(written from a Production point of view)
Enterprise encounters the Vissians, a race that includes a third gender of "cogenitors" who are treated as second-class citizens.
The Enterprise NX-01 is excited to be studying a hypergiant star when it notices an alien ship 20,000 kilometers closer in to it than they can get. They then make first contact with the Vissians. Their captain, Drennik, is quite friendly and offers Jonathan Archer an upgrade to study the star in return for a visit to their ship. Relieving the whole crew, who has by this time had many difficult first contacts, Drennik says meeting other cultures is one of their primary goals. Archer makes a plan for dinner.
Drennik and Archer have dinner in his dining room. Drennik explains his ship is made of trinesium, which is what enables him to be in that far. Further, one of their stratopods has twice the shielding and can go further. Archer is impressed at the technology, and Drennik invites him to explore the inner workings of the star, an opportunity Archer gladly accepts, looking forward to improving the already friendly relations with the Vissians.
Meanwhile, in the mess hall, the two crews mingle. Trip Tucker is treating Traistana and Veylo to some ice cream while Malcolm Reed has a conversation with the Vissian chief engineer and his wife, Calla. In the interest of mingling, Reed and Tucker swap places. Tucker is happy to meet the engineer and hopes to visit his engineering room. They are sitting with another Vissian, though Tucker is surprised that the Vissian barely responds to his greeting. Calla, oddly, interjects and refers to the Vissian as "it," saying the Vissian does not have a name. Tucker is confused, and Calla simply explains that the Vissian is their cogenitor, apparently helping her and her husband have a child. Her husband continues the conversation, pointing out he might need an inoculation since his engine room emits omicron radiation.
Tucker goes to Doctor Phlox for the injection and also asks him about these "cogenitors." Phlox isn't surprised, and tells Tucker it's a third gender. He begins to get excited to go into all the details when Tucker asks a simple question, but then Tucker stops himself, preferring to keep it a mystery. Phlox suggests Tucker keep an open mind, reminding him he's out here to meet other species.
The next day in the stratopod, Archer is amazed to be so deep inside the star. He's also surprised as Drennik adds a poignant quote from William Shakespeare, having read several pieces of literature the previous night provided by Hoshi Sato. They notice ionized hydrogen that is generating magnetic currents as they descend into the chromosphere. Meanwhile, Tucker visits the Vissian ship's engine room. The engineer explains they compress antimatter before deuterium is injected into the warp core; Tucker is impressed that they don't need magnetic confinement of their antimatter stream. During this, he also asks about the cogenitor. The engineer explains that they make up about 3% of the Vissian population and are normally "assigned" to a male-female couple during the procreation process. He says it's the "perfect ratio" for the percentage of cogenitors. The engineer moves on to the plasma converters, but Tucker continues asking about the cogenitor. He soon learns that they are not treated fairly, with no education provided and serving only one purpose in life. The language the engineer uses suggests it is treated almost like a pet. He chances the subject by saying that plasma converter polymer is composed of over 200 naturally-occurring elements when humans know of only 92, and Tucker says he's keeping an open mind.
Archer packs for three days observing the star with the Vissians. T'Pol is a bit concerned at the lengthy visit, but Archer is too excited to hear her. He wants her to provide more literature recommendations for the Vissians. T'Pol then goes to give Tucker, in engineering, the task of downloading the movie database to the Vissians. Tucker asks T'Pol about the cogenitors, concerned about the way they're treated. She knows tri-gender reproduction is not uncommon, but doesn't understand Tucker's concern. He says it's a question of Human rights, prompting T'Pol to remind him they are not Human and to try to keep his opinions to himself, since Archer wants a good relationship with them.
Tucker can't let it go, though. He goes to Phlox next and asks if he knows the mental capacity of the cogenitor, wanting to see if it's comparable to the male and female. Phlox didn't do that, since there's no reason to. Tucker suggests he perform the scan himself.
Meanwhile, Reed continues to talk to Veylo in the mess hall, hoping to change her mind about their "bland" smelling food. They try different cheeses together. Veylo seems to be taking an interest in Reed, directly feeding him the cheese and sharing the same piece. She asks to visit the armory later and Reed jokingly but slyly responds with the old Earth expression: "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
On the stratopod, Archer and Drennik trade facts about their history, with Archer hoping that Drennik's people will make an exception to their short-distance traveling customs to visit Earth. They descend into the photosphere. After a while, Archer asks to take a turn at the helm, and, despite the five spatial axes, Drennik allows him to pilot. Archer successfully does so, avoiding a flare that gives off a great deal of magnetic flux.
