Bucky Reviews “A Night in Sickbay”
Okay, I have to get my prejudices up front (as if they weren’t perfectly clear from my sig). If there were to be a suggestion of “sexual tension” between two of the characters in “Enterprise,” I’d expect it to be between Trip and T’Pol, simply because I’ve always thought that when Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock are onscreen together they have a chemistry beyond the plotlines or the dialogue. I still think so.
But I never doubted that Berman and Braga would ignore that chemistry for a plotline that they wanted to follow and would impose said plotline on characters whether there was on screen chemistry or not. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again. There have been definite hints that they intended to have Archer and T’Pol set up romantically. This episode was the payoff.
Okay the plot: Do I have to do this? The plot for this episode was known so far ahead that it was as spoiled as overripe cheese. Herewith the speedo version: Enterprise has been hanging around the Kreetasian homeworld for five days hoping to obtain a much-needed plasma injector. Somehow they’ve insulted the Kreetasians—again—but—again—they haven’t a clue as to why. Eventually Hoshi discovers that Archer’s dog, Porthos, has relieved himself on a sacred tree and that Archer must undergo a humiliating apology before they will consider any transactions. Archer refuses. Porthos has come down with a life-threatening pathogen that even the creative medicine of Phlox cannot cure. Archer—who might have thought twice about taking a dog to a world where the inhabitants are offended by the sight of food consumption—blames the Kreetasians for not double-checking his pet’s genome. Worried about his beloved dog, the captain spends the night in sickbay, mostly not getting any sleep. We see him jogging in the gym along with T’Pol—who reasonably points out that he is putting his dog before his ship. We see what are supposed to be the heights of hilarity as Archer and Phlox chase a bat. We see and hear Phlox tell Archer that he’s not really angry with the Kreetasians. Nope, he’s been sublimating his passion for T’Pol. The dog is eventually cured, Archer eventually apologizes, the Kreetasians eventually give Enterprise not one, but three, plasma injectors, Archer and T’Pol eventually have a coded conversation implying that they are attracted to each other but will not act on it, and Archer and Phlox eventually become friends again.
Good stuff: Hoshi catches the bat. Trip suppressing a smile during Archer’s apology. Phlox on missing his family. Archer apologizing to Phlox. Decon (okay, I’m shallow). Archer trying to run faster than T’Pol in the gym.
Bad stuff: So much. Do I have world enough and time? This was supposed to be a funny episode. There were some mildly funny scenes. Other than that it was just boring.
Review: Okay, since my prejudices predisposed me to dislike this episode, I set up a control group. Mr. Bucky and I in the family room, Bucky Jr and her boyfriend in the living room. Mr. Bucky can take or leave “Enterprise,” Bucky Jr and BF are weird enough to have thought Chakotay and Seven worked well together. They like comedy episodes. So, I figured their taste was so skewed from mine, I’d be able to tell if I was just suffering from sour grapes.
Early on Mr. Bucky looked at me and said, “It’s time for the dog to get a redshirt.” Bucky Jr.’s BF heard that comment. A little later when Archer was really into a rant about how the Kreetasians owed *him* an apology, the boyfriend hollered out, “It’s time for the *captain* to get a redshirt.” So, the people in my household most predisposed to like this episode thought it was awful.
Did I feel vindicated? What do you think?
So. For me, this one comes under the heading, “What were they thinking?”
What *were* they thinking? Well, Bakula has a real flair for comedy; so does Billingsley. I think Berman and Braga intended to capitalize on that. From the comments of those who liked the episode, they must have succeeded with some people. Those who liked it thought it had some funny moments. Those who didn’t thought it was boring. The vote in my house was 4 for 4: boring and bad.
Given my feelings about the whole Archer/T’Pol thing, I was expecting it to be cringe-inducing. It wasn’t. It was just boring. Mr. Bucky and I kept watching the clock. I’ve never done that before when watching “Enterprise.” I watched it to the bitter end out of a warped sense of obligation—can’t complain if I didn’t see it. Mr. Bucky watched it because he loves me. Now I know just how much. I owe him big time.
Did I buy that Archer would be that upset about his dog? Absolutely. Archer’s affection for Porthos has been established from the first episode, and pet owners can be very attached to their animals, often treating them like children. However, I didn’t buy that the captain of the only Earth starship in space would abdicate his responsibility to suck it up and apologize in order to get a piece of equipment that his chief engineer—and closest friend—tells him is essential. By having Archer refuse to acknowledge his own responsibility in the “incident,” Berman and Braga just managed to make him look petulant and incompetent.
