Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Cogenitor"

****

Air date: 4/30/2003
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You knew you had no business interfering with those people, but you just couldn't let it alone. You thought you were doing the right thing. I might agree if this was Florida or Singapore, but it's not, is it? We're in deep space, and a person is dead — a person who would still be alive if we hadn't made first contact." — Archer to Trip

In brief: Yes. This is what I want to see.

Now here's the sort of episode that suggests the true potential of Enterprise as a series — an episode that takes every correct turn where it could've compromised itself by taking the safer road where human values automatically trump all else. It does not take the safer roads, for which I am grateful. By the end, it emerges as the best and most probing episode of the season. This is what is possible when a story takes a risk; that risk can pay off.

The grossly inaccurate trailer, which is played on an inappropriate note of ha-ha levity, makes this show out to be some sort of sci-fi sex comedy. It certainly is not. What was advertised is not even close to what they are selling. This story is no lightweight. By the end, it is dead serious.

What "Cogenitor" offers is some tough questions, tough answers, and surprisingly tough consequences. The last act is nothing short of a revelation (for this series, anyway), as we see exactly how badly good intentions can go wrong.

The episode begins on a refreshing note: first contact with a friendly race of explorers called the Vissians, who for once seem like real space travelers rather than artificial constructs for the sake of conflict. "It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons," Trip notes tellingly. The thing about aliens on Star Trek is that they're so often used as a shortcut source for shallow conflict. But conflict in real drama should be about situations and circumstances, not about "us" versus "them." Here is an episode that knows this. It also knows that the conflict is not just about two opposing groups of people, but about the multiple approaches to questions, opinions, and actions.

The Enterprise crew and the Vissians team up to study a star in the early stages of supernova. Archer quickly develops a pleasant rapport with Vissian Captain Drennik (Andreas Katsulas, who will be familiar to many genre fans) and the two take a specially shielded Vissian pod on a three-day survey of the star up close. T'Pol takes command of the Enterprise. The human crew and the Vissian crew socially interact and begin learning about each another.

Tucker befriends the Vissian engineer (F.J. Rio) and his wife (Larissa Laskin), and meets a mysterious individual called a "cogenitor" (Becky Wahlstrom). The cogenitor lives with the couple in their quarters on the Vissian ship. The cogenitor is actually a third sex that is required for Vissians to conceive children, providing, as Phlox explains, a crucial enzyme to enable conception from the male and female. In Vissian society, the cogenitors make up a very small percentage of the population (there is only one cogenitor on this ship), and have little standing in society, serving only the purpose of aiding in conception.

Phlox and T'Pol are familiar with three-sexed species, but this is a new one for Trip and, for that matter, for the Star Trek audience in general. The cogenitor here is a quiet individual. The other Vissians refer to this nameless person only as "it," which quickly arouses our suspicion in regard to the status of these people in Vissian society. "They treat her like a pet," Trip notes unhappily.

One of the pleasures I had during this episode was seeing how the show and I were constantly on the same wavelength. As the story established its elements and planted its seeds, I found myself thinking about how things would play out given what I knew about the situation and the characters. On more than one instance, as I was thinking something, the show's progress would follow in the direction of my own feelings. This should not be mistaken for predictability, but rather a show that lays out a logical story arc and prompts our intuition, and then moves in the direction that properly follows the story's logic.

Consider, for example, the way the story sets up Trip's concern for the rights of this individual. The treatment of the cogenitor is depicted as a questionable and possibly troubling issue, but in a subtle way. The Vissians treat the cogenitor with casual indifference — neither friendly nor unfriendly, but simply regarded neutrally as an object. Trip becomes the voice for our own developing troubled feelings regarding the cogenitor.

Then, in its slick and subtle way, the story turns the tables on us and we begin to see the potential disaster of Trip taking matters of this situation into his own hands. He starts telling the Vissians lies about where he is going and what he is doing. He spends time with the cogenitor without the Vissians' permission. He teaches the cogenitor to read and puts human ideas of independence and growth in her head. He tells her that she has the same mental capacity as the other Vissians, and he even proves it with a neural scan that hints at the cogenitor's true potential.

We understand Trip's feelings and why he is doing what he is doing, but we gradually see that it's the wrong thing to do and the wrong way to go about it. We see that this could blow up in his face. I like how the story hints at consequences for Trip's poor choices and then delivers on them, plausibly and forcefully. Given the nature of the dilemma and the central question of the cogenitor's "human" rights, the story could've let Trip off the hook for his actions. Much to my satisfaction, it does not. In the end, the show comes to the sober realization that this is not a story about human rights for a Vissian cogenitor. It's about the issue of human interference in alien cultures.

When Trip teaches the cogenitor to read, she's able to learn in a single day. Is this plausible? I don't think so, but I'm not too concerned about it. That the cogenitor can learn to read so quickly is simply a matter of narrative shorthand. The point here is that Trip's actions open an individual's eyes to completely new possibilities — possibilities that are wonderful and awesome and quite likely to change this individual's life ... before then being taken away as quickly as they were given. It's like "Flowers for Algernon," but with a central figure that's painfully aware of exactly what it's being forced to give up.

There's another question here, one that I'm struggling with. How could the cogenitors in Vissian society really not know what they're missing? If they have the same intellectual potential as the rest of the Vissians, how is it they haven't realized this potential before, even in small numbers? Surely what Trip unleashes here has previously happened internal to their society with their own cogenitor sympathizers. How couldn't it? And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Vissian cogenitors don't seem to be aware of their subjugation, and the Vissian males and females don't seem to be aware that what they are doing is subjugation. It's simply an internal cultural fact, one that perhaps is impossible to understand in human terms. (Are we a product of only what we're permitted to experience? If so, Vissian cogenitors apparently are not permitted to experience much of anything, short of brainwashing and built-in repression.) But given how "Cogenitor" plays out — with the cogentior's eyes being opened and her desire to keep them open — this accepted belief by all the Vissians seems impossible. Not that this hurts the story; it simply makes me even more curious to explore the story points.

It also brings up that difficult issue of cultural moral relativism. The Vissians are right when they explain that we know nothing of their culture. But are they right to treat the cogenitors as they do? On human terms, of course not, but as Captain Drennik points out, "We're not on your world." It's not a particularly satisfying answer, but it is 100 percent true.

Putting all the moral questions aside, the real point here is that Trip interferes where he has no business interfering. The story strikes a fascinating balance between Trip's intentions to right what he believes is a wrong (in human terms), with the fact that he is so calculating in his efforts to do so without anybody else finding out. Just watch the way Trip carefully drops hints to the Vissian engineer to invite him to a meal in their quarters, so Trip can meet the cogenitor and take medical readings. Look at how he ignores T'Pol and walks away when she suggests he not get involved. Deep down, Trip knows he shouldn't be doing what he's doing (sneaking around, hiding things from the Vissians, etc.), and yet he forges ahead anyway, damn the consequences — and there are severe consequences — because he thinks he is doing the right thing. When the Vissians discover what has happened, they're not happy, and they demand the return of their cogenitor, which Archer grants despite her request for asylum. The cogenitor later commits suicide, apparently knowing her existence in society will henceforth be an empty one.

So because of Trip's meddling, a person is dead and a couple will not be able to conceive their child. I guess that's what they call a cautionary tale.

Like last season's wonderful "Dear Doctor" (among other episodes), "Cogenitor" is yet another episode that shows why the Prime Directive will be necessary. When you have a situation like this that's full of gray areas and potentially disastrous consequences, you begin to realize why dealing with such situations will require something more absolute than a judgment call.

The final act of "Cogenitor" is a potent one, well acted and directed, where Archer calls Trip on the mat to answer for his actions, and the news of the suicide is revealed. The strength of the language here surprised me: Archer has two tirades that do not go easy on Trip, with some potent lines including:

  • "We're out here to meet new species, not to tell them what to do."
  • "You did exactly what I'd do? If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here." And, "Don't tell me you know what I would've done when I don't even know what I would've done."
  • Trip: "I'm responsible [for the cogenitor's death]." Archer: "You're damned right, you're responsible."
  • "You knew you had no business interfering with those people, but you just couldn't let it alone. You thought you were doing the right thing. I might agree if this was Florida or Singapore, but it's not, is it? We're in deep space, and a person is dead — a person who would still be alive if we hadn't made first contact."

It's also notable that, throughout all this, the Vissians, particularly Captain Drennik, are endlessly reasonable. Indeed, the Vissians are novel because they come across as real explorers trying to make friends. The genuine chemistry between Archer and Drennik during the survey mission in the Vissian pod (featuring some good FX sequences, by the way) is reassuring, particularly because of Katsulas' affable persona.

