Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Fortunate Son”

“Fortunate Son”
Written by James Duff
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 1, Episode 10
Production episode 010
Original air date: November 21, 2001
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. A low-gravity game of football toss between Captain Keene and First Officer Ryan of the Earth Cargo Ship Fortunate is interrupted by an attack by Nausicaan pirates.

Enterprise’s mission of dropping off subspace amplifiers to permit greater ease of interstellar communication is interrupted by Forrest sending them off course back toward Earth to answer a distress call from the Fortunate. While Archer’s ship is farther away than other Earth ships, they can still get there faster than any other ship in Starfleet.

Upon arrival, they find no Nausicaans and some hull damage, but while they aren’t responding to hails, T’Pol detects life signs. Archer goes over with a team that includes Phlox. They’re greeted by Ryan, who informs them that Keene was badly injured. At first, Ryan refuses any assistance from Enterprise, but eventually agrees to let Phlox treat Keene and Tucker assist with repairs.

While Mayweather explains that freighter crews are used to doing things their way and on their own, there’s another reason for Ryan’s being reluctant to cooperate with Archer and his crew: they have a Nausicaan prisoner.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fortunate Son"

Screenshot: CBS

Mayweather gives Ryan a tour of Enterprise, showing off the transporter and the galley, complete with decent food from their chef. At first they bond over their shared background, Mayweather growing up on the Horizon, Ryan on the North Star, where he was one of the few survivors of a Nausicaan pirate attack that killed his parents and destroyed the ship. The bonding goes south when Ryan accuses Mayweather of betraying his family by joining Starfleet.

T’Pol detects the prisoner after noticing that the Fortunate’s internal sensors are down, and Archer calls him on it. Ryan says that Starfleet has no jurisdiction over him, which is true, but Archer can also have Tucker remove all the components they provided in their repairs. Ryan seems to capitulate, and allows Archer to inspect the prisoner.

Archer, T’Pol, Phlox, and Reed are brought to a cargo module where they say the prisoner is being held, but it’s cover for an ambush. Ryan blasts a hole in the hull, leaves the module and detaches it with the away team inside. Fortunate then fires on Enterprise, and goes to warp, with the latter unable to follow as they must rescue the away team from the module before the air runs out.

Battle damage killed Enterprise’s long-range sensors, so it’s a few hours before they can find the Fortunate. When they arrive, they’re being attacked by three Nausicaan ships and being boarded by pirates who want their crewmember back. Archer convinces the Nausicaan captain to let the Fortunate go if they return their prisoner. The Nausicaan agrees tentatively, and Archer and Mayweather must convince Ryan to go along with it. Mayweather finally gets through to him, pointing out that not returning the prisoner will just result in the Nausicaan attacks getting nastier in the long term—and probably getting the entire Fortunate crew killed in the short term. Ryan reluctantly agrees.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fortunate Son"

Screenshot: CBS

Later, Archer talks to a recovered Keene, who has demoted Ryan to able crewman. They talk about how there will be more and faster ships around, and the boomers won’t have to go it alone—but Keene regrets the potential loss of their independence.

The gazelle speech. Archer has to practically put Ryan into a headlock to get him to accept help, and he tries to remind Ryan that humans should follow a code of conduct that doesn’t include taking people prisoner.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol has a lovely moment where she encounters two kids playing hide and seek, and doesn’t give away the girl’s position to the boy, though she does so without actually lying, since the boy asked after Nadine, and T’Pol didn’t know her name.

Florida Man. Florida Man Loses A Firefight With A Lesser Ship When Put In Command.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox is able to treat Keene to the point where he makes a full recovery. According to Mayweather, he is far more skilled than your average freighter medic.

Good boy, Porthos! When Forrest calls Enterprise with the rescue mission, it’s the middle of the night, and both Archer and Porthos are awakened by the call. Porthos seems very upset about this…

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fortunate Son"

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When T’Pol gives the crew complement of a Y-class freighter like the Fortunate, Mayweather adds that that doesn’t count the newborn babies, as, “at warp one point eight you’ve got a lot of time on your hands between ports. That’s how my parents wound up with me.” Wah-HEY!

More on this later… Mayweather mentions being born on a J-class ship, the Horizon. The Horizon was also the name of an Earth ship that visited Sigma Iotia and left a copy of Chicago Mobs of the Twenties in 2168 (only eighteen years after this episode), as established in the original series’ “A Piece of the Action.” When we see the Horizon in the ship’s eponymous second-season episode, a book on Chicago gangs will be seen, furthering that connection.

I’ve got faith…

“Any other orders of mine you’d like to question?”

“Not today, sir.”

–Archer letting Mayweather off the hook for questioning the way he’s responding to Fortunate’s circumstance.