Did I buy the idea that Archer would be sexually attracted to T’Pol? Absolutely. Jolene Blalock is built like an illustration from the Kama Sutra. She’s a walking wet dream. It would be unbelievable if Archer didn’t react. So, one of the good things about this episode is that it acknowledges natural sexual attraction. And Bakula has a gorgeous body. Hip! Hip! Busts and Buttocks! We got lots of skin, and excepting Phlox’s grooming scenes, it was all very nice to look at.
What I didn’t buy is that this sexual attraction has manifested itself as irritation and tension between Archer and T’Pol. Phlox says that he’s noticed that tensions have run high between the two for sometime. Huh? It looked to me (and apparently to Archer) like the reverse was true—that Archer and T’Pol were developing a genuine understanding and respect for each other—even regard and affection. But after the bumps of the first half of season one, the high-running tensions have always been been between Trip and T’Pol.
If they wanted to go with an Archer/T’Pol romance, the least they could do is go with what the Archer/T’Pol shippers noticed and advocated as preferable to the Trip/T’Pol fireworks—a deepening mature understanding. Instead, Berman and Braga lifted the whole Trip/T’Pol dynamic and just wrote dialog for Phlox asserting it as if it happened. Back to the worst elements of Voyager. Like something that another character has developed? Just arbitrarily assign those qualities to the character you happen to be writing about this week. It’s only bad because they didn’t have to do that. They could have built on the growing friendship instead.
I *can* see the Archer/T’Pol romance. I don’t like it—I think he looks too old for her (and BTW: Bucky Jr. chimed in from the living room—and over the roar of our antiquated dishwasher—“The Captain looks way old for her!”), and I find their relationship a paternal/fraternal. But that’s me. Berman and Braga have decided to do this, so we should ask why. Well, Archer has to overcome his prejudices against Vulcans and T’Pol has to learn to accept and value humans. It looks like a plot line they intended to push from the beginning. What they didn’t count on was Trinneer’s astonishing abilities and presence as an actor. I don’t pretend that the plotlines have created the enormous popularity of Trip and T’Pol as a couple. That comes entirely from the on screen chemistry of the actors.
In another series, the writers would let the relationships develop according to what was working on the screen. Berman and Braga have an agenda. The Trip/T’Pol shippers will be sorely disappointed, but those 136 Archer/T’Pol shippers will be pleased. As for the rest of the fans, I cannot say.
But what kind of agenda is that. A romance?
But otherwise this episode was about—nothing. There were good moments between Archer and Phlox toward the end, but mostly, it was a wholesale waste of time.
And what about Archer’s peevishness over the apology to the Kreetasians? I thought he was supposed to be improving this season, not acting even more childishly than he did last year. How can this episode do anything but harm the viewers’ perception of this captain? It is one thing to have flaws; flaws are what make characters interesting. But it is something else when those flaws are petty and demeaning.
Berman and Braga did Bakula a great disservice in writing the character this way. And they have undermined the character of Jonathan Archer even further. Now it’s two weeks before a new episode. Will I tune in. Yes. But if Archer doesn’t turn into a genuine, believable leader soon, it’s going to be hard to keep tuning in.
For the Tuckerites. The Tripcentric countdown:
1)Trip's hair mussed or loose: Did we even *see* Trip’s hair long enough to judge? Minus 10
2)Trip's hair spiked: Same as above. Minus another 10
3)Trip's face stubbly: No. I’m getting peevish. Minus 30
4)Trip eats or discusses food: he mentioned food. Doesn’t count.
5)Reed gets to blow something up: Was the Reedster even in this one? Zippola
6)Trip does something especially cute: See above. No points off just because he can’t get to be especially cute in *every* episode (and why not? I dunno. What was I thinking?) Now that I think about it, Trip’s expression while Archer was “apologizing” almost made up for the rest of it.
7)Trip gives T'Pol his 'WTF look' (or says it): Nobody got the WTF look.
8) Trip scarcely appears: Usually Minus 10 points, but the episode was so bad that Trip’s absence only made it worse. Minus 100.
10 )Trip scarcely appears, but major discussion of the formation of the federation, prime directive, development of tractor beams, or Trip/Archer back story does occur. Or Porthos appears: 10 points Okay. That did happen. So, you can have your lousy 10 points.
11) Trip has major screen time: Are you kidding? We already covered this. And I’m getting cranky again. Minus another 100
Porthos has major screen time: 20 points Yep. Poor puppy.
14) Trip removes a major article of clothing (does not include shoes, socks, away jacket, or hat): Trip didn’t, but Archer did—almost as good.
15) Trip removes major article of clothing, and shares time with any major character (but Phlox) in decon: 20 points Same again. No Trip, but Archer looked yummy.
16) Trip removes a major article of clothing, and he takes off his undershirt (or has none on): Again. Nice Archer shots in the gym. Not Trip. But very nice anyway.
Total score: unredeemable