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Enterprise Vox Sola and the Doom at the End of the Galaxy

These are the adventures of the Starship Enterprise (no, not that one. The
other one before it you never heard of. The sensual one), its continuing
mission to sensually blunder around not particularly strange or interesting
worlds, to antagonize sensual new life and new civilizations and to
sensually go where three decades of Star Trek and just about every other
science fiction show on the planet have gone before.

Teaser – Angry aliens are sensually hurrying away from the Enterprise crew

Hoshi: Wait, why are you leaving us?

Alien #1: We can’t take it anymore.

Trip: What’s the matter?

Alien #1: This is the worst show I’ve ever been on! Your stories have star trek enterprise vox sola
no point, your characters are boring and, your plots are cliched and our
appearances completely throwaway with no lasting effects!

Hoshi: I can’t understand a single word they’re saying. It’s as if
they’re speaking entirely in some different language.

Alien #1: And that awful theme song, is this supposed to be the
Karate Kid or a 21st century Science Fiction series anyway? How can you
stand it?

Trip: Are you sure there’s nothing we could do to convince you to
stay?

Alien #1: Hire some freaking writers!

Archer: Some people are just never satisfied. Well let’s go wander
around the galaxy again and see what happens.

Act 1 – Giant CGI Plot Cliche sneaks sensually on board as two redshirts
stand under a conduit.

Redshirt #1: Oh no looks like the conduit is broken. Go inside that
haunted hous…I mean conduit and fix it.

Redshirt #2: Didn’t we do this exact same scene in First Contact?

Redshirt #1: Yes and next week we’ll do it again on CSI and Law and
Order. Just be glad these are speaking parts.

Giant Plot Cliche: Need Brains! Brains!

Two minutes later both redshirts have been swallowed by the Giant
CGI Plot Cliche

Redshirt #1: Is thus stuff what I think it is?

Act 2 – Meanwhile in Archer’s quarters. Archer is staring blankly at his
computer screen. Trip enters.

Archer: Oh My God! It’s full of stars!

Trip: Hey I know what’ll cheer you up, half-naked men playing with a
ball.

Archer: Ah, the good old days. No decisions. No aliens. Just some
water and a ball. Things were so simple back and then and sensual too.

Trip: So why did you get into space travel again?

Archer: Because those damned Vulcans screwed my father!

Trip: Oh right. Say there’s a Giant CGI Plot Cliche in the cargo
bay. Want to go and get swallowed by it?

Archer: Can’t be any worse than the Andorians, the Tandarans or any
of the other many, many aliens who’ve captured me before and will go on
capturing me week after week after week.

Act 3 – Cargo bay is coated with pale slime as the CGI Plot Cliche covers
the two redshirts.

Archer: Hmm that slime looks potentially dangerous. Let’s go wander
right next to it and see what happens.

Trip: I’m with you. At least this time I’m not in my underwear.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche: Need Brains! Brains!

Five Minutes Later Archer and Trip are also swallowed up by the
Giant CGI Plot Cliche.

Archer: My God, how could this have happened and who could have seen
it coming?

Trip: We did take every possible precaution, none. I’m as baffled
as you are.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche: Where are the Brains I was promised?
B-R-A-I-N-S!

Act 4 – The rest of the crew stand around watching the Giant CGI Plot Cliche
on the monitors.

Dr. Phlox: I’ve determined that this creature has formed neural
links to its victims and is transforming them into one giant entity.

Mayweather: Oh My God! It’s draining Captain Archer of all his
personality! We have to do something before it’s too late.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche: So Hungry! All Crust and No Filling! Need
BRAINS!

In the Cargo Bay, Archer, Trip and Redshirt #2 are delirious.

Archer: So one time in water polo I had this ball and…

Trip: Would you shut up about your water polo already!

Archer: But it was the highlight of my career and it taught me
everything I needed to know about commanding a Starship. Get captured early
and often, wander around with no purpose or direction and treat everything
as either self-righteous cause or a joke.

Trip: That explains a lot.

Redshirt #1: Whee I have more lines!

Giant CGI Plot Cliche: Oh My, this was a big mistake. I had the
chanche to crawl onto a Vulcan ship, but no I had to go for the flashy
nacelles. So Hungry! Need Brains!

Back on the Command Bridge

T’Pol: I have determined what course of action we shall pursue. Reed,
first throw together a hastily conceived rescue attempt that will only serve
to antagonize the creature. Afterwards you can trump all of human science by
developing the force field on your own in a few hours. Then Hoshi, you and I
will work together on an improbable method of communicating with the
creature during which we will clash and then bond and learn to work together
and in the process of which put our cultural differences aside to work as a
team.

Dr. Phlox: No need for any of that, the creature is growing thinner.
It appears to be starving to death.

