How Social Media Saved the World

It cannot be understated that we are living through a history-making difficult time. Hundreds of thousands of people are falling victim to a global pandemic and everyone is else either staying home or acting brazenly stupid. It shouldn't be surprising, though, that one of the upshots of all of this is that there has been a rise in meme-making.

First defined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 as a cultural idea that takes on a life of its own and is passed down through generations much the same way that genes are, the word "meme" has itself taken on a life of its own to define pictures made and passed around on the Internet that often lampoon various aspects of life. I don't think I've seen any new memes in the past few days that weren't about the COVID-19 epidemic. But this isn't the first time a global catastrophe has been made fun of in what could be described as a "childish" fashion. In fact, one of the memes I've seen compared the uptick in Cor…

Star Trek: Asterisk "Stigma"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S02E14
Air Date: February 5, 2003
Written by: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by: David Livingston

T'Pol is diagnosed with Vulcan AIDS and one of Phlox's wives attempts to seduce Trip.

Following in the great tradition of heavy-handed space-morality tales, "Stigma" opens with T'Pol finishing up a visit to sickbay wherein Phlox warns her that if he doesn't get more information on the secret disease that she has, she could very well die. Her only hope is if Phlox can covertly research the disease with some fellow Vulcan doctors at an upcoming medical exchange convention. Covertly because Pa'nar syndrome is basically Vulcan AIDS. It's contracted while undergoing the forbidden practice of mind melding. Something that Spock did over and over and over again and never worried about spreading any disease. It's gonna be a long episode...

During the medical exchange convention, Phlox plans on meeting one of his wives named Feezal. When Feezal comes aboard she immediately takes a liking to Trip who helps her unpack and put together some new medical supplies. Denobulan males marry several wives who each have three of their own husbands. It becomes immediately apparent that not only is it common practice for Denobulan females make passes at others regardless of marital status, but also that this subplot is specifically intended to help the viewer connect the main plot to sexuality.
It's also apparent that Feezal is a cougar.
When Phlox gets down to the convention he meets with some Vulcans and makes up a story about helping a colleague of his who is studying the effects of a disease that is similar to Pa'nar syndrome. The Vulcans are obviously reluctant to talk about it because Vulcan AIDS is only contracted by the Vulcan Gays and the Vulcan Gays are ostracized from Vulcan society. And, of course, by Vulcan Gays I mean those who are born with the ability to mind meld aka, the V'tosh ka'tur.
"I am gonna meld you so hard..."
The Vulcan doctors deduce that the real reason Phlox is asking is because T'Pol has Pa'nar syndrome and arrange a meeting to secretly gather her DNA. When they find out she does, in fact, have the disease, they contact the Vulcan High Command to recall her from duty and Archer is immediately informed and then pissed off that Phlox has been lying. Archer speaks to Phlox and T'Pol  and then Phlox explains the situation and Archer's rage immediately shifts to the Vulcans who are destroying T'Pol's career because of a disease and the way they "express intimacy with another Vulcan." The Vulcan doctors even explain that those who practice mind melds are part of a "minority." And they keep on referring to them as a "minority" as if that is their sub-cultural moniker. Seriously; could they be any more ham-fisted?

Well, back to the Feezal cougar situation, Trip is feeling awful about being hit on by Phlox's wife, so he confronts Phlox about it thinking, for some odd reason, that Phlox is going to be pissed. Because Phlox hasn't made it clear on many occasions that Denobulans take several mates. (Hint: he actually has.) So Trip is all nervous and Phlox enjoys watching him squirm around trying to explain what's happening and Phlox eventually ends up saying something along the lines of "get over your silly human ideas of sexual morality." Which is, of course, code for "T'Pol's storyline is all about the gays."

Well, eventually, one of the Vulcan doctors reveals secretly to T'Pol that he, too, was born with the ability to mind meld and he is willing to help her with all the research and treatments that she needs for Pa'nar syndrome. And Archer figures out that she has the right to a fair trial before she is recalled from duty. He believes that since T'Pol was basically mind-raped back in "Fusion" the Vulcan High Command should go easy on her. But T'Pol doesn't want people to know she was mind-raped because, for some reason, she suddenly has an overwhelming urge to help the "minority" and saying that she was mind-raped excuses the High Command's behavior toward the "minority".

So they go into the trial and T'Pol tries to keep her secret, but when things get heated the Vulcan doctor who's part of the mind-melding "minority" speaks up and says that she was mind-raped, is not part of the "minority" and should, therefore, keep her post on the Enterprise.

And then Trip still refuses Feezal's advances and Feezal goes home and they all live happily ever after and learn a valuable lesson about keeping our thoughts to ourselves.
I'm happy for you, T'Pol, and I'mma let you finish...

Overall Thoughts
Morality tales have never been my favorite episodes. But even so, there were plenty of ways to keep this one a little more subtle. As it is, it just failed. And now we have a whole arc to figure out how this disease was cured by the time Spock came around and why mind melding is pretty much ok with the Vulcans in his time. I guess that can be a plus if they do it right.


  1. Tommy Robey1/5/12, 10:32 AM

    In watching these you have to realize that this isn't just a story of Starfleet back in the day, but of all races back in the day. Do you think Star Fleet went from one pathetic ship with few weapons and no shields to having an armada of juggernaut galaxy class ships with the snap of a finger? No, they had to go through some shit first. So do you think that the Vulcans went from being their version of apes to being the emotionless yet open minded and unprejudiced society that they are in TNG at the snap of a finger? No, they had to go through some shit first.

    That's what I think Enterprise does so well, highlighting all the social shit each of the early members of the federation had to go through. Not every Vulcan is as bad ass as Spock just as not ever Klingon is as bad ass as Worf. In fact, I LIKE that the crew of the Enterprise isn't as "bad ass" as the other crews in the other series because because it makes them more HUMAN. You can't expect the first captain and crew ever on the first starfleet star ship ever to be has experience and polished as Picard or Kirk and their crews. They're going to make mistakes and they're going to make decisions that make you scratch your head.

  2. I do understand that. I understand all of that, and I actually really appreciate it. My problem with this episode isn't that Vulcans were so different; in fact, I loved the arc in season 4 where the Vulcans pretty much redeemed themselves and became the culture we know from TOS. My problem with this episode was the lack of subtly in the way they handled a clearly sensitive matter.


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