"Precious Cargo"
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Story by: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Teleplay by: David A. Goodman
Directed by: David Livingston

Archer and crew come to the aid of a ship manned by two Retellian cargo pilots. A stasis pod carrying a female passenger is malfunctioning and Trip is sent to repair it. It turns out the "passenger" is anything but as she has been kidnapped by the aliens. When Trip finds this out, he is knocked out by one of the cargo pilots and the ship takes off leaving the other of the two on Enterprise. Trip and the alien woman use an escape pod to get away and land on a nearby planet. Meanwhile, Archer and T'Pol devise a way to "interrogate" the alien left on board. They need the warp signature of the alien ship so they can locate it and get Trip back.

This Harlequin Romance er... episode uses all the standard romantic cliches. Damsel in distress gets rescued by cute guy; they dislike each other; they have a big fight and fall in love. Well, sort of fall in love. If it weren't for the ever so charming Connor Trinneer (Trip Tucker) and the mildly humorous Archer and T'Pol scenes, I would have given this episode a failing mark, the story is so corny and old hat.

In this case the damsel (Padma Lakshmi) is the "First Monarch of the Sovereign Dynasty of Krios Prime" who goes by the name of Kaitanna and Trip is "Charles Tucker III" as he so stoically states. But of course in her eyes he is a lowly, working class engineer. While Lakshmi certainly is attractive, has great legs and looks the part her performance lacks spunkiness. She does a good job being petulant and spoiled but is more annoying than appealing. She reminded me of the TOS episode "Elaan of Troyius" where Kirk falls prey to the tears of the alien woman (France Nuyen). In that one, Elaan is annoying as well but she has a heck of a lot more spunk and of course the tears. I found the episode back then rather sexist but it was the 60's. Today it's a little more than irritating to see women portrayed this way, royalty or not.

You can blame the writing for this. I suspect given the right characterization, I'm sure Lakshmi would have done a better job. It's a shame they didn't make the character more capable and knowledgeable. Suppose for instance that she had been a military leader rather than a royal figure and instead of ransom being the motivation for the criminals, a military coup was the objective. This would have made for more meaty characters and having the Trip/Kaitanna romance as the subplot would have worked better.

Still, the good cop/bad cop scenario concocted by T'Pol and Archer was fun enough to watch. Leland Crooke (Plinn) does an ok job as the frightened alien but it would have worked better if he had been a more intelligent and powerful character. Again, had this been a coup, he would have been more savvy and suspicious which in turn would have been more interesting.

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