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The evolution of Archer


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Report this Mar. 07 2010, 3:02 pm

I like Cptn. Archer. I was uncomfortable with the way he evolved. I understood why. I wanted it different though.


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Report this Mar. 07 2010, 4:56 pm

Quote (crewmanJC @ Mar. 07 2010, 3:02 pm)
I like Cptn. Archer. I was uncomfortable with the way he evolved. I understood why. I wanted it different though.

I was uncomfortable; I think we were SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable, since we were led to empathize with his naivete and enthusiasm for exploration in the beginning.

But I think he was able to pull back from the Xindi experience in Season 3, and how much it damaged his self-esteem by forcing him to compromise his ethics, during Season 4 and become more balanced. I'm certain it made him a better diplomat, and his experience as a diplomat surely gave him hope for the future again.


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Report this Mar. 12 2010, 4:16 pm

Wow, this went on (and took) much longer than I ever expected. Sorry for the length, but it's actually about as brief as I could manage. :O


I've been thinking about T'Pol's Trellium-D addiction. In terms of writing, the entire storyline is a lot more sophisticated that it seems at first. The execution was off slightly, though, making it a little too subtle for Primetime television. Most people didn't consciously notice anything off about T'Pol, and if they did they chalked it up to studio meddling or the writers not knowing how to handle Vulcans.

Anyways, what got me thinking about this arc was noticing that the writers cleverly bookended it with T'Pol's dreams. At the end of 'Impulse' we get a dream of T'Pol being trapped and attacked by the Vulcan Zombies. The events of 'Impulse' were the impetus for her experimentation, and this dream can be seen as the effective beginning of her addiction. During 'Damage' we get another dream, this time of T'Pol herself transforming into a Vombie. This can be seen as the effective end of her addiction. She gets one more fix, nearly dying in the process, and completely loses her s%!t with the Captain. Her dream signals hitting rock bottom, and within hours of it she's seeking treatment.

Another very well done aspect is the emotional continuity present at the bookend moments. To explain my view of this, I'll have to go back a little.

In 'The Expanse' T'Pol gives up her status, her commission, and her career in order to remain on the Enterprise, because:

T'POL: You're taking Enterprise into a very dangerous place. This is no time for me to leave.
ARCHER: We'll be all right.
T'POL: You'll need a science officer, whether she's a member of the High Command or not.
ARCHER: I've been thinking about who to promote.
T'POL: You need me, Captain.

I'm sure T'Pol expected things to remain much the same between them once they embarked. If anything, I would imagine she thought they would grow closer. Instead the pressure caused Archer to withdraw from everyone, an emotional reaction she just is incapable of understanding. She stayed because the Captain needed her, but six weeks and five episodes later she's feeling decidedly neglected. In 'Impulse' she nearly borders on needy. Her attempts in the beginning of the episode to be of some help to Archer, any at all, are almost pitiful.

T'POL: Captain.
ARCHER: We've been reviewing some of these Xindi star charts. Trip thought they might be able to help us figure out if there are any more spatial anomalies in the region.
T'POL: I would have helped you do that.
ARCHER: It's late. I didn't want to get you out of bed.


ARCHER: How much farther?
T'POL: Twelve hundred kilometres. I could take the helm if you'd like.
ARCHER: Maybe on the way back.

So the episode happens, and the emotional jist is that Archer reaffirms that he trusts, cares for, and needs T'Pol. The fact that he depended upon her even while she was losing control, the extent to which he went to ensure her safety, and his actions in their final scene together affect T'Pol.

T'POL: It's essential you protect this ship. Leave me on the next habitable planet.
ARCHER: I'm not going to do that.
T'POL: You can't allow your concern for a single crewman to affect your mission. This Expanse destroyed everyone aboard the Seleya. Don't let it happen to Enterprise.
ARCHER: We'll find a way through this, but I won't leave anyone behind. Not if I can help it. I can't try to save humanity without holding on to what makes me human.

So the scene seems set for a return to normal, but Archer once again pulls away and T'Pol begins mainlining Trellium. Thus, their downward spirals begin. At first T'Pol thinks she's in control, as usually happens with addictions, but she grows more and more out of control. Her emotionality peaks with crying for Archer and planning to run off on a suicide mission to save him, with the EV suit walk that almost kills her and her tantrum with Archer.

