“Fortunate Son” packs a lot of background into a single episode, so sticks to a very straightforward story:
Enterprise responds to a distress signal from the cargo ship Fortunate. First Officer Matthew Ryan is all cagey with them when they show up and it turns out he and his crew are hiding a Nausicaan captive from the group that raided them. He’s torturing him to get the codes for his ship’s shield frequencies because Ryan is bent on revenge against the Nausicaans (they also attacked his family’s ship and killed his parents).
As another cargo ship kid, Mayweather empathizes with Ryan, but ultimately (after some space chases, when it looks like Ryan and his crew have got themselves into a terrible situation) convinces him to stand down and return the Nausicaan captive to his people before they destroy the Fortunate.
From a feminist perspective, I got pretty much nothing.
Well, it’s a little weird that other than one little girl, the rest of the Fortunate crew appears to be men.
And I can say there is one point, when T’Pol points out they better get out of the leaky cargo container before they all suffocate, and neither Archer nor Trip contradicts or snarks at her. They just kind of go, “Yeah, that makes sense.” So baby steps, I guess.
Archer is actually way less of a judgy control-freak overall this episode. He actually uses the words: “I want to hear your opinion”, to Travis, who expresses concern that they aren’t handling things right and maybe they should just let Ryan go slaughter some Nausicaans. He lets him down but really gently for a dude that does not always react well to reasonable differing opinions.
Maybe at the beginning when Admiral Forrest apologized for having to ask Archer to go a day and a half out of his way to answer this distress call, Archer realized he might be developing a reputation.
Actually, no. If there is one word I would use to describe Archer, it would never be “intuitive.”
So when I said at the beginning that this episode gives a lot of background, I meant on two things: Mayweather, and the relationship between Starfleet and cargo ships and how that is changing as Starfleet builds its presence.
The cargo ship/Starfleet stuff is certainly interesting and it’s the first time since “Broken Bow” that I really feel like there’s a bigger picture planned for this show, that it will show us about early Starfleet and not just the adventures of one ship and its mostly white, male crew.
It’s also nice to get an episode that really gives time to developing Travis’ character. We don’t really know tons about Travis except he grew up on a cargo ship and once bragged to Reed that he’s seen and potentially even groped three-breasted women from Draylax.
We get a ton more facts in this episode, like that his parents, sister and her husband are still on their cargo ship; and that they supported his decision to join Starfleet, but that he feels guilty about leaving them behind.
But I still have trouble feeling a connection to his character, and maybe that’s because he’s kind of Ensign Kim-like at this point in the series: almost unnaturally earnest and plucky.
A good example is how quickly he accepts Archer’s argument that Ryan has to abide by the same moral code as any human. He goes in feeling like Ryan killing a ship full of aliens for revenge basically makes sense and shouldn’t be interfered with and does a complete 180 and all Archer had to say is: “Well I don’t know about you, Travis, but that doesn’t sit right with me.” (See what I mean about this being the kinder, gentler Archer? – “I know you think stopping mass murder isn’t the right approach, but that just doesn’t sit right with me.”)
I would’ve appreciated what we could’ve learned about him through seeing more of his conflict. Maybe we could’ve seen him talking to his family over the comm or had him interact with the kids on the cargo ship, rather than T’Pol.
At the end when he turns hostage negotiator, it was impressive to hear his impassioned speech and see him turn Ryan’s own arguments on their head. But would’ve been a lot more suspenseful if we still weren’t sure what he was going to say until he opened his mouth.
But on the whole, “Fortunate Son” definitely improved my opinion of Travis and made me want to see him more, preferably in a range of situations and experiencing a range of emotions.
Oh yeah, and I was totally into the updated Nausicaan look.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail