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Star Trek: Enterprise – Fusion (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Fusion is a mess of an episode.

On the one hand, it feels like an attempt to develop that Vulcans as they’ve been portrayed on Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s a clear attempt to justify their behaviour and to suggest that there are reasons that Vulcans eschewed emotions. It also gives some focus and development to T’Pol, a character who has been given very little space to herself so far in this first season. It brings back the relaxed pacing of episodes like Breaking the Ice or Cold Front, soaking in the details rather than driving the plot.

Out, out brief candle...

Out, out brief candle…

On the other hand, there’s a disturbingly reactionary subtext to Fusion. It feels like an even more cynical and mean-spirited version of All the Children Shall Lead or The Way to Eden, a story about how people need to be wary of youthful and experimental subcultures. It’s disappointing that one of the first season’s big T’Pol episodes is basically a rape allegory. And the plot of the episode feels crammed into the last act to make up for the somewhat loose pacing.

Fusion is simply all over the place.

False idols...

False idols…

The portrayal of Vulcans on Enterprise was somewhat controversial. Episodes like The Andorian Incident caused no shortage of controversy among fans because they deviated from the romantic image that fandom had cultivated of Vulcans since the sixties. As Mike Sussman pointed out on the audio commentary to Shadows of P’Jem, this idealised image wasn’t entirely accurate:

It was funny to me how we caught a lot of grief from people saying that Enterprise’s take on Vulcans was not what they wanted or expected. Of course, the Vulcans wound up being a great source of conflict. But I didn’t quite understand that. Particularly, if you go back to the original series, every time we ran into Vulcans – whether it was Spock’s father or we went back to the home planet – they were a pretty pissed off people who were hard to get along with. Even Spock didn’t get along with many of them. So we were hardly the first people to depict the Vulcans in a less-than-flattering light.

And those examples are only from the first two years of the original Star Trek. He doesn’t mention Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country or the long line of Vulcan guest appearances on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from The Maquis to Shakaar to Take Me Out to the Holosuite to Field of Fire. This should not be a surprise to anybody.

"This isn't creepy at all..."

“This isn’t creepy at all…”

Indeed, on the commentary to Silent Enemy, writer André Bormanis goes a step further. He points out that Spock’s original characterisation was ambiguous and questionable:

There was a lot of controversy, I’d say, at the beginning of Enterprise with how the Vulcans behaved towards humans: disdainful, almost contemptuous. Personally, I thought that was very much in keeping with the early representations of Spock in the original series. If you look back at those first four, five, six episodes of the original Star Trek, Spock is pretty cold-blooded. He has a pretty negative attitude towards humans, in many respects. It wasn’t until later episodes that he became this sort of wise humanitarian peacenik, as it were. In the pilot with William Shatner, he wanted to kill Gary Mitchell – “just kill him! he’s a threat! kill him!” Spock was very pragmatic. And we wanted to have that kind of a quality with T’Pol and express that through her dynamic with Archer.

Both Bormanis and Sussman provide a fairly convincing body of evidence to support the portrayal of the Vulcans on Enterprise. If anything, the Syrrannites in The Forge are outliers in the franchise’s portrayal of Vulcans.

Archer goes by the book...

Archer goes by the book…

So there’s something a little defensive about Fusion. It is as if Enterprise is trying to justify its portrayal of Vulcans by explaining why it’s a good thing that they repress their emotions. All of a sudden, Soval doesn’t seem so bad, because he is not running a cult and has not tried to mindrape a member of the main cast. To be fair, there is definitely a story to be told here. “What would emotional Vulcans be like?” is an interesting question, assuming the answer is not simply “Romulans.”

However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Fusion tries to conceal the twist in the story – it tries to hide the fact that  Tolaris is a predatory creep for as long as possible. Sure, doubts begin to emerge early on and actor Enrique Murciano very cleverly hints at the character’s dark side, but the episode sets out to introduce these “V’tosh ka’tur” as sympathetic characters. “I’m just relieved to finally meet some Vulcans who aren’t giving me a hard time,” Archer muses, and we’re meant to agree with him.

