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  • Ric Crossman

6.1.24 The Weekenders

Two Days And Two Nights

Marcus and Trip in another hilarious scrape.
"Man, at least on Shuttlepod One I KNEW I wasn't getting laid."

Today I tutor you in Trek's taxonomy of travel. Its list of leisure labels. The holiday-makers guide to the galaxy.


Step one: enter orbit around Risa.


The Itinerants' Itinerary


"Two Days And Two Nights" presents five distinct approaches to holidays:

  • Relax by the beach

  • Adventure/action holiday

  • Cultural exposure

  • Staycation

  • Getting lit and cruising for ass.

We'll go through how these various type of holiday are covered by the episode in a bit. First, though, I wanted to briefly address the elephant in the shuttlepod. This version of the Enterprise boasts 83 crew members. That means approximately 40 people are going down to Risa, based on us being told shore leave has been granted to half the crew. We know T'Pol demurred, and presumably so did Phlox (he can hibernate just as well aboard ship) and Cutler (since someone had to be around to provide medical treatment while Phlox was asleep).


That leaves us with five main characters in a pool of eighty, every single one of which gets a place on the express elevator to heaven. I know that this is simply how TV works, but still: what are the chances of that?


As it turns out, it's 2.7% - a probability so small that, were Trek real, I'd expect some of the crew to start whispering about the lottery being rigged. But would that be fair? Come back Sunday, and I'll talk about the maths involved some more.


For now, let's go through the various vacation approaches, and what Enterprise has to say about them.


Home Alone


Immediately we'll have to smash two categories together, given Mayweather's climbing holiday not only ends abruptly, but does so offscreen. This is a shame, of course, one more way in which the show keeps refusing to give Anthony Montgomery anything to do worth the doing. In fairness, though, I know the original plan was to do more interesting stuff on the surface of Risa, and that this sadly had to be nixed as the first season came to its end and the budget dried up. Other episodes have underserved him more for less reason.

He's certainly good value once he's back on Enterprise (my first draft of this post noted his “goof value”, which is one of those happy errors that have to be celebrated). Jolene Blalock and John Billingsley make for a wonderful double-act (as anyone who watched Good vs Evil can attest), with T'Pol's “maximum bemused contempt with minimal effort” contrasting delightfully with Phlox's exaggerated flailing. Even so, adding Mayweather into the mix allows a third vertex to the chaos as the poor dude who actually needs Phlox to know what the hell he's doing.


Montgomery is ably assisted in the reaction stakes by Kellie Waymire as Ensign Cutler. Her ongoing sort-of relationship with Phlox is implicit here, but it helps gives additional depth to the hijinks. I can't complain about the under-utilisation of Montgomery, then, without noting how sad it was the show weren't able to include Waymire in season two, after which her untimely death made sure they could never make use of her again.


The resulting light comic relief is arguably a bit too broad. In a show I've repeatedly taken to task for taking itself far too seriously, though, and for being rather ugly and reactionary when it tries to be funny, I'll take a slice of harmless goofiness quite happily. (Not that reactionary ugliness in the name of “comedy” is something we've avoided in this episode, of course, but we will, inevitably, return to this.)


While this opportunity to have a little fun is clearly the main motivation for the plotline, though, there is time to at least nod to one of the potential downsides of the staycation: it gets easier for one's work-life to intrude. Had Phlox decided to hibernate on Risa, Mayweather would have had to settle for being treated by Cutler [1], and the good doctor could have got his eight (times six) hours.


The idea that a staycation doesn't quite fully do the job of allowing you to disconnect from the concerns of Regular You has been one that the pandemic has had me thinking about more than once. Speaking personally, there's a tremendous sense of the insignificance of your work worries that comes with travelling, as the sheer scale of everything that couldn't give the slightest shit about anything involved becomes increasingly apparent. And that's without the additional dangers of a staycation as someone who works from home - there are times I find myself logging in to work emails essentially through muscle memory.


Which is to say, even if you just plan to spend your holiday sleeping, it might be better if you can find a way to sleep somewhere else. Obviously, though, when you're as important as Captain Archer, there's a risk that work is going to follow you wherever you go.


"Why Is It We Never Meet Anyone Nice?"


On then to Archer's villa. It's hard not to compare this plotline with Picard's own trip to Risa, and indeed I rather suspect we're meant to. A mysterious and attractive woman clearly wants something from our captain, while sharing their history of antagonism with an alien race (here the Suliban, previously the Ferengi)? We've been here before.


We might see this as offering the alternate ending to Picard's adventure, with it turning out here the mysterious woman was an antagonist rather than a chancer. Really, though, it makes more sense to see this as a narrative compression than an inversion, with Keyla combining the role of both Vash and Sobak, with the time-travellers who give the Cabal their orders standing in for the Vorgons. Sort of a speed-run through the previous plot. As such, this maybe a little uninspired, but as just one of four plotlines this week, there's a limit to how much detail can go into Archer's little adventure. A fun nod to franchise's past seems a reasonable approach for something that doesn’t need to bear much weight. Especially given what’s going on elsewhere. If "Captain's Holiday" asks the question of how someone as tightly-wound and career-focussed as a starship captain would deal with downtime, "Two Days And Two Nights" asks why we’d be interested in the R&R plans of those at the top of the hierarchy. Unsurprisingly, I find the latter question the more interesting one.


