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Fight or Flight

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 4, 2001 - 2:11 PM GMT

See Also: 'Fight or Flight' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While Sato frets over her sick pet slug, Reed and Mayweather worry because Enterprise's targeting scanners aren't aligned properly. Captain Archer orders the ship out of warp so that Reed can test the new configuration on some nearby asteroids. There, T'Pol detects an unknown ship which appears to be dead in space. She recommends not intruding on the aliens' privacy, but Archer insists on examining the ship at close range to see if they can learn who stopped the ship and why.

Though Archer has chosen Sato for the away team, the communications officer requests permission to stay on the ship so she can access the linguistic database. The captain refuses, even after she admits that she becomes claustrophobic in environmental suits. Along with Reed, they board the Axanar vessel, where Sato screams when she discovers more than a dozen dead bodies attached to tubes draining fluid from them. Archer wants to remain until they can determine who committed this atrocity, yet he reluctantly follows T'Pol's suggestion that they leave before the aggressor returns to claim the victims.

Sato admits to Phlox that she doesn't believe she belongs in space. The doctor suggests that she and her slug both return to a safer environment. Meanwhile Archer frets over his decision to abandon the alien corpses. When T'Pol says Vulcans would never have boarded the derelict vessel because it would violate their code of behavior -- she does not approve of the way human curiosity dictates their actions -- the captain announces that humans, too, have a code of behavior. He orders his officers to reverse course. On board the Axanar vessel, Phlox determines that whoever killed the aliens wanted to harvest their triglobulin. Sato translates and broadcasts the alien distress call.

Then the murderers return, along with an Axanar vessel responding to Sato's emergency signal. The Axanar captain initially suspects the Enterprise crew of attacking his people, but Sato is able to speak enough of his language to convince him that they tried to help after unknown attackers killed the Axanar crew. In gratitude, his ship saves Enterprise from the aggressors. Archer thanks Sato for winning them an ally. She leaves her slug on a hospitable planet, telling it that it, too, will adapt to its new environment.

Analysis: The first of what I suspect will be many "getting to know the crew" episodes, 'Fight or Flight' gives Hoshi Sato the Ezri Dax 'Afterimage' treatment, forcing her to set aside her past life and her insecurities so that she can become a valuable member of the team. Sato may be a brilliant linguist, but her maturity level is somewhere below Wesley Crusher's. She doesn't like having quarters on the starboard side of the ship, she doesn't want to wear an environmental suit, and in her own words she screams "like a twelve-year-old girl" when faced with danger.

I don't think the latter is so terrible, given the circumstances in which she finds herself during 'Fight or Flight'; one would expect someone like optimistic Mayweather to do the same, faced with a roomful of corpses. But Sato screamed like a twelve-year-old girl a few times during 'Broken Bow' just because there were Suliban on the ceiling, which could be a definite liability in a communications officer. I'm going to be optimistic like Mayweather and hope this is the end of Sato's career crisis. Sure, it would be unrealistic to have her resolve her inferiority complex so quickly, but I don't know whether I can handle any more episodes where the only human female is also the weakest link.

T'Pol naturally has no such insecurities, but this doesn't make her a good role model. She's sanctimonious, self-righteous and she needs properly pointed eyebrows -- oh, not really, but I keep forgetting that she's supposed to be Vulcan instead of Romulan. I'm sure many fans will rationalize that Spock was half-human and Sarek married a human, so it's entirely possible that most original Trek Vulcans behaved more like T'Pol than those well-loved original series characters, but it's hard to imagine Vulcans as a whole not sharing enthusiasm for exploration, with or without concerns about interference. Maybe we'll soon discover that T'Pol isn't really a typical Vulcan of her era and that's why she's willing to serve on Enterprise, but I'd rather her start finding exploration fascinating like Spock did.

