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Star Trek: Enterprise – Cogenitor (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 April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Cogenitor is a brutally subversive gut-punch.

Coming towards the end of the second season, on the cusp of major changes to the way that Star Trek: Enterprise would be run, Cogenitor is structured as a piece of self-aware criticism of the moral methodology of the Star Trek franchise as a whole. For most of its runtime, Cogenitor plays as a stock Star Trek narrative. Confronting a perceived injustice in an alien culture he just met, Trip takes it upon himself to set things right – to make life better for an oppressed minority. His heart is in the right place; the narrative repeatedly assures us that his position is justified.

Guilt Trip.

Guilt Trip.

However, Trip’s solution to this moral dilemma is inadequate. Trip follows the standard Star Trek rule book for a situation like this – he does not cause a scene with the alien culture, instead respectfully empowering the oppressed individual by exposing them to the wonders of the universe so that they might change their world themselves. Trip exposes the eponymous cogenitor to humanist ideals and philosophy, offering his guest a new way of looking at the cosmos. It is sweet, touching and heartwarming.

Then it goes horribly wrong. Refusing to grant amnesty to the cogenitor, which had taken the name “Charles”, Enterprise warps off into the distance in search of new adventures and new opportunities. Any other episode of Enterprise would end there, but Cogenitor affords itself a four-minute coda which reveals the oft-overlooked consequences of this sort of casual meddling in the affairs of others. Through a combination of circumstances and decisions, Archer and Trip find that what should have been a triumphant humanist narrative became a tragedy.

A literal Star Trek.

A literal Star Trek.

Cogenitor feels like a criticism of the moral methodology of Star Trek; of the familiar episodic storytelling pattern that has our heroes warp away from complex situations after imposing their own morality on a culture they only just encountered. It is not too hard to imagine similar brutal twist endings or earlier Star Trek stories like The Hunted or Who Watches the Watchers? There is a sense that Cogenitor is making a none-too-subtle criticism of the assumptions that the Star Trek franchise has taken for granted over the years.

Cogenitor rejects the idea that fleeting engagement with other cultures can be sure to have the desired result. It is a point that feels particularly appropriate at the tale end of the second season of Enterprise, as the franchise was ready to make a (relatively) clean break from that kind of rigidly episodic storytelling. However, it also reflects an awareness of more nuanced and complicated political and social realities in the midst of the War on Terror. It would be nice to believe that societies can be “fixed” as easily as Kirk or Picard suggested, but the reality is decidedly more difficult.

The water polo ball is in Archer's court...

The water polo ball is in Archer’s court…

There is a lot that is really interesting about Cogenitor. The most obvious is that the episode is really just building to those final four minutes, to the point where Archer receives that communication from the Drennik. That is where the heart of Cogenitor lies; that is the part of the episode that every Star Trek fan remembers at the mention of the episode. However, it is easy to gloss over just how perfectly the previous set-up that calculated and calibrated gut-punch. Those final four minutes work because the rest of the episode sets up everything so perfectly.

After all, Cogenitor lulls the audience into the perfect false sense of security. This is really the most perfect first contact that we’ve seen on Enterprise in quite some time. It recalls the relaxed encounter with the pilgrims in Cold Front. After that first communication with the Vissans, Trip reflects, “It’ll be nice to have a first contact where no one’s thinking about charging weapons.” In fact, this tranquil and friendly first encounter is such a departure from the norm that it even serves as a suitable sting for the opening teaser.

Taking it as read...

Taking it as read…

Once the episode actually starts, Cogenitor is quite relaxed and well-paced. Although the title of the episode betrays the focus, the first act is rather relaxed and casual as our characters meet the Vissan crew and get to hang out. Recalling looser first season adventures like Breaking the Ice or Cold Front, there is a charming ease to these little plot threads. There are no stakes, no drama, no angst. Cogenitor captures the sense of exploration and novelty of those early first season episodes; a sense that the show is basking in the joy of rediscovering Star Trek tropes.

Trip doesn’t even become the driving focus of the narrative until the first act is over. Andreas Katsulas is listed as the episode’s primary guest star, and we get to see extended interactions between Drennik and Archer. Given the paranoia and insecurity that Enterprise has demonstrated over the course of its second season, it is a massive surprise when Drennik and Archer seem to get along perfectly. There is no attempt to kidnap Archer, no secret agenda, no conspiracy at play.

The gold standard...

