In the fifth episode of the second season of Enterprise, a Porthos-centric episode ends up being not nearly as good as I would have expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death of a pet.
I really did want to like this, but it’s such an odd story, mostly due to the tone. I can’t imagine something more serious than the possible death of a beloved pet. And while “A Night in Sickbay” addresses this, there’s a starkly comic vibe to the story that never quite feels like it belongs. On top of that, the Kreetassan plot feels like it exists for the circumstance only, so that makes… well, there are three stories here that are all tangentially related to one another and vary wildly in tone.
It’s a lot to take in. As someone who grew up with plenty of dogs and cats, I felt distracted by Porthos’s condition. It’s hard to focus on anything when a pet is ill, and I will say that this episode does do a fine job portraying that. This is the most irritable and irascible that Archer has ever been, so he always seems frayed at the edges. That’s a good thing! It’s a believable portrayal of something that’s horrific to go through. And I also understand how humor can be a beautifully distracting thing to have when you’re dealing with something this stressful.
Yet the idea of sticking Archer and Dr. Phlox together in sick bay for the night only works some of the time. It’s not these actors’ fault, mind you, and there’s a wonderful wackiness to watching them clash. But the humor intended in the many scenes Archer and Phlox have with one another feels crass at times. If someone had been confined to sick bay for a reason that was sillier, I doubt I would have had as much of a problem dealing with the tonal dissonance. However, was this the best episode for gross-out humor regarding Phlox’s body? Or the time to be jokey about Phlox’s many animals that he keeps for medical reasons? Or for this exploration of the way that Archer and Phlox are so totally unlike one another?
See, when “A Night in Sickbay” abandons the pretense of making us laugh amidst worrying if Porthos will die, it actually becomes a much stronger episode. My favorite part of the whole thing is when Archer asks Phlox if he misses his family. It’s here that we learn that Denobulans are poly, y’all. THEY ALL MARRY MULTIPLE PARTNERS AND CONSIDER THEM ALL PART OF THE FAMILY. Obviously, I was excited to get confirmation that at least one major character in the Trek universe didn’t fall into familiar patterns, but even if that reveal hadn’t happened, I appreciated that this script found ways to get Phlox and Archer to open up about themselves. Watching them bond and learn more about one another was a fantastic thing!
Maybe not in every case, though. I can’t say I find myself too thrilled about the development of Archer’s attraction to T’Pol. If she didn’t remind me too much of Seven of Nine – the undeniably pretty outsider who causes people to struggle with their attraction to her – then I wouldn’t call foul here. But the dynamic is so similar! It just doesn’t hold any interest for me, especially not this early into the show. I AM NOT OPPOSED TO ROMANCE, but I just want T’Pol developed further before we possibly head down this path.
Other than that… I don’t know, this just didn’t click with me. It needed more focus at times, and perhaps it’s all just a matter of taste rather than anything worthy of a deep critical analysis. At least Porthos is alive by the end. THAT IS ULTIMATELY ALL THAT MATTERS.
The video for “A Night in Sickbay” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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