Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Unexpected”

“Unexpected”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode 005
Original air date: October 17, 2001
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is suffering several malfunctions, including the artificial gravity going out and the drinks dispenser not providing what is asked for. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s an issue with their plasma exhaust. Archer orders Reed to ignite the plasma exhaust, and they find the silhouette of a cloaked ship in the flashpoint of the exhaust’s being ignited.

They make contact—with the translator magically picking up their language in about half a minute—and discover that the Xyrillians are using the plasma exhaust to charge up their malfunctioning warp engines. The Xyrillians apologize for inadvertently causing those malfunctions, and Tucker offers to go over and help them with repairs. The Xyrillians’ atmosphere is one of very high pressure, so Tucker needs to go through a three-hour adjustment period to transition between the two environments. His initial response to being on the Xyrillian ship is to be sick and feverish, but he wants to get to work, and so declines the Xyrillians’ offer of a short nap before he gets started.

This proves a bad idea, as he starts hallucinating and losing his marbles. Archer has to order him to take a nap, after which he feels much better. He befriends Ah’len, a Xyrillian engineer, who shows him around the ship. They grow plants and vegetables right there on the ship, and have eels living on board.

Ah’len also introduces him to a holodeck, and shows him a game in which the two participants put their hands in a bowl of crystals and then can read each others’ minds.

Once the repairs are done, Tucker again goes through decompression to readjust to Earth-normal pressure. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and is very grateful to have had the experience.

Then Tucker finds a weird growth on his arm. Thinking it’s an allergic reaction to something, Phlox explains that it’s a nipple, and also that Tucker is pregnant. There is a child gestating in his chest, very close to his heart. Apparently Xyrillians reproduce by women placing their genetic material in a male, though the male contributes nothing genetically to the process, they just incubate the embryos. T’Pol is appalled that Tucker couldn’t keep it in his pants, but Tucker insists that he was a perfect gentleman, and had no sexual relations with anyone on the Xyrillian ship that he was aware of. Phlox’s hypothesis is that the telepathic game might have been the source of the transfer of genetic material from Ah’len to Tucker.

Enterprise searches for the Xyrillian ship, and finally find it eight days later, trailing a Klingon ship, doing the same thing it was doing to Enterprise—apparently, Tucker’s repairs didn’t take. Tucker—who at this point is wearing loose-fitting shirts to hide his bulge—wants to get in touch with them, but upon discovering that there’s a cloaked ship messing with them, the Klingon captain, Vorok, wants to destroy them. Archer tries and fails to talk them out of that, as they need something from the Xyrillians, but the only thing that gives Vorok pause is T’Pol pointing out that Archer’s the captain who brought Klaang home and kept a civil war from erupting in the Klingon Empire. That at least gets Vorok to hesitate and listen to Archer. Tucker says that the Xyrillians have holographic technology that’s awesome, and also says he has a family issue to bring up. When he shows his pregnancy bulge, the Klingons all laugh their asses off.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Unexpected"

Screenshot: CBS

Tucker has to sit in decompression for hours with the Klingons, then the Xyrillians show off their holographic tech, and agree to give the Klingons this technology in exchange for not killing them all. Vorok agrees, and later tells Archer that as far as he’s concerned, the debt is paid, and Archer had better not cross paths with him again.

Ah’len apologizes for impregnating Tucker—it was completely accidental—and they’re able to transfer the fetus to another person. They once again repair the ship, and everyone goes off happy.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Xyrillians can suck power into their ships via the plasma exhaust, apparently.

The gazelle speech. Archer actually does a very good job of putting the Xyrillians at ease when he contacts them, going out of his way to make it clear that he’s not pissed at them and wants peaceful contact.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol spends a large chunk of the episode giving Tucker all kinds of shit about the fact that he was irresponsible enough to get himself pregnant, which is at once completely unfair and also absolutely hilarious.

She also saves the Xyrillians’ lives by bullshitting the Klingons with regard to Archer’s status with the Klingon chancellor.

Florida Man. Florida Man Knocked Up By Scaly Alien Seductress!

Optimism, Captain! Phlox at one point encourages T’Pol to try something other than Vulcan food, a notion that T’Pol firmly declines, as apparently smelling it is bad enough.

