Star Trek: Enterprise


2.5 stars.

Air date: 2/5/2003
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

"You can pull it out now." — Feezal to Trip, eye-roll-inducing sexual reference that proves the writers can't keep a straight face for an entire serious hour

Review Text

In brief: A reasonable message show, but somehow still lacking, and a little too obvious on its limited-scope terms.

After "Stigma" fades to black, there's a brief insert that provides a toll-free number and explains how you can get more information about HIV and AIDS. Meanwhile, this week's episode of The Dead Zone ends with an informational card that urges people to donate blood to the American Red Cross. What is this, Message-Show Info-Card Week?

I tend to resent these informational tack-ons, because they snap me right out of the drama, as if to say: Look, dummy! This is the message! A good allegory or message show should stand on its own; when I see these informational cards I feel like the creators are assuming I'm too dense to realize that there was a message behind the storyline.

But that's just me.

As allegories go, "Stigma" is watchable, well-intended, and earnest — in a zero-subtlety kind of way. It's also a little too by-the-numbers and feels curiously dated in its message and technique. There was a lot of publicity prior to the airing of "Stigma," and I think that's a telling sign. This story has taken up a cause and the Paramount publicity machine seems to see this as the franchise's great return to social commentary. Actor John Billingsley was recently quoted as saying Enterprise should do more allegories and commentary. I am in agreement with him. But when the publicity department has to work overtime to tell people that Trek is going to be making social commentary in an upcoming episode, it's only demonstrating how the franchise has lost some of its relevance.

"Stigma" — which I'm scoring as a near-miss — takes the social commentary route to a point of obviousness that won't much challenge a forward-thinking audience. These days, the best-working message shows are ones that tackle current situations head-on without the need for an allegorical surface (generally because they are set in present time and circumstances). Law & Order: Special Victims Unit recently did a show about stem-cell research on human embryos that was so disturbing in its depiction of ethics while so even-handed in its thematic approach that I was literally amazed. I was not amazed by "Stigma." The message is never in doubt or demanding of much scrutiny; it essentially boils down to "prejudice is bad." Not exactly cutting-edge stuff, and in 2003 it's not like we have to hide behind sci-fi metaphors to deal with current issues like the original show did in 1967.

That said, "Stigma" is, after all, set in the Star Trek universe where we don't face these kinds of problems head-on because they no longer exist in human society. And to be fair, I'm not sure that Star Trek — even Enterprise — has the option to jettison the allegorical framing method to deal with a current-day issue like HIV/AIDS. The metaphor for the disease here is a stigmatized Vulcan condition called Pa'nar Syndrome, and the metaphor for (apparently) the homosexual minority is that of a Vulcan minority who engage in the forbidden practice of mind-melds. We learn that T'Pol contracted Pa'nar Syndrome when she mind-melded with Tolaris in last year's "Fusion."

Let's take a look at the central analogy.

The analogy, if you take it literally, seems to say this: You don't have to be part of a certain "minority" to contract HIV, but HIV is predominantly spread by this certain "minority," which is shunned by an intolerant society. Perhaps I'm taking an unwarranted leap of logic in believing the writers were drawing a connection between the Vulcan minority and the human minority of homosexuals. And perhaps I'm taking the allegorical intent here too literally. Then again, perhaps not.

One logical hang-up with this allegory (as I've interpreted it) is that it doesn't hold true enough to current events. In the United States, yes, HIV is more common among gay men. But that certainly isn't the case worldwide, particularly in countries like South Africa, where HIV is a sprawling epidemic infecting 20 percent of the adult population — primarily because of insufficient prevention programs and resources.

Or perhaps mind-melding Vulcans aren't a metaphor specifically for homosexuals; perhaps they're a metaphor for generally risky behavior like unprotected sex or drug use ... although I tend to doubt it, since the episode takes to task that of Vulcan bigotry — bigotry of a specifically defined minority. (In the story, only those who engage in the taboo are vulnerable to the disease, which is not the case with HIV if homosexuality is the taboo in question.) But then that's the problem with bigotry in the first place, isn't it? Gays are individuals, not a blanket group to be associated with HIV merely because of sexual orientation. The variable in HIV prevention is behavior that puts you at risk, not whether you sleep with the same or opposite sex.

If the Vulcans discover T'Pol's condition, they are certain to recall her just for having contracted Pa'nar Syndrome, even though she doesn't actually belong to the minority of mind-melders. T'Pol would likely lose her career and be shunned by Vulcan society for having engaged in taboo behavior. Furthermore, we find that the Vulcan medical community isn't working to find a cure for Pa'nar Syndrome because they don't approve of those who have it, on the account they're behaving against the norms of Vulcan society. This is a rather harsh policy. After all, it's not as if AIDS research has been halted because governments don't feel a need to cure those who were unlucky enough to contract it, or because they don't agree with the behavior of some who have it. The problem with AIDS is not that we don't care about a cure, but that we are not yet capable of providing one.

One thing that doesn't come across adequately in the episode is how the stigma of HIV/AIDS is not entirely an issue of either behavior or sexual orientation. The Vulcans are more adverse here to the behavior of mind-melds, whereas the stigma of HIV in the real world is about the disease itself — because of fear of death and concern for safety, and because of shame and ignorance, in addition to the other stigmatized issues revolving around gender bias, sexual morality, or homophobia.

Granted, an allegory doesn't have to perfectly mirror its true subject. (Much of this review is for the sake of discussion.) But by making so much of this show about the Vulcans' intolerance for mind-melders, it seems to me this episode somewhat misses a big point it really ought to be making, which is: On a worldwide scale, AIDS is indeed stigmatized, but there are larger issues, with the biggest current obstacle being the lack of adequate prevention programs and education, especially in developing countries. The somewhat tunnel-vision approach of "Stigma" seems to arise mostly from an Americanized civil rights standpoint.

Having said all that, "Stigma" enjoys a certain level of success and is certainly not a waste of time. By wearing its message on its sleeve, it at least can spark some renewed discussion and awareness of an important topic. That alone is worth something. And in terms of the surface storyline, there's a certain shock in seeing this level of intolerance in Vulcan society, which employs some almost police-state tactics in confronting T'Pol. I'm not so sure I like it (it pushes this series' humans closer to the moral benchmark, when humans should be learning rather than teaching), but I'm also intrigued by it, and particularly by a line by Vulcan Dr. Yuris (Jeffrey Hayenga), who says of Vulcan society, "There's more intolerance now than there was a thousand years ago. It has to stop." I'm also interested in learning how the mind-meld will eventually be embraced by the future Vulcan society we know will emerge.

And worth mention is Jolene Blalock turning in one of her best performances to date. T'Pol, facing a grueling situation and stumbling across more Vulcan intolerance than she has the stomach for, looks like she's been hit with a hammer. Blalock's performance is subtle, restrained, and internalized, carefully revealing evident emotion without stepping too far into the realm of the outright emotional. It's impressive work, and watching T'Pol stand her moral ground as the consequences come flying at her is somewhat inspiring.

There's also an amiable but largely irrelevant B-story, where one of Phlox's wives visits the ship to help install a sophisticated microscope in sickbay. Her name is Feezal, played by Melinda Page Hamilton, who has an absolutely irresistible smile that she wears in every single scene. Feezal constantly hits on Trip, which of course Our Southern Gentleman is hugely uncomfortable with. My one question about this subplot was why it wasn't obvious to Trip, as it was certainly obvious to me, that Phlox would encourage Trip to pursue Feezal's advances, seeing as it is common knowledge that Denobulans are polygamists. The subplot is pleasant but slight, and a distraction from the episode's more serious content.

