Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Unexpected"

*1/2

Air date: 10/17/2001
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I prefer air I can't see." — Trip

Note: This episode was rerated from 2 to 1.5 stars when the season recap was written.

In brief: Some good early moments worthy of this series' nature of exploration, but then downhill from there. Uneven, frequently silly, and with little lasting impact.

Why, oh why, do we need a holodeck in this episode? The episode features a first contact premise that's moving along nicely on its own terms when — presto — we get a holodeck, for which the audience's howls of familiarity will have far outweighed its story value. I'm thinking that holodecks on this series should be eschewed as a matter of principle.

"Unexpected" is a good title, because this is an episode with some strange, weird, and, yes, unexpected encounters that should be wondrous and new — and at first are — but which turn shallow in a hurry before being reduced to a lame punch line. And when we get moments that shout "prequel!" by including elements from the Trek-universe future (e.g., holodecks), we're more distracted than awed. The twist involving the appearance of the Klingons also turns out to be unexpected — so much so that it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story.

The best part about "Unexpected" is its attempt to depict a truly alien encounter. The aliens are called the Xyrillians, and they need assistance in making repairs. (Why they need Trip's help to fix their own systems which he would presumably know less about is beyond me, but never mind.) The early passages document Trip's away mission to the Xyrillian vessel. The environment there is very different; this is the first Trek in a long while, maybe ever, that I can remember requiring a character to spend three hours in a decompression chamber before walking onto the alien ship. (Although I find myself asking, why not just have Trip visit the alien ship in an environmental suit rather than having him waste a total of six hours in a decompression chamber?)

When he steps onto their ship, he experiences strange sensory effects, reminiscent of the time-slowing effect in the wormhole scene of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Trip teams up with their engineer, Ah'Len (Julianne Christie), to help make repairs.

Visually, I found some of this to be pretty good work. The set design is unique, and Mike Vejar, one of the franchise's best current directors, does a nice job establishing Trip's initial disorientation, with a dreamy, eerie quality to the camerawork, as if we're trying to move underwater. This is mostly razzle-dazzle, yes, but it serves its purpose; Trip's initial sense of being overwhelmed is a story aspect that works. For once, something as "simple" as visiting an alien vessel is seen as complex and taxing, both mentally and physically.

It's once the initial shock has passed that the story begins to lose its edge. For one, I began wondering exactly how Trip and the Xyrillians could even understand each other without an interpreter. It's established in the early scenes that a language barrier exists, but once Trip is on the Xyrillian vessel such problems immediately evaporate and take on the long-standing "invisible universal translator" solution that has characterized most of Trek. The concept of the universal translator has never made any real sense, but episodes of Enterprise had so far backed away from the device. That doesn't seem to be the case here; probably for logistic and acting reasons, the "everybody speaks English" shorthand is back.

Indeed, I'm wondering if the technical progression on this series might be a fine line to walk. This week, all the language translating goes much easier than in "Fight or Flight." While it would be very tedious to have to go through those kinds of translation gyrations every week on this series, setting it aside also begs the question of how quickly this Enterprise will grow immune to the very issues that make the series what it is.

Trip and Ah'Len develop a friendly rapport, and there's a scene that establishes a sensual curiosity between the two. The Xyrillians incite sparks wherever they touch someone or something; the visual effect is similar to one of those transparent globes with streamers you can buy in gift shops. "It's kinda nice," Trip notes.

But then we get a scene that had me almost laughing in disbelief, in which Trip has first contact with a Xyrillian holodeck. Berman & Braga, what are you thinking? Given how reviled the holodeck as a cliche has become, couldn't you at least go the first season — heck, the first month — without hinting at the possible historic origins of the holodeck?

After Trip reports his holodeck adventure to other shipmates upon returning to the Enterprise, Reed comments, in what must've been intended as a writer's joke, "If we had one of those on board, I can only imagine what it'd be used for." Yeah, like hijacking the ship! (Too funny.) I'm sorry, but even hinting at a holodeck seems to me like a bad idea if you're trying to push the notion of Trek going in directions we haven't seen before. (This proves one point I've argued before — that Enterprise faces the challenge of also having to be new to its viewers and do more than filtering old ideas through a crew that has yet to experience them. Yes, it may be new to them, but that doesn't necessarily make it fresh for us.)

