Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Fusion"

**1/2

Air date: 2/27/2002
Teleplay by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Rob Hedden

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Trip: "Do Vulcans dance?"
Kov: "Only when it's part of some tedious ceremony."

In brief: Intriguing isolated moments that float lost without the context of a coherent story. Perhaps that's the point?

Hmmm. I just don't know about "Fusion." There are some moments that are well directed and even have currents of convincing psychology buried in the writing and images. These are moments without the benefit of coherence. This episode is fragmented and lost. It intrigued me. It did not satisfy me. Maybe that's the point. Or maybe the writers were out to lunch. I can't say.

The Vulcans are complicated folks. That's a good thing. This episode muddles them beyond an ability to reach a satisfactory conclusion. That isn't a good thing. In Star Trek, the Vulcans have always been creatures of logic who attempt to suppress their emotions. "Fusion," however, takes the concept of emotional control to a level that apparently requires a psychology degree in order to grasp. I was left with a strange sense that the Vulcans, somewhere along the line, have either been made too complicated or too bound by the writers' increasing library of weird rules.

In "Fusion," emotions are like the forbidden fruit. The notion arises when the Enterprise comes in contact with a ship of unconventional Vulcans who do not fully suppress their emotions but instead try to integrate them into their lives, searching for the right balance. This is frowned upon by mainstream Vulcan society. T'Pol considers such outcasts' philosophies as too dangerous, with too high a failure rate. Vulcans suppress all their emotions as a matter of necessary discipline; the episode sees it as an all-or-nothing situation where those Vulcans who would try to find a middle ground are destined to become ticking time bombs who could completely lose control.

One of the Vulcans, Tolaris (Enrique Murciano), takes an interest in T'Pol and tries to convince her to experiment with their methodology. She initially resists but finds herself intrigued. Eventually she decides to trust him and opens herself to new experiences.

The concept is interesting, but the results are puzzling. For T'Pol, it seems she was profoundly moved by an experience back on Earth when she left the Vulcan consulate to explore San Francisco while disguised, eventually ending up at a jazz club. The music she heard intrigued and now haunts her. As she experiments with Tolaris' methods, freeing herself from her daily meditation routine, she finds her dreams taking her back to that night on Earth. I liked Rob Hedden's direction over T'Pol's dream sequence, which is confused and chaotic and atmospheric; cinema always provides a good medium for conveying dreams and nightmares. And as I said at the beginning, there seems to be a nervous psychology beneath these images that feels convincing.

But the episode can't make sense of them. T'Pol's encounter with jazz music in San Francisco was apparently a profound emotional experience, but we never find out how or why; the thread is more concept than content. This is reinforced by the mind-meld scene between T'Pol and Tolaris later in the episode, which takes us back to that moment in San Francisco and leaves us stranded there with no answers. Perhaps we, like T'Pol, have no answers to find. Perhaps she herself was stranded there, and is too disturbed to go back. Perhaps that's psychobabble giving the writers too much credit for sketchy ideas. (Why would music — even unfamiliar music — move her so profoundly? It's not like music is a foreign concept to Vulcans.)

About the mind-meld scene. T'Pol is not familiar with mind-melds, because the writers have decided they don't exist in mainstream Vulcan society at this point in time. Tolaris says they have been "abandoned." What does this mean, and why will it return within the next century? I have no idea. The historical record of the mind-meld is only superficially explored here.

As a matter of technique, the mind-meld scene works. It comes across as intensely emotional and intimate — and also potentially invasive and dangerous. The acting sells the scene. Indeed, Jolene Blalock's performance in "Fusion" might be her best to date. T'Pol ventures into dark areas where her mind would rather not go, where her disciplines generally forbid her to go. The episode's message, I think, if there is one, is that T'Pol faces a daily struggle of rigid discipline to keep her emotions in check. It's as if every Vulcan has inner demons that run so deep they must be contained and never uncorked. I'm not so sure this tracks with what we already know.

The main plot plays in contrast with a B-story where Trip is paired with another of the Vulcans, Kov (John Harrington Bland). Kov seems more stable, more human, without the inner demons Tolaris (or, for that matter, T'Pol) seems to have. Trip and Kov have an amicable experience over the course of the Vulcans' visit, including humorous moments where Trip corrects some Vulcan misconceptions about human behavior ("They're not trying to kill the quarterback"). Is Kov the exception, or is Tolaris?

