Thursday, December 15, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Harbinger

Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: February 11, 2004
66 of 97 produced
66 of 97 aired


The Enterprise comes across a mysterious alien from another dimension. Meanwhile, Trip and T'Pol deal with their romantic jealousy, and Reed and Major Hayes literally butt heads over training the crew for combat.

 Just relax and tell me whether you want to do it with my boyfriend.



Matthew: This is sort of a plot maintenance/character story episode. We get the Sphere Builder alien, Trip/T'Pol, and Reed/Hayes. I think the character stories are fairly successful, while the A plot is a bit flat. We needed more information about the alien himself, or about the Sphere Builder plot. It's getting a bit late for hints and foreshadowing, and the plot itself sort of went nowhere. When the alien is brought on board, he demands to be returned to his ship. What if they had agreed? His mission to sabotage Enterprise would fail right away. Then he gets into a false back story, and as a viewer, when I learned that he was there with ill intent, I just felt as though those prior scenes were wasted time.

Kevin: I agree the A plot is flat. I disagree that the character stories work, but I'll get to those in a minute. My main complaint is that even though we do meet the species responsible for the spheres at this point, we still aren't left with a clear picture of who they are or what they want. It's just more mysterious hinting at a season saturated with it. 

Matthew: Trip/T'Pol feels relatively organic to me. I liked T'Pol's jealousy, and her unwillingness to own up to it. I'm happy they finally did the deed, after beating around the bush for so long. Their romantic tension felt real. On the other hand, Corporal Cole would have benefited from more development, whether in this episode or in prior ones. I liked her verbal sparring with T'Pol, and more of those types of scenes would be nice. I also didn't like having Trip try to have "the talk" in the mess hall.

Kevin: I actively disliked T'Pol's jealousy because it's too intense, too fast to the point that it breaks the a key trait of a character who is supposed have detached themselves from her emotions. And yes, I know the trellium-D thing is coming, but that doesn't help because this episode doesn't remark that she is acting wildly out of character. The one-dimensional insertion and removal of Corporal Cole is so cheap as to be laughable. She exists only to create this artificial tension point. The more layered and interesting story is T'Pol encouraging a relationship because they do, in fact, have a lot in common, and on paper, would be a good match. The interesting story would then be Trip realizing that he wants T'Pol more even though they are less ideally suited. Is the protagonist rejecting the 'perfect on paper' partner for the ill-suited one for whom they feel passion a trope? Yes, but it's a trope for a reason. And that would have allowed a more organic reveal of their mutual feelings. And another round of neuropressure is really starting to annoy me, and it makes the nonsense even worse. If your massage therapist acted the way the T'Pol is acting, you would fire that massage therapist. And yes, there is no reason to have the follow up conversation in the mess hall is silly, but no less silly than the content of the conversation. T'Pol would have be smarter to plead a momentary lapse in judgment rather than apparently using Trip like a hands on anthropology project. It again, whatever her personal feelings, makes the character appear wildly unethical.

Matthew: I also mostly liked the tension between Reed and Hayes.  Like Corporal Cole, I think we should have had more character groundwork on Hayes before this point, too. I liked that Malcolm was being paranoid and that Hayes wasn't a transparent douche. I wish they had come to a bit more of an understanding with each other. Like, sure, they saved the day in Engineering (for some reason), but I feel like there needs to be a button scene of them sharing a beer or something.

Kevin: Again, I just wasn't sold. And maybe I just can't be sold on this kind of plot element. I didn't love Paris and Neelix in a food fight, and I don't love this either. They got into a fist fight over a pissing contest about their territory at work? Florals, for spring? Groundbreaking. The only way I would have enjoyed this scene if this fight ended the exact same way T'Pol and Trip's fight did, with one of them ripping off their clothes and going at it in the gym. And I don't even think I'm being that slashy here. I think that whole scene reeked of unrequited homosexual attraction manifesting as aggression. Accidentally, I'm sure, but never have I thought "Oh, just kiss already" at my screen with more sincerity or annoyance.


