The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Unexpected

When the Enterprise encounters an alien ship in need of repairs, Trip heads over to help them fix their warp engines. But, much as he enjoys his time with the aliens, upon his return he is horrified to discover that he is now carrying an alien embryo.

As it turns out, Unexpected is the first episode of Enterprise that I’ve actually enjoyed this time around. The Xyrillians are an interesting species, and their ship feels fresh and imaginative, making this the first time Enterprise has really captured the wonder of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life. Overall, the first twenty minutes or so of the episode weave together a compelling narrative.

The second half of the episode, whilst not terrible, is not as strong as the first. The presence of the Klingons doesn’t really add anything to the plot, whilst Trip’s pregnancy is played a bit too much for laughs. ‘Pregnant man’ may be an interesting twist, but it’s accompanied by all the stereotypical ‘hormonal pregnant person’ baggage.

Is Unexpected as problematic as TNG’s The Child?

In The Child, Deanna Troi is impregnated by an energy being without her knowledge or consent – a very upsetting turn of events in a future where one would like to imagine that women have control over their own bodies. Is Trip’s unexpected pregnancy equally problematic? Was it another case of ‘space rape’ that shouldn’t have been played for laughs?

Unlike Deanna, Trip was at least conscious when he was impregnated, but whilst he did willing play the ‘game’ with Ah’Len, he was hardly giving informed consent. Ah’Len had assumed that a human could not get pregnant in this way, and so neither bothered with a complete explanation, nor any form of contraception. It’s not even clear if Ah’Len herself wanted a child at this time.

Nor is there any discussion on Enterprise of whether Trip should abort the pregnancy – after all, it’s probably not safe for him to attempt to carry it to term, and could well have endangered his life.

Overall, Unexpected doesn’t feel as problematic as The Child, but is that just because Trip is a man? Does it owe a lot to the somewhat ridiculous method of conception? Space rape is still space rape no matter who it happens to, or how it happens.

Other points

  • How is the genetic material actually transferred to Trip? Do the pebbles allow the transmission of a virus that takes DNA from the Xyrillian female and implants it in the male?
  • Since human females generally lack a Y chromosome, The Xyrillian method of procreation would preclude the birth of any male children (as male genetic material is never passed on). However, the Xyrillians surely have a different chromosomal make up to us.
  • Similarly, it cannot be the case that Xyrillian children are mere clones of their mothers, or males would never be born. Unless all Xyrillians have the potential to become either male or female, and the ultimate sex of an infant is affected by conditions in the ‘womb’. Even so, the child is still only receiving genetic material from a single parent, which is less robust than having a mixture of genetic material from two parents.
  • This episode marks the Federation-to-be’s first encounter with holodeck technology.
  • It’s odd that the Klingons are more interested in acquiring holographic projectors than in stealth technology, given that they later acquire cloaking technology (probably from the Romulans) in the 23rd century. Although, when you think about it, isn’t the idea of sneaking around behind a cloaking device the very antithesis of honourable combat? Shame on you, Klingons.
  • Perhaps the best line in the episode is the Klingon commander saying “I can see my house from here” when he sees the Qo’Nos simulation.
  • Trip is said to be the first ever case of a human male becoming pregnant. Presumably this doesn’t include the trans men who have successfully carried a child to term.

Summary – Unexpected: Be careful which granules you stick your hands in.

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