I could've done completely without Mayweather's pointless dialog in sickbay about sports involving melon-throwing and wild animals, which comes dangerously close to insulting racial stereotyping. What exactly is the point of this ludicrous dialog? (The trivial mistreatment or non-treatment of this series' only black character is becoming a constant thorn in my side, I must say.)

The bottom line is, as message shows go, this one is pretty average, and might've benefited from some wider perspectives. Writing this review felt like time well spent, as did doing a little Web research to remind myself of the current global impact of AIDS. But I didn't really get those benefits from the episode itself, if you see what I mean. "Stigma" stakes out precious little new territory, especially compared to what else is on television today.

Maybe it's enough that the episode is a catalyst for thought rather than a deep or subtle analysis in its own right. Maybe I'm being too hard on a sincere allegory. I don't know. I just invariably find myself thinking back to that stem-cell episode of L&O:SVU. That was a show where moral positions were not so clear-cut and obvious, where problems were complex, controversial, difficult, and unsettling. It was a show that was daring and original as issue shows go — something that "Stigma" is not.

In that regard, it's sort of a shame that "prejudice is bad" is about the only message "Stigma" ends up with. The message isn't bad (and, indeed, the intentions are good), but it's too obvious and typical of Star Trek. AIDS in the real world is a social issue where the stigma is only part of the problem, and not even the most important part.

Footnote: In the spirit of sending non-subtle messages, I will end this review with my own informational tag, and encourage readers to visit for more information on the global impact of HIV and AIDS.

Next week: A new Vulcan/Andorian conflict, with Archer in the middle.

Previous episode: Dawn
Next episode: Cease Fire

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Comment Section

79 comments on this post

    I pretty much agree with your review. But I wonder if you've missed the point slightly? I got the heavy-handed and obvious allegory regarding homosexulaity and AIDS, but I thought it was talking about attitudes back in the mid 1980s. Way back then, AIDS was a "gay disease". According to the media and general thinking, only homosexuals could catch it. T'Pol is obviously not of the 'minority', and yet has contracted the disease. THAT is the allegory I thought this episode was about. It was about society discovering that anyone is capable of catching it, and attitudes had better change.

    This is similar to Far Beyond The Stars in some respects. It is supposed to be showing how far we have come (Or that we still haven't come far enough, depending on your views).

    None of this detracts from the mediocrity of the episode however.

    As Stef points out, my impressions when I first watched this episode was that this was an allegory for the 80's view of AIDS with the "mind-melders" standing in for the gay population (of which, I am one). It led me to not really enjoy the episode much for its own merits, because it feels like the 'message' was one that we've gotten and moved on from (or at least any ST fan had already gotten and moved on from, and who else would be watching the episode). It also has that feeling of being a toss to the gay fans who have lamented for ages (since at least TNG) that there has never been a gay crewmember included in any of the series or movies. And as per usual, it's not appreciated. I'd rather they just ignore the gay issue completely than half-heartedly throw a metaphor out there to us... it's insulting in this post QaF, post Will & Grace era.

    Well, I didn't notice an allegory - perhaps because I've been too annoyed about Enterprises portrayal of Vulcans. They are not at all comparable to the great Vulcans I grew up with: Spock and Sarek. (Tuvok was good, but not great!)

    I begin to see the point of Roddenberry insisting in NOT having a regular vulcan in TNG because Spock set the standard so high that you could hardly tell anything new. Enterprise proves this. What's this mind-melding-minority - nonsense anyway?

    Agreed with the other commenters that the allegory seemed to be much more about the original 80's attitude towards AIDS. I thought this was a decent episode, but I kept thinking to myself how courageous and edgy it would have been if it had aired in 1993 instead of 2003. As it is, our attitudes towards AIDS and homosexuality - though FAR from perfect - have come so far as to render the social commentary here a bit dull.

    I actually kinda liked this episode and would have given it 3, maybe even 3.5 stars (it's certainly better than the few previous ones).

    I think the main problem of the allegory is that it is kind of "in the middle" - on the one hand, it's a too obvious AIDS/Gay allegory. On the other hand, the discrepancies with this specific allegory (some of which you've mentioned) are not enough to make this episode into a more general discussion on bigotry (but still saves it from being totally uninteresting).
    This episode reminded me strongly of TNG's "The Outcast", which at the time was very significant but now (I watched it not so long ago) would have gotten just about the same response.

    What did bother me somewhat was making people of this minority not only the ones practicing, but also the only ones capable of initiating a mind meld. it seems inconsistent with what we've seen in previous series. however, this could be explained as a mistake due to the shunning of the practice and loss of knowledge.

    This time I really liked the portrayal of the vulcans. It shows us part of why humans have become so dominant in the federation. The humans might not be the most advanced technologically but they do have something to bring into this mix besides a good appetite for knowledge and adventure.

    And I also really liked the B-plot because I think it fitted very well in this episode. On the A-plot we think "oh, humans are so open-minded about sexual practice" and than we're given polygamy on the B-plot... and while trip doesn't disapprove of it, he still cannot see himself fitting into it. I think that's a very nice contrast (and it also makes this episode lighter).

    And my god, they don't even let Travis finish his story!

    Luckily, I was still a baby during the 80s, so I didn't really get the gay metaphor. I only got a generic discrimination theme. Maybe that made me enjoy the episode more, because it rings true on its own terms. The way Vulcans react is believable because of some very good use of continuity. The storylines of the past season and a half set this episode up very well.

    @Remco: So was I? What year were you born? I was 11/08/87.

    I'll have to watch this. While not gay myself, I still think they should have the same basic rights as anybody else. As for the Vulcans appearing OoC, well the creators of DS9 said they had to let the series evolve or it would have died out (which might explain why it's floundering now...) and Gene would have understood even though I think he would NOT have and kept back the really great things about DS9 ("In the Pale Moonlight,", "Tacking into the Wind," etc.)

    However, I think their mistakes here was it was not done... well smoothly. From what it sounds like anyway. I'll watch this episode and get back to you...........

    I thought this was a pretty good episode, albeit I agree the message is dated.

    Whether you agree with certain lifestyles or not, everyone is entitled to basic compassion. I think that is what T'Pol's message is. And it is a perfectly wonderful message.

    The funny thing WAS the B-Story that said that Trip was too worried about "human morality." Someone hit on this already. This was odd and it seemed to counter the argument that we humans want everyone to be treated equally and have the same opportunities. So, I found this interesting.

    I would easily give this 3

    Poor Travis... Reduced to babbling on about melons and monkeys. Yeah, I agree with Jammer. His treatment is starting to bother me too.

    I can see your complaints, but the fact is that there is still a huge social stigma surrounding the virus everywhere but in enlightened left-wing and politically correct discourse, and you are right to say it largely has to do with a lack of education on the subject. That said, the reality remains this: The reason why the gay community is more at risk is tangible and scientifically proven. It does not mean anything about homosexuality or say that a straight person cannot get it, but there are actual physiological reasons why certain practices but you more at risk and anal intercourse is just about as risky as you can get. The episode handled the allegory as smoothly as they could by having it be possible for those outside of that minority to get it despite the fact that they are not in the most at-risk group, and rape is one of the reasons why HIV is so prevalent in Africa. Sexual violence is a huge problem in almost all areas that the virus has spread, and rape is more likely to transmit it because it is more likely for the friction to draw blood similarly to anal. In many places in Africa people lie to themselves and others about having it, perpetuate lies about it being limited to gays and sometimes even believe that sleeping with an uninfected person can cure it. These are all facts, and I think, all things considered, that the writers incorporated a fair bit of depth into the allegory and did a better job than I expected. The fact that they addressed rape as being a common method for transmission showed that they actually had some understanding of the subject and were trying to go the extra mile by not having a two-dimensional or typical angle. Hope this clarifies things for some.