Welcome aboard. Lots of Trek vets returning for another shot here. We’ve got Lawrence Monoson as Ryan, having previously played Hovath in DS9’s “The Storyteller.” We’ve got Kieran Mulroney as Shaw, having previously played Benzan in TNG’s “The Outrageous Okona.” We’ve got Charles Lucia as Keene, having previously played Alkar in TNG’s “Man of the People” and Mabus in Voyager’s “Alliances.” We’ve got Danny Goldring as the Nausicaan captain, having previously appeared as a Cardassian in DS9’s “Civil Defense,” a Starfleet soldier in DS9’s “Nor the Battle to the Strong,” and a Hirogen in Voyager’s “The Killing Gametwo-parter, and who will return as a Takret captain in “The Catwalk.”

And we’ve got the ubiquitous Vaughn Armstrong officially making Forrest a recurring character with his return here from “Broken Bow“; he’ll be back in “Shadows of P’Jem.”

Trivial matters: This is the first Trek writing credit for James Duff, who would go on to create The Closer and its spinoff Major Crimes (the latter being a favorite of your humble police-procedure-junkie rewatcher’s), and later become an executive producer for both Discovery in its second season and Picard in its first.

Mayweather mentions that Starfleet is planning three more NX-class ships like Enterprise. We’ll see one of them, Columbia, later on in the series, under construction in season two’s “The Expanse” and appearing several times in season four.

Forrest mentions the scans Enterprise made of the gigunda comet in “Breaking the Ice.”

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fortunate Son"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “Ryan’s after revenge, sir.” This is almost a really good episode, and it’s frustrating that it doesn’t quite work overall.

The biggest problem here, truly, is procedural. Archer says it’s wrong to take prisoners, but this is someone who fired on, and possibly boarded, the Fortunate. What’s the alternative? It’s okay, presumably, to fire back on them if they fire on you, so that’s okay, but taking a prisoner isn’t? Where’s the line, here?

I’m not even saying that Archer was wrong and Ryan was right, but it’s just not that cut-and-dried given that the boomers are out there on their own. Especially since the only objection Archer is really making is to the existence of a prisoner.

Here’s the thing: there’s a very easy fix to this, and one that would have made this all work, and that’s how Ryan is treating his prisoner. If the Nausicaan was simply locked in a brig of some sort while getting food, water, and toilet facilities, that would be one thing, but Ryan is torturing him, and that is what should be getting Archer’s dander up.

I also am not thrilled with the fact that the freighter crew seems to be entirely white people, but that’s a perpetual problem with Enterprise, which is the part of the Trek universe that most routinely botches the franchise’s noble tropism for diversity.

But what this episode does extremely well is show the boomer lifestyle that we’ve heard Mayweather talk about here and there. It’s a story as old as the hills, but that just makes it more resonant: the march of technology making certain jobs obsolete, or at least changing them to something unrecognizable. Industry put many people who did hand-crafting out of work. There was an entire business centered on rescuing ships that got damaged by the reefs off the Florida Keys, a business that died out once shipbuilding advanced to the point where the reefs were no longer a significant concern. Phones became so advanced that operators are no longer needed to connect people via telephone wire. Transponder scanners in cars got ubiquitous enough to not require humans to collect tolls on roads. For that matter, the interstate highway system changed the way people drove around the country, resulting in the diminishment of roads like Route 66 that enabled you to see every small town you had to pass to get where you were going. Indeed, Ryan’s comment that there was no need for their ship to go faster than warp 1.8 because any faster and you can’t enjoy the trip is very similar to one made by John Steinbeck about the interstates, that you could “drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.”

And in the twenty-second century of the Trek universe, freighters are no longer the only way to get from planet to planet, and the newer ships are faster and more advanced and there’s no need for them to be so independent. I like the conversation between Archer and Keene at the end talking about the march of progress, in particular Keene ruefully admitting that he would need to upgrade his engine.

But the best thing about the episode is the various sets of talks between Mayweather and Ryan, giving us some fascinating insight into the boomer culture, the difficulties of living on your own, and also the difficulties in doing what you want to do rather than what you’re expected to do.

At the very least, this is a worthwhile look at one of the more interesting parts of Enterprise’s backstory and texture. Although, I’m disappointed that at no point did anyone utter the dialogue, “It ain’t me…

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that he also has a Patreon, on which he reviews TV shows (recent reviews include The Shield, My Life is Murder, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Under the Vines, and Star Trek: Prodigy) and movies (recent reviews include Luca and Encanto), creates vignettes featuring his original characters, presents excerpts and first drafts of his works in progress, and posts tons of cat pictures. It’s all reasonably priced, too, and you get some great stuff—check it out!

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