Good boy, Porthos! Porthos appears briefly in Archer’s quarters being all cute and stuff.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Unexpected"

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The gravity goes out while Archer is showering, thus giving viewers several lingering looks at Scott Bakula’s wet, naked body.

More on this later… This episode has the first exposure to humans, Vulcans, and Klingons of sophisticated holographic technology, implying that later holographic tech that we see in the various Trek spinoffs that take place after this was based on that of the Xyrillians.

I’ve got faith…

“I’m the chief engineer! I spent years earning that position! I never had any intention of becoming a working mother!”

–Tucker bemoaning his pregnancy.

Welcome aboard. Three Trek veterans in this one: Julianne Christie plays Ah’len; she was Dexa in Voyager’s “Homestead.” Christopher Darga plays Vorok; he was Kaybok in DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior” and Y’Sek in Voyager’s “Think Tank.” And Randy Oglesby plays Trena’L; he was one of Riva’s chorus in TNG’s “Loud as a Whisper,” both Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel in DS9’s “Vortex,” Pran in DS9’s “The Darkness and the Light,” and Kir in Voyager’s “Counterpoint.” Oglesby will be back with the recurring role of Degra in Enterprise’s third season.

Trivial matters: T’Pol references the events of “Broken Bow” when convincing Vorok to listen to Archer, though she exaggerates the Klingon chancellor’s response to Archer’s delivery of Klaang—which she later says is in keeping with Klingon mores.

Ah’len reads in Tucker’s mind that Archer saved his life once, which was established in the previous episode, “Strange New World.”

Archer says that he’s known Tucker for eight years; that first meeting in 2143 will be dramatized in “First Flight.”

Star Trek: Enterprise "Unexpected"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “I’m not sure if congratulations are in order, Commander, but you’re pregnant.” Ha ha ha! A man gets pregnant! That’s funny!

Sigh.

When I gave up on Enterprise two decades ago, and was asked why, one of my go-to answers was that every time I watched the show, I felt like it was made as if the previous thirty years of television never happened. I think that particular complaint was mainly prompted by this episode, which feels like a plot from one of the many dopey sci-fi shows that littered the television landscape in the years between the original Star Trek and TNG.

It’s bad enough that no thought is given to how this should affect Tucker. I mean, the fetus is gestating in an alien body not designed for it, right near the heart, even, he’s somehow grown nipples on his arm, a part of the body that doesn’t generate milk—I mean, this should probably kill him. But there’s no thought going into the fact that this is an alien species beyond “the men get pregnant,” so writers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga fall back on tired old pregnancy clichés about hormones and morning sickness and stuff.

But the absolute worst thing about this dopey episode is that it’s boring. They could have done some fun body horror things with Tucker’s body trying to do what the Xyrillian fetus wants it to do and failing. They could have gone full goofy with it and had Tucker go through all the crazy-ass changes that pregnancy tends to bring about. Instead, they settle for a bland approach that results in a big who-cares. It’s not treated with the gravitas it deserves, nor is it really played for laughs. It’s just there.

The misdirects don’t even work. The Xyrillians’ insistence that Tucker just needs a nap is hammered home so thoroughly that you figure that they were planning to do something to him while he was asleep. But that expectation is dashed when we find out that the pregnancy is accidental, and one that is easily reversed. So there’s no real conflict, no real struggle, except to convince the Klingons not to kill the Xyrillians, but all that’s good for is for Vorok to go onto the Xyrillian holodeck and say, “I can see my house from here.” I have no idea why that’s so funny, but it totally is…

Connor Trinneer deserves a ton of credit for doing the best he can with this dreadful script. Though I will give the script credit for the part of the episode involving Tucker’s first trip to the Xyrillian ship. His difficulty handling the pressure changes initially and his later enthusiasm for visiting an alien ship and helping them fix their broken engine is beautifully played. And I love the scenes between him and Julianne Christie’s Ah’len when she shows him around the ship.

It’s not enough to save this episode that, ironically for an episode about a pregnancy, is completely lifeless.

Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest work of fiction is the short story “Unguarded” in the anthology Devilish and Divine, edited by John L. French & Danielle Ackley-McPhail, which just recently went on sale from eSpec Books. The anthology has stories of angels and demons; Keith’s story is an urban fantasy set in New York City about guardian angels of both the Muslim and Christian faiths. More information can be found here.

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