Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Fight or Flight"

**1/2

Air date: 10/3/2001
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm a translator. I didn't come out here to see corpses hanging on hooks."
"It goes without saying that you're going to encounter the unexpected."
"Not corpses on hooks."

— Sato and Phlox

In brief: Average fare. Not bad on the character level; the plot is largely forgettable but nicely functional.

"Fight or Flight" doesn't do much for me one way or the other. It works on some levels that are important, but as an hour of entertainment I find it to be simply average, nothing more or less.

We're still feeling out the characters at this point, and I guess that's why it's a good thing this is a show pitched primarily as a character-perspective piece: We have one character's main problem — Hoshi Sato's fears of her new, prolonged deep-space assignment — and much of the story is filtered through what she experiences.

Early on she discusses with Dr. Phlox her apprehension about living in space. At heart, she's a linguist, not a space pioneer. She'd rather be teaching than sitting at a starship console. But on the other hand, out here she has an unprecedented opportunity to encounter all sorts of completely new languages. (Plus, it can't hurt the ego being one of the captain's assets.)

It would seem Hoshi is not one who easily accepts change. There's a scene where she asks Captain Archer if she can switch quarters to the other side of the ship because she's used to seeing the stars in her window move in the opposite direction. A request like that makes you wonder about a person's toughness — although I'll be the first to say it will be nice if not everyone on this show is tough. This sort of space travel is, after all, a new thing for these people.

The Enterprise comes across a vessel dead in space. Scans for life are inconclusive. Against T'Pol's recommendations, Archer decides to take a small party to board the ship. Among his party is, of course, young Ensign Sato, who is not particularly looking forward to a dark, mysterious away mission. She tries to convince Archer to replace her, but Archer needs a translator for anything that might resemble a first-contact situation. I guess I should point out that Hoshi's apprehensions here display character continuity from "Broken Bow," where she was constantly nervous and on-edge.

Also among this episode's goals is tackling the certain-to-be-ongoing subject of Archer and T'Pol and their disagreements. What we have here is a fundamental difference in motive and nature: Archer is an explorer who believes certain risks are worth taking, while T'Pol seems relatively bloodless and willing merely to chart empty space. Vulcans aren't interested in exploring in the sense that humans are, she notes. Well if that's the case, then why are the Vulcans even out in space? Is it because they want to be control freaks and make sure the galaxy stays stable enough to conform to their purely logical outlook? "Broken Bow" presented Vulcans who were little more than arbitrary obstacles for humanity, and I can't say I really understand the notion here that space travel is done for purely "logical" and not explorative purposes. (Some of these attitudes make me wonder why the Vulcans didn't just become isolationists.) I think this series will have a fine line to walk in portraying the Vulcans; they seem much more stodgy and obstinate than the Vulcans of the 23rd and 24th centuries, and I wonder if that's an arbitrary characterization or something that will be dealt with.

The plot involving the ship floating adrift is functional more than it is imaginative or interesting. Archer's boarding party finds nothing but the corpses of its crew, hooked up to machines that are pumping fluids from their bodies.

Hoshi screams at the gruesome sight. Later, back on the Enterprise, she beats herself up for her moment of fear, and says to Phlox: "I'm a translator. I didn't come out here to see corpses hanging on hooks." Linda Park does a good job of creating a vulnerable young ensign as well as hitting the right notes in the appreciated fact that she knows (and is somewhat discouraged by) her own weaknesses and limitations.

I also was interested in Archer's actions through the story. He takes T'Pol's suggestion of leaving behind the dead alien ship, whose killers apparently will be back for them — probably a fight not prudent to be caught in the middle of. But later Archer finds himself increasingly appalled by what has happened, and dissatisfied with his response to the situation. He's determined to go back and see if there's some way to find this crew's homeland and ensure that the dead are properly laid to rest. Scott Bakula is good with the speechmaking; Archer seems to be making points to Tucker and T'Pol as if also trying to use his disgust as a self-motivation for action.

