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"Stigma" Tackles AIDS Without a Spark of Originality or an Ounce of Conviction, Says Deus


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Posted: 00:06:38 on February 06 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: ENTERPRISE Reviews
Written by O. Deus, edited by Steve Krutzler


Summary: T'Pol gets a disease from a mind-meld. Archer gets self-righteous. Trip copes with sexual harassment in the workplace. And we learn that the Vulcans are a really evil bunch of people in comparison to the enlightened and noble humans.

Anyone who has ever had to sit through a well-meaning but disastrous Star Trek episode like "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield," "Angel One" or "Critical Care" knows that the quality of an episode does not necessarily correlate with the seriousness of the political issue it tries to address. In this case Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have produced a sequel to the embarrassing "Fusion" that goes where 21 Jump Street and Touched by an Angel have gone before.

Social relevance has always been part of Star Trek's legacy, but it's hard for Star Trek fans to deny that the emphasis tends to be on the 'been' as explicit social commentary is something that is mostly in Star Trek's past. "Stigma" will do little to change that perception as it is neither ground-breaking or relevant, but a case of Enterprise tackling an issue that was tackled by TV shows that wanted to be 'edgy' in the 80's and 90's. Such an episode might have been timely had TNG shot Gerrold's AIDS script; today Enterprise is just the last guest at a wedding and has nothing to add that an afterschool special on the same subject wouldn't have said. Indeed the only way for "Stigma" to be as important and ground-breaking as Berman, Braga and the UPN promo department seem to think it is would require building a time machine and going back two decades.

Where the Original Series tackled controversial issues in new ways, Enterprise spools out a by-the-numbers episode without a trace of subtlety that includes every possible cliche and is dated to anyone who's watched a few episodes of ER, let alone anything more substantial. And in a time when the real challenge of AIDS is now focused on a global effort to fight AIDS in impoverished nations, "Stigma" is still stuck in a time warp addressing issues that even Touched by an Angel tackled years before. And when an issue has already become fodder for Touched by an Angel, it's pretty obvious that "Stigma" is a day late and a dollar short insofar as TV shows tackling AIDS and intolerance towards homosexuality are concerned. It is more reminiscent of celebrities holding fundraisers for key issues that have more to do with promoting their image than with solving the issue. "Stigma" smacks of that same self-congratulatory air that suggests that it's more about having the producers and the audience feel good about how enlightened they are, than about saying something vital and meaningful about a disease that's killing millions of people around the world.

None of this, though, is really the problem. "Stigma" may be a dull and not particularly entertaining or interesting viewing but it is in its continuing assault on continuity as it goes further into turning the Vulcans into despicable and evil characters than any Enterprise episode up until now has done, that it commits its real offense. When Berman and Braga decided to set the next Star Trek spinoff in the past for a Birth of the Federation scenario they decided that they would need antagonists for their hero and flying in the face of everything that made Star Trek work, the Vulcans were slotted to fill that role. But if anyone had expected that the Vulcans would present obstacles through a clash of ideas, Berman and Braga have repeatedly made the Vulcans villainous and despicable people who act out of character and behave in ways that decades of Star Trek tell us is entirely contrary. Aside from T'Pol, Archer's Vulcan antagonists don't merely disagree with him. They sink to new lows to oppose him in ways that make Archer seem noble and the Vulcans like Ambassador Soval in "Shockwave 2," the Vulcan elders in the Andorian Incident and now the Vulcan Doctors in "Stigma" seem to be petty, manipulative and despicable people. Anyone who doubts how extreme this state of affairs has become only needs to consider that on Enterprise the Klingons have come off a lot better than the Vulcans. That alone says it all. On Enterprise the Vulcans are actually worse people than the Klingons.

Enterprise was supposed to showcase a raw and more undeveloped humanity in transition to becoming the centerpiece of the Federation. Instead the humans have become noble heroes and the Vulcans have become spiteful villains who lie, blackmail and threaten; who are bigots, imperialists and the villains of nearly every episode that focuses on them. When Archer proclaims to the Vulcans that their criticisms of humanity are not only wrong but that humans are better people than Vulcans, you can almost hear Gene Roddenberry spinning in his grave. When he insists that humans have gotten rid of bigotry, you tend to wonder how they did it. With some sort of bigotry vacuum cleaner that just sucked up all the bigotry from the planet, or maybe some piece of technobabble molecular 'de-bigotrizing' ray?

Enterprise offers no clues in that regard or even any supporting evidence. Indeed, by now we know a lot more about Enterprise-era Vulcan culture than we know about its human culture, which demonstrates yet again that Enterprise has forgotten its mandate in favor of sweeping questions about human development under the rug. Because it's so much easier to just put a villainous Vulcan on the screen for the audience to hiss and boo at than to question the morality of our heroes. And this makes Archer's claim that humans had long abandoned bigotry all the more ironic, considering his constant outbursts of bigotry directed at Vulcans and aliens in general. But then "Stigma" is dedicated to the premise that the best way to come out against gay bashing is by bashing Vulcans.

