Enterprise “A Night in Sickbay” (part 2 of 8)
The episode opens on the Enterprise orbiting over an alien planet. Cut to inside the ship, and perhaps the single most embarrassing part of the Enterprise legacy (which, in turn, makes it the single most embarrassing part of the Star Trek franchise): the decon chamber.
So, it seems this was an attempt to show that in this time period, contact with alien civilization was fraught with danger. The later shows were mostly blasé about the ramifications of crewmembers beaming down to strange, unknown alien territory. Especially in regards to what sort of alien microbes might get passed between species. But at last, they finally decided to go for realism!
So what did they do? If you haven’t seen the show, I wouldn’t blame you for not believing what I’m about to say, but… they invented a room on the ship where crew members would strip down to their underwear and rub each other down with KY jelly. Excuse me, “decontamination gel”.
Obviously, this was conceived of purely for the titillation factor. And frankly, I have no problem with titillation. We all need more titillation in our lives as far as I’m concerned. The problem is, the gel-rubbing was only titillating for a few minutes, in the pilot episode, and then it promptly turned into a big joke for the remainder of the series run.
And so, this episode opens in the decon chamber, and here in their blue, family-friendly underoos are Hoshi, T’Pol, and Archer, all rubbing each other down with gel. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking: We’ve got an Asian chick in her underwear, a girl with pointy ears and big fake boobs in her underwear, and, well, Scott Bakula in his underwear, which might do it for some people. And they’re all rubbing each other down. But trust me, it is not even in the same universe as how freaky it sounds. There are many reasons why, but the main one is that… Archer’s dog is in here too. That dog being a beagle named Porthos.
Ah, the Porthos Conundrum. In addition to his cuteness, Porthos is perhaps the ultimate mascot for the producers’ inability to follow through on anything. While I can agree, in principle, that giving the captain a pet is a great way to humanize the character, and make him seem more relatable, the way they executed it was a disaster.
See, the captain is played by Scott Bakula. You really don’t need a puppy to make Scott Bakula approachable and relatable. So all it really did was give us flashbacks to Data and his cat Spot, and all the stupid B-plots that revolved around them on TNG.
Even worse, Archer is actually rubbing his dog down with the decon gel. Damn. This is beyond stupid. Couldn’t they have come up with a decontamination shower? Or decontamination laser beams or something? Over the course of the series, we see Dr. Phlox cure all kinds of ailments. We see him come up with cures that could change the course of history for entire planets. Surely, rubbing people down with gel is not the best idea he could come up with, is it?
What about the parts of the body that aren’t exposed to the gel? In this situation, wouldn’t crewmembers really need to be naked? And what if someone goes down to a planet alone? Who will rub that person down with gel then? It’s just a monumentally stupid idea, no matter how you look at it.
Okay, enough digression, or I’ll never finish this. A caption onscreen informs us it is “8:47pm”. Don’t worry, this isn’t a 24-type gimmick. This episode will not be presented in real time. It’ll only feel that way.
So Archer speaks his first line, and true to form, it’s a line that indicates just how oblivious he really is. “Starfleet didn’t send us out here to humiliate ourselves!”
Now, just hold the phone. It’s amazing that I can digress this much, and I don’t think I’ve even reached the 15 second mark of the episode yet. But, come on. Given the hopeless bumbling, and all the retarded decisions made by this crew since day one, one thing I can say for sure is that this must be exactly why Starfleet sent them out into space: to be humiliated.
This is a crew that went out on their first deep space mission without sufficient weapons to defend the ship, and had to enhance their systems on the fly. This is a captain who routinely let random people onboard, one of whom turned out to be a saboteur that nearly destroyed the ship. This is a captain that let an entire species die out, even though his doctor had the cure, because it would have interfered with the so-called “natural progression” of things. And I’m only mentioning stuff from the first season.
It’s fine to show an inexperienced crew. It’s fine to show characters making mistakes when coming into contact with an alien species for the first time. It’s not fine to show characters completely devoid of common sense. It’s one thing to be inexperienced, and it’s quite another thing to be clueless. This is a fine line that none of the writers—including the show’s creators, sadly—could ever really grasp.
According to Archer, the gist of their current situation is this: they’ve been hanging out in orbit around this planet for six days (Hoshi needlessly corrects Archer on this point twice, to say it’s actually been five days). They’ve been “groveling” for these aliens, because they can make “plasma injectors”, which the Enterprise sorely needs.
But, he explains, when the Enterprise crew went down to the planet, they were kept waiting for 12 hours. After which, they were simply told to go back to their ship. All of this is really clunky exposition, by the way. Assuming Hoshi and T’Pol accompanied him to the planet surface, he’s clearly telling them stuff they already experienced and witnessed with their own eyes.
He also reminds us how they previously offended this species, the Kreetassans, simply by eating in front of them. I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t just Archer’s sloppy table manners—these particular aliens are offended by the very concept of people eating in public. I know this because it happened in the worthless first season episode “Vox Sola”, which featured crew members being held hostage by space jizz, and Archer and Trip having a weird man-date where they watched water volleyball together.
See, one of the show’s few concessions to 21st century storytelling was having more in-series continuity than Voyager. Episodes of Enterprise usually feature far more references to other episodes than Voyager ever did, though these were mostly throwaway references that added nothing to the stories. Also, as we just learned, the ship has a busted plasma injector, even though the ship being miraculously and fully repaired was the whole point of the prior week’s episode, “Dead Stop”.
