Where Few Have Gone Before: “Unexpected”
Four weeks in, my Enterprise rematch has started to settle into a recognizable rhythm: Eeach episode, it seems, will have its share of small moments that hint at a much more enjoyable show than the one we ultimately get, which could best be classified as “promising, but filled with problems.” The problem is, the ratio of “promising” to “problems” seems to be getting worse with every new episode, with this week’s “Unexpected” proving to be the most worrisome yet.
It’s not that the core idea behind “Unexpected” – which seems to be chief engineer Tucker accidentally becoming pregnant after visiting an alien spacecraft on a rescue mission – is necessarily a bad one, although it’s also nothing particularly original, either (It’s a man! Becoming pregnant! Someone alert Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 1994!), but the execution of the episode is so flawed that it becomes distracting, and overpowers everything else on screen.
For one thing, the pacing of the show is so off that I’m not entirely sure that the pregnancy is the core idea of the episode; it only appears halfway in, and very little effort is really expended on doing anything with it beyond having Tucker complain that he doesn’t want to be pregnant; even the resolution of the episode, where the Enterprise tracks down the aliens to see if they can reverse the process, is sidetracked by the sudden (and somewhat nonsensical and out of nowhere) appearance of Klingons, with the pregnancy plot turned into an afterthought seemingly by accident (Literally, the resolution becomes “Oh, yeah, we can help with that. We’ll do it between scenes, though”). There’s no real throughline in the plotting or pacing of the episode, no central idea to the episode at all; things happen that lead to other things, which lead to other things, but nothing really gets developed to the point of having any real meaning beyond its surface, and as a result, the episode falls apart pretty quickly.
It doesn’t help that this is the second episode in a row – of only four episodes to date – to focus on Tucker, who seems to be emerging as the “everyman” character on the show by default of everyone else being underdeveloped beyond their stereotype. At this early stage in the show’s development, Enterprise doesn’t feel like the ensemble piece that other Star Treks are, because we’ve spent so much – too much? – time on only one character, and he’s not even the show’s official lead. There’s a variety that’s necessary for a franchise like Trek to work, and it’s not on show here yet, worryingly; what we have instead is the “quirky, uneven Tucker show,” and that’s not the same thing.
But, yet, there really are some nice touches, still; the opening of the episode, with malfunctions affecting the day-to-day running of the ship – with showers ineffective in zero-g, for example – is far more amusing than everything else we see, and the practically ignored idea of first contact being more difficult without instantaneous translators or with the need for three hours of decontamination procedure feels much more interesting than the episode we eventually ended up with. There’s a good show hidden somewhere inside Enterprise, but the further I get into this first season, the more hidden it seems to become. And that’s before next week’s episode, which is rumored to be one of the worst of the whole lot…