There are flashes of insight here, and yet … it's all so strangely unsatisfying. The question of whether Tolaris is a dangerous man who took the mind-meld too far is a good one. Archer confronts Tolaris in a scene that doesn't make good sense: I don't understand why Archer would intentionally confront and provoke Tolaris the way he does (getting thrown across the room in the process). Does Archer really need to see first-hand how a Vulcan can lose control? This is dramatic fireworks for the sake of fireworks. It doesn't exist in the real world. And after Tolaris' violent outburst, there are apparently no repercussions or conclusions to be drawn. The whole idea just sort of goes away.

"Fusion" is not successful. It's too messy and inconclusive, its psychology too bizarre and inexplicable. But it has moments of success. It generates some interest. The question comes down to this: (A) Is the story half-baked, or (B) do its unanswered questions make it more interesting rather than less?

I'm going to have to go with (A).

Previous episode: Shuttlepod One
Next episode: Rogue Planet

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17 comments on this review

BrotherjGizmo - Fri, May 29, 2009 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree; I think it's (B) more than (A).
Katie - Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - 10:47am (USA Central)
While I also found the episode unsatisfying and the bizarre Archer vs. Tolaris scene was, well, bizarre, I really liked the idea that T'Pol was moved or inspired by human music. The kind of music we've heard from the Vulcans has really been sonorous chanting--with only bare-bones rhythm and no harmony--about as far from New Orleans jazz as you can get. Music often has the ability to provoke strong emotions in humans, so why not Vulcans? Perhaps what T'Pol experienced was that exhilarating, foot-tapping urge to sing and dance along, an urge that seems thoroughly foreign to Vulcan ideas of control.
JaKE TaYLoR #7 - Sun, Jun 27, 2010 - 2:12am (USA Central)
I liked that the Vulcans did not reject logic, yet embraced emotions as well. It makes them more well rounded.....or so i thought. Turns out the story was just about T'Pol not being able to meditate so she has a bad dream....then her freind "assults" her. Then Archer says nothing about it to the Vulcans its over. Huh? I didnt enjoy this episode very much. And whys Archer give a damn if the fat Vulcan talks to his dad or not?
Carbetarian - Wed, Aug 18, 2010 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
What just happened? That was the most awkward, uncomfortable Star Trek experience ever! Mind meld rape? I agree with Katie, it was all just so bizarre.

I'm watching this series for the first time, and I just can't help but wonder when they will finally make use of the prequel concept and get something right for a change. So far, this show has been setting a new standard in disapointment. They should have called this Star Trek: Missed Opportunity.

The only character I'm really 100% behind right now is Trip. I generally like T'Pol and Phlox too, only because they seem to have their heads together so much better than Archer. I'm also happy to see Jeffrey Combs guest starring from time to time. Jeffrey Combs can take any kind of turd and polish it into shining a diamond, and that kind of skill is certainly needed on this mess of a show. I only wish he had been in this episode. Maybe he could have at least given the bizarre plot a sense of humor or wit.

Does anyone else outright hate Captain Archer? I admit, this was one of his better episodes. Sure, he pulled a phaser on some random Vulcan and pretty much acted the fool as per usual. But, since he reserved his shenanigans for a mind meld rapist in this one, I'll give him a pass. He didn't infuriate me this time around, at the very least. But usually? For the first five or six episodes, I kept hoping someone would punch him in the face. It doesn't bode well for a show like this when I want to shove the male lead out an air lock.

Finally, what this episode truly lacked was the only real break out star in this series... Porthos. I think he should have attacked the mind meld rapist. It probably would have been more believable than Archer rolling around the floor with a phase pistol. Porthos would have handeled the situation more smoothly. In fact, Porthos could handle almost any situation more smoothly than Archer. A bull in a china shop could handle things more smoothly than Archer though, so that's not saying all that much I suppose.
Carbetarian - Wed, Aug 18, 2010 - 11:22pm (USA Central)
*polish it into a shining diamond.

Sorry, that's what I get for posting from my phone.
Marco P. - Thu, Sep 16, 2010 - 4:46am (USA Central)
While I agree, certain parts of the story are left unresolved (T'Pol's strong feelings towards music) or are unsatisfying (the Kov/Tucker dying father story, which showed good promise but then sort of ended on a "meh"), this episode stands well above the series's general exercise in mediocrity.

Indeed, I especially liked the idea to break the convention of Vulcan portrayal, which so far (with the exception of T'Pol) has generally consisted in arrogant/spying/almost-villainous anti-heroes the Enterprise crew has to face. In this episode we finally see some duality, some Vulcans who are trying to break from tradition, and we also see an interesting "first use" (so-to-speak, as far as the series's chronology is concerned) of the mind-meld.

