Friday, July 8, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Fortunate Son

 Enterprise, Season 1
"Fortunate Son"
Airdate: November 21, 2001
9 of 97 produced
9 of 97 aired


Earth cargo vessels suffer the depredations of Nausicaan pirates, leaving the Enterprise crew to figure out how to  stop the attacks.


This is not a regulation Dom Jot move...


Kevin: So this episode never really gelled for me, and I think I figured out why. They didn't do enough to make the freighters an interesting enough place for me to be that concerned with what happens to them, and certainly not enough for me to really sympathize with their concerns about losing their way of life. The skeleton is there, but it just didn't land. The idea that a cargo run would be five years long is an interesting one and harkens back to early sea travel. The idea that people would be born, grow up, have their own children on these ships is an interesting one, and if the story had fleshed out that story, I think that would have been enough to get this story to somewhere really fun. You start to be able to make a case that the life the freighter crews have is its own culture worth protecting, rather than the really boring job it seems to be. It would also help give positions like "We don't want faster engines" something other than unforgivably stupid. Like even if you enjoy the ride, someone else will just decide that's not worth foregoing undercutting your delivery times by a factor of 10. The result is that the 'boomers' (boy, does that name not age well) just feel stubborn for no reason.

Matthew: I'm OK with "Space Boomers" as a name. It seems realistic that it would be chosen. Anyway, yep, something is missing here. I think perhaps a distinction could have been drawn between the necessarily rough and tumble ethics of freight haulers and Starfleet, in the absence of a real defensive Starfleet presence. As the story stands, it really seems more like one guy's personal beef than a difference in culture.

Kevin: The introductions of the Nausicaans was fine. No continuity was harmed in the making of this episode. That said, none of the parts really came together. It was obvious from the start the freighter was hiding something. People smuggling cocaine over the border are less jumpy. Ryan just came off a jerk who even when he was right was still a jerk. 

Matthew: Much like the Ferengi, the Nausicaans I see cannot overcome the Nausicaans in my mind from "Tapestry." I kept wanting them to say "PLAY DOM JOT, HUMAN?" I would have liked to learn more about them. Is their whole race a bunch of brigands? Just these guys? Indeed, Ryan was unpleasant, and not in an identifiable way. His behavior made no sense, really. If he was so intent upon hiding his prisoner, why was he such a douchebag to Travis in the mess hall? One would think he would be extra ingratiating. And he wasted 95% of that steak, which seems unforgivable in a space environment. The Fortunate crew were pretty bland, overall.

Kevin: This is, finally, an episode that focuses on Mayweather, but I don't think it really pays off for him either. Beyond a few wrote platitudes about life on a freighter, I don't really get what he values in his former life or why he wanted to join Starfleet. Maybe this is an issue of trying to do too much and therefore doing not enough with either the plight of the 'boomers' or learning more about Mayweather. Something I've been thinking about is that, much like TOS with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, most of the stories have been focusing on Archer, Trip, and T'Pol. I think if they had made Mayweather more the focus of the Enterprise side of things, it would have helped balance the two halves of the story into a cohesive whole.

Matthew: Travis should have been given a dilemma of some sort. I suppose it could be as simple as knowing that they have a Nausicaan prisoner and deciding whether or not to keep it a secret. But I would have preferred it more if it were higher stakes than that, or more sci-fi.


Kevin: I hate to say it but I think a big reason the episode drags is the acting. Neither Anthony Montgomery as Mayweather nor Lawrence Monoson as Ryan really click with their dialogue. I appreciate that it's not Shakespeare but there was just no life behind anyone's eyes and it dragged down what little story there was. I just never connected to anything they were talking about. And if you think Mr. Monoson looks familiar, it's because he played Hovath, the Bajoran guy from DS9's The Storyteller. So really batting a thousand in Star Trek, isn't he?

Matthew: Speaking of batting 1.000, his sidekick, Shaw, played by Kieran Mulroney, was also Benzan in "The Outrageous Okona." Look. When I criticize someone like Anthony Montgomery's acting, it is with the full realization that acting is actually quite a difficult art, which takes years to develop expertise in. I couldn't do better. But we have seen many, many performances, in this very show, that are better, and for the reasons you mention. Montgomery is just a bit stiff, and feels like he's working to remember his lines, as opposed to really inhabiting the character.  And yep, Monoson doesn't bring Ryan to totally convincing life, either. He is probablydoing better at inhabiting the character than Montgomery, but he doesn't shade him in a way that makes me empathize with him, and I think I'm supposed to.

Production Values

Kevin: Just to not be a total pill, I will compliment the production design. I liked the basic outline of the freighter and they did a good job of redressing Enterprise corridors. It's still a video game but it was a good one this time. The effects sequence of the module being jettisoned was solidly achieved. They changed the Nausicaan makeup a little, as far as I can tell, to remove some of those lip teeth I assume so the actors could say more than "dom jot."

Matthew: You talk and you talk, but you have no grumbah! I liked the design of the ship just fine, but boy, do the effects shots look really low-res on my 65" television!


Kevin: I want to give this a 3 because they are no egregious sins committed by this episode, but I just can't muster it. This episode was boring and a bit of a slog to get through. The main conflict was too thin, and the character work wasn't interesting enough to pad it out. All things considered, I'd rather be on a 5 year cargo run. This is a 2 from me.

Matthew: I don't want to be accused of unfairness or conflict of interest here.  Just because this is "Classic Trek" doesn't mean this is a good episode. It's not. Like you, I don't find it offensive in any way, it's just an underbaked story with "meh" acting. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with all your positions here.

    I'd like to mention that I saw this right around the time that the Jack Bauer interrogation technique was becoming a thing around me. I don't think Fortunate Son made this as a response (it may even be from before the first 24 Hours?), but I so appreciate that ENT highlights one of the practical problems with torture that Picard identified in Chain of Command: "Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It's ultimately self-defeating as a means of gaining control. One wonders why it is still practiced."