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Shuttlepod One

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 14, 2002 - 9:13 AM GMT

See Also: 'Shuttlepod One' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While running tests aboard a shuttlepod in an asteroid field, Tucker and Reed spot debris from Enterprise and conclude that the ship has been destroyed. With damaged sensors, a broken warp drive and only a few days' worth of oxygen, Reed insists that they have no chance of ever being found by anyone before they die, but Tucker orders him to set course for Echo Three so they can at least get a message to Starfleet that will eventually explain their fates. While Reed mourns the crew and records messages for dozens of people back home, Tucker scowls at his pessimism and continues to work on the ship's incapacitated systems.

The two quickly get on each other's nerves. Tucker believes they could be found and rescued by Vulcans, Suliban, Andorians or any other spacefaring race, but Reed points out that without warp drive they're several years from the nearest inhabited system. When an anomaly creates tiny fractures in the hull, Reed seals them temporarily with Tucker's leftover mashed potatoes, but one of their oxygen tanks develops a leak, further reducing their available air. The two discover that they had a common girlfriend in San Francisco and get drunk together, but they continue to feud over Reed's grimness and Tucker's interrupting his personal recordings.

Meanwhile, on an intact Enterprise, Archer and T'Pol discuss the damage sustained by the ship when they rescued a vessel of aliens. She suggests that microsingularities might be responsible for the damage, but the captain scoffs that microsingularities are a Vulcan myth. Later, when she finds proof that such anomalies have struck the ship, Archer berates her for not worrying more about finding and rescuing Trip and Malcolm. Sato sends out a message with a new rendezvous location.

A tearful Reed tells Tucker that he's never been close to his family or friends but on Enterprise he finally felt comfortable. Once they learn that Enterprise has survived and is on the way, they jettison and ignite their impulse engines to get the ship's attention. Yet both fear the ship will not arrive in time to save them. Tucker realizes that one of them could live twice as long as both, and declares that he'll go out an airlock to save Reed, but Reed pulls a weapon to stop him. The two feud before deciding that they're willing to risk death together. They wake on Enterprise, suffering from hypothermia but otherwise safe; the crew saw the emergency flare of their engines and came to rescue them.

Analysis: I'll start with what I liked about this episode. The shots of Enterprise wreckage splattered on the side of an asteroid. The mashed potato patch (scientifically preposterous but very amusing). Reed and Tucker discovering that their sexual pasts brought them a little too close for comfort. Real alcohol -- not synthehol. The emotional performances of Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer.

And it's a darned good thing those actors are so talented, because otherwise I'd still be gagging.

There were a few things I disliked about this episode. The premature revelation that Enterprise hadn't been destroyed -- of course we knew it hadn't, but we might have been left wondering whether they'd hit a temporal anomaly or what, thus allowing us to share Reed's grief to a greater degree. Reed's interrupted wet dream about T'Pol, which serves only to reinforce his skankiness towards women -- an attempt to heterosexualize him in the midst of male bonding like the gratuitous mention of an ex-girlfriend in 'Silent Enemy,' from a character we've rarely seen interacting with or showing respect for T'Pol on an intellectual level.

In general the macho strutting at the expense of the dozens of women Trip and Malcolm have both known seems pathetic for men who are supposed to be mature, and their drunkenness is part of the problem rather than an excuse for it. I would add Tucker's nose-wrinkled protestations of total disinterest in T'Pol to the list of things I like about the episode, except his prejudicial "She's a Vulcan" negates my pleasure at his refusal to reduce her to her nice bum. But more about Vulcan-baiting later.

There were a couple of things I thoroughly despised about this episode. It's funny when Reed makes snide comments about the superiority of British schools and denigrates comic books and pulp sci-fi. His remark about how Vulcans would have treated humans better if Cochrane had been European is a bit more disturbing, but he's joking around someone he considers a friend. Then the writers take the joke over the line. There's nothing funny about Tucker's pooh-poohing foreign contributions to the development of the technology that got humans into space. He doesn't come right out and brag that Americans alone did it, but we've already heard that Cochrane's from Montana; we get the message loud and clear.

