Tuesday, March 26, 2013

LeVar Burton Tries To Give Mayweather Some Character In “Fortunate Son.”

The Good: Ethics of Archer, Moments of character
The Bad: Absolutely no emotional ramifications to the episode’s conflict, Some incredibly stiff acting
The Basics: “Fortunate Son” has Enterprise encountering a cargo ship which compels Archer to aid them against the Nausicaans and their own worst elements.

Sometimes, the only thing worse than Star Trek: Enterprise creating episodes that mess with the overall continuity of the Star Trek franchise is when it does an episode that feels like it has absolutely no consequence or meaning . . . either in the franchise or within the series itself. “Fortunate Son” is one of those episodes.

I understand how “Fortunate Son” got made: Ensign Travis Mayweather needed a story that explored his character and to the credit of writer James Duff, the episode creates a culture for the Boomers, the space-bound humans who have no real ties to Earth or any planet. The crew of the cargo ship Fortunate is characterized as having their own feelings, thoughts, and culture, so despite their reprehensible actions, they seem to have their own code of ethics. While there seem to be some strange parallels between the humans and their raider conflict in “Fortunate Son” with the bigot humans and raiders in the first season of Babylon 5 (reviewed here!), the main strike against “Fortunate Son” is just that it has a low sense of consequence or importance. As my wife noted as the episode neared its climax, “Why do we care?!”

The cargo ship Fortunate comes under fire from an alien ship, after the Captain and First Officer throw around a football on their cargo deck. Enterprise is reassigned to respond to their distress call by StarFleet’s Admiral Forrest. Arriving at the Fortunate, the Enterprise crew docks and tries to provide them with assistance. Archer, Phlox, T’Pol, and Mayweather try to repair the Fortunate and Mayweather bonds with First Officer Matthew Ryan. T’Pol, however, discovers that the human crew of the Fortunate is hiding a Nausicaan aboard their ship.

Confronting Ryan, Archer threatens to remove all of the components Trip used to repair the Fortunate and he and an Away Team return to the human cargo ship to rescue the captured Nausicaan pirate. When Ryan shoots a hole in the hull and sets the cargo container adrift, Enterprise loses the Fortunate to save the Away Team. When the Fortunate is surrounded by Nausicaan pirate ships, Ryan must decide whether or not to cling to his prejudice and get his revenge or evolve and surrender his prisoner.

“Fortunate Son” is an Enterprise episode that actually feels like the StarFleet crew is evolved enough to fit into the Star Trek franchise. Beyond the moralizing of Archer and Mayweather, though, the episode has surprisingly little going for it. In the larger context, Admiral Forrest has Enterprise deploying subspace relays, which is a nice touch for communications throughout the Federation, though it seems odd that there is no delay in his transmission to Archer in “Fortunate Son.”

The episode accomplishes the goal of fleshing out Ensign Mayweather and establishing a cargo ship (Boomer) culture. Mayweather has a loyalty to his home ship, the Horizon, and he clearly misses his family, which is still there. Moreover, in his conversation with Ryan, Mayweather reveals a sense of history for the Boomers, which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the acting in “Fortunate Son” is nothing spectacular. Actor Lawrence Monoson returns to the franchise, having performed in “The Storyteller” (reviewed here!), but he is incredibly stiff initially. In fact, the actors telegraph the conflict from their first appearance in the episode. As she frequently does, Jolene Blalock smirks through much of her performance in “Fortunate Son.”

Also, the episode has a pretty huge continuity problem that is just ridiculously stupid: on the shuttlepod headed to Fortunate, Dr. Phlox performs a scan that determines how many life forms are on the cargo ship. He begins to feel like the incompetent doctor on Arrested Development when he does not reveal to the crew that there is a Nausicaan life form on the Horizon and he has been wounded. The episode seriously fails to address this gaping issue.

Ultimately, “Fortunate Son” is an inconsequential and somewhat dull episode where the guest characters are put in real peril and the viewer does not care about them, so it adds up to nothing significant.

The biggest gaffe in “Fortunate Son:”
Yet again, the Nausicaans appear with a significant presence, despite the fact that the Orions were the original Star Trek pirates. The Nausicaans should not have a presence this close to Earth. Moreover, the Nausicaans have always been characterized as big, brutish, dumb thugs. In “Fortunate Son,” they are remarkably articulate, subtle, and (despite some violent tendencies) cultured.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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