Let us resume the countdown.
"Silent Enemy" is another episode that capitalizes well on the show's premise. The main story is the sudden appearance of an alien vessel. Neither T'Pol or the computer recognize it, and it shrugs off all attempts to communicate.
|The aliens board and probe the crew, but we are never given their motivations or learn anything about them. The audience is kept in the dark as much as the crew.|
The aliens eventually transmit the succinct message: "You are defenseless; prepare to surrender your vessel" by re-arranging the audio of Archer's attempt at communicating with them. May I just say that when this sort of thing happens in sci-fi, I am always delighted? I'm referring to an alien re-arranging audio, the acoustic equivalent of the ransom note given to the cops where the letters are all cut out from other sources. You know what I mean. One of the best uses of it is from the pilot for Greatest American Hero, for my money, but like the Wilhelm scream, it shows up in a variety of places. Anyway, Trip and Malcolm get the phase cannons online in time to return fire, and the alien ship warps away for good.
|While the main story is satisfying enough, the subplot of Hoshi trying to figure out Malcolm's favorite food for his upcoming birthday is a lot of fun, as well. As Dominic Keating (Malcolm) said, "It's quite subtle, because you get to see more of me, but you still don't know much about me. We learn that we don't know much about Reed. It's a fun way to begin the Reed experience."|
After a lot of legwork (enlisting Phlox to examine Malcolm's waste and allergen injections) she succeeds.
As a result of damages sustained in the previous episode ("Minefield") Archer sends out a distress call to any ships within range. They are directed to an automated repair station, not too far from their current position.
After docking and interacting with the station's computer, Archer is shocked to learn total repairs will take only a day and a half, in exchange for a trivial amount of warp plasma. But as good of a first impression as that is, they learn it is curiously self-defensive, and Travis is killed by wandering into an area he was not supposed to be in. Phlox discovers, however, that the corpse is not Malcolm but a near-perfect replica.
|As Trip stalls for time with the computer before handing over the warp plasma,|
Archer and T'Pol hunt for and discover the real Travis and a lot of other humanoids hooked up to power stations. The repair station feeds on them, re-arranging their cerebral cortices and slaving them to its own processes. All but Travis have irreversible brain damage. They unplug him, blast their way out of the repair station, and warp out.
|The last images of the episode are the repair station automatically repairing itself.|
Directed by Roxann "B'Elanna Torres" Dawson, who also provides the voice of the computer.
Enterprise, as this screengrab makes perfectly clear, was not above contriving situations to show its cast in various stages of undress (or to frame shots unabashedly around Jolene Blalock's backside. I'll get to this sort of thing more when I cover "Bound," but it reminds me of something Matt Fraction said re: having a daughter and wanting her to be into comics but then having to explain Power Girl to her without embarrassment. Same goes for Seven of Nine and T'Pol's outfits.) The conceit for the above is Trip's anguish over his sister's death from the Xindi attack on Earth leads him to take a Vulcan yoga/massage class with T'Pol. It's not completely uncalled for, though the decision was undoubtedly motivated by the network's demand for "a higher flesh ratio in every episode" in season 3 than any exploration of Vulcan Relaxation techniques.
In "Similitude," an accident puts Trip into a coma. As they are deep in the Delphic Expanse and forced to rely on their own resources, Phlox reveals that among the menagerie he keeps in Sick Bay for medicinal purposes is a Lyssarrian Desert Larvae. He can use this to make a perfect clone of Commander Tucker and then harvest its neural tissue to repair the damage done to Trip. Archer hems and haws with the ethics of this decision but finally agrees. "Sim" is born, aging at a much higher rate.
|Being the same person as Trip, Sim naturally develops the same feelings for T'Pol as the "real" Trip does, but the uniqueness of the situation allows T'Pol to reciprocate, albeit only with a kiss. (Once he's a little older, of course, than how he's seen here.)|
|Full-grown only in a matter of days, Sim, understandably enough, isn't keen on dying.|
|"You owe me one."|
Archer, Hoshi, Travis, Trip, and Malcolm travel to Risa, that famed pleasure-planet of the Trekverse, for some r and r. That's pretty much all you need to know about "Two Days and Two Nights," although such a summary fails to convey how much fun this one is.