"Cogenitor," while excellent, isn't perfect. I'll briefly mention the subplot between Lt. Reed and the Vissian woman who invites Reed to sleep with her. Her rationale is that Vissian customs say a woman will choose to have dinner with a man only after he has proven his worthiness in bed. No pressure. (I'm now imagining the resulting sitcom where sex is shown as the precursor and the drudgery, while talking over a candlelit dinner is the long-sought payoff.) Odd, how this story thread is created and then hastily dropped as if it had been an afterthought. (It also features at least one groaner of a line when Reed says, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Notable is that Reed himself can barely bring himself to say this without pausing in doubt.)

On the whole, "Cogenitor" is an Enterprise-specific episode of Trek that takes advantage of this series' premise. It's brave enough to show something that we need to see in this first Starfleet mission: humans screwing up and creating messy problems that are their own fault. The crew isn't perfect and human morality is not absolute. We don't have all the answers. It's to this story's credit that it takes a strong position on the interference issue while offering up other questions that are tough to come to terms with. This show has meat on its bones.

The last shot of a disappointed and remorseful Archer is, to me, of particular interest. I think it shows Archer's realization that, in a way, the failure is his own and he blames himself. He hasn't set a solid or consistent enough example on the interference issue, and he hasn't gotten through to Trip or his crew. There is work to be done. Starfleet has a lot to learn about dealing with other societies. That is what "Cogenitor" is all about. And that's where Enterprise has an opportunity to say something new.

Next week: Helmet! So, at last, we meet the Borg for the first time for the last time!

Previous episode: The Breach
Next episode: Regeneration

Season Index

66 comments on this review

stallion - Tue, Sep 25, 2007 - 11:36pm (USA Central)
I think out of all the four seasons Enterprise had season 2 was the weakest. I think if they was able to make more Episode like this, First flight, Minefield and Deadstop this season would had been great but at the sametimethe only reason we got the Xindi arc was because of the response of season 2 and I happened to love the Xindi arc. I love the idea of Archer and his crew having a year of hell.
TG - Sun, Mar 23, 2008 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
"And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. "
There is a (to me) rather obvious parallell in human history: The way women have traditionally been treated in most societies. They have been (and in some societies still are) banned from getting an education, they have been banned from most meaningful occupations, and have frequently been seen as having no value except to provide (male) children. And the reason they haven't revolted (and possibly why the cogenitors haven't) is that they themselves are dependend on their subjugators for continued existence. You can theoretically have a society where one skin color revolts against the other, or where one religion tried to exterminate the other, but one gender cannot rise in rebellion to eliminate the other. Resolving that kind of conflict is extremely difficult - and in the trek example, the cogenitors were even severely inferior in numbers, unlike women the real world example. In short this episode seemed to me to be the perfect feminist parable, where 'Stigma' utterly failed to be the same for hiv/aids.
AJ Koravkrian - Mon, May 5, 2008 - 10:21pm (USA Central)
Ah! Finally! This is the first Enterprise episode I have been able to actually watch without getting frustrated by the fact that its title has the name Star Trek on it.

So I guess any child born on their planet could be either male, female, or cogenitor. I wonder what the chief engineer and his wife would say if their much awaited child would turn out to be a cogenitor. Even though the probability is extremely low, there is still a possibility of that happening.
Straha - Fri, Nov 28, 2008 - 3:21am (USA Central)
It`s a good episode alright, and to be sure, it was not on Trip to force some issue here, especially not in a "first contact" situation. I still can't bring myself to think of the episode as an outstanding one because I simply wasn't very convinced by the premise. Like Jammer said: If the cogenitors are so mentally capable, they all by themselves would have sought a minimum of rights during the last 1000 years or so. What Trip achieves in just one day of interference only makes that point of critique stronger. And considering that the Vissians seem just so enlightened in all other respects (treating aliens as their equals for example), it's not quite credible that they would not even show so much as a glimpse of doubt regarding their treatment of the cogenitors. What IS the criterion according to which someone is to be treated as a person IF NOT their mental (cognitive, motivational and emotional) potential allowing them to think, act and feel like one?
Alexey Bogatiryov - Sun, Mar 22, 2009 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
Was probably my favorite Enterprise episode. was a very fresh First Contact situation that I foudn very plausible!
limey - Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - 9:14pm (USA Central)
Liked this episode, but Trip's immediate and overencompassing interest in the cogenitor felt a bit rushed and contrived.

The Enterprise encounters a friendly advanced species and Trip is barely interested in the engineering marvels they're willing to share. I couldn't buy this, and so found Trip's ever increasing interference difficult to believe.
jaseman125 - Mon, Apr 5, 2010 - 9:01am (USA Central)
I thought Trip did the right thing. If you see wrongdoing and do nothing to help, you are condoning the act. The Cogenitor's deserved to have an opportunity to reach their potential. If they are going on the principal of non-interference, then they should also have took no interest in the superior technology of the Vissians for the same reasons - They might discover a technology that their society is not yet ready for - Like giving Hitler Nuclear Weapons. I don't buy into that ideal. We must decide how to use technology morally rather than trying to surpress the knowledge.
Katie - Sun, Apr 18, 2010 - 12:43pm (USA Central)
I really liked this episode, but was very put off by Archer's high-handed dressing down of Trip at the end. In terms of first contact screw-ups with potentially severe repercussions, Trip's actions seemed a lot more understandable and a lot less stupid than Archer's decision to escalate a war rather than admit that he and Reed were aliens in "The Communicator." Leaving one side of a conflict with the impression that its opponents are in the midst of developing vastly superior technology seems like it could cause a lot of deaths. But, of course, neither Archer nor the audience was ever given a look at the outcome of that situation.
ippolite - Wed, Aug 18, 2010 - 11:06am (USA Central)
Of all the unconscionable acts Enterprise commits wherever it goes - from warmongering to genocide - the one at which Archer draws a line in the sand is helping one oppressed, emotionally abused individual with their self-esteem.

The production company should have provided some supervisors to ensure the writers stayed on their medication. There are unparalleled levels of doublethink going on in this series.
Spencer - Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
Personally, I'm convinced that this episode script must have been recycled from some other Trek series or else ghost written by someone other than the writers who usually handle ENT.

There is no continuity between Archer's actions over the previous seasons and his dressing down of Trip at the end here. As was said above, he has made much worse first contact blunders.

Also, Trip playing GO? He is way too much of a dunce to be so good as to be undefeated at the game, as he claims.

Even something as small as these aliens' preference for a meal's aroma rather than its taste seems altogether too subtle (to say nothing of reasonable) a development for the typically sledgehammer-like cultural differences they've dreamed up for other aliens (e.g., "you eat like you have sex," or whatever that nonsense was).

I watched this episode several years ago out of context, having never seen any other ENT ep. I thought it was really good. In context, it rings sort of hollow in light of the character inconsistency. I would much rather ENT was this way, but it hasn't been.
Josh - Sat, Oct 23, 2010 - 3:38am (USA Central)
What I really liked about this episode was the end, when Archer told Trip that there would be consequences, and just left Trip to himself. Basically telling Trip that he would have to live with the suicide on his conscience. I WISH they had done more with this throughout the series. It would have made for some great storytelling.
RussS - Tue, Nov 9, 2010 - 2:50am (USA Central)
Really good episode.

Makes up for some (but not all) of the garbage so far. Not the genocide though. And not the execution of the non-corporeals just trying to survive.

Still, Trip's actions were implausible. Like there wouldn't be established guidlelines for this type of thing on a starship? They're out there to meet aliens. You'd think someone would have thought about potential pitfalls beforehand, based on historical problems between cultures on earth.

Another anoying thing for me is that the Vissians were basically Americans in space. The way they expressed themsleves ("Thank you for the invitation, Captain. We would be honored"), their willingness to talk about intimate things, their desire to become close friends after just five minutes, all of this made the encounter basically like meeting people from Milwaukee.

What could be easier than meeting some dude from Milwaukee? The fact is, these Vissians had more in common with Americans than Candians do. Compared to the Vissians, Swedes might as well be the rock people from TOS. Nobody, I mean nobody talks the way Vissians do except us.

And if the Enterprise can't even meet Americans in space wthout screwing it up, maybe their mission should be recalled.
Marco P. - Sat, Mar 26, 2011 - 10:39am (USA Central)
Well, at least it was interesting. It wasn't general low-key Enterprise garbage this time.

The whole idea of a third sex, and an individual deprived of the ability to fulfill its potential because of the reproductive role he holds within an alien society is an interesting one. It isn't ORIGINAL mind you... (this story was taken from the "Alien Nation" episode "Three to Tango", 1989, as I found out from www.firsttvdrama.com/enterprise/e48.php3 )... but at least it's interesting.

Unfortunately while the theme & idea had great potential, this episode falls horrendously short on two levels for me.

Firstly, as ippolite stated, the "unparalleled levels of doublethink" going on in this series. With every major fu**-up Archer has been involved in since the show began, he has no business giving that talking-to to Trip. He has done way worse. "If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here". Yes you have, douchebag.

