When Archer Drops the Ball, We Pick it Back Up
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Enterprise, The Catwalk (Season 2, Episode 12). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Archer. And we try something new to do so!
We learn how to make meaningful, professional relationships using emotional intelligence as a framework.
Five Dimensions of Emotional Intelligence:
In this episode, we are going to do a fan rewrite of The Catwalk. We will demonstrate the value of building relationships with your staff and teams through emotional intelligence.
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Greetings, cadets! This episode will demonstrate the value of building relationships with your staff and teams through emotional intelligence. To get there, though, we’re going to take a different approach. You’ll see what I mean as we start the 12th episode of the 2nd season of Enterprise, The Catwalk.
Here’s the deal, I can recap this entire episode in about 3 lines. Enterprise takes on some aliens. They have to shelter in the catwalk of their warp nacelles to weather out a storm. A militia from the alien crew come on board and try to steal the ship while they’re sheltered in place. Archer and crew foil their plans and they get through the storm.
Ok, so that was like 4 lines, but, my point is, literally nothing happens in this episode. I’ll share my thoughts on it when we get to the Red Alert section, but I didn’t see a lot of value in recapping an hour of almost nothing.
But fear not, noble cadet! We still have much to talk about. Like how Archer doesn’t do much of anything of note in this episode, except a few segments of scenes I’ll talk about real quick. And then, we’re going to try something different. I’m pretty excited for this.
So this big storm is coming at them “more than half a dozen light years.” The ship can handle it, but the radiation in the storm will kill the crew in about 3 minutes flat. No good, right? So they head into the maintenance shafts in the warp nacelles because they’re heavily shielded and will protect the crew from the radiation.
So this puts all 83 crew, plus the 3 aliens in a pretty confined space for 8 days. The segments I want to bring up of Archer here are sporadic, but telling. He has one, awkward interaction with a crewman helping them with a crossword puzzle. Then he walks through the rest of the crew like the kid in AV club that got stranded at a middle school dance and is just trying to find a door, until he sees Trip and then he gets all cool and chummy with his buddy.
HUGE missed opportunity here. I mean, a week with the 83 people on your crew and actively seek out the 3 or 4 people you interact with all the time? Poor form, Captain Archer.
So, to have some fun with this, and capitalize on Archer’s missed opportunity, today we are doing a fan rewrite of The Catwalk! That’s right! We’re going to go through the episode and I’m going to rewrite a bunch of it, pretending that Archer is a strong leader that sees this as an opportunity to build up important relationships with his teams and his crew.
So, here we go!
It’s September 18, 2152. They’ve found an uninhabited planet and are going to spend the next week surveying it. Trip and Archer are excited to “sneak in a little R&R.” An alien crew reaches out to them and lets them know a neutronic storm from is on its way. They need shelter. Archer lets them come aboard, but they have to figure out how to survive the storm. They’d need to fly at warp 7 to outrun it, but Enterprise can only hit Warp 5.
Archer pulls together the brain trust. Phlox warns that any solution that will save the ship won’t save the crew. With exposure to radiation “they’ll be dead within 3 minutes.” Trip suggests the catwalk and Phlox confirms it should be shielded enough. They have to shut down the reactor, though, to keep temperatures livable. With it running, it gets up to about 300 degrees in there.
T’Pol heads up the evacuation while Trip and Mayweather retrofit the catwalk for shelter. They’ve got 4 hours till the storm hit. A moment I appreciate so much! “Anyone think about a latrine?” So many stories just brush off that most equalizing moment of humanity – using the bathroom. Now this doesn’t have any real impact on the rest of the episode, but I’m just glad they acknowledged it. 83 people in an enclosed space for 83 days…going to start smelling like Sietch Tabr (See-H Tob Er) in no time!
They get everyone loaded in. They have a command center and have rerouted helm control to it. Phlox has a little sickbay setup and they’re good to go.
The aliens come out of decontamination and head to the Catwalk. They say they’re stellar cartographers from Takret, but you can tell something’s not quite right with them. I imagine we’ll get more on this later. “I don’t know the first thing about stellar cartography.” Trip gets them set up near his bunk area in the shelter.
