In “Star Trek: Enterprise,” even the most ardent fans have issues with some of the storylines. Sometimes, fans come up with ideas to fill in gaps and plot holes. Occasionally, the ideas correct plot issues protect their favorite characters and ensure consistency throughout the series.
Enter T’Pol (played by Jolene Blalock). She’s Enterprise’s Vulcan first officer, and she has a drug addiction.
Background on T’Pol and Season 3
To understand the plot issues, it may help to delve into T’Pol’s character as well as flashback to season three, also known as the Xindi arc.
T’Pol – even according to her own mother – is more emotional than a standard, run-of-the-mill Vulcan. She’s skipped meditation before and even agrees to a mindmeld, something shunned by Vulcans at the beginning of “Star Trek: Enterprise.” (Don’t worry, it’s resolved in season four during the “Vulcan arc” – starting with “The Forge.”)
In season three, Earth is attacked by the Xindi. To save Earth from being destroyed, Enterprise’s crew rushes into the Delphic Expanse. T’Pol agrees to help her human crewmates, resigning from the Vulcan High Command.
But during the mission to save Earth and destroy the Xindi weapon, T’Pol becomes addicted to trellium-D (trellium), a neurotoxin that turns Vulcans into emotional zombies. She intentionally injects trellium into her neck. And realizing, in “Damage,” she’s become addicted, T’Pol seeks help from Dr. Phlox. When giving reasons for her addiction, she says it’s to improve relations with the crew. Phlox states, “Commander Tucker, for example.”
Issues Fans Have
Fans generally won’t quibble about T’Pol becoming addicted. It seems a plot device created to enable T’Pol to be more emotional. Some fans won’t argue about her being romantically paired with Trip Tucker, the emotional and lovable engineer.
But most fans desperately want T’Pol to become addicted for reasons out of her control or for noble reasons.
Blalock Wasn’t a Fan of the Addiction Plot
In this interview with Zap2it (on Trek Today), Jolene Blalock (T’Pol) said she wasn’t a fan of the Trip and T’Pol romance. (Then again, in this interview with Trek Today, John Billingsley – Phlox – says he didn’t like it either, indicating not many of the crew did.)
“They write it, I do it. I don’t see it, personally. T’Pol’s a Vulcan – how could she have a relationship? And he’s so emotional. My goodness, he’s like a nut case. So how are this nut case and this person who has her stuff together going to find common ground? Maybe that’s the basis. We’ll find out, because I’m not sure how that’s going to evolve.”
So, the reason she became an addict seems problematic to the actor.
“I wish the best for T’Pol, and I don’t wish her to be viewed as everything that they made her – a drug addict, weak woman, confused, lost.”
Idea 1: T’Pol Accidentally Gets Hooked During Neuro-pressure
In the episode, “The Xindi,” Phlox asks T’Pol to give Trip Vulcan neuro-pressure to help him sleep. The doctor says it’s necessary; otherwise, Trip could get hooked on sedatives. “Star Trek: Enterprise” writers gave Vulcans this art that’s like finger-acupuncture.
In the first episode of season three, Trip goes to a planet and is covered with waste and trellium trying to learn more about the Xindi. Even after a shower, he complains it’s hard to get off, suggesting he wasn’t able to remove it all. Some fans suggest T’Pol gets trellium-D under her fingernails while giving Trip this neuro-pressure treatment. After the trellium gets under her fingernails, she becomes hooked.
Maybe even, some fans suggest, she equated that “fix” with Trip Tucker, which is why their relationship emerged or flourished (depending on which fan you ask).
Idea 2: Vulcans Are Naturally Addicted to Trellium
In “Impulse,” written by Mike Sussman, Vulcans are trapped in the Delphic Expanse. Enterprise finds the Selaya (a Vulcan ship) and initially attempts to help the Vulcans. But once the away team boards the ship, they discover the Vulcans have turned emotional and worse, violent! The mystery of what happened to the zombie-like Vulcans becomes more urgent when T’Pol begins to act paranoid and angry.
It turns out, the Vulcans used trellium to line the ship, preventing its destruction against anomalies, but in the process irreversibly harms the crew. This neurotoxin has impacted every Vulcan aboard. Archer barely gets T’Pol to Enterprise alive. The other Vulcans weren’t so lucky as to escape, Archer and Reed have to blow up the Selaya. While in sickbay recovering from being exposed to trellium, T’Pol has a nightmare of becoming like one of the emotional and violent Vulcans. Afterward, Archer decides against lining Enterprise with trellium … and takes his chances with anomalies.
What if instead, Vulcans cannot fight a trellium addiction. Vulcans already are like superheroes in “Star Trek.” They have super strength, keen hearing, neck pinches, and more. By making trellium their kryptonite, there’s an opportunity to explore in other “Star Trek” films and shows, including affecting Mr. Spock. By not being able to fight.
Idea 3: T’Pol Purposefully Injects Trellium to Save Enterprise
Instead of T’Pol becoming accidentally hooked, what if she did so on purpose, but for noble reasons? Fans suggest perhaps T’Pol ingests or injects small amounts of trellium, hoping to eventually build up a tolerance and protect Enterprise from the anomalies that could cripple the ship and kill its crew. She would be self-sacrificing to honor the Vulcan axiom, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” It’s something Spock would’ve done.
Yet, even under the most honorable of intentions, she may still become addicted anyway.
Perhaps after realizing she’s addicted, she could go to Dr. Phlox and Captain Archer to admit the error in logic. Then, along with Trip, they could work together to help her recover.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong
T’Pol in “Star Trek: Enterprise,” has been through the wringer, possibly more than any other character. Sadly, because the fourth season was the last, many of the plotlines were left open … including T’Pol’s drug usage. She expressed remorse over her addiction but never told Trip or Captain Archer. In fact, Dr. Phlox never mentioned anything to either as well, despite T’Pol may have endangered Enterprise with her drug usage.
Tying up this particular loose end would both give T’Pol an opportunity for change and transformation, to be more emotional while ensuring the character is seen in a positive light. If the circumstances were beyond her control or she had the best of intentions, she could still be honorable.
If “Star Trek: Enterprise” had continued for a fifth season, Mike Sussman (writer) indicates he wanted to make T’Pol half-Romulan. In the Trek Movie Blog, Mike Sussman says he wanted to play to Blalock’s strengths while explaining her emotions.
I had this sneaky plan to reveal that T’Pol’s father was a Romulan, but who knows how that would’ve played out. I think I could’ve sold Rick and Brannon on it. The Xindi arc was a lot of fun and we did some great episodes, but if you’re going to spend an entire season on one conflict, then just do the Romulan War. That’s what season three should’ve been.
Yet, even coming up with a Romulan backstory for T’Pol may not have completely explained her behavior. But it seems we may never know.