Everyone on the planet has probably had some form of anxiety in their lifetime. Over a test, worrying about a relationship, anticipation over an important appointment. Then there is anxiety that is different, the kind that stays with you. It’s a difficult thing, to try and find out how much anxiety is normal, and how much might indicate something more is going on. A big factor of that is how much it interferes with your life. Sometimes, you’re able to push through and say “Hey, I’m not going to let these feelings stop me”, and other times you might not be able to do that. That is okay. I’m going to say that again, THAT IS OKAY. Some days are like that. Some days will be better. Others will not be. That’s okay too.
Hoshi Sato had more than a few worries during her time on the NX-01 Enterprise. From the very start, it seemed like she had taken a page from my book, and was trying to procrastinate going out into space, while dutifully using her students to foist the blame off on. The dedication of a teacher was very real at that moment, hesitant though she might be. She said that she “owed it to these kids.” That is an amazing teacher. Captain Archer coaxed her out into the wild black yonder with some samples of Klingon that was proving to be quite the enigma and finally, she acquiesced.
Once greeted by the ether, she was constantly unsettled and unsure of herself. Every little shake or disturbance and she jumps. So much so, that T’Pol, ever the logical one, suggests that she might benefit from some rest (ableism). One of the first things that she does is ask the captain if she can switch quarters with another crewman because she feels like she’s on the wrong side of the ship, with the stars going the wrong way. The phrase, “I like to keep my feet on the ground” comes to mind. She is so unsure of herself in this new environment that she begins to deeply doubt her linguistics skills. You have to be shaken and nervous (usually, but not always) to forget something that you’ve studied that extensively and for that long. The sheer detail of her speciality also contributes to this, I think. She’s the ship’s linguist. When anyone has a language question, be it medical, tactical, or engineering related, she is their go-to girl. That alone would give me a steady feeling of anxiety, just knowing that many people were relying on me to do my job correctly. She just becomes so overwhelmed that she shuts down. I have had that happen to me more times in my life than I can count, or care to.
But Hoshi comes into her own, right in front of our eyes. And oh, is it a beautiful journey. The reason that this isn’t more obvious and talked about, I think is because, and I am obligated as an ENT ‘Stan’ to say this, is that we… were JACKED (meaning robbed) and did not get a full seven-season run of Star Trek: Enterprise. The second reason being that the circumstances of her growth and development both solely as a character and member of the crew is drawn out over AT LEAST 14 episodes. It is very, very subtle. Blink, and you will miss it. If she’s not your favourite, or you don’t particularly notice her, and you will also miss it.
One of the easier ways to gauge her development is to look at her relationship with T’Pol. As I mentioned earlier, from the beginning T’Pol did not seem to understand Hoshi’s uneasy reaction to being in space, and the pressure of trying to conform to life on a starship. Hoshi wanted to go, but once she got there, she wasn’t ready for the feelings it would elicit from her. She is passionate about language, and that plus Jonathan Archer lured her out into space. Jonathan Archer could coax anyone onto a starship.
In the second episode of the first season, while discussing a tiny slug’s health, from a recent away mission, Hoshi laments even taking the slug out of its natural environment, while Doctor Phlox disagrees and says that Hoshi is on a “mission of exploration” and that there is “something to be learned from every life form”. In this very same episode, quite aptly called “Fight or Flight“, she came apart at the sight of some rather unfortunate aliens that were being drained of one of their valuable bodily fluids. The guilt that she feels after experiencing this traumatic event is something that I, myself, know all too well. Sometimes, people that have anxiety experience something, and they just react. They (some of us, not all) do not have the time, nor the capacity to care at that moment other than reacting to whatever is disturbing them. Like I said, in poor Hoshi’s case this time, I believe her reaction was completely warranted. But the anxiety and self-consciousness that she feels are clouding how she regards herself.