Into the wild blue yonder...

Into the wild blue yonder…

The episode makes the Vulcans sympathetic by coding them as hippies. They live alone, isolated from their society. They are on a mission of existential exploration. “It’s not space we’re exploring,” Tavin tells Archer. “It’s ourselves.” These are Vulcans who appear to be more interested in developing their telepathic abilities and experimenting with sex free from the confines of Vulcan biology and society. “Over the past few years, we’ve been developing methods to accelerate the mating cycle,” Kov boasts to Trip, right after he has asked rather bluntly about human sexual practices.

With their willingness to embrace other cultures, their wandering and their relative hedonism, Enterprise seems to portray these rogue Vulcans as hippies. They are people trying to find their own way in the universe, and trying to break from a patriarchal society that has become staid and closed off. When Tavin explains that they have been in space for eight years, Tolaris boasts, “And in those eight years we’ve experienced more than most Vulcans will in their lifetime.” They’ve expanded their consciousness, man.

Mind your melders...

Mind your melders…

It is worth pausing to not that, despite the way that characters like Spock were embraced by the counter-culture movement in the sixties and seventies, Star Trek really doesn’t have the best history when it comes to portraying youth culture, tending to associate it as strange and alien – and associating it with communism. This Side of Paradise was a rather strong condemnation of “free love” and perceived idleness. In the third season, episodes like And the Children Shall Lead and The Way to Eden were hardly flattering in their portrayals of children daring to break with their parents.

There’s a strong strain of scepticism to the way that Star Trek approaches these sorts of anti-establishment movements. At best – as in The Way to Eden or even The Maquis, Part II – there’s a sense of sympathy for those who have found themselves unable to exist inside the boundaries of society, even if it seems like those movements are always ultimately misguided or ill-judged. Spock may be hopeful for the space hippies, but they are still being led to their doom. For all that Sisko and Kira might understand why the Maquis would leave the Federation, there’s a sense they are just playing at being something they are not.

Injecting a little excitement...

Injecting a little excitement…

Here, for all that that “V’tosh ka’tur” claim to be open-minded and curious, they are presented as predatory and cynical. When Forrest talks to Archer about Kov, he mentions how Kov has not talked to his father in almost a decade. While this would appear to be Kov’s choice, it does evoke the methodology of cults – suggesting that the group may have manipulated Kov into casting off any connection to his old life, including his dying father.

This sense is ultimately reinforced in Archer’s confrontation with Tolaris. When Archer tells Tolaris that T’Pol is in sickbay, Tolaris responds, “She is in a crucial stage of her awakening. She needs guidance.” One can’t help but wonder if this is standard practice when inducting a new member into the group. It is an approach that seems to fit the patterns of cult recruitment, trying to break down resistance and individual identity. Having a way to force yourself inside somebody’s head makes it that much easier.

"You've just been inceptioned!"

“You’ve just been inceptioned!”

Do these Vulcans simply apply peer pressure and coersion in the form of “guidance” to keep melding until the subject begins to like it? Is it all mental manipulation? Were T’Pol’s dreams before the meld possibly psychic projections from Tolaris, given the Vulcan gift for telepathy? If T’Pol had not had the crew of Enterprise to protect her, would she joined Tolaris eventually, after a few more forced melds? Coupled with how Kov has disconnected himself completely from his father and his earlier life, it seems particularly creepy.

It doesn’t help that Fusion is particularly ambiguous on the matter. Archer just kicks Tolaris off the ship. He doesn’t try to arrest him for assaulting an officer. He also doesn’t try to warn either Kov or Tavin. As such, it creates a sense that the other Vulcans are (at best) blissfully unaware of Tolaris’ behaviour or (at worst) passively complicit. The fact that the crew have been travelling through space for eight years suggests that Tolaris has been engaged in this behaviour for quite some time. The fact that he dines with Tavin suggests that he is particularly highly placed on the ship.

