Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Unexpected

Enterprise, Season 1
Airdate: October 17, 2001
4 of 97 produced
4 of 97 aired


Trip visits an alien vessel to help with their engine, but returns with something he didn't expect - a pregnancy within his own body.

Captain Archer, showering where no one has showered before.


Matthew: The setup here is fine - an alien race (the Xyrillians, apparently) whose biology is rather different than humans needs engineering help, and Trip has trouble acclimating to their environment. But though there is xenobiology themed sci-fi here, I think it's reasonable to classify this one as a "comedy episode." The beats of each individual scene lead to some pretty well realized comedic payoffs - Archer floating in the shower, Trip eating for two, Trip finding baby hazards everywhere, T'Pol chastising Trip for getting pregnant, and the Klingons laughing at Trip. If anything, I think this episode could have leaned a bit harder into the comedy, perhaps to shed some light on gender roles in child-rearing in the present day.

Kevin: I think the comedy, while fine in some individual moments, failed to cohere into a story I cared about. Good comedy actually helps break down some walls to really land complex points, and I think this could have been one if we learned something more interesting about parenting or even Trip himself. I also found the addition of both the holodeck and the Klingons to be somewhat annoying. It's introduction in Enterprise raises the question of its absences in TNG, where if you recall, it was treated as a groundbreaking and new thing. Also, the resolution with the Klingons was just time that could have been spent on the main idea that, as we'll discuss below just didn't get enough exploration.

Matthew: I typically have more to say about an episode. I think my not having anything for this one is a reflection of how thin the plot development is. So I will spend this paragraph talking about ways this episode could have been broken to develop more concepts and ethical dilemmas. What if Trip wanted to keep the baby? Perhaps his hormones could have activated, some sort of oxytocin response to the fetus he was carrying. This could get into questions of free will vs. biology. Alternatively, what if Trip wanted for some reason to abort the fetus, but the Xyrillian culture had strict prohibitions against this? I get that this might be a bit too hot for America c. 2001, but it sure would have been interesting. I guess the takeaway here for me is that this story had rather low stakes, and it was just sort of a thing that happened but was then over.

Kevin: I suppose my first question just has to be filed in "It's just a show Kevin." Why wouldn't his body just react like it was an infection? It's plot device that he is basically have sympathetic pregnancy symptoms rather than just a high fever. But I'll set that aside. I just think of this episode as a bunch of missed opportunities. There, as you say, wasn't really any insight into parenting in the 22nd century and that could have given the comedy just a little more purchase. Even using parenting in the 21st century as the backdrop, this episode is still pretty light. It feels like their idea was "What if a man got pregnant?" and then relied on jokes that were old when I Love Lucy did them. I agree that in a vacuum, each was done fine, but the collective result just felt lazy. I can't help but shake the feeling that only cisgendered heterosexual men were involved in the creation of this episode, and thus their perspective, and possibly the literal extent of their knowledge, on pregnancy basically boils down to sitcom tropes. Setting aside the obvious abortion questions for a second, I just think this was pretty fertile (pun absolutely intended) territory to explore pregnancy and parenthood in Star Trek, and the comedy and sci-fi set up could have eased the portrayal of some pretty interesting points. Are there parents on Enterprise? I can certainly see why parents might not sign up for an interstellar mission, but there are plenty of parents in the military today, so it's not like it would be unheard of. Has anyone else on the ship been pregnant before? Maybe Crewman Cutler has a kid living with her parents back on Earth. There's just a bunch of places to take this that take the humor and heart beyond some pretty stale jokes about pregnancy cravings and mood swings. I don't think we even need to reach bigger sci-fi/philosophical questions about autonomy and personhood and a thinly veiled abortion debate. We can just have a layered character story about someone whose life takes an unexpected turn and how they feel about that. And a more clever episode could have made something out of the idea that Trip is experiencing something as shocking and impossible that a little over half the human population has to think about fairly often. Like, even in a perfectly egalitarian world with full access to quality healthcare and non-Puritanical views about sex, pregnancy is just a major life event and that's unavoidable. So, I promise you Hoshi, for instance, has absolutely considered the ramifications of getting pregnant on the Enterprise and made at least some choices based on that knowledge. Trip, until now, has not had to think about that. Even the idea of getting another crewmate pregnant is not quite the same thing. There was a great very Star Trek-y opportunity to use the alien of the week to provide an insight into something very human, and I'm not saying I needed a cross between Cronenberg body horror and the Handmaid's Tale, but there was a chance to do...something...and they didn't.

Sorry, that went on for a while, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I become. Ultimately, I feel like they didn't find anything not found in the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger/Danny DeVito vehicle "Junior" and I think that is a sad comment on the writing.


Matthew: I really liked Connor Trinneer here, and this Enterprise re-watch really undercores to me how vital he was to the show's success, such as it was. This is his second episode in a row dealing with difficult to control emotions, and he finds a really nice balance. And when it comes down to it, he's just a charming fellow with an accent that is fun to listen to. I'm sure Kevin will have something to say about the sickbay scene...

Kevin: Please. Like Trip, I am a gentleman. I'll save it for the production section where it belongs. Here, I agree. That Southern charm can read hokey real easy, but Trinneer does a great job with the material and I enjoyed him a lot. I thought he had a really nice chemistry with Ah'Len that read as something not purely physical, and it gave the scenes in the holodeck and nice quality. He will demonstrate he can handle a wide array of material over the four seasons, and I wish they had given some of that to him here.

Production Values

Matthew: I found the alien ship to be lackluster. The engineering equipment didn't really look like machinery, but like extra odds and ends that they threw together at the last minute. The ship interiors had a similar cheap feel to them. The exterior CGI was pretty good though, both on the Xyrillian and Klingon vessels.

Kevin: I liked that they were trying to create a truly alien space, but it did read like they had just taken over a Spencer's Gifts. Note to the production staff, that shiny "holo-paper" will always look cheap on TV. Leave it in 80s Doctor Who, where it belongs. And as for the sick bay scene, all I can say is that Starfleet certainly issues supportive foundation garments.


Matthew: I'm vacillating between a 2 and a 3 here. It was a perfectly fine 45 minutes of television, it just doesn't really live in my memory afterward, and this shows a distinct lack of ambition. I think I'm still on a 3 here, but I'm going to want to see Enterprise step things up in terms of sci-fi and ethical/morality tales very soon.

Kevin: I think this becomes a 2 for me, in part due to the numerous storytelling avenues they deftly avoided, and a little bit of loss of inertia. This is the fourth episode and the fifth hour of the show, and it still feels like we're in first draft territory. Though other series certainly had some early clunkers (TNG's Code of Honor and a few DS9 misfires come to mind), all the other modern series to date had at least really swung for the fences with their premiers and shown some real attempts at something bigger. Enterprise to this point has been...fine...but that 'fine' is starting to wear thin, and that feel was exacerbated for me by the missed potential in the idea for this episode. This makes a total of 5.

1 comment:

  1. The observation that this was written and directed by cis guys was very helpful to my thinking about this episode. It always felt bloke-ish, but I hadn't realized that's what it was.

    I will give credit to the writers for at least dealing with the 'alien atmosphere'. I just wish they had done something with it other than make Trip uncomfortable for a little while. Well, it also let Ah'len connect with him on a different level, I guess, but that part felt like it dragged..

    And yes, give us Hoshi's perspective! We rarely get enough of that on this show.