T'Pol sends along some reading material for Archer. (Note - this is a season one episode, so well before Archer's bonding with Surak in the "Kir'shara" story arc.)
|Hoshi, to use her own euphemism at episode's end, "learns several new conjugations."|
|Malcolm and Trip get mugged by some shapeshifters and are left with only their underwear.|
And Archer gets a nice room with a view and a little intrigue with his neighbor, a Tandaran disguised as a human, who asks him many questions about the Suliban.
|We don't know much about the Tandarans, except that they are (or were) at war with the Suliban. They appear in only one other episode, "Detained," with Dean Stockwell.|
This episode marks the last appearance of Kellie "Cutler" Waymire and is the only ENT episode directed by Michael "Worf" Dorn.
"A Night in Sickbay" is one of the last occasions of this set-up right here:
It started off as the crew having to rub decontaminating gel on one another before reboarding the ship. A sensible enough precaution, but by this point in the second season, it included threeway rubdowns and now even Porthos is in on the action. Having no real objection to any of this, I actually get a kick out of attempts to rationalize gratuitous semi-nudity - the more insistent it's being done for science, the bigger kick I get - but I'm glad they gave this up. My own impression is that the network insisted on more and more t'n'a and then throw Berman/ Braga under the bus when fans started to complain about the overkill.
The Enterprise needs a plasma injector, and the only sellers in the area are the Kreetassans. Unfortunately, the Kreetassans are a bunch of easily offended fusspots. Porthos manages to offend them the most by relieving himself on the trunk of one of their sacred trees. In a previous episode, the crew managed to offend them by eating in front of them, but Travis was able to smooth things over that time. This time, they are not as easily placated:
|The "apology ritual."|
Porthos picks up a contagion on the surface, necessitating (the title). The episode is structured chronologically, with time-cards indicating the progression of Archer's sleepless, anxiety-filled night.
Putting a pet in danger (even if you know they're not going to kill off Porthos) is probably on a short-list of cheap emotional manipulation, but I'll give the writers a pass, here. It's a realistic scenario, and it allows for some fantastic interplay between Phlox and Archer. (Plus, I freely admit, I just kinda love Porthos.) It also showcases the considerable talents of John Billingsley as Phlox's "nightly routines prevent Archer, whose moved into Sick Bay for the night to be near his dog, from getting any sleep. They also get to know each other a bit, and the vaudience learns a lot of things about Denobulans without seeming like an info-dump.
|It also allows for some fun moments with Hoshi, who finds herself having to deal with offended Kreetassans while the Captain frets after Porthos.|
Naturally, Phlox is able to pull Porthos through it, and all is back to normal by story's end.
I haven't linked to any reviews of particular episodes for these overviews, but considering the drubbing this story gets over at The Agony Booth, it's worth mentioning that I apparently am in the minority for loving this episode. There's some funny stuff in there, though, even if my own take on things is obviously much different.
A few weeks back, a friend sent me the results of this poll over at Star Trek.com re: "Who is your favorite Trek Doctor?" The Doctor (aka Robert Picardo) from VOY took top honors, which was a surprise, not because I don't like The Doctor (on the contrary, he's probably my favorite character on Voyager) but because I, like many people, just assumed Bones would win. It made me realize, though, that my own favorite Trek doctor is Phlox, and episodes like "Dear Doctor" are a large part of the reason why. (The Trek.com poll was conducted via many separate polls, and Phlox came in last or second-to-last in almost all of them; again, studios should use me as some kind of warning buoy to know what not to do.)
|Phlox arrives at the beginning of his shift at episode's beginning...|
|...and leaves at episode's end.|
This story is structured around a series of letters written between Phlox and his fellow Interspecies Medical Exchange participant, Dr. Lucas, later portrayed by veteran character actor Richard Riehle. As the Enterprise helps a planet stricken by the plague, Phlox ruminates on his role in the ship, differences between humanoid cultures, his flirtations with Crewman Cutler, and medical / first contact ethics re: the situation on the planet.
