Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 5/1/2002
Teleplay by Fred Dekker
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Fred Dekker
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Are you staying for the movie tonight?"
"Wages of Fear. Classic French film. No, you'll like it. Things blow up."
"Hmm. Sounds fun."
— Mayweather and Reed
In brief: Some nice moments and an ending that rings of genuine sci-fi, but overall just a little too average.
"Vox Sola" begins with a shaky alien first contact that sets the stage for an even bigger, shakier, more awe-inspiring alien first contact. This is not a story sold on an original premise or even new takes on old ideas. Rather, the truth here is in the details.
I sort of liked the details. This is an episode that goes to the core of the "seek out new life" clause in the Trekkian mantra and seems to genuinely believe in it. The question is whether this particularly journey is worth our time.
Almost. I sort of liked this episode, but not quite enough to give it a pass. In terms of fascinating content, there just isn't enough here. But I enjoyed the story's payoff, which manages to generate enough wonder to qualify as true sci-fi.
Something Is On the Ship. Our illustrious crew is not sure what, but it has webs of gelatinous tendrils that are good for reaching out and grabbing somebody. It starts by grabbing two engineers before the captain and Trip wander down to investigate and are also snared. The rest of the episode is an exercise in figuring out how to communicate with this lifeform and get our people released.
It also serves as a reminder, as Phlox says to Reed in a brief and calm argument I appreciated, that we're out here to explore and contact new life. This weird gelatinous thing would seem to qualify as a perfect example, but the crew is uncertain whether the creature is sentient. Meanwhile, the lives of four crew members, including the captain and chief engineer, lie in jeopardy.
Quite simply, I have little to say about the way this mystery is solved. The usual courses of investigation and tech are documented in competent ways that, gladly, do not threaten to grow too tedious. Nor are they worth the time of summarizing in a review.
On the character front we get Hoshi facing what is perceived as an early failure in translating an alien language, resulting in their becoming greatly offended and storming off the ship. For audience members paying attention, this should trigger the Full Circle Alarm. Will Hoshi be tested again in this new situation involving the strange lifeform's language, which seems rooted in mathematics and musical tones? Hmmm.
Hoshi doesn't appreciate the boss nagging her, though. T'Pol seems to go out of her way to remind Hoshi about the importance of having this second chance go right, with a little bit of attitude buried in that Vulcan calm. Or perhaps not. My take? T'Pol should be a little more forgiving, Hoshi should ignore subtle digs, and this might all be more interesting if it didn't feel quite so tired and forced anyway. (I liked the T'Pol/Hoshi interaction better in "Sleeping Dogs.") On the other hand, I liked the unforced humor in the dialog between Travis and Malcolm regarding a French film where "things blow up." (Insert grin here.)
Alas, Anthony Montgomery is less effective in serious scenes, as when he talks with the offended aliens over the viewscreen while on an empty bridge. Montgomery, who every day seems more like the weak link in the Enterprise cast, is far too wooden to make the scene work; the whole thing comes across as stilted. Perhaps there's a reason he's been getting so little screen time this season.
But never mind all the setup, which works only because of the cumulative effect of watching the crew tackle the problem at hand. Where "Vox Sola" comes together is in the payoff where Hoshi communicates with the lifeform. It's a strange and well-conceived sequence that uses sound effects, slowly building revelation, and Paul Baillargeon's surprisingly workable score to create an inspired moment that works as true science fiction; it feels like we're making contact with a truly alien presence rather than the usual routine involving humanoids and the universal translator. I was reminded of the communication at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Granted, the moment doesn't make for a fully satisfactory episode. This is all pretty routine stuff — exploration of the Star Trek ideal in the most rudimentary, if reliable, of ways. The alien lifeform ends up as not much more than something you think of the crew later documenting in a report after the mission is complete: "Captain's log: This bizarre thing happened today." But hopefully in the details of such a report, it would reveal itself as a bit more interesting, and we'd see the curiosity of our space travelers emerge.
Next week: Two episodes for the price of one.
Previous episode: Detained
Next episode: Fallen Hero
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54 comments on this post
Tue, Jul 7, 2009, 2:29am (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 22, 2010, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
The premise of "crew-meets-lifeform" has been done in much better form in TNG episodes "Emergence" and "Galaxy's Child". And the result in those is much more satisfying.