The gold standard…

There are no false stakes in the subplot that has Archer and Drennik wandering around a star, no forced danger. Even when Archer dives into a solar flare, the script never milks it as a big dramatic moment; it’s just a cool part of space exploration and an opportunity for Archer to earn Drennik’s respect. Indeed, that subplot serves a delightful thematic purpose. “Flying into stars is a long way off for us,” Archer reflects early in the episode, making it quite clear that this is a very literal star trek for the character.

Cogenitor works quite hard to stress its connections to the larger Star Trek franchise. Although the first season could get a little heavy-handed in its referencing of stock Star Trek technologies, Cogenitor makes a number of organic and logical nods towards several technologies that other iterations the Star Trek franchise would take for granted. Veylo references photon torpedoes in conversation with Reed, while the anonymous Vissan Chief Engineer shows Trip what clearly looks like a warp core. (Regeneration then actually includes the words “warp core.”)

Warp core values.

Warp core values.

The references extend beyond technobabble. Three of the four major guest stars are all veterans of the three previous Star Trek television shows. Andreas Katsulas had the recurring role of Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation, even appearing in All Good Things… at the end of the seventh season. F.J. Rio played the recurring role of Enrique Muñiz on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Although she did not recur, Laura Interval played Seven of Nine’s mother on Star Trek: Voyager.

It is worth noting that Cogenitor is directed by Star Trek veteran LeVar Burton. A cast member of The Next Generation, Burton is one of the best ambassadors for the franchise and its legacy. His direction of Cogenitor is breathtakingly beautiful, as he luxuriates in the relaxed pace and allows the cast and ideas room to develop. Cogenitor looks beautiful, with colour bleeding into almost every frame. The glare of the star basks most scenes in a golden light, while even the warm blue glow of the Vissan engine room seems to hark back to the franchise’s history.

Pilot error...

Pilot error…

Even the teaser makes a vew nods towards the long history of Star Trek as a television franchise, and the place of Enterprise in that legacy. Staring at the sun, the crew are stunned by its raw beauty. “How long before it goes supernova?” Reed wonders. T’Pol replies, “A hundred years, maybe two.” In other words, what the crew are witnessing here will only fully blossom in the era of Kirk or the era of Picard. It is a nice way for Cogenitor to contextualise itself within the larger Star Trek framework.

Of course, there is a sense that Enterprise is still a little uncertain about its place in that legacy; the show has always seemed a little awkward about how integrated or separate it wants to be from what came before. “Too bad we won’t be around,” Archer reflects, perhaps giving voice to behind-the-scenes anxieties about the longevity of Enterprise. However, T’Pol provides some unlikely optimism. “Speak for yourself,” she instructs Archer. “I might very well be around.” There is something quite reflexive about all this; as with a lot of the late second season.

T'Pol won't ear him out...

T’Pol won’t ear him out…

These don’t feel like winks for the sake of fan service. Instead, these nods towards the future of Star Trek connect Cogenitor directly to a long thread of Star Trek history and to contextualise it as a quintessential Star Trek narrative. This is the story of the crew encountering an allegory for an existing social issue in an alien culture, and trying to engage with that issue within the context of a forty-five minute piece of television, and then warping away to continue on their business. Consider Canamar, where Archer’s solution to Enolian corruption was to complain to an Enolian official about it before storming off.

Here, Trip is horrified by the plight of the cogenitors, the Vissan third gender who are necessary for Vissan reproduction. They are traded between Vissan families looking to have children, kept in confined locations, not allowed to read; they are generally treated like property rather than people. The Vissan people would argue that the cogenitors are afforded every consideration (Charles even gets invited to visit the Enterprise!), but they enjoy no freedoms or liberties. Trip responds to this with outrage and horror; how can a culture justify treating its members like this?

Engines of change...

Engines of change…

The Vissans are an effective stand-in for just about any oppressed minority. As David Greven notes in Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek, this could be seen as a repeat of Stigma, an attempt to construct metaphors about sexuality without any meaningful engagement with non-heteronormative sexuality:

The whole question of the sweatshop-like oppression of the cogenitors, while a vital issue, has the unfortunate effect of blanching out the particularities of the cogenitor metaphor; this could be any enslaved race, any enslaved class. The “third gender” angle, initially promisingly provocative, transforms into a rote oppressed-race plot. One gets the sense again that the more literal-minded Trekkian allegory becomes, the less effective it is in queer terms.

Greven is correct in this observation, and it is hard to excuse another awkward attempt to dodge issues of gender and sexuality while claiming to broach them. Nevertheless, there are small elements here. Notably, the cogenitor is played by a female actor, but names itself “Charles”, a decision Trip respects.