Mayweather: Why in the world would that be?

Dr. Phlox: Well you see the creature feeds off neural energy and when
it can’t get enough neural energy from brain activity it begins starving to
death.

Hoshi: So you’re saying that because the Captain’s brain is
incompatible with the creature’s biological makeup, the creature is starving
to death.

Dr. Phlox: No, I meant that the creature’s food supply is practically
non-existant in its chosen victim. But you can believe whatever makes you
feel better.

Mayweather: Oh by the way I located the aliens who infected us so they
can give us the coordinates to take the poor creature home.

Reed: Ahem, shouldn’t we consider perhaps killing it?

Hoshi: No it’s just a poor misunderstood alien brainsucking leech!

Alien #1: Before we give you the coordinates, we demand an apology.

Mayweather: An apology for what?

Alien #1: For this episode, for starters.

Montgomery: Very well, on behalf of Viacom, Paramount, UPN, Rick
Berman, Brannon Braga and all the cast and crew, I sincerely apologize for
this episode!

Alien #1: Now apologize for Fusion! Apologize! We demand an apology!

Montgomery: Never!

Act 5 – The creature is put in a box and released out on a planet’s surface
where it immediately attaches itself to an earthworm.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche: Ah finally, Brains! BRAINS! I can feel the
Sweet nectar of intelligence running through me. Finally I can put this
nightmare behind me.

Act 0 – A man with heavy eyebrows steps out from behind the camera against a
background of stars. The stars are dim and clearly most of the galaxy is
dead or dying.

Rod Serling: Flash forwards FIVE BILLION YEARS. Earth’s star is a
faint glowing red ball and the homeworld of man is a wasteland on which no
living being has walked upon in a long time. The Federation is long
forgotten. Starfleet’s starships are dust and the human race has joined the
dinosaurs in that great theme park we call extinction. Not a single of
Rembrandt’s paintings or Michelangelo’s sculptures or Rod Stewart’s songs
have survived. Every accomplishment of man from the iron knife to the
transporter is vanished. All except for ONE.

Camera pans down to show the same planet covered now with Giant CGI
Plot Cliche creatures. From space the planet appears as a series of
geometrically perfect dots filled with water.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #1: Hello Captain Archer.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #2: Hello to you too, Captain Archer.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #1: Do you wish to play water polo, Captain
Archer?

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #2: Of course Captain Archer. Say do you know
where Water Polo comes from?

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #1: I never thought about it Captain Archer,
let’s go ask Captain Archer. He’ll know.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #3: Hello, Captain Archer and Captain Archer.
What can I do for you?

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #2: We were just wondering where Water Polo
comes from?

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #3: Ah yes, the age old question. Many
theologists speculate that at one time our distant ancestor came into
contact with a being known only as CAPTAIN ARCHER. It absorbed this Captain
Archer’s mind but could not divest itself of this identity because by
ingesting Archer, it had also ingested Archer’s stupidity has deprived it of
the ability to think and so it became Captain Archer and all its asexually
budded children after it were also called Captain Archer and that is why
today we are all called Captain Archer.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #1: This is certainly interesting but what does
it have to do with Water Polo?

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #3: Well there are further speculations that
this Captain Archer being was rather stupid and the only contents in its
mind referred to Water Polo and thus this was the only knowledge we possess.
Perhaps had this Captain Archer’s mind contained great works of literature
or technical information we might have built a great civilization that could
have taken us off this world so that some form of life might survive the
death of the milky way galaxy.

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #2: So instead we built our civilization around
Water Polo and turned our whole planet into a bunch of Water Polo pools and
we play Water Polo all day, thus dooming the last civilization in the galaxy
to extinction!

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #3: Exactly, this Captain Archer being formed
us too well in his own stupid image!

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #1: So Captain Archer, still want to go play
water polo!

Giant CGI Plot Cliche #2: Why not, we don’t know how to do anything
else. Do we?

Camera turns sharply to show Rod Serling standing to the side and
trying to smoke a hypospray, with Brannon Braga by his side

Rod Serling: There is an ancient Chinese saying, a civilization built
on water will endure, but one built on Water Polo will not survive. Thus
ends the last civilization in the galaxy and along with it dies the last
work of man and also the very thing that killed it. Water Polo.

Ironic isn’t it?

Brannon Braga: Ironic perhaps, but sensual…most definitely. So, so
very sensual! I think I’m going to play some…Water Polo too.

Braga runs off chasing the Giant CGI Plot Cliche creatures who run
away from him shrieking in terror.

Rod Serling: And now I think I’m going to be sick…in the Twilight
Zone!

