Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Fusion”

“Fusion”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Directed by Rob Hedden
Season 1, Episode 17
Production episode 017
Original air date: February 27, 2002
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is approaching the Arachnid Nebula, which was on the cover of Archer’s first astronomy book, which his father gave him when he was eight. Now he gets to check it out in person.

A Vulcan civilian ship, the Vahklas, approaches. The captain, Tavin, has heard of Enterprise, and is actually friendly and stuff, which confuses the heck out of Archer. Turns out Tavin and his crew are all V’tosh ka’tur—Vulcans without logic. Tavin and his first mate, Tolaris, correct that, as they haven’t abandoned logic, they just don’t think that emotions need to be as heavily tamped down as the mainstream of Vulcan society thinks.

Tavin and Tolaris also eat meat. Privately, T’Pol tells Archer that every Vulcan who has attempted what the Vahklas crew is trying has failed. Vulcan emotions are too turbulent, and need to be controlled.

The Vahklas has a bunch of repair issues, and Archer has them tether to Enterprise while they explore the nebula and has Tucker provide them with engineering assistance. Tucker works with Kov, who has several misapprehensions about humanity that Tucker amusedly corrects. (Football players aren’t trying to kill the quarterback, e.g.)

Tolaris flirts with T’Pol, who mostly responds with indifference, at least at first. Tolaris notes that her emotions are closer to the surface than that of most Vulcans, which is probably because of her time both on Earth and serving on Enterprise. T’Pol is surprised to learn that Tolaris and the rest of the crew do meditate, but not every night. Tolaris suggests that she try not meditating for a few nights, as it will make her dreams more interesting.

T’Pol foregoes meditating and has a complex dream involving her on Earth going to a jazz club and also her having sex with Tolaris. The next morning, she goes to sickbay with a headache, and decides she won’t go without meditating before bed again.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fusion"

Screenshot: CBS

The Vahklas has better sensors than Enterprise, so they offer to help survey the nebula. T’Pol works with Tolaris on that, and Tolaris also encourages her to try not meditating again. She eventually tells him about part of her dream—she describes the jazz club, but leaves out the sex-with-Tolaris bit—and he offers to help her deal with the dreams and the emotions associated with them.

Forrest contacts Archer with a message from Soval: Kov’s father is a minister in the Vulcan High Command, and is also dying. He wishes to speak to his son, but Kov has refused all communiqués. Forrest asks Archer to try to convince Kov to talk to his old man. Kov politely refuses, saying that he and his father said goodbye a long time ago, when his father said Kov had brought shame to fifteen generations of their family.

Tucker also works on Kov, telling him about regret and that it’s a particularly powerful emotion. Kov eventually gives in and contacts his father.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fusion"

Screenshot: CBS

Tolaris tells T’Pol about an ancient ritual that is no longer practiced among Vulcans called a mind-meld. He says it will help deal with the emotions even more than meditation would. But when the meld gets too intense, T’Pol tries to end it. Tolaris refuses to do so, and T’Pol, after saying “no” several times, finally manages to disengage from the meld. Tolaris leaves, and T’Pol collapses.

Archer confronts Tolaris for assaulting his science officer. He provokes Tolaris to throw Archer across the room, causing the captain to smugly (if painfully) say that maybe his emotional control isn’t all that and a bag of chips. Archer kicks him off Enterprise and sends Vahklas on its way.

T’Pol asks Archer if he dreams, and he says he does. She asks if they’re pleasant, and he says they are. She says she envies him that.

The gazelle speech. Archer is thrilled at getting to see for real the nebula on the cover of his first astronomy book, which he stared at all the time when he was a kid. He also is surprised to learn that the nebula is eight billion kilometers across—the textbook said it was only six-and-a-half billion. (Sato allows as how they should send their survey results to the publisher so they can put out a revised edition.)

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fusion"

Screenshot: CBS

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol has her first mind-meld, which turns into an assault.

Florida Man. Florida Man Corrects Hilarious Misapprehension That Football Is A Fight To The Death.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox tells T’Pol that, if she’s going to continue to try dreaming without meditating, she should take it slow, advice she doesn’t entirely follow…

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… The V’tosh ka’tur are outcasts from Vulcan society.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Tucker tells Kov about a woman he had a crush on in high school, but he never worked up the courage to talk to her. He regrets not doing so to this day. Also T’Pol is attracted to Tolaris, having a few dreams about him.