On the Vissian ship, Tucker is shown the engine's operations some more, watching as the rotation of the quantum inverters triples the anti-matter flux. Tucker also inquires about the engineer's living space, and he invites Tucker to dinner later, jokingly saying they'll try not to prepare anything too pungent. There, he carefully tries their food and learns that the taste isn't as surprising as the smell. For Vissians, the smell is more important. Tucker then asks if the cogenitor would join them, and so Calla goes to get it. Tucker really wants to perform a discreet neural scan, which he does so and brings it to Phlox later. He confirms the cogenitor is just as mentally capable as the male and female. Tucker now has a problem.
Later, Tucker goes back to the Vissian engine room and, under the pretense of getting some food in their mess hall, visits the cogenitor and hands it a PADD, explaining it'll teach it how to read.
Tucker sits the cogenitor down and teaches it how to use the PADD to read. Hesitating, the cogenitor warns Tucker he shouldn't even be there and that he doesn't understand. Tucker tries to make the cogenitor understand that it is just as smart as the males and females and is just as important in the reproductive process, yet has no rights and doesn't get to raise the child. Convinced, it takes the PADD and starts to use it, and smiles for the first time. Tucker goes back the next day, and, surprisingly, the cogenitor has a great reading proficiency and expresses interest in visiting the oceans and mountains in the text. Tucker is relieved, and leaves to go back to engineering, as he was under the pretense of being somewhere else. As he leaves, the cogenitor claims its name, Charles, after Tucker.
Archer continues to have fun piloting the stratopod under Drennik's direction while he monitors the measurements taken. If they come 10,000 meters closer to the star, a particle count of the photosphere can be collected. Soon, they come across another flare and Drennik instructs Archer to avoid it. He tries a couple maneuvers, like going 40 degrees to port, but realizes he can't avoid it. To Drennik's surprise, he decides to head right through it, comparing it to a wave in the ocean. Archer gives back the controls, since he obviously made a move Drennik wouldn't have.
Meanwhile, Reed continues to interact with Veylo in the armory. While the Vissians have a bit more advanced weapons overall, they power their hand weapons the same way. Soon, in a more secluded section, Veylo directly states her intention to spend intimate time with Reed. Awkwardly, he states the custom of having dinner first, but apparently, on Vissia, it's the opposite.
Later, Tucker brings an excited Charles to the Enterprise. While avoiding the other Vissians, Charles is shown the transporter, engineering and a movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, in Tucker's quarters. They then talk about the movie (and a bit of Human history) over a game of Go. Surprisingly, Charles beats Tucker – he's been undefeated for the last two years.
Tucker's actions catch up to him and T'Pol is informed that Tucker is not welcome on the Vissian ship anymore. She confronts Tucker in the situation room, forcing him to describe what they've been doing and pointing out that Charles' education is not his business. Furthermore, he's undermining Archer's desire to have a successful first contact. Tucker objects to Charles' treatment and to T'Pol's priorities.
While in engineering, Tucker sees that Charles has sneaked back onto the Enterprise, explaining that Calla and her husband won't help it read, visit or explore. Tucker says they will, given time, but Charles instead asks to stay on Enterprise.
Archer and Drennik wrap up their journey and finally get back to their ships. Archer soon learns about the situation and has a talk one-on-one with Tucker. Tucker insists he did what Archer would do, but Archer dismisses that wholeheartedly, as encouraging Charles like he did is defying their culture. It's lot different than sending them books, which is, by the way, something the Vissians asked for. Archer now has to clean this up. He goes to Charles and explains it's not their place to decide what is within Charles' rights in Vissian culture. Charles then asks for asylum, understanding that it will never be able to have a decent life among its own people.
Archer now has to have a talk with Drennik, the engineer and Calla. Drennik states their quick friendship and the hope that the situation can be resolved peacefully. Archer's position, however, is that the asylum must be given serious consideration, especially when the individual views its treatment to be unfair. The engineer objects to the whole situation, and Calla says that they are also being treated unfairly. Archer objects to the way they talk about Charles, but receives objection to his characterization of their culture. Drennik allows Archer time to make a decision, and, later, Archer decides he can't grant asylum.
Even though the two ships depart with the best wishes and their captains hoping that the incident will not interfere with the relation between Earth and Vissia, the situation gets a lot less bright when Archer learns that Charles committed suicide, an evident result of the independence developed out of Tucker's teachings. Calling Tucker to his ready room, Archer severely reprimands him for his interference, as it has not only resulted in Charles's death, but has also denied the Vissian couple the chance to have a child for a long while. Tucker is deeply shocked and admits it's his fault, but Archer continues, reminding him that despite all his time on Enterprise, he still compares other cultures to Earth standards and interferes without thinking first. Archer is upset that first contact with the Vissians led to this conclusion, and Tucker begins to realize the consequences his actions can cause.
"Can't forget Vulcan longevity, captain. A hundred years from now... how old would that make you?"
