It’s taken me longer to write any episode reviews from Enterprise because I never watched it until now. After consulting with some friends, their consensus seemed to be that I should start with the beginning of the first season and then the end of the last season to get a feel for the way the show progressed and (their opinion) improved.
So far I’ve been through the first four episodes and what I’ve really been looking at is how the main characters – particularly the women – are introduced and how the power dynamics are set up between the crew.
The very first scenes in the show are of a young Jonathan Archer building model spaceship with his dad, Duck from Mad Men! All of us who, as kids, spent precious hours piecing together model Star Trek ships are instantly softened up.
We cut to 30 years later in Oklahoma, with a Klingon being pursued across a field by two weird-looking squishy aliens. It’s actually a very cool scene that feels a bit Superman-esque. The Klingon kills the aliens but then is shot by a farmer with a plasma rifle.
Then we get the worst Star Trek theme song, hands-down. It’s weird because there was all this talk about making the show sexier to try to attract young people, but then they choose this music that sounds like something my best friend’s mom would tune into on her favourite easy listening station.
Anywho, the next main character we meet is the folksy, young Southern engineer, Trip Tucker, who heads out in a shuttle with Archer to look at the new ship.
With Archer in his baseball cap and the way they’re palling around it has a bit of a boys’ club feel to it. That doesn’t change when Archer gets a call to come to Starfleet Medical, where the injured Klingon, Klaang, is being treated.
Pro tip: I know it’s hard but it is possible to come up with Klingon names that aren’t onomatopoeias.
It’s only dudes there at Starfleet Medical on the Starfleet side. On the Vulcan side, there are two dudes and T’Pol.
T’Pol stays silent for quite some time. When she does speak she gets two lines in before Archer’s basically threatening her:
Archer: How much longer?
T’Pol: Until you’ve proven you’re ready,
Archer: Ready to what?
T’Pol: To look beyond your provincial attitudes and volatile nature.
Archer: Volatile? You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from knocking you on your ass.
There’s also a brief intro to Doctor Phlox in this part. I’m thinking he’s going to be like Neelix but less annoying, The Doctor but less snarky. Next up we meet Mayweather and Reed. I didn’t get a strong first impression of either of them through their conversation about technology on the ship. They seem pleasant enough.
Cut to Earth where Archer has tracked down our other woman main character, Hoshi Sato. Sato’s in the middle of teaching a language class and holy crap is she wearing a lot of makeup:
Nothing wrong with wearing makeup, per se. But It was a bit much and didn’t seem to mesh with her casual clothes and hairstyle.
Archer’s come to recruit her because he needs someone with her ear for languages to come on his mission in case they need to talk with the Klingons. She reluctantly agrees, conceding it’s an amazing opportunity.
Back on the ship they’re getting ready to go and T’Pol is coming along, Archer thinks, as a Vulcan chaperone.
“I don’t know, I’d be more comfortable with Porthos (Archer’s dog) on the bridge,” says Tucker, classily.
T’Pol comes in and is now also wearing a ton more makeup. There’s an awkward situation involving Porthos and we find out “Vulcan females have a heightened sense of smell.” It’s clear the guys don’t want her there and she doesn’t want to be there.
The problem is, because there aren’t many other women on the ship that we’ve seen, their distaste for T’Pol reads as a bit sexist, even though I think it was intended to be simply anti-Vulcan and to set up conflict to be resolved later.
The boys’ club atmosphere is reinforced again in a subsequent scene with Travis and Trip hanging out in a zero-gravity part of the ship.
Tucker: The Captain tells me you’ve been to Trillius Prime.
Travis: It took the fourth, fifth and sixth grades to get there. I’ve also been to Draylax and both the Denebian moons.
Tucker: I’ve only been to one inhabited planet besides Earth. Nothing there but dust-dwelling ticks. I’ve heard the women on Draylax have…
Travis: Three. It’s true.
Trip: You know that first-hand?
Travis: First-hand, second-hand, third-hand.
At this point I’m feeling so conflicted. The main plot is interesting but the tone of the guy main characters makes me feel like I can’t really get into it. Part of the reason I love Star Trek is that I can imagine feeling like part of a crew like we see on Next Generation, DS9 or Voyager. I can’t imagine being a welcome part of the Enterprise crew yet.
