[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Unexpected"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise's
"Unexpected." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: Some good early moments worthy of this series' nature of
exploration, but then downhill from there. Uneven, frequently silly, and
with little lasting impact.
Plot description: Tucker visits an alien vessel during a bizarre away
mission, and later learns upon returning to the Enterprise that he was
unwittingly impregnated during his stay.
Airdate: 10/17/2001 (USA)
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Mike Vejar
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"I prefer air I can't see." -- Trip
Why, oh why, do we need a holodeck in this episode? The episode features
a first contact premise that's moving along nicely on its own terms when
-- presto -- we get a holodeck, for which the audience's howls of
familiarity will have far outweighed its story value. I'm thinking that
holodecks on this series should be eschewed as a matter of principle.
"Unexpected" is a good title, because this is an episode with some
strange, weird, and, yes, unexpected encounters that should be wondrous
and new -- and at first are -- but which turn shallow in a hurry before
being reduced to a lame punch line. And when we get moments that shout
"prequel!" by including elements from the Trek-universe future (e.g.,
holodecks), we're more distracted than awed. The twist involving the
appearance of the Klingons also turns out to be unexpected -- so much so
that it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story.
The best part about "Unexpected" is its attempt to depict a truly alien
encounter. The aliens are called the Xyrillians, and they need assistance
in making repairs. (Why they need Trip's help to fix their own systems
which he would presumably know less about is beyond me, but never mind.)
The early passages document Trip's away mission to the Xyrillian vessel.
The environment there is very different; this is the first Trek in a long
while, maybe ever, that I can remember requiring a character to spend
three hours in a decompression chamber before walking onto the alien
ship. (Although I find myself asking, why not just have Trip visit the
alien ship in an environmental suit rather than having him waste a total
of six hours in a decompression chamber?)
When he steps onto their ship, he experiences strange sensory effects,
reminiscent of the time-slowing effect in the wormhole scene of "Star
Trek: The Motion Picture." Trip teams up with their engineer, Ah'Len
(Julianne Christie), to help make repairs.
Visually, I found some of this to be pretty good work. The set design is
unique, and Mike Vejar, one of the franchise's best current directors,
does a nice job establishing Trip's initial disorientation, with a
dreamy, eerie quality to the camerawork, as if we're trying to move
underwater. This is mostly razzle-dazzle, yes, but it serves its purpose;
Trip's initial sense of being overwhelmed is a story aspect that works.
For once, something as "simple" as visiting an alien vessel is seen as
complex and taxing, both mentally and physically.
It's once the initial shock has passed that the story begins to lose its
edge. For one, I began wondering exactly how Trip and the Xyrillians
could even understand each other without an interpreter. It's established
in the early scenes that a language barrier exists, but once Trip is on
the Xyrillian vessel such problems immediately evaporate and take on the
long-standing "invisible universal translator" solution that has
characterized most of Trek. The concept of the universal translator has
never made any real sense, but episodes of Enterprise had so far backed
away from the device. That doesn't seem to be the case here; probably for
logistic and acting reasons, the "everybody speaks English" shorthand is
Indeed, I'm wondering if the technical progression on this series might
be a fine line to walk. This week, all the language translating goes much
easier than in "Fight or Flight." While it would be very tedious to have
to go through those kinds of translation gyrations every week on this
series, setting it aside also begs the question of how quickly this
Enterprise will grow immune to the very issues that make the series what
Trip and Ah'Len develop a friendly rapport, and there's a scene that
establishes a sensual curiosity between the two. The Xyrillians incite
sparks wherever they touch someone or something; the visual effect is
similar to one of those transparent globes with streamers you can buy in
gift shops. "It's kinda nice," Trip notes.