"Stigma" is a case study of an episode that demonstrates why stories about social issues should be written by the people who actually care about them and why Star Trek should be written by people who don't think IDIC is the abbreviation for the name of their local phone company. It takes a plot derivative of DS9's "Equilibrium," which also featured a female alien crew member in danger of dying because of a dirty secret kept by her species' doctors, grafts it onto their perception of a socially-relevant issue gained from reruns of better TV shows and turns it into a follow-up to the awful "Fusion;" another Berman and Braga product. Instead of having the characters say what they feel, they rely on having the characters deliver flat and artificial issue-oriented dialogue that is as stylized and hollow as any ad jingle. By the end, what's left is another episode in which Archer gets to sanctimoniously lord it over the Vulcans who are revealed as being more despicable than ever. Oh and there's a not particularly amusing B-Plot involving Trip being stalked by one of Doctor Phlox's wives who like any TV male from the 50's hasn't the faintest idea what to do about a sexually aggressive woman.

Next week: When Vulcans and Andorians get in a snit who can possibly come to the rescue? Noble Human, Captain Archer perhaps?

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About the Author
O. Deus has been a TrekWeb visitor since the site's 1996 inception. Along with being an ardent poster, he is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Deus has written reviews and columns for TrekWeb for over two years.

Past Reviews
  • "Cease Fire"
  • "Stigma"
  • "Dawn"
  • "The Catwalk"
  • "Precious Cargo"
  • "Vanishing Point"
  • "Singularity"
  • "The Communicator"
  • "The Seventh"
  • "Marauders"
  • "A Night In Sickbay"
  • "Dead Stop"
  • "Minefield"
  • "Carbon Creek"
  • "Shockwave, Part II"
  • Season One Re-cap (Deus)
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    -Steve Krutzler
    ==V/-/== Rocks

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Just two things...
    By Cylykon ( ) at 12:03:02 on February 10 2003
    URL: | User Info
    First, the Denobulans are portrayed as obviously very sexually promiscuous and yet don't seem to have sexually transmitted diseases. In an "AIDS" episode, that alone confused the "message" that B&B were attempting to try to convey.

    Second, Sarek is obviously a "melder" and it's entirely possible that he plays a big role in reforming Vulcan culture after the birth of the Federation. It would be entirely within character, I believe.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    O. Deus Prejudice
    By Sennik ( ) at 03:26:07 on February 10 2003
    URL: | User Info
    I have a little system I use when I log on to Trekweb. When I see a new episode review for an episode of Enterprise, I think to myself, "Is Archer a main component of the episode or not?" If he is, O. Deus will not like the episode and it'll be crucified by him. If it's an episode that focuses on another character he'll either like it, or will have a very valid reason to not like it. What I'm saying is, O. Deus will not like an episode, right across the board pretty much, where Archer is featured prominently. Since Archer played a main role in "Stigma" it's no surprise to me he didn't like it. Sure, he quotes relevance and how Enterprise is about 5 years behind other TV shows in it's tackling of the story. And he may have valid points there. But I submit to the Trekweb visitors, of whom I count myself as, take O. Deus's reviews with a grain of salt where Archer is concerned because he quite simply does not like the character or the way he's portrayed by the actor.

    To be blunt, I don't like O. Deus's reviews, because he is quite obviously biased against certain portions of Enterprise (namely the Archer character) and it affects his reviews. "Stigma" was not a ground-breaking TV episode by any means, but it's message was people should not be prejudiced against other types of lifestyles just because they are different. That's not a message that should become outdated. Whether ER did an episode on this topic years ago is irrelevant. I don't watch ER. It's not, "Oh, such and such series already covered this." It should be, the moral of the story is don't be prejudiced. Did Enterprise portray and show that in a good and entertaining way? I'm not reviewing episodes of Enterprise for Trekweb, so I'm not going to answer that question, but that's the question O. Deus needs to look at. If he's the official Enterprise reviewer, then that's what he should do. If O. Deus can't look at an episode beyond "How can I bash Star Trek and Archer in general" then it's time to say bye bye.

    O. Deus says that having Archer (his favorite whipping boy) say that humans have gone past that type of prejudice just makes the Vulcans into villians on the episode. Yes, I agree, Enterprise has made the Vulcans a little too narrow minded and too much like a recurring villian, rather than the reluctant ally they should be. But, Archer's statement that humans have gone past that type of prejudice is not a statement that we are better than Vulcans. O. Deus... Vulcans are fictional characters. Hello? The point of the statement is a sense of hope... that one day, hopefully soon, that humans will be a race of people who don't discriminate against color, gender, race, or mind melds. Do you grasp the allegory? It would really lower yourself in everyone's minds if a Berman and Braga script went over your head. I'm sorry, but they have pedestrian writing at best, so for you to miss that point... well, sorry. Could be time to hang up your "Star Trek Reviewer" hat and move on my friend.