Too bad the opportunity for better dialogue was missed (e.g. the climax of the T'Pol-Tolaris/mind-rapist scene, and the Archer/Tolaris confrontation... unnecessarily leading to gratuitous violence in which Archer, once again, gets a beat-down). I would have wished Archer said something along the lines of "You were trying to teach T'Pol to embrace her feelings, but it looks like you still have a lot to learn about them yourself! Get this man off my ship" (yeah... security anyone?)
Cloudane - Sun, May 1, 2011 - 3:40pm (USA Central)
Not perfect, but I echo the above comments that it's better than the usual mediocrity of this series (or Voyager before it).

I'm not sure why many people have such a hard time believing that Vulcans have extremely strong repressed emotions... it's been drummed into us countless times in past Trek shows and I thought it was well enough explored here.

It's also piqued my curiosity about this group of renegade Vulcans. Obviously fairly soon the mainstream Vulcans will accept some of what they have to say (the power of the mind meld) which I'd like to see as it'd take something astounding to move those stubborn lot. And did I get the sense that they are early Romulans? I'm not sure how far back Romulans go... maybe at least they were formed in much the same way.

There was an theory that Lynch alluded to in his review (not that he liked it either): that to Vulcans, unchecked emotions could be like an addiction. I like this idea actually.. for one thing it has parallels with things like alcohol: in moderation it can make people interesting and be worth exploring, in excess it can cause terrible damage and if someone has a bad experience with it or its addiction (or have been told from birth that they would) they can end up avoiding it altogether and just one drop could trigger a relapse.

I don't know, it just got me thinking about things rather than questioning everything. To each his own.
Michael - Thu, Nov 10, 2011 - 10:34am (USA Central)
*sigh*

What a boring and uninspiring episode. Let's take a bunch of aliens and devote 45 minutes to exploring how they deal with human characteristics. Order of the day: Vulcans and emotions.

Fast-forward to the end.

Next!
Captain Jim - Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - 10:18pm (USA Central)
Cloudane said, "And did I get the sense that they are early Romulans? I'm not sure how far back Romulans go... maybe at least they were formed in much the same way."

More the latter, I think. I believe the Vulcans and Romulans split centuries before. (I checked Wikipedia and it says 400 AD.)
Annie - Sun, Nov 4, 2012 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
Vulcans may have abandoned the mind meld, but we know they haven't abandoned the neck pinch because T'Pol uses it on the entomologist in the episode with the hallucinogenic pollen. Why didn't dude use it on Archer instead of throwing him across the room?

I have to continue my "Archer is a boor" rant. You'd think the guy they send to seek out new civilizations would have been briefed in diplomacy or at least basic manners. Hosting a dinner for three Vulcans, the chef has prepared Vulcan food, and Archer has a separate chicken dinner for himself.

I thought the idea of some Vulcans breaking away and rediscovering their emotions was interesting, but the ending was a copout. It would have been more powerful if the emotion/logic balance was successful.
Rosario - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 12:10am (USA Central)
I thought that Vulcans comfortably living with their emotions was the most interesting idea I'd heard. Then suddenly the show became a rape allegory and interesting Vulcans were forgotten in favor of bad-acting Vulcans. SO bad.

I began to grin at the end of this episode when Archer says he's beginning to understand why Vulcan's purge their emotions. This strutting peacock is always learning, so nice. Anyway, he said that and I thought, FINALLY maybe he'll stop trying to turn her into a human but then T'Pol basically says, No that's alright Captain. keep working on me. Gah. Grinned wiped off! And yes, @Carbetarian, I also hate Cpt. Archer, always squinting like he's trying to make sense of the one syllable word you just sent his way.

And I hope that chubby Vulcan kid held his emotions in check when he called daddy. Yeah, that's what his dad wants to see, his son, crying and flubbering, an utter mess of emotions and a disgrace to the family name!
Arachnea - Thu, Feb 7, 2013 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
This first season is a lot about misconceptions and I believe many of the viewers had heard that Enterprise had killed vulcans and was utter crap (good way to start to watch a series with prejudice).

Well, I'm not saying Enterprise was stellar, but it had its moments. At this point, we shouldn't forget it's a prequel and if this episode establishes something, it's obviously that 22nd century vulcans will evolve (we'll see how later in the show) and better themselves. So, viewers who say Enterprise killed a myth are wrong. If we accept that humans can better themselves through time, then we can also accept that vulcans have done the same, can't we ?