    Another dimension to this that is a little more fringe but still relevant - there is some evidence to support that the government has withheld information about a cure and/or been partially responsible in the spread of the virus. If you compare transmission rates with the actual prevalence in certain areas, the numbers simply don't add up, and even if this isn't true, it is certainly in many western powers interests to diminish the population of their previously occupied territory that is chock full of what is left of the Earth's dwindling natural resources. I'm not saying I have a concrete theory on this or that I necessarily swallow any conspiracy thrown my way, but I think that the episode references the urban folklore and circumstantial evidence surrounding the spread of HIV by hinting at goverment involvement or indifference was ballsy and refreshing - the second time I really think someone behind the scenes was trying to rock the boat at all after "Dear Doctor".

    I thought this was a decent episode. I did not expect for T'Pol to refuse to admit how she contracted the disease. I found her reasoning interesting, to say that if she used the fact that she was coerced be a way to avoid punishment, she would be indirectly supporting the belief that mind-melds are wrong.

    An issue I had was that in the prior episode where she actually engaged in the mind meld, she did so willingly. It was only after the meld had begun that she wanted to want to stop the meld, but he wouldn't let her. So, to me, this was a continuity issue, to say she was forced. Also, when I went back to the episode, she acted like she had never heard of a mind meld before, which seems to go against her present knowledge of her culture's distaste of this practice.

    Anyway, yes I guess the message wasn't so ground-breaking, but it was still interesting. I thought that it was a good point by one of the commentators that the subplot was sort of the other side of the coin. Humans being open-minded in the main plot, compared to humans not being so open-minded in the sub plot.

    I found it amusing when the two Denobulans said "Humans" and laughed together, after Trip acted so uncomfortable about the doctor's wife's advances towards him. Even though, I very much so do not approve of Polygamy. I don't because of the fact that I have heard of many first or second wives being upset when hearing of an additional wife. I believe that due to our human nature, we are hurt when there is an additional spouse. Moreso though, the fact that polygamy is allowed for men but not for women in these cultures is what I find the most indicative of it being unfair and wrong. Of course, if a culture handled it such as the Denobulans do, with obviously no hurt feelings and polygamy with both genders, then I could support it. But from everything I've heard of it currently in our world, I don't.

    Anyway, ultimately, I think this episode was good. While it may seem obvious in its "Stereotyping is bad" message, you can see from some of the comments that it did bring up some dialogue. If an episode can bring up dialogue, then I think it's a good one.

    I wasn't aware of the homosexuality reference. I do remember thinking "this seems familiar" but didn't quite connect the dots. Also, I don't think we've had a Star Trek episode before that dealt with this particular social issue, so that is another reason I think this episode was good.

    I like what this episode tried to do (the allegory to HIV and homosexuality was glaringly obvious whether intended or not, and the general anti-bigotry message is appreciated) but it brings back the same complaint I've always had about how homosexuality is handled in Trek - always indirectly.

    It seems to me that homosexuality has been "cured" in the Trek timeline (but quite notably not in DS9's 'dirty' mirror universe, mind you!) as it's only ever vaguely and indirectly handled - be it Riker and the female-looking androgynous species, Dax with a previous host's wife, Odo doing a link with a male changeling etc - none of these are really direct, there's always an excuse... she looked female, they're feelings of a previous host, links are intimate but not necessarily sexual by any of our definitions... etc etc.

    Sometimes it's treated like a joke. Q appeared in Picard's bed, ho ho! Quark dressed up as a woman, ho ho! Note how they are always very clear that male-male relations would be highly unusual and unthought of, and always laughed off or treated by the character as icky.

    It didn't need to be Torchwood and turn the gay into the majority and completely drown viewers in homosexuality, but for a supposedly forward-looking franchise it's disappointing to see that Trek was so backwards as to constantly allege to this "issue" instead of doing what it would have done in the TOS era with black people: deal with it directly. Just put homosexuals in there, acting normally, and do not bat an eyelid. Just "hey, in the future, they're treated as equals and nobody gives it a single thought"

    Episodes like this with the strong allegories or DS9's mirror universe, really wave the "homosexuality has been 'cured' in our universe and timeline" thing in your face (even if that's not intended), and that rubs me the wrong way.

    I'd give it about the same rating.

    I like this episode. I know that it's not a completely compatible metaphor, but I think the message is still completely applicable to the AIDS\HIV situation as well as other situations.

    In the early days of AIDS\HIV it was thought of a homosexual disease. Then it turned into a disease of homosexuals, drug users, and the promiscuous.

    Even today there is still a great stigma when it comes to AIDS\HIV. All though it's manageable it's a diagnosis that still caries a shorter lifespan.

    AIDS\HIV is very preventable, and that combined with its profoundly negative health consequences account for the present day stigma.

    This episode has some valuable lessons in it, including tolerance, acceptance, and wanting to reach out and help people even if some of those people are part of a lifestyle you may choose to not be a part of.

    I also very much liked the moral lesson with Flox and Trip. To Flox it was completely normal for his wife to pursue Trip. And in the inverse it was perfectly normal for Trip to not want relations with a married woman. In the end they both understood and respected the moral differences between the two cultures.

    This also applies to a society where polygamy and homosexuality is so hated. The moral lesson applies, if you don't want to have multiple partners or if you don't want to engage in relations with someone of a certain sex, then it's your choice, as it's the choice of others to do contrary.

    I never watched this episode on TV, so I never got to see the HIV\AIDS hotline part at the end. However, I can see where that might be a little too "in your face" of a message. I think it also might narrow minds on what this message could apply to.

    But more to the episode, I agree with others about the glaring continuity issue. T'Pol willingly started the mind-meld, so she got the disease willingly. The facts were changed to fit the plot of the episode, and they didn't even really need to be.

    So really, T'Pol was the one damaging the minority more with her false mind-rape claim.

    I'm also still frustrated by how much of an ass that Archer is, and how he has no respect for T'Pol's personal space. His short temper comes up again in this episode. It's so frustrating to watch this bumbling hothead-idiot commanding humanity's most prized possession.

    Is it just me or is the combination of the A- and B- story less than optimal? The A-story tells us something about prejudice against people with a HIV-like infection, and the B-story tells us something about how you should enter casual sexual contact without too much pondering about the consequences. I wonder if the writers realized how these diseases spread.

    Another thing that baffled me was that Archer didn't seem to know that she was "assaulted" by the Tolaris guy from the Vulcan renegade ship. Didn't he fight it out with the guy? Aren't the gears all turning in his head or did I miss something? I found his amnesia disturbing, let alone that of the writers.

    Third thing I didn't understand is the knowledge about mindmelts. I can remember T'Pol didn't have a clue what mindmelding is, now she not only knows it - as she was obviously a victim of it - but she also knows it's a taboo on Vulcan. It's like knowing how to get the influenza virus but not knowing what the flu is. Weird.

    And I don't like the way the Vulcans were portrayed here -again. I thought they were logical and unemotional, not bigoted and full of anger.

    I thought it was a bit of a cheat how the Vulcan minority told the panel that T'Pol didn't consent to the mind meld, so that T'Pol got to take the high ground but didn't face the consequence of losing her commission.

    I'm really warminv up to Trip. I think Connor has great timing. Travis... what is the point?

    I believe everyone is misusing the term "polygamy" above.

    Polygamy (multiple wives) and polyandry (multiple husbands)--forms of plural marriage--and polyfidelity (mutually committed relationships with more than one person, which may also be a plural marriage)... none of these describe what Phlox and his wife are doing here.