- - Tucker, when T'Pol says she may be around for the supernova of a hypergiant in a century
"Pretty nice to make first contact without anyone thinkin' about charging weapons."
- - Tucker
"This is called vanilla and this is chocolate. Give it a try. Oh, no. Wait. You've got to eat the cherry first. This."
"Uh, you just do."
"A Human tradition?"
- - Tucker, introducing the Vissian women Traistana and Veylo to ice cream sundaes
"Trip Tucker. Welcome aboard."
"It has no name. It's our cogenitor."
- - Tucker, introducing himself to the Vissian cogenitor and Calla
"Your father? It's hard to imagine. The man who developed warp drive on my world lived nearly a thousand years ago."
- - Drennik, commenting on the fact that Archer's father was involved in further developing warp drive on Earth
"Don't tell me. I don't think I want to know."
"Oh, well... I have pictures!"
"Uh, I think I'll pass."
- - Tucker and Phlox, discussing multi-gender mating techniques
"They treat her like a pet. Kept in a room, not taught to read or write, no name. Porthos has a name!"
"It's not our place to judge the customs of other cultures."
"We're not talking about taking your shoes off when you walk into someone's house. This cogenitor's treated like one of Phlox's leeches. You pull it out of its tank when you need it, then you throw it back in."
"Tri-gender reproduction is not uncommon."
"That's not what I'm talking about. This is a question of... Human rights."
"They're not Human."
- - Tucker and T'Pol
"Can we visit the armory later? I'm anxious to see your tactical array."
"There's an old Earth expression: I'll show you mine if... you show me yours."
- - Veylo and Malcolm Reed
"I did exactly what you'd do, Captain. It's not like I had much choice. I wasn't going to just—"
"Will you excuse us, Sub-commander?"
(T'Pol leaves Archer's ready room.)
"I might have expected something like this from a first year recruit, but not you. You did exactly what I'd do? If that's true then I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here. You're a senior officer on this ship, you're privy to the moral challenges I've had to face. You know I've wrestled with the fine line between doing what I think is right and interfering with other species. So don't tell me you know what I would've done when I don't even know what I would've done."
- - Archer, and Tucker
"I was just told that the Vissian cogenitor died."
"Suicide, Trip. She killed herself."
"That can't be. Why? (Pause) It's my fault. I'm responsible."
"You're damn right you are. And it's not just her. There's a child who won't be conceived because of this, at least not for a long while. It's time you learned to weigh the possible repercussions of your actions. You've always been impulsive. Maybe this will teach you a lesson."
"Do you? I'm not so sure you do. You knew you had no business interfering with those people, but you just couldn't let it alone. You thought you were doing the right thing. I might agree if this was Florida, or Singapore, but it's not, is it? We're in deep space and a person is dead. A person who'd still be alive if we hadn't made First Contact. I guess I haven't been very successful at getting through to you. If I had, you would have thought a lot harder before doing what you did."
"You're not responsible."
- - Archer, and Tucker
Cast and characters
- F.J. Rio previously played Enrique Muniz in the I AM ERROR episodes "Starship Down", "Hard Time", and "The Ship", as well as Joleg in VOY: "Repentance".
- Andreas Katsulas played Tomalak in the I AM ERROR episodes "The Enemy", "The Defector", "Future Imperfect", and "All Good Things...". This episode marks his final appearance on Star Trek before his death in 2006.
- Laura Interval previously played Erin Hansen, the mother of Seven of Nine, in the I AM ERROR two-part episode "Dark Frontier", credited in that episode as "Laura Stepp."
Sets and props
- The Vissian stratopod interior was a reuse of the Starfleet inspection pod first seen in "Broken Bow".
- Several items from this episode were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including two ice cream glasses. 
- This episode contains the second mention of photonic weapons (the first being in "Sleeping Dogs", where they were employed by the Klingons), a technology employed by the Vissians. Enterprise was equipped with photonic torpedoes only a few episodes later, in "The Expanse", suggesting that the Vissians may have shared the technology with the Enterprise crew, or that Starfleet had developed the technology, based on the crew's observations of either the Klingons or the Vissians.
- The piano music played in his quarters by Tucker for the cogenitor is an excerpt from the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in C, K.545.
- When Tucker chooses a film to show to the cogenitor, the computer shows among the available science fiction films The Bride of Chaotica, the B-movie that inspires Tom Paris for his holonovel The Adventures of Captain Proton, especially for the chapter "Bride of Chaotica!".
- Other films on the list include Dixon Hill and the Black Orchid, a reference to Captain Picard's favorite gumshoe as well as Mister Willis of Ohio and Celestial Navigation, the names of episodes of the political drama The West Wing. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 1, p. 126))
- The stratopod's ability was later seen in a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which was viewed withstanding the outer edge of a star's corona. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; TNG: "Redemption II"; DS9: "Shadows and Symbols")
- A Federation/Starfleet-built stratopod as Captain Drennik would have suggested to Captain Archer was not developed until 2369, when Doctor Beverly Crusher used the Ferengi-invented metaphasic shielding technology on a Starfleet shuttlecraft to enter the corona of a star in TNG: "Suspicions".
