July 26, 2022

ENT: The Expanse

Self Advocacy and What Does Inclusion Look Like?


On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Enterprise, The Expanse (Season 2, Episode 26). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Archer and T'Pol.

 

T'Pol clearly demonstrates the value of self advocacy and shows us the 5 essential steps to be successful in that:

  1. Be confident in what you want
  2. Understand and accept the consequences
  3. Express yourself clearly
  4. Be persistent
  5. Talk to the right person - the decision maker

 

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Transcript

Welcome! Thanks for joining me today. I want to thank everyone that chose to support the show by subscribing to Patreon and becoming a member of Red Squad. I am absolutely humbled by you! Enjoy the bonus content and let me know what other shows you’d like me to watch!

 

In this episode I am going to show you the importance of self-advocacy and share some methods to do it. I’m also going to share a simple indicator of how inclusive you are actually being as a leader by talking through the second season finale of Star Trek Enterprise, The Expanse.

 

<<Transporter>>

 

This one doesn’t waste any time. A big ‘ol sphere flies up to Earth and shoots a massive laser from the middle of Florida and straight down south. It cuts a swath of about 4,000km and then crumbles, crashing to the planet’s surface.

 

There has been an extended story about Captain Archer and the Klingons, Duras, specifically. We get a short scene where a council orders him to make good on his failures and to go get Archer. “We are giving you a chance.” 2:38

 

On the Enterprise, Archer has pulled the senior staff together. He tells them the devastating news. “There’s been an attack on Earth.” 3:21 This series is at the birth of the Federation, of Starfleet. Everyone on the Enterprise, except for Phlox, the Doctor, and T’Pol the science officer, are from Earth. They are shocked. Archer sends them on a course back home at maximum warp.

 

Trip, the engineer, has a lot of specific questions. His family is from there and his sister was still living there. There isn’t any news about her, but the news is grim. “The number of casualties has been revised to 3 million.” 5:22 As they are talking, a group of Suliban ships come alongside and take Archer. The Suliban have been an ongoing concern for Archer since the pilot episode.

 

They take him to their leader. A guy I call Future Man. Without going into too much detail, there was an attempt through just about the whole series of Enterprise to tell a story about a temporal cold war; a group of people battling to control time itself, basically. This shadow-y guy, I think his “official” name is Humanoid Figure” has been using the Suliban to fight his part of the temporal cold war. That’s a super high-level overview, but hopefully enough to make this next scene make a little more sense.

 

So Future Man tells Archer that a species known as the Xindi sent the probe and launched the attack because “They learned their world would be destroyed in 400 years by humans.” 8:00 from another group in the temporal cold war. He warns that they are building a more powerful weapon that will destroy Earth. He’s telling this to Archer because the Xindi were never supposed to learn this. This is messing up the timeline.

 

As they approach Earth, things are looking worse and worse. “We’ve now learned that over 7 million people were lost.” 9:49 And to add to the weight, Duras has found them and attacks. “It’s a Klingon bird-of-prey.” 10:31 They call for Archer’s immediate surrender. Luckily they’re close enough to Earth that the calvary comes in to save the day! Three more ships come in and Duras has no choice other than to retreat. With them gone, the Earth ships escort Enterprise home.

 

At Starfleet Headquarters, Archer is trying to convince Admiral Forrest, his commanding officer, and Soval, the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, that what Future Guy told him his true. In a quite that will absolutely haunt the Vulcans in the future, Soval pushes back with, “Our science directorate has determined that time travel is not possible.” 12:42 Hahaha! Ok…universe, 1, Vulcan Science Directorate, a big, fat zero!

 

Archer shares evidence that Future Man gave him. They have recovered the probe so Archer Quantum dates it. Most of the materials line up with what you would expect, except for one key piece that dates at “Minus 420.” 15:56 “This fragment is from the future.” 16:27 They also show the corpse of the Xindi pilot. A scary, reptilian looking creature.