    The Denobulans practice plural marriage, yes, but they *also* do not link marriage with sexual exclusivity. Phlox's wife wanted to jump Trip's bones, not marry him, so the "polygamy" really has nothing to do with it. In Earth terms they have an "open marriage"--except that there's no significance in that; apparently all Denobulan marriages are that.

    It's just an entirely different cultural institution. As far as I can tell, Denobulan spouses also have no assumption of any shared householding. It's not really practical, given that there's no limit on the number of people who can be linked as spouses, and spouses-of-spouses, and so on. Basically their marriages share only two elements with our own prevailing culture's understanding: they are formalized relationships of love, and they sometimes produce children. That's it.

    Oops, that should be "polygyny" to start the second paragraph above. Polygamy includes both polygyny and polyandry, in which the plurality is only for one gender, as well as more flexible polyfidelitous forms.

    In any case, the point about the Denobulans stands: Phlox's wife coming on to Trip was not a function of their approach to marriage. Non-procreative sexual partnering is *unrelated* to marriage.

    ENT's continuing portrayal of Vulcans as smug assholes is becoming tedious. And I would go so far as to add that it was one of the big factors that turned off the audience.

    And though I liked Jolene's performance here, when T'Pol was informed she would be taken away from Enterprise I found myself asking, "Why is it such a big deal to her? Why exactly does she even want to remain aboard Enterprise anyway?" I've been watching the entire series in order and I still haven't seen a moment in which T'Pol seems genuinely comfortable among the crew and really content to be serving aboard this ship. I blame the writers for this, I guess, but Blalock's style has taken aloofness to unheard of levels, and that has to be a contributing factor.

    For various reasons, I'm watching this for the first time now.

    I think Enterprise suffers from the fact that we know where it is going. So it tends to be pleasant, but we have already peeked at the end; we can't help it, we know where it's going.

    I thought this was a great episode, although, yeah, most of the world was past needing this lesson when the episode came out. Now, of course, I feel like I'm watching a years old show. Oh wait... I am.

    I'm a little pissed about what they were doing to the Travis character as well. In another comment someone suggested that the producers might have figured out that the actor wasn't very good so they limited his screen time. But that turns him into just a token (reference to south park intended). I don't care how bad his acting is. It can't be as bad as Checkov's was in that terrible original series episode The Apple. Watching Chekov fawn all over that woman was embarrassing. Certainly they could have Travis do SOMETHING regardless of how bad his acting is. I really hope to see him do something before I finish watching this series.

    I prefer T'Pol here over the late S3 and S4 puppy dog eyed T'Pol.

    Lt. Yarko,

    the best use of his character, and the best performance by Montgomery, is in the 4th season episode "Observer Effect".

    I'm kinda uncomfortable with the way Feezal was harassing Trip. He obviously was uncomfortable but she kept it up. Since both she and Phlox giggled about 'humans' then obviously she was aware that some humans might not be amenable to an open relationship. It wasn't funny watching Trip squirm. It seemed dumb that he didn't tell her that he was uncomfortable beforehand.

    I thought this was an excellent episode. It was heartening to watch the characters confront the prejudicial views that are prevalent in Vulcan society.

    In the episode, writers approach the topic of discrimination in a direct and straightforward manner. The issue is at the forefront of the episode from the beginning, and is discussed explicitly in a number of scenes. Comments on this episode indicate that some people view this approach as unsophisticated or even preachy. However, I view this approach as honorable and effective.

    I think that when writers approach an issue directly the characters can reveal more about the complexities of an issue unencumbered by convoluted narrative tricks. The episode highlights how people address discrimination and prejudice. The story does not merely serve to prove that prejudice exists; it provides examples of problems that arise from when prejudicial viewpoints are prevalent.

    If the episode had merely displayed people protesting an issue in public, or showcased numerous long-winded speeches than it could be accused of being obvious or even preachy. However, this was not the case. The episode contained captivating dramatic scenes that did not depend on entirely on one's interest in the larger issues.

    I also admire how Enterprise develops basic themes without excessively elaborate narrative contrivances. Some people see this quality of the series as mundane. However, I believe that this method of building a narrative outwardly from central conflicts, rather than circling around important themes or sidestepping larger issues, to be an accessible and efficient means of telling a story.

    This was an okay episode. It's heart was in the right place, but geez, could they have used a bigger hammer to hit us over the head with just to make sure we got the message?

    And I agree with the above poster: The treatment of Travis IS shameful. But at least, this episode, we got treated to the sight of his abs. grrrrr.... :)

    I thought that the AIDs in the 80s metaphor was trying to be topical and instead ended up outing itself as hopelessly out of step by rehashing old 80s stereotypes. The metaphor was so heavy handed as to be littered with cliche which made almost all the dialogue clunky. This episode would've been dramatic, bold and daring in TNG's first season. But for the 0's it feels too little too late.

    And speaking of unwanted sexual contact, the B-plot seemed like a needless stand in for all those hideous Lwaxana Troi episodes we'd gotten so sick of in earlier Trek. I enjoy allowing women to exhibit a healthy sexual appetite. But Feezal comes on so strong at Trip that she feels more like a sexual predator. Where's the middle ground that isn't portraying women as either madonna or whore? I realize that it's only an hour show but we're the Netflix generation. We recognize memes in the first 10-15 seconds. You don't have to beat us over the head with them in order to let us get the gist and move on.

    Speaking of moving on, the show needs to move on from Trip Tucker: ladies man. It doesn't become his character profile. It's much more along the lines of Malcolm for personality or Travis for looks. I'm sure most everyone can agree that Travis is the ship's eye candy for anyone who enjoys men. So why keep hiding him in the coat closet? If this show really wanted to engage they'd make Malcolm the one who keeps chasing after sexual partners while the alien of the week only ever has eyes for Travis. Am I the only one who wants Hoshi and Travis to ultimately end up together? Think of how gorgeous their children would be.

    I digress. In short, this episode strives to be as uncontroversial as sociopolitical commentary can get. Its message is at least 20 years too late (30 years by the time I got around to watching it) and seems more like a publicity stunt or ratings grab for sweeps than anything. It's a serious contender for worst episode of Enterprise in my book.

    Better than the last few episodes, with a social commentary that is kind of the point of Trek, but in the end it's not nuanced enough, the Vulcan bashing is tiresome, and what the heck were they thinking with Travis and melons! But at least with the A story in this episode, the writers tried to tell a good, Trek story.

    Good analysis, Eli. Yes this shows what Enterprise could have matured into. This is T'Pol at her best, Blalock at her best. A truly compelling character. If they sex her up next season for ratings, then they deserved to fail. Enterprise has everything it needed to dominate & become the best Trek ever.

    And even though Trip just got laid, he totally should have went for it... I get the feeling Malcom jumped in. And Travis 'token-negro' ughh...I kind of wished the actor would have told them to efff off.

    I'll make this quick.
    1. Waaay too heavy-handed on the HIV/gay tolerance messaging. Entirely outdated.

    2. The B-story lightness was an all obvious counterweight to the A-story's seriousness but it was awkward for Phlox because he had be of two completely different moods in both.

    3. How this show can be so preachy and sanctimonious about one minority and shamelessly thoughtless about another is utterly appauling. I'm talking about the relentless Negro tokenism of Travis which had been all too obvious since season 2 but found it's most insulting highpoint right here. Brannon and Braga are just loathesome.

    @mike - I think you're making a bit much of Travis' brief scene in this episode. How is participating in what sounds like (to me) something like alien Matador games insulting?

    I have not seen this episode in years, but pulled up a transcript and on paper it sounds rather harmless.

    And since the game sounds like a cross between matador games and lacrosse, you don't really get whiter sports than those.