Also... water polo? REALLY?
Sat, Dec 18, 2010, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Also, why did it grow so huge, and more importantly, how did it shrink back down again, to a size much smaller than when it first came aboard? Phlox's "it needed contact with another life form" doesn;t explain the increase in size.
Mon, Oct 17, 2011, 2:40am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 13, 2012, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
1) aliens who are deeply offended by us for reasons we don't understand, and
2) non-humanoid life forms that are completely alien and dangerous to us.
Dr. Phlox's refusal to let the tendril be tortured was admirable, but his rationale was rationally inconsistent: because it was intelligent. He keeps non-human animals in cages, as captives, which is a form of harm to them, though not torture, yet he balks at harming an alien because it is intelligent?
Why is intelligence a criterion for non-harm? What about different levels of intelligence then? If humans are less intelligent than Vulcans does that mean it's okay to harm them? ST should confront the problem of specieism -- what is here called "inter-species ethics" -- more often, IMHO.
The translation shown here was good, I thought: it makes sense that an alien language is totally foreign.
Very similar to the Andromeda Strain, but in that film/book the parasitic alien did not communicate - it simply took over, like a virus.
Confronting alien parasites and viruses and diseases will likely be the foremost challenge for early space pioneer, if humans ever do manage to survive global warming and resource depletion and the threat of war, and develop ward drives (improbable at this point, but not impossible).
Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 7:40am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 26, 2012, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 5:05am (UTC -5)
We discover or are reinforced in the ideas of who each main character is. T'Pol is not human and her way of dealing with Hoshi is obviously wrong from a human perspective, but we also witness her adapt and give encouragement instead of "repression". Hoshi lacks confidence and is on a learning journey, which is great. Malcolm is a typical security man, focused on the danger (and likes things being blown up :p). Trip and Archer share a genuine friendship. The captain pouts when something doesn't go his way... Well, you get my point, I could continue on little details, but it's unnecessary.
The plot was well conceived, but the pace was a bit slow. The truly alien life form was interesting and the developement of the force field was great. I was interested in watching more of Mayweather, but the last episode and this one make me agree with Jammer: his acting is unfortunately very very poor.
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 7:26am (UTC -5)
Strange for a series shot and broadcast in 16:9.
Fri, Aug 2, 2013, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 11:11pm (UTC -5)
Having watched all other Star Trek series and most of the episodes therein, I want to say that this episode features what is in my opinion possibly The Very Best (TM) musical composition we've seen (heard!) to date, starting from when Hoshi and T'Pol work on communicating with the alien. You could almost see the music setting the pace and serving as the underlying structure for everything else. It was uncanny how it seemed the music was the real point of the show for those brief few minutes and everything else was just icing on the cake. Baillargeon completely outdid himself here.
Side note: I think Enterprise's introduction of elements we're familiar with from "future" earlier shows is not necessarily a bad idea, but I'm always so disappointed to see it so quickly rushed. The usage of the force field in this show had a promising start: it was unreliable, ugly, and crude. But one "we'll need some adjustments to the lower right quadrant" later and it's a perfected technology.
This same thing was seen with the transporter and the holodeck. It's a real shame as I think some of these, particularly the transporter and the force field, could have each been stretched out over the course of an entire season!
Imagine how much better it would be if in the pilot references were made to emerging tech that would enable transportation and then an entire season sporting incremental improvements and accidents gone wrong, building up to the "let's risk the transporter and see if it can get us out of this situation" moment from the pilot used as the season finalé plot?
The force field is an even better candidate for such development. Have Malcolm (as security/weapons) and Trip (as engineer, though until now I see him as a cowboy and have a hard time thinking of him doing anything that requires any sort of thinking) mention it in an episode, Archer demand they research its feasibility and design further when they find a different solution, realizing how much better/easier/safer things would have turned out with force field technology, and then carry that through a dozen or so episodes. Incremental improvements, a small, unsustainable field here, a dangerously lethal field there.. Why does everything have to be so rushed in this show!?
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Some episodes will always be better than others, but every single one of them took a heck of a lot of time and effort to bring into existence.
