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May 23 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

Vox Sola

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 2, 2002 - 8:15 AM GMT

See Also: 'Vox Sola' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: As a group of Kreetassen leave Enterprise following a disastrous first contact, a creature enters the ship. Sato detects frequency distortions, but she's distracted by her perception that T'Pol blames her for not being able to communicate with the Kreetassen. Other than Porthos, no one else suspects the intruder until engineer Michael Rostov goes to Cargo Bay Two to restore power; the tentacled creature grabs him, then his colleague Kelly when she comes to look for him. When Kelly is cut off in the midst of a frantic call to Archer, the captain takes a team to the cargo bay to investigate. The creature captures Archer and Tucker, but Reed manages to escape, slicing off a segment of tentacle in the process.

Phlox concludes that the segment is both alive and sentient. He suspects that energy beams might stun it, but when Reed and a team try lighting the cargo bay with broad-spectrum radiation, the trapped crewmembers suffer. Phlox realizes that the creature has linked to their nervous systems, and given the rate of symbiosis, they must be separated quickly. T'Pol asks Sato to work on communicating with the creature and offers to help with the numerical patterns of the creature's emissions. Though Sato initially takes T'Pol's demands as implicit criticism of her performance, the Vulcan claims she only demands so much from Sato because she believes Sato is capable of meeting high standards.

Archer and Tucker discover that they can read each other's thoughts via the creature, but they grow weaker in its clutches. As Reed attempts to devise an energy force field to keep the creature trapped in the cargo bay, Sato and T'Pol discover patterns that they believe may represent the creature's language. Meanwhile Mayweather contacts the Kreetassen, apologizes for the misunderstanding that led to their hasty departure, and learns the location of the creature's homeworld, which the Kreetassen had visited not long ago.

With Reed's force field in place, T'Pol and Sato enter the cargo bay to attempt to communicate. Though the creature initially tries to attack them, they are able to make contact and discover that it wants only to return home. It releases the unconscious crewmembers, allowing Phlox to revive them. Once they reach its world, a team returns it to the coordinates it specifies. Sato admires the vast network of alien forms, but T'Pol says they are actually all one being. Phlox guesses that perhaps it seized the crewmembers because it needed physical connection with any lifeform it could find.

Analysis: Any flaws in 'Vox Sola' are redeemed for me by the unnamed alien -- one of the most interesting we've seen on Trek in years, even if we learn next to nothing about how its biological processes work nor why a piece of it hitched a ride on an alien vessel. It's not anthropomorphic, it's not interested in humanoids, it attacks apparently without provocation, yet it has no hostile intentions nor any real interest in anything on Enterprise. It's like a gloppy, stringy version of E.T., communicating via telepathy and wanting only to go home. And it sounds like the thing that wanted to talk to the whales in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Despite the giant tentacles, the creature seems like a less threatening version of the Dominion -- a giant unified mind, capable of separating into segments, misunderstood by individuals that can't understand its true nature.

In addition, Sato finally gets something to do. She blames herself for the Kreetassen departure far more than the others seem to blame her, though T'Pol's comment that Sato should learn from her failures could have been more nicely worded -- if the Vulcan is sensitive enough to the nuances of human emotion to warn Tucker that Archer might not be in the mood for company, surely she can tell how her criticisms affect sensitive officers. It's not clear to me how much military experience Sato is supposed to have had prior to her posting on Enterprise; we know she never planned on a career in space, and one wonders what the military is like on a united Earth that hasn't seen a war in many years. If she seems less prepared than the others, it's because she's supposed to be; hopefully she'll grow out of her need for coddling.

Ironically, the error for which she blames herself at the beginning isn't a linguistic problem at all. Sato correctly translates the Kreetassen complaint that humans eat like they mate, but culturally, neither she nor any of the others can make sense of this statement until Mayweather learns that the Kreetassen eat in total privacy. This sounds pretty funny, but it also makes sense that other aliens would be prudish about different bodily functions than humans (not all humans are terribly discreet about mating, anyway). It's too bad the Kreetassen take care of the communication problem on their own by translating Enterprise's database; it would have been nice had Sato reached some sort of breakthrough with them, though she comes through with the more critical translation.

Visually this episode has some ups and downs. It's very dark, even for an episode set largely in a dim cargo bay. The ship seems bleaker than usual, perhaps because we don't get a break from it; bottle episodes on this series are going to require work to lighten things up since there's such uniformity of grayness everywhere. The initial shots of the creature attacking are wonderful; we don't actually see what the tentacles are doing to the bodies, which makes them spookier than any special effect. An aggressive limb twisting up a ladder and a severed limb flailing in a sickbay container don't look nearly as impressive. When we see papier-mach goo dripping down Archer's nose, things get a bit, um, stickier. And the tentacles smacking into the forcefield are just plain funny.

Some nice moments: Archer explaining water polo to Tucker, who immediately concludes that Texas will beat Stanford even though he doesn't know a thing about the game. Crewmembers all over the ship anticipating movie night, from regulars Mayweather and Reed to redshirts Kelly and Rostov (who, like most redshirts on this series, escape with their lives -- a pleasant change even from Voyager, though I'm not sure how realistic it is given this crew's relative lack of experience). Porthos and Sato being the only Enterprise inhabitants attuned to strange sounds behind the bulkheads. Reed inventing an energy force field...and actually having to fine-tune it before it works properly. Archer asking Tucker whether the engineer can read his mind, and Tucker retorting that it's not the time to be thinking nostalgically about some competition from years ago.

Yet that nostalgia leads to yet another example of this series' biggest flaw -- its refusal to give the audience any credit for being able to glean a message from an episode without characters having to hit them over the head with it. Archer claims he's thinking about Regionals to remind them that as soon as you give up, the game is lost. Anyone over the age of five will already have recognized this theme in the Sato storyline as well as the struggle with the creature, and anyone under the age of five should probably not be watching, lest creatures with tentacles should induce nightmares. The producers may be shooting for a young teen demographic, but they must think those young teens are idiots.

At least this week there's some attempt to give balance to the conflict of interest that might have become a Prime Directive argument on another Trek show -- Reed wants to test a piece of the creature to see how much stress it can tolerate, Phlox says not on my watch, gunner cites crew safety, Doc retorts that their mission is to understand new forms of life and in his sickbay at least that's how they're going to do things. They manage to compromise. Again, it's a bit didactic, but the dialogue is more believable for these two characters in this situation, and moreover no heavy-handed conclusion is reached. In general, Archer gets stuck with the worst dialogue -- T'Pol and Sato's spat also comes across as more in character and less clunky than any of Archer's big moments the past several weeks.

I'm left with a bunch of questions, like wondering why they have to take the creature home in a box when it traveled in the vacuum of space to board Enterprise, not to mention what and how it eats and why the Kreetassen were visiting its planet. But overall I'm glad to have met it. Now that she's got her confidence back, I'm hoping Sato will get a larger role, too.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written for magazines and sites such as SFX, Cinescape and Another Universe. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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