    Scott of Detroit,

    "But more to the episode, I agree with others about the glaring continuity issue. T'Pol willingly started the mind-meld, so she got the disease willingly. The facts were changed to fit the plot of the episode, and they didn't even really need to be.

    So really, T'Pol was the one damaging the minority more with her false mind-rape claim."

    I don't see this a factual at all. How did she damage anything here? She willingly participated with the meld, but the changed her mind and said no. He continued and used forced himself on her after she wanted to break it off. That fits the very definition of rape/date rape etc. From everything we know in 'Fusion' she didn't even know about melds before she met Tolaris. We also learn later Pa'nar Syndrome is caused by melders who have been improperly trained. (ENT: Kir'Shara)

    The facts weren't changed at all. She WAS forced when she didn't consent; the results were so traumatic she had to call Phlox. (ENT: Fusion) ... unless you are advocating "when she says no, she really means yes"

    The analogy in this episode is that many back in the 80's reacted differently to those that contracted AIDS through voluntary homosexuality as opposed to those that did not (rape, heterosexual contact, dental tools, whatever) T'Pol, by not revealing the details of how she contracted it, takes the honorable stance that it shouldn't matter how, it's still a disease and infected should be treated regardless.


    Outdated? Tell that to gay men that have AIDS/HIV. Just a ridiculous statement. Also, your 'token black" assertion is lame and unfounded. Was Travis underutilized? A matter of opinion. But a token black? Come on.

    This is nothing less than a 4 star episode and cemented T'pol as my favorite Star Trek character.

    Coming back to this episode years later, I feel it's stronger than I thought when it originally aired. More on that in a bit.

    Regarding CeeBee's comments above, I understand the point, but the thing about Vulcans I always felt was silly was the running joke how much of the "logical" aspects of Vulcan character were assumed to be essential rather than cultural. If it were the latter - a belief that logic should triumph over emotion – it's a choice - scientific, perhaps, cultural, or ethical, or just... logical (minus the "bio"). It was fun but always off the mark to raise these issues with Spock because he was half-human; so Bones and Kirk could tease him for attributing feeling to his human side. But we've seen Vulcans throughout the series seeming "disappointed" or "angry" but suppressed and justified in the name of logic, and the great thing about "Amok Time" all those years ago and the "shame" over pon farr showed that they were in fact, emotional, even though it was Spock's "human side" that got the blame for the shame.

    It seemed to me the "missed opportunity" was not in this episode alone but in the way the "history" of mind melds was written as something being suppressed and not committing to why. Is it really possible that 100% of Vulcans never indulge their emotions without mind-meldiing? The idea that "mind melding" could have been sexual way to use their brains for sex rather than their animalistic bodies seems to me an interesting idea ... a logical way around "sex", with the flip side being that a society striving for logic might have disfavoured the idea because they knew the risk of how emotional and sexual it could be. That was clearly the subtext of "Fusion" but this silly notion that it was a minority with the ability should have been deconstructed right here -- as a scientific cover up and a lie, out of "logical" shame over its erotic power and a "logical" solution to discourage it.

    T'Pol's choice not to make it about "consent" might have been more interesting if she really liked it. How much more interesting would it have been to really explore the other side of Vulcan culture, some dissenters in the 100% who could really mess with Vulcan logic on an intellectual level. And wouldn't it have been interesting to see the argument that emotion might be a good compliment to logic itself be logical?

    But back to the episode's shortcomings. I appreciated the effort, but back then, the disappointment for some of us was in Trek being disappointed that Trek was so conservative heteronormative - forget homosexuality, what about bisexuality, which more and more kids admit to these days? There's no question one reason for the lack of funding for AIDS research was because it was a gay disease, African problem, etc. But it like these writers were so inept at figuring out how to do it without losing homophobes in the Trek audience, they had to go for a story that in 2004 no one would argue with.

    But to claim this episode, like TNG's the "Outcast" Several UN and Council of Europe agencies are now condemning gender normalising surgeries on "intersex" kids, done to "help" them because we think they will be teased and not develop as normal boys and girls. Doctors are still cutting off the genitals of these kids because they're different. Sometimes these stories are timeless, and not for good reasons. If nothing else, episodes like this make you remember that these things happen. It's a 3 1/2 star episode for me.

    As a riff on prejudice and discrimination this is effective enough, and offers a good vehicle for T'Pol, but it wields a pretty blunt instrument to deliver its message. I guess sometimes its easier to put out black and white arguments than it is to introduce nuance.

    I actually enjoyed the Feezal/Trip story a lot more as an example of harmless fun. "Insert the blunt end into the opening" indeed. 2.5 stars.

    Wow just wow this one was even less subtle than TNG's "The Outcast" I mean there literally referred to as the minority and "melders" who are just born that way and the "normal" Vu;cans irrationally think that they want to trick others into melding with them.

    Enterprise continues to make me hate who ever it is who writes Vulcan's Except a select few guest stars. I can't even begin to say how stupid the final conversation is between archer and T'pol.

    The Innuendo's between Phlox's wife and Trip where juvenile.
    1 Star only because I at least think its funny how obvious they are with there AIDS homosexuality message. There's a reason Iv'e only seen 7 episodes from the first 2 seasons of this show.

    Travis finally gets some dialogue even if its for something stupid.

    The thing that made no sense is that there was no reason for T'Pol to hide the fact that she was mind-melded against her will. There was no logical purpose behind it. Not wanting to implicate all of mind-meldy-kind doesn't mean they should get a free pass on crime, nor does it somehow justify bigotry against an entire subgroup to call out one of said group for doing something wrong.

    It was a strange idea in the teaser to have Phlox be just a disembodied voice offscreen. There seemed to be no reason for it at all.

    A better episode than the past couple IMO, and certainly deserved more stars than last week's limp Enemy Mine retread. I must admit to not noticing the AIDS allegory. I'm writing in 2017 - perhaps it's just been too long.

    I like any Episode where some Trek history problems get addressed, and where previous episodes actions have consequences (in the latter respect, ENT is failing much better than VOY. One little thing in its favor). The whole mind-meld issue is still a glaring anomaly: when exactly during the next Century or so does it go from being virtually unpractised to being all but a cultural tradition?) but 'Stigma' suggests this may be the tipping point.

    It's a problem Trek didn't have to have - it was invented just for this series - so you'd bloody well hope B&B have the answer worked out.

    Above average for ENT season 2.

    'failing better' was supposed to read 'fairing better'. Stupid iPad autocorrect...

    I've forgotten any "message" add-ons that originally aired with this episode. With those present, I might have been as annoyed as Jammer; it would have come across as trying too hard, and also drawn attention to the fact that it doesn't match-up perfectly with what was the AIDS situation at the time.

    Watching it now, without that add-on, I felt this was one of the better episodes of the series to date (albeit one that's still probably only 3 stars...maybe 3.5). While I knew the writers were probably thinking about AIDS while writing this, I enjoyed it as an episode about prejudice without attempting to overlay it with a real-world situation.

    I also thought the dialogue was a lot of fun in the Trip sub-plot! While I've often rolled my eyes at way sex has been dealt with in the first two seasons, I enjoyed this one.

    I never made that connection between this episode and the gay/AIDS allegory when watching the film. I did think of prejudice/bigotry in general as the main allegory for this episode.

    The episode does exaggerate the bigotry of the Vulcans toward the mind-melters - but that’s fine - it’s fiction and meant to show how narrow-minded their culture is. But as it’s fiction, we take it that the majority of Vulcans are this way, and it makes for a decent social commentary episode. It is disappointing that the Vulcans are portrayed repeatedly in ENT as being pig-headed - in TOS, they weren't this way.
    I agree with Jammer here: “By wearing its message on its sleeve, it at least can spark some renewed discussion and awareness of an important topic. That alone is worth something.” It follows along well with "Fusion" although the willingness of T'Pol to the mind-meld may be blurred here. What is good about the episode is that it draws on “Fusion” from Season 1. (I wish TOS had continuity between episodes — but they didn’t do that back then.)
    I guess somehow between ENT and TOS (in the timeline) mind-melds shed their taboo as Spock used it now and then.