Morality can be Trippy...

Morality can be Trippy…

Still the cogenitor probably works best as an example of oppressed women in certain parts of the world. Once again, Enterprise demonstrates that it is a post-9/11 version of Star Trek, as the Vissan cogenitors seem to exist as a metaphor for women in some sections of the Middle East. Most obviously, the Taliban is opposed to the education of women; in Saudi Arabia, it is considered inappropriate for a woman to go anywhere without a male chaperone. Making the cogenitors an imaginary third gender instead of the real-life second gender does little to conceal what was clearly an inspiration.

Again, there is a sense that Enterprise is engaging with contemporary political realities. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, pundits turned the state of women’s rights in the Middle East into talking points to justify foreign intervention. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” Laura Bush stated in October 2001. This was part of a concerted effort by the White House following the invasion of Afghanistan to draw attention to the plight of Afghan women.

Vis-a-vis the Vissans...

Vis-a-vis the Vissans…

Of course, the decision to frame the debate on intervention in Afghanistan as a women’s rights issue was regarded as a cynical and opportunistic move in some quarters. As Carol A. Stabile and Deepa Kumar argue in Unveiling Imperialism, there was something quite convenient about the focus on women’s rights at this particular point:

Yet until Afghan women proved rhetorically useful, their tragic circumstances merited little coverage in the mainstream media. In 1999, for example, journalists wrote only 29 newspaper articles on women in Afghanistan. From 1 January 2000 to 11 September 2001, a period of 18 months, only 15 newspaper articles appeared in mainstream US newspapers. If we compare this dearth of coverage to the 179 articles on Jenna and Barbara Bush, and 113 articles on the destruction of the Buddha statues by the Taliban that appeared during the same period, the silence around the situation of Afghan women appears even more deafening. Of course, from 12 September 2001 to 1 January 2002, 93 newspaper articles appeared – three times the number of articles that appeared in 1999 and six times the number that appeared in the 18 months before 11 September 2001.

While more attention for those suffering oppression and exploitation is always a good thing, it was interesting to wonder why similar human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia or Qatar did not concern the United States as much – or why these same concerns had not bothered the United States during their support of the Taliban in the eighties.

They're going to throw the book at him for this one...

They’re going to throw the book at him for this one…

Despite its grim ending, it is worth noting that Cogenitor seems to agree with Trip’s philosophical position. Nobody watching the episode could come away from Cogenitor believing that the Vissans had treated the cogenitor in a manner that was remotely fair. Trip even has Phlox objectively determine that Charles is no less of a person than any other Vissan. “Her synaptic density and neural mass are almost identical to the other two. Your cogenitor appears to be no more or less intelligent than the male and female.”

However, Cogenitor is not an episode about whether the way that the Vissans treat the cogenitors is morally justifiable; it is not even an episode about whether moral relativism can be said to apply to the situation. After all, Trip’s decision to reach out Charles is only part of what contributes to the tragedy; Archer’s refusal to grant Charles asylum is just as much a factor in Charles’ eventual suicide. Cogenitor is not an episode about turning a blind eye to the suffering of other people, it is an episode about the dangers of assuming a quick and clean fix is possible.



The problem is not what Trip believes, because there is no way that the audience doesn’t sympathise with him. The problem is how Trip goes about trying to fix this perceived problem. As T’Pol points out quite early in the episode, Trip doesn’t even know how to refer to Charles; there is no third gender pronoun in the English language – just the evasive “it” or “they.” Explaining the cogenitor to T’Pol, he asks, “You know what that is?” T’Pol responds, “A third gender. Why do you call it her?” Trip is facing an issue that his own language is not adequate to address.

Indeed, this recalls the oft-repeated debate over whether the War on Terror can legitimately be described as “a war”, or whether that is a misapplication of the English language that leads to all sorts of awkward confusions and undesirable assumptions. While Cogenitor accepts that Trip’s concerns are legitimate, it seems less certain about his own efforts to single-handedly resolve the problem. Trip lies to the Vissans about his visits to Charles; he exploits their trust to wander into their private quarters; he has dinner with the engineer and his wife solely for the purposes of gaining information to use against them.

Reading her rights...

Reading her rights…

It is no coincidence that Trip’s encounters with Charles are treated like an extramarital affair – something that Trip would probably find distasteful by his own standards of morality. He lies to his friends and to her family about where he is at any given moment. “I’ve got to get back,” he tells Charles after one covert rendezvous. “They think I’m at the Astrometrics lab. But I’ll see you as soon as I can.” He sneaks around, making sure that nobody sees them together. Trip doesn’t seem to think about the consequences of his actions, and they have disastrous consequences.