    Here's hoping Trekweb gets a more objective Enterprise episode reviewer because, quite frankly, O. Deus is just one of those people who think, "if it's not my way it's wrong" and I don't agree with that.

    I should also submit, that while "Stigma" was a good episode, it wasn't anything spectacular. A far cry from "A Night In Sickbay" but not as good as most of Season One. This assault on O. Deus's reviews isn't due to the one episode, but just a pattern I've seen develop over the season and a half of Enterprise.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Maybe its just...
    By Noxmagic ( ) at 23:47:30 on February 07 2003
    URL: | User Info
    ...me, but I actually liked Stigma. Wow Deus, after reading your review, I've got to say, in my most humble opinion, I think you're way off target. You begin your review by writing that a t.v. show tackling homophobia, whether head on or in an allegorical way such as Stigma, is outdated. I'm surprised you'd hold such a view. Not to politicalize issues here, but homophobia is sadly still a problem in American society and around the world. Its still a timely issue that can and should be dealt with through the mass media, i.e. Enterprise. While I do feel Trek often "whimps out" when dealing with controversal issues, it at least tackles them from time to time, unlike most of the brainless tripe on t.v.
    You continue your review by writing that B/B assult Trek dogma yet again. I can understand why you and many other Trekkers feel this way, but in Stigma, I disagree. Much like what Worf did for Klingons on TNG and DS9, T'Pol is fleshing out Vulcans. Before Worf, I'm sure most Trekkers believed they knew everything there was to know about Klingons. Many probably felt that there wasn't really anything new to learn about them. But think of how much we've learned about Klingons through Worf, even though before his character Klingons had been around for decades, through TOS, novels, a cartoon series, comic books, and movies. I like that T'Pol is being used to teach us more about Vulcans. For example, where was it ever established that all Vulcans can initiate mind melds? Keep in mind that Stigma's establishing that a minority of Vulcans can initiate mind melds never told us what percentage of Vulcans can do so. A minority of Vulcans could mean 20% of all Vulcans. Assuming there are billions of Vulcans, that would mean millions of them can initiate mind melds. As for the behavior of the Vulcans to date on Ent., keep in mind that this show is taking place roughly 100 years before Kirk's Enterprise. Ent. is showing how Vulcans were a century before Kirk's time. Its nice to see that by Kirk's time, Vulcans would have developed somewhat. But even if one does not buy that the long lived Vulcans would change drastically for the better by Kirk's time, remember that by then earth and humans are much more powerful, technologically and politically. The Vulcans could still by and large be the same way in Kirk's time as they are on Ent., but because they can't just push humanity around, their arogance and pettiness was not as readily displayed. In my opinion, Ent. is showing that Vuclans, as has long been established in Trek, do have feelings, they just surpress them. I like how the Vulcans are shown to be hypocrites by not truly following, as you point out, the foundation of Vulcan logic, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. By Kirk's time, they will have developed to where the minority are accepted, mind melds are accepted, and they acknowledge that they do have feelings instead of seemingly trying to deny this fact as they do on Ent.
    I have to agree with one point you make, which regards how little of humanity we have seen. This has been disappointing, but Ent. has time to fix this error.
    As for the B story line involving Trip and Phlox's wife, well, it had me laughing throughout the entire episode. I guess one either liked it or not, but I certainly wasn't left thinking that B/B were being sexist in any way the way you imply in your review. It was keeping in character for Tripp to feel awkward concerning Phlox's wife's come-ons. It seemed realistic to me that Tripp would initially try to just ignore the situation and hope it would go away, for fear of hurting Phlox. The one problem I did have with this story line was that last season, when a female crew member showed romantic interest in Phlox, he seemed befuddled by her affection. Why would he react with confusion in that situation, yet be totally liberated and open minded concerning his wife and Tripp?
    In any event, for those viewers who did not enjoy Stigma, keep in mind that DS9 and TNG did not really hit their stride until their third seasons, so maybe that magic time is right around the corner.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    By Jadziamidala ( ) at 23:14:43 on February 07 2003
    URL: | User Info
    This topic really should have been done 15-20 years ago, and the idea that Archer & Co. will be the catalyst that ultimately leads the Vulcans to become the noble characters we know in the 23rd century is a ludicrous conceit.

