“Fight or Flight”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 1, Episode 3
Production episode 003
Original air date: October 3, 2001
Date: May 6, 2151
Captain’s star log. Enterprise has been sailing about in the unknown for two weeks now and all they’ve found is some animal life. They brought one on board: a slug, which isn’t doing well. We open on Sato staring at the slug in sickbay, where Phlox is trying to save the creature—whom Tucker has named “Sluggo.”
Archer is frustrated by the lack of intelligent life they’ve found. T’Pol points out that only one in 43,000 star systems in the galaxy have intelligent life. (Archer is also frustrated by a squeaky noise under the deckplates in his quarters.) Sato is frustrated by her quarters being on the opposite side of the ship as on her training cruise, and she can’t sleep because the stars are going the wrong way. Reed is frustrated by their rushed maiden voyage meaning that the torpedo targeting scanners are still not fully calibrated.
Archer has Mayweather stop the ship so Reed can shoot at asteroids—which the torpedoes miss by a country mile. They continue onward, encountering an Axanar vessel (they’ll find out that’s their name later) that seems to be drifting, and isn’t responding to hails, though there are bio-signs.
Against T’Pol’s advice, Archer takes a team over to the ship that includes Sato (to talk to the aliens) and Reed (to protect them in case the aliens are hostile). However, once they board the ship, they discover why the aliens didn’t respond to hails (and also that neither a translator nor protection are necessary): they’re all dead. Moreover, the corpses have been hooked up to something that is draining fluids from their bodies.
They continue onward, but just leaving them behind doesn’t sit well with Archer, and he eventually decides to turn around and go back and try to find out what happened to the Axanar—again, against T’Pol’s advice.
For her part, Sato is upset that she screamed like a child when she stumbled across the corpses on the alien vessel. She tells both Phlox and Tucker that she wants to return to Earth to go back to her academic career, as she isn’t cut out for space exploration.
Enterprise returns to the Axanar ship, and Phlox performs a post-mortem on one of the corpses, while Sato struggles to decipher the language and send out a distress call. Phlox determines that the tubes are sucking triglobulin out of the Axanar, which can have a variety of uses.
Another ship approaches, which isn’t responding to hails, and the technology of which matches that of the pumps. The alien ship fires on Enterprise, which takes significant damage while hanging around waiting for the pod carrying the away team to dock. Archer tries to fight back, but the torpedo targeting still kinda sucks, and they’re caught in the second ship’s tractor beam. (They call it a stabilizing beam.)
Then another Axanar ship shows up. Sato tries to communicate with them, but it’s slow going, and at first the Axanar think that Enterprise is just as hostile. Using the translator is problematic, so Archer convinces her to speak directly to the Axansr captain as best she can in their own language.
She manages it, and the Axanar fires on the other ship, destroying it. The Axanar are grateful to Archer and his crew for stopping the exploitation of their people’s corpses, and a happy first contact is made.
Sato decides to stay on board, and she and Phlox leave Sluggo on a world it can possibly maybe survive on.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Enterprise’s targeting scanners for their torpedoes don’t work right. This proves problematic in a firefight…
The gazelle speech. Archer doesn’t like the idea of just leaving a ship full of corpses behind, especially ones being drained of fluid, without investigating further.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol repeatedly throws cold water on Archer’s notions, whether his complaints that they haven’t found any intelligent life or his desire to investigate the Axanar ship.
Florida Man. Florida Man Whines About Not Going on First First Contact Mission, Is Rewarded by Going on Second One.
Optimism, Captain! When Sato refers to Sluggo as a “she,” Phlox gently points out that they haven’t determined the creature’s gender yet.
Good boy, Porthos! Apparently Porthos loves cheese, but it’s very bad for him. Archer gives in to his overwhelming cuteness and feeds him cheese anyhow…
The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… Vulcan starships don’t go to places that pique their curiosity, they prefer to travel through space in an orderly manner. They also believe that if a ship doesn’t answer hails, they should just move on and not investigate further.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. At one point, Phlox is eating lunch with Tucker, and the doctor starts pointing out various observations he’s made while people-watching, including his belief that Crewmen Bennett and Hayden intend to mate—Phlox would very much like to observe the proceedings. Wah-HEY!
More on this later… The term “Axanar” was heard only on the original series in “Court Martial,” referencing one of Kirk’s citations, and “Whom Gods Destroy” as the site of a battle that Garth of Izar led as a Starfleet captain. Here we establish that they’re a people (presumably Kirk’s peace mission and Garth’s battle took place on or near their homeworld).
I’ve got faith…
“We’ve been out here for two weeks now, and the only first contact we’ve made is with a dying worm.”
–Tucker bemoaning the state of the ship’s mission so far.
Welcome aboard. The only guest in the episode is Jeff Ricketts, who plays the Axanar captain. He’ll be back in “The Andorian Incident” as Keval.
Trivial matters: The Axanar will be seen again in “Dead Stop.” That same episode will also see Archer’s cabin’s squeak get fixed, finally.
It’s been a long road… “I didn’t realize you spoke slug.” This is a perfectly serviceable episode, mostly, but that’s really all it can manage, and it’s frustrating in its total lack of imagination, whether in world-building or in plot.
First of all, there’s a reason why editors tell writers not to start your story with your characters being bored because if your characters are bored, so too will be your audience. I remember watching this in 2001 and thinking I should watch something else where I was engaged by what was happening instead of watching people be bored which is, well, boring.
And then we had a real opportunity for a truly alien species. I was hoping that Archer’s assumptions about what was going on would be challenged, that the corpses weren’t being exploited or abused, but that this was actually a legitimate death ritual that the Axanar do with their dead.
But that would require writers who were genuinely interested in writing about alien cultures. Instead, everything is exactly what Archer thinks. T’Pol, who just last week was the voice of reason and whose talents were able to salvage the mission, is instead a pure killjoy this week. She constantly tells Archer not to do the thing, he does the thing, and he turns out to be right. It’s just so lazy.
Speaking of lazy, we have Sato’s plotline, which has a completely foregone conclusion by virtue of Linda Park’s place in the opening credits. I do like how Park plays it: one of her talents as an actor is showing her emotions via body language, whether her tense apprehension while asking Archer for new quarters, her slump-shouldered depression after the first away mission, her sad frustration at Sluggo’s declining health and at her inability to communicate with the Axanar—and, most notably, her very obviously feigned confidence-boosting posture when talking directly to the Axanar.
Speaking of Sluggo, what a horrible treatment of the poor creature. First they yank the poor little thing from its natural environment, stumble around trying to figure out how to feed and house Sluggo, and then drop it into a world to which it isn’t native, probably has no food sources, and in which it’s as likely as not going to starve to death or get eaten by local fauna.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes everybody a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving! He is certainly grateful to everyone who reads these rewatches and all his other work on the site…