Not long after Trip returns to the Enterprise and the Xyrillians head on their way, Trip notices that he's growing nipples. "You're pregnant," Phlox tells him. It apparently happened when Trip stuck his hands into a box full of granules at the same time as Ah'Len during a mental sharing process, permitting a Magical DNA Transfer [TM] of some kind.

T'Pol quickly accuses Trip of being unable to restrain himself. Here I must object. She should know better than most that there are alien cultures out here with different reproductive methods. As someone from a society that has been in space much longer than humans, T'Pol should be smarter about certain things rather than jumping to knee-jerk conclusions. Her attitude here seems to emerge from a distrustful grudge with Trip rather than from reasoned logic. And besides, why would the human definition of sex result in his pregnancy anyway? (Note: That's a rhetorical question.)

Much of the rest of the episode is played for mild laughs. It's not horribly unpleasant, but I can't say I was impressed. It's just sort of passive, content to follow Trip around as he complains about the prospect of possibly becoming the first human male to give birth to a child. Complains about the possibility of not finding the Xyrillian mother. Complains about having to possibly raise this kid and set aside his plans. Complains about thinking he's the laughingstock of the crew. Discovers his appetite increasing and plays out his unconscious paternal instincts in order to conform to the guidebook for Hilarious Pregnancy Cliches [TM]. For a series supposedly about exploring the human condition, this reveals pretty small thinking.

When the Enterprise does finally track down the Xyrillian ship and Trip shows Ah'Len that he's carrying her child, what's her reaction? "I had no idea this could happen with another species!" Duh! By this logic, Trip could go sleeping around with non-human women and then claim surprise upon learning one or more of them was pregnant. Hello? What fool wrote the Xyrillian rulebook on contact with alien societies? I propose a new chapter for that rulebook: "Common Sense in Not Knocking Up Alien Men, Written Especially for the Common Senseless." Failure to observe this new chapter will result in immediately being locked into a torpedo tube and shot into space. It's nice to know humans aren't the stupidest people out here, but I hardly think the story intended Ah'Len or the Xyrillians to look so clueless.

Frankly, this premise could've been envisioned as a completely different kind of story, treated much more seriously, about child custody and/or parenting issues, and the importance of alien first-contact procedures. Instead it's a low-substance show played on the most superficial levels.

Before resolving Trip's baby storyline, the Klingons show up to provide a menacing tone that seems oddly out of place. While I appreciate the nod to "Broken Bow" and T'Pol speaking up on behalf of Archer possibly having saved the Klingons from civil war, I could've done without the excessively stubborn Klingon captain (Christopher Darga) who takes obstinacy to an extreme that plays like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yes, I suppose the Klingons are most definitely not the 24th century Klingons, but having an actor growl on about killing everybody is old hat.

It's funny how Trip is able to negotiate a truce and save the Xyrillians by offering up their holodeck technology to the Klingons. You'd think the Klingons would be more interested in the Xyrillian's stealth technology.

You know, I'm really going to have a long laugh if I find out that Starfleet later ends up acquiring holodeck technology from the Klingons. Perhaps such a transaction would be intended by the Klingons as a Trojan horse. There you go — centuries of holodeck malfunctions explained.

Next week: The mystery of the lost colony.

Previous episode: Strange New World
Next episode: Terra Nova

Season Index

24 comments on this review

TB - Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
Performing a ritual (or game as she called it) which normally gets one party pregnant = sex.

Performing said ritual when the other party doesn't have informed consent of the consequences = mostly likely RAPE!

And said scenario is played for laughs on an episode of Star Trek.
Hammer - Wed, May 20, 2009 - 5:48am (USA Central)
That episode is disturbing...
Jeffrey - Thu, Apr 29, 2010 - 11:07am (USA Central)
"Unexpected" is definitely a candidate for worst episode of ENT. The fact that this concept of "main male character gets pregnant" had been proposed and wisely rejected during the production of the other ST spinoff series makes me wonder why now it seemed like a great idea.

Also, the fact that this could easily have been Reed or Mayweather getting pregnant for all the relevance it would have had just shows up nonvital this plot was in general and for Trip in particular.

Definitely playing the entire situation for laughs was a huge mistake. To see Archer barely containing his amusement when he hears the news is not a good thing for his character. We're talking about a human being impregnated by an alien species. The possible medical difficulties arising from that should have provided some serious drama not to mention that fact that as a male, Trip is not biologically equipped to develop a fetus to term. I'm not saying that there couldn't have been some humerous moments, but the thought pattern never went beyond: Trip's pregnant, hee hee!