This leads to a conflict where the Enterprise's performance under fire is tested right alongside Hoshi's, as she must decipher the alien language and use it to communicate to another captain who has come across his people's dead crew, while the perpetrators of the crime simultaneously attack the Enterprise. (We never learn who these perpetrators are, because they're faceless devices used to drive the action.) I liked the confusion and chaos conveyed by this sequence. Hoshi is unsure what she's even translating but must try to convey a convoluted message nonetheless; she very literally becomes the ship's only hope in a situation of increasing desperation.

Meanwhile, I find it interesting how the Enterprise finds itself completely outmatched: Not only are the ship's computer translators only partially effective, the defensive systems are relatively crude (earlier in the show, a weapons test shows trial and error at its finest).

And yet it all seems a little too routine. I honestly don't have that much of substance to say about "Fight or Flight." It's a lightweight offering that inspires little in terms of analysis and left me largely unmoved. At the same time it's certainly adequate in its attempts to showcase at least one of the supporting characters (though I could've done without the alien slug as a metaphor for Hoshi being out of her element, a notion so obvious it borders on silliness). And the episode fares reasonably in showing a lower-tech Trek at work, with a human crew on the low end of the galactic totem pole.

Note: Enterprise has elected to use the more common network-style four-act story structure, abandoning the five-act structure used throughout the runs of TNG, DS9, and Voyager.

Next week: Planet LSD.

Previous episode: Broken Bow
Next episode: Strange New World

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13 comments on this review

Josh - Tue, Oct 9, 2007 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
Should Archer have gone into the adrift alien ship? It seems to me to be a total lack of respect, and I find myself agreeing with T'Pol. That being said though, I'm glad Archer went. I like how the captain doesn't always make the right decisions. Space exploration is new and it shouldn't be easy. As an afterthought, the slug would have no natural predators on the planet they dropped it off on. In fifty years would that planet be overrun by slugs? If so I hope the Ferengi find it.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Wed, Sep 24, 2008 - 2:23am (USA Central)
Not a bad first "real" episode, certainly better than e.g. "The Naked Now" or "Parallax".

@Josh: I had the same thoughts (about the slug), coming from a country (Austria) that is "overrun" by foreign (spanish) slugs who prosper due to milder climate and lack of predators.

Carbetarian - Wed, Aug 11, 2010 - 3:09am (USA Central)
I agreed with T'Pol the whole episode! Everyone else behaved like a child. I get that space exploration is supposed to be new and exciting here, and that that might lead people to act differently than a more seasoned crew. But honestly, between Archer's hissy fits and Hoshi's whining, I kept thinking "man, the vulcans should have kept them grounded for another 50 years. They obviously aren't ready! It must get tiring for T'Pol to have to spend all her time babysitting."

I decided to watch this series because I didn't think it could possibly be as bad as most Trek fans make it out to be. But, I'm beggining to understand what people were talking about. I'm only two episodes in, and I've already thought about slapping some sense into Captain Archer multiple times. He comes across as such a petulant jerk. I'm hoping he gets better with time, and that he stops treating T'Pol like she murders puppies in her spare time.

Speaking of puppies though, I do love Porthos. That dog needs more screen time in the future, because he's one of Captain Archer's few redeeming qualities to date.

And finally, I want to know what's with all the Vulcan hate in later Trek? I know the Vulcans held back the space program and generally pissed Archer off. But, really, it's weird to see such a beloved Trek alien race be the enemy so often.

I want to like this series. I can see the potential here. But, all of these people need to grow up a lot. They also need to spend more time listening to T'Pol. She may be cold and a bit boring, but she isn't going off like some half cocked frat boy all the time like Archer either; and that can only be a good thing.
Marco P. - Thu, Sep 2, 2010 - 11:22am (USA Central)
Agreeing with Jammer here: a rather lackluster episode.

It seems to me, based on the first three hours of this series, the producers/writers are trying to break the general Trek trend of "cleanliness". That is, life on board the Enterprise and space exploration is treated in more of a "messy" way: the weapons systems have to be calibrated, the universal translator doesn't work half the time, and aliens are found dead on board their spaceship, in what appears to be gruesome fluid "harvesting" process.

Now I can see the attempt to refresh the franchise. Unfortunately so far, it's a bit of a hit & miss. And like Jammer said, beyond the characterization of Hoshi there's not much meat left in this episode, because the plot is largely forgettable.

