Star Trek Enterprise – What it should have been (Part 4)

Guest Post Time! Your editor A9 is back to rant more about Star Trek Enterprise. If you haven’t read earlier parts, it’s not a requirement, but you could read part one, two and three on this blog. This time with a small change in format – no more long and winded episode summaries as they are not relevant. There’s gonna be more focus on what it did for the series as a whole. Now buckle up.

Malcolm Reed

As the armory officer on Enterprise, he was a military man through and through and the guy you called when you wanted to blow some shit up. At the same time, he was a very reserved man in his private life and quite shy at times. When you have a character like that, it’s clear that you’re really have to go and think about how to get a character like this out of his shell. While the writers did come up with one or two episodes, that was also kind of the end of it. Reed was never really expanded upon, proven by the fact that he only really has one friend on his ship, namely Charles Tucker. Ironically this friendship began with a rivalry which is a nice start for a friendship.

The first character highlight episode of his deals with a very simple question: what is Reed’s favourite food? In the process of getting an answer to that question, it’s only underlined how distant Malcolm is from the rest of the ship, but also his family. The way the answer is revealed is by an extensive background check, and finally a medial background check. In other words a big breach of privacy, just to underline the fact that he’s a very private man. While the answer is revealed (pineapple), does this actually progress his character at all? He doesn’t get featured in his own B-plot, as he’s busy with arming Enterprise in the A-plot. It does get him just a little bit closer to the rest of the crew, but that’s it outside of confirming what the audience already knew: that he’s a private, military guy.

The very definition of a soldier.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s where you go from there and we don’t get much more until later in the first season, in one of my favourite episodes called Shuttlepod One. It’s a bottle episode, which means that it’s an episode without any real budget for new sets or guest characters. Make do with what you have, and try not to make it too boring. The episode revolves around Reed and Tucker being stranded in a shuttlepod, thinking Enterprise has been destroyed. In the face of death (since they will never make it back to Earth in that shuttlepod), Reed starts writing letters to his friends and family, even all of his exes back home (much to the annoyance of Tucker). What this episode brought to the table for me, was that much of Reed was just hidden, and not that it was lacking. He does care about friends and family, and even admitted he started to feel at home on Enterprise (which was what he more or less tried to avoid by staying professional as much as he could). At the end of the episode, they shares a nice bottle of bourbon and are laughing in the face of death before finally getting rescued by Enterprise. It also changes the dynamic between Reed and Tucker from rivals to friends – for better or worse. Reed would continue to star on the show and would have small moments of more fleshed out backstory such as his new rivalry with the captain of the MACOs (Military Assault Command Operations, part of the United Earth Military) and finally his involvement with the beginnings of the secretive Section 31.

This was the first time since Deep Space Nine that S31 was mentioned, and unlike the newer series that can’t stop namedropping it every other episode, it was very much a hidden part of the United Earth that was already getting involved in interplanetary affairs.

One thing I was hesitant to write about, but will add in the end, is regarding his sexuality. While on-screen, Reed has always been written as a heterosexual character (with how he likes T’pol’s bum, his many female exes or how he gets affected by Orion slave girls), the actor Dominic Keating has mentioned once jokingly, once more serious (page 5) that he has always played him as gay. In the script bio for Reed, it was stated that Reed was ‘shy around women’, and this is certainly one way to interpret that. Let me be very clear, I have no issues whatsoever about what someones or a characters sexuality is, just do it normally. Subtly. If someone’s gay, will that person always scream it off the rooftops? Does the series need fifteen episodes revolving about gayness? No. If we take those earlier examples away (or just consider him bi), does that change anything about him? No. In my opinion, if Reed was actually gay on the show, it would’ve been the absolute best portrayal of a gay man in Star Trek who was just doing his job. This isn’t just a critique about current Star Trek alone, it’s also Hollywood as a whole who frequently go so over the top with the the portrayal of gay characters that it gets annoying. They are shouting off rooftops that a character is gay. Nevertheless, if it ain’t on screen, it ain’t canon.

Deadalus

As promised, this time we’re going into the three ‘loose’ episodes of the season that aren’t part of a larger arc. The first one is Deadalus, which revolves around Emory Erickson, the inventor of the transporter, that wants to borrow Enterprise for an experiment: sub-quantum teleportation. An improvement to the regular transporter, which would’ve been able to beam an object or person from planet-to-planet with an unlimited range. But the real reason Emory wanted to this experiment is to save his son who was lost during the initial tests of this technology many years ago.

This episode isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s not a great one either. It can be quite slow or even dull at times, and the episode comes across as a semi-horror / mystery story. It does give more story about how the molecular transporter was invented, but it doesn’t really add anything in the grand scheme of things, except for inspiring the transwarp beaming technology in Star Trek ‘09.

