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By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 15, 2003 - 3:52 AM GMT

See Also: 'Bounty' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Archer answers a hail from a Tellarite named Skalaar and is pleasantly surprised to find that this one is not as argumentative as he had been led to expect. The good feelings evaporate, however, when after offering a tour of the planet where Enterprise crewmembers have been conducting surveys, Skalaar abducts Archer and takes off to rendezvous with Klingon Captain Goroth, who is responsible for the large price on Archer's head for escaping from Rura Penthe.

Tucker quickly recalls the away teams to pursue the fleeing Tellarite, but Phlox and T'Pol have picked up a pathogen on the surface which requires that they be quarantined. The microbe is non-responsive to theta radiation so Phlox experiments with decontamination gel. Before he can treat T'Pol, the infection triggers the Vulcan mating drive — the pon farr — elevating her body temperature, disrupting her control over her emotions and driving her to attempt to mate with any available male before the imbalance permanently damages her endocrine system, which could kill her.

Though he cannot convince his captor of his innocence, Archer helps Skalaar fight off another bounty hunter and repair his damaged vessel. He learns in the process that the Tellarite lost his ship to the Klingons and is trying to earn enough money to buy it back. While Enterprise tries to track the warp signature of the Tellarite ship, Skalaar seeks replacement parts from his estranged brother, who warns him that their own freighter has been stripped by the Klingons. Archer finally convinces Skalaar that the Klingons have treated them both badly and enlists the Tellarite's help in engineering an escape, having Skalaar contact the Enterprise with his coordinates while he breaks out of a prison on a Klingon ship, fleeing on an escape pod.

Meanwhile T'Pol attacks Phlox, first trying to get him to mate with her, then trying to get out of sickbay. She succeeds and is pursued through the ship by Reed and a team of security guards. T'Pol's attempts to seduce Reed through his environmental suit are unsuccessful and his officers stun her when she attacks, taking her back to sickbay, where Phlox treats her for the pathogen that has triggered her mating drive. When she awakens, he assures her that he has dealt with worse patients, though Tucker and Reed later smirk on the bridge about her behavior.

Archer is rescued by Enterprise, which disables the Klingon ship's weapons and goes to warp before they can pursue. Skalaar contacts Enterprise, allowing Archer to thank him for the use of his lockpick and asking what he will do with the reward money he received from the Klingons for capturing Archer. The Tellarite plans to buy a new freighter, warns Archer that the Klingons will double the bounty on his head and refuses to promise not to try to collect it again.

Analysis: The best thing I can say about this episode is that it was as bad as I expected. At least it wasn't worse. It combined an A-plot very similar to one we saw a couple of months ago during February sweeps — "Canamar", in which Archer conspired with another captor while he tried to talk his way out of prison — with The Biggest Vulcan Cliché Of Them All, the dreaded pon farr episode. At least, now that Enterprise has blown its wad, it can't revisit the gratuitous sex-and-violence of that storyline for several seasons...unless, of course, the writers come up with more stupid excuses for making T'Pol act like a fan boy's wet dream.

Let's start with the Archer storyline, which is merely banal, and might actually have been entertaining if it weren't so reminiscent of "Canamar" (and what were they thinking, doing two Archer-flies-his-jailer's-ship episodes in one calendar year?) Skalaar could shoot Archer at any time; we hear over and over that he'll get paid the same for a dead body as a live one, as long as it's identifiable. So why in hell does he keep Archer alive, awake and talking?

Well, obviously, because he's one of those kidnappers with a heart of gold, who's only shooting and abducting people because he was wronged himself, and all Archer has to do is figure out how to save the dude from himself to save his own skin. So he does — he gets to witness firsthand the dysfunctional family and mistreatment at the hands of the Klingons that have led the poor Tellarite to become a thug — at which point it's easy to make a deal to stay alive. These aren't the nasties from the original Star Trek's "Journey To Babel", but more akin to the Pakleds, the "We Are Not Smart" guys from The Next Generation.

And then there's T'POL IN HEAT! I can't say I wasn't warned, for UPN has been hyping this storyline in TV promos, in radio ads, on talk shows...I've lost track of how many times I was treated to the sight of Jolene Blalock slathering her lovely waxed legs with decon gel and rubbing her lovely bra-free breasts against a bemused-looking John Billingsley. To be fair, this episode didn't disgust me nearly as much as either of Voyager's pon farr episodes, the date rape fantasy of "Blood Fever" or the holodeck sexcapade of "Body and Soul". It merely featured the expected exploitation of Blalock in extremely skimpy clothes, sweating, panting, rubbing herself all over a man who's already declared himself turned off by forward women and another hidden behind a space-worthy environmental suit. Too bad she didn't challenge Malcolm with a lirpa; I'd love to see him try to pull off the James T. Kirk torn-shirt routine.

And what did we learn about T'Pol, the Vulcans, pon farr, sexuality? Absolutely nothing! But on a show with sexual politics that allow Tucker to make jokes about how belligerent Tellarites might want to meet his ex-girlfriend, and where Malcolm and Trip titter over T'Pol's completely involuntary distress on the bridge, why expect anything else? All right, I'm not the target audience for this storyline. And fortunately I sent my ten-year-old — the biggest Enterprise fan in my household — to bed after "First Flight". I'll say this for UPN: at least they put "Bounty" in the 9 p.m. slot when kiddie fans were less likely to watch. I generally root for this show's ratings to rise, but I'm hoping UPN gets something close to the usual Wednesday night numbers in the slot from which Twilight Zone will officially be removed tomorrow when the fall schedule is revealed. But hey, at least now I can rest easy that I probably won't have to see another Vulcan mating episode for years. Maybe ever, if this show's ratings don't improve. I don't think teenage masturbation fantasies about insatiable Vulcan women are going to convince anyone to watch Enterprise regularly.

Can't I say something nice about "Bounty"? Why yes, I can! The Tellarite makeup is terrific. And the Tellarite ship, though suspiciously familiar in interior design, is pretty cool. And Klingons! Not only do we get pon farr, we get gratuitous use of Klingons! Really, I should praise the continuity, because it's nice to know the Klingons did not forgive and forget the Rura Penthe incident the way Archer seems to have forgiven Tucker and forgotten the Cogenitor incident. But such stability seems so dreadfully wasted on an episode like this, which is boring the audience to tears with the derivative wrongful-imprisonment storyline before it ever gets around to showcasing a sweaty T'Pol.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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