Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Precious Cargo”

“Precious Cargo”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman
Directed by David Livingston
Season 2, Episode 11
Production episode 037
Original air date: December 11, 2002
Date: September 12, 2152

Captain’s star log. Enterprise answers a distress call from a Retellian freighter that is having trouble with their life-support systems. Specifically, a stasis pod that contains a passenger is malfunctioning. According to the only two crew, Goff, the shipmaster, and Plinn, the passenger is in stasis as a cost-saving maneuver, as it will be several months before they deliver her to her homeworld.

Tucker goes to work on the stasis pod, while Goff and Plinn accept Enterprise’s hospitality, which includes both a (desperately needed) bath and a meal. Archer offers to escort the freighter to their destination at greater speeds—the freighter can only go warp 2.2—but Goff says that they’re on a strict timetable and their passenger’s family isn’t even there to meet her, as they weren’t expecting her until five months from now.

Unfortunately, Tucker is unable to fix the life-support system before the passenger is awakened from stasis, at which point she starts to pound on the glass and beg to be let out. Tucker assumes she’s suffocating and opens the pod, discovering that she’s bound and was not in that pod willingly. Goff—who was alerted to the problem while he and Plinn were at dinner with Archer and T’Pol—goes to investigate, and renders Tucker unconscious. He then summons Plinn, saying that he needs his help. Plinn excuses himself. Archer calls Tucker to find out what’s going on, and when he doesn’t answer, sends Reed and a security guard to escort Plinn to the freighter.

When Goff sees that Plinn has an escort, he starts shooting. After a brief exchange of fire, Goff abandons Plinn and forcibly disengages from Enterprise. However, Enterprise is way faster and catches up pretty quickly—so Goff spits some dilithium hydroxyl into space that clogs up the Starfleet vessel’s plasma vents, rendering them warp-incapable until they can fix it.

At gunpoint, Goff orders Tucker to continue his work fixing the life-support system. Tucker, who is unarmed, unties the passenger/prisoner who—once he finds and activates his universal translator—identifies herself as Kaitaama, who is soon to be the First Monarch of the Sovereign Dynasty of Krios Prime, and who was kidnapped for ransom by the Retellians. She is very put out that Tucker has never heard of her.

Screenshot: CBS

Tucker plots an escape, bringing a very reluctant Kaitaama along. They manage to get to the escape pods, with Tucker having spoofed the sensors during their crawl through the ductwork, but the pods only are built for a single occupant. They squeeze in and head out, eventually finding a habitable planet to land on.

Back on Enterprise, Archer and T’Pol interrogate Plinn, who pleads ignorance of Goff’s plan and of the warp frequency of the freighter. Archer and T’Pol then put on a show for him, making it appear as if Starfleet is beholden to T’Pol’s brutal judgment as a representative of the Vulcan High Council.

Kaitaama continues to be arrogant, high-handed, insulting to Tucker, and generally a pain in the ass both in the pod and on the planet where they land. So naturally, they wind up smooching and having hot sex in the swamp.

Goff traces the pod first, but Tucker is able to trick him into an ambush. Shortly thereafter, Archer leads a rescue party from Enterprise, with everyone nonplussed to see the scantily clad engineer and princess.

Enterprise rendezvouses with a Kriosian vessel to deliver the future First Monarch. She invites him to come visit her after she ascends.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Ardanan power cells are no good for life support systems, apparently. Also dilithium hydroxyl will clog up your plasma vents. It’s like getting dust in your exhaust, BUT IN SPACE!

The gazelle speech. Archer goes out of his way to be friendly to the Retellians. Their lack of willingness to accept any help beyond what they overtly need (food, bath, repairs) makes him suspicious, and it’s to his credit that he immediately sends Reed to escort Plinn when stuff gets hinky.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. For reasons passing understanding, T’Pol goes along with Archer’s silly charade to intimidate Plinn. She shows up in her formal robes when she queries Plinn, and at one point Archer says that Enterprise had a crew complement of 83, and it was now 76 thanks to T’Pol’s judgments against various crewmembers’ infractions.

Florida Man. Florida Man Kidnapped With Alien Princess!

