The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Stigma

Thanks to the mind meld she was subjected to a year ago, T’Pol has contracted a rare neurological disorder called Pa’nar Syndrome. Since mind melds are frowned upon in Vulcan society, Phlox tries to surreptitiously research a cure, but when he asks a Vulcan medical delegation for assistance, T’Pol’s secret is revealed. Meanwhile, Trip must work with one of Phlox’s wives to install a new neutron microscope.

We’re about due a Star Trek morality play, and Stigma is determined to go all out. This episode is a very thinly veiled allegory for the outbreak of AIDS in the gay community, and you’d have to be blind not to realise that that’s what it’s getting at. Given that the ‘space AIDS’ storyline for TNG was never written, it’s probably a good thing that Star Trek tries to tackle it here, and I appreciate the effort – even if it does feel a bit like Stigma is bludgeoning us at times.

T’Pol acquits herself well in this episode – even though she could make everything go away by admitting that she was mind-raped way back in Fusion, she chooses not to, because that means justifying the condemnation of gay mind melders. Of course, because she’s a main character, everything works out for her at the potential expense of a one-off character, but that’s to be expected.

Alongside this heavy stuff is a lighter storyline in which one of Phlox’s wives seems sexually interested in Trip. Whilst it’s played with the usual tiresome “Phlox’s wife belongs to Phlox” angle, the fact that Denobulan culture is so openly and casually polyamorous is a refreshing reminder that not all relationships in the galaxy need to be ‘default’ heterosexual monogamous.

Points of Note

  • Back in Fusion, it seemed as if mind melds were an obscure thing that hardly anyone had heard of. Now it seems as if everyone knows about them, even if they don’t approve of the practice.
  • If Feezal’s full name is Feezal Phlox, does that mean Phlox has another name too? If the Denobulans have married names, why don’t they include those of their other spouses?
  • Travis manages to get yet another sports injury in this episode. He’s doing almost as badly as Chief O’Brien when it comes to sports.

Summary – Stigma: T’Pol has Space AIDS.

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