And secondly... why does Trip always have to be such a moron??? I mean, good intentions aside, why did the writers feel the need to make his attempt at fighting for the cogenitor's basic rights feel so awkward? Midway through the episode, why can't I help but cringe at the obvious negative impact Trip's actions will have by the time credits roll? WHY is every character from TNG, DS9, and even Voyager a role model of sorts (despite a few shortcomings), while for every major player in Enterprise I can only feel disdain or indifference?

Dare I think how more graceful this entire episode would have been, if the crusader for the cogenitor's existential rights had been someone like... Picard, Riker, or Troi?

Good God these writers suck.
Eric Dugdale - Wed, Jul 6, 2011 - 8:40am (USA Central)
I had a different take on Archer's tirade against Trip at the end. I took his harshness as a result of his own feelings of guilt/responsibility. He HASN'T set a good example, this ISN'T the worst thing that Enterprise has done in a first-contact situation, and on some level Archer realizes taht. And it's knawing at him. Yet, he can't very well come out and address that fact directly right here. He has to START setting the right example, and he does so angrily because of all that background.

Am I reading too much into it?
Jay - Sun, Sep 18, 2011 - 1:01pm (USA Central)
The story was right to take the turns it made here, but I sincerely hope this race wouldn't be permitted into the Federation with this subclass of its society treated this way. And everything we've heard about the Federation indicates it wouldn't be.
Christopher - Mon, Nov 28, 2011 - 6:29am (USA Central)
I really dont understand how this episode warrented a 4 star review. The characters actions made no sense (Trips facination for the cogenitor, the aliens complete disregard for it even though they seem so enlightened in other ways, the cogenitors sitting around all day long and doing nothing, Archer taking the moral high ground when he has done so much WORSE).

My main problem is this- the cogenitor killed themself because it didnt want to live the way it was- could anyone really say that the cogenitor was properly alive as it living was before Trip intervened? I think I would rather live for a weekend and die than live out my existance as a pet. The only people inconvienced were the Vissians not being able to have a kid.

And as said above, this show's problem is that the characters are so unlikeable and are not good as role models like you would see on other ST series over the years.
Eric - Thu, Mar 29, 2012 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
While this is no doubt a tricky moral situation, and a very good episode because of it, I am surprised to see there aren't more commenters questioning Archer's decision to send the cogenitor back (on ethical grounds rather than just as a lack of consistency with his other actions).

Doesn't the prime directive (once it is officially established) only, or at least primarily, apply to pre-warp species? With that distinction in mind, I think a request for asylum like this would be taken much more seriously, and possibly granted, by Picard (in my mind the preeminent defender of the prime directive). Arguably the advanced Vissians "should have known better" than to not anticipate some attempt at interference from the new-to-space humans (perhaps even on this particular issue considering that they know that three genders is not the norm in the galaxy).

Without a doubt Tucker should be reprimanded for his deceptive tactics and even for his interference. However, once the damage was done, with the cogenitor rethinking its existence and making such an explicit, clear, and legitimate request for asylum, denying the request is not the moral choice. It is only the political choice. Although how he went about it was wrong, Tucker gave her a chance for life. Her death is on Archer's conscience. Her suicide is evidence that the request for asylum was real and was warranted under the situation.

I don't even think the political fallout would likely have been that large. While granting the asylum would not have endeared humans to the Vissians, I also cannot imagine it causing irreparable damage considering the relationship already developed between Archer and the Vissian captain and how reasonably the captain was taking the asylum request. At best Archer might have appealed to the captain's logic that the cogenitor had already been "corrupted" beyond redemption and would only spread rebellion among other cogenitors. At worst you would have had one inconvenienced couple and maybe the Vissians considering a prime directive of their own (it seems surprising they don't already have one, if they are worried about interference with their culture, and/or haven't run into situations like this before). Nor can I imagine this incident (especially with no other cogenitors on their ship) making much an impact on the treatment or political consciousness of other cogenitors.
Sj - Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - 1:34pm (USA Central)
I love this episode it is hands down one of my favourites of all the series.

I also think many commentors reactions to it are indicative of some really clever writing as well, summarised I think by RussS' "Americans in space" quote. See, I didn't think the Vissians were 'Americans in space' - the thing is, they looked like they were, their mannerisms were similar, so was the food, the layout of the ship, the living arrangements...everything but, well, their culture.

I find it a bit ironic that for years and years we've had crazy looking aliens with all sorts of appendages, but whose culture and society are identical to ours but for superficial deviations ("we investigate all anomalies before talking to our superiors!"); but here for one of the first times on Trek we have a society, that is superficially familiar to us but has standards and concepts are truly alien - and the first thing everyone thinks to do is judge them by our own standards, assuming Trip is 'correct' and that the cogenitor is being 'denied' basic 'rights'.

Archer says as much in his tirade.

No one on here can say the cogenitor (or their gender) was being abused or subjugated - not just because we know nothing about this species and how it works - but because we don't even know what the meaning of these words are in their society.

I think the episode did such a good job of getting everyone to see the issue through Trips eyes, not even Archer's awesome truth smackdown at the end was enough to break the illusion!
Paul York - Sun, May 13, 2012 - 8:40pm (USA Central)
Re: the comment: "but are they right to treat the cogenitors as they do? On human terms, of course not, but as Captain Drennik points out, "We're not on your world." It's not a particularly satisfying answer, but it is 100 percent true . . .the real point here is that Trip interferes where he has no business interfering."

No, in fact human rights ARE universal in scope, because according to Kant and other Enlightenment philosophers they properly apply to ALL rational beings, and beyond that to all sentient, intelligent beings who are individuals. The Cogenitor qualifies; thus her / its rights are inalienable, they cannot be taken away arbitrarily. I have to agree with Trip on this and disagree with T'Pol and Archer. He did the right thing by coming to the aid of a fellow sentient, intelligent being (human or not), trying to help her have autonomy of the will, liberty, freedom.

To reduce morality as T'Pol does by calling it an "opinion" is quite wrong and really reflects poorly on Vulcans in general. Morality must have a universal foundation that applies to all, or else it is arbitrary, it becomes moral relativism, and that quickly leads to nihilism -- the belief that morality doesn't matter at all.

For example, enlightened aliens could look at humans in the 19th century and say we had human slavery but it is none of their concern -- well, in fact it would be their duty to say something against this injustice if they knew about it, because it is wrong. Rights are universal, not to be withheld because of geography.
Cloudane - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 6:39pm (USA Central)
"It'll be 100 years before it goes nova"
- I was awaiting the OH SHI- KABOOM

"It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons"
- I was awaiting weapons fire

I knew we were in for a good episode when both of those clichés were averted. Nice! How wonderful that they were friendly, too!
(You know when a show about peaceful exploration has been going wrong for a long time when this is so refreshing)

Trip's face when he found he couldn't directly mate with the blondes he picked up :P But hey, he gained noble intentions (if rather badly implemented, with the consequences that they had). And I was infinitely glad that the slight reminders I had of Riker in that episode with the non-gendered species weren't followed through with the same quality - there were some similarities but this was so much better.

It's very easy to judge Trip based on already coming from a future series where non-interference is very much set in place and this kind of thing is a bit closer to common sense (though those days also of course had their substantial debates). For a moment I was honestly hoping/expecting for Archer to pull a Janeway and rip one of his collar pips off in an angry demotion, and let's be honest, for a first officer to be sneaking around and interfering like this knowing he's doing wrong he'd absolutely deserve it. His intentions were great, and he could've started some good debates/talks with these people to try and influence their culture, but instead his implementation was to blunder in and sneak around and act - frankly - like an idiot.

But it's not so clear cut, now, is it? They haven't _had_ all these lessons and directives yet, and even Picard admitted that he didn't want a crew who would blindly follow orders and ignore their own morality. Then you get to the obvious question: is Archer really in the position to be throwing stones from the moral high ground, having not only the history of worse things behind him but also having refused asylum and thus the responsibility for his subordinate's effects on the cogenitor? Or indeed as Jammer says, he also has kind of failed as a leader to get this through to everyone. It's all debatable and there are many grey areas - that's what I love about it.

I also rather feel sorry for Trip, that he's been left to deal with the full responsibility and conscience. It's certainly not something I'd deal with easily even if there hadn't been all the wrongdoing involved. Meaty stuff indeed.

As an aside, the cogenitor learning so quickly felt plausible enough to me because of their captain being able to read and memorise so quickly, and that concept itself was introduced in a wonderfully natural way as part of cultural exchange between the captains. Far beats the exposition or "they just learn fast, ok?" technique.

"Enterprise-specific episode of Trek" - this is what we needed more of. There's no point of having the prequel if it's just going to be treated as the same thing with slightly different terminology, but luckily episodes like this keep me watching.