Soon, though, we do get some statement of Trek principles. Phlox urges Archer to be open to new experiences. Later, at dinner, Tucker and Archer defend humanity to T’Pol, stating that they wiped out war, disease and hunger in the last 50 years.
Then we get a bit more time to meet Hoshi, as she has to try to communicate with Klaang in Sickbay.
Hoshi gets very nervous and Archer gets exasperated with her. She defends herself weakly, saying she’s doing the best she can.
What this means is that the Enterprise creators put their only two women characters in positions where they’re at a disadvantage. They are the only two who are not comfortable on the ship. Nobody likes or trusts T’Pol yet and Hoshi seems nice but like she’s going to need hand-holding just to do her job.
None of the main male characters are on the periphery like that. I think those were questionable choices, but I look forward to seeing the characters hopefully evolve out of those boxes.
The T’Pol/Archer conflict continues and actually builds up my personal distaste for Archer. Sure, he’s hands-on and down-to-earth, but soooo not a diplomat.
Archer: I’m not interested in what you think about this mission so take your Vulcan cynicism and bury it along with your repressed emotions.
T’Pol: Your reaction to this situation is a perfect example of why your species should remain in its own star system.
Archer: I’ve been listening to you Vulcans tell us what not to do all my entire life. I watched my father work his ass off while your scientists held back just enough information to keep him from succeeding. He deserved to see that launch. You may have life spans of two hundred years, we don’t.
T’Pol: You are going to be contacting Starfleet to advise them of our situation.
Archer: No, I’m not. And neither are you. Now get the hell out there and make yourself useful.
As far as I can tell, she’s been raising pretty valid points but Archer is too blinded by his prejudice and his chip on his shoulder re: his dad. He doesn’t have to agree with her but I’d love if he could at least stop being such an angry jerk about disagreeing.
Ok, so just to quickly catch you up on the plot, the Suliban (squishy aliens from the beginning) have kidnapped Klaang off Enterprise. They figure out there might be clues on Rigel X, so they head over there.
You probably weren’t titillated enough by T’Pol’s super-tight catsuit at this point, so you’re in luck! Reed and Mayweather come across two alien exotic dancers who eat butterflies with long tongues, in a great example of the “Green-Skinned Space Babe” trope, which states that even weirdo alien women have to be attractive to a straight (human) male audience.
On Rigel Hoshi and Archer are ambushed by a Suliban woman named Sarin and Hoshi squeals in fear. Sarin sort of seduces Archer for info and kisses him in some Suliban way of measuring his trustworthiness. But then she’s pretty bad-ass when they get chased out of the building by a rival group of Suliban. Also, the Suliban look pretty cool.
Anyhow, in the chase, Sarin dies. Nearing the shuttle, T’Pol falls. Archer saves T’Pol but gets wounded by enemy fire.
When the group get back to the ship we get the first look at the infamous “decontamination chamber”, where the sexy crew members strip down to their skivvies and lube each other with decontamination oil. T’Pol and Tucker are the ones we get to look at this time, and the slow shots of then caressing each others’ skin it makes it very hard to concentrate on anything they’re saying.
The most important thing that is said is Tucker telling T’Pol that Archer doesn’t like Vulcans because they shot down his dad’s dreams. I am not sure how this is her problem, but apparently it is.
As they’re pursuing the Suliban vessel Hoshi gets the smartest line ever:
“You might think about recommending seat belts when we get home.”
They eventually find “the helix”, which is a station made up of tons of interlocked little alien ships. There’s an action-packed battle scene with Archer and Trip in one of the alien ships and T’Pol commanding Enterprise.
At the end I’m a little bit placated as Archer admits T’Pol is an asset:
Archer: T’Pol, would you stick around for a minute? Ever since I can remember, I’ve seen Vulcans as an obstacle, always keeping us from standing on our own two feet.
T’Pol: I understand.
Archer: No, I don’t think you do. If I’m going to pull this off, there are a few things I have to leave behind. Things like preconceptions, holding grudges. This mission would’ve failed without your help.
What we learned from this episode:
- The future that’s presented as a vision of what things could be like in more than 100 years from now is still not one with women equally represented at the top.
- To quote from The Valkyrie Directive: “apparently, bras are illogical on Vulcan”.
- Yet also apparently, heavy makeup is totally logical on Vulcan and on Enterprise.
- Yet again, everyone on the ship (whose sexual orientation we can identify) is straight.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass – Hoshi and T’Pol briefly speak Vulcan to each other.