 

They confirm the date and then they take him more seriously. They look at the info provided on the Xindi. They are in a part of space called the Delphic Expanse. Now this part is important, it literally sets the table for the entire third season of Enterprise. “There have been reports of dangerous species, unexplainable anomalies and more.” 13:29 A ship of Klingons returned from the Expanse and all of their bodies were anatomically inverted, and they were still alive. A Vulcan ship in the Expanse sent a transmission showing them completely devolved into a state of primal violence. Wild and unexpected consequences and nothing is known about why. Forrest and Soval take this information to Command for further orders.

 

Malcolm Reed and Trip are on the planet’s surface, at the site of the carnage. It’s literally right where Trip grew up. “The house was over there. And over there was the movie theatre.” 19:51 His sister is gone.

 

Forrest gets back to Archer. They’re going to send Enterprise, and only Enterprise into the Delphic Expanse to stop the Xindi. Enterprise is undergoing a refit and upgrades to prepare it. We also see the next ship like the Enterprise being built, The Columbia. Archer also asked for, and is getting, a group of MACOs; Military Assault Command Operations; to be available for whatever awaits them. This mission is serious, serious business.

 

Vulcan High Command has told T’Pol that she will not be joining the crew and will return to Vulcan. Phlox challenges her, saying that he is staying on board, “the sad realization they’ll need me.” 23:08 T’Pol decides to consider this.

 

They start loading in the new weapons “Photonic torpedoes. A variable yield and longer range.” 23:42 Reed, as Tactical Officer, is pretty excited and has teams working to retrofit the torpedo tubes and the power grid.

 

With the upgrades complete, they depart. We get some re-used footage from the pilot episode, Broken Bow, to show Enterprise moving out of Space Dock. Archer checks in with Trip; he is not doing well. He is out for blood. “Tell me won’t be tiptoeing around.” 31:01 They’re interrupted by the most patient person ever! I mean, they’ve been in spacedock at Earth for months! And Duras is attacking again.

 

Reed is excited to use the new torpedoes on them. They’re super effective! The updated hull plating is protecting them as well. A successful, unplanned test. They disable the Klingons on warp on their way.

 

T’Pol meets with Archer. She shares that she has come to enjoy being on board, well, maybe not in so many words, “You never did like our smell. I’ve gotten used to it” 33:13 And then she says she is going to remain on Enterprise, defying the High Command. He pushes back, but clearly only because that’s what expected. He heads onto the bridge and says, “We’re not going to Vulcan.” 35:11 He’s good with letting her stay and he tries to make it look like it was his call, not hers. Maybe helping her save some face with Vulcan High Command.

 

As they reach the Expanse, there is a dangerous, thermobaric cloud surrounding it. It’ll take them about 6 hours to get through it; they have to move slowly to protect the intake manifolds and the engines. But they are also being tailed by 3 Klingon ships, including Duras. As they get closer to the Expanse, 2 of the 3 ships bail, they don’t want to be inverted like the ship we heard about earlier. They come up behind Duras and launch their new torpedoes, destroying the bird of prey.

 

With the Klingon threat taken care, of we leave everything we know behind. “The Expanse is ahead, Captain.” 41:05 And they head in “Let’s see what’s in there.” 41:51

 

<<Red Alert>>

 

Enterprise had a tough go from day one. It was trying to tell stories that Star Trek fans thought would never be told; the days before the Federation was even an idea! It was also caught in this weird time in TV where shows were teetering between episodic and serialization. And it would be naïve to downplay the impact 9/11 had on all forms of entertainment. This episode, and the entire third season, was the direct result of the network, UPN, forcing the show to change it up and try to remain relevant in this changing world.

 

Quarks – Ads

 

What a dark episode. Trip loses his sister, 7 million people are killed and all from an unknown threat that Earth wasn’t supposed to encounter for probably a few hundred more years. But this was so necessary.

 

In retrospect, I really enjoy Enterprise as a TV show and as part of Star Trek. But at the time, it just didn’t resonate with fans. This was supposed to be the series that showed us how the Federation was formed. Instead, we get a series struggling to find itself. I remembered this episode as being exciting and I was eager to see what was waiting in the Delphic Expanse. But watching it now, it’s clearly just tying up some storyline pieces and kind of resetting the game board. I guess I just wish they would have leaned into it more. Like, when Trip and Reed are standing on the edge of the damage from the probe, it just looks so clean. This perfectly precise zone of destruction. Even with early 2000’s TV sensibilities, they could have made that a lot darker and more impactful.