Archer’s packing up and we get a nod to a recurring Star Trek theme – there is beauty in all things. “I didn’t realize it’d be so beautiful.” He and T’Pol discuss an incident from a hundred years ago where a Vulcan ship was destroyed by a similar storm. She simply acknowledges it as a fact. Nothing more.
Everyone’s in the catwalk. And here’s where we go off script with what should have happened.
Side note first. The soundtrack for this is epic. “play music from Archer going into Catwalk.” This sounds like super big deal stuff!
We cut to Archer walking up and down the walkway. He’s smiling at the crew as he walks by. A crewman pulls him aside and asks for help on a crossword puzzle. “6 letters, ends with R. Solkar.” He talks with the group playing the crossword for awhile, learning about their past and listening to some of their stories.
After that he works his way further down the walkway and sees a small group of officers huddled around a table. He doesn’t know them well so he asks if he can join them. They’re playing a table-top game that one of the officers learned when they were on a transport ship. He doesn’t join in, but listens as they talk about the game. He tells a joke about a water polo match he watched recently. The officers politely chuckle but one of them actually gets it! He’s full on belly laughing! Archer gets a real kick out of it, thanks them for letting him hang out and moves along.
Over in Phlox’s sickbay, Reed drops in with “gastrointestinal distress.” Phlox gives him something and helps him feel a little better, “I’ve treated a number of crewmen for motion sickness.” Archer walks in and checks in with Phlox on the state of the crew. He says they’re generally doing as well as could expected.
Can we just acknowledge how great Phlox is? Great bedside manners, discreet and respectful. Awesome.
Archer checks in with Mayweather before turning in for the night. Trip set up a sort of a state room for him and T’Pol. He pops in and check in with her. Says this reminds him of camping. She shares a story about the kahs-wan ritual she participated in when she was left in the desert for 10 days. A cool call-back to one of the best episodes of the Animated Series, Yesteryear.
He tells her he’s going to “wander around, get to know the crew,” instead of bunking in their section. He encourages her to do the same, “it’d be good for your fraternize, a little.” He grabs his bedroll and heads off down the walkway, presumably to get some rack time with the crew.
What a great way to endear yourself to the crew! Meet them where they’re at. Not that the state room area was lavish or even comfortable, but it did communicate to the crew that he and T’Pol were different; that they got special accommodations. Choosing to go out and share a space with the crew was a masterful move by Archer that will go a long way in earning the trust and respect of his crew.
Note that I totally made all of that up. In the actual episode he just rolled over and went to sleep after chatting with T’Pol, but sure would have been cool if he did do what I described.
The rest of the senior staff, Hoshi, Reed and Trip are playing cards. Trip tells them Archer set up a movie night. It’ll be on a small monitor and in tight quarters, but will still give everyone an activity and a fun distraction.
They get some weird readings out of Engineering. Systems are activating, it doesn’t make any sense. Trip gears up in an EV Suit and goes to investigate. He sees a crew of people, Tekrat, the same species as the aliens they welcomed on board, walking through the ship. They’re clearly trying to reactivate the ship.
The apparent leader is listening to Archer’s logs and reading through his files, learning about the Enterprise and its crew. Trip reports back, so Archer meets with the aliens in the shelter with them. “Don’t forget they warned us about the storm.” They come clean. They’re former members of the militia, the group that’s on board now. They deserted because the militia were really nothing more than pirates, criminals. They explain the militia are after them and are likely going to steal the ship. Reed confirms this. “Seems to me they’ve already decided to help themselves to Enterprise.”
Archer decides to trust them and they begin planning a response. In the meantime, the militia are starting up the reactor! This starts a timer, this will heat the catwalk up to over 300 degrees, killing the entire crew; Trip guesses they have “20 minutes, tops.”
Again, total rewrite here. In reality, Archer grilled the deserters. He threatened them and accused them “You’ve already lied to us!” He was aggressive, overbearing and almost violent in this scene.
They have 3 EV suits, Reed and T’Pol go to stop the reactor startup. Archer goes to deal with the militia. He hails them. Says the crew is already dead and there is nothing here for them to take. He orders them to leave the ship. Not surprisingly, they refuse. So he threatens to destroy the ship. Hmm, how very Kirk of him! Same move from Let that Be Your Last Battlefield.
