Thursday, April 27, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Bound

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: March 4, 2002
92 of 97 produced
92 of 97 aired


Enterprise takes on three Orion dancing women for some reason.


Where have you gone, William Ware Theiss?Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you... woo woo woo.



Matthew: A story using a Trek trope as tired as "Sexy lady/ladies use sexiness to make male crew act like fools/endanger the mission" is going to need to bring a lot of other things to the table to make itself worthwhile. In a world where TOS "Elaan of Troyius," TNG "The Perfect Mate," DS9 "Fascination," VOY "Favorite Son," "The Disease," "Alice," ENT "Two Days and Two Nights," in addition to various Pon Farr episodes, exist, what does this new addition bring?  Well, it gets Trip and T'Pol back together. So there's that. And while that's not nothing, the way they have been kept apart and reunited in the past few episodes has not felt particularly organic in the way, say, the Koss betrothal did. This seems more predicated on their both being crappy communicators, which is not very satisfying for me (See also: Friends).

Kevin: More than most other recurring stories, this one just doesn't go stale with repetition, it gets actively worse. The hideous sexual politics the franchise has a whole can sometimes dabble with do not get better with age, and Enterprise has been a shockingly obtuse offender on this front. In additional to all the pon farr and Two Days and Two Nights, let's add the HR nightmare of nude neuropressure sessions. There's no goodwill to burn, particularly for Enterprise, on going full neanderthal. 

Matthew: With respect to the Orion story, I guess the takeaway is that the Orion men are actually the slaves of the women. I... guess? Does this contradict all previous appearances of the Orions and their dancing women, including within this series and this episode? I don't know. Maybe? It's a fine enough idea, but I would have liked to see it developed in a different way. No, not like "Spock's Brain" and its "Bringers of Pain and Delight," nor like "Code of Honor" with its women who own all property but let men appear to (oy), but... yeah. I don't really know how to square the idea with the portrayal of the Orion men as sybaritic slave dealers. And I don't think the writers here did, either.

Kevin: I think part of the core problem is that the Orions were written as apparently a whole society based on slavery in TOS, and that gets confirmed in Enterprise, but the show never really wants to grapple with the idea that this is actively horrible. It's beyond even the most detached Vulcan cultural relativism. There's no real room to allow any other aspect of Orion culture that could shine through  because this is just too horrible, and normal Star Trek should engage that. Slavery is simply so morally abhorrent that centering a whole culture on it makes it hard to care about them at all. And particularly in its TOS origins, it smacks of a kind of 'exoticism' that you would otherwise find in a H. Rider Haggard novel, fetishizing the idea of women in gauzy outfits being kept in gilded cages. I can't shake the notion that back in the 60s, they started with a Victorian pantomime of Arabian Nights and just painted everyone green to cover for that.

Matthew: So when it comes to how things shook out among the crew,  we have already seen Archer seduced by at least three female or female-looking beings over the course of this show, so it's nothing new for him. Ditto Malcolm. I think the story should have leaned more into the comedic aspects of Trip suddenly being a calm, non-horny "taken" man. Travis works out to sublimate his sex drive... meh. And Kelby? Ugh. If his character wasn't assassinated before, I now have no interest in him whatsoever. He's a total yutz here - and why does Trip refer to him as Lieutenant when he has 3 pips?

Kevin: Yeah...none of the story really works. None of the motivations or characterizations are anything but completely shallow. I'm also going to take this opportunity to be annoyed at the lack of queer people on the ship. In addition to the horrible sexual politics of literally owning women's bodies, most of the episode plays like an 80s frat comedy, with all the men simpering teenagers, and the women left to be scolds. I'm also going to lean into my annoyance at how neatly the Tucker thread gets tied up. It was just a waste of precious time that could have been spent with these characters having a relationship rather than just constantly tease if they will.


Matthew: I would have to say the acting highlight here was William Lucking as Harrad-Sar. While I was baffled by the story's stated motivations for the character, at least he was slimy and fun to watch. Other highlights were Blalock and Trinneer giving game performances which, again, overcame their characters' writing. I enjoyed Anthony Montgomery and Linda Park's brief scenes.

Kevin: Blalock and Trinneer of course have chemistry, but I found the needless delays frustrating enough to get in the way of that this time.

Matthew: I was not into Derek Magyar's Kelby. Not at all. He comes off as a sophomoric twerp, which of course owes something to the writing, but I have to place at least some blame on the actor's shoulders. Bakula underwhelmed me this time around as well. I haven't mentioned the Orion women... they were fine. They could act well enough to not be minor embarrassments on the level of, say, Chase Masterson. Sorry, Chase fans.

Kevin: Magyar is certainly handsome, and ironically, the other thing I remember him from is a 2000s gay movie called Boy Culture, where he plays a sex worker. It was cute. He wasn't exactly a revelation in that, but he was still certainly handsome. Beyond that, everyone was....fine. I honestly don't remember many specific scenes.

Production Values

Matthew: We really only get two things to chew on here - the Orion ship design and the Orion costumes. The ship was bulbous and very obviously CGI. The costumes were.... scant, but looked pretty good. The green makeup and black wigs were fine.

Kevin: I don't have any technical complaints. The costume choices are giving me cheap 'harem' pastiche, and that underscores the problems I cite above. The ship is a little too bulbous for my taste. It ends up looking muddled on screen.


Matthew: This is not a good episode. How bad is it? It's not Code of Honor bad, nor is it Move Along Home bad. It's just slightly dumb, derivative, and doesn't offer much in the way of insight into the characters or their cultures. So I'm at a 2 on this.

Kevin: I think this actually gets to 1 territory for me. Its sexual politics are among the more retrograde of the series and it lacks the breathless absurd and mullet-filled charm of Angel One. Beyond really putting the nail in the coffin of Enteprise having some of the worst episodes for gender issues in the franchise, it's another-one off that feels like it was a season one script that got dusted off, and it again derails the solid momentum the mini-arcs were successfully building. That makes for a total of 3.


  1. Cyia Batten's Trek career ending on a low note. *sad fan noise*

    Anyway, if the whole 'apparent slavers are the real slaves' thing was to work, it would need a whole lot more than a final twist, I think. There might have been something interesting to say in how slave owners and their societies get tied to the 'institution', to the point where they will go to extremes to uphold it. Or maybe how the Orions are not entirely a species of hats, and not everyone conforms to the stereotype.

    At any rate, this needed a lot less time with the prude/sexy dynamic, and more with the introspective, and, you know, more 21st century in terms of mores and morals.

    Also, you made me look up Theiss. And made me try to fit him into that line, but I'm not sure how he's pronounced. :)

    1. The meter just barely scans. It just got stuck in my head :-)