"Deconstructing the Tao of Trip, or The Importance of Being Tucker:

A parody of overblown academic jargon by a young Star Trek fan

suffering the ill-effects of a recent education."


~ by Lo Pan ~


"Arma virumque cano… [I sing of arms and of the man…]" – Virgil, The



"Arcam et supercilia et nasus lacertosque viri scribo. [I write of

the man's chest, eyebrows, nose, and upper arms." – Lo Pan, BBSTucker


In this essay, I evoke my own admittedly subjective response to

Enterprise, by submitting the series to an analysis that utilizes

several different heuristic tools garnered from the extant repertoire

of terms commonly used in contemporary literary studies. By focusing

in particular on the character of Charles Tucker III, or `Trip', the

ship's Chief Engineer, I hope to demonstrate how the show's (de)

construction of masculine identities is skewered by the series' own

salutary, self-reflexive awareness of its own textuality, and of

continuing post-structuralist debates about the nature of language.


Throughout the series, Trip stands as a flashpoint of masculine

sexuality and ideology. As an occasionally booze-drinking white

Southern male with an Engineering degree, he is _obviously_ a

projection of extant patriarchally-induced social inequities. None of

this is in doubt. The real question is whether the character himself

is aware of his status, or is an unwitting pawn of a homogenizing

project of indoctrination into the indisputably sexist sphere of

Western culture (not any community in particular; just Western

culture). I think this is an important and complex consideration. In

the second hour of the show's first episode, `Broken Bow', Trip and

T'Pol are forced to enter the so-called `Decon Chamber' when they are

exposed to alien bacteria during a difficult away mission. In an

extraordinary thirty seconds unparalleled in the history of Star

Trek, the two officers rub each other's nekkid bodies using an

unspecified unguent, seductively embruing their raw limbs even as

they claim to be cleansing them. Of this incident, original series

regular George Takei has said, "I don't think it was decontamination

that they were doing!" But if it was not decontamination, then what

was it? _Decon-struction_.


One of the underlying assumptions of deconstruction is that language

is inextricably bound up in the processes by which meaning is

articulated. All statements, however clear and direct they may seem,

derive meaning from their implied contrast to values and ideologies

that can be found in other statements and speech acts. Thus all

language is endlessly self-reflexive, caught up in the matrix of

semiotic infinite regress as each act of meaning-production

foreshadows another. From this perspective, the decon scene is

concerned with neither acts of cleansing nor pollution, but is rather

a de-centring of these ostensibly polarized absolutes.


Indeed, de-centring of the cleanliness/ pollution dialectic might be

seen as an ongoing strategy in the series. In `Breaking the Ice',

Trip informs us, albeit via a videotaped interview for a primary

school class in Ireland, that all the ship's waste is immediately

recycled into transmutable matter. "A poop question, sir?" he wails

haplessly at Captain Archer. But by his own words, the `poop

question' is in fact also the basis for an answer which canvasses

the restorative energies of the ship's replication system. The waste/

clean matter dialectic is bogus, because they are the _same thing_.


Similarly, Trip's masculinity undergoes de-centring. If, as a recent

review in the 'LA Times' has it, Trip is a "gym-trim" manifestation

of twentieth-century machismo, his masculinity is depolarized

in `Unexpected', when physical contact with an alien female causes

him to become pregnant. The ritual heterosexual process of `dating

before mating' is ironized in an interspecies first contact that

causes the male, not the female, to bear the foetus. Thus space

exploration forces Trip, in the words of his Vulcan science teacher,

Mr. Vellek, to "challenge his preconceptions", including his

preconceptions about his own masculinity, and indeed, the nature of

conception itself. In space, no one can hear you scream, but also,

no one can say with absolute assurance that he is totally masculine,

if sexuality is construed in terms of a set of concrete absolutes

(ie. the woman becomes pregnant, not the man).


By extension, if Trip might justifiably be accused of being a

proponent of colonialist aggresion, willfully imposing preconceived

masculinist assumptions on other cultures and species, he is also

simultaneously an example of colonized otherness. In `Breaking the

Ice', he sniffs that, where he comes from, arranged marriages went

out with slavery. Thus he appears to inscribe a colonialist,

Orientalist gaze. But this gaze is continually recathected onto him,

for while seeking to explore other cultures using human commonsense,

it is he who falls pregnant; is held hostage; is mugged; and is

captured in the snare of a sentient alien blob. These events compel

him, not his aggressors, to adapt his notion of commonsense.


Like a comic book, Trip is "laced with subtext", which, on further

scrutiny, reveals him to be so much more than is initially assumed.

As a text, Trip is the fictious embodiment -– the living, breathing

bodily transformation -- of decentring. (Speaking of his body, and as

Marx would often say to Engels, "Nice base, fine superstructure".) In

so being (in the Heideggerian sense of the word `being'), he

highlights the series' own decentred ontos. Billed as "the history of

the future", Enterprise is a postmodern simulacrum, a prequel show

that orients itself purely in relation to a fictional premise set 150

years later, and which forces viewers at home to question their own

preconceived notions about race, class, and gender.