Friday, May 13, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Fight or Flight

 Enterprise, Season 1
"Fight or Flight"
Airdate: October 3, 2001
2 of 97 produced
2 of 97 aired

Introduction

Hoshi must conquer her anxiety over the dangers of deep space exploration when the Enterprise comes across a derelict ship filled with dead bodies.

Slug Life

 

Writing

Matthew:
This is something of a classic "second episode," by which I mean that it's kind of boring and forgettable. I think its main problems are with having to service too many story threads - I think there are three. The A story is a character episode focusing on Hoshi's fears out in deep space. I think this portion of the show was fairly good, but it needed more development of the linguistic angle, a la "Darmok." We don't really get an insight into her job outside of some gibberish. But I understood her reluctance, and it definitely humanized her and gave her some depth. 

Kevin: They really stretched the operational definition of a teaser for this one, didn't they? I think there is actually a really good episode in here. I've complained that what's lacking from Kurtzman Trek is the slice of life stuff that Piller Filler was so good at portraying in TNG, DS9 and VOY. The clash of expectation for adventure with the reality of the tedium of interstellar space flight is a fun one, though maybe not for a second episode. I think we need a little more adventure before the tedium sets in. I also think the attempt to draw a difference between Vulcan and human philosophies gets a little precious here. I get that Vulcans are not ruled by whim, but it seems silly to flatly deny that they are curious. How would an incurious people ever achieve spaceflight? T'Pol seems to cross the line from advising caution to assuming that Archer must be wrong in a way that reads a little extreme. I understand the more global conflict that they're building, but the Vulcans we know would seem to treat the chance at rendering aid as logical, so T'Pol basically assuming that interpretation must be wrong is a bit...much.

Matthew: The B story sees the Axanar species harvested for bodily fluids, and Archer chafing against T'Pol's caution when he wants to investigate their deaths. I think the idea of a species hunting or using intelligent life as a livestock source is worth an entire episode. Here we only get a look at the bad guy ship - not even an appearance of the harvesting race itself. The C story has Reed trying to solve the ship's trouble targeting its weapons - and this was pretty forgettable. This overstuffing led to each storyline lacking development - which is not to say it was STD/STP bad - those shows stuff ten or more continuing threads into each episode, at about 3 minutes a pop. This is better than that.

Kevin: Yeah, I think we are getting a to a point where Vulcan philosophy seems to simply want the inverse of whatever Archer wants. Vulcans are vegetarians but apparently aren't spurred to action by mass murder? TOS did a better job of portraying Vulcan reserve as a balance to Kirk and McCoy's impulsiveness in an organic way. Even a mild shift to "I agree we should find the killers, but we can't and I choose not to feel bad about the impossible" is a more nuanced take than "Your desire to find the killers is somehow silly." I like the outline of the horror movie build up to it, but I think a more interesting idea would be that this is this species' funeral rites or how they file taxes or something. The idea that what looks to us like a charnel house was just their Thursday could have been a fun way to puncture the crew's certainty in their own presumptions and give creed to T'Pol's caution. I think Phlox actually did a better job of engaging that. He is cheerily commenting on crew members' BO and mating habits without understanding we find that rude or invasive and that clash would have been a more one to explore. And I like the idea of testing Hoshi's expectations versus the reality, but I actually think they laid it on too thick. It verges on making her look incompetent or foolish for signing up for this. I also enjoyed in a broad sense the translation scene at the end, but it seems pretty clear who the aggressor is and the Axanar dude should have figured that out from context clues.

Matthew:
Science question - how can sensors detect a ship approaching at warp? I guess it's a subspace thing, and Enterprise certainly isn't the only Trek show guilty of this. But it seems to me you shouldn't be able to sense anything until light has had enough time to reach the observer - which a ship traveling faster than light would outpace.

Kevin: I think thirty years and five series in is a tad late to start raising relativity problems. File it in the same folder as the universal translator and turbolifts that know how long a conversation lasts.

Acting

Matthew: I found Scott Bakula's Archer to be too nasty towards T'Pol in this episode. I get that there is character tension, but they needed to leaven it with something. This is probably building to a spotlight episode. Jolene Blalock takes the nastiness like a champ, though, and is suitably unflappable.

Kevin: I agree that Archer is a little too snotty to her, thought I suppose there is a character reason. Blalock is giving it her best, but I found her reserve...too reserved. Again, I think it's a writing choice rather than an acting choice, but I can't help but feel like her position is "Disagree with Archer" rather than some coherent expression of Vulcan stoicism.

Matthew: I really liked Linda Park, here. It's a tough job being scared but not annoying. Her character's focus was well done, and she delivered noticeable growth. The ensemble cast all did well, with Connor Trinneer and John Billingsley probably being the standouts. I liked Trip's eagerness to go on an adventure, and Phlox's avuncular advice for Hoshi. The only other character in the show was an alien in heavy makeup who never spoke English. So, yeah.

Kevin: Billingsley is doing a yeoman's job being chipper without verging into Early Neelix territory. I liked most of Park's acting here. I think it's largely just finding her sea legs as it were, but I think a few scenes felt like she was just getting through the lines. 

Production Values

Matthew:
I'm going to put this in production values because it wasn't integral to the story - the alien languages all sound the same. Part of it may be Park's delivery, but I assume she's reading what she's being given, and all of the syllables and phonemes sound alike.

Kevin: I agree it's a production issue rather than an acting one. Unless you really drill down to create something or crib an extant language, gibberish always sounds like...gibberish.

Matthew: Practical sets all looked great, especially the shuttle and docking bay, which look realistic, metallic, and expensive. The CGI was spotty at best. While the alien ships looked nice when they were separate, whenever they interacted things got really rough. The finale slug scene on the planet surface looked pretty bad, too, with obvious green screen lighting issues on the actors. The alien vessel interior was too dark, and it kind of bogs down the episode's pacing (this reminds me of DS9's cave episodes).

Kevin: The shuttle docking was the one that felt like I was watching a cut scene from Myst. I don't want to belabor a point, but even today, CGI can't quite replicate the play of light on a real object and model work will always look better than CGI, and because they are trying to make it look real, the gap is more problematic than for something like Doctor Who, where the cheesiness is part of its charm. 

Conclusion

Matthew: This one was a bit of a yawner. None of the stories got enough cooking time, and no great lessons were learned besides "stick to it Hoshi!" and "investigate dead bodies." But it's not bad in any particular way. I think this just squeaks into 3 territory for me.

Kevin: This episode wasn't bad, certainly, but I think had they cut the stuff about Reed and the weapons and found a more interesting wrinkle to resolve the story, the additional time on Hoshi could have really paid off for making her an audience surrogate for the real difficulties of long term space travel. As it is, I think there is enough ambient good will to get this into a 3 for me as well. I know from memory that a lot of Enterprise will have similar issues in the first two seasons, but that is not this episode's fault. That makes a total of six.

2 comments:

  1. I get that they were gradually introducing things we take for granted - hand phasers last time, torpedoes in this case, later it will be the transporter, and later still, phasers (IIRC). But as you say, Reed's subplot here doesn't really get us much beyond ticking off that box. In a backwards kinda way it even takes little off the tension for me: If they aren't able to shoot straight, the probably won't have to.

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    1. Yeah, it was just sort of a throwaway set of scenes, not even a plot point per se.

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