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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Star Trek Enterprise Retro-Spective: "Fight or Flight"

The first time I saw this episode, I found it very simple and boring. I thought Hoshi was annoying, and I thought the worm was silly. That was several years ago.

Revisiting it now, I find myself much happier about it. Two weeks after returning Klaang to Qo'noS, the only first contact the crew has made is with a big worm nicknamed 'Sluggo'. Hoshi takes it for a pet, it doesn't make out, and as Phlox is trying to nurse it back to health, he's starting to think about feeding it to one of his bats. Dr Phlox is turning out to have this wonderful mad scientist element to him that I am really trying to enjoy.

As this is going on, T'Pol picks up a ship along their course. It turns out to be a derelict. Archer, Malcolm, and Hoshi (who gets claustrophobia in the EVA suits) head over to the ship. They find a crew, basically hanging on hooks and having bodily fluids sucked out of them. Hoshi freaks, reacts by screaming (in her own words) like a twelve year-old. They head back to Enterprise, where Archer lets T'Pol talk him into leaving the area. Fortunately, Archer's conscience gets the better of him and they fly back. There they figure out that the fluids are being harvested. They send a distress signal from the derelict and start looking around. That's when the bad guys show up. Then we find out that Malcolm hasn't got the targeting scanner running and can't defend the ship. Bad guys scan them to find out that they have valuable bodily fluids and set to capturing them. Enterprise is defenseless, and it looks bad until another bigger ship shows up, from the same species as the murdered crew. But the bigger ship thinks Enterprise did the bad deed. Finally Hoshi manages to talk to the captain of the bigger ship. Together they blow up the baddie. Hoshi feels better about herself, and we meet an 'Axanan' (Google 'battle of Axanar' for TOS context on that.) In the end, Hoshi puts Sluggo down on a suitable planet, and end of episode.

It would be easy to dislike this episode. Sluggo. Hoshi screaming like a twelve year-old. And this is the best and the brightest? No, it's not. They are the first ones out. They are paving the way for the legends that come later. Hoshi (the main focus of the episode) is a relatively weak-spirited character who is the kind of person who picks up pet worms that she can't take care of, is afraid of space suits, and screams when she sees dead aliens hanging on meat hooks. But that's just the point, and just why I liked this episode. Hoshi represented the crew, the ship and the show. It isn't perfect. It isn't TNG. Archer isn't as polished as Picard, the ship is a redo of the Akira (and left spacedock without working targeting scanners), and the opening theme irritated lots of people. There isn't even supposed to be an Enterprise NX-01. All that is true, but what we have with Enterprise is something other than another perfect, polished, boring series. We have a series about real people as they overcome obstacles and frailties. That, to my mind, is closer to Gene Roddenberry's vision that the jaded, far-flung Empire that Next Generation became. Another enthusiastic (if unexpected) thumbs up.

Next Up: Strange New World

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