Mid-season 1 of Enterprise seems to be catching up on the characters we didn’t learn much about in the first few episodes (so everyone except Archer, Tucker and T’Pol). In “Shuttlepod One” it’s Reed’s turn and I’ve developed a handy-dandy tool to monitor his TFL (Trekkie Feminist Likability) levels. I call it The Reed-o-Meter 2151:
Above is where Reed’s at going into this episode. He had a dudebro conversation with Mayweather in “Broken Bow” but he hasn’t had a heck of a lot to do overall, so he’s still solidly in the “Meh” range for Trekkie Feminist Likability.
But this episode could change everything.
Note: The Reed-o-Meter is all about the character of Reed and not Dominic Keating’s performance in this episode, which is pretty on-point the entire time.
So first off Reed and Tucker are coming back in Shuttlepod One to rendezvous with Enterprise, debating with friendly rivalry whether Britain or the U.S. is more awesome.
Reed starts it by defending his reading choice (Ulysses) to an uninterested Tucker:
Reed: British schools have a core curriculum. It serves to provide a well-rounded education. Sometimes I think you North Americans read nothing but comic books and those ridiculous science fiction novels.
Tucker: I’ll have you know that Superman was laced with metaphor. Subtext layered on subtext.
Reed: Oh, if only Doctor Cochrane had been a European. The Vulcans would have been far less reticent to help us. But, no, he had to be from Montana. He probably spent his nights reading about cowboys and Indians.
Tucker comes back that Americans invented the warp engine, not “Brits, Italians or Serbo-Croatians.” Even though it’s presented as light-hearted, why make it seem like the Enterprise humans are clinging on to us/them mentalities and stereotypes about human nationalities as surely as their prejudice against Vulcans?
Shit gets real quickly as Enterprise isn’t at the rendezvous point. Instead, Tucker and Reed find debris littering the side of an asteroid, including a clearly-numbered piece of the ship’s hull. Dun dun dunnnnnn.
After the credits, we’re reassured Enterprise is totally okay. Hoshi comes to talk to Archer about some alien refugees, the Tesnians, they’re transporting. It’s a good Hoshi scene where she’s able to give Archer some valuable information because of her quick ability to learn the Tesnians’ language. Turns out helping them has delayed Enterprise, but they think they’ll be able to make it back to the rendezvous in plenty of time to meet Reed and Tucker.
Archer and T’Pol take an inspection pod out to look at the ship. T’Pol says she thinks the damage that left the debris behind was caused by “micro-singularities” in the asteroid field, but Archer is convinced that’s a Vulcan myth. At least, though his words are snarky (“If the Vulcans had their way they’d blame them for the common cold”), his tone towards T’Pol is getting better. He insults her people now with a smile.
We also learn Archer’s level of involvement with his crew when he asks T’Pol who’s in charge of Engineering while Trip’s away (so 83 people and he doesn’t know his department heads’ backups?). Anyhow, it’s Lieutenant Hess, a lady (yes!) whom we never see (boo!).
Back on Shuttlepod One Reed and Tucker are trying to figure out what the heck to do. They only have impulse engines and 10 days of air. Not enough to get to the nearest subspace amplifier where someone might pick up their distress signal.
Reed says there is no point even trying to get there but Tucker is frustrated at his pessimism and orders him to set a course.
Reed, who’s already sure they’re going to die, starts making a recorded log entry, interrupted periodically by Trip, who is trying to fix the shuttle’s systems.
By the time anyone hears this, by anyone, I suppose I mean anyone human, Commander Tucker and I will be long dead. It’s my intention to recount the events that led to the destruction of the Starship Enterprise and to express my deepest feelings regarding my short but memorable service with Starfleet…we had no alternative but to set a course for Echo Three where someday this vessel and eventually this log, will be found. May God have mercy on our souls.
While I understand the impulse to want to make a log, it feels like Reed is scripting this, knowing it will someday become famous. And still on day one of ten days of air, it’s annoying that he’s not bothering to help, if only to humour Tucker.
So let’s see how he’s doing:
Reed and Tucker bust out some rations and also come across a bottle of Kentucky bourbon the captain had been saving. Later that evening Reed is back recording a letter to his parents while Tucker tries to sleep. Tucker shuts that down and tells Reed to get some rest.
Sounded like good advice, but be careful what you wish for, because you might get treated to a Malcolm Reed dream sequence!
In the dream, Reed wakes in sickbay with Archer telling him: “You’re a very brave man, Malcolm. Commander Tucker’s going to be fine, thanks to you.”
Then dream T’Pol gets in on the ego-boosting:
T’Pol: I had no idea you could be so selfless in the face of such danger. Most males of your species would have given in to their fear.
Reed: Well, since you’re obviously not going to tell me what happened I suppose a simple good night will have to do.
T’Pol: Vulcans can never ignore courage, and this Vulcan will never ignore Lieutenant Malcolm Reed again.