Matthew: I think our two dramatic dyads in this episode did quite well with the material they were given. I really liked Noa Tishby as Corporal Cole, and it's a crying shame she wasn't given more to do in this episode, as well as scenes in future episodes. She can carry a scene. Thomas Kopache has had a good number of bit parts in Trek episodes, and this one was only adequate. He wasn't given a truly dramtic scene to build his character with, and as such, ironically, he was a bit of a non presence.

Kevin: There's a production problem getting in the way of the acting, but I agree the actors all have chemistry. (Maybe too much chemistry, he said, arching an eyebrow at Hayes and Reed) Trinneer and Blalock have chemistry onscreen, but the plots keep getting in the way. They just don't have the patience to let it unfold naturally and can't resist the urge to stage it like a soft core porno. The acting is good, but for me, at least, I could hardly see it through the fog of nonsense that has descended on this plot.

Production Values

Matthew: I know you hated this, too, but the way the T'Pol consummation was shot was exploitative. I just don't need that much buttcrack in my Star Trek, regardless of whom it belongs to. As far as the rest of the episode went, we only got one big space effect, the pink blob. It was blob like, but un-spectacular. The real big production note here, beyond the buttcrack, is the extensive fight sequences, which I have to say were really well done. The stuntperson work was pretty seamless, and boy, is this crew fit! These actors have been putting the hours into their workouts, all around.

Kevin: I will acknowledge the fist fight was very credible, and not at all in the Trek Fu style that marks other series. Those dudes were actually fighting. And look, I'm not a prude or a scold, and I think our society would be better if we were more cool with butts on TV and less cool with Icheb's eye being gouged out, but still. There was no reason to try to sneak in nudity than to try to trick non-viewers into watching the show. It's gross. It's unfair to Jolene Blalock, who even at this late date, I will still suggest she call her union rep to explore filing a grievance.  And finally, it's just dumb. If they were actually telling an interesting and engaging story about adults who decided to take their emotionally intimate to a physical level, that's fine. And if they decided to accurately depict a relationship, where, as in reality, the woman doesn't inexplicably clutch a bedsheet to her clavicle seconds after sex is over, I would be writing a Medium article about how America needs to get over its Puritanical aversion to frank and honest depictions of human sexuality. But that's not what this was. This was not an interesting, adult romance being portraying in an interesting and adult way. This was Star Trek by way of a Maxim spread. And I'll say this, none of the Kurtzman series have been as rankly disrespectful and exploitative of its female cast members as Enterprise has.


Matthew: This is somewhere in the 2-3 range. The acting was at least a 3, but the writing didn't really break any of the scenes in the most interesting ways, nor did it conclude the A-C stories satisfactorily. So I've landed on a 2 here.

Kevin: The story is a 2, and I almost want to knock it another point for the gratuitous nudity, but part of my annoyance with the Trip/T'Pol plot is the gratuitous nudity, so I feel like I've already baked that in a bit. It certainly disqualifies it from a 3. So that makes a total of 4.


  1. I... Agree? Yes, seems indeed I do. Why, who would have thunk it?

    Now, there was something lurking in my mind that I could not put my finger on until I saw your image for the TNG episode 'Lessons'. It's the one where Picard falls in love with Lt. Commander Daren.
    There is a scene very (I'd use italics there if I could) similar to the one between T'Pol and Cole, where Daren visits sickbay and Crusher treats her, and they have a layered conversation. And the TNG writers conspicuously avoid the comedy cliché, as you remark on in your review.

    Can these guys (and all the writing credits for Harbinger are dudes, unlike Lessons) not see that they should bring in someone with a little more emotional sophistication when writing romances, particularly for the main characters?

    It's nearly twenty years since this episode was made, and I'm still emotionally shaking my fist at how they squandered all this potential.

    1. Yeah, Crusher clearly felt a pang of something, but she kept a poker face in front of Darren and was still a professional, and it makes sense since Darren would have no reason to know their history. It communicates a lot of the same idea without committing essentially character assassination. And at this point, it honestly can't just be that there are no women in the room, though that is obviously part of it, but that they just can't do character work. Most of the time we're applauding a piece of character work on Enterprise, it's the actor, not the story fueling it.