Especially since the epilogue scene, rather than focusing on the alien races features Hoshi releasing her slug into nature. Weird.
Cloudane - Sun, Apr 17, 2011 - 12:25pm (USA Central)
It's far too early to cast judgement on the series. 2 episodes doesn't tell us much. Though I've heard it does take 2 *seasons* to get good ;)

The slug business was a bit meh, but it's encouraging to see possible character development (again, difficult to tell this early) with Hoshi. Heck I'd say she's already grown more in one episode than Harry Kim did in 7 years...
Michael - Fri, Oct 21, 2011 - 7:42am (USA Central)
Aight, well, not bad. The so-called captain is a dud: Emotional, infantile, impulsive. If he'd been in the military, he'd never have risen above a private and would've spent most of the time on latrine duty.

He WAS right to board the moribund vessel though, IMO. Why would it be disrespectful?? Would you walk on by past a car wreckage just because you couldn't immediately see if there is a driver and if he/she is all right?

The end was too easy and happened too quickly. I hate it when everything on a show gets resolved in the final five minutes (N.C.I.S. is another such culprit).

I'm warming up to Hoshi, and Dr. Neelix doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as I thought he would be. I wish they'd accept T'Pol for who and how she is, and not try to change her the way they kept on doing with Seven in ST:V.
Paul York - Sat, May 12, 2012 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with T'Pol's caution and the entire Vulcan position ... space is a dangerous place and the human spirit of curiosity pictured here is not adequately tempered by reason or wisdom. Here is a small example from this episode: they take a slug from one planet, Hochi feels guilty for trapping it in a box and causing its poor health, then she deposits it on another planet where it represents an invader species that could very well endanger the local flora and fauna (the cane toad or pine beetle or zebra mussel). In terms of the A plot for this episode Archer gets out of the situation in the nick of time, but if the 2nd ship had not got there in time or had not been able to destroy the aggressors or had continued to misunderstand Hochi the entire Enterpirse crew would be hanging from meathooks and having their bodily fluids drained. Was Archer's curiosity and his moral code of concern for the dead so important as to take that kind of risk with the lives of others? He comes across as reckless and irresponsible. Of course he will survive because it's a tv show, but one can imagine that in real, future first contact situations in space the crew might not be so lucky.

Far more is served by charting stars and following safety protocols than taking such risks. And why "interfere" with these people but not the people in the episode called "Doctor" where the cure for an epidemic is discovered by the doctor? Archer's decision making seem arbitrary and inconsistent at best.

Lastly, why refer to the bile of black bears and rhino horns and then distinguish this from "people" - meaning the murdered aliens? Because bears and rhinos have not developed complex technologies, does that mean they are not people? In fact they are people of a kind -- just not human people -- similar to the reptilian aliens. The definition of "people" needs to expand to include all sentient, intelligent species whose members are distinct individuals.
David H - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 12:24am (USA Central)
Am starting my third trip through these episodes, and I seem to enjoy the series more each time. I thought this was an excellent epieode. The whole point of Enterprise is showing how we first got out into space, without protocols, without a Prime Directive, without weapons that always locked on their targets, or translators that always worked.

The fact that some are criticizing the episode because Archer didn't do what they thought was right- that's the idea. He's doing his best to follow his conscience, in a universe where that may not always be the wise thing to do.

I do weary of Jammer's faint prsise reviews - "functional," "average," etc. Not every episode can be Best of Both Worlds. As a character piece when we're still getting to know characters, as a depiction of mankind's first voyages into unknown territory, and as an exploration of the moral and ethical issues that are always part of the Star Trek DNA, "Fight or Flight" was everything I could have hoped for. 3.5 stars.
Strider - Fri, Aug 24, 2012 - 12:50am (USA Central)
This is my first time through this series, so I'm still reserving judgment on it. I thought the hanging alien corpses were very creepy, and I loved it when the doctor explained that the Enterprise humans were being scanned by the hostile aliens and they probably found some valuable elements in their blood.

I also liked that Hoshi was brilliant, but unsure of herself, and not sure she could make her skills work in this situation.