In many respects, Cogenitor can be read as a rejection of knee-jerk unilateral interventionism – an episode that suggests it is arrogant to assume that a simple intervention in a culture you do not fully understand will have the desired result. Intervention is seldom that clean and detached. You cannot alter an entire culture in a single fleeting engagement and assume that the result will be desired or predictable. After all, the United States did not expect its military interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq to last for over a decade and to claim so many lives.

Trying to fix a culture is harder than trying to fix an engine...

Trying to fix a culture is harder than trying to fix an engine…

The War on Terror changed the way that many Americans looked at the world. The public seemed to become more and more aware that direct foreign intervention could have unintended consequences. President Barack Obama would note as much in his address at West Point in 2014:

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution. Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences — without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required. Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.

Trying to engage so directly (and so bluntly) with a foreign culture was a complex process, and applying a simple solution could not always guarantee foreseeable results. Like Judgment before it, and like The Expanse after it, Cogenitor is a Star Trek parable for a post-War on Terror world.

A fair hearing?

A fair hearing?

Of course, this is not to suggest that the world was any less complicated before 9/11. After all, 9/11 itself was the result of a series of complicated factors that extend back through the twentieth century. Chalmers Johnson published Blowback in 2000, before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. There, he predicted that the new millennium would largely be driven by the consequences of earlier interventions:

World politics in the twenty-first century will in all likelihood be driven primarily by blowback from the second half of the twentieth century-that is, from the unintended consequences of the Cold War and the crucial American decision to maintain a Cold War posture in a post-Cold War world.U.S. administrations did what they thought they had to do in the Cold War years.

The world was no more complicated after the attacks on the World Trade Centre than it had been before; only the public perception changed. The long and drawn out conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were a shock to a nation that had witnessed the clean and clinic military interventions in Eastern Europe during the nineties.

The moral of the story...

The moral of the story…

However, Cogenitor is not just a metaphor for the complicated geopolitics of the War on Terror. It also works as a criticism of the franchise’s approach to these sorts of stories. Cogenitor is – in effect – a story about how the crew of the Enterprise cannot subvert an entire culture and then presume to continue merrily on their way. It is something with which every Star Trek outside of Deep Space Nine has struggled; a sense that it is enough to simply deliver a nice speech or make a significant gesture before wandering off on another adventure.

Did Enolian culture become any less corrupt after the events of Canamar? What happened to the Suliban and the Tandarans after Detained? To be fair to Enterprise, there have been episodes that tried to deal with the consequences of earlier adventures; Shadows of P’Jem builds off the ending of The Andorian Incident, to pick one example. However, Enterprise has largely kept to the episodic structure of The Next Generation and Voyager, ignoring larger shifts in contemporary television.

Flying too close to the sun...

Flying too close to the sun…

Cogenitor plays as a criticism of this mode of storytelling. Charles is not doomed by Trip’s decision to intervene; Charles is doomed by the combination of Trip’s intervention and Archer’s refusal to grant amnesty. It is the combination of these factors that lead to Charles’ suicide; the suggestion that the crew of the Enterprise can set limits on their engagement and intervention. That is the subtext of the final scene between Trip and Archer; although Archer chews Trip out, he knows that he is just as much to blame for what happened. “You’re not responsible,” Trip assures Archer. He gets no response.

Although Trip acted on his own authority while Archer was off the ship, Cogenitor is not framed as a particularly personal criticism of Trip. Trip argues that he was just following the example set for him. “I did exactly what you’d do, Captain,” Trip insists. Archer seems to accept that as a legitimate criticism of his style. “You did exactly what I’d do? If that’s true, then I’ve done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here.” It is telling that Archer never discounts the idea that he might have ultimately made the same decision as Trip.

“Picard never had to deal with this.”

“You know I’ve wrestled with the fine line between doing what I think is right and interfering with other species,” Archer warns Trip. “So don’t tell me you know what I would have done when I don’t even know what I would have done!” Watching Cogenitor, it is hard to argue that Trip’s goals and his methods were not broadly in line with Archer’s approach to these sorts of situations. Archer is a character firmly driven by his own morality, as shows like Judgment and The Breach attest. At its best, the show accepts the logical conflicts this creates; at its worst, it endorses his morality as absolute.