Also, while the fetus was able to be transplanted back to Ah' Len Trip is still the baby's biological father (mother?). He has a child he has never seen nor shown any wonder in regards to what happened to him or her. Disappointing all around.

And while the use of the Klingons does come from out of the blue, I did like the sense of apprehension the crew showed once they realized it was a Klingon ship. After years of TNG and DS9 it's easy to forget that Klingons and Starfleet were once enemies.
I thought the crew's attitude regarding the sight of the battle cruiser was well done.

Which just goes to show that even in the worst or silliest ST episodes there is always something of some value.
Jeff - Wed, Jul 7, 2010 - 5:52pm (USA Central)
Me again. I watched this episode again last night and had a few more thoughts about it.

1) I do have to give credit to B&B for shaking up the first contact formula a little with Trip's decompression sequences. The idea of a slightly more alien environment then our heroes are used to doesn't really get talked about or visualized much and Trip's claustrophobia and impatience seemed in character and reasonable for the situation.

2) The use of a holodeck aside, I had to rethink this entire Trip gets pregnant scenario. It doesn't make any sense. Trip and Ah'len are in the holo-boat using holo-crystals even. And from the idea of the crystals allowing you to read the other's thoughts (side question: How is this a game in the usual sense?) somehow this results in Trip getting pregnant. But how? The crystals weren't even real? If anything the explanation should have just been left at the electrical discharges transferring DNA or the egg or what have you. Obviously different species will have different methods of reproduction but this should have been explained just a little bit more.

3) I need to retract one of my earlier complaints. I had totally forgotten that Phlox told Trip he was merely the host for the fetus. That there was no human DNA found in the fetus. So that lets Trip off the hook in a way, but you would still think Trip would be more than a little curious about the child. He certainly seemed to show more care and concern than anyone else in the crew about it's welfare.

4) T'Pol was very illogical in this. In only the 4th episode T'Pol seems to have Trip pegged as a womanizer when nothing in the series so far that we've seen of him is the case. In fact the rest of the series will bear out that Trip takes romantic relationships seriously and is not frivolous about his or a partner's feelings. So where exactly is the basis in T'Pol's mind for her accusation? Granted, Trip being impregnated certainly raises eyebrows but no one seems to ask the question of what other method this species may use to procreate. Everyone seems to have the human idea of sex in mind. I suppose you could argue the fact that because the NX crew is so new to space it'll be a while before their minds are more open, but still I think T'Pol behavior to Trip was uncalled for and un-Vulcan.

5) Again (and finally) it's a shame B and B didn't take the subject matter more seriously. The risk would've been to have Trip bring the baby to term and raise it on Enterprise. Similar to Worf and Alexander on TNG which had some good moments on its own until DS9 visualized Alexander as an inept klutz and Worf's absenteeism and abandonment of Alexander didn't paint him in the wrong as much as it should have (IMO). But certainly Trip raising a child so early in ENT's run would have changed the direction of the series fairly early, but there could've been some nice moments from time to time. Oh well.
Marco P. - Sat, Sep 4, 2010 - 4:22am (USA Central)
Gotta agree with Jammer and TB. This episode screams a lot more like "Date Rape" than "funny situation resulting from man being pregnant".

Interestingly enough this echoes back to Trek in general, when during TNG's "The Child" episode Counselor Troi is impregnated by an alien energy lifeform interested in humans, who took it upon itself to experience human interaction by becoming one. The subject was at least treated more gracefully in that episode.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to play moral inquisitor here. But clearly, sensitivity and originality (vis-à-vis the holodeck) are obviously not B&B's forte. Once again rather disappointed.
Jay - Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - 5:42pm (USA Central)
The closest we could come to water? Whaaaa?

This episode is to ENT what Threshhold is to VOY.
Cloudane - Sun, Apr 17, 2011 - 3:24pm (USA Central)
Minority bombshell alert!

I... actually kind of liked it. It was funny, charming and showed us concepts of "alienness" the degree of which is extremely rare in Trek. It's completely and utterly batshit, and to be honest this weirdness makes more sense than most Trek aliens who are usually either human-clones, have one trait like emotionlessness or warrior..ness, or are hard headed morons.

Strange new worlds and life forms, who'd have thought :)

Nice to see the universal translator is up and running. Whilst I appreciated seeing the difficulty at first, all the talking in alien languages was already getting old.