The militia leader ignores him; traces his signal and sends soldiers to find him. In the meantime, Mayweather executes his part of the plan, steering the ship for a plasma eddy that will rip the ship apart. Archer’s in the galley and ends up in a firefight with the militia soldiers. Tensions continue to build. The reactor shut down is taking longer than expected and Archer’s pinned down. One of the militia urges evacuation but the leader thinks he’s bluffing! Clocks are ticking – “the temperature just went up another 6 degrees.” And they’re getting closer to the eddy. “I strongly suggest we abort the mission!”
T’Pol and Reed are successful and, at the last minute, the militia retreats and leaves Enterprise. Mayweather veers away from the eddy, and they’re all good.
They near the edge of the storm. The aliens return to their ship and head off. The crew are watching an old western for movie night. Archer and T’Pol are hanging out with them and cracking jokes with the crew about the movie.
They successfully emerge from the storm. As he’s unpacking, Archer tells T’Pol how thankful he is for the time he got with the crew. T’Pol even mentions she feels she has built stronger bonds with members of the crew. The episode ends with Archer making some joke about Vulcans and the bonds they form.
Actually, the episode ends with them watching the Western. T’Pol is there but no Archer. He interrupts the movie to let everyone know they’ve passed the storm and they can leave the catwalk. Quick scene of the corridor and T’Pol confirming everyone is out. And that’s it.
This episode is a fine episode. A decent enough way to wile away an hour. But literally nothing happens.
Episodes like this justify the modern era of 13 episode seasons. They had to fill 26 episodes every season, and you’re just not going to knock it out of the park that many times.
One thing in this one that pulled me out of it was after the firefight in the galley. The ship’s shaking and militia are running all around. And dishes and food are falling all over the place. It’s a mess in there! And here’s the thing – there is no way the galley would be set up like that; all those dishes stacked loosely. No way! I’ll never forget my cranking days on a fast attack back in the 90’s; we would have had to have been flipped upside down for dishes to go crazy like that. You’re telling me that in the mid-22nd century they’ve given up on that?!? I just don’t buy it.
But that aside, a decent enough episode.
Despite an uneventful episode that we summed up in 4 lines, there is a lot to take away in this episode. Let’s dive into the importance of connecting with your teams and the people you work with.
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Many years ago I was an assistant manager. We were a good sized store, about 60 employees. I had the exciting and educational task of writing the schedule every week! I’ll tell you what, if you’ve never staffed a retail shop or restaurant before and written the schedule, including daily break schedules, you haven’t lived!
Honestly, though, I’m so thankful for that experience. I learned so much about managing resources and working with people. If you want to talk about one thing that is near and dear to every person, it’s their work schedules! Oof! Lots of stories about that, as I’m sure you can imagine. But I think we can dive into those when we start looking at duty rosters and things like that.
But, back to the assistant manager job. Our general manager was not a great manager. In a lot of ways. But I want to share one interaction I had with them that this episode really brought to light.
We had some issue going on between staff. I honestly don’t remember the details. But he and I were talking with a staff member about the issue. The staff person said something about the GM being out of touch and not even knowing the staff. The GM responds, oh, and I’ll never forget this, he says, “I don’t have to know the staff. Jeff does.” Jeff does?!? Like that’s good enough?!? Oh, it fires me up to this day and that was over 20 years ago! Like, how is that even almost ok? It’s not like we had 2,000 people working there or anything, we had maybe 60!
I went on to become a General Manager in that same company and that moment steered so much how I led in that company. I made it a point to develop a professional relationship with my team.
I was able to leverage those relationships a number of times to everyone’s benefit.
In this job we had one day a year that was just wild; super busy! I had an employee; we’ll call him Nathan. This was his first job and he was about to crack. It was wildly busy! But I had gone out of my way to get know him. To develop a professional relationship based on trust. I remember pulling him off the register for a second, just before he was going to blow. I dug deep into my ever-growing box of motivational quotes…and I said, “Pressure does one of two things. It either crushes you or it makes a diamond. And Nathan, Nathan, I work with diamonds. Now let’s go shine!”
Corny, I know. But, you know what? It worked! He totally stepped up and we got through the day! It was awesome! I actually ran into him about 10 years ago. He had gotten a really good job with the state and was doing well. He remembered that moment too. Super cool.