There's also more going on under the hood than might initially seem the case. While everyone else gets a stand-alone story, Archer's encounter with Keyla pulls double duty, being a reminder regarding the state of play, ready for the season to reach its finale in the next episode. That's a canny move, and combined with the four stories here making sure everyone has something to do under a simple but coherent theme, we're squarely back in "solidly competent" territory.


(It's a shame the Tandarans never get mentioned again. I always found their positioning with respect to the Suliban more interesting than the Suliban themselves. That's not this episode's fault, though.)


Let's tackle that wider theme, then, which is how vacations can end up being very different to what you initially expected. This impacts everyone here to some extent, with every single characters' plans derailed. We could argue of course that this is simply how drama works. protagonist wants A, antagonist/circumstances try to drag them instead to B. But I think that observation does a disservice to how well constructed the parallels are here. Consider the fact that Mayweather's climbing holiday ends in a fall, and that every other male main character also takes a spill over the course of the episode. Then consider that Hoshi, in contrast, falls only metaphorically, for a man she's only just met, and that that works out perfectly well for both of them.


The message here seems to be that there's a right way to holiday, or at least, an obviously wrong one. Don't confuse being relaxed with being unprepared. Don't drag your working life along with you. Don't mistake dance floors for hunting grounds. Pleasingly, the episode goes out of its way to make the point that this isn't about the risk of being preyed upon by unscrupulous locals. Both Keyla and the aliens who bushwhack Trip are either explicitly or implicitly off-worlders. Archer finds himself in a trap constructed buy his own actions, and our toe-curling Miami Vice rejects get into trouble entirely because they're happy lying to women in the hopes of getting laid.


In other words, this is about the need to take travel seriously, even when the end goal is relaxation. Playing this angle has the added advantage of side-stepping the "paradise with a dark secret" cliché the franchise has relied on so often before, including in the episode we looked at just a few days ago.


"The Inevitable Dance Of Lads On Tour"


I've invoked the hideous spectre of the Fully Past-It In-Betweeners, though, so I guess we'll have to perform the necessary exorcism on their unquiet shades before we can move on.


Except… well. Honestly, I feel like anyone whose been reading this blog up to this point could write a pretty good approximation of what I'd be likely to say here. I also feel like anyone demonstrating such questionable but utterly delightful dedication to this project deserves better than having to be pushed into this particular ocean of shit and held under for any length of time.


In the shortest number of words possible, then: here we see two men whose only goal for the evening is sex with a stranger, and who are perfectly willing to lie about themselves in the hope of achieving it. Rape by deception, in other words. Additionally, the repeated references to the possibility they might be physically attracted to people they "mistake" for women who are "actually" male is vilely transphobic. We've discussed before the various ways in which this franchise causes problems by suggesting the gender binary not only exists, but exists in a recognisable form across the entire galaxy. This storyline takes that basic problem and turbo-charges it. I won't get into the nastiness of the concept of "traps" here - some of you will know what I mean, and the rest of you can look it up elsewhere, if you’ve for the fortitude for a stee descent into transphobic hideousness. I'll just note that the idea is literalised here. A rage burns in my chest hot enough to scorch my ribcage every time I think about how Reed, after letting his libido lead him into an obvious mugging, leaving him unconscious in his underwear in a basement, is most appalled at the fact he was attracted to someone who later became male-presenting. As though in all of this, that was the most unpleasant deception.


I still remember watching these episodes back when there were rumours Reed was going to be the franchise's first outwardly gay character. Here, they not only finally shut that possibility down with the finale of a blast-door shearing through a careless crewman, they decide to make him misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic too. Not exactly an inaccurate representation of contemporary Britain, I guess, but still.


We might want to return here to the topic of the difference between representation and endorsement. It's true that Reed and Tucker get their comeuppance, with the stink of their self-inflicted misery following them back onto the shuttlepod home. We're clearly not supposed to see them as noble heroes waylaid by scurrilous thieves. This isn't intended as a demonstration of how the pursuit of sex is "supposed" to work in the 22nd century, as Hoshi's story here makes clear. So no, the episode isn't exactly endorsing our desperate misogynist horndogs here.