This last scene is especially important. It ties the entire arc together,

T'POL: We can't save humanity without holding on to what makes us human. Those were your words to me.

and more than anything seems to convince T'Pol that she needs help. The captain finally noticing that there's something wrong with her both gratifies and terrifies her (as shown a little later by her scene with Phlox),

T'POL: I won't let you do it! (smashed her PADD against the edge of his deck)
ARCHER: We've had our share of disagreements, but you've never taken it out on my desk before.
T'POL: I apologise.
ARCHER: What's happening to you?

PHLOX: I expect you to report back here at the first sign of trouble.
T'POL: Are you going to discuss this with the Captain?
PHLOX: This is between you and your doctor.

and, once again, the reaffirmation of 'need' shows up.

ARCHER: Maybe you should find the time.
T'POL: I didn't mean what I said.
ARCHER: I'm glad to hear it. I'll be leading the boarding party. There's no margin for error. If we don't do this right, people are going to die. We need you on the Bridge.

The very next scene, in Sickbay, is also important and serves as a kind of epilogue. T'Pol explains herself and her actions.

T'POL: When I was exposed to trellium aboard the Seleya, it affected me in a way that I wasn't prepared for.
PHLOX: As I recall, you were homicidal and paranoid.
T'POL: The initial effects were overwhelming, but as they began to wear off I discovered I was able to access certain emotions. I wanted more. I began to experiment by ingesting small amounts of trellium. I devised a way to inject it into my bloodstream.
PHLOX: You must have known it was dangerous. Trellium exposure is deadly to Vulcans. It eats away at the neural pathways.
T'POL: I thought, in small amounts, it would be safe. At first, I was able to control the new emotions. My interactions with the crew improved.

Her reason for beginning to use Trellium rests entirely with her experiences on board the Seleya and immediately afterward (the episode 'Impulse' ) and the emotions these experiences brought to fore. Her improved interactions with the crew was a happy benefit/side effect.

And, finally, the writers put a bow on this exceptionally well put together arc with one more refrain touching upon the emotional undercurrent established with 'The Expanse'.

ARCHER [OC]: Archer to T'Pol.
T'POL: Go ahead.
ARCHER [OC]: We're approaching the vessel. Report to the Bridge.
T'POL: I'm on my way.
PHLOX: You should remain here for observation.
T'POL: The Captain needs me. I have to go.


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Report this Mar. 12 2010, 4:39 pm

XavierZane, very detailed and supportive explanation of the Trellium-D addiction arc, you have provided a clearer understanding of what I had hovering on the sphere of my conciousness about this storyline, and I like the cohesion of the conclusion! I prefer those subtle scenes, since I am one who reads so much into situations anyway, therefore I do not need to be hit over the head with the writer's point....this part of T'Pol's character was one of the more subtle as to why it was written.  Great inference and synopsis!


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Report this Mar. 12 2010, 6:43 pm

Great essay, Xavier! excellent. I agree that T'Pol's "story arc" in S.3 is lost on the casual viewer; I only ever began to focus on it with re-viewings of the episodes. And you went and got even more out of it than I did, but I definitely DID notice the writers had a lot more going on--a lot more that was planned and cohesive--than first meets the eye.

T'Pol's motivation for the Trellium--complex question! probably she doesn't even know. Her interactions with the crew improved? she wanted to know how humans used emotion to motivate and guide themselves?

Some explain away her attraction to Trip by blaming it all on the Trellium, but as we know, drugs can't manufacture emotions or desires, merely bring them to the fore. She already had feelings she wanted to explore before using Trellium.

And I especially appreciate how you respect the depth of her friendship with Archer. We've had a couple good threads--still here if you instruct the thread list to go back to "the beginning"--exploring the T'Pol/Archer friendship, how complex and rich friendship stories can be, there doesn't need to be romance. And this particular friendship gives us a lot to explore. Archer does hole up in S.3--and how does that affect his growing friendship with a Vulcan who may never have had such a relationship before?

You ask and answer the really good questions, Xavier! Glad you're with us. :)


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Report this Mar. 12 2010, 7:30 pm

Xavier - great post. I always thought there were many nuanced levels to that arc. I also felt that trillium was not the reason for T'Pol's attraction to Trip. As grigori wrote, the addiction helped her start to explore those feelings. As we know from T'Pol's mother, T'Pol's always had emotions closer to the surface than most Vulcans.

I think you're pretty much on the money about the wonderful and deep friendship between T'Pol and Archer and Archer's pulling into himself during S3. That relationship is one of the richest and most interesting aspects of Enterprise. It's wonderful to watch BB and then all the way through to the Vulcan arc and even the end of TATV.

Thanks again for your thoughtful post Xavier.


