In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Enterprise, this is somehow one of the most relentlessly disturbing things imaginable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For torture, talk of bias against people of color.
This is technically a great episode, and in many ways, it shows that the writers were willing to take the logic of the Augments – what they were taught, what they believed – to its inevitable, horrible conclusion. It is a relentless story, one of desperation, of loyalty, and of the limits that Dr. Soong finally developed within his own system of ethics.
That shit is electrifying to watch, and I’ll start there before I talk about the one glaring flaw I saw in this episode. The central conflict here isn’t exactly groundbreaking: Soong wants the 1800 embryos he left behind at Cold Station 12 so that he can liberate them. Now, even if he succeeds at every step, he’d still have to wait years until those embryos grew up into adults, which… is not really acknowledged? But I at least understand why. This script is very focused on what happens on Cold Station 12 and what that means in the immediate future. It’s a morality play, one that’s complicated and messy and incredibly horrifying.
What I didn’t expect was Malik turning against Dr. Soong in all these little ways, at least until he disagrees with him in a HUGE way. After years of being indoctrinated into believing that humans hate all Augments, that Augments are superior in every way and deserve to be treated as such, it does make sense that they would resent Dr. Soong. So why does he decide to get what he wants without killing anyone? Why does he care so much? It’s possible that Dr. Soong does feel a little guilty for what he’s caused… maybe? Maybe he really does value human life in the abstract sense, and he’d rather not deal with the ramifications of taking a life.
Yet before they put that poor doctor in that tube, Malik had already killed someone. He had already taken his beliefs to that level. Sparing that doctor’s life was pointless! The Augments view others as a means to an end, and Dr. Soong certainly taught them that. Hell, he demonstrated that in these two episodes! He led by example! Yet his creations were not prepared for compassion or understanding. Thus, that doctor died a horrific, unreal death in front of everyone, and despite that Dr. Soong was visibly upset over what happened, the Augments didn’t bat an eye. (Well, there was a moment where it looked like Persis was uncomfortable with what was happening, but she certainly didn’t stop it.
This episode is one display of cruelty after another. Even if Dr. Soong opposes the murder of the doctor, and he wanted Smike to have the chance to live his own life, the Augments are too far gone. There’s no coming back from this, and they’ll always be a risk. There’s a tiny part of me (and trust me, it’s real small) that feels sad that they will probably never get to live anything close to a normal life. They were doomed by a life of propaganda and lies! That doesn’t mean we should excuse the prejudice that we see from humans. Years and years later, we will see just how messed up humans are towards Julian and other genetically-modified humans on Deep Space Nine. But Dr. Soong filled these characters’ heads with nonsense about superiority and might, and this is the end result of that.
But it’s telling that out of everyone present in this episode, only certain people are spared and only certain people are given depth. Yes, I’m referring to the mind-blowing treatment of all the non-white characters. Here, they serve one of two roles. They are either the sacrificial lamb – the unnamed doctor who is given an horrific disease that causes his veins to boil from the inside out – or they are the unnamed terrors in the background. Not one of the Augments who is non-white gets to speak. They aren’t named, they don’t contribute anything but commit random acts of violence on everyone else, and it is LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE ONE. That’s why it was so obvious to me! I kept wondering if we’d get more, but nope. Death or violence: that’s all they get.
This is why conversations about diversity and representation must be about more than appearances. On the surface, this is a very diverse episode. Yet one you examine it in any other regard, it’s awful. DO BETTER, STAR TREK.
The video for “Cold Station 12” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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