Excellent - can't argue with 4 stars at all. Biggest textwall comment I've made for quite some time says it all.
CeeBee - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 6:18pm (USA Central)
Didn't let Archer die a whole race in Dear Doctor because he thought it unethical to interfere with other cultures and their "natural way of living"?
And no he's disturbed over the death of one individual. His speech to Trip is beyond belief.

More annoying is that there's no subtlety in the supposed message the writers tried to convey. These people on the Enterprise don't act out of their underbelly, they practically live there. I wonder what that training of theirs back on Earth consisted of.
Zane314 - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 8:40pm (USA Central)
This was quite an episode, Jammer nailed it. I might go 3.8 stars but we only do 1/2 star units here. I was a little taken back by Trip's recklessness educating the "it" when he should know this is way out of bounds. In fact, they might meet races that are much, much worse to some of their peoples than we saw here. E.g. chattel slavery. I like the observation in an earlier comment about how this mirrored treatment of women though I'd add this treatment of women still occurs in some places and some people still want it to be the standard (almost all men of course). Anyway excellent episode, effects, and guest stars. It was great to see Commander Tomalak again; his easy manner with Archer really worked well. I didn't mind Reed and his forward alien though some of their dialog was a bit painful. The suicide was heavy and not very "lightweight" like most Enterprise stuff but it was realistic - actions have consequences that are sometimes tragic. Lastly, I really liked Arched chewing out Trip at the end; it's what I wanted to do the whole episode! I thought it might end in a demotion or at least a permanent mark on Trip's record but I guess I should be happy with a chew out. This scene so reminded me of Adama chewing out ... well, anybody! Adama gave these talks to Starbuck, Sharon, Lee, probably others. I particularly liked how Archer kept his back to Trip when he dismissed and Trip seemed taken about by that and the whole chew out. Excellent episode, very good tv sci-fi.
Elphaba - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
"It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons"

When Trip said that, I basically yelled at the screen: NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

Same thing when Archer said he hadn't set a very good example to his crew about how to conduct affairs with other cultures.

I constantly expected in this episode for the writers to fuck it up and end with a firefight. I was almost certain it would happen in the last ten minutes. When it didn't I was absolutely shocked. And very pleased. This is what Enterprise should have been. I honestly can't believe that B & B wrote this, given their love for stripping T'Pol and Hoshi and relying on unnecessary action. There's just no way B & B wrote this. I can't imagine them resolving a story like this without a firefight at the end.

This episode is what a First Contact/Prime Directive episode should really be about. This is the reason the Prime Directive was invented. Not that bullshit immoral episode that I refuse to accept into continuity, "Dear Doctor." This is what a Star Trek prequel should be about: the knee-jerk reaction to help as a human versus the high-minded morality of non-interference. These are the sorts of issues that are worth exploring in a Star Trek prequel. Unfortunately most of Enterprise doesn't particularly care. But this is a gem in an otherwise horrible horrible season and show. A diamond in the rough.

And yes, taken out of context, the actions of the characters are very much so out of character. That's because B & B couldn't possibly have written it. This script requires competent writers. But taken on its own simply as a Trek episode, it is very good. Ignore the rest of the idiocy in Enterprise. It's mediocre at best and immoral at worst.
Elphaba - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
Addendum to my above:

This kind of episode would be an average episode by TNG or DS9 standards. But it's ironic that when it's an Enterprise episode, we all get excited. Just goes to show how utterly bad this series is so far. Especially by Star Trek standards.
Jay - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 1:25pm (USA Central)
CeeBee sez:

"Didn't let Archer die a whole race in Dear Doctor because he thought it unethical to interfere with other cultures and their "natural way of living"?
And no he's disturbed over the death of one individual. "

In both scenarios he was on the side of noninterference, so it's consistent.
John the younger - Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - 1:24am (USA Central)
I very good episode indeed; I would agree with most of what you've said Jammer.

I also very much agree with Eric's comments above, particularly the points about Archer's decision to send the cogenitor back. As he says; "once the damage was done, with the cogenitor rethinking its existence and making such an explicit, clear, and legitimate request for asylum, denying the request is not the moral choice. It is only the political choice."

So during the 'Archer chewing out Tucker' scene, there should have been a throwaway line about Archer having contacted Starfleet and them ordering him to release the cogenitor on politcal grounds. If they'd just rectified that issue I would rate this as a real Trek Classic.

Anyway, as is, it's still a first-rate, thought-provoking episode.

Note: I'm willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume that Archer was indeed expressing some genuine guilt when he said "You did exactly what I'd do? If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here."
CeeBee - Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - 5:08am (USA Central)
@Jay
When it comes to sticking to a principle you are right, of course. But my main point is again that it shows how convoluted Archer's ethics are.

His implicit message to Tucker was: had you not interfered, we wouldn't have had a death on our hands. If the reason Archer is so upset over one death due to some decision, then why wasn't he disturbed about those millions he left dying back then due to his own decision?
And we know how consistent his ethics are.

Visiting a medieval world (Civilizations) he dispenses medication to cure a few people that didn't ask for help, obviously not making him feel bad. Result: many lives saved through interference.

In Dear Doctor he withholds an advanced civilization medication that specifically asked him for help. He let them die without as much as shedding a tear. Result: millions of deaths through non-interference.

In The Communicator he sends a civilization into a deadly war because these people shouldn't discover three advanced transistors and two futuristic condensors in a piece of equipment. Result: possibly millions of deaths through non-interference.

And now again he refuses to interfere again, sending a sentient being into death. Remember: it was HIS decision to _stop_ interfering here, not Tucker's. If he had interfered and given it refuge it would not have commited suicide. Result: one death through non-interference and he's upset about that death because it's the result of interference.

If you see time and again that non-interference leads to death and destruction, sometimes millions of people at a time, and interference leads to lives saved, you should reconsider your non-interference ethics. Archer couldn't be bothered. In his arrogance he even lectures other about these genocidal ethics.

It has been said so often: Archer is written as a psychopath and it's totally unclear how future Star Trek ever came to embrace such a non-interference "prime directive" if it gives such a repeated and guaranteed high death toll. In my opinion viewers shouldn't be pointing out those gaping flaws of ethic and logic.
Q - Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
Yes. Far better argumentation for PD delivers B5' episode "Believers" written by "our" Gerrold:
www.astro.umd.edu/~avondale/Reviews/B5/s1-believers.html

Maybe 8abylon 5 isn't Trek, but renamed Star Trek: The Birth of Federation or Star Tek: Babel 5:
foolquest.com/star_trek_the_ship_of_fools/foolquest.htm
with cosmetic changes (another names, another aliens' characterisation) it will makes Trek prequel far better then ENT.
Q - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 3:23am (USA Central)
ps. Babylon 5 is maybe not Trek-ish in narrative structures, and not very Trek-ish in tone, but have TOS veterans (Fontana, Gerrold and Ellison) as writers and Majel's famous cameo.
And... yes, I know that B5 plagiarised TOS "Journey to Babel" (partially it was Fontana's self-plagiarism), and DS9 later plagiarised B5, but I like it, as I like Trek and Star Wars "allusions" and cliches in Firefly/Serenity or Wormhole Aliens... err.. wormhole builders in FarScape. It looks as parallel timelines in one BIG universe (you know, TNG "Parallels") or side effects of (in)famous Temporal Cold War ;D.

BTW. You can find very good arguments for Prime Directive in written Eastern SF fiction. I mean: Strugatskys' "Hard to be God" and Lem's "Eden".
Christopher - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 3:42pm (USA Central)
The reason this episode is stupid - A society advanced enough to invent a polymer with 200 naturally occurring elements and a shuttle that can fly into a star would easily be able to synthesize an enzyme in astroglide or other personal lube to make cogenitors unnecessary. Thus, the cogenitors could spend their lives pursuing life as they chose.
Nathaniel - Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
@Christopher

You say this in a world where fertility treatments are considered evil and ban worthy by a church that holds 1 billion members as its followers. I wouldn't be so sure of your assertion.
Arachnea - Tue, Feb 12, 2013 - 12:21am (USA Central)
This episode is good because it makes us think and if you take it out of context (about the characters and what happened before).

Having friendly aliens was refreshing, the experience shown between the two captains was excellent (and A. Katsulas was such a great actor).
There are more questions than answers and that's a good thing, it lets our imagination run.

But like I said, there's something that doesn't ring true about two characters: Trip and Archer. Not everything is wrong, it's just insidious and is forced for the sake of the story, but it bothered me. Especially Archer's speech: it would have rung true from any other captain.

So, Trip is right but the way he tried to uncover the potential of the cogenitor was wrong. I'd have liked a little more insight about why this race chose to treat sentient beings like objects, or pets. I'd have liked to know the true reason for Archer to not grant asylum: was it for political reasons ? To keep theses aliens as friends ? Because he thought the loss of the cogenitor would have severe repercussions on the society ? Or was it because he didn't recognize the cogenitor as a sentient being with the right to claim asylum ?