    I didn’t care much for the B-story - I don’t care for polygamists; but again, it is fiction and if you want a story, it’s turns out to be convenient. And at least it has some relation with the A-story in that some type of intimacy is what’s at play.
    I wonder why it had to be Travis setting up the microscope? He’s an engineer not a medical person. Clearly the writers realize they have something special in him as an actor. He has really taken on a dominant role in Season 2.

    T’Pol is portrayed really well here - kind of like a rape victim. That made the episode compelling and added a human touch to her acting which is normally very stoic. I struggle to understand though why she didn’t want to say how she got involved in the mind-meld — maybe again this is Vulcan psyche and so harder for a human to fathom.

    Not a bad episode - some decent performances from Archer, Trip, T'Pol, Phlox. For me, a solid 2.5/4 stars.

    Much of the original review and most comments here suffer from a combined contemporarism-human-centered view of the plot. So the Vulcan virus *HAS* to be a metaphor to Aids and it *HAS* to be dealing with sexual topic and so this *HAS* to be taken as granted and all other ideas are not pursued.
    We should get lose and not necessarily connect everything with our times and our species. In fact, if you eclipse the obligatory Aids interpretation for a moment, two thirds of the review fall into ashes and so do the reproaches.
    Metaphors are fine but they should not become a burden or the only way to think, especially if they are reckoned to be so obvious they become angering in morality, as it happened to the blog author.
    Instead, I took the story deliberately plainly as it was told and I did not follow the bait and connect it with parallelworld human Aids. And it did feel alright to watch the episode without that ballast around the neck.
    So we learn at this time Vulcan mind-merging was resented and thought of as a despicable practice not yet accepted by Vulcan mainstream culture.
    Yet we do know Spock will use it years later in TOS adventures openly without any bad feelings just as he is using the Vulcan greeting gesture, as an integral part of his socialisation. So Vulcan society losened up again in issues like this, like any other culture which sees times of regression and times of liberalization, up and down the ladder of freedoms.
    I don't see what this has to do with a sexual topic. Mind-merging isn't about sex, it's all about the mind and higher spheres of conscience obviously. No use of private parts, no ideas circulating around the use of those or how to reach orgasm, nothing. However, most of commentators seem to reduce it to that restrained field, again, because the preset track of an alleged Aids-homosexuality-interpretation leads you into that. Human-centered and contemporary view, that's why. Imagine your discussion would have taken closely after TOS release if internet existed then, or in some fan magazine, perhaps. You would not even know about Aids. What you would then connect the portrayed virus with? Syphillis perhaps?
    The B-plot was entertaining as well. And yes, it has relations with the A-plot. Both deal with taboos. I agree of course this time the thing is clearly about sexual content. Trip follows his human way of thinking (actually his personal way of thinking, as this happens often enough with other men) which gives him morale restraints about having an affair with a married woman and the Denobulans mock him for that. This sort of displaying culturally striking differences between crew members from different species seems appropriate for the show, and it is too often just reduced to the Vulcan-Human difference as the most prominent one.
    I also disagree with the discontent most people show about the trivial lines Travis had about an alien ball game he has been enjoying. So why not?? You are also angered if each and every crew member down to the lowest rank is doing techbabble or philosophizing on a constant flow and never is allowed to act emotionally and not-so-clever, making the person a shallow character or 'pretentious'/'artifical'.
    I think the scene with Travis adds life as well to the portrayal of life on board the ship. A young lad (and it has nothing to do with his skin color, has it?) just had fun with playing a strange new game on the planet's surface on leave, got some injuries from it, but is still impressed with his new experiences and bursts out in telling the doctor about them. What's actually wrong with that? Of course you would not expect a Picard doing the same, but this is a young ensign having the adventure/fun of his life, so he reacts like most of young men would on his place. If you excuse me for shifting over into human-centered view for once. :)
    Even Archer and Trip did it once (episode 'Desert crossing') and you would not mind them having fun while they do venture into a new ball game and let loose.

    Tpol's unwillingness to admit "rape" and avoid punishment for the wrong reasons, is a direct analogy from the Socrates trial in ancient Athens. He preferred to stay and die than betray the justice system and flee, thus compromising his teachings in favor of civil obedience.

    The complaints I read about obvious and outdated gay AIDS stigma are nonsense.
    a) the "prejudice" and fear of Gay Aids exist even in 2017 let alone 2003
    b) the story is generally about stigma, not specifically for AIDS. Metaphor and allegory is important to be generic and have broader implications. The human nature is not that different than it was 20 years ago. Its nice to remember or emphasize what dicks we can be if we allow our dark angels to prevail.

    If the sexes were reversed (Trip was a woman, Flox wife a man), all the feminists would be screaming. Now total silence.

    3.5 stars.

    Feminism embrace polyamorous, not sure what are you implying...

    This episode, as any other that deals with narrow minded societies and hate towards minorities is necessary because the history tends to repeat... Just look at the actual views from the government and movements against LGBT minorities that are happening right now in EEUU.

    The Aids comparison seems to be a little contrived. Anyway, it has been sugested that T'pol had been psychically "raped".

    Is that right? Every time Spock or Tuvock made a mind meld they were raping others' minds?

    Maybe one message is that medicine is at times infected with intolerance and misguided conceptions as any field of knowledge, which reminds me of the immoral Dear Doctor installment.

    T'Pol's position is noble, I liked it. Archer is clueless.

    I thought this episode was horribly preachy. And liberals, there is actually a good reason people are stigmatized for having AIDS; they're more likely to have recklessly participated in risky sexual behaviour that spreads a deadly disease. It is not automatically a given that all stigmas are unreasonable. Get off your high horse.

    Aargh! Can’t stop thinking about sex!! Stop inserting these sexual references. I am too insecure to deal with it! Waaah! And they made me feel dumb, sob!

    Oh, and I will help you feel even dumber:
    That b-story was about Trip and by extension being narrow minded in their own way moron!

    You have to love it. Jez “and Liberals...” is the start of a sentence you know is going to be asinine.

    Firstly Jez, HIV is no longer a deadly disease, at least not in developed countries. It might blow your tiny mind to learn that in fact, with proper treatment, those diagnosed with HIV today have normal life expectancies.

    Secondly, we’ll completely skim over the fact that countless people worldwide have contracted the disease through no fault of their own. “Let’s stigmatise them all because SOME OF THEM WERE HAVING MORE FUN THAN ME!” You’re no doubt clueless as to the meaning of the term “vertical transmission” so probably think the thousands of babies diagnosed with HIV got it by shagging around. Perhaps you do have a vague understanding of the term “blood transfusion” so I probably don’t need to explain that one. Maybe given enough time you can cobble together the constituents of “needlestick injury” to get some idea of how that works. Oh, and many women, particularly in developing countries contracted HIV after being raped. But fuck’em, eh Jez? It’s their fault for being born with holes.

    Thirdly and interestingly, the 40% of Americans who are obese don’t have a normal life expectancy and do have an increased risk of dozens of actually deadly diseases including but not limited to strokes, heart attacks and various cancers. By your “logic”, these people’s “reckless participation” in such risky activities as eating cheese from cans, having zero portion control and consuming hamburgers as rapidly as they utilise oxygen ought to be stigmatised. They are killing themselves after all.