Sun, May 11, 2014, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 30, 2014, 7:08am (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 28, 2015, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 18, 2015, 6:45pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 2, 2016, 8:39am (UTC -5)
But overall this was another fairly slow paced episode that gave us half an episode of T'Pol and Hoshi snarking at each other to give us a very minor payoff between the two. Overall, not a classic by any means. 2 stars.
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 28, 2015, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
Agree with most of the other posters here - this felt like a real "sci-fi" episode of Trek with reasonable special effects, good acting, excellent use of music and light and a totally believable story line that touched all the logical responses that you would have expected in a situation like this. From the attempts to destroy it, contain it, do the medical research on it, ask other people about it and try to communicate with it, all woven nicely with the characters and their roles in the crew. Something like this could have been really boring and predicatble but some of the scenes such as the Phlox/Read scene and the T'Pol/Hoshi scenes lifted it above ordinary in my opinion.
Best exchange in this episode?
"HOSHI: Is that all we're talking about? You don't think I belong on Enterprise, do you.
T'POL: On the contrary. It would be a great loss to Starfleet if you were not a part of this crew. If you feel I've been unfair to you, I apologize, but I hold you to a high standard, Ensign, because I know you're capable of achieving it. Shall we continue?"
Also love the ending in this one. About as SCI-FI as you can get.
One more thing, music DOES affect rating. Outstanding job here.
The music and ending elevate this to a 3.5 stars for me.
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 3:35am (UTC -5)
I also appreciated the Hoshi/T'Pol interactions in this one, they didn't feel too far off from "Sleeping Dogs". Poor Hoshi can't seem to get over her insecurities...
And I really appreciated the Reed/Phlox conversation in sickbay. Both have good points, but I'm glad Phlox's more humane and compassionate view won out.
Not to mention the score actually stood out for once. What is this? I don't remember Trek music standing out to me this much since the days of Ron Jones in TNG.
Solid 3/4 stars from me.
Fri, Sep 9, 2016, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
It was interesting seeing the Hoshi/T'Pol bit, I liked the water polo bit as well. (not my cup of tea but Archer's mentioned water polo before and it wasn't Tripp's cup of tea either but he watched it with Archer anyway and the 2 of them showed some of their friendship).
Anyway, for me there was too little communication with the creature. No reveal. It seemed obvious that the only answer it could give when they spoke to it was "take me home". Anything else would have resulted in 2 of the main characters dying.
The reveal about the first contact was more interesting I think.
Wed, Sep 28, 2016, 6:10am (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 28, 2016, 10:09am (UTC -5)
The dad finds out that frat boy toilet papered his house and made it a health hazard so he asks frat boy why. Frat boy tells him that he was deeply offended by the dad's open fly. the dad apologizes profusely and frat boy gives him the name of someone who will clean up the toilet paper and industrial waste slime.
Sounds like a winner doesn't it?
Sat, Apr 8, 2017, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
The 2 scenes I liked was the ending when the creature joined up with its larger self on the planet. This felt like real sci-fi, a totally new sentient life form that seemed to enchant and amaze the landing party. Nice touch with the musical score throughout the episode. The other scene I liked was Phlox preventing Reed from torturing the part of the creature that had been severed. Some good ethical reminders here as well as what Trek's mission truly is.
With the whole crew (minus Archer/Reed) working on the problem we get insights into each one's character. Obviously it's not hard to assume the creature is hostile and we get another view into Reed who has no issue with using force (and also is interested in movie night as stuff gets blown up). Ultimately he comes good with getting the forcefield going. Hoshi overcomes her initial failure and chalks up a win for communicating with the creature after sorting out her working relationship with T'Pol (albeit childishly). As for Mayweather he clears up the misunderstanding with the aliens the crew pissed off in the opening scene -- although this wasn't well acted. T'Pol proves to be an able 2nd-in-command, albeit a bit a hard-ass toward Hoshi initially.
2.5 stars for "Vox Sola" -- good to have the whole crew solving a problem as well as getting a sense of what downtime is like with movie night and Archer/Trip watching water polo replays. A bit of creativity with this new type of alien who is sentient and whose actions are misunderstood initially leads to a couple of nice Trek nuggets.
Tue, Dec 12, 2017, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 14, 2018, 3:03am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 29, 2018, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Another thing I liked about it was the development of the rudimentary force field, showing that at that time they didn't have sophisticated warp field technology and were having trouble getting it right. A nice touch. 3 stars.
