Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 4/15/2005
Written by Manny Coto
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Unless a new policy has been instated, I don't believe Starfleet condones slavery." — Low-key T'Pol sarcasm
In brief: Un-good. Very, very un-good.
Manny Coto, a self-confessed Trek geek, has written what I'm sure he thinks is a "fun" homage to the Trek days of yesteryear. What he fails to recognize, however, is that this is not an episode of television that deserves to see the light of day in 2005. It's too dumb, too obvious, too boring, and too rooted in gender stereotypes. If this is an homage, it's an homage to all the things that I, for one, hoped Trek had grown out of in the past four decades.
Maybe this is a sly commentary/satire on the sexism that frequently pervaded TOS. On the other hand, maybe it's just bad, boring, juvenile TV that exploits those qualities rather than lampooning them.
The plot. Blah, blah, blah — do you even care? Because the episode certainly does not. Perfunctory barely beings to describe it. Anyone could've written this by-the-numbers storyline. The captain of an Orion ship, Harrad-Sar (William Lucking) offers a proposal to Archer as an olive branch in establishing good relations between Starfleet and the Orion Syndicate. Whether Starfleet would even entertain the idea of negotiating with openly self-described criminal slavers is an interesting question that the episode doesn't bother asking, but never mind. Harrad-Sar pitches his proposal during a Sexy Dance Number by three scantily clad Orion slave girls (Cyia Batten, Crystal Allen, Menina Fortunato). The dancing leaves Archer and his away team positively entranced. Hypnotized. Galvanized. Stupefied. Moronized. Gee, y'think these girls have a special power over men that goes beyond simply their visual sex appeal? If not, would we even have a plot here? Duh.
Harrad-Sar gives Archer the location of a planet allegedly perfect for a lucrative, joint mining operation. Archer accepts the deal. T'Pol futilely offers words of caution, but Archer has already decided, and we're on our way. Is this a trap? Was Enterprise canceled exactly when the dailies of this episode started coming in? Okay, I made that last part up.
Meanwhile, Lt. Cmdr. Kelby (Derek Magyar) has a beef with Tucker because Tucker hasn't returned to the Columbia and Kelby thinks his promotion to chief engineer is going to be voided. Judging by the way the episode plays out, I'd say his fears are pretty justified. Oh, well — maybe Kelby can be the chief engineer on the Columbia. Sort of a consolation prize for both Kelby and Captain Hernandez. Trip's transfer off the Enterprise in "The Aenar" was interesting specifically because it dealt believably with personnel issues on board a starship. The situation with Kelby here flies in the face of believable staffing issues, but we naturally must have our guy Trip back where he belongs.
Oh, wait, we were talking about "Bound." Sorry. So Harrad-Sar gives Archer the three slave girls as a gift, leading to many scenes where they slink and slither around the ship and cause distractions and disturbances because none of the men can think straight. These women, they DRIVE MEN WILD. And they drive the other women on the ship to have headaches, which is to say, one woman. Hoshi complains to Phlox while T'Pol is unaffected, being the logical Vulcan that she is. Are there even any other women on the ship?
Much of the episode is your typical Sci-Fi Sexuality Lite, which is to say neutered faux sexuality played for nervous tee-hee laughs and aimed at a TV-PG audience. It's an embarrassment. It's perhaps here that Star Trek has become most anachronistic and useless. Because it has tried to stay in the family-friendly zone while cramming false sexuality down our throats, Enterprise's take on sex has been left behind in the land of irrelevance, and nobody cares. (For Sci-Fi Sexuality Dealt With, you should watch Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica.)
Really, on even the dumbest level of the male libido, are these girls even a turn-on? I didn't think so, because all I could think of was the fact that they'd painted these poor actresses green from head to toe, and all that paint is going to turn into quease-inducing cakes of sweat and pastel grime during ... well, whatever. A game of billiards, say. Yeah.
So Archer quickly is turned useless by the power of these women to DRIVE MEN WILD. There's one scene on the bridge that I have to commend for technical reasons, simply because it's directed so vividly oddly, as if Archer were on drugs. The camera movement is somewhat refreshing and appropriate. It made me want to smoke pot, something that would be preferable to watching this episode, albeit illegal. Hell, "Bound" should be illegal. It should be charged with impersonating a TV show. Of course, the burden of proof for that charge is much higher on UPN.
Meanwhile, Kelby sabotages the engines after one of the Orion girls sexes him into doing it. Trip is fortunately on hand to beat Kelby up in engineering, but not in time. Poor Kelby; what a thankless character. Promoted to chief engineer only to be written as a complete boob who is manipulated by Mr. Johnson into sabotaging the ship so he can get beat down in public by Trip, who then takes his job back.
Why is all of this happening? Phlox explains. The Orion women have strong pheromones that DRIVE MEN WILD and make them susceptible to suggestion. Duh!
And now I'm bored, so allow me to retort. What does Marcellus Wallace look like? Are you telling me you're as useless as an asshole right here? You're not Mr. Purple. Some guy on some other job is Mr. Purple. You're Mr. Pink! What ain't no country I've heard of. Do they speak English in What? I would quote lines from "Bound," but that would require me to think about the show. Oh, wait, here you go, courtesy the Wachowski brothers and Joe Pantoliano: "F***ing dark in here." Wrong Bound, yes, but one I'd much rather watch than this.
There was one question I had and was going to rip on the script about: If these women have so much control over their men with these pheromones, why aren't they running things? But that's where the Twist comes in. It's revealed that the Orion women actually ARE running things, counter to our previous conceptions, or, preconceptions. The men are the slaves. Whoa! Clever. Of course, this power structure is based solely on the women's ability to use their sexual charms to DRIVE MEN WILD, and this twist is not going to be of much consolation to those in the audience who correctly label the episode sexist.
But then again, that requires some sort of thought and deconstruction. There isn't thought to be found here, nor philosophies worthy of deconstruction. The episode is mainly a 60-minute IQ vortex.
The thwarting of this plot centers on T'Pol and Trip, who are immune to the Orion pheromones because T'Pol is a Vulcan and Trip had sex with her. Yes. They now share some sort of telepathic link. This leads us back to the whole Trip/T'Pol question: Will They or Won't They? It looked like Will They for a brief while, and then Won't They for a long time, and now we're back on Will They. It's sort of like flipping a coin a lot of times. I'm just going to throw in the towel and pose a question about the audience: Care They or Don't They? I answer this question Don't They.
Coto meant this all in good fun, proof of which is shown at the end, where T'Pol makes a joke, and then all the other guys poke fun at the Vulcan and laugh, just like when they used to laugh at Mr. Spock, the all-purpose straight man. But like the rest of this episode, it's a massive miscalculation. The episode doesn't work because it's an anachronism that doesn't stand on its own entertainment value. It comes off looking idiotic when it's meant to look affectionate. Coto has clearly taken his love of Star Trek to a place where the audience doesn't need it to go. This is the worst episode of Enterprise in more than two years.
Next week: Back to the mirror universe, which will hopefully be far more fun than this.