Cutler (Kellie Waymire) is romantically interested in Phlox, and she even seems to roll with his revelation of the polygamous nature of Denobulan society. Although Waymire's untimely death ended the idea of a romance between the two characters, they have good chemistry and were enjoyable to watch.
|She looks like a hybrid of Diane Wiest and Ashley Judd in this picture, doesn't she? She died of a heart condition at the absurd age of 36. RIP.|
Of his departed co-star, Billingsley said she was "a peach, I liked her very much... just a fabulous person." These sentiments are shared by everyone who worked for her. (All too rare on set!) Berman and Braga decided against re-casting the part, so the character just sort of disappears after her last appearance in "Two Days and Two Nights."
I am perhaps not giving enough attention to the planetary-drama of this episode, i.e. the co-existence of two humanoid species on one planet with one of them at an evolutionary dead end. It's a classic open-ended Trek question that leaves you a little unsettled when you try to answer it. In Phlox's and Lucas's correspondence, and of course the exchanges between Archer and Phlox, we see the kind of philosophizing that characterizes the Berman/Braga era as much as McCoy's and Kirk's exchange in "A Private Little War" characterizes the political philosophy of the Coon/Roddenberry era.
Before I get to this episode, some more riveting behind-the-blogging-curtain stuff: the DVD I have that houses this episode won't play in my computer for some reason. So, I took to the interwebs to get some screencaps and lo and behold find this. While I knew the site existed, I had no idea such an extensive online library of screencaps did. I had to squelch the "Well, what's the point of providing all these screencaps here?" inner mutiny. It's still fun to go through them myself and snag the ones I want, but as always with Trek, I discover the tracks of those who boldly went before myself.
This episode opens with the kind of soundstage set-up familiar to so many TOS episodes. Hoshi and Trip investigate ruins on an alien world when a violent storm breaks out. This necessitates the use of the transporter, not the most trusted of apparatus in the timeline of Enterprise.
Hoshi is quite reluctant to use it, and, of course, it turns out she was right to be.
After she returns to the ship, she begins to feel she's "not really there." At first only figuratively and then literally. (This disconnect is re-enforced by the visual design of the episode, as can be seen below.) Her anxiety is not relieved by learning of the legend of Cyrus Ramsey, the proverbial ghost in the machine who used the transporter and never returned.
In her incorporeal state, Hoshi discovers two aliens who are planting bombs throughout the ship. She tries to warn the crew of their imminent destruction, but because of her condition she is unable to. She takes it upon herself to save the ship and in doing so ends up using the alien transporter.
From the M-A wiki: "Malcolm explains that she had been trapped for 8.3 seconds in the pattern buffer because of the storms on the planet's surface. This leads her to the realization that all of her experiences since beaming back to the ship had been hallucinations, including the alien saboteurs and the story of Cyrus Ramsey." Good news for Hoshi.
This sort of thing or a variation of it has been done before on Trek, of course, be it "Wink of an Eye" from TOS, or "The Next Phase" or "Remember Me" on TNG, or elsewhere. And like those episodes, "Vanishing Point" can be interpreted in many different ways, psychologically, and the same sort of physical-law puzzlers found. (How does one who is "out of phase" not just fall through the floor? That's the main one. That wacky transporter.) Linda Park carries this one as well as any of them. Her TOS analog is Uhura, of course, and as with Travis/Chekov re: "Horizon," I couldn't help but think a similar sort of episode would have been a great opportunity for Nichele Nichols, as well.
We now get to "Bound," which on the surface of things might be the episode that comes in first as far as gratuitous t'n'a. But the t'n'a also serves a point, one that at least calls attention to if not outright deconstructs itself. Before I get to that, though, let's review the role of Orion women in Star Trek.
Given the uncomfortable history of “blackface” in cinema and television and Orientalism in much of Western culture, let’s just state up-front that a) Trek can at least be given a pass on the former, since we’re talking aliens and all, so white actors putting on non-white make-up should not be offensive in and of itself, but b) the same cannot be said of the latter. Projections unto "the other" and "the male gaze" and other popular academic approaches of our wondrous modern era can have a field day with Trek, at least in TOS but (as alluded to above re: T’Pol and Seven of Nine’s outfits,) throughout each of the other series, as well.