Back in the episode where we looked at Voyager The Cloud, we talked about Janeway’s struggle between developing personal relationship and maintaining her professional demeanor.
This is not an easy skill to master, but it is powerful once you do. The first thing to keep in mind about these relationships is that they are professional. That does not mean personal stuff it off limits, but it does mean that you don’t hang out all the time and share a bunch of family pics with each other on facebook. You need to connect on a meaningful level, but that connection should be rooted in trust and integrity.
In fact, a fantastic framework to follow in cultivating these relationships are the 5 dimensions of emotional intelligence. Self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. This is the perfect framework for any interaction, really, but help maintain appropriate professional distance while connecting on a meaningful level.
Have the self awareness to know where you are at. What’s your emotional state? How present are you? Where are you at in regards to the relationship you’re developing? Knowing these things inform the next dimension.
Self regulation. If, for example, you are aware that you are wanting a more personal relationship with a member of your team, you can regulate yourself and reinforce your professional boundaries. This also helps you be more present with the person because you will be able to regulate where you are emotionally at the moment.
A person with higher emotional intelligence will be motivated by things beyond them; greater than them. The greater good, as it were. But being self motivated to act with integrity and build trust will go far in developing these relationships.
Listening with empathy and compassion is invaluable. If you were to interact with someone that heard what you said, validated your feelings and engaged with you on that emotional level you would feel amazing and would want to grow your relationship with that person.
Finally, utilizing appropriate social skills is vital to this. Appropriate humor at the right time, topics and voice volume that are appropriate to the situation. Being comfortable interacting with the person. Strong social skills are the skeleton that all the other dimensions of emotional intelligence connect to when you’re working to develop meaningful relationships.
Just a few years ago, well, wow, that’s not true. Like 10 years ago, I managed this amazing team! I had invested quite a bit of time connecting with every member of the team, I think there were about 40 of us. I wanted to get to know them and build trust with them. It was an intentional activity that I worked on every day.
Well, like a lot of managers do, I over committed the team. In a very public way! So I leveraged those relationships. I pulled the team together and explained what I did. Basically, I said we could increase our output by about 10% and do it faster than we were currently doing our work.
I was honest with them. I told them what I had committed to and I apologized. And then I asked them for a favor. I asked them to give 110%, for like 6 months. I figured we could over deliver for awhile and then settle back down and our customer would just be ok with our processing times. I also knew that once we raised the ceiling on our production, even when we settled back down, we’d be producing at a higher rate.
I told them it was cool to say no. I couldn’t force them to do this. But if they could, as a personal favor, it would mean the world to me.
This is where that investment paid off. It actually became a joke. “How are you doing?” “Oh, me? Just giving 110%!”
They totally delivered! It was, well, honestly it was awe inspiring. And it was completely the result of me taking the time to develop meaningful relationships with the team.
In my made up version of the episode, Archer nailed this! He was great! He showed humility and connected with people in a meaningful way. He was great!
But, that’s not how it really went down. Now, he sure talked a good game, “wander around, get to know the crew,” but his execution was very lacking. So take a lesson from fake, made-up Archer, and not sci-fi TV Archer.
I would love to hear your thoughts and examples on connecting with the people on your teams. Have you had some great successes as a result? Join us on the Starfleet Leadership Academy Facebook Group and share what you’ve got.
Plus you can reach out on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can also follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Takret, a k i n. And I’d like to also invite you to leave a voicemail that I might include on a future episode. Visit jeff akin dot com and click the microphone in the lower corner. You can share your story and thoughts as a voicemail there. Pretty cool!
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Season 1, episode 5 of Discovery, Choose Your Pain. This is a pretty violent episode, and it introduces us to Harry Mudd! A character we’ll run into in both Discovery and The Original Series.
Before wrapping up, I want to take a moment to thank everyone that supports this show. You can support the Starfleet Leadership Academy by telling your friends and colleagues about it, by sharing our episodes on social media, and by visiting jeff akin dot com and joining our email list. You can also support the podcast financially. There’s a link in the show notes to our patreon page. Every patron makes a real difference and there are some pretty cool perks there too. Visit patreon.com/sfla or click the link in the show notes.
I appreciate all of you very much and can’t wait to get back into Discovery!
So until then, Ex Astris Scientia!