We have 22nd century vulcans who use (sometimes) twisted logic to justify their goals, they're depicted as overly arrogant and racist (note that Spock responded to "you're more human than you think" by "don't insult me", which is not very nice either). On the other hand, we have vulcans who seek their origin: vulcans are born with emotions - strong ones - and have a different interpretation of the teaching of Surak. The mind-meld not being common in vulcan's culture is a serious hint that something will change in the future.

Of course, I'm disappointed by the end of the episode and I have to agree that Archer isn't very likable. Jammer is right, we can't be sure who is the exception here: Tolaris or Vok ? What I don't understand is the captain punishing the whole crew for the act of one man (vulcan). He's depicted as everything has to be black or white: in the beginning, he believes T'Pol should be more like these emotional vulcans. At the end, he dismisses them as if they were all bad, thus repressing emotions must be the only good solution. I'd liked a more subtle approach...
Chris NI - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 5:00pm (USA Central)
The opening of this episode under-scored a theme which I've enjoyed in Enterprise's first season - the enthusiasm of the crew towards exploring space. In the TOS and TNG eras, a nebula was run-of-the-mill stuff. I liked how Archer was genuinely excited about seeing a nebula that he'd read about in a book.
Rosario - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
@Arachnea:

I must respectfully disagree. Around 5,000 years have passed since the time of Surak and only 90 years or so between Enterprise and Kirk. The average lifespan of a Vulcan is around 200 years. Achieving the dispassionate logic we see in TOS and TNG from the base we are given is not something I'd expect in a mere 90 years - not even a full Vulcan generation. Consider less the years and more the generations. 25 generations since Surak. I say this because you speak of 22nd century Vulcans from a Human viewpoint. For a Vulcan, 100 years is barely half his life.

I would expect Vulcans, as depicted on this show to be within a generation or 2 of Surak. Shaky in their logic, still twisting it for personal gain, arrogant holdouts from before the Time of Awakening believing in their superiority to non-logical species. But a mere half-generation (for Vulcans) before Kirk and Spock? I can't swallow that pill. I reject it and reject it furiously. Why? Because it DOES destroy the myth, by dragging Vulcans down to a Human level and holding them to a Human standard so that they'll be more understandable to a Human audience instead of an ideal to be striven for.

Though maybe that last bit (...to be striven for...) is just me - I see too much emotion-driven things in the world around me and would much rather sit back and dispassionately analyze a situation than leap in with both feet.

As an aside, Kirk delivered that "insult" fondly and took Spock's reply fondly. Frankly, I think our Vulcan friend made a joke. There was never any meanness in their relationship.

Just as I fondly disagree and intend no meanness towards you. I save that for the writers :)

p.s. You could argue that Spock was just an EXCEPTIONAL Vulcan who because of his hybrid nature was driven to be more Vulcan than Vulcans and if such is the case has skewed the mythos surrounding them!
Cloudane - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 3:34am (USA Central)
**** SPOILERS FOR LATER IN THE SERIES ****




We all had a tendency to slam Enterprise for "what it did to the Vulcans". If only we'd had the patience!

It is kind of explained later on when they get Surak's chakra thing and find his original teachings - at that point the way is paved for the Vulcans we know in TOS onwards. These are indeed quite different and less enlightened Vulcans and it's well explained at that point.

In fact it suddenly makes it rather interesting - I'm not the slightest bit religious myself, but imagine if someone genuinely ended up with the spirit of Jesus (or worse, the God from the Old Testament) in his head and he showed proof that all our crazy interpretations over the years were all wrong and once again here's those commandments you're supposed to be following. Gulp!

Admittedly though, it probably would've been better writing to allude to the story earlier, rather than saving it all for later, making it look like they just screwed up with the Vulcans and had to get a Trek expert in to write them out of the hole later on.




**** HERE ENDETH THE SPOILERS ****
Kevin - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 7:56am (USA Central)
Seriously, when Archer was surprised/a little disappointed that his childhood book's measurement of the nebula was incorrect, it was the most adorable thing ever.
Eli - Fri, Oct 17, 2014 - 2:57am (USA Central)
Great acting by Jolene Blalock in an absorbing episode. The episode contains fascinating, well constructed moments of amiguity. Also, there are a number of well acted scenes with Scott Bakula, who makes a marvelous captain. Further, I thought the Trip side story was a success. The ending was tough to swallow, but thought provoking. The writers did a very commendable job of portraying an important conflict within Vulcan society and culture.

This show is yet another example why I'm a big fan of this series.

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