A conversation with Doctor Phlox later on in the episode offers some insight, even if perhaps it is not the insight HE is offering that she gains wisdom from. The kindly doctor reminds her that this is a completely natural and normal reaction to seeing something so disturbing and offers up a description (although it seems rather tame, from what it seems had happened) of an experience he had when he was becoming adjusted to his profession, not long after he began. In one of his rather shining moments as not only a doctor, but also a friend, Phlox comforts her, and tells her that she “has nothing to be ashamed of.” While he says this, he offers her a viable alternative and asked if she had ever thought about teaching at the university. From there, Hoshi finds her fire for a second and gives a rather impassioned, albeit brief, monologue about herself, her years of extensive training, and how she was Archer’s first choice for the mission. By the end of this, I don’t think it was Doctor Phlox that she was trying to convince of this, I think she was trying to convince herself. She thinks of asking to go back to Earth, even goes as far as to tell Commander Tucker this. It’s a hard thing, to trust in your training, and your abilities, but then to fall victim to your fears and anxieties.
At the end of episode two, Hoshi had a victory and successfully communicated with an alien species without the assistance of the universal translator. You can almost feel her self-confidence go up, and you can see and hear the conversation turn around. After this, Hoshi is utilized a lot, as she is one of the most necessary members of the crew. To boldly go, you must be able to communicate, after all! But my favourite comparison for her level of character growth comes if we check back in at S1E13 “Sleeping Dogs“. T’Pol, Hoshi, and Malcolm board an alien ship, only to find out its Klingon, and become stuck there, when one of the Klingons on board turns out to be alive and makes off with their shuttlepod.
Hoshi has been holding up well, but in this episode, we can see just a couple of cracks around her edges again. She says, “I promised myself I wouldn’t do this”. Hoshi, my girl, that is a promise I make myself on a regular basis. In a rather candid conversation with T’Pol, she admits to her that sometimes she is jealous of T’Pol and wishes she could disregard her feelings and “bury them the way Vulcans do”. In a rare display, T’Pol helps Hoshi with her anxiety and feelings of tension while aboard the ship. Visualizations can be quite useful for managing anxiety, on Star Trek or off, and T’Pol uses one here that I quite like myself, visuals of waves. She helps her find her centre, and tells her that she is in command here, she is in control. At first, she resists a little, and she isn’t sure that it’s working, but after a moment, you can see her tension melt, and she releases a huge sigh of relief. She thanks T’Pol and the Subcommander replies that she will teach her how to do it by herself when they get back aboard their own ship.
In the denouement of this episode is where we see my favourite example of how Hoshi has overcome some of her fears. T’Pol, Sato, and Reed are madly trying to find a way off the disabled Klingon vessel, and not having much luck. With Archer and the runaway Klingon on a shuttlepod, also trying to find a way to get the ship operational again, the trio is firing and detonating torpedoes, trying to save the ship from sinking and being crushed in the atmosphere of the gas giant. The hull of the alien ship is already almost ready to collapse, and they must time the detonations just right so that they don’t blow themselves up in their attempt to make it out. As they run out of torpedoes, Hoshi suggests that the next round, they use both more firepower and a closer distance to use a bigger shockwave and propel the sinking ship farther up into the atmosphere. Lt. Reed knows this is a huge risk, and says as much, but then Hoshi delivers the iconic “Look, I didn’t come all the way out here to get crushed in the atmosphere of some anonymous gas giant”, and she loads the torpedoes.
That moment (S1E13) is when I knew that Hoshi was really coming into her own, finding herself. Sometimes, all it takes is a big change to make you unsure of yourself. So much so, that you aren’t sure of your skills anymore. Anxiety is never, ever the same for anyone, but I found comfort and reassurance in this aspect of the character Hoshi Sato. It was amazing to see someone kind of like myself, in Starfleet. It tells me that even if I think I couldn’t do those things (fictional as they might be) to never let yourself stop YOURSELF from following your dreams. It really is true, what people say sometimes- you truly can be your own greatest enemy. In Hoshi Sato, I saw hope that one day I might learn to deal with the trials I have been given better than I can right now. She taught me to stay fierce, keep trying, and never give up.
Anything is possible.
Written By – Brooke Perez – Aka StarfleetQueen. You can find Brooke on Twitter @StarfleetQueen1
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