So, anyway, the “eating in public” thing is what the groveling was for. After waiting 12 hours, they were told to leave, and T’Pol suspects they offended them again.
Dr. Phlox’s voice is heard coming from the wall communicator. He clears the three humanoids to leave, but remands Porthos for further examination. Archer is immediately stricken with worry, but Phlox’s chipper voice says that he won’t know for sure what’s wrong with Porthos until he runs some tests.
The lights come on, and man, Jolene Blalock is one unattractive plastic Barbie doll. Linda Park as Hoshi is clearly the sexier of the two, despite what this show wants you to believe. It’s a total Ginger/Mary Ann thing. You know, like Tina Louise was supposed to be “the sexy one”, but everybody knew that Dawn Wells was way hotter? Jolene Blalock is Star Trek’s Tina Louise.
T’Pol and Hoshi exit the decon chamber, with Hoshi telling the dog to “get better”.
The normal light reverts to blue light as Archer leaves. Why the blue light? I guess that’s the special decontamination light? But if there’s a light, why do they need the gel? Maybe there’s just a special at the Super Kmart next door. Or maybe Chris Sivertson ghost-directed this episode.
Well, it’s off to the opening credits, and so the episode teaser here, obviously, is that something is wrong with Archer’s dog. That’s our teaser. And I honestly can’t even say that’s the lamest teaser in Trek history, because this show did way worse.
And then comes… the Enterprise theme song, a complicated topic all on its own. Damn, it’s going to be another five years before I finish this recap.
This is another instance where, in theory, the producers came up with a great idea, but in execution, they completely blew it. I can totally understand them wanting a pop song, to break out of the routine of having dull orchestral themes, like on the previous shows.
But why did they have to pick this pop song? For those who don’t know, the song is called “Where My Heart Will Take Me” (and not, as commonly believed, “Faith of the Heart”), and it’s a dopey, bombastic, overproduced power ballad in the vein of anything Heart or Foreigner performed in their later years.
It gets worse. In fact, the song was originally written for the movie Patch Adams. And sung by Rod Stewart over the closing credits. And it was written by Diane Warren, who also penned songs for Michael Bolton, Milli Vanilli, and, oh look, Heart. Didn’t any of this seem like a bad sign to Berman and Braga?
And why, oh why couldn’t they find a decent singer to sing this? Why did they get a guy who sounds like he was fresh off recording the Kragen Auto Parts radio jingle?
And again, when you look at the lyrics on paper, you can at least agree that, in theory, they fit the concept of the show. The song is all about “getting from there to here”, “touch[ing] the sky”, “reach[ing] any star”, etc. But that’s on paper. In reality, they were trying to inject life into their aging franchise with a theme song that you could play on the piano for your grandmother.
And instead of boring shots of the ship flying around in space, they put together a montage of key moments in the history of aviation and space exploration. Again, this was a brilliant idea, but they pretty much botch the execution here, too. They miss a lot of key spaceflight milestones, primarily because the only people they saw fit to include in this montage were Americans. And the clips they show aren’t even in chronological order.
And I really don’t think Amelia Earhart qualifies as an American aviation success story, does she? That’s even accounting for the fact that, in the Star Trek universe, Amelia Earhart somehow ended up on a planet in the far-flung Delta Quadrant of the galaxy, where she was played by Sharon Lawrence. Ugh. Second season Voyager. Let’s just pretend that never happened.
Back from the credits, we learn a bit more about the predicament the Enterprise is stuck in. We pay a visit to Engineering, where Charles “Trip” Tucker, the ship’s chief engineer, is hauling around random props and showing them off to the captain. It seems the ship blew a plasma injector, and is now down to just four. Archer insists the ship can run on four injectors just fine, but Trip points out it can’t run on three.
Okay, see what I mean about Starfleet sending them out to look like idiots? If something is that essential to the functioning of your ship, why would you not carry spares? Multiple spares, at that? And even supposing they did carry spares, and they’ve already blown through all of them, why would they not turn around and head back to Earth as soon as they lost their last spare?
Trip is really uneasy about being on four injectors. So, there’s our life and death crisis for the week: easing the chief engineer’s mind. And averting a potential disaster if the fourth plasma injector breaks. Which may or may not happen. Wow. So this episode is all about dealing with a crisis that could possibly arise at some unspecified future date. This show really knows how to ratchet up the tension, doesn’t it?
Trip asks what happened down on the planet, and Archer says they may have offended the Kreetassans again. “How?” Trip asks. “You didn’t eat cabbage before you left…?” And there you have it. For those who missed it, that was, in fact, a fart joke. I’ll admit, it’s not the first time a fart joke has appeared in the Star Trek canon, but surely it’s not a smart idea to remind people of the actual first fart joke in Trek history. There’s just no good reason to evoke memories of “Bourbon and beans, an explosive combination.“
Trip says it could take months before they stumble upon another species that can make injectors compatible with their ship. He says, “You’re a trained diplomat! Take the high road!” Wow, a statement that is so completely forced and untrue that I don’t even know where to start. Let it suffice to say that in this episode, Archer is going to be doing pretty much everything a diplomat is trained not to do. Actually, he’ll be doing stuff that human beings are taught not to do. From the time they’re like, four years old.