Star Trek Enterprise: Fight or Flight

Hoshi: "This isn't exactly the place you came from, but it's close enough. It's not hard to adapt. You're gonna do just fine here."

By nature I love brevity: Enterprise's second episode provides a deeper and better look at three of the main characters that we didn't get to know too well in the pilot – Hoshi, Phlox, and Reed. All the characters have different perspectives on every situation, and the story's main conflicts come from the simple clash of these different ideas. Except Travis. Travis doesn't get a perspective. Poor Travis.

'Fight or Flight' opens on Hoshi, staring into a glass case containing a slug. As she begins talking with Dr. Phlox, we learn she took the creature (nicknamed Sluggo) from a planet they visited. Sluggo is not adapting well to her new environment, however, and Phlox is struggling to keep her alive. Right away, the episode establishes a connection between Hoshi and Sluggo, drawing a parallel in the audience's minds.

This parallel will be of paramount importance throughout the episode. Hoshi's struggle to adapt to life aboard the Enterprise, out in the great unknown, is mirrored by Sluggo's difficulties adapting to her new situation aboard the same vessel, in the same vast open darkness. The various scenes regarding Sluggo and her plight are peppered throughout the episode, only reinforcing this strong connection.

From the episode's beginning, we see Hoshi's difficulties in adjusting to her new life. In the pilot, we saw her insecurities in miniature, and we got a very brief sketch of her overwhelming discomfort with the situations she was being put into. But here, Hoshi's problems are brought to a head. Throughout the episode, Hoshi reminds us of the many problems she is encountering that make her feel uncomfortable aboard Enterprise. The stars outside her window are going the wrong way, and she can't sleep. The EV suits give her claustrophobia. These are all little things, easily fixed, but they make a big difference to Hoshi, and every one adds to her sense that she doesn't belong.

This escalates when she joins an away team aboard a disabled alien vessel. The creepy atmosphere is established right off the bat by the low lighting and the shifting dutch angles the director chooses. But also present in this scene is the competence Hoshi really does have. She notices the ladder and deduces that the aliens are bipeds, when nobody else thought of that. Then she finds the aliens, dead and hanging from the ceiling. This sends Hoshi into panic mode, backed up by the extended crescendo of the music. That's in contrast to the detached and calm reactions of both Reed and Archer. Hoshi's conclusion is that she's too insecure to be useful in situations like this.

But, of course, Hoshi is only an ensign. Dr. Phlox reminds her that she hasn't had much experience, and that everyone is strongly affected by the sight of their first dead body. Even still, the trauma of the experience, and even more so her less-than-professional reaction to it, causes Hoshi to reconsider her position aboard Enterprise. She recalls with fondness the days she spent teaching back on Earth. But here, too, we see exactly why she should be out here. Hoshi is insatiably curious about the new things they will encounter out in space. She is excited to think of all the new languages she will encounter, and the many possibilities for communication there are out in the vast unknown. Hoshi is a true inquisitive scientist, but still she can't see why she is exactly the right person for this mission of exploration.

Dr. Phlox shares some of Hoshi's curiosity about new things, but he carries none of the fears or insecurities deeply ingrained in Hoshi's character. Phlox is extremely open and interested in other cultures, and he wants to learn and notice all he can. This does, however, lead him to occasionally cross over into sticking his nose in others' business. Phlox's curiosity is different from Hoshi's. Where Hoshi is excited about the new possibilities in communication that could result from contact with other species, Phlox simply wants to know everything about people, and this happens to include their culture. This can be seen even in his interest in Hoshi's plight. He really wants to know everything about Hoshi that he can, and he observes things in her that she doesn't see in herself. Now, this is entirely innocuous on Phlox's part – he carries no ulterior motive – but others may not see it this way. Phlox's curiosity might very well get him into trouble one of these days, and I look forward to seeing what happens when it does.

Lieutenant Reed is all about preparing for trouble in this episode, continuing his character's path from the pilot. Reed's project here is the alignment of the ship's targeting scanners. The scanners are only the next thing in a long line of problems with the ship's weapons systems. As the pilot showed us, Reed gets frustrated with such difficulties, and he can't abide by this issue with the scanners. Reed is determined to fix this, and he is devoted to this task for the episode's duration. The episode serves to reinforce our sense of who Reed is. Once he gets focused on a task, Reed will single-mindedly work on it until he's done. Reed is unwaveringly devoted to his duty, and it shows.

There's a scene here that I want to highlight, even though it doesn't involve the three characters whose perspectives the episode follows. It's the dinner scene, where Archer, T'Pol, and Trip have a meeting over a meal. This scene illustrates beautifully the different perspectives of the crew here, even though, again, they're not our main ones. We have Trip's enthusiasm about exploration and his impatience to get to it. We see T'Pol's strict adherence to protocol and her reservations about trying new methods. And we have Archer's guilt over leaving the alien crew behind, and his internal struggle between the protocol he knows he should follow and the conscience that demands he help people in need. What we find is that even though Phlox and Reed aren't a part of this scene, their perspectives are represented by the characters who are. Trip is a Phlox, excited and enthusiastic to try new things. T'Pol is a Reed, rigid and by-the-book. T'Pol's principles, which play into her point of view, are also a factor. It's beautifully complex, with multiple valid perspectives, and I really can't explain it any further. You have to watch the scene yourself to really see what's going on in it.

