In the sixteenth episode of the first season of Enterprise, there are like a billion romance/fanfic tropes in this story, BUT NO KISSING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Look, I don’t know that I’d go far enough to say that this is queerbaiting. It might be because I don’t ship Tucker/Reed at all. But if someone did recognize chemistry between them, I would understand why they might feel like this episode is a bait-and-switch. The tropes present in this episode are the sort of thing many of us can recognize in other similar stories. How many times have we seen or read a story where two people are trapped somewhere and running out of air? It’s pretty common in genre fiction, regardless of the medium. Hell, even if you think of stories about one person trying to survive, like in Gravity, you still have similar ideas at play. The whole struggle with mortality thing, how an impending and seemingly inevitable death affects a person’s view of their life, is nothing new. It’s not a revolutionary story technique.
Don’t get me wrong. “Shuttlepod One” is often quite fun, especially since Reed and Tucker spend so much time bickering, and I LOVE WATCHING PEOPLE ARGUE. They bond, too, though I’d say the show never truly pushes them too far. It felt very safe.
Which is why I didn’t expect the writers to actually do anything with the trope of two men who are freezing and must huddle for warmth. I mean, look: I have read a lot of fanfiction. I read a lot of romance as a kid. THIS TROPE LIVES AND DIES FOR ROMANCE. So when the writers set this up and then don’t follow it through with any significant examples of affection, it feels hollow. Tucker and Reed dance around one another for the bulk of the episode. Even when they’re freezing and are swaddled in blankets, they still just sit next to one another rather than conserve heat by doing… well, anything that might have helped them ACTUALLY stay warm.
I suppose I’m a tad bitter and that this affects my opinion of this episode. It’s not bad! I really did enjoy the conversations around optimism and pessimism, which were handled with care and creativity. But this episode aired nearly forty years after the Star Trek universe first came into being, and it is so aggressively straight. It’s like the writers started writing this episode, realized how homoerotic it might seem, and then injected it with reminders that these men only love women. Reed’s dream about T’Pol is absurd, especially after That One Scene in the previous episode. (Seriously, must Trek writers constantly sexualize women like this? They did it to Seven all the time.) Then there are all his “girlfriends,” which felt like overkill. Did we need that ON TOP of Reed’s fantasies for T’Pol.
If Trek frequently featured non-heterosexual relationships or encounters, I truly don’t think I’d call foul. There are so few spread over the 5 shows, however, that “Shuttlepod One” comes off as egregious. Again, it’s a solid episode, but I couldn’t see it any other way.
The video for “Shuttlepod One” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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