Orion Slave Girls were introduced by Roddenberry in his very first Trek script, “The Cage,” where Captain Pike rather uncomfortably entertains the idea of quitting Starfleet to traffic in them. Later, the Talosians tempt him with the vision of Vina as one of these "animal women," dancing seductively for a leering audience. (l, above) The only other Orion to appear in TOS is in the episode “Whom Gods Destroy,” where again Yvonne Craig (r, above) dances in her skivvies in an attempt to woo Kirk to Garth’s side.
Still with me? Don’t worry about those episodes if you haven’t seen; all we need to know is that Orion culture clearly functions as a stand-in for the exotic sexual tableau Western sailors found once they exited the taboos of their own culture (or exploited them, i.e. the “slavery” aspect.) In this context, there’s something vaguely creepy and undeniably sexist about the way Orion Slave Girls are used in TOS. Despite their forward-lookingness and liberal sensibilities, Roddenberry was a man of his era, and TOS was a program of its era; Orientalism couldn’t help but be projected onto the screen, in other words.
I'm not familiar with the specific episodes of DS9 in which they appear or are alluded to, but they don't seem to have changed much. (The wiki for "Orion Slave Girl" states "they are quite popular holosuite attractions.")
In the enlightened future of 2012, the exotic-sexualization/ exploitation discussion has gotten more confusing. Lines have blurred. It's no longer cut-and-dried when something like Ilia's outfit or Orion Slave Girls is a projection of male fantasy or when it's the kind of self-expression (self-exploitation, s Madonna called it) espoused by Rihanna or Britney. Throw in the philosophy of Camille Paglia, the photography of Cindy Sherman, or the short fiction of Mary Gaitskill, and one gets an idea of how bewildering the landscape can appear. I'm not advocating one approach over any other or dismissing any of them, you understand, merely pointing out that the context for Enterprise's exploration of Orion women is much different than anything TOS had to deal with. A one size fits all road map does not exist. "Bound" makes many tongue-in-cheek points about the whole process.
The plot for this episode is fairly straight-forward. An Orion trader offers Archer a partnership in a mining operation on a resource-rich planet. To sweeten the deal (he claims) he gives three slave girls to the crew:
|(l to r) D'nesh (Crystal Allen,) Navarr (Cyia Batten,) and Maras (Menina Fortunato.)|
|Their presence proves disruptive.|
|Phlox discovers that the Orion girls exude pheromones that cause aggressive and delusional behavior among the male crew and headaches and discomfort among the female members.|
The only ones immune to their effect are Trip and T'Pol, which, T'Pol explains, is a side effect of their having mated; Trip is now physically bound to her.
Archer throws them in the brig, but they are able to escape with little difficulty.
With the ships' engines disabled and the crew incapicitated, the Orion captain returns to claim it as a prize. He reveals that the situation is actually reversed; in Orion culture, it is the men who are the slaves. Navarr, D'Nesh and Maras have been in charge all along.
It's an interesting twist and one that re-arranges the whole Orion Slave Girl trope in one swoop. Of all the updates to existing alien species in Enterprise, it's easily the most memorable.
|Having saved the ship and perhaps liberated a bit by the experience, Trip's and T'Pol finally give in to their feelings.|
As much as I enjoy this episode, I can't help but wonder where Alan Moore would've taken things as this story's writer. Somewhere far less PG-13, I'm sure, but in his hands, the deconstruction of gender politics and assumptions of gaze/ sexuality would undoubtedly be more compelling. But as cool as it is to imagine Alan Moore rebooting the Orions for the Trekverse, it'd be unfair to hold absence of such a thing against it.
Orion women appear in the 2009 movie, as well, both as sex objects (and again I'm not suggesting a sexually-aggressive alien species is necessarily automatically a sexist thing, etc.) and as Starfleet officers.
Rachel Nichol, above, and Diora Baird, below (whose part was cut.)
