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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Enterprise Season Four - Git Them Furriners Out

(Season Four episode list here)

Every civilization has its share of those who, for various reasons, want to keep their nation free of outsiders. Viewers got a hint of this undercurrent in an earlier episode this season, and are now introduced to a terrorist organization dedicated to ridding Earth of aliens: Terra Prime.

(Interestingly, the phrase "terra prime" translates "Earth first." I doubt that the parallel with the name of real-life eco-terrorist group Earth First! is intentional. It is certainly ironic; contrast Terra Prime's human-centrism to Earth First's subordination of humanity, and much of its industry, to the rest of the environment.)

The Enterprise crew is attending a diplomatic conference with a number of alien representatives present. Mayweather sees an old girlfriend Gannet Brooks, a journalist covering the conference. Starfleet official Nathan Samuels addresses the crowd, and Tucker is peeved that Samuels isn't giving Archer credit for bringing the Tellarites and Andorians together. A woman named Susan Khouri approaches T'Pol and says "They're going to kill her," and collapses - showing a phase pistol wound, from which she later dies.

Khouri carried a vial with a hair inside. Phlox tests that the child comes from a Human-Vulcan girl, and matches its DNA to the utterly confused Tucker and T'Pol. T'Pol insists she had never been pregnant; Tucker eventually overcomes his doubts about her truthfulness. Dude, do you honestly think she could hide a pregnancy under those skin-tight outfits?

Samuels gives Archer access to official investigation data, which reveals that the murdered woman lived in a low-gravity environment. T'Pol, on an un-Vulcanlike hunch, suspects a lunar colony. Archer orders Reed to contact his old Section 31 control Harris, who confirms Terra Prime's involvement with the child and Khouri's ties to the organization.

Brooks is on board Enterprise, getting reacquainted with Mayweather and (supposedly) filming a documentary. Archer learns that Brooks had been tapping into the universal translators of the conference delegates. He suspects that she's a Terra Prime operative, and has her thrown into the brig.

Meanwhile, Tucker and T'Pol infiltrate the Orpheus mining facility, a known hotbed of Terra Prime activity - which happens to be owned by John Frederick Paxton, the head of Terra Prime. The two are quickly discovered and captured. The Orpheus facility does something that moon bases ususally don't do - the saucer-shaped installation blasts off from the planet's surface, makes a brief warp jump, and lands on Mars. Orpheus links up with the (unguarded) verteron array, a monstrous beam weapon used to blast dangerous meteors and to guide comets toward the Martian polar ice cap.

Paxton hacks all communications channels and announces his ultimatum: all aliens must leave Earth, or he'll blast Starfleet headquarters. His broadcast shows the human-Vulcan baby, evidently to rile certain xenophobic factions. He demonstrates his control over the array by firing at the Moon, and also sends Enterpise a low-power warning shot. After the broadcast, he explains to T'Pol and Tucker that he was able to obtain their genetic material through a spy he has on board Enterprise.

Archer has a plan. A comet is scheduled to impact Mars within Paxton's deadline. Archer has the ship fly into its tail and launch a shuttlepod where it will follow the comet to the Martian surface undetected. The shuttlepod experiences technical difficulties, and Mayweather switches to manual and brings the crew safely down. The shot of the Carl Sagan Memorial Station is a nice touch.

Paxton allows T'Pol to spend time with the child if Tucker calibrates the aim of the verteron array. Tucker relents; he sabotages his own work at first, but is eventually caught and is thrown into a holding cell. In convseration with Paxton's right-hand man Josiah, he learns that the man blames the Vulcans for not interfering in the Third World War, suspecting them of preferring a weakened Earth to deal with. A snide remark about Tucker and T'Pol doing more than just talking suggests that Josiah is unaware of the baby's artificial origin.

The baby ill; T'Pol monitors her health with a tricorder, and manages to get a surrepetitious scan of the not-too-well-looking Paxton. She confronts him alone with what she's learned: that he is suffering from Taggart Syndrome and is receiving Rigelian gene therapy, flying in the face of his racial purity ethic. His spin is that "significant" leaders often don't live up to their ideals. I immediately thought of Hitler, who was as far from the blonde, blue-eyed Aryan mold as Kermit the Frog.

Sato has command of Enterprise, and in her finest hour resists Samuels' impatience with her waiting till the last second to carry out her orders to destroy the Orpheus facility - an act that would kill many nearby colonists - if there is no word from Archer in time. Archer and his team arrive at the base as Tucker escapes from the holding cell. Together they storm the control room, and a firefight ensues. Archer prevails, but not in time to stop the array from firing - hitting the waters just off the San Francisco coast, thanks to Tucker's work. Phaser the whales!

Prior to the shuttlepod launch, Brooks told Mayweather that she was not the Terra Prime spy, that she was with Starfleet Intelligence looking for the real spy. But she was right - the crew discovers that the shuttlepod was sabotaged, and she coudln't have done it. The culprit is Ensign Masaro, who kills himself with a phase pistol after apologizing to the captain.

The child has an incurable genetic flaw and dies in Phlox's care. She is named Elizabeth after Tucker's sister who perished in the first Xindi attack.

The episode offers a brief but fascinating insight into the "future history" of Earth. In the TOS episode "The Savage Curtain" we learn of a Colonel Green who led a genocide during World War III. This two-parter explains his motivation: as the Memory Alpha entry states, "He ordered the euthanization of hundreds of thousands of radiation sickened humans so they wouldn't pass on mutations to future generations." Paxton was an admirer of Green, and drew a faulty parallel between genetically damaged humans breeding with genetically healthy ones, and humans breeding with nonhumans - a scientific impossibility in the real universe.

Update: The way I worded that last statement may give the false impression that I find justification in Green's decision. Green faced a real problem but implemented the wrong "solution." In the real world we already have laws to protect the human genome - specifically, laws against marrying close blood relatives. We don't go around killing inbred persons we discover (there would be fewer living nobility otherwise). In the extreme situation that Green faced, I can imagine laws banning marriage between healthy humans and those whose genetic code was hacked by weapons of radioactive destruction; supporters of such a policy would argue that the damage must be contained, but the genetically handicapped should be allowed to live normal-as-possible lives - and maybe someday medical advances will restore their (or their children's) genes.

Humans breeding with sentient nonhumans (in the Star Trek universe where that sort of thing is possible) is not a problem - with two exceptions. First, certain species might pose as serious a threat of inheritable genetic damage as the post-WWIII genetically handicapped. Second, certain species might introduce inheritable advantages that threaten human liberty. The obvious Trek example is Orion women's pheromonal powers of suggestion. But this opens another can of worms: the prospect of full-blooded Orion females living in human societies. Now there's an idea for a film: Archer receives a female Syndicate defector, and the Earth government is squabbling over what sorts of regulations to impose on her if she is to be granted resident status.

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