In the third episode of the fourth season of Enterprise, THE CREW ACTUALLY GETS A BREAK, OH MY GOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For the discussion of PTSD/trauma and xenophobia
After I finished “Home” – which I largely enjoyed and found to be an incredibly refreshing and rewarding experienced – I realized how much this reminded me of another Star Trek episode: “Family,” from season 4 of The Next Generation. They are not the same episode, but they share a sort of spiritual connection. Both address the emotional ramifications of a huge chapter in the lives of the crew of the Enterprise. I joke a lot about how badly these characters needed a real vacation, and THIS SEASON ACTUALLY GRANTED ME THAT STORYLINE. I just???? This was such a great decision, and I still have no idea what season four will be about.
It’s pretty rare for Trek to openly acknowledge that the world that exists within its universe is actually capable of bigotry. I know I’ve complained a lot about that convenient line about how there’s no more prejudice on Earth. It’s such an easy way to never have to deal with the legacy of hatred and evil on our planet, so I was quite surprised that IT HADN’T GONE AWAY. I’m not so sure I feel as great about what “Home” says about xenophobia, though. Phlox experiences an utterly horrifying instance of prejudice when he’s confronted by a man in a bar in San Francisco. It’s great that Reed and Mayweather leapt to protect and defend Phlox, and I respect that they were willing to be allies in a very direct and physical way.
But the more I think about Phlox’s refusal to visit Earth during Enterprise’s stay, the less I feel comfortable with what this episode tells us. It is absolutely within Phlox’s right not to expose himself to further hatred, and that’s a point I wish had been explored in greater detail. It sucks being the token, and it sucks being the person who breaks boundaries. I have experienced this more time than I can count, and it often happens in my recent life when I’m attending conventions. Sometimes, I’m the first queer person of color they have ever had as a guest or attendee, and that means this very act of changing the dynamic of the attendee make-up means I’m on the receiving end of a lot of shit. And frankly, I’m tired of it! It’s nice to make strides in this industry, but when it’s at the expense of my body and my mental health, it’s not exactly a win, is it?
So I get Phlox deciding to remain on the ship. I am less inclined to be as forgiving of the writers for having him say that he “understands” why people are BIGOTS and that they just need time! Because this is still a show that aired after 9/11, and my mind goes straight to all the Islamophobia that people expressed in the wake of that attack. Yeah, I don’t understand anyone being a bigot, and trauma does not excuse that sort of behavior! The person in the wrong is absolutely the xenophobe, not the victim!
Reed, Mayweather, Hoshi
You know, I’m genuinely surprised that Reed is a part of this trio, and by “trio,” I’m referring to the three characters who continually are ignored by the writers, or who get stories that are superficial and disposable. Travis and Hoshi I get, in the sense that Trek writers generally have a problem developing non-white characters. But Reed’s white! And he’s totally ignored all the time, too! Oh god… is it because he’s British? WHO KNOWS. But I gotta call foul here, y’all. The other four castmembers get such incredible plots assigned to them. (Even if I didn’t like the execution of Phlox, I can’t deny it’s a significant part of the episode.) And we don’t find out anything personal or meaningful for the trio. Why does this keep happening? Come on, they’re such interesting people! Surely, you can tell some sort of story, right?
Now, this is rich and complicated and detailed, y’all. I mean, Archer’s the main character, so I expected that. But I admit to being surprised that this episode continued the examination of Archer’s guilt over what he did in the expanse. This was accomplished with the introduction of Captain Erika Hernandez, an old flame of Archer’s, whose dogged pursuit of Archer helps him come to terms with his own guilt, shame, and trauma. Again, I’m not so certain that the execution of this plot is quite up to par as the premise itself, but for the most part, this was what this character needed. Framing it all with the inquiry hanging over him allowed Archer to get upset at both Ambassador Soval and himself, so thematically, it fit in extremely well with the other stories in “Home.” How does Archer go back to being a “normal” captain after such a hellish year? How does he begin to face the fact that he did immoral things to survive?
I didn’t expect Enterprise to ask these questions, and ultimately, I’m glad that they did. I feel weird about the resolution of this problem, given that it seemed as if it was all waved away with the justification that Archer did what he had to in order to save Earth. Like… he knows that? He’s known that for a while. But what does he do now to deal with the residual fears and trauma he has?
Well, he climbs rocks, says mean things to Captain Hernandez, then makes out with her, ostensibly has hot, sweaty outdoor sex with her, and then feels better? Well… okay? I guess? I would have suggested therapy and a re-commitment to not being immoral and terrible in the future, but you do you, Archer!
I’m being (sorta) facetious, but I still appreciated that the show didn’t just jump into a new mission for Archer right after the last year of awful. This was truly necessary.
T’Pol and Tucker
WHY MUST YOU RUIN MY HEART LIKE THIS. Again, the show manages to ask a very important question about these two after T’Pol decides to invite Tucker along on a visit home. What exactly happened to the responsibilities that T’Pol left behind? Were their any ramifications of her leaving her position within Vulcan High Command?
OH MY GOD, THERE WERE SO MANY. T’Pol’s mother, T’Les, was forced into an early retirement as retaliation for T’Pol. And once T’Pol comes back home, she has to deal with Koss, the utterly boring man that she had been promised to. I guess I completely forgot how strict the traditional marriages were on Vulcan, because I definitely didn’t realize that T’Pol couldn’t just reject Koss and move on. So, “Home” becomes about duty: should T’Pol follow her heart and her emotions and pursue a life with Tucker? Or do the obligations she has pressed upon her outweigh her personal interest?
I expected there to be a last-minute save. I expected that T’Pol’s continued experience with her emotions meant that she would choose Tucker. I did not go into this episode expecting her to choose duty. To say it’s all heartbreaking is an understatement, y’all. This was hard to watch, partially because it was so sad to see these two characters get the opposite of what they wanted, but mostly because I KEPT EXPECTING A HAPPY ENDING.
What does this mean? Will T’Pol only be on Enterprise in a limited capacity? Will she cease to be intimate in any way with Tucker? How will they both deal with their respective heartbreak WHILE WORKING TOGETHER? I genuinely do not have a prediction here, and I’m already so, so, so wrong about season four of this goddamn show. Where do they go from here???
The video for “Home” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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