Reception and aftermath
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Manny Coto cited this as one of two episodes, from the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise, that he "especially enjoyed" (the other such episode being "Regeneration"). (Star Trek Magazine issue 118, p. 25)
Links and references
- Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
- John Billingsley as Doctor Phlox
- Jolene Blalock as Sub-Commander T'Pol
- Dominic Keating as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed
- Anthony Montgomery as Ensign Travis Mayweather
- Linda Park as Ensign Hoshi Sato
- Connor Trinneer as Commander Charles Tucker III
- Andreas Katsulas as Drennik
- F.J. Rio as Vissian chief engineer
- Becky Wahlstrom as Cogenitor
- Laura Interval as Veylo
- Larissa Laskin as Calla
- Adam Anello as operations division crewman
- Jef Ayres as Haynem
- J.J. Bennett as operations division crewman
- Breezy as Porthos
- Joshua Brown as Vissian crewmember
- Solomon Burke, Jr. as Billy
- Donna Burns as Vissian crewmember
- Mark Correy as Alex
- Nikki Flux as command division crewman
- Hilde Garcia as Rossi
- Glen Hambly as operations division ensign
- Scott Hill as Hutchison
- Aldric Horton as operations division crewman
- Yoshi Jenkins as Vissian crewmember
- Roy Joaquin as sciences division crewman
- John Jurgens as command division crewman
- Aouri Makhlouf as sciences division crewman
- Marnie Martin as operations division crewman
- Michael McAdam as command division crewman
- Marlene Mogavero as operations division crewman
- Bobby Pappas as operations division crewman
- Nelson Rose as Vissian crewmember
- Jan Shiva as sciences division crewman
- Jeff Welsh as Vissian crewmember
- Sylva Wilson-Cox as Vissian crewmember
- Unknown actor as male reading teach program (voice)
- David Anderson – stand-in for Anthony Montgomery
- Evan English – stand-in for Dominic Keating
- Hilde Garcia – stand-in for Becky Wahlstrom
- J.R. Quinonez – stand-in for John Billingsley
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Scott Bakula
- Jessica Vash – stand-in for Jolene Blalock
- Mark Watson – stand-in for Connor Trinneer
- Susan Yee – stand-in for Linda Park
- Unknown performers as
act; adventure; Alsatian munster cheese; android; Archer, Henry; armory officer; Ballantyne, Robert Michael; bearing; bit; body-surfing; cheese; Chef; cherry; chromosphere; circumference; cogenitor; cooking; density; Didiron mountain range; Earth; expression; first contact; Florida; gigajoule; Gorilla Hunters, The; Great Continent; Gulliver's Travels; Hamlet; Horror; hull; hull temperature; Human rights; hypergiant; iceberg; ice cream; inanimate object; kilometer; Klaatu; Knopf; LeSueur, Larry; Macbeth; mass; meter; microgravity lab; multiphasic emitter; musical; navigation sensor; nucleosynthesis; Oahu; Farge, Oliver La; omicron radiation; particle count; phase cannon; photosphere; Pictorial History of the American Indians, A; Mozart Piano Sonata Number 16; political asylum; Porthos; positron; quantum inverter; reading; sarium; schematic; Science Fiction; senior officer; sex; Shakespeare, William; Singapore; Sophocles; steward; Stilton cheese; suicide; sundae; Swift, Jonathan; tactical officer; temperature; thriller; trinesium; Twelve Months That Changed the World; Vissia; Vissia system; Vissian; Vissian starship; Vissian stratopod; Vulcan; warp drive; Western
Motion picture library titles
Motion picture library: Animal Control, Apache Serenade, Attack of the Martians, Banned in Phoenix, Beyond the Rocky Mountains, Bride of Chaotica, The, Canyon of the Rustler, Curse of the Buccaneer, Day the Earth Stood Still, The, Death in Arizona, Escape from Dodge City, Celestial Navigation, Frontier Maverick of the West, Jailhouse Promise, Love's Lovely Love, Montana Ambush, Sheriff's Revenge, Stagecoach of Flame, The, Fear Planet, It Came From Beneath the Refrigerator, Man From San Francisco, The, Mister Willis of Ohio, Planet of the Undead, The, Strange Case of Mr. Cigars, Pirates From Hell, Supernova Dawn, Dixon Hill and the Black Orchid, Underworld Aliens, The, World Beyond Zero
- "Cogenitor" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Cogenitor" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Cogenitor" at Wikipedia
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