Cogenitor is another argument that the classic Star Trek storytelling model might be slightly outdated; that some of the underlying assumptions of The Next Generation and Voyager can no longer be taken for granted. It is a powerful and gutting piece of television, not least because it offers a provocative criticism of the underlying moral aesthetic of the franchise. This final stretch of the second season is quite reflective and introspective. Even if the big looming change of direction had not been officially announced before The Crossing was broadcast, there was a sense of change in the air.

Reed the romantic...

Reed the romantic…

This introspection is more than enough to compensate for the script’s weaker elements. While the subplot between Archer and Drennik provides a rather clear thematic resonance – and also an endearing sense of adventure – the subplot between Reed and Veylo feels a little more forced. Like the spelunking subplot in The Breach, it feels like the romance between Reed and Veylo is grafted into the script so as to provide a clear contrast to all the moral and philosophical material happening around it. UPN were pushing for Enterprise to become more physical and more accessible.

As with Broken Bow, Shuttlepod One and The Crossing before it, the subplot feels like a rather awkward attempt by writers (and showrunners) Rick Berman and Brannon Braga to assert Reed’s heterosexuality; just in case there was any lingering doubt. In a bizarre piece of character continuity carried over from Shuttlepod One, Cogenitor confirms that Reed is in fact a “bum” man, an observation nobody ever figured they would have to make to about a member Star Trek ensemble. The whole subplot feels more than a little juvenile and immature, distracting from an otherwise thoughtful piece.

A bright future...

A bright future…

There is also something a little disconcerting about the decision to do another “sexually assertive female” subplot as part of an episode that brushes fleetingly against more significant gender issues. In Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek, David Greven describes it as “camouflage – or compensation – for the queer issues it raises, a kind of heterosexual fail-safe.” It is a little disappointing that the closest thing the most provocative element of a plot focusing on an unconventional gender structure is the idea of a sexually empowered female guest star; Enterprise seems quite behind the curve on this account.

Still, the problems with the Reed and Veylo subplot do not distract too much; the subplot is very clearly a tertiary plot in an episode with much more going on around it. Cogenitor is a thoughtful and profound exploration of a classic Star Trek storytelling model in a contemporary context, one that dares to ask whether a old-fashioned approach to these morality tales is really feasible in the twenty-first century. Like The Crossing before it, Cogenitor suggests that the War on Terror has made it harder to tell Star Trek stories.

Quite a Captain's Mess Trip gets Archer into...

Quite a Captain’s Mess Trip gets Archer into…

However, unlike The Crossing, Cogenitor uses that realisation as a vehicle to offer an insightful and thought-provoking analysis of twenty-first century Star Trek.

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

26 Responses

  1. Great closing line.

    It was the exactly wrong time to couch the war on terror in Trek terms. It would have been pro war propaganda. But more interestingly the Prime Directive just falls apart in this period. Isolationism has taken root and there is candid talk of cutting off international aid. That was unsayable when I was a kid. So “a rock and hard place” is appropriate here.

    • Yep. It’s not as if we’ve returned to the idealism and optimism of the nienties, but it’s crazy to look back at the mood of the early years of the twenty-first century. I mean, The Crossing and The Seventh are very much pro-war propaganda stories, but they act like they are presenting nuanced and distanced perspective on this sort of event.

  2. I can easily identify with the Vissan oppression. 3%. If giving birth were exactly thirty times harder on earth we may have been extinct by now.
    Perhaps most cogenitors have almost no time in their life for anything but sexual relations? We cannot really say. Giving birth for them could even be 100s of times harder. It’s certainly hinted at by Dr. Phlox. Although having a cogenitor on a deep space mission would contradict that, the Vissian captain says they never travel far from home.

    The couple who wanted to give birth said they’d have to wait a long time for another chance with a cogenitor. What is a long time though? A year? Ten years? 100? The crew of enterprise never really knows any of this.

    Even if they were mistreating that cogenitor, and all cogenitors, and Trip wanted to fix it. Surely he could’ve waited to learn where their homeworld was before trying to fix it. If he learned where their homeworld was he could try and teach all of them to read for the rest of his life. Instead the Vissan’s are never heard from or seen again.

  3. I disagree with “The Hunted” as an example of the Enterprise imposing their moral standards. Seems to me they quite properly remove themselves from that confrontation.

    A better example would be one of the many times Kirk and co. upended a civilization’s entire society, such as “The Apple”, “A Taste of Armageddon”, and “Mirror, Mirror”.

    • Well, they opt to remove themselves from the situation only when it appears to resolve itself to what is clearly Picard’s satisfaction, the alien society forced to confront the past they’d happily bury. And then Picard warps away, with no mention of what happened after he left that room.

