I Identify with Hoshi Sato
Probably everyone has experienced some form of anxiety. An important factor is how much it interferes with each of our lives. Some days will be better than others. That’s okay. Aboard the NX-01 Enterprise, though, Hoshi Sato had to tackle anxiety about daily experiences that we Earth-bound humans will never face.
Initially, Sato seemed – taking a page from my book – to procrastinate going into space, saying she “owed it to these kids” to remain on Earth. That’s an amazingly dedicated teacher! When Captain Archer coaxed her with some enigmatic samples of Klingonese, she finally acquiesced.
Once in space, Sato was constantly unsettled and unsure of herself. She jumped at every little shake or disturbance, so T’Pol cattily suggested she might benefit from some rest. Hoshi soon asked the captain if she could switch quarters because she felt like she was on the wrong side of the ship.
Hoshi’s so unsure of herself in this new environment that she begins to deeply doubt her linguistic skills, despite having studied the subject extensively. The pressure of being the ship’s linguist contributes to her faltering self-confidence. If I likewise knew many people were relying on me functioning correctly, it would make me constantly anxious too. Hoshi becomes so overwhelmed that she shuts down. I’ve had that happen to me, countless times.
However, Hoshi proceeds to adjust, beautifully so. One reason this isn’t more obvious is that Star Trek: Enterprise didn’t have a seven-season run. Her development, both as a character and a crewmember, is very subtle, spread across only a few episodes.
One gauge of her development is her relationship with T’Pol. As I mentioned, from the beginning T’Pol seemingly didn’t understand her uneasiness with space travel and the pressure of conforming to life on a starship. Hoshi wanted to go, but once there, she wasn’t ready for how it made her feel.
“Fight or Flight”
In Enterprise‘s second episode, Hoshi laments having removed a slug from its habitat on an away mission. Doctor Phlox disagrees, saying Hoshi’s on a “mission of exploration” and that there’s “something to be learned from every life-form.” In the same episode (aptly called “Fight or Flight”), she’s horrified by the sight of some aliens being drained of bodily fluids. I’m all too familiar with the guilt she feels about this. Sometimes, people who have anxiety experience something and just react, not having the time nor the capacity to care at that moment, other than to respond. So, in poor Hoshi’s case, her reaction was completely warranted. But her anxiety and self-consciousness clouds how she regards herself.
In a conversation she has with Phlox, the kindly doctor says her reaction to something so disturbing is completely natural and recalls an experience he had, shortly after beginning his profession. Phlox comforts her – in one of his shining moments as a doctor and a friend – by saying she “has nothing to be ashamed of.” When he wonders if she might be happier teaching at the university, Hoshi gives an impassioned but brief monologue about herself, her years of training, and how she was Archer’s first choice for the mission. I doubt it’s Phlox whom she was trying to convince of this; it was herself. She even considers returning to Earth, as she tells Commander Tucker. It’s hard to trust in your training and abilities but then fall victim to your fears and anxieties.
In the episode’s climax, Hoshi successfully communicates with an alien species without the universal translator. Her self-confidence grows as the conversation progresses. Afterwards, Hoshi – as one of the most necessary crewmembers – is utilized a lot. To boldly go, communication is, after all, vital!
My favorite demonstration of Hoshi’s character growth comes in the show’s thirteenth episode, “Sleeping Dogs”. She, T’Pol, and Malcolm board an alien ship, which they discover is Klingon. They become stuck there when one of the Klingons on board turns out to be alive and flees in their shuttlepod.
Hoshi has been coping well, but her vulnerabilities reappear in this episode. She comments, “I promised myself I wouldn’t do this.” Hoshi, my girl, that’s a promise I make myself, regularly!
In a candid conversation with T’Pol, Hoshi admits she occasionally wishes she could “bury [her feelings] the way Vulcans do.” Somewhat surprisingly, T’Pol helps Hoshi overcome her worries. Visualizations can be useful for managing anxiety, on Star Trek or off, and T’Pol uses a nice one here: visuals of waves. Hoshi resists slightly, unsure it’s working. But after a moment, her tension clearly melts. She thanks T’Pol, who plans to teach her how to do it by herself when they return to Enterprise.
This episode’s denouement contains my favorite example of how Hoshi overcomes fear. She, T’Pol, and Reed are desperate to escape the disabled Klingon vessel, not having much luck. With Archer and the runaway Klingon on a shuttlepod also trying to restart the ship, the trio is firing torpedoes, attempting to save the vessel from being crushed inside a gas giant. Hoshi suggests they try to cause a bigger shockwave that may propel the sinking ship higher into the atmosphere. Lieutenant Reed states this is a huge risk, but Hoshi remarks, “Look, I didn’t come all the way out here to get crushed in the atmosphere of some anonymous gas giant,” and loads the torpedoes. That moment is when I knew Hoshi was developing terrifically.
Anxiety is never the same for anyone, but I found reassurance in this aspect of Hoshi Sato. It was amazing to see someone like me in Starfleet. It tells us – even if we think we couldn’t accomplish the things she does – to never let us stop ourselves from following our dreams. A true saying is that you can be your own worst enemy. In Hoshi, I saw hope that, one day, I might learn to deal with my difficulties better than I can right now. She taught me to stay strong, keep trying, and never give up, because anything is possible.