What I mean is that was one of the points of the episode. It would have been nice to explore the dilemma further and let Archer acknowledge that he truly hasn't been a stellar example for the crew when it comes to non-interference. That would have made his shouting at Trip much more powerful and believable.
Tony Hendren - Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 2:40am (USA Central)
I can't believe how many people agree with the outcome of this episode. It's scary. That it's okay to let other societies enslave people because it's their business. Totally uncharacteristic of Archer. Trip did the right thing, and the suicide was NOT his fault. Ending the show with Charlies death on his shoulders was wrong. If society suppresses people who would rather die than not be free than who is to blame? Society, not freedom. A society that is not outraged by this sort of situational morality is in danger of accepting it. I thought I would see more outrage here, but to my dismay a lot of people agree with the stupid story. AHHHH!
Peremensoe - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
"The reason this episode is stupid - A society advanced enough to invent a polymer with 200 naturally occurring elements and a shuttle that can fly into a star would easily be able to synthesize an enzyme in astroglide or other personal lube to make cogenitors unnecessary. Thus, the cogenitors could spend their lives pursuing life as they chose."

They probably could, if they wanted to. But there's lots of reasons they might not want to. Maybe 'un-natural' reproduction is a revolting idea. Maybe the scarcity of cogenitors is long sanctified as a means of population control.
Peremensoe - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 8:53pm (USA Central)
"...to my dismay a lot of people agree with the stupid story."

I *didn't* agree with the outcome (meaning Archer's position), but I thought it was a fantastic story nonetheless. I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that sometimes our heroes do the wrong thing.

I agree with Arachnea that there were more dimensions that could have been explored. This could have been a two-parter.
mark - Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - 8:45pm (USA Central)
Trip had the most to do but this was Archer's episode and an important one for him. Because he hasn't been the best captain or set the best example. He's been running around doing things by the seat of his pants--in fairness, partly because Starfleet hasn't figured out the rules yet--and his officers have followed suit. Bakula wrung every drop of drama out of his scenes in the final act with a wonderful performance that, finally, has me thinking that Jonathan Archer is a worthy ancestor of Kirk and Picard. Bravo to Bakula and the show in general, and the four stars are deserved.
Michael - Sun, May 19, 2013 - 2:03am (USA Central)
This episode had the potential to be one of Enterprise's very best episodes but was ruined by the morally bankrupt ending. Captain Archer's decision to return the cogenitor to the Vissians was the wrong decision plain and simple. He basically sent a sentient being back into slavery and the individual chose suicide over continued nonexistence as a slave with no name and no rights whatsover.

Let's not sugarcoat this decision with ridiculous talk about the moralities of alien civilizations. There are no alien civilizations that we know of at this point in time. This is a work of fiction. The only moralities we can look to in this situation our human moralities. And by those standards Archer's decision to return the cogenitor is morally wrong.

And please no more talk about the prime directive. As a 40 plus year fan of Star Trek I can say with certainty that the prime directive does not apply to warp capable civilizations. Captain Archer is within his rights to consider a request for asylum from the cogenitor as he himself points out to the Vissian Captain. His big mistake was not to grant asylum in this instance.

Trip was wrong to interfere in Vissian affairs without getting the permission of the Captain or the First Officer. But he was not ultimately responsible for the death of the cogenitor. The Captain was responsible. It was his decision. The buck stopped with him. He made a command decision as Captain and he has to live with the consequences. To throw all the blame on Trip was cowardly and reflected very poorly on his leadership ability.

Jay - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
It had to happen so that Trip could meet her (or it, I guess) and trigger the main plot point, but considering the regard the society gives the cogenitor, it's rather odd that they even brought the cogenitor aboard the Enterprise for dinner in the first place. Imean...if they don't even get to have names...
Jay - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:23pm (USA Central)
ANd on that...the lack of a name seemed really absurd. For one, even pets have names, and more importantly, if cogenitors spend their lives being farmed out to couples, I'd think the department of the Visian government (or whatever entity) manages that task) would need a way to keep track of their various cogenitors, numbers at the very least.

This episode had a good story to tell, but there were flaws.
rosie - Wed, Jun 19, 2013 - 10:04am (USA Central)
this episode is sick! it condones sex slavery. I cant believe star trek was allowed to continue after this kind of shit
Jordy - Thu, Aug 15, 2013 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
This episode disgusted me, frankly. I thought the cogenitor's suicide was the fault of many people, but Trip was not among them. Archer, despite his lamabasting Trip at the end, was most directly to blame for refusing the asylum request. Vissian society is also to blame for treating fellow sentients like chattels. Trip could have been more careful, but ultimately he was acting from a moral position whereas just about everyone else was concerned with expediency and not rocking the boat. I wanted to punch Archer during the last scene for having the gall to chew Trip out for something that was mostly HIS OWN damned fault.
Sarah - Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
I have to throw my two cents in here because this is one of my favorite episodes of Enterprise. I agree that the ending is very depressing and that the Vissian's treatment of the cogenitors is morally wrong. But to me that it was makes this episode fantastic. I loved that this episode refused to take the easy way out and instead offered a cautionary tale about how difficult and dangerous first contact can be even when weapons aren't being fired.

As for the Prime Directive, I have to disagree with the people above who say that it only applies to pre-warp civilizations. The Prime Directive covers that situation, but it also covers warp-capable civilizations that are not Federation members. The best example is the Bajorans. Sisko, Picard, and numerous other Starfleet officers state that they are bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere in the internal affairs on Bajor (in "Emissary" Picard even summarizes Sisko's mission as "You are to do everything, short of violating the Prime Directive, to make sure they are ready [to join the Federation]").

In some ways, this episode reminds me of the DS9 episode "Accession," in which the Bajorans go back to a caste system which results in civil unrest and eventually one death. Sisko says that as long as they have a caste system, they will not be eligible for Federation membership because it violates some of the Federation's basic principles about personal freedom. However, he does not try to stop the Bajoran government from reinstating the caste system, and he doesn't stop the Bajorans from following the caste system on the station. Even though he disagrees with it, he respects their culture.

In this episode, while Trip had good intentions, there really wasn't much that he could have done personally to help the cogenitors. The best case scenario was that the cogenitor Charles would have spent the rest of its life in exile among aliens, unable to return home. That's fine for Charles, but what about all of the other cogenitors? We know that in a few years, the Federation will be formed; perhaps when that happens, they could offer membership to the Vissians only if they gave the cogenitors equal rights and ensured they had access to education. The Prime Directive, as I understand it, prevents individual Starfleet captains and officers from interfering in alien civilizations (both pre-warp and warp-capable). However, the Federation as a whole is not bound by the same limitations, although they also tend to favor non-interference. To me, the point of this episode is that interference by a single officer or a single crew in an alien society is very dangerous.

I do agree that the weakest part of this episode is Archer. I agreed with what he said, and I liked Bakula's performance, but I kept thinking about all of the times Archer did even worse things during first contact missions. Like that planet he visited in "The Communicator" -- his claim that he was a genetically-engineered Alliance spy probably led to a civil war.
Nancy - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 10:48am (USA Central)
I agree that The death of the cogenitor is Archer's fault for inexplicably refusing to grant asylum. His throwing it all onto Trip - and the writers apparently expecting us to do so as well - is disgusting.

So we are never to interfere because each culture has its own rules? Let's take that to its logical conclusion. The writers make this more palatable for us by showing "it" as a complacent, "happy" pet. What if cogenitors were kept in cages and the reproductive act was painful and fatal, or ended with a ritual mutilation such as female circumcision? Would it still be shrugged off as "well that's their culture" and non-interference be presented as the moral high ground?

How bad does it have to get before we realize that there is a right and wrong, and that we must stand up for what's right?

The comparison to the way women were treated in the past is apt, but the oppression of women has often been treated by men like B&B as somewhat regrettable, but not really THAT bad. There's a reason the cogenitor wasn't played by a male, folks.
Adam - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jordy, and ironically this episode was directed by Geordi LaForge himself, LaVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in Roots. Like "Cogenitor", Roots was a story of a slave who wasn't allowed to have his own name. But in "Cogenitor", the slave is forced to have sex with thousands of people, and most people commenting here seem to think that's ok as long as "it's their culture". The best part of this episode is that the Cogenitor finally exercised her power - she denied her slavemasters what they needed from her by killing herself. In a free society, people would have to ASK a Cogenitor to participate in reproduction, and therefore Cogenitors would be important and valued people. It may be similar to women's rights issues in Muslim countries, but it's not much like women's issues in modern America. In our culture, men are the ones with no reproductive rights, and the government has taken over the role of men in giving women what they need and want in terms of a protector and provider. But even in the history of Christian countries, women weren't treated like Cogenitors, since they willingly sought reproduction and the marriage arrangement. The biggest difference is that Cogenitors have the power to hold their species hostage and deny reproduction until their rights are recognized, so they could win their rights and hold them by their own merits. In our culture it's completely different, since women's rights are gifts given to them by men, protected by men, and taken for granted by ungrateful women. A man can walk down the street without fear, because he knows he can protect himself. But the only reason women can walk down the street without fear is because men are constantly protecting them from other men, and most of our women are childlike in their complete ignorance of the luxuries afforded them by our safe society (which was built by men). Google "The Manipulated Man" by Esther Vilar.
Nathaniel - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 10:12pm (USA Central)
@Adam,

Dude, your misogyny is showing.
Adam - Sat, Oct 12, 2013 - 10:41am (USA Central)
@Nathaniel,

You ignored about 34 comments from other people supporting the enslavement of an entire gender. Your willfully stupid hypocrisy is showing.
Retnan - Sun, Nov 3, 2013 - 8:52am (USA Central)
I was disgusted by Archer (and T'Pol) in this episode.