Reed's idea of randomly hiding phase pistols finally pays off!

Reed’s idea of randomly hiding phase pistols finally pays off!

In a way, the ease with which Fusion shifts from a story about well-meaning pace hippies to a tale about a predatory cult reflects a wider pop culture shift.  After all, the sixties counter-culture is somewhat tainted by associations with cult movements, as the Jesus Movement discovered in the seventies:

Where previous efforts of evangelism had been as simple as playing a guitar on a street corner for a group of spiritually interested hippies, the cynicism born of societal fears towards “cults” and their “brainwashing” techniques made evangelism a less fruitful endeavor than it once had been. As the counterculture came to an end, Jesus People groups either disbanded, institutionalized as churches, or stubbornly clung to their countercultural roots.

The fear of fringe religious groups that took hold in the second half of the twentieth century can’t help but acknowledge the similarities that exist between these sixties counter-culture movements and religious cults. In a way, perhaps, this is an attempt to engage with the sixties legacy of Star Trek, much as Strange New World did with its acid-dropping xenophobic paranoia.

Meditating on it...

Meditating on it…

As with Strange New World, it seems like Fusion might be drawing attention how certain relics of the sixties look four decades later. In the Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, J. Gordon Melton acknowledges the connection between counter-culture and anxiety around cults:

The street people culture set the environment for the emergence of the anti-cult controversy. Each summer the number of street people greatly increased as college students finished the school year and headed to Berkeley and Hollywood to participate in the street people life during summer vacation. At the end of the summer, a small percentage of these summer dropouts chose to remain in California and failed to return to college. Some already out of contact with their family did not reestablish contact with them as fall classes were due to begin. They did reappear at a later date, sometimes at Thanksgiving or Christmas, to confront their families with the fact that they had joined a new, unknown and most unconventional religion.

So it isn’t as if the connection between hippie subculture and cults is radical or unsupported. That said, Fusion does feel rather cynical in how it chooses to exploit that connection, particularly as part of a franchise that celebrates open-mindedness and diversity.

That said, the idea of a Vulcan Manson family is certainly intriguing. And terrifying.

That said, the idea of a Vulcan Manson family is certainly intriguing. And terrifying.

Fusion is an episode that rejects the idea of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” It’s an episode that suggests that perhaps certain avenues are left unexplored, and perhaps a stern society does know best when it sets cultural norms. When Archer wonders about T’Pol spending so much time with Tolaris, Trip off-handedly reflects, “She likes being around her own kind. Who doesn’t?” If that is the case, why bother exploring? If people just want to stay together with their own kind, then what’s the point of reaching out into the void? Surely it is to make new friends and seek new experiences?

Trip’s sentiment seems a little narrow-minded, and quite in keeping with the mood of Fusion. Indeed, while the episode plays lip-service to the idea of exploring new possibilities, it does so in such a way that makes the open-mindedness seems stupid and reckless. Archer and Phlox both put pressure on T’Pol to try to explore new possibilities, despite her reluctance. Both are blind about her own discomfort and unconcerned with the possible risk. Both are ultimately proven wrong.

Not his cup of tea...

Not his cup of tea…

Indeed, Phlox advocates for her to keep experimenting even as he treats her for discomfort caused by her last attempt. “Nothing that a little inaprovaline can’t cure,” he assures her. “I can understand why you’d be intrigued by their philosophy. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it after one bad experience.” He doesn’t offer to assist her, or to put medical safeguards in place to ensure that it is safe. He doesn’t even seem too bothered that it was a painful process for her.

Archer and Phlox are so foolhardy in their insistence that T’Pol try to engage with her emotions that it’s clear the episode is only out to prove them wrong. Rather than seeking a middle-ground between Archer and Phlox’s enthusiastic open-mindedness and T’Pol’s cynicism, Fusion suggests that T’Pol’s attitude was entirely correct. She was right to offhandedly and casually dismiss the idea of something beyond Vulcan cultural norms. “What they’re doing is dangerous,” T’Pol insists, and she is absolutely correct.