In a world that demands entertainment be visually prurient while hewing to incompatible politically correct norms, with extreme prejudice, "Bound" seems to have something for everyone.
Another episode where Phlox (and Porthos) gets the spotlight, which is probably why I enjoy it so much.
The Enterprise must travel through a region of space that is unstable (without getting into it too much.) Phlox puts the crew in temporary stasis, and he, T'Pol and Porthos are left to deal with what appears to be alien intruders.
At episode's end, however, it turns out he was not as unaffected by the spatial anomalies as he thought he was. T'Pol, too, was unconscious, and he hallucinated her presence through most of the journey through the disturbance.
T'Pol tells Archer and Tucker a story about her "great-grandmother" and two other Vulcans, who crash landed in a small Pennsylvania town in the year 1957.
Whether or not the female protagonist of the story is T'Pol herself is left somewhat open-ended. Probably not, but they don't slam the door on the idea.
The set-up is similar to the VOY episode "11:59" right down to the introduction of future knowledge into the past.
|In this case...|
The name of the actual inventor of velcro is George de Mestral, hence the name given to one of the Vulcan played by J. Paul Boehmer.
Malcolm and Trip are stranded on an asteroid with little hope of rescue. As the life support in their Shuttlepod fades, they each deal with their impending fate in their own ways.
|Malcolm records a dozen version of the same farewell letter to all the girls he's ever known.|
|Much to Trip's increasing annoyance.|
|Before their inevitable rescue, they get drunk and say many amusing things.|
Once safely back in Sickbay, Malcolm, who expressed many flattering comments about T'Pol in the shuttlepod when he thought he was at death's door, drunkenly tries to let her know how hot he thinks she is.
|If she is amused or offended, she of course doesn't show it.|
Another great bottle episode. Trip and Malcolm (or rather, Trinneer and Keating) are fun to watch, and the script is great. I think I dismissed this one on first viewing because there's of course no way they're actually going to die, so the "how we face death is at least as important as how we face life" aspect of it is never dire or all that dramatic. But I came to it with fresh eyes this last time around and discovered a lot to enjoy. It's one of those quiet episodes tucked in the background of any series that on closer look is pretty airtight.
My penultimate favorite episode of Enterprise, "Singularity" is a great example of another Trek trope, one we've already seen a few times in this overview and will see many times elsewhere, i.e. "the crew succumbs to space-madness and only (T'Pol, here) can save them." Not only is it always enjoyable to see a tv cast act off-their-rockers for one episode (something Joss Whedon knows all too well.) Here it's done about as well as it's ever been done.
|The Enterprise approaches a singularity and goes in for a closer look.|
|The singularity triggers OCD-like symptoms in all the crew, except for T'Pol.|
|Trip becomes consumed to the point of madness with his assignment to re-vamp the Captain's chair,|
Hoshi refuses to serve her family's recipe for Odem as she obsesses over getting it "just right,"
|The Captain concentrates on writing an introduction to a biography of his father to the exclusion of all else,|
|Malcolm becomes obsessed with developing new security protocols (resulting in the development of the klaxons/ red alert we see in TOS and elsewhere,) and|
|Travis barely avoids getting lobotomized by Phlox, who falls into a rabbit hole of an endless diagnosis for the cause of Travis' headache.|
|T'Pol prevents this from happening but discovers from Phlox's medical scans that the radiation coming from the trinary star system/ singularity is the culprit.|
|She plots a course away from the black hole...|
|and a revived Captain is able to pilot the ship to safety.|
As someone who knows a little something about OCD, this episode is highly entertaining. If only we all had a T'Pol to come along and set us straight, or a singularity to blame it on when obsessive symptoms manifest themselves. Either this or "The Voyager Conspiracy" (from VOY, obviously) are my favorite armchair-psychoanalysis episodes of Trek.
Wait, hundreds of thousands of words later, and we're still not at Number One?! Am I out of my Vulcan mind?? Probably. But next time we conclude this whole Enterprise experience with my favorite episode of the series. I was going to include it here, but I kind of went overboard with screencaps, so it gets its own entry. See you then, I hope!