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When Tucker first sees Kaitaama in stasis, he drools pretty openly over how hawt she is. His attraction lessens when she introduces herself by hitting him over the head. But they wind up knocking boots after they crash land, because of course they do.

More on this later… This is humanity’s first contact with the Kriosians, who are also seen two hundred years hence in TNG’s “The Perfect Mate.”

I’ve got faith…

“Put him in the airlock and post a security detail.”

“I’m telling the truth!”

“We’ll keep the outer hatch unlocked. If you decide to leave, you know the way out.”

–Archer making several sentient rights violations with Plinn.

Welcome aboard. This is an early acting role for Padma Lakshmi as Kaitaama, at the time probably best known for her modeling work, these days known for her involvement with various cooking shows, among them Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi and Top Chef.

The two Retellians are played by Scott Klace (last seen as the Malon Dremk in Voyager’s “Juggernaut”) and Leland Crooke (last seen as the Vorta Gelnon in DS9’s “One Little Ship” and “Honor Among Thieves”).

Trivial matters: This is the first Trek episode written by David A. Goodman, who served as consulting producer for seasons two through four. He got the gig working on Enterprise following his writing of the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” a Trek parody that included voice work from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and Jonathan Frakes. Goodman will go on to write three reference books, Federation: The First 150 Years, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, and The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard.

The freighter has Ardanan power cells, which is presumably a reference to the zenite-mining world that is home to a city in the clouds, as seen in the original series’ “The Cloud Minders.”

In Goodman’s original draft, Kaitaama was named Taliyah after Goodman’s daughter. He would eventually name a character after her in “North Star” in season three.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Precious Cargo"

Screenshot: CBS


It’s been a long road… “I’m not one of your subjects.” This episode is not well regarded by the general viewership, by the people who wrote and produced it, or by your humble rewatcher. Scripter David A. Goodman half expected to get fired—or at least not get another writing assignment—after this episode was done.

And it’s pretty awful. I mean, it’s not mind-destroyingly bad like, say, “And the Children Shall Lead” or “Sub Rosa” or “Profit and Lace” or “Fair Haven,” it’s just kind of a bland kind of bad. Every moment is telegraphed a mile off, with no kind of charm or character stuff to ameliorate it. Tucker is a stereotypical dude, Kaitaama is a stereotypical arrogant aristocrat who grouses about the crude dude only to smooch him later. We’ve seen this a billion times before, from The Taming of the Shrew to “Elaan of Troyius,” and this is a particularly uninteresting example of the breed. Padma Lakshmi brings nothing of interest to the role, coming across as a third-rate France Nuyen or a sixth-rate Elizabeth Taylor. Connor Trinneer says all the lines he’s supposed to say in this, which is about the best you can say for him. His harmonica playing at the top of the episode is the only surprise in the episode, and since Trinneer’s so very obviously not really playing the harmonica, that isn’t even all that fun.

What really makes this episode dreadful though, isn’t the main plot, which is simply boringly paint-by-numbers. No, the real issue is the appalling and idiotic treatment of Plinn by Archer. Instead of having his security chief, who should be experienced in interrogation techniques, actually perform a proper interrogation of the prisoner, we have Archer and T’Pol playing dress-up and making idiots of themselves in a manner that requires them to act completely differently from how they acted with Goff and Plinn when they first came on board, and relies on Plinn being too stupid to notice that they’re faking. I mean, if they hadn’t spent any time on Enterprise prior to Kaitaama waking up, I could see this working, but it makes no sense that suddenly Archer turns into a just-following-orders goon while T’Pol turns into the Spanish Inquisition (though what we get is a lot closer to Monty Python than Torquemada). Not to mention Archer imprisoning Plinn, not in a brig or confined to guest quarters, but in the airlock. Which is awful.

As is this episode.

Warp factor rating: 1

Keith R.A. DeCandido is Co-Guest of Honor at Bubonicon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend, along with fellow word-slinger Rae Carson, artist Chaz Kemp, toastmaster A. Lee Martinez, and scientist Dr. Courtney Willis. He will be doing panels and such, and also selling and signing his books. Check out his full schedule here.


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