Guess who's coming to dinner... again...

Guess who’s coming to dinner… again…

The implication is somewhat unsettling. While there’s something very creepy about how Archer and Phlox both help to pressure T’Pol into doing something that she doesn’t want to do, Fusion ends with the suggestion that T’Pol’s knee-jerk skepticism is entirely correct. It would be perfectly reasonable to have T’Pol accept that engaging with Vulcan emotions is not for her, but Fusion ends with the implication that any attempt to deviate from what Vulcan society considers to be the norm is an objective mistake. There’s something just a little bit too reactionary about that sentiment.

Which brings us to T’Pol. T’Pol is problematic character – it never feels like the Enterprise writing staff get a proper grasp on her as a character. T’Pol has generally been quite reactive over the first season. Even Shadows of P’Jem, the episode about how T’Pol might be reassigned back to Vulcan, is largely about how Archer manages to get her to stay. She is mostly passive for the episode, with her big scene coming as Archer carries her back to his ship.

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

It doesn’t help that Star Trek: Enterprise has been consciously objectifying her since Broken Bow. While Star Trek: Voyager set a precedent for the incredibly-tight-catsuit-wearing-alien-babe with the character of Seven of Nine, the show never had Jeri Ryan strip down to her underwear while rubbing gel all over her co-stars. To be entirely fair, Enterprise has been quite happy to show off its male characters – Trip saves the ship in nothing but his underwear in Acquisition while even Archer occasionally strips to his undergarments.

However, there’s something disconcerting about how Enterprise repeatedly stresses T’Pol as a sex object in a way that simply isn’t true of Archer or Trip. Shadows of P’Jem has Archer bury his face between T’Pol’s breasts for a cheap gag. Episodes like Shuttlepod One and A Night in Sickbay feature male crewmembers sexually fantasising about T’Pol. It goes without saying that T’Pol and Hoshi don’t get similar episodes built around their own sexual fantasies concerning male crewmembers.

Made to order...

Made to order…

Here, in one of the few T’Pol-centric episodes of the first season, the character is effectively raped. To be fair, Voyager did the same thing to Seven of Nine during her first season with Retrospect. However, Fusion plays up the sexual assault subtext even further. During the meld, Tolaris tries to physically hold T’Pol down as he reaches what is awkwardly (although brilliantly creepily) framed as a psycho-sexual climax.

There’s very little ambiguity here. The sequence is very clearly a stand-in for rape. Archer even draws attention to the “no means no” subtext of the sequence. “She said when she asked you to stop, you got angry,” Archer accuses. “She said she had to force you away.” Tolaris replies with a typical rapist defence, “What happened between us is personal.” The rather open ending perhaps drawing attention to how difficult rape can be to prosecute.

Archer goes by the book...

Well, at least JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reveals that some wishes come true…

This is quite in keeping with the mind-meld-as-rape subtext that has run through Star Trek since the nineties. Indeed, the scene between T’Pol and Tolaris evokes the scene between Spock and Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Much like Nicholas Meyer creepily described that scene as “hot” on the commentary, Brannon Braga makes his own ill-judged comparison:

“We’re going to try to continue dipping into the Vulcan aspects of the show, but in different ways,” Braga said. “We’re going to meet some Vulcans who are trying to put emotion into their lives. And T’Pol is going to become enmeshed in a twisted tale of seduction, like a Vulcan 9 1/2 Weeks.”

There is a massive difference between “a twisted tale of seduction” and a “rape”, and the scene in Fusion is very clearly a violation. There’s something quite disconcerting in the way that Braga describes Fusion as “a real sexy show.”

"Get off my ship."

“Get off my ship.”

