The Cynics Corner


"Fight or Flight"

by David E. Sluss

6 October 2001

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: Not bad, but its execution is heavy-handed at times and some of the characterization is uneven.


TWO-BY-FOUR TO THE HEAD OF THE WEEK: Yeah, we got it that Sluggo's plight was a metaphor for Hoshi's unease. But for some reason this episode bludgeons it to the point of absurdity. I half-expected Phlox to say, "Don't you see, Ensign - you are the slug!" There's a germ of sophisticated writing in this subplot, but all told it comes across as extremely heavy-handed.

TWO-BY-FOUR TO THE HEAD OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Gee, do you suppose that Phlox is this series' Outsider Commenting on the Human Condition?

NEW LINGUISTICS OF THE WEEK: Communicating with aliens is something that has usually been whitewashed in Star Treks of the past (future?), thanks to the magical powers of the Universal Translator, which can not only instantly translate the speech of most newly-encountered aliens, but also knows when a speaker intends for a word or sentence to not be translated (e.g. Worf posturing or delivering exposition partly in Klingon). It is novel and appropriate that this series doesn't have such a device; however the alternative, portrayed here, is filled with peril. In this show, we are asked to accept that in a few days, without anything like a Langenscheidt's at hand, Hoshi is able to master an alien language to the extent that she can communicate fairly complicated notions (e.g. "The people in the ship above us attacked your crew and tried to sap their precious bodily fluids") to the aliens. The script acknowledges that this is not like learning Spanish, but then portrays it as if it were. The climactic conversation seems to me to be an impossibility.

Even the way Hoshi figured out how to say "Ship in distress" by listening to tapes on the alien ship doesn't really wash. Watching a video, with an alien pointing at a ship or something -- maybe. But if I listened to an audiotape of someone reading, say, Moby Dick in Russian, it's unlikely I'd be able to pick out the word for "ship" in a couple of minutes, not to mention "distress," which has more than one meaning and translates into multiple words among Earth languages. In the end, "exolinguistics" will be one of many suspension of disbelief issues inevitable in a Star Trek series; I won't belabor it on a weekly basis, but I'd be remiss not to raise hell about it at least once.

CHARACTER ASSASSINATIONS OF THE WEEK: This was a character-building episode, of course, but I think the results were somewhat mixed. As predicted, Hoshi is the screamer/damsel-in-distress; while it's nice to see a character who is not instantly comfortable in space, I do hope they tone it down a little bit. Reed, unexpectedly, looks to be a paranoid whose problem-solving skills don't stray too far from "blowing shit up." Phlox, as noted earlier, is portrayed a bit too obviously, and Billingsley's performance to date make the character seem like Doctix, created by a script generator accident that fused Voyager's Doctor and Neelix. Mayweather, as yet, hasn't really been developed, but he seems harmless enough.

We also got our possibly weekly dose of Archer, T'Pol, and Trip as proxies for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Only Trip, the frustrated explorer, fared all that well in these exchanges. Archer's behavior, in agreeing with T'Pol to leave the alien ship behind initially, seemed out-of-character, and his later reversal made him seem indecisive. And what the hell was that hunt for squeaks in the deck plating supposed to be about? Blalock's T'Pol seemed to be un-Vulcan-like in places; she crossed the blurry line between condescension and sarcasm during the dinner (e.g. "It would be very difficult to find their families"). She also downplays Vulcans' interest in exploration, which doesn't exactly square with much of Star Trek history. If T'Pol's attitude is supposed to be representative of Vulcan's, then you have to wonder why they visited Earth in the first place, or cared at all to discover who it was that had just discovered warp drive. And if T'Pol isn't representative of Vulcans, the question is why? My theory: That she may be a Temporal Cold Warrior, doing her best to impede Enterprise's mission for some reason. Or maybe it's just poor characterization...

NEW CUISINE OF THE WEEK: Well, one of my questions has been answered, namely "Where does the ship's food supply come from, since there doesn't seem to be food replication?" The answer is apparently something called "protein resequencing," Which of course begs the new question, where is the source protein coming from? Maybe we don't want to know. And why can this Enterprise produce food that looks like food, while a hundred years later Kirk and company had to settle for Play-Dough?

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEEK: Rationalizers beware: The use of real dates in the Captain's Log will make it impossible for you to claim that there are unshown weeks or months of time during and between episodes that can be used to explain unlikely traversals of distance of the kind seen in "Broken Bow." The three weeks Enterprise traveled between Archer's log entries in the two episodes would not seem to get the ship very far at the ship's stated top speed. I'm not sure they should already be out of Vulcan-known space, for instance. Yes, I'll have to let this issue go eventually -- but not just yet...

LOOSE LIPS OF THE WEEK: Do you think it's a good idea for Archer to broadcast Earth's exact location to aliens of unknown intent? One could argue that we've been doing the same thing for years by including a map on some of NASA's probes, but we don't know any better; Archer should.

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: I'm getting tired of  generic scores Star Trek scores. Even if it's technically "new," the music is so formulaic and Voyager-esque that it seems to be recycled. It undermines the attempt to make this series feel different than previous ones, and makes you wonder why they bothered doing something different for the opening credits. I think there needs to be a different approach; I'm not sure what -- but something.

Previous: "Broken Bow"
Next: "Strange New World"
NEXT WEEK: A plot straight out of the Lazy Writer's Guide to Characterization in Star Trek: The crew is exposed to something that makes them reveal their Real Selves.



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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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