T'Pol's bickering with Archer during this episode works very well; it's less contrived than the quarrel in 'Broken Bow,' so they both sound more intelligent, more reasonable. Her insistence that the unknown Axanar might not want to be disturbed makes more sense than her apparent lack of interest in the Suliban conspiracy. Moreover, the captain's refusal to accept T'Pol's Vulcan standards creates more of an impact, because he demonstrates the value of following his instincts. Well, he does almost get his entire crew brutally murdered when he returns to the ravaged vessel, but they make new friends in the end. I worry a bit about his willingness to broadcast directions to Earth to aliens whom he doesn't yet know to be friendly. Yet Archer does do a decent job controlling his resentments, and he's absolutely wonderful thinking aloud to his dog -- it humanizes him without making him seem overly silly. Picard and Janeway both could have been improved at various stages had they had pets to talk to.

The Archer-Tucker-T'Pol trio shows real potential; I'm nowhere near ready to say they're another Kirk-Spock-McCoy trinity, but the point-counterpoint between the XO and the science officer allows the captain to benefit from both their perspectives without having to argue directly with either of them. It's appropriate that Tucker backs T'Pol on the initial decision to abandon the Axanar, not because he agrees with her reasoning for doing so, but because the captain's own belief that the enemy may return suggests that for humans too, the logical course of action is to flee. Tucker can get away with more Vulcan-baiting than the captain can; I don't have the same problems with him taunting her about crew tensions than I would if Archer did the same.

I assume the Prime Directive hasn't been fully drafted yet. One gets the feeling watching these three in action that they may play a big role in it -- both the need for it and the wording. Annoying as T'Pol can sound, she's right that in certain cases "exploration" would be tantamount to interference, and Archer makes a lot of assumptions when he boards the alien vessel -- that the Axanar were sentient, that the fluid exchange isn't something natural to their species, that they would want to be avenged somehow. In this heightened era of anti-imperialist sensitivity, it will be interesting to see how retro Enterprise becomes when creating and exploring truly foreign cultures.

As for the rest of the cast, Phlox reminds me way too much of Neelix -- same interest in human food, same inappropriately large smile and boisterous enthusiasm, though I did get a chuckle when he threatened to feed Sato's slug to his bat -- that's a Garak-type line. He also got the gratuitous sex comment of the episode, admitting to an overly zealous interest in the sex lives of the crew. I wouldn't trust this doctor not to spy on me in the decontamination unit, which is creepy but also perversely amusing, again in a Garak-type way.

Maybe it's just the accent, but Reed reminds me of Bashir during the first season of Deep Space Nine, and I do not mean that as a good thing. This guy comes across as only marginally competent even if he's supposed to be a top-notch member of the team, and he looks dour even when he's smiling. It's sort of amusing when Reed wants to blast a door Archer can open by turning the knobs, but it's also sort of scary. As for Mayweather...I have almost no impression of him. He's still the Galaxy Quest token black guy, not the pilot so much as the chauffeur.

The Enterprise still feels claustrophobic on 'Fight or Flight,' but this particular episode, it works well with the creepy haunted-house feel of the Axanar ship. The horrific scenes of dead aliens would have more impact if we hadn't seen similar images on The X-Files in the past -- and of course we hear Sato's scream before we see them, so we know what's coming. But all those sequences are very well-directed. The slug-Sato analogy gets overdrawn and becomes really lame in the final minutes; one hopes for stronger B-plots in the future. If we're going to have getting-to-know-the-crew episodes it would be nice to learn more than where they graduated in their classes and what they don't like about anacondas. Boy oh boy, Sato's gifted with languages -- an alien tongue in about ten minutes -- but it's not very convincing when she goes from being goat to hero in such a short time span. I'm sure Sato has her good points but we really haven't seen them yet. Ditto Reed, ditto Mayweather, hopefully ditto T'Pol.

However, I must admit that the opening with the music and the space shuttle is growing on me. It's very WB network-esque, but it does give Enterprise a contemporary feel that's grounded in a specific historical moment. The other Trek shows went with timeless anthemic openings, but they still get dated -- Kirk's voiceover was made less sexist for Picard, DS9's music was jazzed up when Worf came on board. There's something very nice about seeing a Star Trek firmly linked to our own era, as if we're fairly close to getting to the stars ourselves.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written television reviews, interviews and other features for sites such as Cinescape and Another Universe, as well as a a number of other web sites and magazines.

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