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Report this Apr. 01 2010, 11:43 am

Rereading some of the Archer backstory, I thought of how the character evolved from pre series information to season 4, and the potential of beyond...

Case in point, in Shuttlepod 1 we get a bit of background from Trip on how quickly Archer would pick up on new information and absorb it into his psyche, almost like a sponge, showing his unique intellectual abilities. The earlier clips of young Archer with his father in BB and AG in First Flight give us a glimpse of how Archer would have a strong mind and convictions of what he perceived as being the truth and the 'right' attitude, however, when presented with another perspective, especially by someone he respected, he could realign his priorities and move on to another more enlightened viewpoint, one which gave him the opportunity to grow personally and have the inherent qualities to bring to any future situation as needed to bring about a positive outcome (as in The Andorian Incident, Cease Fire, The Xindi Arc, The Vulcan Arc, and Babel One )

His leadership went from being the eager explorer in Unexpected, having time to relax and read even while taking care of his duties and ship and crew and new alien species in need.....

to Zero Hour, where Archer methodically and with cool precision, kills a Xindi reptilian and blows up their weapon, fully aware it would most likely lead to his death, so that he could complete his mission to save Earth, his crew and ship, and destroy the Expanse, the success of that mission was paramount, and he knew to accomplish this he must willingly change who he was to do so....and based on how we saw his character as earlier depicted, we get to see this transition occur, while appreciating the nuanced pathway it takes along the years.  

Of course, we must comment now on how perfectly Scott Bakula portrayed his Archer role.  It was to be expected, as those of us who loved QL already knew, for him to bring such a layered depth to the part.  I must say, that with the recent ongoing episodes available on HDNet, without the delays and skipped eps, we as an audience can see this transition take place more fluidly, and I am in once again in awe of how good an actor Scott is......this was a beautifully developed character, and my accolades are abundant!

Other thoughts run of Archer and how SB portrayed, however this is enough for now.  Hope what I have in my mind in coherent on this post!!!


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Report this Apr. 01 2010, 12:21 pm

Quote (XavierZane @ Mar. 11 2010, 5:16 pm)
Wow, this went on (and took) much longer than I ever expected. Sorry for the length, but it's actually about as brief as I could manage. :O

Now this is some good stuff to think about and mull over. Thanks.


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Report this Apr. 01 2010, 12:35 pm


I too always connected T'Pol's addiction back to her experience on the Seleya as it was the only thing justified the events to follow. Her neural pathways had already degraded to a minor extent. Impressive job on the dialogue references. I especially enjoyed the examination of T'Pol's desire to be needed and contribute.


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Report this Apr. 01 2010, 1:44 pm

Quote (tishkajaku @ April 01 2010, 11:43 am)
Case in point, in Shuttlepod 1 we get a bit of background from Trip on how quickly Archer would pick up on new information and absorb it into his psyche, almost like a sponge, showing his unique intellectual abilities.

I began the thread with this "out-take" from Shuttlepod One, because I found it particularly revealing in where they wanted to start with Archer (and, nicely also, his relationship with Tucker). You make a good point. I thought Archer's greatest strengths--given the challenges of exploration and then, unexpectedly, mediation that were to define his purpose as Captain of the NX-01--were his adaptability and his empathy. He had only to get beyond a certain amount of resentment over perceived restraints and the air of Vulcan expectations for him to fail hanging over him. But T'Pol molded even that into a positive motivation while simultaneously erasing some of his prejudice.

Right from the episode The Andorian Incident we see Archer less likely to take personal offense--even when it's intensely personal, as in getting kicked around by Andorians--and focus on the big picture, this time the relationship between the Andorians and the Vulcans. He forces things into the open and single-handedly jolts a centuries-old conflict out of its complacency. He garners varying types of respect from both sides. The issue isn't over, but suddenly he's a force to be reckoned with on the inter-planetary stage.

So I find your observations of his "sponge-like" intellect and adaptability right on the money, tish! Apart from the Vulcans, Archer has nothing personal to prove, and that leads to the successes he does have over the next four years.

And maybe it's a carry-over from the Sam Beckett phenomenon, but with Archer we're given--more than with any other Trek Captain, I think--a sort of "Everyman" feel that allows us to empathize and resonate right along with him. We're Trekkies, we get geeked about exploration! We respect the open-minded! We experience the most disheartening and wrenching of stories and circumstance and remain starry-eyed! I like that ENT let us do that.

Hoshi means "star". ENT put reaching for the stars back in the fore for Trek again, and Archer was just the character to do it.

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