      Although yes, maybe “impose” is the wrong word.

      • First of all, this situation is a bit different than say the Vissians. Foremost, the Angosians were petitioning for Federation membership, which would’ve subjected them to scrutiny by Federation standards anyway. (Even if Danar hadn’t crossed paths with the Enterprise crew, one would think the issue of the veterans would’ve come up at some point regardless).

        Apart from making their disapproval known in the strongest possible manner, Picard and co. don’t attempt to *force* the Angosian government to remedy the problem (and given that he’s relaying their petition for membership, Picard WOULD have at least a bit of leverage in this situation). He abides by their request to return Danar (or at least makes every effort to).

        Beyond that, he makes it clear he has no intention of getting involved, even before Danar and the others show up.

  4. In this episode Archer is a childish asshole and Tripp is a naïve idealist. It’s the worst so-called morality writing in ANY Star Trek series ever ! Despite your in-depth but over-the-top review, which I enjoyed very much. :=), Archer leaves for 3 days playing with new toys and technologies while he leaves the responsability and morality of the mission in the hands of T’Pol (incapable of making decisions of human morality). Meanwhile Tripp makes an effort to ‘de-slave’ the third gender. And what does he get for that. A reprimande by Captain ‘violate every law as long as it is me’ Archer. I DO understand what the writers were intending with this episode, but they screwed it up majorly by putting every character out of place on practically ALL issues.

  5. Well, this cuts in two directions. In Germany meanwhile nearly any kind of crime against women is acceptable and only mildly punished if it is based on “religion” or “culture” (underage sex or “marriage”, honor killing, polygamy,harassment, rape, denial of education). If you oppose to that point of view, you are a racist or even a Nazi. Or you are narrow minded on “cultural diversity”.
    Tolerance and free relations between people are only possible, if cultures agree on a similar code of ethics.
    Suppressing personality rights in sentient beings is certainly NEVER to be excused with “duties” or culture or religion.
    So Trip was right, Archer failed in this totally.

    • Well, to be fair, both characters screw up here. They intervene without any thought about the long-term consequences, which ultimately leads to the worst possible outcome for everybody involved. I actually think it was quite a timely episode in the context of the turn of the millennium.

      And, to be fair, crimes against women are generally prosecuted lighter than those against men in multiple western jurisdictions. It is incredibly hard to get a rape conviction for example, or to punish domestic abusers, even without bringing religion into the picture. It’s something that needs to be improved across the board. After all, a man who bragged openly about sexually assaulting women in President of the United States and a man who settled several sexual harassment claims was favourite to be named Best Actor as recently as two weeks ago..

      • Rape, harassment etc. still are persecuted rather harshly (rightfully so), if European residents of christian or agnostic/atheistic belief or western culture background are the perpetrators … money or race doesn’t matter – it is predominantly religion (esp. muslim) or culture.
        This one sided development is based on a warped view of cultural diversity, which is also racist in a way, as people of other ethnic background are treated like children, where parents (western society) have to be tolerant, because our new exotic “kiddies” do not know better.
        That is why humanist groups like freemasonry insist on common ethical standards, if you want to join. Tolerance and freedom in a society or a right of developing your personal potentials can only live within certain ethical limits. Freedom for one group is the others provocation.
        And no -masonry is not misogynist, there are quite a few feminine lodges.

      • No, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but Germany didn’t even have a “no means no” rape law until the middle of last year, regardless of the ethnicity or religion of the offender, right?

        I mean:

        “The German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right, unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly,” said Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, Germany’s oldest feminist magazine. “We have a situation where … even touching the breasts or vagina can’t be punished in the logic of that law, because if the perpetrator does it very quickly, you don’t have time to resist. It seems weird and crazy, but that’s German law.”

        “If you have some perpetrator who has in the past beaten you up, beaten you to a pulp, who has been continually beating you, degrading you, demeaning you — all the things that can be, psychologically, amazingly effective — who has taken control of your bank account, taken control of your life — and if you end up forced to have sex with this guy … that doesn’t count as rape,” said Nancy Gage-Lindner, a member of the German Women Lawyer’s Association, or DJB.

        “You have to be able to show that violence has been committed against you,” Gage-Lindner said. “If you don’t in the end have any physical harm to show for it — you haven’t been ripped apart, you haven’t gotten bruises,” you’re not getting a conviction, she said.