Trip should have chewed that son of a bitch out. Or least said the S word (SLAVE), rather than just standing there and saying "it's not your fault capn" while Archer browbeat him.
K'Elvis - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 9:24am (USA Central)
No, women's rights are not "gifts" given by men. Women have no obligation to be "grateful" for their rights. Men do have their reproductive rights, they are perfectly free to keep their pants on. Until relatively recently, women had little rights over who they married and little rights over how many children they had. It used to be legal for a man to force his wife to have sex.

Trip didn't make the cogenitor do anything. The cogenitors were essentially slaves, sent where they were sent regardless of what they wanted. If this episode was about women being sent against their will to be impregnated, few people would say "it's OK, it's their culture." Since their are so few cogenitors, one would think that cogenitors should be in high demand, and thus enjoy a high status in culture. Instead, they are slaves. What this culture needs is a slave revolt - a Lysistrata Option. Withhold their services until the cogenitors can choose which couples they will partner with.

When someone wishes to have a mate and have children, they have to persuade that person to join them. But wooing someone and getting them to agree is a lot of work. Wouldn't it be a lot easier if you could just force someone to have your children? It would be easier, yes, but unacceptable. The congenitors don't want to be forced, what makes that acceptable? The wrong here was not with Trip, the cogenitor was already unhappy. If the congenitor was happy with the situation, then Trip would have been in the wrong.

It's a shame that the cogenitor committed suicide, and it really felt contrived. The cogenitor could simply have used passive resistance, refused to cooperate until demands were met.
Jack - Mon, Nov 25, 2013 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
Off topic, but I cringe every time Archer says "Tell Chef that blah blah blah". The ship's cook surely has a name, it's absurd and impolite not to use it.
Quark - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 9:34am (USA Central)
I've been watching the series in relatively rapid succession on Netflix. This episode seemed out of place to me. The writers obviously wanted to try something new and avoid the neatly packaged ending. They wanted to disturb the viewer and force them to think. But I'm left wondering what it was they were trying to say, and have to agree with those who were turned off by the ending.

For me, the story was mostly about the congenitor and "her" possibilities -- to live, to love, to learn, to feel joy, and to be useful for society in some capacity beyond just making babies. The tragedy of her slavery was amplified by the fact that her species can learn so quickly. Upon first seeing her, Trip immediately noticed something was wrong, that her energy was sad and heavy, and it stirred his curiosity and his conscience. For whatever reason, Trip was the only character who expressed any concern about her lack of freedom.

It appears that the writers were trying to convey how societal conventions and norms can so readily influence how we think and stifle our conscience and humanity -- how someone who swims against this stream (in this case, Trip) is often silenced and shamed.

However, I can't be sure that's what they were trying to say. The ending seemed odd to me, and left a bad taste in my mouth about Archer, T'Pol, Flox, etc., The execution of the story also seemed odd.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this series, but this episode fell short. A beautiful theme with tremendous potential, but the execution fell short.
Andy's Friend - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Let's take this episode seriously, shall we?

YOU are the captain of a starship. The fastest your planet has ever built. Built specifically to explore space, of which your species still knows precious little.

YOU then meet a starship belonging to another species. One that appears to be friendly. One which has technology considerably superior to that of your own.

YOU seem to get along with the alien captain. He even invites you to participate in a short trip into the corona of a star, displaying said superior technology. Similarly, your crew seems to get along with the alien crew.

Could it be that this encounter could lead to further encounters between your two species? Could YOU actually be paving the way to lasting, friendly relations between your two spacefaring species?

Then one of your crewmembers discovers something about the aliens. For some reason, they kill some of their babies immediately after birth. Apparently, this species has three genders, not two. But the third has become redundant. So all babies of the third gender are killed immediately after birth.

Will YOU tell them it's wrong? Will YOU not only risk the friendly relations with this crew, but potentially risk antagonizing this technologically superior species by telling them how YOU think they should behave? Will YOU decide Earth's foreign policy towards other worlds? Is that YOUR responsibility?

If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you are not only grossly incompetent, but should be court martialled the minute you set your foot back on Earth.

It is NOT YOUR responsibility as a starship captain during a First Contact to tell other species how to behave themselves and run their societies and worlds. It is NOT YOUR responsibility as a starship captain to singlehandedly run Earth's foreign policy.

Your only duty, in a fortuitous First Contact such as this one, is to establish as smooth and friendly relations with the alien species as possible, and later report back to your superiors as accurately as possible.

Your superiors will then decide whether Earth should attempt to establish formal diplomatic relations with said species or not, and in which manner, and under what conditions such diplomatic relations should be pursued.

It's as simple as that.

When humanity eventually meets other species out there, we are most certainly going to be faced with many different fashions of strange and, certainly also in a few cases, questionable (by our standards) behaviours. We might, for example, meet some sort of 'Space Chinese', with full spacefaring capabilities but few political or individual rights at home. And we might meet far, far worse.

When humanity eventually meets other species out there, we are going to, at least initially, have to accept all sorts of alien behaviour just to make some friends out there.

That is, quite simply, what this quite remarkable episode is telling us. Whether or not Archer should have granted the alien asylum or not isn't even open to debate. And if Trip had been anywhere else but in deep space, he would have been dismissed, and rightly so, for doing what he did.

We humans share a certain responsibility for one another on this planet. It's our planet. We're all humans.

We have no responsibility whatsoever for an alien or aliens belonging to a species we barely know or understand at all during a First Contact. How anyone can condone Trip's behaviour or criticize Archer's is astonishing, and only shows that some people are discussing this episode for what is, a TV episode, and not for what it pretends to be, a story about First Contact in space.

Similarly, those people are discussing this for what they think it is about, notably some sort of slavery - completely oblivious to the fact that from the perspective of an alien species, things might look very different altoghether. That's being extremely ethnocentric, folks. If you think this is about slavery, or any other form of exploitation, we have missed the point. This is about alienness, and our right to interfere. What is right, and what is wrong, is all in the eye of the beholder. We on Earth have agreed to certain standards. Is is really that hard to imagine the existence of truly different perspectives? Hopefully, you would all be a little more sensible in an actual First Contact situation...

This episode shows us what being alien is all about: that other and utterly alien perspectives may exist. And in many cases, we'll just have to accept them in order to establish good relations - and certainly during a fortuitous First Contact like this one. Great episode.

Adrian - Sat, Jan 18, 2014 - 12:50pm (USA Central)
This episode wants us to believe Trip's behavior was unethical, but it is T'Pol's condemnation of Trip's interest in the cogenitor, Phlox's indifference to its status, and Archer's apparent ignorance of the Vissian's treatment of its cogenitors that is truly immoral. It's not a question of human rights versus alien values, but of the kinds of values that would deny basic freedoms and liberties to any sentient being that desires it.

One may speak of non-interference and of how something like the Prime Directive might have influenced these character's choices, but I don't think taking an interest in and discussing matters of personal rights with those you are interacting with would be consiered a form of interference under the Prime Directive. It's one thing not to impose your values upon other cultures, but quite another to speak as if the ethical treatment of sentient beings is simply a matter of cultural relativism. Even if Trip was wrong to go about things the way he did, for Starfleet to condone continuing ties between themselves and aliens whose society condones slavery would itself be a kind of interference far less ethical than anything Trip did in this episode.
Moonie - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 6:37am (USA Central)
I think this was my favorite episode so far. A good plot, and Trip-centered (my favorite character).

Verroak - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
I can't believe so many reviews of this episode are *positive*. This episode is the absolute nadir of Star Trek as far as I've seen, and is the proof why the Prime Directive is either the absolute worst idea in Star Trek, or is the most viciously abused one.

