Star Trek: Enterprise – 1×10 – “Fortunate Son”

Star Trek: Enterprise
“Fortunate Son”
Originally Broadcast November 21st, 2001
Reviewed by T’Bonz

The Story

Captain Archer is awoken in the early morning hours to accept a communication from Admiral Forrest. It seems a distress call from an Earth freighter was received and the Enterprise is only a day and half away from the origin point of the signal. The admiral orders Archer to turn around and render what aid they can once they make the rendezvous.

The Enterprise soon encounters the Earth Cargo Ship Fortunate, an old Y class freighter with a top speed of warp 1.8. The ship is currently under the command of the first officer, a man named Matthew Ryan, who explains that the Captain was injured during a Nausicaan pirate raid. He seems reluctant to accept assistance from the Starfleet crew and tells them they need not bother. Archer persuades him to let them help and they set about making repairs, with Phlox administering medical aid to the injured.

Mayweather bonds with Ryan, as he once lived the life of a space boomer and they have many things in common, yet Ryan questions why Travis left his family to join Starfleet, implying that he had abandoned his family by doing so.

During the repair operations, T’Pol uncovers the reason for the Fortunate crew’s unease – a captured Nausicaan being held in one of the cargo holds. It seems Ryan is determined to get some tactical information from the alien and is willing to beat him to get it. Archer demands to see the captive and when he, T’Pol, Phlox and Reed journey to the Fortunate to see him, Ryan and members of his crew attempt to kill them. A brief shoot out occurs, but Ryan ends up sealing them in the cargo pod and ejecting it from the ship. The Fortunate exchanges a few shots with the Enterprise and then warps away.

After retrieving the Captain and the others, the Enterprise tracks the Fortunate to find them in a fire fight with several Nausicaan ships. It seems once Ryan obtained the information he wanted, he used it to launch an attack on the Nausicaans, uncovering their pirate base in the process and getting himself and his crew in over their heads. The Nausicaans soon board the freighter to rescue their comrade.

Enterprise arrives and Archer is able to stall the Nausicaans with some tough talk, allowing Travis enough time to speak to Ryan and convince him that his quest for revenge will only end up hurting other freighter crews in the future. Ryan releases his captive and the Nausicaans leave. The injured Captain of the Fortunate, Keene, soon recovers and reduces Ryan is rank, telling Archer that they take care of their own and that taking him to Earth is unnecessary.

Review

In this story we get to see that Humanity isn’t the great big, happy family that they appear to be in later centuries. Instead, we see that the small group of people who crew the slow freighters that cross the gulfs between stars – or Boomers as they are called, seem to have established their own unique ways and at times frown upon outsiders, even Starfleet. While it’s refreshing to see some conflict between Humans, who have been portrayed as being too perfect in the past, this story came off as a bit dull and unexciting. I wasn’t sure which conflict the script was trying to highlight more – the one between the pirates and the boomers, or the one between the latter group and the Starfleet crew. Neither seemed to take a dominant role, nor were either that engaging.

At the heart of this story is Mayweather, who’s former life as a Boomer comes to the forefront when dealing with the Fortunate’s crew. Developing his character is long overdue and while no great secrets are revealed about him, we get to see him stumble through this story. His bonding moments with Ryan are almost requisite in such a story, setting things up for the eventual conclusion. Still, it was nice to see him “showing off” the Enterprise’s features, from the transporter to the culinary choices. His enthusiasm really sparkles here and you can see his delight at being aboard the ship. Delight which is temporarily short lived once Ryan grills him on his choice to leave his Boomer family behind and join Starfleet. The Boomer sub culture prides itself on it’s self reliance, and Mayweather’s departure is seen by Ryan as an abandonment of his family.