    I actually found this episode interesting, even if you have to disregard the fact that Vulcans would actually want someone to die. The Vulcans as portrayed in every Trek seem to be different to how Trekkies see them, or how they are described by other Trek characters, as we seem to imagine that they are loyal, intelligent and compassionate, whereas most of the time in shows they are portrayed as cold, aloof, superior, arrogant and rude.

    It's also interesting that this incredibly obvious HIV/AIDS story, which arrived three decades too late, also focuses on how terrible and traumatic rape is for women; and yet when Trip was raped and actually became pregnant, it was played for laughs.

    That'll be the "male privilege" feminists keep ranting about.

    I liked the episode, but don't believe that the Vulcans would be so narrow minded and emotional about people they don't agree with. They would arch an eyebrow and say illogical and move on.

    On another note, I am sick of the theme song. I thought it might be interesting to have a pop song for Trek, but I didn't even last one season. I like DS9 theme or TNG. Symphonic, bold, theatrical. Faith of the Heart is meh.

    Does anyone ever finish a meal in Star Trek? The number of scenes where people just get up and leave whole plates of food uneaten is really starting to grate on my nerves.

    (Naturally MRAs have shown up in the comments. If you ID as such, my comment will probably not delight you.)

    This is my first time through Enterprise, so I don’t know how the portrayal of Vulcans changes through the rest of the series BUT:

    Is it so hard to believe that the Vulcans of this era somehow evolved into what we saw at the point of TOS? Societies can change a lot in 100+ years. Canon seems to indicate that Vulcan attitude became less extreme in that regard. It makes perfect sense to me that in their first generations of encounters with humans, that they would treat humans with more kid gloves than they did once the Federation was established.

    I absolutely saw T’Pol’s encounter with Tolaris as having the signifiers of rape. Not sure if this is what the creators intended, but it almost definitely comes across that way, both in the scene which portrays it as well as the aftermath. Archer seems noble in intent, but misguided, in how he reacts, and in T’Pol choosing to try and conceal the fact to avoid stigma. It’s a bit more subtle than the more obvious anti-LGBTQ message, but still feels awkwardly handled.

    Casting Trip as comic relief in an innuendo-filled comedy of manners is a bad idea. Didn’t work when he got pregnant either. Certainly the pairing of the A and B plot did undercut what they were going for with the A plot. Almost as though the writers just threw darts at a list of “sex related plots” and came up with one extremely serious one, and another that was total fluff. Ultimately that’s what makes me not like this episode, and agree with Jammer’s review, even though I enjoy how much lore of Vulcan society we’re getting in some of these episodes in the first two seasons.

    Okay - do you people not remember original series Vulcans? Who, for instance, use fights to the death to get out of arranged marriages? Paragons of logic and virtue they never were.

    And, this was by far Travis' best episode. Perhaps the only time the actor correctly emoted the scene. Anyone wants to slag this episode over Travis' treatment, I got your Kal-if-fee right here.

    [They are not at all comparable to the great Vulcans I grew up with: Spock and Sarek. (Tuvok was good, but not great!)]

    Oh spare me! Tuvok was just as great as Spock and Sarek, as far as I'm concerned.

    I had to roll my eyes when Archer was upset that the Vulcans wouldn't cure the disease because of political reasons. Archer did exactly that to an entire species!

    But now the shoe is on the other foot. Protagonist-centered morality at its finest.

    "After all, it's not as if AIDS research has been halted because governments don't feel a need to cure those who were unlucky enough to contract it, or because they don't agree with the behavior of some who have it. The problem with AIDS is not that we don't care about a cure, but that we are not yet capable of providing one."

    AIDS research was halted because it was seen as a gay disease. The AIDS epidemic wasn't something inevitable, it was created by state enforced ignorance. It wasn't until people started being less prejudice that the disease started being taken seriously which then led to it's infection rates decreasing.

    I liked how T'pol refused to throw minorities under the bus for her own benefit. Let's say only gay people got HIV, should that then mean the stigma against people with it would be any more justified? Of course not! "It doesn't just effect minorities" should never be the sole reason for taking something seriously.

    I found it strange that the delicately handled AIDS metaphor was in the same episode as a goofy sexual subplot, even featuring some remarkably unsubtle innuendos.
    All in all this is a strange one, it feels like a script that was rejected during the first season of TNG for being too sensitive then dusted off fifteen years later by which time it was well past it's well by date when it comes to relevance. That's not to say HIV is no longer an issue, nor was it not back in '03, but one would expect a series of this era to perhaps tackle themes of terrorism or surveillance, remember, it was only the year after this when they were parodying the reaction in Team America, which was ironically a lot more pertinent to then current events than Enterprise was up to this point.

    I for one liked this episode very much. It moved me. It made me furious with the vulcan posturing. It also highlighted how the perfect, elf-like "logical" vulcans have also their flaws and dark sides. I love this, because it makes them multidimensional, conflicted and nuanced. It highlights that logic for vulcans is more a cultural goal, dramatically hard to reach, than something that comes out of "nature". Similar to Klingon honor. As such, it implies conflicts, both individual and social. Storytelling about vulcans in episodes like this one can be seen as a very nice allegory to postmodern and marxist critiques of scientific positivism and classical rationalism of 1700s. If DS9 had stories centered on vulcans, they would probably look like the ones portrayed in this and other similar episodes of ENT.

    I also laughed a lot at the phlox/Tucker plot, because I feel Tucker, with his countryside attitudes, is the right guy to bring up when it comes to odd cultural "exchanges ". He is conservative and likable, so things can keep a light vibe. The sincerely libertine attitude of both denobulans only makes everything more laughable.

    I give this 3,5 stars.

    I wonder how many of the commenters are women. There seems to be a great lack of understanding about why T'pol didn't want to discuss her mind-meld situation. I read it as being exactly like what a human woman often feels: shame at being violated. And for those who say, "Well she consented at first," what she actually did was submit to rather strong persuasion, and then said No after a couple of minutes, whereupon the guy forced her. That is certainly rape.

    Some people also keep forgetting that Vulcans DO have emotions, and developed the adherence to Logic Over All because their emotions were so violent that they actually got in the way of having a decent society. It's to be expected that many of them would have less than perfect control over their emotions even now, even with logic training that started in early childhood and lasted the rest of their lives. I do think Enterprise goes too far with the negative side of Vulcan personalities, but it's useful to acknowledge that they're not all Spock-level saints.

    I found the B plot juvenile and overacted, as almost all Trek sex/seduction scenes are. This one reminded me of the Riker sex slave episode.

    One aspect of this that seems to have been not mentioned dd so far is that T’Pol was almost raped again. The doctors tricked her into touching a pad thing to get her dna, and then did tests without her permission. Then they have the hypocritical gall to take the moral high ground about who gets treatment and why. That for me was actually the worst part of the situation for T’Pol but she never complained or made reference to it. How can doctors just decide to test someone and share the results with everyone? What?

    The episode rang hollow for me, mostly because it was constantly in the back of my mind that Berman and Braga canned the first gay character that would have been Lt. Reed. Every time I see him in a scene displaying his heterosexuality, I imagine what he would've been like as a homosexual character.

    If the studio really cared, they would've been brave. Instead, other series took it on without batting an eyelash, and Trek maintained its conservativism. For 2003, the show did not take any major social risks. I can't tell if the writers of "Stigma" did it in the old-Trek way because they were trying to be traditional to how Trek narratives are told, or because they were still on a leash with the studio when it comes to talking about such issues directly.

    TNG already tackled this issue in "The Outcast", and "Stigma" informs us that there has been little headway in the studio. Meanwhile, in the Battlestar, one of the series' most prominent characters, Admiral Cain, was not only a full on lesbian, but got tricked by a Cylon model that demonstrates bisexual characteristics.