It does sort of seem like rape, but you have to bear in mind that's a human concept. Who says all aliens have the same rules and attitude towards procreation that we do? As T'Pol says, he should be careful where he sticks his fingers next time *smirk*

It's odd... when Voyager was like this it never really worked for me. I always wanted deeper stuff, "facing the issues" etc. ENT seems to have some other vibe going where the light hearted general exploration stuff feels fresh and fun and.. enough. Maybe it's that I went into Voy with certain preconceptions and expectations after DS9, and didn't really go into ENT expecting much at all.

And hey, at least the holodeck didn't break!
Michael - Sat, Oct 22, 2011 - 11:37am (USA Central)
A nice, intriguing overture, but it all went downhill the moment the floozy with an ample behind and a pair of impressive, um, personalities, came to the fore. Gee, whatever might happen next!

Hurl-worthy schmaltzy music at the end of the boat ride. Is THAT what passes for romance in Hollywood these days?!?

As others have remarked, the so-called captain is a disgrace. He projects no gravitas or shrewdness. And someone oughta teach Trip not to yack with his mouth full of food; my ears nearly fell off for all the grating they took.

This was a decent show, despite the frivolity with which the subject was approached. The ending with the Klingons was kinda neat, too.

I see, incidentally, that just about every "alien" species has two sexes, male and female, commensurate in height and physique to humans, females are shorter than males, weaker and usually sport a pair of knockers. Cheap, lazy and unimaginative.
Cloudane - Sat, Oct 22, 2011 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
@Michael
There was a (bad, IIRC) episode of TNG or VOY which addressed the reason everyone looks similar, but yeah, the real reason is budget I think.

Not sure why they all know French kissing, but heyho.
Charles - Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - 7:42am (USA Central)
"I can see my house from here!" - Worst line from a Klingon EVAR!

I appreciated the more alien--uh aliens, but geez, Trip's "pregnancy" scenes are straight out of a goofy 80s movie.

I was also annoyed that Enterprise keeps throwing around technology that shouldn't exist for a hundred years or more (the holodeck in this case).

This prequel series concept obviously wasn't thought out. This series now has most of the technology ever seen in the later shows, that mean humans have known about all this stuff for 100 to 200 years and have failed to advance in any significant manner.

On that note, all these aliens keep showing up that are never seen again in the 23rd or 24th century (but I'll let that go being that this is TV and they want to do something "new").
Captain Jim - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 10:31pm (USA Central)
Well, here's another dissenting voice. I actually liked it better than the previous two episodes. For the first time that I can remember, we actually see an alien ship that genuinely seems alien. And it's actually a chore to board the other ship instead of the typical "nothing to it."

I thought it was kind of cool to see them on a holodeck. Since different planets are presumably at different stages of technological development, why is it odd that another planet might already have this in place? I think the objection has more to do with a dislike of the entire premise than it does anything else.

True, some of this was played for laughs, but I'm not against a little humor in my Trek.

Personally, I'd give this at least 2 1/2 stars. It's definitely better than anything we've seen since the premiere.
Annie - Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - 7:39pm (USA Central)
T'Pol telling Trip he should be more careful where he sticks his fingers makes even less sense considering she admonished him to be diplomatic when he ate the aliens' weird food. So he needs to worry about not offending them about the food, but he's supposed to refuse to participate in what looks like a harmless, traditional activity?

It sure looked like the holoboat was floating on water, not some crystals that were the closest they could get to water.
Arachnea - Mon, Feb 4, 2013 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
Unlike some Trek fans, I enjoyed some of the themes in Enterprise and it was a difficult mission for the writers to come with something new while remaining canon.

This episode is a mixed-bag: from very good to very bad. The worst being Archer and I'm not talking about a 24th century captain, but as a human being. I like the fact that the writers wanted to have the crew very flawed, but there are some limits. Archer doesn't show any empathy towards his crew (we've witnessed it in all first episodes): first he seems more interested in his dog than his crewman (and friend!) when Trip is obviously in psychological distress. Then, he doesn't even ask once if Trip's life is in any danger with the pregnancy, he's amused !

Having said that, the encounter with these aliens was interesting and I'd hoped they had taken more time to get to know each other's cultures but the realisation was good.