So far I hate the character of T'Pol. She doesn't come off as logical, but as adversarial and disdainful. She seems to oppose things just to oppose them--no matter what Archer says, she'll have some "Vulcan" reason for objecting. She presents herself as logical, but she really just seems contrarian. I don't think that's the species-character shown by Spock, Sarek, and the other Vulcans we saw in TOS.
CeeBee - Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - 8:22pm (USA Central)
Archer _is_ a bad captain and a bad leader, by any standard.

Contrary to what people think, as a leader you don't do whatever you please, you allow the people around you to excel at what they do. Archer listens to literally no one. He discards the advice of his science officer, and jeopardizes crew and humankind. He scoffs at his security officer for doing his job: deciding what kind of protection they need on an away mission.

And all characters are written as borderline idiots, not to mention Starfleet which sends out a spaceship without even the most basic of protocols.

Archer is an impulsive nut job. He likes to insult his science officer because she is a Vulcans, and he hates Vulcans. He is nothing but a racist.

The science officer T'Pol is right all the time, but an arrogant prick. Arrogance is an emotion, Vulcans repress their emotions, they don't express them. But I must admit: Vulcans are written as obnoxious obstacles in this series.

The chief engineer is a little kid, whining to go with his buddy instead of doing his job he's asked to do.

The armory officer is a danger to his surroundings by wanting to blow up everything instead of using common sense or electronics to open a hatch.

The comm officer isn't a teacher by nature, as Jammer suggests, but a starfleet officer. She went through a starfleet training and education for years, to join, umm, to... what's the purpose of STARfleet, again? Yeah, right, to teach gibberish clicking sounds in the jungle. Or was it about SPACE and SPACE EXPLORATION?
"I went to medical school but I faint the moment I see a drop of blood." That was a good decision.

And Phlox is a creep. Did you see that scene in the mess hall with Tucker?

I know it's a story, but I wonder why aliens would search other aliens to pump them out for their body fluids. I think it's utterly ridiculous. A civilization able to cross space has access to such vast command of energy and technology it would be idiotic to harvest it in space instead of creating it at home. But again, that's just a nitpick.

An actual depiction of life in space would be boring as hell for the spectator. Like watching astronauts preparing for an EVA aboard the ISS. Talking about protocols and common sense, we should Archer force to look at those preparations for an hour or so, together with his superiors back home. That should teach them a few basics.

At the end there's no indication of a learning curve. Archer has just escaped mass annihilation and a possible attack on Earth but will continue to ignore and humiliate T'Pol.
Now that is a good premise for the prequel the producers told it would be.

A few episodes in Enterprise have shown the potential of a prequel show, in which people learn from mistakes and other things that happen of don't happen, and explain why the so called "future" star trek inhabitants behave like they behave.
After all, the audience didn't come up with the prequel idea. The producers did. And after saying that, they did everything to ridicule their own premise. I wonder why you would blurt out such nonsense in the first place if you knew you weren't going to stick to your own ideas.

Regardless of that, the show looks great. The CGI is still amazing even for today's standards.

I'm not much into "canon" and "star trek bible". But I ofter have the feeling that there was so much possible and so little opportunity grabbed. Often I feel cynicism thinking about what Enterprise could have been. Too bad.
Shane - Mon, Apr 1, 2013 - 5:44pm (USA Central)
What is the point of the malevolent aliens leaving the hydraulic machines and the dead crew on their own ship adrift in space where a human ship commanded by an idiot can stumble across them? If the bad aliens are processing the blood for their own uses why not just take the bodies with them and do the work on the go? No need to come back, no chance of your meal or whatever being scavenged. Plot convenience = TV suck.
Dusty - Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
Archer was so childish in this episode. I agreed with T'Pol the entire time. Everything she said was correct, and by going against her advice Archer nearly got them all killed. Does he apologize? Nope.

The part where they explored the dead ship was pretty cool, though. An average episode, but like all the other ENT ones I saw, it just didn't feel like Star Trek.
Prawn - Wed, Oct 8, 2014 - 1:47pm (USA Central)
Came to post what Paul York did. Hoshi carrying on the fine human tradition of introduction of invasive species. Seeing as they never were able to establish whether it was male, female or neither, for all they know it reproduces by division and is about to destroy the ecosystem of an entire planet. *facepalm*.

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