But then we get a scene that had me almost laughing in disbelief, in
which Trip has first contact with a Xyrillian holodeck. Berman & Braga,
what are you thinking? Given how reviled the holodeck as a cliche has
become, couldn't you at least go the first season -- heck, the first
*month* -- without hinting at the possible historic origins of the
After Trip reports his holodeck adventure to other shipmates upon
returning to the Enterprise, Reed comments, in what must've been intended
as a writer's joke, "If we had one of those on board, I can only imagine
what it'd be used for." Yeah, like hijacking the ship! (Too funny.) I'm
sorry, but even hinting at a holodeck seems to me like a bad idea if
you're trying to push the notion of Trek going in directions we haven't
seen before. (This proves one point I've argued before -- that Enterprise
faces the challenge of also having to be new to its viewers and do more
than filtering old ideas through a crew that has yet to experience them.
Yes, it may be new to them, but that doesn't necessarily make it fresh
Not long after Trip returns to the Enterprise and the Xyrillians head on
their way, Trip notices that he's growing nipples. "You're pregnant,"
Phlox tells him. It apparently happened when Trip stuck his hands into a
box full of granules at the same time as Ah'Len during a mental sharing
process, permitting a Magical DNA Transfer [TM] of some kind.
T'Pol quickly accuses Trip of being unable to restrain himself. Here I
must object. She should know better than most that there are alien
cultures out here with different reproductive methods. As someone from a
society that has been in space much longer than humans, T'Pol should be
smarter about certain things rather than jumping to knee-jerk
conclusions. Her attitude here seems to emerge from a distrustful grudge
with Trip rather than from reasoned logic. And besides, why would the
human definition of sex result in *his* pregnancy anyway? (Note: That's a
Much of the rest of the episode is played for mild laughs. It's not
horribly unpleasant, but I can't say I was impressed. It's just sort of
passive, content to follow Trip around as he complains about the prospect
of possibly becoming the first human male to give birth to a child.
Complains about the possibility of not finding the Xyrillian mother.
Complains about having to possibly raise this kid and set aside his
plans. Complains about thinking he's the laughingstock of the crew.
Discovers his appetite increasing and plays out his unconscious paternal
instincts in order to conform to the guidebook for Hilarious Pregnancy
Cliches [TM]. For a series supposedly about exploring the human
condition, this reveals pretty small thinking.
When the Enterprise does finally track down the Xyrillian ship and Trip
shows Ah'Len that he's carrying her child, what's her reaction? "I had no
idea this could happen with another species!" Duh! By this logic, Trip
could go sleeping around with non-human women and then claim surprise
upon learning one or more of them was pregnant. Hello? What fool wrote
the Xyrillian rulebook on contact with alien societies? I propose a new
chapter for that rulebook: "Common Sense in Not Knocking Up Alien Men,
Written Especially for the Common Senseless." Failure to observe this new
chapter will result in immediately being locked into a torpedo tube and
shot into space. It's nice to know humans aren't the stupidest people out
here, but I hardly think the story intended Ah'Len or the Xyrillians to
look so clueless.
Frankly, this premise could've been envisioned as a completely different
kind of story, treated much more seriously, about child custody and/or
parenting issues, and the importance of alien first-contact procedures.
Instead it's a low-substance show played on the most superficial levels.
Before resolving Trip's baby storyline, the Klingons show up to provide a
menacing tone that seems oddly out of place. While I appreciate the nod
to "Broken Bow" and T'Pol speaking up on behalf of Archer possibly having
saved the Klingons from civil war, I could've done without the
excessively stubborn Klingon captain (Christopher Darga) who takes
obstinacy to an extreme that plays like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yes,
I suppose the Klingons are most definitely not the 24th century Klingons,
but having an actor growl on about killing everybody is old hat.
It's funny how Trip is able to negotiate a truce and save the Xyrillians
by offering up their holodeck technology to the Klingons. You'd think the
Klingons would be more interested in the Xyrillian's stealth technology.
You know, I'm really going to have a long laugh if I find out that
Starfleet later ends up acquiring holodeck technology from the Klingons.
Perhaps such a transaction would be intended by the Klingons as a Trojan
horse. There you go -- centuries of holodeck malfunctions explained.
Next week: The mystery of the lost colony.
Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...