The other problems with this episode having already been written, I'll stop here.
Michael - Thu, May 30, 2013 - 5:30pm (USA Central)
I really liked this episode. My mom came down with my pizza rolls right in the middle though, so I missed 10 minutes while she fed me and made sure I didn't choke.
T'Paul - Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - 7:48pm (USA Central)
Yes, kudos where due for being a bit more original with the aliens, but yes, a little cheesy on the male pregnancy front, and surely had it been reversed the alien would have been presented as a sleazy creep. Not convinced by the Klingon capital city in its two appearances so far.
Jerry - Sun, Oct 12, 2014 - 12:13am (USA Central)
In TOS, you had writers like Roddenberry, D. C. Fontana, and Harlan Ellison. Now, you have...
Capitalist - Mon, Dec 1, 2014 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
Wow, all these comments about T'Pol's reaction to Trip's little "encounter" completely missed the subtext of that scene. It almost makes me believe the stereotypes about trekkers... has anyone on this board ever actually known a woman?

I've only seen the first four episodes, so I may be wrong about where this is going, but it seems that the writers have been thrusting Trip and T'Pol together in subtle love/hate ways since the pilot; the gel scrubbing scene, their bickering with each other, the tense moments of the last episode which ended with Trip realizing he may have been pre-judging T'Pol too harshly, etc. It looks like there's some passion brewing beneath the surface with these two.

So given that context, is it so strange that T'Pol gets all snarky when she finds that Trip has been sticking his fingers where they don't belong, and is carrying another woman's child? She's clearly miffed, most likely because Trip isn't, ahem, "parsing her syllogism" instead.

And don't give me this "Oh no, you see Vulcans are emotionless and ... blah blah blah." T'Pol is written and acted in such a way that she often conveys impatience, frustration, annoyance etc. at the humans. Also, Vulcan/Human relationships are not unheard of (cough, Spock's parents, cough).

So game on with the developing T/T lovefest I say!! I'd give this one 2* at least.
Jason - Wed, Dec 10, 2014 - 7:30am (USA Central)
So, does the Klingon battlecruiser design not change between this episode, the original series, the films, and Deep Space Nine?

I get that the ones in DS9 were probably meant as second-rate ships pressed into service in an emergency, but still, that means this design was active for two hundred years.
Paul M. - Thu, Dec 11, 2014 - 4:55am (USA Central)
^
Someone on the production side did later say that the design of the Klingon battlecruiser was a mistake. It wasn't supposed to look like that.
NCC-1701-Z - Thu, Dec 11, 2014 - 5:01pm (USA Central)
@Jason @Paul M.

According to Memory Alpha, the CGI people had a pretty good model ready to use for this episode but were forced to scrap it at the last minute due to producer idiocy - i.e. they wanted "more windows" - no, I am not making that up!

For more info: en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/D4_class_(concept)

I'll let Picard convey my feelings on the situation: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsrK6P9QvI

No wonder why Enterprise got cancelled. It was only a matter of time before the head honchos' incompetence caught up to them. They did more than kill the goose that laid the golden egg, they vaporized it with a phaser on full power.
Jason - Fri, Dec 12, 2014 - 8:35am (USA Central)
Wow, that was an interesting read. Thank you for the information.
Dave in NC - Fri, Dec 12, 2014 - 12:45pm (USA Central)
Getting hung upon the number of windows is really stupid, what idiotic producers . . . no wonder Enterprise sucks so much.
Paul M. - Sat, Dec 13, 2014 - 5:45am (USA Central)
MY god... seems like the execs on Trek were a bunch of very... interesting guys. I read a bunch of horror stories like this one; who the hell knows what their deal was. I remember, Moore was it?, saying that it was discouraged for writers to be on stage for the shooting of their episodes. I think it was even considered taboo to have any kind of direct line between the writers' room and the set. Everything had to go through the production team. I guess Berman had some kind of ultra hardcore anal control freak attitude toward the whole thing.
Dave in NC - Mon, Dec 15, 2014 - 11:54am (USA Central)
^

Looking at the current problems Paramount is having with the script and the director for the new film, not much has changed. For such a venerable piece of pop-culture (which has been around now for half a century), it's amazing how those in charge really have NO idea what makes the franchise work.

Case in point? Jonathan Frakes isn't even being considered as a candidate for director, yet we have two directors from the Fast and Furious movies high on the inside track. Fast and Furious?!? That's just what the new ST movie needs: more jump cuts, swearing, and idiotic catchphrases.

So so sad.

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