The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Fortunate Son

The Enterprise comes to the rescue of the ECS Fortunate, a cargo ship that has been recently attacked by Nausicaan raiders. But when the crew seems oddly reluctant to accept help, Archer must decide whether it’s just their self-sufficient attitude, or if they are hiding something. Having grown up on a cargo ship himself, can Travis get through to the Fortunate’s acting commander?

I feel very ambivalent about Fortunate Son. As 45 minutes of entertainment, I can’t say I like it that much – it’s a pretty by-the-book story, and not an especially enthralling one at that. On the other hand, I appreciate what it’s trying to do for the Star Trek universe.

These are the early days of space exploration, and everything has a wild, unregulated feel about it – even more so than we had during TOS’s 23rd century adventures. The Enterprise NX-01 represents the vanguard of a new era, a hint of what things will be like when the Federation is well established and the space within its borders is generally safe and well governed (ignoring all the times the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Dominion and Borg caused trouble, of course). To the crew of the ECS Fortunate, this change feels a bit unwelcome – they are used to making their own ways through the wilds, looking out for their own and pursuing their own agenda. I can’t imagine a 24th century cargo ship doing anything other than calling for Starfleet if they got attacked by Nausicaans; the Fortunate, however, would rather take matters into their own hands.

This episode is also one of the few that attempts to give Travis some characterisation, as he uses his own past to relate to Ryan, the acting commander of the Fortunate. Of course, the fact that he left his cargo ship for life in Starfleet doesn’t help to endear him to Ryan.

Life at warp 1.8

Apparently lots of children get born on cargo ships because there isn’t much to do on the long voyages. Is there no contraception in the 22nd century? I do think that the concept of an entire generation who was born and grew up in space is interesting, butit does raise a lot of questions. Are there any deleterious physical effects to growing up in space, or are there medicines and physical regimens to account for that? Do the cargo ships carry enough resources to feed all these extra new mouths?

Other points

  • This episode marks the first proper appearance of the Nausicaans in Enterprise (they were previously mentioned by Doctor Phlox). Although not seen in TOS, we are of course familiar with them as generic villains from the 24th century, most notably for stabbing young Ensign Picard in the heart.
  • Even though Travis’s sister and husband are still aboard the Horizon
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