She sits on the bed beside him and takes his hand. They’re about to kiss when a noise wakes him up. And no, it’s not the noise of the new Reed-o-Meter 2151 readjusting the Trekkie Feminist Likability rating:
Suddenly the pod shakes and there are mini hull breaches that need patching. By the time the leaks are fixed, they’ve lost a bunch of oxygen and have less than two days’ worth left.
Sitting down, crisis averted, Tucker and Reed get on the topic of the 602 Club, a bar where the Starfleet trainees go. Turns out both guys had a relationship with the same waitress there. Then Reed records letters to his various ex-girlfriends.
Wait a minute, writers. Did you think we needed to be reminded these characters are straight? It’s like: “Sure, they’re two men bonding, but don’t worry because it’s not gay. Look at how they dream and talk about women! That is what I call manly!”
On the plus side, they also briefly give a shout-out to the under-appreciated Hoshi, with Tucker saying: “She saved our asses on more than one occasion; I plan on letting her family know how essential she was.”
Meanwhile on Enterprise, it turns out T’Pol was totally right about the micro-fractures. Basically this is Archer:
Here’s how he snarks when she shows him the evidence:
I’d be a little less concerned with winning the Nobel Prize right now and a little more concerned with Trip and Malcolm. Their shuttlepod doesn’t have the hull plating we do. They could be in for a rough ride when they get back to the asteroid field. Better hail them. Agree to a new rendezvous point.
She ends up practically apologizing, saying she never intended to say they should put their crew members second to a scientific discovery. But all he can reply is a passive-aggressive: “Time’s a-wasting!”
And yes, it is, Tucker and Reed have turned the temperature down to -5 Celsius (for Americans, that’s 23 Fahrenheit) to save oxygen. Tucker cracks open the bourbon and Reed finally really defends himself, saying acting like he has is the only way he knows of coping with this situation:
I lost nearly everyone I cared about on that ship. Those girls I talked about. Rochelle, Deborah, Catelin. None of them worked out because I could never get very close to them. Never got very close to my family either, for that matter, not that it’s any business of yours. But with the crew of the Enterprise, it was different. I was really starting to feel comfortable with them, and now the only one that’s left thinks I’m the bloody angel of death.
Trineer and Keating’s acting is really great in this episode, but especially in this scene and this is the point in the episode where I do care about Reed and what happens to him.
But then he and Tucker get drunker and we get this:
Reed: Hey, what do you think of T’Pol, hmm? Do you think she’s pretty?
Tucker: T’Pol? Are you serious?
Reed: Well, she’s a woman, you know? I think she’s pretty.
Tucker: You’ve had too much to drink.
Reed: Don’t tell me you’ve never looked at her, you know, in that way.
Tucker: Nah, she’s a Vulcan.
Reed: Well, I think she’s pretty.
Tucker: Oh, God.
Reed: You ever noticed her bum?
Reed: Her bum. She’s got an awfully nice bum.
I don’t know which is worse, Reed bringing up T’Pol’s bum and excusing it because “she’s a woman, you know” and therefore all real men must have “looked at her, you know, in that way”, or Tucker saying the only reason he hasn’t is because she’s a Vulcan and therefore icky.
At any rate:
Suddenly they hear crackling on the comm and realize it’s Hoshi! They get a message with new rendezvous coordinates but they can’t reply and they are still farther away than the air they have left. Reed gets the idea to jettison the impulse drive and detonate it so it shows up on Enterprise’s sensors as unusual, which might get Enterprise to get there faster.
Oh yeah, they’re also still polishing off the whole bottle of bourbon, despite the fact that alcohol consumption speeds up hypothermia.
At the end of the bottle they still aren’t sure whether help is going to arrive in time, and Tucker realizes if he seals himself off in the airlock and dies, Reed will have double the chance of surviving. But Reed won’t let him; this time he’s the hopeful one and Tucker is the pessimist.
When Reed wakes up in sickbay, it’s real. The closest he gets to his earlier dream is asking T’Pol if she wanted to say anything to him about “heroics”. And the answer is obviously no.
“Sleep well, my friend” he whispers to sleeping Trip once everyone else has left.
(Writers: “Remember the thing with T’Pol’s bum a few minutes ago? That allowed us 2.5 minutes of men sharing their feelings and caring about each other.”)
I don’t want it to seem like I’m down on this episode. Overall I liked the story and I already mentioned the great acting. I also thought the pacing was well done, as well as the way Tucker and Reed’s interactions moved between passive-aggression and outright hostility to moments of camaraderie, sharing and mutual appreciation.
I’d like to move Reed back a little bit on the Reed-o-Meter for being pretty cool in the part where he stops Tucker from sacrificing himself, but he’s still going to be in the red zone for me at the end of this for the whole T’Pol’s bum thing.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail