Warning: Possible Spoilers for This Week's Enterprise Episode, "A Night in Sickbay," to the Extent That Anything Actually Happens in It.
Last week, I offered my opinion that the relationship between Archer and T'Pol had the potential to develop into something interesting, if the writers didn't feel the need to force it to happen. Well, I was thinking about their relationship as Captain and First Officer, but, really that goes double for any kind of a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, I fear my words were prophetic... Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for developing relationships between characters, or for unresolved sexual tension, if it's handled right. (Farscape, for instance, has had tremendous dramatic success with everything from sexual tension so subtle it was impossible to say how you even knew it was there to characters going at it like bunnies practically on-screen.) But, to be done right, it has to be something that comes naturally out of the characters. You can't just impose it from the outside by scriptwriter's fiat. It depends on the chemistry between the actors, and on the subtleties of how their characters interact. That last, of course, is a question of writing, at least in large part, but there is an art to it. Freudian slips and revealingly sexual dreams simply do not substitute for geniuine chemistry or real characterization. As I see it, Archer and T'Pol may well have the potential to develop that kind of chemistry, but it isn't there yet, and simply saying that it is doesn't make it so. Oh, I do understand what they're trying to do here, I think. Enterprise wants to be sexy; it wants to be not your father's Star Trek. But it's pushing too hard. I wish it would ease up and have a little more faith in its characters, and in its audience.
On a completely different note, I'm somewhat amused (and a tiny bit annoyed) to notice that this episode borrows a trick from what seems like every action movie made in the last ten years: if things are getting too boring, put a dog in danger! This actually kind of worked on me at first, too. I was leaning towards the screen muttering, "Poor Porthos. Oh, he has to get better. He's too cute to die!" (What can I say? I like Porthos.) But it all too quickly became apparent that his illness was simply a plot device, and not even a very interesting one at that. Besides, he didn't get to do much but lie around unconscious for most of the episode, and he's not nearly as cute when he's doing that.
There was, however, lots of Phlox, so it's almost as if they'd heard my plea last time for "More Phlox!" Unfortunately, although he does get a lot of screen time in this episode, I don't know that most of it serves him terribly well. The affable energy that is his defining (and most appealing) characteristic seems oddly muted.
All of which isn't to say that there weren't a few things I liked about it. Phlox does get a couple of good scenes. Some of the humor was pretty amusing. And I do very much like the idea of the Enterprise crew having to deal with major culture clash as they encounter new life and new civilizations; it's something that previous Treks really should have run into more often. I would, however, never be shallow enough to mention the fact that it also includes many scenes featuring Scott Bakula without a shirt. Shame on you for even thinking it!