 

To me, some of the biggest pieces in this episode were the new weapons, closer to what we are familiar with in modern Star Trek, Trip getting pushed to a dark place, and the coming together of the human and alien crew members, “She does kind of grow on you.” 29:52 This one is especially fun if you know where some of these relationships go in the future.

 

So I think this episode accomplished what it set out to do. It gave viewers a reason to stick with the show into season 3 and started to reset the tone. But on its own, this was a pretty good episode that kind of fell short on its execution.

 

<<Command Codes>>

 

While this episode was really meant to transition the series it still took the time to demonstrate some incredible tools for you. And, yes, this is an Enterprise episode, so it’s got some things not to do, but it also has an incredible example of what to do.

 

T’Pol and Archer have a conversation about her defying Vulcan High Command. Two amazing things happen here. First, T’Pol, in her own way, demonstrates the importance of self-advocacy, while Captain Archer has to choose to set aside his assumptions. I’ll also share a quick nugget of wisdom Archer drops in his talk with Trip.

 

But, well, yeah, there’s the other stuff. I’m going to question the cult of personality that has developed on this ship and share a clear indicator of how inclusive your team really is.

 

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You and I have talked about inclusion a couple of times. The episodes DS9: Meridian and TOS: The Devil in the Dark are great examples, and my interview with Eliza Van Cort, which, by the way, is honestly one of my favorite episodes I’ve done, but that episode talks about it as well. But here, now, I’ll say that inclusion is so important because it is the only way you will ever get the best out of people.

 

You know, I’m always so disappointed when companies talk about their DEI initiatives, and they roll out these metrics of new hires by representation or percentage of leadership that represents a specific dimension of diversity. I mean, good for you! You hired people that are unique and different and bring their life experiences to the workplace. But if you’re still forcing them to conform or mask their behaviors to fit a mold, well, all you’re doing is checking a box. I like to think of DEI, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as being alphabetical and progressive.

 

Step one, diversity. Be sure you have a group of people that represent different life and cultural experiences. Step two, equity. Have structures in place that ensure every single person has exactly what they need to what is expected of them. Step 3 is inclusion. This is where the diverse teams that have everything they need feel like they are included, and wanted. They feel valued and are valued and are able to bring their full selves to work.

 

But how do you measure that? You know, in the toxic, dominant culture we work in, we, apparently, have to measure everything. And measuring diversity metrics, well, that’s easy! I run a report out of my HCM or ERP system – Human Capital Management or Enterprise Resource Planning, which, honestly, I hate both of those terms. Humans are more than capital and people are not just resources. Anyway, I just run a report out of my HR system, and voila! Diversity metrics.

 

But inclusion…oh, geez. I have to like, talk to people to find out if we have an inclusive work environment or not. Ugh, but I’m a manager…I don’t want to talk to people…..

 

Kidding…

 

Kind of. But, seriously, that’s a big part of it. Be sure there is a safe place where people can express how welcome they feel. How wanted they feel. You can use surveys, I think the buzz word these days in pulse survey, to get an idea, but you have to really talk to people to get to the reality of it.

 

I like to think, though, in my dreamer’s mind, that when you have an inclusive workplace, you can see it, like physically see or feel it. You can feel it in the interactions people are having, in the groups that are working together. In the people that are stuck in meetings.

 

Star Trek is really good at talking. They can take just about any issue and spend a good chunk of a 45-ish minute episode talking about it and usually end up with a solution. But they have their meetings down pretty well, my friends at Lucid Meetings would love the team meetings we see on the show. The most common meeting we see is the senior staff coming together. Captain, first officer, science, tactical, medical, engineering…they all come together to bring their expertise and diverse viewpoints to solve a problem. It’s great, right?