The question I keep coming back to though is why transphobia is something which needed representation here in the first place? Even if "Two Days And Two Nights" isn't actually defending many cishet men's paranoia of finding themselves attracted to someone either currently male, or AMAB, what possible good does imaging that appalling attitude has survived to the 2150s do? Trip and Reed do perfectly well demonstrating the degree to which they deserve a bushwhacking just with their crappy attitude toward women – which is bad enough in itself given this is supposed to be a society which has left sexism behind. There's no need to load on more awful positions, especially since the decision to dole out some poetic justice over their crappy attitudes towards women is given no parallel in terms of their crappy attitudes toward gender identity. Removing the dialogue about male aliens would do absolutely nothing to harm the plotline. It's just taken as read that Reed and Tucker's attitude is funny. A way of getting cheap laughs, included on that basis.


The episode isn't saying it's good, no. But it is saying it's not actually all that bad.


And that's reason enough to be furious.


The Passion Of Dracula

Thank the Prophets we can move on, then, and finish up with something much more pleasant. On re-watching this season for the first time since broadcast, I think Hoshi might be my favourite character in the whole show. Someone who absolutely loves one part of her job, and suffers through all the colossal and psychologically hurtful nonsense that surrounds it, in order to get everything, whether it’s the bits she loves or not, done to the best of her ability. I can relate. I can’t relate to her fear of space travel in quite the same way, admittedly, but it makes perfect sense. Hoshi was born at just the right time to live in an era where space travel was commonplace enough to make it difficult to avoid, but not well-enough established to feel like this is something people are actually supposed to, you know, do. Everything seems like it's been slapped together at great effort to hide the fact that its all, fundamentally, a bloody stupid and dangerous idea. It’s like going to work every day in an office you know is incredibly unlikely to fill with poisonous gas, but no-one can rule the possibility out. And Hoshi seems to be the only one to have figured that out.


Anyway, while everyone else is having some kind of surprisingly rubbish holiday, the space-phobic Hoshi gets the chance to stretch her legs, and just has a bloody good time chatting to people in nice restaurants. As I've said, the message here seems to be to just chill out and see where your time takes you, rather than making elaborate plans and/or setting very specific goals. More than that, though, while Archer and Mayweather attempt to mostly absent themselves from the local population, and Trip and Malcolm view them as targets to cycle through until they find something worth locking on to, Hoshi seeks out the locals just to get to know them better. To take the chance to learn a new language, and through it, new viewpoints. New ways of thinking. The idea that this then leads to her being more successful than Tucker and Reed at getting laid, just because it's something that ends up happening rather than being an obsession, is rather sweet.


We should also note the savviness of casting Rudolf Martin as Ravis. Ravis is most well-known for playing villains, or at least he was at the time. The year before this episode aired, Martin had roles as a Russian mobster in Beggars And Choosers, and as a sniper out to murder a US politician in 24. The year before that, he was our TV screens as Dracula. Twice. If nothing else, people would have been likely to recognise him from 24, given its popularity. Even if not, his German accent, however unfairly, codes him as someone you'd expect to turn out to be an antagonist. His introducing himself to Hoshi after hearing she's an open and friendly newcomer to the planet sets off all sorts of alarm bells, in terms of how we might expect this story to go.


But it's all fine. Everything works out wonderfully, with Hoshi explicitly shutting down the suggestion that Ravis might have taken advantage of her. It's not just that Hoshi isn't another Tucker or Reed, it's that Ravis isn't either. Anyone expecting trouble in any of this needs to consider their assumptions. The conventional wisdom both that strange men cannot be trusted and that you shouldn't sleep with a guy on the same weekend you met them is wholly rejected. I'm not suggesting either of those are unimaginable scenarios, you understand – that’s clearly not the case. It's the need to craft patronising or even patriarchal moral fables around them that gives me gas. Hoshi knows what she's doing, and she has fun doing it.


My operating theory on Enterprise since "Vox Sola" is that the show has intentionally wound its ambition in, to concentrate instead on nailing the basics. On that front, we see further evidence of progress. "Two Days And Two Nights" splits itself capably into four plot strands, each taking a different approach under a central theme, to see where its strengths lie while being in a position to ride out an error or two. The broad comedy onboard ship, the workmanlike but solid set-up for future episodes by the sea, and in particular the sweet, uncomplicated love story in the Risan capital, all demonstrate that Enterprise has a range of options going forward. It's successes so far don't need to have been flukes. There is magic here, if a way can be found to mix the available ingredients in such a way to spark it. The buddy action-comedy of Trip and Malcolm was a bust, yes, but the show at least partially realises this. We might finally be ready to start boldly going properly once again, once season two begins.


There's just one little problem to deal with first...


Ordering


1. (The Storyteller)

2. (Ex Post Facto)

3. Two Days And Two Nights

4. This Side Of Paradise

5. (The Infinite Vulcan)

6. Conspiracy


Show Ordering


1. Deep Space Nine

2. The Original Series

3. Voyager

4. The Next Generation

5. The Animated Series

6. Enterprise


[1] It's only a quick beat to justify the setup, so I'll keep from ranting about it at great length, but let's note in passing how Mayweather's predicament reflects the stereotype that foreign doctors can't be as good as homegrown ones.

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