Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enterprise 2x11 "Precious Cargo"


I'll make no bones that Charles "Trip" Tucker is my favorite character from Enterprise, and one of my favorites from the whole Star Trek franchise.  He might have initially seemed like a new incarnation of the good ol' country boy archetype originally embodied by Leonard "Bones" McCoy (thus creating very difficult shoes to fill), but he quickly evolved into his own.  His best seasons were the third and fourth, but Trip had notable moments throughout the series.  He didn't really start to assert himself in the second until this episode, and he never really let go after that.

"Precious Cargo" is in many ways a fairly familiar experience.  Kirk ran into damsels in distress seemingly every episode.  Picard had his moment in "The Perfect Mate" (which this one links to).  On that score, even if you're not as wild about Trip as I am, if you like Star Trek you'll find something you'll recognize.

Yet with Trip it's hard to gloss over his upside.  If there's a character who will be able to foul up contact with another species, you can count on him to make the best of it, even if things don't always turn out so well.  Here everything ends up just fine.  Not without a certain amount of hiccups, though.

There's a nice parallel arc for Archer and T'Pol as they attempt to shake another alien for information, with Archer again using his new bluffing skills.  He's grown more confident in the second season.  He doesn't know that it will get more difficult yet.  So this is a fine moment to enjoy a transition that's going in a different direction than he assumes.

Back to Trip.  The eponymous cargo is a princess.  Part of the fun of the episode is how the Universal Translator doesn't work immediately (a running gag for Trip that continues in "Dawn"), which forces a character who already makes plenty of blunders on his own stumble along for the first few beats.  And the princess ends up having an attitude.

Part of the fun of the episode is that it serves as a reminder that the alien worlds in Star Trek don't always revolve on the familiar things we know.  Too often if anyone knows anyone else, they're all connected in expected ways.  In later incarnations that usually means the Federation.  If we know anyone who makes a lasting impression, they're a military figure.  Here they're a princess, who thought everyone would know about her family.  That's the way it'd be with us.  Surely you haven't already forgotten the marriage of William & Kate?  Sometimes I wish the franchise would acknowledge stuff like this more often.  It happened all the time in the original series, but the original series was relentlessly episodic.  Most times the things you learned one week meant absolutely nothing the next.  It doesn't really count.  But then, that's why Enterprise was such a good idea, connecting some of the more abstract ideas to the more interrelated reality of later incarnations.  All those Andorian appearances was just the most obvious example.

Let's get back to Trip again.  It's kind of funny that each of his starring vehicles this season were episodes that thrust him into a situation he thought he wouldn't get in the first season, "Unexpected" not considered.  It explains a lot about his character.  He could usually get what he wanted.  The problem was dealing with the results.  In "Precious Cargo" things turn out okay.  If the series had lasted for more than four seasons, one imagines that this is one of the several episodes that might've eventually seen a follow-up.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Padma Lakshmi

Memory Alpha summary.

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