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The Trek Nation - A Night In Sickbay

A Night In Sickbay

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 17, 2002 - 9:02 AM GMT

See Also: 'A Night In Sickbay' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When Enterprise visits the Kreetassen home world to pick up a plasma injector, Archer and crew inadvertently offend their hosts and returns to the ship carrying a pathogen. The captain, T'Pol and Hoshi recover after a session slathering each other with gel in the decontamination chamber, but Porthos becomes very ill and must spend the night in sickbay as Phlox fights to save the dog.

Archer is furious that they did not get the injector, and even angrier that he is expected to apologize to the Kreetassen just because his dog urinated on their sacred trees. They don't even express concern that the dog may now die. When T'Pol suggests that Archer say he's sorry just so they can get the injector, he snaps at her too. While he waits to see if Porthos will recover, Archer tries to sleep in sickbay, though Phlox keeps waking him with his grooming and care for various flora and fauna. When the captain complains that T'Pol accused him of caring more about his dog than his ship, Phlox wonders whether the Vulcan's opinion irks Archer so much because of unresolved sexual tension between them.

Sato convinces the Kreetassen to explain what sort of an apology would suffice so that Enterprise can pick up the plasma injector. She also helps Archer and Phlox capture a bat which has gotten loose in sickbay. Archer finds the Kreetassen demands outrageous and refuses to consider them until Porthos has recovered, but the dog nearly dies of anaphylactic shock and ends up needing surgery. While Archer rests, he dozes and dreams about Phlox giving a eulogy at Porthos' funeral, then lecturing him on sexual tension over the comm as Archer and T'Pol fondle each other in the decontamination chamber.

Porthos recovers from having a chameleon pituitary gland transplant. Archer performs a ritual involving sawing up a tree and making a design with the wooden circles while wearing body paint and braids. Then Archer thanks Phlox for his help and apologizes to T'Pol, noting that there is frequently tension between people who work closely together when they are of the opposite sex. T'Pol observes that it's a good thing he's her superior officer and they're not in a position to allow themselves to be attracted to each other...hypothetically.


Analysis: The following will be an irreverent review. Which does not mean I didn't like "A Night in Sickbay"; on the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it. So did my nine-year-old, who is thrilled that Enterprise now makes pee jokes every other episode. Between his bathroom humor and my slashing every character in sight...no, wait, the producers did that. We just couldn't help but notice.

This week, Kevin Sorbo created a lot of controversy among Andromeda fans by announcing that he wants the show to be more like a Mel Brooks movie. Several prominent reviewers (and an awful lot of fans) publicly declared that they were giving up on Andromeda this season, as a result of comments and attitudes like these. I note this here because in spite of it all, I love Andromeda, and I know a lot of people cannot fathom how this can be so when I am so critical of Enterprise. Well, guess what? Enterprise IS Andromeda! As of this week, it officially has similar bad alien makeup, similar silly excuses for a story arc, a similarly self-indulgent captain and much more gratuitous sex. What's not to love?

We start with a decontamination chamber three-way. Hoshi is slathering up T'Pol's back and T'Pol has her hands all over the captain, but he can't get his mind or his hands off his dog. Sublimating much, Jonathan? He's furious that he wasn't warned, when he brought his dog down to Kreetassen for some fresh air, that the dog could pick up alien microbes. Perhaps the Kreetassen don't have any pets who eat plants, or perhaps, as on Phlox's planet, they eat their equivalent of dogs. But the captain can't be bothered to think of such things; he just knows his dog needs a walk.

So Porthos piddles on the treasured trees, and all I can think is, "Thank god Archer didn't bring Reed on the mission!" I know, that's not fair -- the guy had a spike through his leg during the wet-suit incident -- but I'm probably never going to be able to look at Malcolm again without thinking, "Pee-pee pants!" Which is terribly cruel, but my most common alternative thought about him is, "I wonder who is more Reed's type -- Archer or Tucker?" and I know how it infuriates people when I imply that about him. Reed was barely in this episode except as a body in the dream sequence -- like Mayweather, who goes from being a corpse to being a stiff -- so I should leave the poor man alone.

In fact, I should stick to the two characters who weren't assassinated: Sato and Phlox. The communications officer blamed herself the last time Enterprise had a disastrous diplomatic encounter with the Kreetassen, so it's nice to see her singlehandedly negotiate for the captain while he's sniveling over his dog and panting over his first officer. She keeps a cool head during crises, whether she's covering for Archer, helping Phlox catch his runaway bat or running goo-covered fingers all over T'Pol's beautiful back. (This episode is going to create a fan fiction bonanza.)

