Star Trek: Enterprise: Harbinger   Rewatch 
November 3, 2019 12:16 PM - Season 3, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Archer unravels a mysterious alien experiment, Reed endures a frustrating training experiment, and Trip contributes to a hands-on Vulcan experiment.

Background from Memory Alpha:

- As originally filmed, the famous "love scene" between Tucker and T'Pol featured a look at actress Jolene Blalock's naked posterior. Two versions of this scene exist, however, depending on where and how the episode is watched; US audiences watching the original broadcast on UPN (or later on the Sci-Fi Channel) were shown a version in which the frame was "enlarged," enabling the network to crop the picture just above Blalock's bare bottom. Canadian viewers, however, were treated to the scene as it was originally shot – with Blalock's bottom shown (see the picture to the right). The "unedited" version of this scene is intact on the DVD release of the episode, HDNet's broadcast, and streaming video providers such as Netflix and Hulu. The episode aired ten days after the "wardrobe malfunction" during halftime at Super Bowl XXXVIII, which may have resulted in the alternate versions.

- Thomas Kopache, who played the test subject here, has portrayed a number of different characters and aliens over the years. He appeared as Mirok in TNG: "The Next Phase", an engineer in TNG: "Emergence", USS Enterprise-B communications officer in Star Trek Generations, Viorsa in VOY: "The Thaw", Kira Taban in DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water" and "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", and Tos in ENT: "Broken Bow".

- This is the first appearance of a member of the species that was later revealed as the Sphere-Builders.

- When the tactical alert is initiated in this episode, an alarm sounds that was never included in any episodes prior to this nor after it.

"I've noticed that you and Corporal Cole have become somewhat friendly."
"Last week you were eating together in the mess hall, and in the training session yesterday she touched your behind."
"You've been keeping a pretty close eye on us."
"You're hard to miss."

- T'Pol and Tucker

"Captain, this man is dying a painful death. To keep him conscious is unethical."
"Until I get the answers I need, we're going to have to bend a few ethics."

- Phlox and Captain Archer

Poster’s Log:
Well, that “Previously” segment sure covered a lot of ground. What was this, one of those seasons split in half, like in DISCO? And did they actually think it would clarify anything for viewers who missed most of the season?

Actually, wait a second—(* checks airdate *) ah, of course: February. Sweeps week. That explains all the punching, the weird “Previously,” and, needless to say, the butt. It also helps explain the disposable quality of the ostensibly-A-story alien threat.

The only thing that makes this Trip and T’Pol stuff tolerable is the acting talent of Blalock and Trinneer. I find that, if I pretend that the reason I’m seeing this is that I’m their classmate in an acting class, it diminishes the ickiness. All the same, I’ll be glad when they decide to knock it off with the neuro-pressure (according to MA, this is its second-to-last occurrence, with the last one coming six episodes from now).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's been a long time since I watched the show, but I hear a lot about the ickiness of the Trip/T'Pol thing and I don't remember it being particularly icky. Yeah, the show was trying (and failing) to sell the sexy with Decon gel stuff and all that, it smacked of desperation and didn't fit the show's overall tone. (I seem to recall that Trip was shirtless a lot, so at least there was some equal opportunity ogling going on.) But didn't Tucker and T'Pol just have kind of a will they/won't they thing, where they were always kind of flirting and kind of sparring? I don't remember Tucker making a lot of sexist jokes or double entendres or anything. Was he creepier than I remember? If I saw it now maybe there'd be a lot more butt shots and leering stuff than I recall, but it kind of sounds like people are offended on principle that Trip, T'Pol and Archer had kind of a romantic triangle, however half-assed it was, and that strikes me as kind of... prudish? Like, T'Pol was clearly an intelligent, capable and dignified crew member, she was NOT just eye candy, and Trip and Archer liked and respected her. If there was some mutual sexual tension there, is that really so bad? If the objection is that they were co-workers, well, a starship isn't really an office. They're there virtually 24/7 for years at a time, it's kind of their whole world, so it seems reasonable to exect some romances would blossom.

For me the sexual tension was never the problem really, it was more that there was just no sizzle there. The original series could do wacky, kinky (although admittedly sometimes sexist) stuff because it fit the overall tone. It didn't feel weird for people to get sweaty and have their uniforms rip just so, because the whole show had a fun, campy vibe. From TNG onward the franchise was determined to downplay the camp and class it up, and while that had many benefits it also made for shows where sex stuff just DID NOT FIT. Whenever they tried to get sexy it just felt squirmy and wrong, like seeing your aunt's boudoir photos.