    >>>Oh and there's a not particularly amusing B-Plot involving Trip being stalked by one of Doctor Phlox's wives who like any TV male from the 50's hasn't the faintest idea what to do about a sexually aggressive woman.<<<

    Speaking of 20 years ago, even 'WKRP in Cincinatti' handled this topic in a more adroit manner, featuring station program director Andy Travis fending off (and then being forced to accept) the squirm-inducing sexual advances of his boss' mother, who also happened to be the station owner. It's always great to see Billingsley in action, but there isn't much else in this pointless exercise, except an opportunity for the fanboys to see a female Denobulan.


    ...From the ashes.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    My take on "Stigma"
    By Michaelj ( ) at 15:46:03 on February 07 2003
    URL: | User Info
    For what it's worth:

    The good: T'Pol's principled refusal to acknowledge that she had contracted the syndrome through no fault of her own, a fairly well-executed twist to what was otherwise a pretty didactic and by-the-numbers morality play. And the visual effects, which--while perhaps not strictly necessary in a thematic episode like this one--were quite wonderful eye candy.

    The not-so-good: like most of the TNG episodes that dealt metaphorically with "gay" issues, even at its best "Stigma" comes off as pretty simplistic and heavy-handed, however well-intentioned. (The only exception I can think of is the show that introduced the Trill, where Deanna Troi has to reevaluate her love for the Trill ambassador after he's mortally wounded and the new host for his consciousness turns out to be a female, which was a fine bit of drama as well as pretty decent science fiction.) While I have no truck or sympathy whatsoever with the religious Right, seeing them represented here as strawmen in the guise of the (formerly noble) Vulcans just doesn't work--stock villains without a point of view that at least seems reasonable to themselves don't make for very involving television. If they had been given a more convincing argument for their beliefs than "We're sorry you don't understand our culture, Captain," the episode would have been much stronger.

    The ugly: the ridiculous subplot with Phlox's wife--its tone and execution were totally out of place in an episode which purported to treat an important contemporary issue with due seriousness, and made me wonder about the producers' faith in their own work to be entertaining, much less about what they must think of their target audience.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Looking back at the original homophobia episode, TNG's The Outcast
    By O. Deus ( odeus@concentric.net) at 21:30:41 on February 06 2003
    URL: http://www.concentric.net/~odeus/ | User Info
    This tends to be an episode that's often put down or forgotten but it did a better job of coping with the material of people being stigmatized in a society for who they choose to love.

    It also is the closest Star Trek has come to showing a crew member involved in a romantic relationship that transcends conventional notions of gender and was genuinely challenging, unlike the occasional suggestive lesbian scenes on DS9 or Stigma's abstract formulaic preachiness.

    The Outcast is also a deeper episode that doesn't create convenient cardboard villains in the way that Stigma did, but gives the council a chanche to make their point of view heard even while using the charachters to demonstrate its impact on innocent people. Unlike Stigma the social system is not just a convenient set of analogies but an actual alien social system whose values oppress those who want to be different.

    The ending is all the more timely as it fuses the entire religious right movement to 'reverse' homosexuality with a technology suggestive of the dystopian totalitarian states of 1984 or Farenheit 451.

    And unlike Archer, Riker isn't a preachy outsider lecturing to the ignorant aliens, but someone who's actually inside a relationship and fighting for the person he loves. And that makes all the difference.


    "Predators of the 21st century will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons...There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
    President Clinton

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    By aquirius ( ) at 16:25:06 on February 06 2003
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    People, everyone on this website. I honestly believe that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have been for a long time now, a few apples short of a fruit basket. Every once in a while they will have a moment of clarity, but are generally trapped in their own minds. But, now .... Now they've don't lost their damn minds. Where have these two been living, under a rock on a deserted island? AIDS has long sense been disassociated with homosexuality. Heteros get AIDS too you know. I say this because "Stigma" was so blatantly about homophobia. If they want to do an AIDS episode they really, really needed to depict a disease epidemic that was spreading through a culture that was ignorant to the disease. A story that depicted miseducation, rumors, and lack of awareness. Depict babies being born with the disease. Seriously, I mean come on.

    On the other side of the coin, if they wanted to depict an episode that dealt with PREJUDICE and BIGOTRY, then the answer to that comes from the aftermath of 9/11. After 9/11 many Americans were so angry that they began to vandalize, oetresize, and attack Arab Americans. We've come so far in America, but as soon as a group from another culture does us harm, we immediatly pull our bigotry out of the closet and blindly bash the nearest person with it. That's social relivance. Not this crap.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    What I've seen thus far...
    By BWilliams ( BWillNCC1701E@webtv.net) at 14:26:08 on February 06 2003
    URL: | User Info
    So far I've only been able to watch the teaser and the first act of last night's episode, and here's what I like thus far about it:

    1. The dedication to the Columbia crew was very touching and effective. It ranks up there with Bakula's tribute to the crew of the naval carrier Enterprise as the best single moment of the series. A very classy and poignant tribute.

