Yep. :(

I definitely missed a big chunk of S2 on first viewing, (I think I headed straight to S3), and was shocked to see this on such a relatively modern show, even ENT.

That still left a bunch that I may eventually get around to watching, although I'm in no hurry; "Sub Rosa" is one, "Shades of Grey" another, and yes, "The Perfect Mate," which, even though I liked Famke Janssen in the X-Men movies, struck me as just a redress of TOS' "Elaan of Troyius", which I never really liked, not back in the day and not now.

The Perfect Mate isn't actually like this - it's frustrating in that Janssen plays a character who becomes 'perfect' for whatever guy they're with via empathic/telepathic powers, so she's less Elaan and more 'the ultimate evolution of the male gaze?' I feel like Precious Cargo is a much worse story, but I can't recommend seeing either on purpose.

Sub Rosa, on the other hand... man. It's awful, (and I used to cite it as the very worst episode of Trek ever made, before our VOY rewatch reminded me of just how foul the franchise could get), but it's so gonzo that I still recommend giving it a viewing for the spectacle.
posted by mordax at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I laughed out loud when I realized that the princess was played by Padma. Padma! She's really a terrible actress here, isn't she? She's so terribly wooden in her line readings... it feels like she's in a Hal Hartley movie or a Bertolt Brecht play or something. Still, I can't help but be a little charmed by the performance. It's impossible to imagine her as a real character inhabiting a real world, but the impossibly flat delivery does somehow manage to emotionally convey the superciliousness and pompousness at the core of her character. I find it hard to forget. I can't dislike this episode entirely due to Padma's extremely weird line readings. It kinda falls into that well of bad and boring Star Trek episodes for me rather than the well of truly execrable episodes.

Reading the dialogue written out makes it easier for me to see the screwball tone they were going for. I can kind of imagine those lines being jockeyed about in Billy Wilder movie or in a His Girl Friday sort of film. But in the actual episode, none of it comes across as fun and flirtatious banter. The writing, the acting, and the direction are all blanched of fun. They needed to actually hire comedic actors, or at least actors that could make the banter feel snappy rather than laborious. (I can kind of see why they thought Conner Trinneer could pull it off... maybe he could have with a different cast and script.) They also made a huge mistake in writing Padma's character to be impossibly stupid. Making the characters quick-thinking and witty is essential for a good screwball tone.

Has Star Trek ever done a comedic episode well? I find it hard to think of a single one. Maaaaybe the Baseball-with-Vulcans DS9 episode.
posted by painquale at 3:20 PM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

Has Star Trek ever done a comedic episode well?

It's happened, but it's unusual. Offhand, my list would include:
- TOS, The Voyage Home. It's not comedy, but the small gags are brilliant enough to count, IMO?
- DS9, Take Me Out to the Holosuite (the one you mentioned).
- DS9, In the Cards. Jake and Nog trade up for a baseball card.
- DSC, The Escape Artist. This one was so good I specifically made four non-Trek viewers see it without any context or explanation and they all about died, but it's also a whole different era.

I'm sure I'm missing some, but your point stands - this isn't normally a forte in the franchise. (Data trying to learn comedy from Joe Piscopo was absolutely dire, too.)
posted by mordax at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Roman Holiday did this way better.
posted by juiceCake at 6:57 PM on April 8, 2019

"Trials and Tribble-ations." I'll split the credit with the original episode, which gets extra credit if you draw parallels between it and DS9 (space station between the Federation and another interstellar power that it was formerly at war with and is currently engaged in an uneasy detente with; neutral planet that they're both trying to win over; colorful bar and a shady character who frequents it; member of the station administration who isn't what he seems).
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 PM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, absolutely Tribble-ations! I forgot about it, but it definitely tops my list.

I also want to say that I finished off my first watch of Enterprise last night, and it's a crime this show got canceled right as it hit its stride. Season 4 is peak-DS9 good. I'm really looking forward to getting into discussion of the good eps.
posted by painquale at 11:03 AM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

discussion of the good eps.

I know all those words, but they make no sense in the order you have put them.

(this is my first watch, and I'm really kinda actively hating the show after this ep, so it's good to know there might be something to look forward to)
posted by nubs at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

so it's good to know there might be something to look forward to

For what it's worth, I remember liking this show during S4, and I'm... well. You've seen my opinions so far.
posted by mordax at 3:46 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Strung-together cliches imitating a story" is an apt summation. When it was all over, I decided this would have been a middling episode of Star Trek had it been made prior to 1970.

I can't dislike this episode entirely due to Padma's extremely weird line readings.

This, too, made me think of TOS. It's almost as if they deliberately sought out a performer who would basically imitate France Nuyen.

Inept and insulting as it was, though, it's definitely not the worst episode even of this series IMO. But maybe that's just bias because the casting of Padma here was so strange, and because it afforded us some fun quip opportunities (e.g., when she wakes up: "Wait a minute, this isn't the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen!").
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:41 AM on April 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Inept and insulting as it was, though, it's definitely not the worst episode even of this series IMO.

Oh, agreed. I'm still not surprised that fandom in general would view things differently though: most of my top hated Trek episodes are over racism or sexism, rather than an isolated question of watchability.
posted by mordax at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2019

Inept and insulting as it was, though, it's definitely not the worst episode even of this series IMO.

Definitely. My exasperation with this show and it's ongoing mediocrity and seemingly constant poor decisions and ongoing sexism is what's fueling my hate at this point.
posted by nubs at 7:47 AM on April 12, 2019

Has Star Trek ever done a comedic episode well?

As mentioned, both Tribble episodes are comedic, also

TOS: Squire of Gothos

TNG: The Most Toys, every Q episode but especially Deja Q, Data's Day, that one with Mark Twain...

I am in the minority. I liked this episode. Maybe I'm just a big Trip fan. But it was better than "Trip gets pregnant".
posted by jb at 8:11 AM on May 24, 2019

I kinda liked this episode as a silly pulp story, though I was also very amused by it being Padma. She was reading those lines so flat and sonorous that it almost worked as an imperious tone.

The aliens they're tracking do an actual maneuver, faking damage, dropping out of warp, releasing a space fart that scrambles the Enterprise's engines, then going back into warp. I think it's ripped off from the S1 episode with the traders, but still a legit stratagem. Between that and the captured dude's playing dumb, and their constant lies -- I kinda liked these comedically jerky aliens. Also IIRC the one Trip fights laughs in his face, which is more points.
posted by fleacircus at 3:24 AM on October 30, 2019

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