    This episode just screams to me, "If you're too afraid to go all the way, then don't bother." I felt the same about Trip and Feezal. It would have made for much better story telling if Trip explored sex with Feezal - which would have been a major interspecies first for the series - and then the consequences (good and bad) are explored. Trip already got pregnant, so it would fit in with his character history. But instead, they made it about trip being too gentlemanly to be a player, even though he's single and has been given permission? His constant smiling shows that he somehow likes it, yet we are left to wonder what could have happened.

    The show just had so many missed opportunities. So many. And then they jumped into a Xindi plot which just wrecked the philosophical explorations. But that's what studios do when they don't have any good ideas or they are too afraid to execute them: they make a war plot.

    A "message show" that was made over a decade too late and is thus preaching to the choir. That alone makes it hard to sit through, but it's made all the worse by its subplot that completely undercuts the A-story. Seriously, a wife-swapping plot in an AIDS allegory? What the hell were they thinking?

    The B plot is very relevant. The stigma against polyamory is even higher than it is against those who are homosexual. The fact that Jammer failed to make the connection is telling.

    This episode is an example of the issue that kept me from ever really getting into Enterprise during its first run: What is the point of a prequel series if it completely changes basic premises?

    Before this series, it was clear that telepathic practices by touch, including "mind melding," were a fundamental part of Vulcan culture going back to ancient times. Children are mentally bonded to their betrothed in a way that will draw them inexorably to one another at pon farr, and T'Pau tells Kirk this ritual goes back to "the time of the beginning." Heck, the Vulcan afterlife is based on handing over their soul or "katra" to another.

    Sarek would be born at approximately the time the events in Enterprise are occuring, and we are supposed to believe that this supposedly ancient culture all develops during his lifetime, yet people act as if it went back to "the beginning"?

    Did the writers fail to do the math, or did they assume we wouldn't notice?


    "Before this series, it was clear that telepathic practices by touch, including "mind melding," were a fundamental part of Vulcan culture going back to ancient times."

    Where was this identified? The custom of arranged marriages goes back to ancient times, how do you know that mind-melding was an accepted practice throughout Vulcan history?


    Because Spock had described the childhood bonding ("less than a marriage, more than a betrothal") as involving touching each other in a way to feel each other's thoughts, which caused them to be drawn together at this time. That is what has brought them to the place of koon-ut-kalifee for the ceremony that T'Pau says has come "from the time of the beginning without change." If the telepathic bond were a recent addition, that would be a pretty big change.

    My understanding is that Enterprise deals with the idea of the katra by saying that it had become common for Vulcans to reject such mystical beliefs but that they were brought back when Surak's katra was found to have passed down among the persecuted minority. However, I don't think this addresses the issue of the Vulcan system of marriage being considered an ancient tradition that has been kept "without change." I can't believe the writers would have forgotten about that. The scene in Amok Time is so vivid to me, that I tend to assume it is to all Trek fans, let alone those who have made a career as Trek writers. But perhaps we all remember different things.

    By the way, transcripts of many episodes can be found on I only recently discovered that site. I found it reassuring to find that my vivid memories of the scene did match the transcript pretty much verbatim.

    Commenters seem unhappy with this story, including in the main that it didn't do enough, or trivialized serious social issues. I am not sure of that.

    I liked the episode very much...including the B-plot, which was neither silly nor unnecessary. Denobulan culture embraces promiscuity as a virtue, saying in effect that sexual freedom is good and is to be explored. Vulcan culture comes down hard on similar explorations between the minds of individuals, treating the mind meld as an afront, saying in effect that such behavior IS promiscuity (in the typical extremely negative sense we are all aware of ), and prejudges individuals who it feels have breeched decorum in melding. Promiscuity is a religious crime and will be punished. @Paul C raised an interesting point in 2020 about the invasive behavior of the Vulcan doctors toward T'pol which suggests that it was they who breeched decorum not T'pol, violating her a second time. Nothing is private. The state must see and know all. Confess, allow us to judge you, titillate us. Shades of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Yuris saved T'Pol, watch this again now, Jammer. I respect you. Enterprise was forward thinking. This is great. Watch it again. This is seriously one of the best Treks.

    I still think Bakula was miscast, he tried really hard. My dislike of him was unearned. Quantum Leap was just a bad show.


    The B-plot isn't only unnecessary, but also contradictory to the A-plot; a story making promiscuity seem okay in an episode with a less than subtle AIDS allegory...when promiscuity increases a person's chances of getting a sexually transmitted disease in the first place.

    It would be like doing an episode with a less than subtle "Black people aren't violent by nature" message only to have a subplot focusing on a black guy who lives up to every stereotype about inner city blacks.

    @Beard of Sisko
    If one views the episode only in the narrow way that it was framed when originally broadcast (as an HIV allegory, as reflected in Jammer's review), then I agree with you.

    Having come to it unaffected by that framing, I interpreted the episode as a comparative study of privacy/promiscuity in two cultures.


    Well maybe Denobulan physiology is such that they don't easily contract STDs, so they can afford such behavior without fearing severe consequences.

    Unfortunately, there are no Denobulans in the real world. Therefore, having what amounts to a wife-swapping subplot in an allegory for a disease more likely to be transmitted by promiscuity is a colossally stupid decision.

    Ugh why rewrite backstory within your own show? They could have picked something other than mind melds. So aggrevating.
    In that episode, tpol was not familiar with what mind melds were. There was no known stigma to doing it. She agreed to do it but only wasn’t allowed to stop when it got too intense and at that point force was involved. In addition all vulcans can mind meld, it is not an ability only a few are born with. So why not invent a new planet or something anything but further make the vulcans crap so humans can be superior.

    I agree Mayweather is getting totally misused. What is up with that? He’s not a worse actor than tpol so give him something to do.

    I agree with a lot of what is said however in the episode Fusion the show is clear that she was coerced and tricked from the very first interaction she had with her attacker. Further, she agrees reluctantly and is clearly uncomfortable from the get go “you’re resisting” etc. She was manipulated from the start as Archer points out and unaware of what a meld meant or its consequences. Say there was an adult who grew up in an isolated culture that was unaware of sex and what it was. Then when they meet and work with someone who is aware of what sex is who spends days making advances on the naive adult which the adult finds interesting, curious, and also quite uncomfortable. The in the know individual persuades the naive one to try self pleasuring and the naive one hates it and is struggling with how bad it made them feel only for the knowing individual to offer “it doesn’t have to be so bad let me show you how good it can be let’s have sex and you’ll see why I like it so much” and the naive individual still doesn’t know what sex is so they hesitantly agree because of the promise of learning something new and exiting and the prospect of not feeling so weird and uncomfortable about touching themselves. Then when they feel uncomfortable and scared when they start having sex even though they agreed only to be met with anger from the knowing person so they relent. Keeping in mind how sex was presented to them. Then, as they are having sex the naive adult realizes that they hate what’s happening and that this is much worse than what they did before and it’s not helping. To then try and stop it but then the lies and coercion turns to outright violence and they eventually manage to fight the knowing adult off only to get injured defending themselves. This is how I see the metaphors in the episode fusion. Emotions like sex can be a wonderful and beautiful thing among consenting knowing adults but can be very damaging without proper consent which includes full knowledge of what is being consented to. Without knowledge about what is being concerned to there is no consent. I don’t think that it is a plot hole that she says she didn’t chose or that she doesn’t deny she was coerced because she didn’t chose because she wasn’t given the proper information to chose and she also only “consented” under false pretenses (which isn’t consent) after being manipulated for days. Had he come right out and asked her to meld without all the manipulation she would never have agreed. The show makes clear that her attacker knew exactly what he was doing.

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