    2. The CGI FX look good in this episode, particularly the CGI conference center and the space shots.

    3. Setting up the story in the teaser and the first act was interesting. But based on the comments others have made thus far, it doesn't sound as good as it was played out to be. Once I've seen the rest of the episode, if this is indeed the case, then the series is in serious trouble.

    BTW, where are David Gerrold and Ronald D. Moore when we need them?

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    The writers of Enterprise are SICK!!!!!!
    By Aristotle ( ) at 13:45:52 on February 06 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Last night, I watched Star Trek Enterprise, and I was utterly horrified. I will never watch the show again. The whole point of the episode was claiming that it is "prejudice" or "bigotry" to be against sick perverts commiting bizarre lewd acts of sexual perversion. The Vulcan mindmeld was being used as a thinly veiled metaphor for sticking your penis up another person's anus. They were advocating revolting abberant deviant lewd acts. Gene Roddenberry would be spinning in his grave. I implore UPN to cancel the show, and for advertisers and viewers to boycott it.

    Jeffery Winkler


    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    By dropdeadnelix ( ) at 13:29:00 on February 06 2003
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    I think that two good things can be said about Stigma.

    The acting by Blalock, Trinneer and Billingsley was top notch.

    The more aggressive, creative use of quality CGI shots shows a little more iniative on teh ENT producers/directors parts.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Mind Melding
    By Brian Langlois ( ) at 09:29:37 on February 06 2003
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    Just a point I wanted to bring up after reading here, that the Vulcans were not really against the telepathic powers themselves, but the sharing of emotions, which would definitely be considered wrong to Vulcan culture. What I don't like is that only few Vulcans have these abilities in Enterprise, but later almost all of them do. Maybe the Vulcans of this era have suppressed their powers so they would not be tempted into "undesirable behavior." These "Melders" remind me of Sybock, who was an outlaw as well. I think this fits into the established Vulcan culture...BUT I also think for a society based on logic, the way their bigotry was portrayed in Stigma makes no sense (as with most of their actions on Enterprise). All that said, I didn't think Stigma was that good, though I never like preachy episodes anyway.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Dues rewrites history.
    By Akita1999 ( ) at 09:28:13 on February 06 2003
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    Dues, your review is well written and thought provoking, as usual. But I think in your effort to make your case, you have rewritten Trek history regarding the personality and culture of the Vulcans. This is ironic given that you accuse B&B (for whom I have no love) of essentially the same.

    You say:

    "Instead the humans have become noble heroes and the Vulcans have become spiteful villains who lie, blackmail and threaten; who are bigots, imperialists and the villains of nearly every episode that focuses on them. When Archer proclaims to the Vulcans that their criticisms of humanity are not only wrong but that humans are better people than Vulcans, you can almost hear Gene Roddenberry spinning in his grave."

    Before Enterprise, we have been introduced to very few Vulcans with enough screen time and backstory to make some assessments about the Vulcans and their culture. On the whole, Vulcans haven't fared well in past depictions, leading one to believe that they too are in need of social evolution and enlightenment.

    Let's review:

    Spock (TOS): His character supports your implicit premise that the Vulcans are an honorable race and follow the precepts of IDIC. However, his character arc and backstory support the view that Vulcans are a bit petty and bigoted. The entire character arc of Spock in TOS is that he feels ostracized from Vulcan society because Vulcans are prejudiced about his human heritage. Remember, they teased him as a boy, and he didn't fit in. In ST:TMP, a Gene Roddenberry creation, Spock contends that, because Vulcans surpress emotions, they do not have a "higher" meaning or purpose to life, leaving them feeling empty.

    Sarek (TOS): He contradicts your theory. He is written as a complex character with high standards and incredible gifts of intellect and diplomacy. On the other hand, he has been disappointed in Spock since birth because he looks "so human." (ST:5) He opposed his son's enlistment in Starfleet. (Journey to Babel and ST:4) In TOS, he had the same smug superiority toward humans and others that the Vulcans in Enterprise do. (Journey to Babel) His choice of staff isn't so hot either. His aids concealed Sarek's mental illness from Sarek and others by mind melding. (TNG: Sarek) We also know from TNG that Spock and his father never really got along and all they had in the end to keep them together were their arguments. (TNG: Unification II)

    T'Pring (TOS): She contradicts your theory. She was the villain in Amok Time. She schemed and manipulated to pit Spock against Kirk, and relied on an ancient barbaric form of combat in order to be able stay with Stonn.

    T'Pau (TOS): She was apparently too good for the Federation Council. She looked at humans with disgust and called them outsiders, sighing when Spock invoked his right to have his friends at the wedding ceremony.