Let's put the events of this episode in perspective, and call everything by its proper name. So we have a person that is treated like an animal, and is sexually abused. This dehumanized sex slave meets another person that attempts to help her. Her new friend teaches her to read, write, shows her movies. Basically, he's the first person ever to treat her like a sentient being she is. But when her owners realize their "property" was taught reading and other things she ought to know as a basic sentient right, they get pissed and punish their sex slave. Then the sex slave asks her new friend's captain for asylum. Instead of treating her like a person, the captain treats her like property and sends the victim back to the abusers, against the victim's wish. When the victim commits suicide to escape further abuse, the MAN WHO TRIED TO HELP HER gets blamed for the death - not the people who abused her, or the captain who helped them in it.

This is a person who's not only sexually abused, she's also literally treated like an animal. I don't care about your vaunted Prime Directive, this stuff is WRONG. There is no possible moral justification for doing what the aliens are doing, or for what the captain has done. And "it's not our business" is MOST DEFINITELY NOT a justification for this despicable act. This is worse than the "eugenics is actually kinda good" episode from the previous season.

This has completely ruined the character of Archer, and possibly the entire show, for me. I'm seriously considering just never watching it again if something as bad as this has passed the basic conceptual stage. 0/10
Andy's Friend - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
@Verroak (and half the other commenters here):
Let’s settle this once and for all, shall we?

You have to accept the premise of this episode: Archer has *just* met an alien species that is *clearly* technologically superior.

Let me put it in a way that you perhaps can understand:

Imagine Archer is flying around in the Enterprise, and suddenly meets Darth Vader, aboard his huge imperial super star destroyer from ”The Empire Strikes Back”. And Vader behaves politely, and says, ’Come along, captain, I’ll show you the Death Star we’re building’. And off they go, and Archer can only be awed by the colossal power of the Imperial Fleet. But once they’re aboard the Death Star, the imperial admiral gets mad at someone for no apparent reason and sentences him to death. But the poor victim then turns to Archer and asks him for asylum. And the admiral says that there can be no such thing: his officer is to stand trial and be executed for no good reason. What would you want Archer to do? Would you want him to tell Vader that his admiral can go screw himself, and that he isn’t turning the officer over to them?

Or, if you want to keep it in the Star Trek universe, imagine that Archer and his little Enterprise meet the Voth from VOY and their huge city ship. Imagine a similar scenario ― say a scientist accused of heresy against Doctrine. Would you want Archer to tell the Ministry of Elders that they can screw their Doctrine, that he isn’t turning their scientist over to them?

That’s what’s at stake here. We have no idea who these people are, only that they are more advanced than we are. Archer cannot risk offending, provoking, or antagonizing a technologically superior species. The message of the episode is more subtle than my examples, but still clear, simple, cruel, and true: we need friends out there. Not enemies.
Trekker - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
Guys and Ladies:

These aliens are not human and do not need to be placed on a pedestal of human values.

I might be in the minority on this, but I felt Trip's actions were inappropriate.

In Star Trek, if a culture wants to have honorable martial battles to the death, then we are all for it. However, when a culture has a third gender and they mistreat "it" as a matter of custom, we throw a tantrum.

The Prime Directive was rightfully developed for Star Trek's universe and it is probably why I enjoy the shows. Ethically, it is the right thing to do, if you do not want to interfere in another race's natural development.

On TV shows like Babylon 5, which I love as well for exploring what Trek is afraid to including opening up same sex relationships among humans :P , there is no prime directive and lesser developed species are in constant conflict over values and cultural beliefs.

In this episode Enterprise did something right in context to the Star Trek universe, we learn why the Prime Directive is not only useful, but why we can't judge another alien race by our standards.

Too many reviewers here place too much a premium on human values, but Star Trek has always been about exploring "New worlds" and "new civilizations" to "bodly go where no one has gone before".

If you argue this as a moral judgment against slavery, then let's reduce the issue from there. Slavery is only a vice in human value system after the 18-19th century Judeo-Christianization of the world. Without Judeo-Christian values, most cultures did not have an issue on slavery; labor or sexual to begin with.

I am not defending slavery or in sexual repression, but who are we to judge any other cultures value on what is morally right or wrong, if they don't share our system of beliefs or ideologies.

-----------------------

This is a great episode, one that is not bound by human values and one that strives to prove itself worthy of Trekkian ideals.

9.5/10
Nell - Tue, Apr 8, 2014 - 6:02pm (USA Central)
Just chiming in to agree with Verroak - I couldn't have put it better myself. I saw this episode and was so disgusted with Archer, T'Pol, and the writers that I never watched another episode. All of this moral relativism is hideous.

'Who are we to judge' is wilful moral complacency in the face of evil.

'We need friends out there' is nothing but ghastly cowardice that enables others to get away with the most wicked crimes. Evil flourishes where no-one dares, or cares, enough to stand against it.
SWT - Mon, May 5, 2014 - 9:21pm (USA Central)
Been going through Enterprise and have to say that this was probably one of the better episodes in the series at least up to season 2. I disagree that the episode touted 'moral relativism' 'in the face of evil' or something. The episode was completely neutral--it provided enough important details to allow the viewer to make up your own mind about things. If it's bothersome, that's only because it strikes close to home as good sci fi often does.

The cogenitor is -as much a part of that 'culture' as anyone else-. We are invited to sympathize with the cogenitor and take its/her side. The episode purposefully included the detail of the cogenitor's suicide because clearly the cogenitor couldn't bear to go on living. The people who are using the cogenitor tell us to suspend judgment. Who of the above do you side with?

There were a lot of parallels that could be drawn here in terms of complacency with slavery and other things. It was incredibly well done.

The final point however was that meddling in foreign cultures nearly always makes things worse. Ignorant heroes have no business rushing in when they don't understand what the consequences of their actions will be. It shouldn't take too much searching to find historical examples on this planet. And Archer was clearly conflicted by the end, after all he granted the cogenitor asylum.

Wish there were more episodes with this level of nuance. This is such a step up from some of the terrible 'ethical' episodes of TNG. Ethics isn't a picnic, it's messy, it hurts, and heroics won't always save the day. Four sparkleys out of four.

Andy's Friend's Enemy - Fri, May 9, 2014 - 5:39pm (USA Central)
@Verroak, I Agree

@Andy's Friend,
You are totally missing the point.

It's not about what's at stake.
That's a political question.

The question is a moral one.

"Human" rights are universal and should really be called "Rights of Sentient Beings".

It is universally wrong for one sentient being to enslave another sentient being.

Hence Archers decision to deny the cogenitor's request for asylum is morally wrong.

For him to do it on political grounds is another question. But do we really want to be friends with a race that enslaves, objectifies and de-"human"-izes an entire gender?

This just makes the ending so utterly disgusting and illogical.
That Archer sits on a moral high horse and places the responsibility solely on Trip when it's his own decision that caused "it's" death.
Andy's Friend - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 10:29am (USA Central)
@Andy’s Friend's Enemy ― a.k.a. my best fiend ;)

Thank you very much for your reply ― and thanks for referring me in your name, I am honoured! :D :D Well, this is what I have to say:

Although I understand what you’re saying, I must stress that this is only a moral question on the surface. The true message is about cultural diversity, and accepting that which is different (I won't use the word tolerance, because I could write a whole treatise on that specific word alone).

Morality is a philosophical concept. Specific morality is the child of a particular culture and a particular age. Our morals in the West today are not the same as morals in India, or China, or among the Amazon Indians. Our morals in the West today are not even what they were thirty years ago, much less three hundred. Who knows what they will be three hundred years from now? Or three thousand?

As such, this episode is clever writing because it speaks to a Western audience with our present moral beliefs, and provokes reactions based on those Western beliefs. If this episode were shown to a Chinese audience, for example, the vast majority would wholly agree with Archer, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Why? Because Chinese culture is one of diversity, much unlike what is perhaps generally thought. As long as you obey the Emperor ― or nowadays, the regime ―, the specifics are not important. Hong-Kong and Macao are prime examples of this: most people were expecting China not to respect the agreements with the UK and Portugal, but China has, in fact, respected the two-system models agreed upon, and kept Hong-Kong and Macao as different societies than neighbouring China. In China, there is no paradox in this at all. What better example can be given of how the mentality you claim to be, quite literally, universal, isn’t even shared by all societies on Earth today?

*****************

There is also no such thing as “human rights”. That concept, too, is the child of a particular culture and a particular age. Read the above paragraphs: the same applies. Even in the West, many Christians will tell you that the concept of “human rights” goes against Christian doctrine: “human rights” are given by man; but only that which is given by God can hold universal value.

If you accept this view, morals turns into a religious question. And who is to say which religion’s morality is more equal than others?

If you deny morality as a religious question ― i.e., if you deny God or the gods ―, all you have left is philosophy. You may believe that our Western set of morals, if such a thing can be said to exist, is the pinnacle of morality. You may even believe that nothing truly new has been written in Western philosophy since Plato and Aristotle, and that such longevity proves that morality as we understand it in the West is universal and eternal. I would almost agree with the first part of that sentence; but certainly not with the second.