Mon, Jun 25, 2018, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
1. T'Pol was more likeable here.
2. While at first I jokingly referred to the alien as our current plastic "soup" having reached the Enterprise or Alien lite I have to say that it did come across as a genuinely alien being in the end. That shot of its homeworld was impressive.
3. Let's see, we've gotten our first glimpses of where the holodeck may've come from and now we're seeing the origins of the force field. Nice. Didn't we also get to see where true replicators instead of specialized synthesizers may have come from?
Thu, Sep 6, 2018, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
The VFX detract from, rather than enhance this episode, and not just because seeing Sam Beckett half conscious and covered in spunk is a tough watch.
Sat, Sep 8, 2018, 5:06pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 22, 2018, 11:39am (UTC -5)
I thought everything about Vox Sola worked perfectly. A strange new life-form which lives and communicates in an alien and inexplicable way, yet which can find enough common ground with humans to work together for the betterment of both species, thanks to the tireless efforts of humans working with yet other, more experienced alien races (Vulcan and Denobulan). The script was really good for a change; the acting was top-notch all round; the episode title is so evocative (and reminds me of 40K, always a plus). Even the music was much nicer than the usual atonal mess Berman calls a soundtrack - even if they repeated the same bit too many times.
I loved the confrontation between Reed (this thing is an immediate threat, let's blow it up) and Dr Phlox (this thing is a living being, let's find another way). I also loved the interplay between Sato and T'Pol, the first glimmerings of respect and understanding between them. Forget all the ridiculous modern-day crap we keep hearing about how perfect women are, many women can barely stand to be in the same room as one another (ask any honest woman and she'll tell you that having men around keeps women from killing each other!). The way that there's been a cold and somewhat hostile edge between Sato and T'Pol until now has been spot on so far; Sato is a young and emotionally vulnerable woman, T'Pol lacks empathy, so they were hardly going to become best friends. And yet in true Trek spirit, they find common ground.
A pity that almost every other Trek species is humanoid and has a language, culture and technology that can be perfectly understood by humans upon first contact, with ENT being literally the only show which shows people struggling with first contact scenarios. What a missed opportunity in each series - particularly in Voyager, in which they were exploring a totally unknown and extremely dangerous region of space - imagine if they ramped up the mystery and fear of the Delta Quadrant, and hard-won allies were rare like shining lights in the dark. Imagine how much more interesting if Chakotay and Janeway had differing ideas on how to greet new aliens (Chakotay assessing for threat and also for potential as allies in terms of receiving supplies and safe harbour, Janeway going by the book and, in a later season, realising that she's going to meet more species than either Kirk or Picard, but most likely no-one will ever recognise this).
It's hard to understand how anyone would criticise Vox Sola. How could anyone say it lacks originality? When was the last time you saw a Trek episode that dealt with so many things, so brilliantly?
Sat, Nov 24, 2018, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
I am also certain that Anthony Montgomery would have grown into the role if they’d given him something to grow with, an actual role and more consistent characterization to work with.
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 12:15am (UTC -5)
Hoshi is so beautiful and a good character. I love seeing any episode with more of her.
Washington is TERRIBLE. he always looks happy. Even in scenes where he is not supposed to.
Fri, May 8, 2020, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
There's so much of what makes good sci-fi to me here. From a problem solving standpoint, different aspects need to be tackled from building the forcefield (Reed) to analyzing the creature (Phlox) to communicating with it (Hoshi with an assist from T'Pol) and even Travis plays a role (albeit poorly) of communicating with the pissed off aliens who find it offensive to eat in public (whatever). From the standpoint of problem-solving-Trek, "Vox Sola" does it better than just about everything on TNG which really championed the genre (if there is such a thing). No ridiculous technobabble and nothing felt too farfetched.
Hoshi, as a character, is in focus here much like in "Fight or Flight" and she does quite well by juggling the self-doubt and then persevering. T'Pol provides the "tough love" and can understandably come across as a hard ass to a human but she also shows she's a capable manager and can get the best out of Hoshi. These are things that should be seen in Trek.
When I think of good or great sci-fi, the soundtrack is a big part of the overall enjoyment for creating the right mood. Kudos here. "Vox Sola" is not about action and it is an understated episode but there is an urgency. I thought every scene was purposeful and logical. Every character has their chance to shine and delivers -- just the one scene with Montgomery apologizing fell a bit flat.
