Star Trek 676: Cogenitor

676. Cogenitor

FORMULA: The Outcast + Thirty Days

WHY WE LIKE IT: Tons of reasons.

WHY WE DON'T: The less than enticing title.

REVIEW: At a hypergiant star 100 years from supernova (creating the most dramatic lighting since Generations), Enterprise meets the highly advanced Vissians who are explorers like them. For once, the drama is driven by the mutual exchange of ideas rather than phaser fire, and perhaps for that very reason, it's very much the best episode of the season. These people aren't stingy about sharing ideas and technology, are generally friendly, and to boot, are sun divers! This allows Archer a fun little adventure in the heart of a star with the completely charming Vissian captain, last Star Trek role of the late, great Andreas Katsulas.

Back in orbit, however, events conspire to jeopardize their quickly knit bond of friendship. The Vissians have advanced technology that would seem to inspire later advances - an upright warp core and photon torpedoes (soon to appear on Enterprise), for example - but also have a distinctive culture and biology. For one thing, they value aroma over taste in their choice of foods. They're pretty forward when it comes to sex, as Malcolm discovers to his great pleasure (though this subplot is the easiest to jettison). And most importantly, they have a third gender, the "cogenitor", which plays a role in procreation.

When Trip meets this cogenitor, he discovers that they are a subclass used by normal society for their reproductive use and nothing else. That have no names, no education and no opportunities, despite having the same highly advanced intelligence. Trip, unable to dissociate his cultural values from his perception of this alien culture, interferes where he should not. And we seem meant to agree with him. Later, the Federation will frown on caste systems, and the fact the cogenitor quickly learns to read, chooses a name and wants something better for itself, means this IS an unfair situation.

But is he doing more harm than good? Is he in fact putting impossible ideas in its head that will lead to heartbreak? And isn't his meddling jeopardizing not only the obviously valuable friendship between humanity and the Vissians, but as we'll discover, his personal friendship with Archer as well? We might imagine a more upbeat ending where the cogenitor founded some kind of secret readers' society like that of Fahrenheit 451, but the actual ending is much harsher. The cogenitor commits suicide. And even more harshly, Archer doesn't let Trip off the hook for it. In fact, he doesn't seem to let himself off the hook either, intimating that perhaps he's been inconsistent himself when it comes to interfering with other cultures. Potent stuff, from which Trip walks away stunned.

Stuff to look for while you're enjoying the story and special effects: Trip's personal movie list is full of terrible-seeming B-movies, including Bride of Chaotica and a Dixon Hill story. Freezeframe and zoom. I can understand why he chose The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm also a bit surprised Trip plays Go. He might not be such a hick after all.

LESSON: Shakespeare really is the height of human achievement.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Wow, what a nice surprise. Best of the season.


De said...

I agree with you 100% that this is easily the best of Season 2. Wasn't expecting the suicide at all and it was good to finally see some consequences resulting from the Enterprise crew's inteference. We didn't see consequences in either "Dear Doctor" or "The Communicator".

Anonymous said...

I must agree too. Because it was out of the box for me as a Very mild trekkie. But also for that killer finish that leads the crew to think how human principles doesn't always fit with other species. A kind of note to humanity for later days if space exploration goes this way.


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