[ENT] Cogenitor

[ENT] Season 2, Episode 22 (Netflix: S2 E22): Cogenitor

Cogenitor

Rating: 4
For creating a morally interesting and legitimately difficult situation, this episode gets a 4/5. More on this at the bottom of the review.

Read more at Memory Alpha

Notes:

Enterprise is checking out a star and they come across a species that's also really interested in exploring. And they want to hang out!

Enterprise is checking out a star and they come across a species that’s also really interested in exploring. And they want to hang out!

Trip meets a couple wanting to reproduce and their cogenitor. The politeness of the couple combined with how they treat and speak about the cogenitor makes the encounter very unsettling.

Trip meets a couple wanting to reproduce and their cogenitor

Trip:

T’Pol and Phlox keep telling Trip to be more open minded about different cultures. I like that Trip argues that there should be a limit to this attitude: “We’re not talking about taking your shoes off when you walk into someone’s house”

There's also a plot about Reed and a lady flirting. Reed shows her some cheese. She wasn't impressed

There’s also a plot about Reed and a lady flirting. Reed shows her some cheese. She wasn’t impressed

Trip wants to run a brain scan on the cogenitor so he invites himself over for dinner

Trip wants to run a brain scan on the cogenitor so he invites himself over for dinner

Archer and their captain get along really well. I like that they're making the moral situation more complicated by have the Vissians likable aside from their treatment of cogenitors.

Archer and the Vissian captain get along really well. I like that they’re making the moral situation more complicated by have the Vissians likable aside from their treatment of cogenitors.

Vissian girls seem to be  more blunt when it comes to sexual advances, ya know, like every alien species in every science fiction story

Vissian girls seem to be more blunt when it comes to sexual advances, ya know, kind of like every alien species in every science fiction story

Trip starts to encourage the cogenitor. They create a situation where you really want to root for the hero

Trip starts to encourage the cogenitor

Archer flies too close to a corona of the star. Archer employs a technique he learned body surfing:

Archer flies too close to a corona of a star. Archer employs a technique he learned from body surfing: “If you can’t get over a wave, you’ve got to dive through it”. Yeah, just because that works with water doesn’t mean it will work with any substance or a star’s corona. Luckily their ship was strong enough

Trip gets caught and the cogenitor asks for asylum. Initially Archer is convinced but he goes to the Vissians and decides it isn't their place to interfere and judge their culture. He also doesn't want to harm their relations with the Vissians, since they have so much to offer

Trip gets caught and the cogenitor asks for asylum. Initially Archer is convinced but he goes to the Vissians and decides it isn’t their place to interfere. He also doesn’t want to harm their relations with the Vissians, since they have so much to offer

Archer gets word that the cogenitor committed suicide

Archer gets word that the cogenitor committed suicide

The dialogue at the end of the episode gives me the feeling that this episode is better than the writers intended. So much time in this episode is very effectively dedicated to the audience gaining sympathy for Trip’s position and actions. They also did a decent job of showing why Archer made the decisions he made, although it seems pretty clear we’re supposed to side with the cogenitor. Trip fighting for the rights of the cogenitor is an easy position to get behind, but the surrounding circumstances made the goals tragically difficult. Usually we see the hero swoop in and teach everyone a lesson, rescue all those in danger, and fly away with no consequences. I liked how this episode illustrated how it’s much more complicated than that, and that life is full of compromises, but some compromises (like giving up the cogenitor) lead to tragedy. I interpreted this episode to show how difficult some situations can be, not to mean that we shouldn’t try to fight for what’s right. The writers clearly don’t believe such a thing because there are plenty of episodes showing that we need to stand up for what’s right.

But then Archer says it’s all Trip’s fault, and the lesson is to not interfere. Archer does blame himself…in that he didn’t set a good enough example for Trip. It’s a little outrageous that he doesn’t think maybe he shares some blame, and that he shouldn’t have let the Vissians have the cogenitor. Aside from some dumb lines from Archer, and him generally looking like a jerk, this is still an interesting take on the ongoing theme in Star Trek of non-interference. It shows how particularly painful it can be, but one can’t reform an entire society from one encounter.

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  • Khevenhiler

    “…but one can’t reform an entire society from one encounter.”

    I don’t think one should do it, whether it took one, ten or hundred encounters.
    Show me just one example when reasons for this reform were benevolent and not exploitative.

    I trust that Trip’s reasons and motivations were deeply human, but organization like Starfleet should never act solely on such uncertain and personal principles. Maybe this episode was to tell the story how Human race was to supress it’s deepest feelings of justice, because justice is too in eye of a beholder.

    It’s always a genuine pleasure to see Andreas Katsulas.

    • Malachi Ward

      My impression of this episode was that the alien species had a biological quality creating systems that seem unjust to humans, but can’t really be judged by our standards because the baseline reality of their existence was much different. When Trip, in his mind, starts helping the Cogenitor, he’s doing so because he witnesses systemic oppression, (which I would say isn’t at all an uncertain principle) but he’s trying to change something that can’t really be changed. I do think it was wrong of him to try and help, because there could only be a tragic outcome. However, once Trip had interfered, and the Cogenitor’s life had been permanently altered in a way that made it impossible to live in their own society, Archer should have tried harder to convince the Vissians to let him grant asylum. I don’t think the episode was about suppressing feelings of justice, at least I hope not, I think it concerned the need to be realistic about the implications of our actions in complicated, difficult situations. Either way, it was a really strong episode, otherwise it wouldn’t have spurred this kind of discussion.

      • Khevenhiler

        I agree that he may see Vissian way of life as systemic opression, but it was his “gut” or his or human innate “sense of justice” that made him act.

        There’s no need to get further into this, I have only tried to say that this incident, (and many more, I’m sure) made Archer think about creating a set of first contact protocols that led to the Prime Directive.

        In this episode Archer is very, very different from wide-eyed explorer that he was in the beginning of the show, right?

        Great episode, I agree.

        • Malachi Ward

          Agreed that this is a good episode showing the need for the Prime Directive, and how Archer and others would come to understand that necessity.

  • Christopher Coletta

    The Vissian captain asked Archer for a recommendation on what he should read after he finishes Shakespeare and the plays of Sophocles. A good recommendation would have been anything by philosophers John Locke or Immanuel Kant or John Rawls who talk about the rights of the individual. Picard would have ripped the Vissians a new asshole! 🙂

  • Sam Bennett

    It’s truly incredible to me that Archer gets on his high horse at the end of the episode when Archer takes the position Trip takes in basically every other instance in the series. Archer continually interferes when he sees what he deems as injustice and even if we are supposed to read his speech as him being angry with himself (it doesn’t come across that way and isn’t written with any nuance) that only shows that as a captain he is incompetent and often takes his anger and inadequacy out on his crew.