This brings us to the climax of the episode, which brings Hoshi's issues to a head. Archer's moral pondering has led him to return Enterprise to the disabled ship. They head over and Hoshi tries to translate the alien database in order to send out a distress call. At this point she reveals to Trip that she's decided to return to Earth and go back to teaching. Trip can't believe she'd give up this opportunity to explore the unknown. This is because he really can't understand the fear she's going through. Here the aliens that disabled the vessel return, this time after the Enterprise. The away team immediately returns to the ship, and Reed tries to fire his torpedoes. It doesn't work, and the Enterprise is quickly subdued. Then another ship arrives, from the same species as the disabled ship. The alien aboard it has received the distress call Hoshi sent, and he wants to know what's going on. Hoshi tries, through the translator, to send the message that the ship attacking them is the one responsible for the distress their friendly vessel was in, but only succeeds in making the situation worse. Don't use the translator, Archer says, just talk to him.

Hoshi refuses, afraid she'll mess things up even more, and here we see her insecurities take over once more. Hoshi believes she can't do her job because she reacts poorly under pressure. Her unprofessional performance in extreme situations gives her the illusion that she's incompetent. We know, of course, that she's not, but Hoshi needs to know that. What's interesting is that it takes T'Pol's voice, along with Archer's, to convince her. T'Pol has been less than approving of Hoshi's response to the danger they're facing, but when it counts, she believes in Hoshi's abilities. That knowledge fuels the still-terrified Hoshi, and she starts talking to the alien. She manages to convince him to help them, and the ship fires on their aggressor. Adding to this a well-placed shot from Reed's torpedoes, now calibrated, the attacking ship blows up.

Hoshi's success here is what it takes to show her that she belongs on the Enterprise, and she makes the decision to stay. And in the episode's closing moments, she finds closure for her parallel, Sluggo. Before dropping the creature off in the planet they've found for her, Hoshi gives Sluggo some final words that show how far she's come and echo her journey in this episode. That's good writing.

 Pensees:

-Not a whole ton of guest stars in this one. Just the dead aliens, the alien at the end, and whatever background crewmen aboard Enterprise showed up.

-Archer's floor squeaks. This appears in one scene, then is never again mentioned. I guess it'll be showing up again.

-The torpedoes show up like actual torpedoes, rather than the flare-like colored light usually used on Trek.

-Porthos reacts badly to cheese. Archer feeds it to him anyway.

-You can really tell how inexperienced the whole crew is. Archer forgets first contact protocols. Hoshi is insecure about the unknown. Only T'Pol is knowledgable about serving on a starship. And I guess Travis. Except he doesn't ever get to share knowledge. Poor Travis.

-I liked that the shuttlepod docked upside down. A nice reminder that not everything needs to be oriented the same way in space.

-Is it just me, or did the alien ship look distinctly Dominion? I wouldn't be surprised if they reworked the set of the Jem'Hadar Bug Ship from DS9 for this episode.

-There's a new closing theme, rather than just the instrumental of the opening theme. It sounds a lot better.

Strange New Worlds:

-We went to an unnamed planet that had an atmosphere that could support Sluggo. And Hoshi had to have gotten Sluggo from somewhere, so they must've been to another planet earlier.

New Life and New Civilizations:

-We met the Axanar, the new friendly species. Nobody of that species has shown up before in Trek, but the planet Axanar was the site for a major battle won by Garth of Izar. The fan film Star Trek: Axanar, the subject of a lot of controversy lately, postulated that it was a battle in Starfleet's war with the Klingons.

-There was another alien species, but we never found out who they were because the ship got blown up.

-Enterprise's first first contact was with an alien slug.

Maybe I'm biased because I love Hoshi, but I really liked this one.
5.5 out of 6 unique, non-Travis perspectives

Quotes:

Trip: "We've been out here for two weeks, and the only first contact we've made is with a dying worm."

Archer: "C'mon, Travis. We've got to find Mr. Reed something to blow up."
I'll bet you all of Porthos' cheese that will consist of Archer finding something for Mr. Reed to blow up, and Travis sitting at the helm doing nothing and saying nothing important.

Phlox: "Humans are so unpredictable. Have you seen the quantities of food Crewman Namod consumes?"
Trip: "Not really."
Phlox: "Have you smelled Ensign Socorro after she exercises?"
Trip: "Uh..."
Phlox: "She gives off a fragrance like the adrenal gland of a Nausicaan. And Crewmen Bennett and Hayden over there – Do you see them? If I'm not mistaken, they are preparing to mate. Do you think they might let me watch?"
Um, no, Phlox. No I do not.

Trip: "Maybe we should go have a look."
T'Pol: "If you insist on allowing your curiosity to dictate your actions."
Archer: "We insist."

Hoshi: "Every inhabited world we come to is going to be filled with language. Some will have hundreds of them. He needs me here."

Travis: "..."

--
CoramDeo is of Bajor.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

This is a terrific review, CoramDeo. You completely brought this episode back for me. I remember how frustrated I initially was with Hoshi, but how this episode brought me along with her realization that this exploration thing is what she was meant to do.

Bert said...

I remember liking this episode a lot, especially the fact that we never find out who these attacking aliens are. The threat felt very real.

Great review!