    Stonn (TOS): T'Pring's conspirator.

    Saavik (ST:2-4): She appears to fit within your implicit view that Vulcans are not bigoted.

    Sybok (ST:5): Not much needs to be said here. His backstory contradicts your theory. He's an emotional mind-melder who has rejected Surak's teachings, much like the emotional Vulcans in Enterprise.

    Valeris (ST:6): She was a villain, petty, and a warmonger. Her character and backstory contradict your assumption.

    Robin Curtis's character in Gambit (TNG): She's a criminal and an isolationist. She thinks the Federation has corrupted Vulcan society. Yeah, she is an enlightened, tolerant soul.

    Baseball Vulcans (DS9): Sorry, these folks don't speak too well for a tolerant Vulcan society. (Take Me Out to the Holosuite) They consider themselves to be superior to humans, ferengi, and a host of others.

    Tuvik (Voyager): His character and backstory support your assumption.

    Sorry Deus, in order to make your point, I think you've skewed the depiction of Vulcans when, in fact, B&B aren't that far off with their characterization of certain Vulcans in Enterprise.

    Stigma gets 3 out 5 stars from me.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Mind Melds and Vulcans
    By ety3 ( ) at 09:04:01 on February 06 2003
    URL: | User Info
    Others have more ably described their disappointment with the vilification of Vulcans. I need not continue on that subject, except to say I agree wholeheartedly, and that it is one of many reasons I've decided that I dislike 'Enterprise.'

    As for mind melds themselves, according to true Star Trek lore, they are an ancient form of telepathic communication. In ST:III, 'fal-tor-pan' was used to rejoin Spock's 'katra' with his body, and this was done via a mind meld. T'Lar said that this was not performed for many, many years; implying that mind melds were used ages ago for this kind of ritual.

    To equate mind melds to homosexual sex is, in a word, wrong. If anything, mind melds could be equated to sex in general (homo or hetero). Restricting their use to a 'minority' of Vulcans only further degrades the lore of Vulcans specifically, and Star Trek as a whole.

    Now, Berman and Braga will have to foist more mind meld episodes on us for the next few years, in an attempt to mainstream the practice in time for the Original Series. Ridiculous, when you consider that the practice had been accepted for centuries before.

    Perhaps if 'Enterprise' were a better written and executed show, I could forgive some continuity breaks now and again. But it's not. I can still let a continuity slip go, but nothing on the scale of making the Vulcans into these descpicable wretches we see on screen.

    And to all of you who believe that by criticizing 'Enterprise' we are in some way killing it, I can only say you're incorrect. We criticize because we care. I personally have loved Star Trek since the beginning of my days, and thanks to the utter dullness of 'Voyager' and the slap-in-the-face-of-history that 'Enterprise' is becoming, I'm being drawn away.

    We are not killing the show. We are, instead, witnessing a suicide drawn out over several seasons.

    [ Reply to This | Parent Comment ]

    Unfortunately true
    By Steve Krutzler ( s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 08:38:48 on February 06 2003
    URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
    As much as I'd like to be able to disagree with Deus's assessment, I cannot in good conscious do any such thing. While I don't think it's fair to question Rick and Brannon's sincerity in dealing with the issue, I do think Deus brings up important points that are entirely valid. Indeed AIDS today has little to do with the homophobic stigma that the episode portrayed, thus reducing to (as someone on the BBS has observed) little more than a history lesson. That in itself doesn't rip the story of value--learning from our past mistakes is probably as important as being made aware of our current ones. But I think it's unquestionable that today AIDS is recognized by just about everyone as a worldwide plague and the kind of situation "Stigma" depicts has little relation to the young people it was obviously aimed at. Deus's alternative story idea below is far more innovative and much more interesting, if they had to stick with the "individuals are stigmatized" line instead of going with a more cutting-edge African-continent-plague allegory.

    But this is really just academic. For the real problems lie not in the attempt (even if misguided) but in the execution. You know, I watched ST:TNG when I was a teenager and even younger, and yet I never felt like the show was talking down to my level as as child. On the contrary, the show challenged my puerile intellect and made me aspire to the kinds of intellectualism I saw depicted on the screen (everything I need to know I learned from ST, anyone?). Even now as an adult when I rewatch those NEXT GEN episodes, I never feel like I've outgrown the series. I never feel like the memory is better than the reality. But watching "Stigma" it was clear that the show was geared for a young teenage crowd and in such a way that doesn't even respect the intelligence of that demographic.

    The script was just abhorrent from start to finish. After some inspiring CGI shots of the Enterprise and the planet's surface and the interior of the conference building, and an impressive 360-degree rotation shot of Doctor Phlox's first meeting with the Vulcan scientists, I had high hopes for a creative episode. They were soon dashed as the script became nothing more than a poorly-edited collection of talking heads scenes with dialogue that lacked any bit of subtlety.

