Star Trek 668: Stigma

668. Stigma

FORMULA: Fusion + Dax + Destiny

WHY WE LIKE IT: Phlox's wife. Nice matte shots.

WHY WE DON'T: The heavy-handed metaphor.

REVIEW: The events of Fusion come back and bite T'Pol in the ass. If the rather icky metaphor in that episode, if you'll remember, was date rape represented as a mindmeld. In those terms, T'Pol got the equivalent of HIV in that exchange, something that brands her as a deviant in the eyes of other Vulcans. Indeed, the episode goes on to equate the minority that can mindmeld to homosexuals (one of them even comes out of the closet). In the episode's vocabulary, there's no rush to cure the disease because it only affects society's undesirables, but T'Pol's situation is proof that an illness cannot discriminate. I.e. HIV doesn't just target gays, addicts or Third World countries. When Trek hammers the message this strongly, it's hard not to feel preached to, but to be fair, the episode was part of Viacom's HIV awareness program, so we're not supposed to miss the point.

While I've often stated that T'Pol is my least favorite character, I'm getting used to her. If you're interested in an Enterprise drinking game, by the way, be sure to drink every time they threaten to recall T'Pol to Vulcan. Though the episode is clearly about her, she doesn't get the bigger role. Archer's the actual main character, fighting for her passionately and legally. His point about humans embracing diversity more than Vulcans ever have is well put, and this episode is definitely part of the slow march towards TOS' Vulcans, not just because of the revealed "dissident movement" of melders, but of the IDIC principles espoused by Archer, but not the High Command. By the end of the episode, T'Pol is made an advocate for change.

Serviceable - if obvious - drama, but the B-plot outshines it. There, we meet Phlox's second wife, giving us more insight into Denobulan culture (they smell rather than kiss each other, for example) and psychology (how could there be jealousy on a world where everyone has multiple spouses?). The fun of it, of course, is watching Trip squirm as Feezal attempts to seduce him, with Phlox laughing all the way. Both plots consider a similar theme - cultural taboos - one dramatically, the other comically.

A small note about that other non-favorite character: Travis. Though we never see a lot of him, the accumulation of tiny moments evident when watching these episodes back to back makes him out to be something of a daredevil. Too bad that never really went anywhere.

LESSON: HIV doesn't discriminate.

REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: Sure, the main story is overly obvious, but it's worthy. I'd have watched a full 40 minutes of Mrs. Phlox's bedroom farce though.

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