As for Phlox, we learn that he has warty green toenails he clips and feeds to his plants; he eats the kidneys of his planet's equivalent of dogs; he has two daughters who became vets -- oops, doctors -- like himself, and two sons who no longer speak to him; he misses his very large extended family, including all three wives and all of their other husbands; and despite all that, he's a heterosexist, for when he gets going on how Archer needs to get laid, his first question is to wonder when was the last time the captain got it on with a woman.

Yeah, stop yelling: I know Archer's supposed to be straight. But Phlox doesn't. Phlox is his doctor, who is now playing psychiatrist. And based on the scanty evidence at hand, I think one could make just as good a case for Archer's tension and frustration stemming from the fact that he can't have Tucker as from the fact that he can't have T'Pol. No, he doesn't bite Tucker's head off for telling him to take the high road the same way he bites T'Pol later for complaining that he's overly committed to his dog, but maybe that's just transference or something. Maybe all his tension comes from being out with Reed, and having Reed's head in his lap just a few short weeks ago. That's not a particularly more outrageous guess than the suggestion that Cupid's stress must be caused by Our Lady of the Icy Exterior.

It's not out of character for Phlox to be voyeuristic and obsessed with the crew's sex lives -- in "Fight or Flight" he was already speculating on who was going to shag whom on the crew before they were a month gone from Earth. Was he watching Archer and T'Pol in the decontamination chamber? I guess we're supposed to find him a kindly old doctor figure with lots of experience both personal and scientific, but he frequently gives me the creeps, and you couldn't pay me to get naked around him even with a phaser burn. I'm all for equal opportunity and unisex bathrooms on the bridge, but can't they have a Boys Decon and Girls Decon? Or would it be too dangerous if it were Archer, Tucker and Reed slathering each other's mostly-naked bodies with lube...I mean goo...I mean...there's no good way out of this, is there?

Visually, this is a superb episode. We get Archer sweaty and T'Pol sweaty. We get Archer's naked chest, T'Pol's naked back, Sato in a tank top, close-ups of both Archer's and T'Pol's tightly-clad backsides. We get a beagle model that unfortunately doesn't breathe or shift position for most of the episode, making my son worry that the dog might be dead, and then we get what looks like a drowned dog in formaldehyde. Some of the camera angles are truly inspired -- the orange crush spilling in sickbay, the pan to Phlox in preacher clothes at the funeral -- in general the dream sequence, though utterly gratuitous, was superbly done, though I have never seen myself making out from an out of body perspective in a dream. It would have been more interesting to see the beginning of the decon scene again, this time from Archer's perspective, the way we saw T'Pol's naked back from his perspective just before the kissy-face started.

After humiliating himself in the necessary apology ritual, Archer thanks Phlox for making him more culturally sensitive, then braces himself and and apologizes to T'Pol. When he hesitantly brings up the fact that his tension may be exacerbated by the fact that she's a woman, she runs off at the mouth for an incredibly long time about what a good thing it is that they're not in any position to get down and boogie because if they were in a position to get down and boogie, just think how tense they would be trying not to think about getting down and boogie-ing. She's slightly more dignified about it than this paraphrase, but on a Vulcan scale, it's somewhere on par with Spock in "Amok Time" yelling, "JIM!!!"

But this isn't original Trek. I know that because Kirk would not have put on braids and done performance art for any mission; he'd have had Scotty build a plasma injector out of a damp spacesuit and convinced the aliens to give up their silly restrictive customs. On the other hand, if Kirk had had a first officer who flirted with him as shamelessly as T'Pol flirts with Archer, he wouldn't have gotten into trouble on so many away missions because he never would have left the briefing room. Then again, Janeway had a first officer who flirted with her as shamelessly as T'Pol flirts with Archer, yet she remained celibate for practically a decade after declaring pretty much the opposite of what Archer told Reed in "Minefield" about how fraternization is sometimes necessary when you're a long way from home.

I must say, Archer's attitude is much more appealing and considerably more logical than Janeway's. But I doubt he'll go for it with T'Pol. For starters, I thought after "Breaking the Ice" that Tucker was her man. If she and Archer got together, I'm sure Tucker would be devastated. Not to mention Reed...and I don't mean because he once said he likes her bum. Ah, Enterprise, epicenter of so much sexual tension. Phlox must be in heaven.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She is also a staff writer at Green Man Review. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.