As such, it does feel like Fusion could have handled the topic better. The episode has a very relaxed pace, which allows the show to savour little character moments. It’s an approach that worked well on Breaking the Ice and Cold Front, where the episode was happy to let character-driven plots play out at their own pace in the background. Here, it’s great to get scenes between Trip and Kov, or to see Archer enjoying the company of a Vulcan.

However, this causes problems when Tolaris’ true nature is revealed. The assault itself is horrifying, but there’s no sense of the aftermath. After all, one of the most harrowing aspects of an assault like that is struggling to live with it. That’s where T’Pol’s character arc really makes sense – it’s the narrative of a survivor rather than a victim. The last act of Fusion moves so fast that T’Pol barely figures in it at all. She is left to recover in sickbay while Archer rushes to her defence as he did in Shadows of P’Jem.

"By the way, I'm not going to apologise for pressuring you to spend time with a space mind rapist..."

“By the way, I’m not going to apologise for pressuring you to spend time with a space mind rapist…”

It feels like it diminishes T’Pol as a character. She is a hapless victim attacked by a predatory man who is fended off by the show’s heroic male captain. Where does T’Pol go from here? What are the lasting effects? How does she pull herself together? As with The Andorian Incident, another episode with a final act packed too densely, Fusion eventually gets a follow-up story. Still, it feels like Fusion could have been structured better. There are a lot of elements that really should have been dealt with inside the context of this episode, or in an episode immediately following. Once again, Enterprise‘s episodic structure proves a burden.

(That said, there is some sense that the writers are trying. Fusion is packed with minor references and shout-outs to early episodes, creating a sense that the show is trying to cultivate a sense of inter-episode continuity. “We’ve noticed the High Command looking over our shoulders on several occasions as well,” Tavin admits to Archer, evoking Breaking the Ice. Trying to convince Archer to help a senior Vulcan reestablish contact with his son, Forrest references Shadows of P’Jem, “The High Command let you keep your Science Officer. It wouldn’t hurt to return the favour.”)

Mind over matter...

Mind over matter…

Perhaps the most interesting contribution that Fusion makes to T’Pol as a character is the acknowledgement that she is an exceptionally emotional Vulcan. After all, her sniping at Trip in Unexpected suggested that T’Pol wasn’t quite as emotionless as she might claim to be, and her interactions with Hoshi in Sleeping Dogs suggest a sympathy for somebody struggling to reign in their emotions.

While Tolaris may be a predatory mind rapist, his reading of T’Pol is quite convincing. “Your emotions are much closer to the surface than other Vulcans,” he tells her. “They’re easier to read.” He astutely points out that she has quite a pointed sense of humour. In her dreams, T’Pol remembers sneaking out of the Vulcan consulate so that she might immerse herself in human culture, clearly responding to some inner yearning.

Out of the blue...

Out of the blue…

It’s worth noting here that the Enterprise writing did consider explaining T’Pol’s somewhat emotional behaviour. On the commentary to Shadows of P’Jem, Mike Sussman recalls that he pitched an idea around that aspect of her character:

What was so special about her? Why could she fit in among the crew when nobody else could? Of course, I had my own ideas about where to take that in future seasons that didn’t quite see the light of day. I had a secret plan to reveal that she was Romulan… half-Romulan, rather, because we never met her father. That remained undone.

That is another one of the many tantalising glimpses at what Enterprise may have become beyond its fourth season.

This is your brain on meld...

This is your brain on meld…

As it stands, it is interesting to see that not all Vulcans are equally adept at suppressing their emotions. While the show would occasionally push this idea a little too hard – most notably during the third season – it does add a great deal of depth to T’Pol as a character. It also serves to distinguish T’Pol from the franchise’s other Vulcan regular characters – from Spock on the classic Star Trek and from Tuvok on Voyager.

Spock tended to over-compensate with cold logic to make up for his human half, eventually reconciling both halves of his personality in the films. In contrast, Tuvok was portrayed as a Vulcan very much in control of his emotions. Indeed, Tuvok’s central conflicts typically stemmed from being too in control of emotion, and unwilling or unable to understand how it complicates matters. He did not allow his loyalty to Janeway to temper his decision-making in Prime Factors, he was unable to comprehend random violence in Meld, he was unwilling to even acknowledge attraction and affection in Gravity.