Really feel this is a 3-star episode, high-quality Trek here. ENT has a very good cast and can come up with a number of 1-on-1 interactions that are very realistic and well acted. "Vox Sola" is the total package with very few flaws.
Sun, Jun 7, 2020, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 2, 2020, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 25, 2020, 3:01am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 28, 2021, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
If only you'd known aseason one was by far when he got the most screen time!
Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 11:27am (UTC -5)
It was interesting to see a strange new life form. Hoshi translating "You eat like you mate" was funny.
Over all score: 6/10
Wed, Apr 6, 2022, 11:01pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 18, 2022, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 27, 2022, 1:47pm (UTC -5)
As for Vox Sola, well, I don't care for it. The effects, both CGI and practical, are very bad. And, no , they weren't good for their time either. The basic idea is interesting, but the bad special effects and the way that the story seems to plod along ruined this one for me. I didn't notice the music that so many people seemed to enjoy so I may need to watch it against o give it a listen.
Marco P. said :"The premise of "crew-meets-lifeform" has been done in much better form in TNG episodes "Emergence" and "Galaxy's Child". And the result in those is much more satisfying. Also... water polo? REALLY?"
I don't really have a reason for quoting Marco, but I just find it amusing that someone with his name has a beef with water polo.
Mon, Aug 8, 2022, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
So... the alien: Unauthorized entry to a starship. Initiated unprovoked and unwanted physical contact with the crew (I'm bending over backwards to avoid the word "attack"). Given the inter-crew telepathy, it likely sensed that the contact was a) unwanted and b) harmful.
Hostile? Yeah, it's presumed hostile.
Sure, you can say it was ignorant... but that's *dangerously* stupid....
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Could've done without seeing the Captain and Trip act like "one of the guys" watching water polo. They couldn't make these two people look any more All-American White Bread, which is something I found annoying about this series in general. It comes across as "Americans in space", even more so than Voyager did. When I see these scenes, I just think, "Rick Berman and Brannon Braga run this show which is why everything is through their male gaze." Might as well have the Captain and Trip watching the superbowl with a six pack.
Could've done without the alien misundestanding side plot. Really? You're offended that other species eat in front of you, and you're warp capable, traveling the stars? That seems like a cultural curiosity they would have had to sort out as soon as they entered space. And what about other non-sentient species on their homeworld who eat in front of them? It's just stupid.
Could've done without Hoshi's whining and the artificial tension between her and T'Pol. They made the only human female character a crybaby. Again... the show is written through the male chauvinist gaze. The egos of the creators shine through in what they think female drama should look like.
The only thing that saved this episode was the uniqueness of the non-humanoid alien, which I call the Alien Jizz Monster (because let's be honest). The translation/communication scene was pretty cool. Trip and Archer trying to stay conscious by talking about water polo when their minds were linked was tedious and boring. They could've gone in any number of interesting directions with that. "Wait... Captain, you think I have a cute butt?" "No no... you're delirious because of the alien Trip! Let's talk about water polo." Just kidding. But seriously... that part was boring.
Reed's force field is another "too advanced" moment on the show. Humanity should not have that. The whole reason why humans are advanced in the other Trek series is because of the Federation. You know, 150 planets working together? Humans can hardly come up with anything on their own. The showrunners lacked the creativity to work with the limitations of the 22nd century, even though it was their idea in the first place. By the end of the series, Enterprise has photon torpedoes, phasers, and they even use their transporter on humans for routine "emergencies". The only thing missing was a tractor beam.
I give this episode 3/4 stars because the alien was believable and interesting. The humans, however, were not.
Tue, Feb 14, 2023, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Light that thing up, man! Phasers on kill!
Then T’Pol: “We’re not even certain that the organism’s hostile.” Lol, it attacked five members of the crew, wrapped them up in ecto-goo, and she’s not sure it’s “hostile”? Come on!
Also what about the chain-of-command here? Phlox opposes Reed’s experiment on the severed tentacle because it might be “an intelligent being” and only the captain can overrule the doctor in sick bay. Then they both agree Archer is in no condition to offer an opinion on the matter. So doesn’t that mean T’Pol is in charge? Is it not her call?
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