        That doesn’t sound like it is particular to the set of religious beliefs held by the man. It sounds like it’s a broader cultural issue about how women are treated and what rights they have, rather than certain categories of male offenders getting special treatment.

        (And, I mean, having studied (and earned part of my degree in) this in other countries (Ireland and the United States), I can assure you that this is not something specific to Germany. Women always face severe challenges in securing a conviction for assaults committed upon them, largely due to institutional bulwarks and societal prejudices. Again, the leader of the free world admitted to sexual assault on tape and still overwhelmingly secured the white male (and female!) vote. There is an issue that needs to be addressed here, but it’s not that some men need to punished more severely than others, it’s that as a culture we don’t treat violence against women seriously enough.)

      • “No means no” is crap – as you’ll still have to proof that you said it loud enough …
        We have laws, that are sufficient enough against sexual violence, the problem is, judges may interpret them to their liking. We don’t have a jury – so politics are able to influence verdicts through judges.
        Laws may produce very different verdicts on the same kind of crime depending on the cultural and religious background of the perpetrator.

      • I’ve read the article.

        I don’t see any citation supporting your argument that members of religious or ethnic background of the offenders makes a noticeable difference in sentencing for serious offenses. I read a report of one specific court case in when men got off extremely lightly considering the crimes of which they are accused. There is no expert testimony from anybody with any knowledge of the field, and this an article published by a newspaper with a transparent anti-immigration slant. (This is the newspaper that let Katie Hopkins write for them. And their US editor interviewed for a position in the Trump administration, which – again – is a great example of wider culture’s tolerance of violence against women, regardless of the race or religious beliefs of the perpetrator.)

        I mean, it’s a terrible case, but you can point to any number of incidents in western courts where men have gotten slaps on the wrist for horrific crimes. The Brock Turner case is perhaps the best example. As I said, this is a feature of sexual assault cases that is in no way specific to the religion or ethnicity of the perpetrator. Again, as somebody who studied this as part of my college degree, I’d like to see actual sources for the suggestion that the ethnicity and religion of the perpetrator have an impact on the lightness of the sentence, rather than it being part of a larger cultural trend of not punishing violence against women nearly enough.

      • OK , stay blind.
        There are many sources like spiegel, focus etc. but all in German.
        And we had many sexual attacks on girls in our public swimming bath last summer, with nothing happening to the perpetrators. So people gave back their year tickets.
        From our local news (also nazi press in your opinion?)
        And as I was witness to that, I can tell you, it was even worse than the description in this article. And it happened more than on time.
        Women here, in a rather small town, now don’t go out alone in the dark or have bought pepper spray.
        Nothing at all happened to the violent men.

      • When did I use the word “Nazi”?

      • Thinly veiled euphemisms still point your allegations in this direction.
        It is always the same pseudo liberal blindness – and as an EX green party member I can tell you – they are now like a totalitarian sect, ignoring any hint of common sense – Nazi this Nazi that.
        As I have a true antifa past, my family being persecuted during this regime, I always tone them down quickly: What HAVE your Grandparents/parents done between 1933-1945? They disappear into thin air quite quickly, which should tell you something.

      • Okay then. What “thinly veiled euphemisms” did I use for “Nazi”?

      • Media that show affiliation with Trump (not many, I suppose … lol) are regarded as “Nazi” in Germany by people with a doubtful past of their own, – which is, as I said, pot calling the kettle black. Also “anti-immigrant slant” does automatically mean Nazi in our hysterical pseudo liberal media.
        Said by people who don’t know a lot of Nazi oppression, as their grandparents often were on the perpetrating side.
        They would call Trump Nazi, but don’t dare because of his jewish relations and relatives.
        He may be a bag of troublesome habits or ideas, but he is not a Nazi or a dictator.
        He can be stopped by your legislation – something not possible here.
        No common sense, no reason, hysteria is now ruling everywhere.

      • When did I call Trump a “Nazi”?

        In this specific example, I made the point that Trump has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women and faced no consequences for it. Which seems pertinent to the discussion at hand.

      • Not you were calling Trump a Nazi – it is something that pseudo liberal people were trying to do here – at least they stopped, because it would be very embarrassing.
        It’s a saying here: Stop beating the sack, go for the donkey. But this is as I said, hysteria beats everything and loses in the end because of not being taken serious anymore.
        First aim WELL, then shoot …

  6. Trip’s efforts are considered a failure because the cogenitor dies. There’s something wrong about that idea. The cogenitor is a hero for choosing death over bondage the same way that many slaves jumped into the ocean rather than be enslaved or how many died in the revolutionary war so America could be free.