Joined at the docking port...

Joined at the docking port…

Fusion is a mess of an episode. It has a lot of interesting ideas, but it bungles most of them quite badly. It’s a story that feels particularly mean-spirited and reactionary, and one that continues the show’s difficulties with T’Pol as a character. There is a wealth of clever concepts here, but the show isn’t quite sure what to do with any of them.

You might be interested in our other reviews of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise:

13 Responses

  1. It did bother me back in ’01 that the Enterprise Vulcans were a race of jerks, but not so much for continuity reasons as it was because I saw they were being used as Straw Vulcans – a race of pig-headed people who needed to be wrong so that humans could be right. There was an element of xenophobia and anti-intellectualism in the portrayal of Vulcans which the show seemed unwilling to engage with.

    Why did these Vulcans remain on Earth after First Contact, amongst the humans they care so little about? If they lived in Kirk’s Trek (the “alien graveyard” you’ve identified) it would make sense for them to reach out to one of their few starborn-brethren, but Archer’s Trek seemed just as populous with diverse warp-faring species as Picard’s Trek was. Had every other race in the Trek universe simply changed their locks to keep the race of sanctimonious wet blankets from crashing on their sofas?

    • I just have this wonderful image of Soval on Vulcan working the phone system. “No, the Naasicans are not calling us back. Nor the Talarians. The Children of Tama told us ‘Kramer and Jerry in the apartment’ and then hung up.”

  2. “If that is the case, why bother exploring?”

    Pretty damming.

    The most obvious answer (and I think most Americans would agree) is colonialism. Humanitarianism is a zero-sum game. When one group gains, other groups must lose. Consequently, each culture seek to dominate/assimilate others to protect their own interests.

    I’m more curious than ever to see how the next Trek film will present the Borg. Or maybe the Federation is more familiar and thus preferable.

    • I can’t help but think the Borg are inevitable in the reboot. They are arguably the most iconic piece of nineties Star Trek, and deservedly so. The franchise went to that particular well once too often, but it is easy to see the appeal.

      It is interesting how Enterprise avoid the idea of explicit colonisation and colonialism. I think Terra Nova is the only human colony they visit? I know that they develop a fleet and visit Cold Station 12, but the show never really explores the idea of Archer and his crew carving out the cosmos for a rapidly-expanding human race. (Although, understandably, that would bring potentially uncomfortable aspects of the Star Trek mythos to the fore.)

      (As opposed to, say, Deep Space Nine treating New Bajor as a minor recurring idea in its first two seasons or Voyager discovering a transplanted human colony in The 37’s.)

      • I dont know, I think Star Treks tolerance and humanism are its strongest aspects and that iterations like Enterprise largely ditched it to their peril

  3. I saw this episode very differently than you did.

    To me, it seemed as if Kov was supposed to contrast with Tolaris. Tolaris is a creepy user, but Kov is a sweet and simple explorer. Failing to repress their emotions allows them to let out whoever they really are. In the case of a bad man (Tolaris), that means he gets to be actively evil, but in the case of a good man (Kov), that means he gets to freely explore things that other Vulcans would not be able to. Failing to repress their emotions isn’t all good OR all bad; it’s bad only when the person doing it is bad. This is true of any freedom — for example, some people use freedom of speech for art and education, whereas the Ku Klux Klan uses it to spread hatred and bigotry.

    Also, that line about liking to spend time with one’s own kind should be understood in context, and the context is that T’Pol has been on a majority-human ship for six months. Spending time with her own kind isn’t something she should always want forever; it’s a vacation from being the only Vulcan on the ship. Given all that T’Pol has had to put up with over the past six months, I don’t think it says anything negative about her character that she’d like to spend two DAYS with Vulcans.