In the end, it’s necessary for the show to limit the transporter. After all, why travel somewhere in a ship if you could get there immediately by beaming there? Whilst there has been a lot of different kinds of transporters in Trek, the rules always seem to change as the plot demands. Take the Dominion for example, who can transport people over three light years away.

Frankly, the show should have done away with the teleporter as a whole, or severely limit what it can do. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if it only was featured for non-organic stuff? That way the use of shuttles could be explained more and it would reinforce the ‘low-tech’ angle they were going with.

Observer effect

Time for a bit of a love letter to The Original Series, here come the Organians! Famous for their future Treaty of Organia between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, here they are in a different light. After they found a deadly silicon-based virus on a planet, they kept their eyes on it to see how other lifeforms would react to it. When finally humanity visits with the NX-01, they take over the bodies of Reed and Mayweather and start observing the crew while still maintaining the personalities of the crewmembers. As Hoshi and Tucker get infected and quarantined, they inhabit different people to ask more and more questions. Tragically, Hoshi and Tucker die to the virus, but the Organians inhabit them again regardless, arousing a ton of suspicion because they were, well, dead. They eventually reveal that they were monitoring different species here to see if they would begin an official first contact. In this case, one of them broke a 10000 year old protocol by telling them this, since their refusal to kill or eject their infected crewmembers really shows compassion. They heal all the infected crewmen, erase their memory of this incident, and leave.

Watching any modern Star Trek..

Another ENT prequel to a classic TOS episode. The viewpoint of this episode is mainly the Organians, the observers, as they question what the crew does at certain stages of the illness. As they have been here for over ten thousand years, they have seen it all happen to other species. What would the humans do differently?

The answer that the episode gives, compassion, is not the strongest in my book – but the road leading up to it is. The Alpha quadrant species in Star Trek are historically often a little one-dimensional: Klingons kill people, Vulcans think about shit, Andorians get angry at you, etcetera. That weakens the humans’ solution (as it were) since it’s just.. telling the other to keep it up. With how Andorians are portrayed in Enterprise with their loyalty to one another, one could say the Andorians could’ve solved this in a similar manner. Humans are still the jack of all trades, and from our perspective nothing really straight up defines them. Combine that with Archer giving a speech, and you’re left with not much. Frankly, this episode almost screams for Jean-Luc Picard to give a speech.

The Organians frequently change host bodies and keep conversations going regardless, and it’s a fun way of displaying their powers and really holds your interest, unlike the previous episode. Even without the knowledge of who the Oganians are (which was my case when I first saw this episode many years ago), it still works. The world of Star Trek is filled with many, many strange creatures after all. Talking about strange creatures..

Bound

Time for more Orions! A well spoken male Orion offers the Federation a joint mining agreement. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, he’s just giving Archer some Orion slave girls, that’s fine, right? Oh, whoops, they start causing trouble! They are using pheromones to ‘brainwash’ all the males on the ship to do their bidding! They are about to be sold to the Orion Syndicate when Trip, Phlox and T’pol save the day by stunning the slave girls and disabling the Orion ship.

Bound is the most TOS-like episode in of all of Enterprise. I’m pretty sure I’ve used the term ‘love letter’ a couple of times already, but this episode is the quintessential love letter to Star Trek in so much that you could see this episode working as a TOS one. Sure, the Orion slave girls are one thing, but the sets and costumes also really bring back those feelings. Last but not least, the ending scene features a group ensemble that is a clear nod to ending of many TOS episodes where the whole cast is on the bridge, reflecting on what happened in that episode.

I have mixed feelings about the episode itself however. While it features my favourite portrayal of a Orion male, Harrad-Sar, I felt a bit wanting about how the Orion females are so attractive. While before this episode, it was just that they were incredibly attractive and almost exotic, this episode changes that to a biological reason why (most) men cannot resist them. It also makes you wonder if you would be fine if you held your nose shut when being near one.

The twist in the end is a really interesting take on the Orion slave girl trope. After all, if the Orion females are always secreting these pheromones, wouldn’t the men be affected too? And exactly, that is the case. One cannot help but wonder what the plan as a whole is with the slave trade then: sell all the women, brainwash them, take their assets?

In the end, this episode revolves around the slave girls seducing the male crewmates. There’s not much that happens otherwise, and the female crewmen are just sitting idly by and are observing. It takes too long for the other characters to do something about the situation, in order for their ploy to work. Again, this is television, it’s fiction, it’s fine. But if I could magically add something to this episode, it would be more meat to the middle. But all in all, it already almost feels like a nostalgic episode.

And there you have it, part four is done. I hope the lack of synopsis’ made it more fun to read this time, but at the very least it was more fun to write for me. Next time we’ll visit the best arc of the season, the Babel arc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.