Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vulcans Are Completely Bastardized in “Fusion.”

The Good: ?, I wanted to say “moments of performance,” but there are so many terrible acting moments in this episode.
The Bad: Terrible concept, Unremarkable characters, Cheap sex-appeal tactics.
The Basics: In one of the worst episodes of the Star Trek franchise, “Fusion” presents illogical Vulcans who upset T’Pol.

The classic commentary on the strength of heroes is that the more impressive and complicated the villain, the more incredible the hero becomes in their attempt to thwart that villain. The worst villains, in any medium, are the ones who want something without any sense of realism to the scope of their desire. So, for example, the standard monolithic villain is one who wants to rule the world . . . for no particular reason or appreciation of what ruling the world will actually entail. The hero who thwarts the villain who wants to rule the world, “just because,” accomplishes a mechanical task, not a feat of heroism or philosophical triumph.

I mention this at the outset of my review of the Enterprise episode “Fusion” because the antagonists in the episode, illogical Vulcans, take T’Pol down a number of serious notches, substantially weakening her character. Rather ridiculously, “Fusion” is the psychological equivalent of the conflict between the archetypal drug dealer and the stereotypical teenager: “Try this.” “No.” “C’mon . . .” “Okay!” . . . and the teen becomes a drug addict. Scene. “Fusion” does essentially the same thing with T’Pol in that her encounter with Tolaris is essentially “Don’t sleep and you’ll have emotions,” “I don’t want to.” “Try it anyway” “Okay.” . . . and she’s suddenly emotional.

Damn, this episode is dumb. And it started fairly well.

Jonathan Archer is excited about exploring the nearby Arachnic Nebula, a stellar phenomenon he has been intrigued by his entire life. A Vulcan ship comes into range and Archer and his crew are surprised when the Vulcans are pleasant to them. T’Pol quickly realizes that the crew of the Vulcan ship, which has been on its own for eight years, has embraced emotions and abandoned the pursuit of logic at the expense of their emotions. T’Pol soon falls in with Tolaris, a young Vulcan who has embraced his emotions.

When Archer is given a request from Forrest to get in contact with the Vulcan engineer, Kov, whose father is dying, he assigns Trip to try to get the emotional Vulcan to attempt a reconciliation. But Tolaris’s influence over T’Pol soon results in Archer’s science officer shaking up memories with emotional consequences.

The very best part of “Fusion” is a brief scene where Trip talks to Kov about regret. It’s a good scene and was almost enough to get me to rate the episode above the absolute lowest rating. Then, I considered the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Force Of Nature” (reviewed here!). “Force Of Nature,” for all its lame conceptual problems, has an admirable pro-environment moral. Even with the good speech, the episode is a complete flop. As the episode “Fusion” progressed, that one admirable monologue was not enough to justify the gut-wrenching feeling the rest of the episode evoked.

“Fusion” is yet another episode where the characterization of the Vulcans is entirely undermined. At this point, it is pretty obvious that Enterprise is trying to stand on its own and does not give a damn about the loyal fanbase that made Star Trek into a billion-dollar industry. When Trip and Kov are sitting in the mess hall talking about football (when in the prior episode, Trip was talking about reading comic books), it is clear the writers do not know their audience particularly well.

The most ridiculous aspect of “Fusion” is not even how easily T’Pol succumbs to emotion with no real motivation (after all, she could have simply said, “I do not choose to explore in that direction”), it is how the emotional Vulcans are characterized. Essentially, the emotional Vulcans are a bunch of stupid rapists who push their beliefs on others in an utterly ridiculous way. The Vulcan Captain Tavin shows no real respect for T’Pol and her beliefs; the emotional Vulcans, who are supposedly used to being on the outside of Vulcan society, should not want to make T’Pol uncomfortable. And yet, they push and push and push at T’Pol, especially Tolaris.

“Fusion” seems to be about introducing the idea of the Vulcan mindmeld to Enterprise fans, but here it is presented as a form of psychic rape and it is entirely disturbing. Vulcan mating habits are openly discussed in “Fusion,” which is in direct contradiction to “Amok Time” (reviewed here!) and subsequent generations of humans not knowing about the topic.

On the acting front, “Fusion” is not at all remarkable. Jolene Blalock does not start out the episode as a strong-enough unemotional T’Pol to have the degradation of her character seem truly compelling. The regular actors seem to be sleepwalking through their paces, like they know they are doing an episode that is not in particularly good taste or with a compelling conflict.

An instant contestant for Worst Of The Series, “Fusion” undermines what viewers know about Vulcans and it does so poorly.

The three biggest gaffes in “Fusion:”
3. An encounter like the one in “Fusion” would have made it absolutely impossible for all of the cultural stereotypes about Vulcans to endure for the hundreds of years that followed,
2. Spock, the half-Vulcan, took the better part of his lifetime to reach the idea that “logic is the beginning,” in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here!). It seems improbable that without any history of such rebellion he would have had such a struggle,
1. Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (reviewed here!) was a rebel who believed in expressing emotions and he was an outcast. His story was also unheard of in Kirk’s time and he had no Vulcan followers. “Fusion” would have viewers believe that the degradation of Vulcan society was pretty much an ongoing thing, when it was characterized in every other Star Trek series.

[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 works with Robert Pine, please visit my reviews of:
Red Eye
But I’m A Cheerleader
“The Chute” - Star Trek: Voyager
ID4: Independence Day


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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