 

Well, not if you’re serving on the Enterprise, apparently. “I can’t remember the last time he invited me in for a briefing.” 3:06 WOW! I mean, he is the ONLY doctor on the ship and a medical genius! You’d think that, while exploring parts of the galaxy no human has ever seen before, he’d be one of the first people invited to these meetings. But, apparently not.

 

So if you’re looking for an indicator of how inclusive a workplace is, and you see a valuable expert that happens to look different and have wildly different life experiences than most everyone NOT in the meetings of other experts, you have a problem.

 

So take a minute, literally one minute, and look at who is in the meetings where important things are being discussed – which should be all of your meetings…if they’re not all important you should call my friends at Lucid Meetings – and see who is there, and who is not there. But, that is not the final answer in terms of inclusion, it’s just an indicator, but a very easy one to check.

 

In my very ambitious episode on the entirety of Picard Season 1, I talked about a cult of personality. I’m not going to talk about it a lot here, you can listen back to that one for a deeper dive, but this is a very real and very dangerous thing.

 

Long story short, years ago I managed a program and we accomplished incredible things. I mean, Governing, the website and magazine wrote an article about some of the things we accomplished – I’ll link that in the show notes. But, within weeks of me leaving for a promotion, everything fell apart. The team wasn’t doing amazing things for themselves, the organization or the people we were serving. No, they were doing it for me. And that is awful. It’s not sustainable and it actually stops people from being innovative or problem solving independently. Since then, I work every single to day to connect the people I work with to the mission of the organization and not to me.

 

Archer, on the other hand, does not do that. He is apparently all about drumming up a cult of personality. More insight from Phlox here. “For me, it was a simple question of loyalty to the Captain.” 23:03 Really?? Earth is going to be destroyed, 7 million people have died and you’re worried about following one person?!? That is unthinkable to me. Phlox went on to say that he realized he’d be needed for the mission, but that should have been his ONLY motivator. “T’Pol, I’m going to stick around. There are billions of lives at stake and they need me.” He could even be a little selfish about it, “And I’m excited to see a part of the galaxy no one has survived before.” And he can even give credit to Archer, “I want to help Archer stop the Xindi and I know he can get us through the Expanse safely.” But to put your life on the line just because of a simple question of loyalty to the Captain is just…well, it’s ridiculous.  

 

Ok, let’s switch gears. There was a lot of good in this one too. Real quick, Archer shared a great piece of wisdom with Trip, “When I got this job…” 30:25 We grow into our roles. It is rare that you are put in a position and immediately have to do the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. I mean, it happens, but not most of the time and not to most people. What does happen is you get put into roles that are just a little beyond your skillset or experience. Just a little too much. But you stretch, and you grow, and you rock it. And then you have to work to make sure that keeps happening. Who knows, if you keep stretching yourself, maybe someday you’ll lead a starship into a section of space no one has survived before with billions of people counting on you!

 

I want to dive into the conversation Archer and T’Pol had. If you remember, Vulcan High Command told T’Pol they were pulling her from Enterprise and sending her back to Vulcan. She went through some soul searching, or is it katra searching for Vulcans? Either way, she decided she was going to resign her commission and stick around. But to do this, she had to stand up for herself. She had to make her case that she was going to defy orders and stay on board. And she did this by doing a thing many of us struggle with. You might even struggle with this. But that is self-advocacy.

 

There are moments in our lives that are true crossroads. Taking a job, leaving a job, getting married, getting divorced, whether or not you should have one more piece of cheesecake or not. There has been a lot of movies and TV shows that show how one choice can alter the course of your life. Sliding Doors comes to mind, The Butterfly Effect, or even the first season finale of Strange New Worlds.

 

But far too often, when we find ourselves faced with these decisions, we are too concerned with what people expect of us. Of what other people will think of our choice. But here’s the thing; those other people don’t have to live your life. They don’t have to exist in the result of that choice every second of every hour of every day for the rest of their lives. You do.

 

T’Pol is faced with this in this episode. She has lived her entire life and built an incredible career by doing what other people expect of her; by making their desires for her her desires. But she is faced with a choice, a choice that is huge and will have obvious impacts on her life today and well into the future. Normal T’Pol, the T’Pol that does not advocate, or stand up for what she wants would bow out gracefully, likely thanking Captain Archer for the opportunities and then returning to Vulcan. But that is not what happens.