I'm amazed to hear that Enterprise tried to do an ass shot, because that doesn't fit my memory of the show's tone at all, so maybe it was really leery and I've just forgotten it all. Reading these recaps I'm kind of surprised how many episodes I recall only vaguely or not at all. I know I saw them all, but I mostly remember a kind of tired, mediocre competence, occasionally featuring some ill-advised, listless kink.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:39 PM on November 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

WRT the T'Pol thing, it's more the whole picture, with her outfits (the original uniform being unlike any other Vulcan outfit that we've seen; when she resigns her commission with the Vulcans and joins Starfleet, for some reason, she starts wearing velour catsuits instead of a Starfleet uniform) and succumbing to the seductive power of jazz. Plus, the whole thing of neuropressure, a purely therapeutic exercise, being taken as a prelude to seduction. T'Pol has always come across as Berman and Braga's ENT version of Seven of Nine--standoffish and limited in her personal interactions, but also hella sexy--but Seven had much better character development 2 1/2 seasons past her introduction; T'Pol has basically had the aforelinked "Fusion", in which she's assaulted, and "Stigma", in which it's revealed that her assault gave her mind-meld AIDS. She's got yet another problem, which will be revealed later this season. On top of those problems, she seems to not have the literally superhuman strength that Vulcans are canonically possessed of, although she at least holds her own in sparring with the MACOs.

In general, this episode seems to only make sense if they've gotten a snootful of some space pollen or that virus that is basically a fast-forward version of psychotherapy. The Trip/T'Pol thing coming to a head at least was foreshadowed; Reed losing his shit with Major Hayes, not so much. Having two very different types of military people having big differences in the way that they do things is a perennial source of plot conflict, both in the franchise and IRL, but Reed seems grievously offended by the very idea that his crew could use training in target practice and hand-to-hand combat, which is made ridonkulous when you consider how many times the damn ship has been boarded and taken over. (Unless Reed thinks that solving that problem by having someone, usually Archer, McClain his way through the Jeffries tubes is totes a legit solution to that situation, every time.) I'm guessing that this episode may be the reason why some fans shipped Reed and Hayes together.

And then there's Archer not only losing his shit with Hayes and Reed, but also with the prisoner, whose deteriorating condition not only reminded me of the Suliban makeup, but also the way that Odo looked when Garak was torturing him in DS9's "The Die is Cast". The set-up for that plot thread isn't great (although the special effect for the super-anomaly is queasily appropriate; it looks like a giant collection of blisters or boils that are about to burst); why would the crew open a capsule with unknown contents in an open shuttle bay, without protective suits, when the air could be poisonous or full of germs? And Archer's insistence on keeping the Sphere Builder outside of his capsule before he knew where he was from or his true mission is even less justified. The thing that COB said about the previous episode--about how Archer was "pretty believable as a despondent, utter failure"--seems even more appropriate here.

P.S. One of the things that's helped me get through some of these episodes is that I've started yet another rewatch of DS9, and it's interesting how some of those episodes compare and contrast with similar plotlines in this show. "The Die is Cast", for example, has Garak torturing Odo, but with Odo's agony being mirrored at Garak being horrified by it, and by his own coercion into doing it by Enabran Tain. (Also, for noting that there are more subtle forms of interrogation, as when Tain praised Garak for getting a confession out of a Dr. Parmak simply by staring at him for a very long time.) Also, Worf having problems with the way things are done on DS9; Jadzia's doomed reunion with Lenara Kahn being way sexier (even though it didn't go as far as ENT's coupling); Bashir and O'Brien having a serious and unresolved difference in ethics (except maybe in the sense that they seem to have less of a difference of opinion in a parallel situation in the last season) in "Hippocratic Oath", as contrasted to Phlox's dismay and passive acquiescence; even some ass-related content in "Indiscretion". (P.P.S. Love the Diablo III reference in the tags.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 AM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh hey I'm caught up! It sure has been a long road.

Now I'm noticing tags. "You might call it debriefing" guhhh.
posted by fleacircus at 7:16 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Memory Alpha: Nudity. "Gene Roddenberry originally intended for his vision of Earth to be a civilization of nudists."
posted by homunculus at 8:59 PM on November 20, 2019

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