    Any screenwriter will tell you that the cardinal rule is to SHOW us the story, not TELL us the story. Yet "Stigma" was nothing more than numerous talking scenes that went on forever and rather than coming off natural as part of an interesting plot, came off as asides directed at the viewer to make sure our pea-sized brains could comprehend the metaphor at work in just about every utterance coming out of the characters' mouths. We had Phlox and T'Pol and the scientists in a room on the Enterprise for a few minutes; we had T'Pol and Yuris talking about "intolerance" on a city street; we had many painful scenes with Archer in his ready room talking to Phlox and/or T'Pol or both; we had Archer talking to the head Vulcan doctor; we had an inquiry with Archer and T'Pol talking to the three Vulcan doctors, but apparently an inquiry requires no witnesses (a fact that further undermines the notion that any of the speeches had any effect because no one but Archer, T'Pol and the three Vulcan doctors heard any of it anyway).

    The plot progression was also horribly pedestrian. We have the Vulcan doctor outing himself to T'Pol in predictable fashion and setting up the inevitable and wholly-unoriginal Matlock-style semi-public self-outing of himself during the joke of an "inquiry." There was no surprise, there were no twists. There was nothing happening on screen but a bunch of characters standing and sitting around talking about an issue trying desperately to get us to think it's important and constantly throwing us homophobia bones like "unnatural practices" and "what they do in their private lives" and "more intolerance today" and "undesirable subculture" and "minority, minority, MINORITY."

    Scott Bakula made some strides in recent episodes but I couldn't help but find his performance in "Stigma" tough to stomach. He is never good in that ready room set and I thought he was going to cry when he told T'Pol that the doctors weren't going to help--maybe appropriate for a close friend but the captain? The dialogue didn't help Bakula either. The final moments where Archer talks of bigotry dying out on Earth strikes entirely of contradiction since, as Deus rightly points out, much of Archer's character up to now has been based on his expressive bigotry toward the Vulcans.

    Which brings us to these STAR TREK standbys. The Vulcans. As Deus points out, the Vulans are incredibly unsympathetic, incredibly emotional and incredibly alien to anything we've seen in STAR TREK. That in itself I could accept--imagine if for instance it is the use of the mind meld in successive generations that gives the Vulcans that extra level of understanding, logic and emotional control that turns them into the noble people we've known since TOS. But the problem is that we're presented with a human crew and a humanity in general that has more sense and logic than the Vulcans. As Deus says, ENT was to show us a rough around the edges Starfleet human crew, but at every turn the series avoids delving into the tough questions about humanity and how we progressed in a mere 100 years to eliminate poverty, disease, war, as well any sort of significant conflict among the crew. In ENT, rough around the edges merely translates to characters who say "bitch" and "ass" and fantasize about each other on screen, but when it comes down to it, they're more enlightened than the Vulcans and every bit as preachy as any previous human STAR TREK characters.

    There were also major blunders in editing and/or script development. At least two scenes should've been excised because they were entirely unnecessary and one even improperly disrupted the flow. When T'Pol receives the clandestine communication from the surface we do not see who it is, thus building suspense. Yet instead of cutting to T'Pol mysteriously coming to a rendevezous on the surface, we cut to her in a misplaced Ready Room scene with Archer, in which she then blows whatever suspense or purpose the previous scene may have had by telling us who contacted her and where she is going in the next scene. Earlier we also had the useless scene of the Vulcan doctors scanning T'Pol's fingerprint, when it was already blatantly apparent to anyone with a pulse that the doctors knew T'Pol must have Pa'nar Syndrome from the tense meeting and interrogation scene they just had on the Enterprise. The script also added to its cringe-worthy dialogue by having one too many beats here and there; Feezal's "I wasn't exactly PULLING your leg" was one of those "duh, we get it" extra lines that needed editing. Another was Archer's explanation that the doctors used a thumbprint to scan T'Pol. Wouldn't it have been enough for him to say, "They handed you something..." and for T'Pol to nod? The audience isn't dense, we can make a gentle leap.

    About the only thing this episode did right aside from special effects and that initial, orphaned camera movement, was the sideplot with Feezal. It was actually a very good match for the serious storyline and paralleled the idea of "shifting mores" and tolerance. Phlox and Feezal's "humans! [laughter]" was probably the smartest line in the script.

    "Stigma" would've been far better served with an original story that dealt with the more contemporary problems surrounding AIDS, or at least a more VISUAL story with jeopardy. Instead we got one poorly-written lecture after another with virtually nothing of note happening visually on screen. I still have high hopes for the rest of Sweeps but I am sorry to say "Stigma" was a stinker in every sense of the word.