 

With the Enterprise on a course for Vulcan, T’Pol’s window for advocacy is closing quickly. She meets with Archer and, in her own way, starts saying that she wants to defy High Command and remain on board. Archer does what he should do here, as the leader on board, and questions her, basically sticking to the talking points. “You never did like our smell. I’ve gotten used to it” 33:13 But it doesn’t take long for him to realize that she is serious and has made up her mind.

 

There are 5 things that T’Pol did here that you can also do in times when you need to advocate for yourself. First, she was confident in her choice and her confidence was apparent. Like, she didn’t flinch or start questioning her decision. Second, understood the consequences and verbally accepted them “I will resign my commission.” Third, she expressed herself clearly. Fourth, she was persistent; she didn’t let Archer’s questions deter her and she didn’t accept his implicit denial of her request. Finally, fifth, she talked to the right person, to the decision maker. If she had made this decision and only told Phlox, for example, then it means nothing. She had to go to the person that can, and did make it happen…can make it so.

 

When you are faced with a choice that matters to you, but the normal thing to do would be to just go with the flow and do what other people would expect, stop yourself. Decide what YOU want. And then stand up for that. Be a self-advocate. Be confident in your decision, understand and accept the consequences of your decision, express your decision clearly, be persistent and talk to the right person about it.

 

And, if you’ve been following along closely, you’ve pieced together that this applies when advocating for others as well.

 

Now I want to end this one on a high note for Archer. I know! That’s not something I do very often. But in this moment, with T’Pol, he did everything right, and even went a selfless step further. He understands how hard T’Pol has worked for her position and the respect among her colleagues. He also understands the privilege his position brings him. So he doesn’t let her resign her commission. In fact, he doesn’t even let her tell the High Command what her decision is. No, Archer takes that heat himself. As far as anyone outside of him and T’Pol knows, he made the call to keep her on board. This saves her from the consequences of her decision.

 

Quick story on that. A few years ago I had arranged an opportunity for a person I worked with to try out another job. In this organization you could set up short term, well, rotations, where the headcount and budget still hit my budget but they got the opportunity to work in a different department and often at a different level. It was a cool way to help support people’s development. Well, in this case, things weren’t going well for the person. They were doing ok with the job, but the commute was unbearable for them and they had found they didn’t really care for the job. But, they knew that a couple people had really stood up for them and helped them get this opportunity. After a conversation with me, that looked a lot like the one T’Pol had with Archer, I told them that I would say I needed them back in my program; I’d take the heat for ending the assignment. I won’t lie, that stung for awhile and I did catch some flack for it, but that’s what you do for the people you work with. So I guess…oh wow, this kinda stings, but I pulled an Archer, and it worked out really, really well.

 

<<Hailing Frequencies>>

 

So this episode launches on a completely serialized third season of Enterprise. To help us navigate that, any time the random episode generator comes up with one from season 3, we’ll take them in in order. That way it’ll all make more sense.

 

Like I said at the beginning of the episode, thank you to everyone that joined Red Squad during the drive. I love creating extra content for you and enjoy the time connecting with people in Starfleet Command.

 

The more people that find the Starfleet Leadership Academy, the more I’m able to create content for you. If you haven’t already, will stop by Apple Podcasts and leave a review for the show? Reviews build up social proof that a podcast is worth listening to and you can help build that for this show.

 

Reviews left on Apple are shared through Twitter, @ SFLA podcast once they process. But if you send me a screen shot of the review, I’ll also share it on my other social media @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Torpedo yield, a k i n.

 

Computer, what are we going to watch next time….

 

The third episode of the third season of Deep Space 9, The House of Quark. This episode will attempt to answer the question, what happens when you take Klingon honor and splice it with Ferengi greed. While Star Trek is famous for talking its way through problems, and often lawyering its way through issues, I think this is one of, if not the only time they use accounting to work through the challenge at hand. And they make that accounting a lot more entertaining than QuickBooks ever has! And you’ll see what I mean when we meet next time.

 

Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!