More on this later… Kov blithely tells Tucker and Reed all about the pon farr (though he doesn’t name it), which was established in “Amok Time” on the original series, and which most Vulcans don’t discuss hardly at all—which Kov mentions also. Tucker and Reed are likely the first humans to be told about Vulcan mating habits…

In addition, we find out that mind-melds, which were established in the original series’ “Dagger of the Mind,” and which were used regularly on the original series and Voyager, as well as periodically on TNG and DS9, were apparently verboten in the twenty-second century.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fusion"

Screenshot: CBS

I’ve got faith…

“‘From the library of Admiral Jonny Archer’?”

“I had high hopes when I was a kid.”

–T’Pol reading the nameplate in Archer’s astronomy book and Archer being adorable.

Welcome aboard. Enrique Murciano plays Tolaris. Robert Pine, the father of Christopher “Kirk in the Bad Robot movies” Pine, and who was last seen in Voyager‘s “The Chute,” plays Tavin.

John Harrington Bland plays Kov. The role was originally offered to Matt Malloy, who couldn’t take the part because of a movie he was filming. They then cast Kelly Connell, who had to pull out due to illness, at which point Bland was cast. Malloy will later be cast as a Ferengi in “Acquisition.”

Plus Vaughn Armstrong is back again as Forrest.

Trivial matters: Forrest passes on a message from Soval, which indicates that the ambassador has returned to Earth after being recalled in “Shadows of P’Jem.”

This is the first time we’ve seen the interior of a Vulcan ship that wasn’t the limited perspective shown over a viewscreen, though the Vahklas is an older model that isn’t in much use anymore.

In the second-season episode “Stigma,” it will be revealed that the mind-meld in this episode will result in T’Pol contracting Pa’nar Syndrome.

While this is the only time the phrase V’tosh ka’tur has been used on screen, it’s reasonable to assume that Sybok from The Final Frontier was also considered thus.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Fusion"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “You and your colleagues have chosen a reckless path.” When Enterprise first debuted, there was a very loud, very vocal subset of Trek fandom that hated the show, not so much because of the quality of the writing or acting, but because they felt that it violated continuity and ruined what came before and had to take place in an alternate timeline and any number of other complaints that a) were ridiculous and b) should sound familiar to anyone who’s observed the behavior of a similar subset of fandom with regard to Discovery over the last five years.

Most of the complaints were, as I said, ridiculous, but there was one that I found myself nodding in affirmation with: the notion that twenty-second-century Vulcans didn’t do mind-melds, and it was an old ritual that nobody really practiced anymore.

It was a plot choice that I always found baffling. I guess they thought that they could get story mileage out of showing the Vulcans coming back to the mind-meld, but it’s at least partly a biological function—Vulcans are touch telepaths, which means that almost any touch would have some telepathic component. That’s just an odd thing for Vulcan society to repress, especially given the meld’s useful medical applications.

On top of that, it’s not even a little bit necessary to this story. The events of “Fusion” don’t require that the meld be this forbidden old thing they don’t do anymore. It’s such an intrinsic part of Vulcan lore in the franchise anyhow, so why bother having the extra layer of having it be forbidden? I guess to show that the Vahklas crew are rebels and won’t be hemmed in by squares, but the rest of the episode did a pretty good job of that already.

The thing is, even with that oddity, I was really grooving on this episode, for the most part, until the ending. I love the idea of Vulcan hippies, especially because they’re not pure hedonists, they simply have a different interpretation of Surak’s teachings.

The conversations between Kov and Tucker are particularly entertaining, with some good emotional content from Connor Trinneer when he talks about his high school crush.

And the storyline with Tolaris and T’Pol almost works. Tolaris is a predator of the worst kind, but T’Pol is obviously intrigued by him and the others, no doubt “corrupted” by living among humans. But things go too far too fast, and when she tries to stop it, he refuses.

I must admit to being annoyed at first, because this was an assault, but then the very next scene was Archer telling Tolaris that he assaulted a member of his crew—

—except he uses this information, not to bring Tolaris to any manner of justice, but for a “gotcha” moment to prove that his emotional control isn’t as strong as he thinks it is, which results in Archer getting thrown across his own ready room.

And that’s it! Now while it’s true that Archer has no jurisdiction over a Vulcan civilian, he can, at the very least, report Tolaris to his captain in the hopes that Tavin might do something about it. As it stands, Tavin has completely disappeared from the narrative after the captain’s mess scene, which is a blown opportunity.

In the end, T’Pol gets mentally raped, and her rapist suffers absolutely no consequences for it. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which combines with the peculiarity of how they handled mind-melds to pretty much ruin an otherwise strong episode.

Warp factor rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido is also reviewing the new episodes of Discovery and Picard that are airing side-by-side in these early weeks of March.

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