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Cogenitor

Summary: A first contact goes awry when Trip teaches a slave to read

I’ve been saying for a while now that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga co-write far too many ENTERPRISE episodes and while that is still true, “Cogenitor” is nevertheless one of their better efforts, bringing to mind the classic NEXT GENERATION episode, “The Outcast.” LeVar Burton does a superb job directing the episode and while TNG and B5’s Andreas Katsulas has little to do in this episode beyond making small talk with Archer, he still puts across a strong on-screen presence. Despite some of the adolescent snickering that seems to be an inevitable part of any Braga-written episode that deals with sex, Dominic Keating keeps his dignity and manages to play Reed’s romance with a fellow weapons officer as an understated attraction rather than broad comic relief.

star trek enterprise cogenitorBut neither Archer’s expedition or Reed’s romance are the main story, instead Trip is the center of attention yet again seemingly ending up with more episodes centered around him than either Archer or T’Pol. Like “Dear Doctor,” “Cogenitor” is centered around a moral dilemma and like “Dear Doctor,” it suffers from an attempt to narrow the range of viewpoints to one instead of keeping the debate open. And like a lot of Berman and Braga episodes it suffers from random characterization in that it has Archer adopt a viewpoint because it fits the plot rather than arising naturally from the character’s attitudes. When Trip claims that he did what Captain Archer would have done, he’s right on the nose and Archer’s outrage at the suggestion is comical.

Archer is certainly not Picard. He has had no trouble disrupting first contacts and interfering in alien societies. In “Detained” he sabotaged a first contact with potential allies against the Suliban in order to free the detained Suliban because he believed it was the right thing to do. In “A Night in Sickbay,” he nearly sabotages a first contact because he blames the aliens for making his dog sick. In “Marauders” he taught the miners to fight back against the Klingons and in “Judgement” he helped colonists escape from the Klingon Empire. He interfered in the Vulcan\Andorian conflict in “The Andorian Incident” and took sides in a hunting expedition in “Rogue Planet.” In “Stigma” he certainly didn’t take the attitude that it might be perfectly acceptable for a different culture to discriminate against their own society and treats the matter as being just as outrageous and unacceptable as if it was happening in human society. In “Marauders,” “Detained” and “Judgement,” he didn’t take the position that enslaved people should remain enslaved as he does in “Cogenitor” and that it’s the people who are trying to free them who are to blame. After all, by that logic it was the civil rights workers who were responsible for the lynchings. And if Archer were to take that position, then those Suliban who died trying to escape in “Detained” and any colonists who could have been killed in “Marauders” would have been the fault of Archer for teaching them to resist slavery.

In “A Night In Sickbay,” Captain Archer was outraged at the suggestion that he should have kept his dog on the ship to avoid damaging a first contact. Porthos has a right to fresh air, Archer insists. But apparently a sentient being who is treated as an object doesn’t have the right to freedom if it interfers a first contact. Either in Archer’s world, his dog is more important than the rights of a sentient being or “Cogenitor” misrepresents Archer’s character. In “Stigma” Archer self-righteously demanded a hearing for T’Pol from the Vulcan doctors but if the “Cogenitor” ever gets a similar hearing and a chance to defend her asylum request, we never see it. Instead, the Cogenitor asks Archer to be treated equally and he replies that he can’t impose his notion of rights on her. That’s a ridiculous response even by the standards of moral relativism. While the Cogenitor may not have asked to learn how to read, she did ask for asylum and she was clearly being mistreated. Archer gives no real grounds for denying her application except that he’s worried about ruining a first contact and yet he’s had no problem ruining first contacts in the past over a moral issue. Instead Archer uses her off-screen suicide to argue that Trip did the wrong thing though it could just as well prove that Archer did the wrong thing, especially since her suicide was a direct result of his denial of her request. Instead, in another out of character move, the episode has Trip suddenly admitting that he was wrong. It’s an ending that feels odd and abrupt as if material was missing and as with “Dear Doctor,” you have to wonder if the original ending wasn’t cut out and replaced by a new final scene at the last minute.

Archer argues that Trip should have foreseen the consequences of teaching the Cogenitor to read but that assumes the consequences were inevitable. But were they really? Other possibilities included the Cogenitor returning home to spread literacy and the idea of natural rights to other Cogenitors resulting in a gender rights movement or the entire species being forced to confront their prejudices and their society improving as a result. So if the consequences weren’t inevitable, then did Trip do the right thing? The enslaved status of the Cogenitor is part of the alien culture but that’s not a justification for it. After all, witch burning and slavery were part of our culture. Genital mutilation and stoning heretics is part of other cultures today yet that doesn’t stop us from granting their victims asylum because there are basic principles of natural rights that transcend cultural differences. Archer himself has stood up for those principles time and time again so he can’t credibly argue otherwise since Trip has as much right to apply natural rights to the alien society as Archer does to Vulcan society. With those arguments dismantled, all that’s left is Archer’s unstated desire to get his hands on the alien technology. It’s not a minor point since the human race is in danger from a variety of enemies and in this and numerous other episodes, Enterprise encounters superior ships for which it is no match. And it might have made for a credible argument, as Archer has to weigh the safety of his ship and the security of humanity against the freedom of one alien. But beyond T’Pol’s hints and Archer’s final scene in which he seems more tormented than angry, the issue is never openly broached.

