Star Trek 645: Fusion

645. Fusion

FORMULA: Violations + Meld

WHY WE LIKE IT: The truth about mindmelds.

WHY WE DON'T: The central metaphor. Sam Beckett.

REVIEW: When Enterprise meets personable, smiling Vulcans, it's surprising enough, but the big twist is that this offshoot is in the process of rediscovering the mindmeld technique. That means T'Pol and her Enterprise-era colleagues don't know the technique. Clearly, there's going to be some kind of revolution in Vulcan society in the next 100 years and we might be privy to its beginnings. Of course, there won't be a smiling revolution as well, but the Vulcans in Fusion at least give us insight into Spock's barely canonical brother Sybok.

So T'Pol will know her first mindmeld, and at the same time, we'll explore her character a little bit. We find out, for example, that she's had an unhealthy fascination with humanity for a while and that her emotions tend to bubble up to the surface (watch Blalock's terrible twitching and mugging at the end of the episode for some of that "bubbling"). Her seduction by the slimy Tolaris is played both physically and intellectually, and that's where it starts getting problematic. Mindmelds are a beloved Star Trek tradition dating all the way back to Dagger of the Mind. Playing it essentially as a sexual assault throws grime on that tradition. Soon after that, the episode takes the bent of an Afterschool Special about date rape, with Archer cast as the angry father (the dialogue could be repurposed unchanged). In his scene with Tolaris, you keep waiting for fists to fly (but of course, Archer doesn't have a shot). Though accused of being jealous, he's rather protective, especially since he pushed her into the Vulcans' arms.

In fact, Archer's character takes an annoying dive into Quantum Leap territory here, trying to put right what once went wrong in each of the plots. He's trying to open T'Pol's eyes to a different Vulcan existence. He's pushing a young Vulcan to call his estranged dying father. Scott Bakula is very badly served by this kind of rapprochement between Archer and Sam Beckett. Can't they let the captain be his own man?

The dying father subplot involves a Vulcan befriended by Trip that tries to be sweet but takes a bad turn into melodrama. That "first dance" story, for example. More Afterschool Special writing. It starts off well enough with the two laying waste to misconceptions about each other's race, but the conversation stupidly turns to sex (and an odd gay subtext?) and embarrassment. Kov lets the secrets of pon-farr out of the bag 100 years early, though I guess Trip never logged it.

LESSON: If she thinks no, it means no.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: The only thing really keeping this episode afloat is that it has consequences down the line (T'Pol gets an MTD here). Otherwise, kind of icky.


Nicholas Yankovec said...

Loving the Enterprise reviews; by the time Enterprise got cancelled it was my favourite Star Trek series, beating out even Deep Space Nine (except for the generally poor second season). I do kind of disagree with your analysis of T'Pol, though, I find her much more of a sex symbol than Seven of Nine, and don't mind her Vulcan acting either.

Keep it up!


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