The “wasted opportunity moment” comes when Travis goes to the Captain to express his opinions on the whole scenario. He tries to offer up a Boomer perspective, trying to help Archer understand the motives and reasoning behind Ryan’s desire to strike back against the Nausicaans. Instead of being a great opportunity at highlighting the vastly different upbringing Travis has had in comparison to his crewmates, and setting up possibilities for further conflicts over his heritage and desire to remain in Starfleet by having him adhere to his beliefs, we get a short speech by Archer after which Travis nods his head, smiles and accepts everything the Captain says. It just seems to convenient for story telling purposes to have Mayweather give in so easily.

Naturally at the end, it’s the same ideas imposed upon him by Archer that prods Travis into addressing Ryan and convincing him to release his Nausicaan captive. This outcome was rather anti-climatic as it was a quite predictable sequence of events from the very beginning. I couldn’t help but wonder why Archer allowed Travis to walk around the bridge talking, while the ship shook around him from the Nausicaan attack, instead of ordering him back to his station during such a serious moment.

Archer himself gets a few good spots, most notably his opportunity to talk tough to the Nausicaans. For once he’s not outgunned by the opposing side and takes pride in letting that fact shine through. Even Reed manages a sparkle in his eye when he announces that the Enterprise is more than a match for the Nausicaan ships. Archer may take some heat for not doing more to eliminate the threat posed by the Pirates, but it seems to be that what he did was within not only his own thinking but within the purview of his command. He and the others are on a mission of exploration, not to police the galaxy. Besides, destroying the pirate base may have only made matters worse by inciting a war.

The remainder of the regular cast takes a backseat here and sees little development, aside from some personality reinforcement – Phlox’s skill and devotion to healing, Reed’s obsession with weapons, highlighted best by his inquiring as to what type of weapons the Fortunate may carry as well as his instinctive reactions when the shoot out in the cargo hold breaks out. Tucker’s pride in his warp 5 engine is displayed briefly in addition to his short turn at command. Phlox has been sorely underused to date in this series and is in desperate need of a story focusing on him, while Hoshi has had little opportunity to show herself to be growing out of the whiny thing we saw in “Fight or Flight.”

This series’ strength has always been it’s characters. Sadly, the long overdue chance to broaden Travis only makes him look even more bland than before, as he’s given the opportunity here to struggle with his Boomer heritage and sympathies against his loyalties to Starfleet. Sadly, he seems to do very little wrestling and moves through the story being pushed along by others rather than helping to advance it himself.

The Good:

Travis notes that there are three more NX class ships on the drawing boards, which is backed up by Archer’s words to the Nausicaans when he tells then to expect to see similar ships in the future. It’s nice to know that the fleet is growing.

Travis’s words to Ryan about the re-sequenced meatloaf, stressing again that despite outward appearances, they are not replicators.

The moment between T’Pol and the children. It served no purpose in advancing the story, but it was a nice scene to see.

The FX. Once again we see that this series has the best visuals that money diverted from developing original scripts can buy.

Admiral Forrest. A nice touch of continuity as well as the poor resolution to the image, reminding us that the technology in this era is still developing.

Porthos is back!

The Bad:

Once again, a misleading promo in which we are led to believe that Archer’s line about having his orders questioned were directed at Travis in a moment of internal conflict. Instead, it’s delivered almost as a joke after a brief conversation which sees Mayweather’s whole outlook change once Archer convinces him with a few short words.

The Nausicaans. Add them to the races that look different in the twenty-second century than what they do in the twenty-forth. Not only that, but here they are positively diplomatic and calm compared to the “thugs” they are portrayed as being two hundred years later.

Questions for the future:

What was the Northstar incident and who was involved?

Forrest mentions other Starfleet ships. How many are there?

Overall:

A noble attempt at exploring some of the social divisions of the time as well as the relationship Humans are cultivating with aliens. However, the story lacked any real zest and merely connected the dots from beginning to end. While not a bad episode by far, it still manages to entertain, just not in a truly captivating sense. I hope to see further examinations of the Boomers in the future. Hopefully, once the series moves into using story arcs, the opportunity afforded to the writers to truly explore the characters, as well as the time setting, within a more complex story line will be taken advantage of, as to date Enterprise has some great characters making their way through some uninspired plots.

Grade: 7/10

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