    -Steve Krutzler
    ==V/-/== Rocks

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    By Hbasm ( ) at 05:27:02 on February 06 2003
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    I'm not surprised of this review, but it's troubling me, how all of you are driving the franchine in the ground. You should have joined an anti-trekker club, or maybe you have already done ithat. It looks like I'm actually on an anti-trekker website. I'm outta here!

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    Alternate story idea for Stigma
    By O. Deus ( odeus@concentric.net) at 02:36:03 on February 06 2003
    URL: http://www.concentric.net/~odeus/ | User Info
    Suppose instead of going with the convenient evil Vulcan guest stars juxtaposed with Our Hero who can smugly lecture them on right and wrong...Stigma had taken another more challenging tack using the same basic premise.

    It's entirely reasonable that humans would be disturbed and threatened by telepathy, B5 made good use of this, suppose after Fusion T'Pol had begun exploring her telepathic abilities and accidentally picked up a few thoughts from Trip or Archer by touching them and accidentally initating a mind meld. Trip, Archer and some other crew members would have reacted by being threatened by such a potential invasion of their innermost thoughts.

    T'Pol would have had to deal with her growing abilities, Archer and the humans would have had to deal with their reflexive bigotry to another crew member who could invade their minds and we would have had an episode that addressed the homophobia issue and the threat of the Other, if not the AIDS issue, which would also have resulted in conflict among the charachters and resulting charachter growth.

    It would also have treated mind melds as a positive thing instead of being a kind of rape and carriers of disease, which is the impression Fusion and Stigma have left us with. (And considering that Spock had mind melded with most of the crew, it's a wonder they all didn't catch the same brain fever T'Pol did. One wonders if Spock informed Kirk of the risks of mind-melding without protection.) And it would not have reduced Vulcans to just another ignorant alien race for Archer to preach at, but actual aliens whose differences he has to come to terms with which is a much better way of relaying the same message by having your charachters struggle to find their answers, instead of letting them have all the answers and confronting some pat villians in a staged confrontation.


    "Predators of the 21st century will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons...There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
    President Clinton

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    We few, the proud, the completely lost and hopeless
    By Captain J R Kirk ( ) at 01:36:48 on February 06 2003
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    Here are the results of the poll as of 1:33 AM EST. I guess all of us Trek fans who liked the episode are morons.

    Seven true Heroes died this pass weekend, to bad Trekdom couldn't give it a rest for a week an do something important, like coming together as a group to lobby congress to save the american space program and to expand it. Nope, we waste out time on useless reviews.

    Why do I now understand why the jerks in school always wanted to beat up the nerdy kids who liked trek? Because they saw something that I have only seen recently, Trek fans have lost sight of reality and really do live in the basement of their parents house.

    How do you rate the latest episode, STIGMA, in comparison to the best and the worst of all previous STAR TREK episodes?

    10: Excellent 34.2% (49 Votes)
    8: Very Good 18.1% (26 Votes)
    9: Great 16.7% (24 Votes)
    7: Good 8.3% (12 Votes)
    6: Above Average 6.9% (10 Votes)
    5: Average 4.1% (6 Votes)
    1: Bad 4.1% (6 Votes)
    4: Below Average 2.7% (4 Votes)
    3: Mediocre 2% (3 Votes)
    2: Poor 2% (3 Votes)

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    I agree!
    By BubbaTaylor ( ) at 01:00:28 on February 06 2003
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    For once I think O. Deus' negative review is justified. The vulcans were portrayed as completely bigoted bad guys and it did take away from the show.

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    Stigma points...
    By Captain Winnie ( sfdesigner@mac.com) at 00:59:30 on February 06 2003
    URL: http://homepage.mac.com/sfdesigner | User Info
    What bothered me about this episode is that it further reinforces the fact that homosexuality is something that needs to be hidden and supressed. The parallels are too blatant not to ignore, and as a gay man myself I didn't feel very hopeful from this episode. Being open about being gay, or in "Stigma's" case in the 'minority', you need to nagivate a fine line: keeping your diversity too closely internalized with no way of release or reassurance, or forcing your beliefs on others that would otherwise be accepting, but don't need to be reminded of it every second.

    Stigma definately takes the former to the extreme, and in my opinion, reinforces the intolerance that was prevalent in the episode.

    Also, the choice of the B-Story I thought was in bad taste. Gay men that participate in promiscious sex are at the highest risk than other groups. With the B-story infinging on this fact between Phlox's wife and Trip, I felt quite uncomfortable. Although Trip didn't follow it in the end, Phlox's encouragement caused the episode to send mixed messages. In another episode this B-story would have been fun and enjoyable, but when combined with the A-story in Stigma, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I am of course interested to hear other opinions as well.

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