Mike Resnick’s Hugo and Nebula Award nominated 1989 Science Fiction short story ‘For I Have Touched The Sky’, which also shares a name with an Original Series episode, addressed a similar situation. In a future society which attempts to simulate an authentic African culture, a girl named Kamari wants to learn how to read. In the Kikuyu culture, though, women are not allowed to read and in the resulting battle of wills between the shaman and the girl, the end result is the same as that of “Cogenitor,” but the reason why is not a mystery. Instead it’s in the title of the story. It’s also a far superior treatment of the subject than “Cogenitor” and anyone who found the issues in this episode intriguing should read it either in book or e-book form.

Next week: The Borg assimilate Enterprise or is it the other way around?

Star Trek Enterprise Season 1 Review – Fight or Flight

Summary: Hoshi adjusts to life on a Starship and Captain Archer struggles with the nature of the mission of the first Starship to explore deep space.

fight or flight star trek enterpriseIn a way, Fight or Flight may be one of the best demonstrations of the paradigm shift that is Enterprise. It is not the kind of episode that any prior Star Trek series could have done, because ultimately every Star Trek series has viewed its characters as semi-mythological creatures beginning with TOS’s perfect trio. Fight or Flight instead spins the viewer around and looks at its crew as being simply biological organisms in an artificial environment.

From the moment the episodes begins with a worm taken from its native home and dying in its glass cage, even as Hoshi Sato struggles with her adjustment to life on a starship; it is a study of the crew as biological organisms in a foreign environment. The first human starship serving as a test tube and the first real thrust of the human race into the foreign environment of space. Fight or Flight uses Dr. Phlox and T’Pol as the resident aliens to drive the point home over and over again to the humans.

Phlox views Enterprise itself as a laboratory with the crew as his subjects, as his mealtime chatter demonstrates. From his messy and strange sickbay to his views on the crew, Phlox’s perspective is experimental and advocates exploration for the sake of the new things that will result and what the encounters will reveal about the real nature of the subjects and their capabilities. T’Pol on the other hand has nothing but distaste for the biological and prefers a Vulcans sense of order. From that perspective humans simply don’t belong in space. They’re a foreign substance coloring outside the lines. We know who will win this argument, but that doesn’t make watching it any less compelling.

Fight or Flight’s title, a reference to a biological impulse, ultimately refers also to this test of the human presence in space. Unlike every previous series, what is at stake, really is the future. Captain Archer’s role is to pave a way for the human presence in deep space, but it is also to define it, by doing so. Every single decision, every single act and the entire nature of Starfleet itself does not yet truly exist, but must be defined by the decisions the first explorers have made. Much as the standards and practices of the United States of America were born often out of necessity and by men working more for the present, than the future, Archer’s actions are creating precedents that will resonate through the future yet unborn.

In Fight or Flight, Archer’s key decision will define that human presence in space as a positive one, as a means of bringing a human-centered moral order to the stars. And though Fight or Flight is a biological term, Archer’s decision is ultimately a moral one. It is a third choice, not flight but not to fight merely for the sake of fighting, but to define space through the moral imperatives of human character, rather than letting space define them as biological organisms would. And Starfleet and the Federation, those characters of future shows who seem more mythical than real, are defined by that third choice and their world is created out of it.

Hoshi’s trouble adapting to life on a starship is cast as a biological struggle, by identifying her with a worm, perishing out of its natural habitat. But that aspect of biology which is shown as a weakness, by the end of the episode is revealed as a strength; the ability to transcend the native environment. And what holds true for Hoshi, also holds true for the Enterprise and the human race. With Broken Bow, the human race has broken out of the test tube and with Fight or Flight, it has begun to reshape the external environment according to its own innate nature.

Star Trek has often been criticized for appearing as an unreal utopia with no connection to real life and Enterprise has made its mission to provide that connection. Where Star Trek has shown us strange new worlds, Enterprise has shown us the microscopic mechanisms that go into the act and practice of exploration itself. It is the equivalent of a medical show set in a busy and bloody emergency room, to one that shows us the first years of medical school, the first incision on that first cadaver. In Fight or Flight, this connection is viewed at the biological level and the way our moral nature provides the mechanism to transcend that biology and our world into the distant world of the Federation.

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