The Cynics Corner



by David E. Sluss

18 March 2002

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: Weird astronomy, weird Vulcans. I think I'll pass.


CULTURAL GENOCIDE OF THE WEEK: The ongoing demolition of the Vulcans in this series is starting to resemble one of those multi-vehicle pile-ups in CHiPs, a notion reinforced by the casting of Robert Pine as the Vulcan captain in this episode. Much of what we saw of the Vulcans in this episode flies in the face of continuity and common sense. First, we're offered the notion that in Enterprise's time, the Vulcan mind-meld is a thing of the past. How could this forgotten, possibly forbidden, technique have become mainstream in Vulcan society by the time of Spock, if these renegades, whose ideas Vulcans of Spock's time still reject, are the only ones using it? What was T'Pol doing to Hoshi in "Sleeping Dogs," if not some form of mind-meld? And since T'Pol is engaged, per "Breaking the Ice," wouldn't she have been "bonded" to her fiance, like Spock had been in the Original Series? What the hell's going on? It's especially galling since there seems to be no need in this story for mind-melds to be some kind of secret. Meanwhile, in the B-story, Jon is blabbing about the Vulcan seven-year itch to anyone who'll listen, while a hundred years later, no human knows anything about Pon Farr.

Unless this Vulcan movement is leading to some long-term plot development, I'm not sure what the point was, other than to annoy and aggravate. It's as if this episode was specifically created to provide cover for the not-quite-Vulcan writing and acting we've seen in T'Pol to date. She's sarcastic and pouty? It's because she's "more touch with her emotions than other Vulcans" and listened to jazz (or, as suggested in "Shadows of P'Jem," she's suffering from overexposure to humans). In terms of T'Pol's character development, this episode plays like Enterprise's version of Voyager's "Human Error": Explore emotions, decide that it can't/shouldn't be done, reset to zero. And don't even consider the possibility that Ponch just might have lost it because of something he touched in T'Pol's mind, since melds are a two-way street. Instead, Ponch is a nut (and, to avoid any possible viewer confusion, something like a rapist), and T'Pol goes back to being T'Pol, smug in the knowledge that the CHiPs squad is full of it.

SPATIAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Enterprise's crack research team (or is that "crack research" team?) didn't earn their paychecks this week, given the unlikely properties of the "Arachnid Nebula." In his one and only line this week, Travis marvels at how big this nebula is, at a whopping 8 billion kilometers in diameter. That makes the nebula roughly the size of our solar system, which is orders of magnitude smaller than the typical nebula. For instance, the Crab Nebula, which this fictional one resembles pretty closely (perhaps the script was doctored up when some resourceful staffer discovered that the real one is 6000 light years away?), is a supernova remnant roughly ten light years in diameter. The Arachnid Nebula, if it was formed by a supernova explosion as the Crab Nebula was, would be expanding at a rate in the thousands of kilometers per second; at only 8 billion kilometers in diameter, it would have been formed within the last few months, not long enough to even be visible to astronomers on Earth when Archer's astronomy book was published. It's all bunkum, typical of the Enterprise writers' understanding of the grand scale of space.

But even assuming that you rationalize that bit of weird science away ("Yeahbut, T'Pol said it had disodium in it; that changes everything," "Yeahbut, Starfleet recalibrated the kilometer to be longer, it said so in one of the novels back in the Seventies," "Yeahbut, maybe the Q made it"), you have to wonder why it would have taken weeks for Enterprise to chart the object without the Vulcans' help, bearing in mind that it's no bigger than Earth's solar system.

SPATIAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Let's think about this one too, while we're at it. Enterprise is "less than a light year away" from the nebula, a characterization that would seem to any reasonable person to mean "more than one-tenth of a light year away." Immediately, the Vulcan ship shows up, they dock, and the docked vessels travel to the nebula, arriving there still docked. So are we to believe that the vessels traveled at warp while docked? That seems unlikely given the stated condition of the Vulcan ship's engines and Enterprise's relatively primitive engines. Or do we believe that they spent several weeks at impulse to get to the nebula? Whatever...

STARFLEET UNINTELLIGENCE OF THE WEEK: I hate to say it (well, okay, I like to say it), but Archer this week makes Dylan Hunt look like a rocket scientist. First, T'Pol tells him that Vulcan experimentation with emotions is "dangerous," but he doesn't ask for any specifics, like "Gee, What did happen to other Vulcans who have tried this?" T'Pol is warning him that the people he's invited onto the Enterprise are potentially dangerous, and he basically blows it off. Strange that he was so worried about losing his science officer in "Shadows of P'Jem," when he dismisses what she says at nearly every turn, just like last week in "Shuttlepod One." Later, after T'Pol is attacked, he baits Ponch into anger for -- what reason, exactly? Because he didn't believe T'Pol? Because he wanted to manufacture evidence that would justify kicking the Vulcans off the ship? Because he likes being beat up (c.f. "The Andorian Incident")? And he apparently doesn't even bother to tell the Vulcan captain that he has a psychopath on his crew. What a sport.

Previous: "Shuttlepod One"
Next: "Rogue Planet"
NEXT WEEK: Archer is moved to tears by the plight of a mysterious alien on a rogue planet.



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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
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