Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S01E10 – Fortunate Son

In the tenth episode of the first season of Enterprise, Travis advises Archer on how to deal with a situation that reminds him of his upbringing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For torture.

Well, this more or less answers the questions I had about Travis’s role as an ensign! “Fortunate Son,” a solid episode as a whole, delves more into Travis’s past as a kid born on a freighter. It’s clear to me now that Starfleet as an entity is not quite as big as I’m used to, and it’s something I’ll have to adjust to. Travis may have grown up in space, but his decision to join Starfleet was not necessarily lauded or celebrated. Indeed, what I gleaned from this episode was that it was most likely seen as a betrayal rather than an exciting career opportunity.

Given that freighters have a much lower warp capacity than Starfleet vessels, I now see why this difference is so important to the story. In just forty-odd minutes, this episode had to demonstrate why Commander Ryan behaved the way he did. It’s not that he wanted to hide the captured Nausican because he believed he’d get in trouble with Starfleet. No, this was about a culture clash. The world of freighters is so different from what Starfleet officers experience. The journey is slower, which often means that it’s more dangerous, too. From this, though, has developed a culture of self-sustainability, one which Travis recognizes in an instant. The people running freighters have to learn to support themselves, to solve issues and problems and conflicts knowing that there probably isn’t going to be anyone who will come to their aid.

Thus, the arrival of Enterprise is a problem to the Fortunate. They’re an interference, sure, but I also read this as if they saw the ship as an insult. They could solve this problem on their own; why would they need to rely on a starship? Of course, there’s another layer to that, and Commander Ryan’s desire for revenge only compounds the problem. Not only is he fiercely independent, but he wants to severely punish the Nausicans for what they’ve done.

For what it’s worth, “Fortunate Son” doesn’t provide any sympathy for the Nausicans, and I don’t think it should. They’re pirates; they steal and harm and murder to get what they want, so it would have been a challenge regardless to try to offer up any sympathy on their behalf. So if that’s the case, then wouldn’t the opposite side seem sympathetic? In a sense, the Fortunate crew do, but the writers create a delicate balance between the audience understanding them, while also being willing to criticize them. That’s why there are scenes between Ryan and Shaw, the one crewmember who is brave enough to suggest to Ryan that his quest for revenge might be a bad idea. After Ryan treats the Enterprise crew poorly (I WAS SO SHOCKED WHEN HE LOCKED THEM IN THAT CONTAINER, HOLY SHIT), he didn’t seem so moral anymore, did he?

It was cool to me that Travis got to play the moral agent in the story. On a selfish level, I was thrilled we got more of him and his story. His history mattered to this script, and unlike Hoshi in the previous episode, you couldn’t remove him from “Fortunate Son” and get the same story. GOOD. MORE OF THIS.

So, a decent episode! Nothing spectacular, but I had a good time watching this.

The video for “Fortunate Son” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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