“Home” wraps up the Xindi arc and introduces two new, significant female characters: Captain Erika Hernandez and T’Pol’s mom, T’Les. It’s got a lot that’s awesome, but also suffers some familiar blind spots.
The episode starts out with a familiar theme in Enterprise: people overlooking Hoshi. Hoshi at this point is still suffering from the Xindi parasite infestation, so she misses the massive coliseum ceremony welcoming the Enterprise crew home.
But then we meet Erika Hernandez! She’s Archer’s former flame (shrug) but is soon to be the captain of the Columbia, the only other Warp 5 vessel in Starfleet (yay!).
I’m inclined to love Erika Hernandez from having read the Destiny novels, but she is very much in this episode to assist Archer and his character development.
Because Archer has a reason to be emo, which he reveals to Erika after she tags along on his attempt to clear his head by mountain climbing.
Archer: You want to know why I’m out here? I figured this is the last place I’d run into anyone who’d want to shake my hand or take my picture or tell me I’m an inspiration to their children. If they knew what I’d done.
Hernandez: You did what any captain would have done.
Archer: Does that include torture? Or marooning a ship full of innocent people? Because I don’t remember reading those chapters in the handbook…All I’m trying to do is get away from you. I look at you, and I see the person I was three years ago. The explorer that my father wanted me to be. I lost something out there, and I don’t know how to get it back.
And then she kisses him, says that basically she’d like to help him get whatever it his he lost back.
You know how in horror movies you see a character walking into a dangerous situation and you want to scream, “Don’t open the door!” or “Look behind you!” at them?
There were so many points in this episode I wanted to scream to Erika, “Look out! He’s not that much of a catch!”
Archer tends towards being condescending to others at the best of times, and he repeatedly makes slightly snarky comments to Hernandez that imply she couldn’t possibly know what it’s like out in space, such as saying, “Did you read my reports?” when she questions his recommendation to assign a whole squad of MACOs to her ship.
“Yes, Captain, I did,” she says calmly. To her and the writers’ credit, she is always in control. She’s helping Archer and open to his advice without ceding her authority. As she says to Archer in her first scene, “I’m married to Starfleet, just like you.”
So, maybe for the first time, I’m going to say something good about Archer: if he’s into Hernandez, he’s got great taste.
Meanwhile, on Vulcan, T’Pol brings Trip home to meet her mother. Turns out T’Les has lost her job at the Vulcan Science Academy as retribution for T’Pol’s behaviour on Enterprise. But if T’Pol agrees to marry her fiancé, Koss, T’Les could get her job back.
Whereas Erika Hernandez is totally in control in this episode, T’Pol is almost totally disempowered, subject to her mother’s anger and disappointment and offered a lose-lose situation by Koss: she can marry him or call the khal if fee and force a fight to the death.
It’s a bit painful to watch T’Pol, who has been subject to constant demands to change who she is aboard Enterprise, being coerced into changing again. She’s an outsider, even in her own home.
Trip realizes in this episode that he’s in love with T’Pol, and admits this to T’Les, but won’t tell T’Pol because “she’s under enough pressure already.” So he attends her wedding to support her. This is probably the most empathy I’ve ever seen from Trip towards T’Pol, even though, as T’Les points out, it might have been better to make sure T’Pol had “all the facts.” But ultimately, respecting her decision, even though he deeply disagrees with it, is a big deal.
Finally, there is a C plot in this episode, which is the beginning of xenophobic movements on Earth as a result of the Xindi attacks. Phlox experiences this first-hand when he’s targeted in a bar by racists and a fight breaks out. After, Hoshi tries to get Phlox to talk about it, when he refuses to go back to Earth to try Madam Chang’s egg-drop soup:
Hoshi: This isn’t the way to deal with prejudice. The best thing is to show your face and remind people that there are aliens who don’t want to blow up the planet.
Phlox: I can’t blame those men for the way they reacted. Earth has survived a horrific attack. It will take time for the trauma to heal.
Seasons 3 and 4 of Enterprise were obviously heavily influenced by 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. John Billingsley (Phlox) has spoken on convention panels about his objections to the way the U.S. responded after 9/11, and how Bush-style jingoism made its way into Enterprise plots and scripts.
I think this scene is a classic example. Although we’re meant to see Phlox’s side and know that racism and xenophobia is wrong, there is no push to hold humanity to a higher standard, as I think we would’ve seen in the earlier Trek series.
I think that’s kind of appalling, because Phlox is an obvious stand-in for Muslims (or other visible minority people confused or conflated with Muslims) in this allegory. So this has real world implications: saying xenophobia and violent racism is a reasonable outcome of trauma and the subjects of that hate should just lie low, is a deeply offensive message.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. T’Pol and T’Les talk about several subjects, including T’Les losing her job.