It's bad enough that Enterprise's human-centric attitude portrays arrogant snobs like Archer as superior to Vulcans with decades more experience, even when the Vulcans are right. Archer's contemptuous treatment of his science officer when she suggests microsingularities as a likely source of their problems makes him biased at best, incompetent at worst -- it would have served him right if his ship blew up because he refused to give proper credence to her theory and assign the necessary team to investigate. Then, instead of apologizing and thanking her when she turns out to be correct, he further chastises her for not reacting like a human to the situation. Outnumbered (and ostracized by her own people for supporting these humans after the crisis at P'Jem), T'Pol ends up justifying herself to Archer instead of making sure he realizes how much trouble his knee-jerk anti-Vulcan sentiments could get them into.

The Vulcans, at least, are fictional. Americans and Europeans are not. I realize that we're in an era before Roddenberry's fantasy of global unity, when prejudice and jingoism would be things of the past, but these are Starfleet officers who have aliens on their crew and represent humanity during first contacts. We've already got a white male American captain who uses his communications officer as a cruise director -- how long do we have to watch the rest of the good old boys giggling about girls and making snide comments not only about alien differences but people from Earth whose backgrounds differ from their own?

Argue the realism of it all you want. It's clichéd, it's anachronistic, and it's not why thousands of people have traditionally watched Star Trek. If large numbers of humans in our own era understand and aspire to work for a common heritage despite the current climate of terror and suspicion, I don't need to watch a future focused on the throwbacks. Especially not throwbacks this boring and predictable.

The episode is watchable only because Keating in particular gives a bravura performance, much more emotional than anything we've seen from him before, yet restrained enough to be convincing for the character and moving rather than strained (since we know the ship is really all right, this could easily have turned into a manipulative rip-off of Voyager's 'Timeless,' when we're supposed to cry for a crew we know will be back at the end of the hour). At first Reed tries to hide his tears from Tucker, whom Trinneer plays as either deeply in denial or just a little too dependent on anger to express sorrow, depending on how much one believes he's holding back. Finally we get to hear Reed express some of the anger at his parents we all expected him to feel after 'Silent Enemy,' and to discover that he can be dangerous if pushed too far.

Keating gives his character passionate undercurrents that have been absent thus far in the character except when he's been discussing weapons (which, come to think of it, is what more than half of his dialogue has been about). His grief is convincing, and his leering at T'Pol is tolerable because even though the dialogue makes him sound like a boor, the performance is almost self-deprecating. In the final shouting match, when Tucker threatens to die for Reed, thus leaving him alone, his desperation is very powerful.

Tucker's behavior makes less sense to me on an emotional level. Not everyone is as verbally expressive as Reed in the face of monumental tragedy. But I'm a bit put off the ease with which Trip says 'See you around' to what he believes is Archer's grave, with which he eats and sleeps, with which he gets drunk on his dead friend's alcohol. The undercurrent of fury makes him sympathetic, indicating that he doesn't have quite the control over his emotions (or the lack of emotion) that it appears on the surface. Still, his threats to be cranky if Reed won't let him sleep sound wrong; he might be livid, he might be explosive, but cranky, after the loss of everyone on the ship? Trip's just a bit too quirky here.

Not that that's Trinneer's fault; he plays both the frustration and the eventual resignation convincingly, and he's moving in his almost lackadaisical pronouncement that he intends to kill himself so Malcolm might live. Both actors do an excellent job in the claustrophobic fight over the airlock. The physical performances in the cramped space in general are spot-on. Tucker passing his mashed potatoes to Reed is very amusing. And I love the slanted nod to Spock and McCoy's argument from 'The Galileo Seven' about the logic of taking desperate action when they decide to jettison and ignite the engines. Though from a practical standpoint, if they're moving at sub-light speed in a near-vacuum, shouldn't their velocity remain the same whether they have engines on or not? Or am I completely confused about the laws of momentum?

This bottle show offers little action, which means viewers will either love it or hate it based on the character development. And we do get character development, with two superb performances to hold audience interest. The only problem is, most of the character development isn't positive; it highlights the characters' worst traits in a way that suggests the audience is actually supposed to appreciate and smile at their sexism, prejudices and boorishness. I never thought I'd ever say this after Voyager's dozen reset button episodes, but I'm sorry 'Shuttlepod One' doesn't turn out to be a time loop, because I'd just as soon forget it.

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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 for magazines and sites such as SFX, Cinescape and Another Universe. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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