    I was interested to hear that mind melding was a technique no longer practiced among Vulcans. That’s a good way of allowing the show to have a Vulcan officer without using her ability to meld to get out of every difficulty communicating with other races; that opens up some story possibilities that an active melder on board would close off. The writer in me approves, even as the Spock-lover in me misses mind melds. 🙂

    But then, I’m a clinical psychologist in real life, so trying to figure out what other people are thinking and how their minds work is pretty much my life’s work; I guess it makes sense that I absolutely adore mind melds and wish I could experience one (with Spock or Tuvok, not with Tolaris!)

    • That’s a fair point.

      But I think that the wanting to spend time with her own kind line has to be read in context. In the wake of 9/11, which is rippling into the show already, Enterprise flirts with the idea of isolationism. Without spoiling too much, the second season of Enterprise seems openly hostile to the idea that two radically different cultures can ever actually bond, a theme that is restated time and time again over the year. (It’s actually exhausting and uncomfortable. Sorry, I’m really not selling it, am I?)

      Yeah, a lot of Star Trek fans didn’t like the mind meld retcon. I kinda liked it, if only because the mind meld seems a particularly strange cultural quirk; an incredible intimacy, but one that hasn’t always been used for good. (I’m thinking of mirror!Spock’s meld with McCoy in Mirror, Mirror, or Spock forcing the information from Valeris in The Undiscovered Country.) I can understand why a culture would be wary of that. And I like the idea that if the Vulcans in Enterprise are a pre-utopian civilisation, they have to EARN that kind of intimacy. (They have to prove they deserve it, which I’m not entirely sure they do in the first few seasons of Enterprise.)

      • I wouldn’t read too much into it. I like to travel but I still like to stick around after awhile with people I can relate to, “my own kind” if you will

      • I know, but it’s kinda surprising for a show about the joys of exploration to hit this point about half-way into its first year. It’s something to explore it two or three years in, but to make it your default position… seems wrong to me.

  4. I liked this episode quite a bit. I don’t think it’s reactionary. I think the episode goes out of it’s way to shine a light on the positive and negative aspects of these Vulcans’ alternative path. Two of the three are far more sympathetic than the typical Vulcans we’ve seen so far. Kov isn’t chastised by his friends for reaching out to his parents, the framing is more reminiscent of a religious parent disowning a gay child. It’s somewhat problematic how susceptible T’Pol was to being groomed, but honestly this episode has better sexual politics than many Trek episodes, and Jolene Blalock has always played T’Pol’s deep emotional reservoir so well that I can see her being interested in their way of life.

    • Maybe. It might be worth another look. I suspect my impression might have been qualified by the direction in which they subsequently take the story thread.

  5. Psycho-sexual climax? You made it up. She just forcibly breaks contact, and he rolls back on the floor… Actually, I think it is even interesting that Tolaris appears not to be interested in her sexually. Especially when compared to her dream about him. And the same goes for Unexpected – where the attraction of the woman to Trip wasn’t leading to anything sexual as we perceive it. Despite the all to tight cloths of T’pol and the ridiculous decon scenes, the show actually surprises me on the good side with it’s complex approach to it. If Tolaris would actually try to assault her sexually, or at least express a desire to do so, it would have been way to expected. Instead he is after something quite different, and when put in contrast of how attractive sexually T’pol is presented, It’s interesting and “alien” to see how that’s not the object of his pursuit.

    Also it is interesting to compare T’pol’s very erotic dream – the result of a single night without meditation – with Cov’s statements that Vulcan males mate once every seven years. Perhaps it is somewhat of an attempt to put a (very exaggerated) mirror to humanity, in which the males are perceived as having a much more close to the surface sexual drive, than women.

    • Each’s own. All one can do is make an argument for a particular interpretation of a scene. I don’t think it’s a reach to read that sequence as a stand-in for sexual assault, particularly how its played between the two actors. But obviously the whole point of a metaphor is that it’s not explicit and is open to interpretation.

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