*****************

For the record: personally, my dear Enemy, I am fond of the morals you defend. But then again, I am also a Westerner, and a child of our day and age.

However, unlike you it would seem, I am perfectly capable of imagining societies that abide by very different moral standards than ours. And I am especially willing to accept the existence of strange, alien, extra-terrestrial civilizations with wholly outlandish ethical and moral systems.

There is a fantastic poem by a very atheistic poet, who in one of his major personae is close to reading as a Zen master, which sums it up nicely:

“Accept the universe
As the gods gave it to you.
If the gods wanted to give you something else
They would have done it.

If there are other matters and other worlds
There are.”

(Fernando Pessoa [as the Alberto Caeiro heteronym], 1917)

This huge little poem really says it all. But try also reading the philosophical treatise that is “Star Maker”, which deals with these matters in a fundamental way:

“Star Maker is a science fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon, published in 1937. The book describes a history of life in the universe, dwarfing in scale Stapledon's previous book, Last and First Men (1930), a history of the human species over two billion years. Star Maker tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A pervading theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes briefly discussed prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.” [Wikipedia]

In a few hundred pages, Stapledon merely elaborates on a colossal scale on what Pessoa wrote in the six lines above: that the issue we are discussing here is not that of political or even moral questions, and much less of moral relativism ― is it one of diversity on a cosmic scale.

I don’t have the imagination to think of the exact manifestations of such “infinite diversity”, to quote Star Trek, much less to describe it; nor does Stapledon, for that matter, nor does he really try to. Pessoa wisely reduced the matter to six lines! But I am capable of imagining the possibility of that existence ― much like in that other huge novel that is "Solaris" ―, and I understand how the matter we are discussing here is absolutely trivial and absurd ― i.e., meaningless ― from a moral point of view, if you accept the premise of "Star Trek: Enterprise". If there are other matters and other worlds, there are.

*****************

What is not trivial, however, if you accept the basic premise of ENT, is that Archer has in no way carte blanche to conduct Earth’s foreign policy. He is not an accredited ambassador to this specific civilization; he has no mission objective regarding other cultures in space other than to learn about them, and make friends out there. Implicit in that mission objective is that you do not antagonize alien civilizations. Especially ones that are technologically more advanced than we are. How anyone in their right mind would dispute this is beyond me.

I see that you realize this: “Hence Archer’s decision to deny the cogenitor's request for asylum is morally wrong. For him to do it on political grounds is another question.”

But the matter is, that it is only morally wrong from his perspective. And Archer realizes this. So in the end, we're back where we started: it is not up to Earth to tell the rest of the universe how to behave.

But as Q would put it, some of us puny, insignificant creatures are so arrogant, or so naïve, that we think that it is our place, and that we have that right...

As I said, this is all very clever writing. Because the writers know their prime audience: early 21st century Westerners. And they know that many of them will feel, and react the way you, my dear Enemy, do. So we end up having nice little debates likes this one, more than ten years after the original television episode aired. Which is no small achievement for a television episode, or a television series on the whole. Live long and prosper, dear Enemy :)
Andy’s Friend's Enemy - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
If moral is completely arbitrary (which is the same as to say there is no such thing), the only thing we can truly rely on is our own view on morality. And in that case Archer still acts immorally because he's acting against his own morality. Also if it is arbitrary, he has just as mush right to interfere (grant asylum) as they have to treat a an entire gender as cattle.

To say that it is not his place to interfere when there is no such thing as morality is a contradiction.

He could simply chose to grant asylum because he recognizes, as a sentient being, that that the cogenitor is unhappy with the situation.

The problem with the writing is that they destroy the integrity of Archer when he gives the speech to Trip.

A few episodes later (Rajiin) he frees, what he believes to be, a sex slave and then gives a speech that humans don't believe that one sentient being can own another.

This is in complete contradiction.

If he had simply stated that he would not grant asylum because of earths foreign policy or because of his own decision (based on fear of consequences?) not to interfere it would have made more sense.
But now we have to episodes almost next to each other where his moral views are in complete opposition.

-------------------------------

I would like to argue that the human race still hasn't truly achieved sentience, and that any fully sentient/"enlightened" being would recognize that since they them self would not wish to be enslaved, they would chose not to enslave other sentient beings.

Hence "Rights of Sentient Beings".

But I think you are right. Everything is arbitrary, and as humans we have no way of appreciating just how alien conscience can be.

I am now a nihilist...
Deborah - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
I got the impression that the Vissians wouldn't give Charles up without a fight. In a case of "you give 'it' back or we blow you up," Archer would have no choice but to give Charles up. But if the day ever came when the Vissians wanted to join the Federation, they'd have to change their ways, wouldn't they? There's a limit to what a lone captain can do vs. a Federation.
Deborah - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
Oh, and for those who keep referring to the "Dear Doctor" episode, remember it was the *Doctor* who made the compelling argument of the show... which was that choosing to help one species over another in the case of the Valakians/Menks would be the equivalent of alien visitors to Earth choosing Homo neanderthalensis over Homo sapiens under similar circumstances.
MisterFred - Mon, Jun 2, 2014 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
This episode is a travesty. Humans have not yet met aliens. But self-aware sentients should have a value beyond that of what a majority decides to assign to them.

The show's message is morally reprehensible, and condones virtual slavery in the name of moral relativism.

Starfleet should be ashamed. Archer, relieved of command. And personally, I'm disgusted with the author of this episode.

It could have been decent if the cogenitor was not fully sentient. It could have been decent if Archer granted asylum but was forced, at gunpoint, to give the cogenitor back despite his ruling. It could have been decent if Archer granted asylum at the expense of the aliens rejecting all future relations.

As it is, the episode teaches evil.
Snooky - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
While I can appreciate the idea that we may not understand alien races enough to judge them, that falls by the wayside by how "human" these people behave. Any aliens that can appreciate MacBeth and Hamlet aren't alien enough to justify Archer & Co. turning a blind eye to what is essentially sexual slavery. I really wanted to slap Archer for accusing Trip of being responsible for the cogenitor's death. Clearly his own decision to deny her asylum, out of a selfish desire to have friends in space, led to her suicide. This is the worst portrayal of Archer so far in the series. I couldn't have cared less that the couple wasn't going to get to have their baby at that moment (aw, too bad so sad), but Archer seemed to think that was something to scream at Trip about.

I wish the cogenitors would get together and demand not only their rights, but to be treated as the rare resource they really are. They should be reviewing applicants and making the decisions!
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 9:13am (USA Central)
Jammer:

"There's another question here, one that I'm struggling with. How could the cogenitors in Vissian society really not know what they're missing? If they have the same intellectual potential as the rest of the Vissians, how is it they haven't realized this potential before, even in small numbers? Surely what Trip unleashes here has previously happened internal to their society with their own cogenitor sympathizers. How couldn't it? And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Vissian cogenitors don't seem to be aware of their subjugation, and the Vissian males and females don't seem to be aware that what they are doing is subjugation. It's simply an internal cultural fact, one that perhaps is impossible to understand in human terms. (Are we a product of only what we're permitted to experience? If so, Vissian cogenitors apparently are not permitted to experience much of anything, short of brainwashing and built-in repression.) But given how "Cogenitor" plays out — with the cogentior's eyes being opened and her desire to keep them open — this accepted belief by all the Vissians seems impossible. Not that this hurts the story; it simply makes me even more curious to explore the story points."

Great point. I think this IS the story here.

So many get into trouble by viewing the cogenitor's "situation" through human eyes with human rights as their justification for praising Trip's actions and sticking a knife in Archer's back for returning "it".

From what we've witnessed this is the assumption I've come to with regard to how "it" is treated within the Vissian society.

The one cogenitor we know, learned to read etc and obviously couldn't handle the knowledge/status within their society. We do learn that cogenitors make up only about 3 percent of their population so protecting them would seem to be mandatory for their species survival. Could it be that one day in their history, the cogenitors were so powerful that the "masses" had to rally to overtake them to survive? Could it be that the cogenitors aren't emotionally stable enough to handle knowledge and freedom and the way "it" is treated is mandatory for their survival? I tend to believe the latter because of the suicide and how open the Vissian's were to the Enterprise crew. If this advanced civilization wanted to hide any knowledge of the treatment of the cogenitors it would have been very easy.

I just wish we could have had one more scene on the Vissian's vessel that could have shed some light on this.

What makes this episode so good, is that it could have been a great TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY episode as well.

Love Archer’s lambasting of Trip. He deserved it for sure and Archer didn’t let him off the hook.

This episode took us where 'Dear Doctor' should have. Archer should have helped the Valakian’s and there should have been grave consequences as a result. This is a true “Prime Directive” episode.

Hats off to another wonderful SCI-FI performance by Andreas Katsulas. He was a truly gifted actor.

Easy 4 stars for me. Tremendous trek here.

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