Monday, August 1, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Fusion

Enterprise, Season 1
"Fusion"
Airdate: February 20, 2002
16 of 97 produced
16 of 97 aired

Introduction

Enterprise comes across a splinter group of Vulcans who are trying to reclaim their repressed emotions.

 

This is the photo that accompanies the entry for "punchable" in the Vulcan dictionary.

 

Writing

Matthew: The "mind rape episode" has become something of a well worn trope by this point in Star Trek, and as such, it has to do some work to justify its existence.  The things it has to prove and/or questions it must answer for me include: 1. was is prurient and exploitative of the person raped? 2. Does the mind rape figure into a larger plot with well developed stakes? 3. Were the repercussions of the assault adequately explored? As far as exploitation goes, I don't think this episode became exploitative. There was no point at which it seemed like we were supposed to be titillated by T'Pol's experience.  On Number 2.... yeah, not really. Nothing in the plot really hinged upon T'Pol's run-in with Tolaris. He wasn't crucial to some aspect of the mission (which was... wait for it... mapping a nebula), nor was he a person of great importance whose destroyed reputation would cause negative repercussions. T'Pol wasn't crucially missing at any point, either. Then, for number 3... there were really no repercussions. Tolaris got a stern talking to by Captain Archer. Then everyone left. Huh?

Kevin: I almost feel like they stumbled into the rape element accidentally. Tolaris seemed to be pitched as charismatic verging on cult leader, but didn't quite know what to do when they got there. The basic idea of Vulcans who reject mainstream Vulcan culture is an interesting one and I think they came close to doing a good job of selling at least the broad strokes of the idea. I think the problem is that they can't decide if what Tolaris did was a result of him being a jerk or their philosophy being wrong. T'Pol says it's gone off the rails before and this certainly seems like proof, but the captain and Kov seem like nice enough guys and the episode doesn't really challenge that assessment. I think they at least needed one conversation where the Vulcan captain says he will discipline Tolaris. Then the issue is deciding who gets to decide that, and maybe a broader discussion of the viability of less-stoic Vulcans. As outraged as Archer rightfully is, he certainly wouldn't accept evidence of human criminality as proof they need to adopt the traditional Vulcan way of life, and maybe wrestling with that could have paid dividends.

Matthew: The subplot here was Kov and his dying father. Archer enlisted Trip to cajole Kov into contacting him. It was a perfectly cromulent subplot that didn't amount to much beyond affable people being nice to one another. I found Trip's story about regret (he didn't ask a girl to dance) to be a little lightweight compared to Kov's actual experience. 

Kevin: Yeah, this was very first draft. It wasn't bad, it was just...there, and not much else.

Matthew: The idea of Vulcans who abandon logic is interesting, and not much was done with it. Couldn't this tie into the political situation on Vulcan somehow? Vulcan seems to be run by secretive jerk-wads who don't embody the sort of pacifism and virtue that the propaganda indicates is the norm. Maybe these rebels could have run afoul of something? I guess this is a way of saying that the overall setup didn't really go any where or tie into anything, and was thus kind of a missed opportunity.

Kevin: I think the missed opportunities were there for T'Pol personally. I liked the idea that a younger T'Pol would be a little less rule following, but the idea that she secretly likes jazz is just a little out of nowhere and they don't really tie it together. Maybe use it to shade her attitude on Enterprise. Is she overdoing the disdain for humanity because she still secret wants to experience more of it? Even given her experience, does she find any value in the other Vulcan's experience? There was a good character story here as well that wasn't really seized on.

Acting

Matthew: Boy oh boy, Enrique Murciano can really play a creep, can't he? I wanted to punch him in his smug, duplicitous face almost from the second he came on screen. Which is a good thing, though it almost threatened to take me out of the story when no one else felt the same way I did. Anyway, his rage at Captain Archer worked well. 

Kevin: He really did have 'fuck boy' written all over him. He really nailed the guy we all knew in college who would call himself a feminist in class but always somehow cut off a woman when she wanted to speak and throw a tantrum when that same woman didn't want to sleep with him at a party. Fuck that guy. I think the problem goes back to not deciding if he were out of control in a way that clouds culpability or just actually an asshole. I think it would have worked better if his scene with Archer were pitched more as a teenage meltdown rather than malevolent. It would have helped the idea that this is a person learning to manage their extreme emotions rather than he is just, in fact, an asshole.

Matthew: I liked John Harrington Bland as Kov and he rapport with Trip. I would have liked to see a bit more of him, and to have learned more about his falling out with his father.

Kevin: The writing didn't do him any favors, but he was certainly good at being nice, I separately want to shout out Blalock's performance both during and after. It was a pretty brutally honest portrayal, and particularly when she kept repeating "no," it was really upsetting.

Production Values

Matthew: This was a pretty average episode in terms of production values. We get one digital model of the Vulcan ship, which was fine enough, several space shots of a nebula which looked very nice, and one additional ship interior beyond Enterprise. I liked the little Surak statuette, it had a nice "primitive" art feel.  

Kevin: The captain's wig and slightly too blousy v-neck top were not doing him any favors. I mean, you need to have Cheekbones to pull off the canonical Vulcan look, and he just didn't, but the costume choices were not helping. And Murciano's shirt was kind of too good at looking douche-y. 

Conclusion 

Matthew: Hmm. This is a tough one, It's somewhere in the 2 to 3 range. Pleasant, inoffensive, but ultimately not very satisfying. I've been saying that about a lot of Enterprise episodes this season, haven't I? I think I'm going to have to go with a 2. There just wasn't enough plot here to round out the two character vignettes we got. They should have tied into a larger story, but they just didn't.

Kevin: As a viewer, I don't object to being shown unpleasant things, but I want there to be enough of a reason. Watching Picard suffer in Chain of Command served a larger purpose of indicting torture and torturers. Watching Blalock experience an intimate assault elevated my cortisol levels but didn't have anything waiting there to make that worth the effort. I felt bad for watching it, but nothing else to make that feeling bad worth the time. The fact that the episode pretty much literally ends right after it is practically narrative malpractice. I agree with 2 for a total of 4.

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