  7. I liked this episode overall, and I think your review nicely explains why it works as well as it does. But I have to say, watching this in 2020, so much of the dialogue around gender feels frustratingly dated. Not one person in the episode can bring themselves to use the singular they pronoun to describe the cogenitor. Only T’Pol can even point out how odd it is for them to keep using her and she. And once again we have a non-binary character that is not being played by a non-binary actor.

    There’s also this repeated insistence that humans are a two-gendered species that drove me wild while watching this. I desperately wanted Trip to say something like “Humans used to have this concept called the gender binary. We abolished it when we realized that human sexuality is far more complex, and that enforcing traditional gender roles onto people was a form of oppression. Kind of like how your gender trinary is a form of oppression against the cogenitors.” Part of Star Trek’s utopian society that has moved past its prejudices.

    Of course, all of this is way too bold to expect from a network TV series that aired during the same time that my high school English teacher was openly mocking gender neutral pronouns, and the President of the United States was advocating for a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. But it did get me thinking about the lingering blind spots in Star Trek as a whole regarding gender and sexuality. We’ve finally had openly homosexual couples in Discovery and Picard, but we have yet to see a non-binary or transgender character. I can see some metaphors in the treatment of the Ex-B’s in Picard to the oppression of trans people, but the franchise is still not ready to go further than hinting.

    Interestingly, I think there’s a fairly easy way for Star Trek to address the existence of trans people in its universe. They could introduce a character who abandoned their assigned gender at birth, and then reveal that in fact, this is something that happens all the time. Surgery and hormone replacement are simple, accessible procedures with Star Trek medical technology. Any human character we’ve met previously could’ve had it done, and it was so ordinary as to not have needed to be mentioned.

    Anyway, watching this episode was pretty thought provoking. Each Star Trek series is reaching for the future and critiquing the past, but inevitably it also reflects the present in which it was created.

  8. Having invited this first contact species (humans) to engage and delve into their culture, a truly evolved lifeform like the Vissians would have recognized the value in having all aspects of their society examined and questioned. Perhaps then they would have acknowledged the very grave oversight of allowing an entire gender to remain enslaved and subjugated for thousands of years! The flaw in this episode is not as so many have suggested: Trip’s approach to helping the helpless. The flaw is in Archer’s refusal to grant asylum to someone requesting, who is clearly in desperate need.

  9. “there is no third gender pronoun in the English language – just the evasive “it” or “they.””

    It’s interesting to think that ‘they’ and ‘them’ have now become widely accepted pronouns to refer to those of non-binary gender. Even though I admit I originally considered it to be officially grammatically incorrect, even potentially confusing, that was before I found there were indeed uses of the term to refer to those of undetermined gender, and I have found it useful when the gender is uncertain.

    Rather than see this as an episode that deconstructed the star trek theme where intervention made things better, I saw this as another prime directive episode, albeit the interpretation given in the 24th century era, where any interference in any culture, pre-warp or not, was a bad thing, and this episode showed that.

    Mind you when first watching the episode, I thought Archer was a downright hypocrite chewing Trip out for interfering in a culture, when he’s interfered all the time. I’m surprised (Or not) that he didn’t call him out in Rajin where Archer had no problem rescuing someone from sexual slavery.

  10. I can see LeVar Burton’s fingerprints on this episode, especially in the more leisurely pacing, the close-ups on faces, and the use of colour themes in the lighting. Mood matters in this episode, due to LeVar’s personal artistic style and his familiarity with TNG’s format.

    I sometimes wish that Archer had only run into 8-10 races or so during his entire mission, but then those races were fleshed out and encounters with them had long-term ramifications. Far too many of the races in these early seasons are just one-and-done experiences. I think that is partly a hold-over from the Voyager mentality of just flying away from every event and abandoning it.

    The universe feels so crowded, it feels more like Archer is exploring a sort of cosmic metropolis rather than a frontier. He has to spend more time looking out for criminals than anything else. Picard’s ship was often busy charting regions of space, with his logs mentioning entire weeks spent simply making star charts of new regions. In Enterprise, every tiny asteroid could hide a pirate or something.

  11. Thanks s was the worst episode of Star Trek ever made. It condones sex slavery. It feels like Rick Berman (the Harvey Weinstein of Star Trek) had something to do with this episode. The Archer, I had grown to love, disappointed many of us. Slavery was wrong even when it was considered legal. And a real Star Fleet episode would fight for the rights of all living creatures. A dark stain on a wonderful franchise.

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