To many Star Trek fans, Jolene Blalock will always be best remembered as T’Pol — the Vulcan First Officer serving under Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) on Star Trek: Enterprise. As a self-professed lifelong fan of the franchise, getting the chance to star in the prequel series was no doubt a dream come true for Blalock. Regardless, there was one Trek character she had a lot of issues with — her own.
At the time that Enterprise was released, a lot of fans had criticisms for Blalock’s character and, whether the fans knew it or not, she had a whole host of her own. One of the biggest bones she had to pick was how her character was objectified for the sake of ratings. As recalled by Fansided, in season 3 Jolene Blalock begins wearing a different uniform on the titular ship with a neckline designed to show more cleavage. The narrative explanation was that T’Pol had resigned from the Vulcan High Command and so needed a different outfit, but in reality it was done to help boost the failing ratings. “You can’t substitute t*** and a** for good storytelling,” Blalock insisted. “You can have both, but you can’t substitute one for the other, because the audience is not stupid. You can’t just throw in frivolous, uncharacteristic… well, bull and think it’s gonna help the ratings!”
From the very beginning of Enterprise, it’s clear that Jolene Blalock was being used for the same kind of sex appeal as Jeri Ryan had been in Star Trek: Voyager. The premiere two-parter “Broken Bow” includes what is arguably the most cringe-inducing, blatant “sex sells” moments in the franchise when T’Pol and Trip (Connor Trinneer) — stripped to their underwear — apply a decontamination solution to their own skin, and eventually have to put it on each other. You can watch that below.
Even before the season 3 costume change, Jolene Blalock wears an uncharacteristically form-fitting uniform for a Vulcan. Many of the character’s storylines focused on sex. The episode “Fusion” portrays a mind meld — a taboo practice in Vulcan culture at this point — as akin to a sexual assault. In “Bounty,” T’Pol’s powerful mating period of Pon Farr is activated early and she spends much of the episode trying to convince Phlox (John Billingsley) to have sex with her. And then of course there’s the storyline during which — to no one’s surprise — spending every other night in an almost nude “mediative practice” in a dark room together with their hands all over each other, somehow causes romantic feelings to develop between T’Pol and Trip.
Though it wasn’t just the turning up of the sex appeal that Jolene Blalock criticized. According to Screen Rant, she didn’t like how T’Pol was written differently from other Vulcans, including regularly displaying emotions. “You can’t take T’Pol and say ‘Okay, you’re a Vulcan’ and take away the Vulcan characteristics,” Blalock said. “You might as well clip the ears!” Likewise, she thought her character was stripped of any realism. She gave the example of her hair never moving on screen. “T’Pol’s hair doesn’t move – even in battle!” Blalock complained. “And if it does, we re-shoot it. We don’t bleed here, and nobody dies. Give me a break! And we’re all-knowing. Where’s the risk? Where the danger?”
Screen Rant says the writers planned for at least one aspect of T’Pol’s character to be explained. If Enterprise had gotten a fifth season, one episode would have revealed that T’Pol was half-Romulan. This might have addressed the criticisms Jolene Blalock and others had about her character’s emotions. Sadly, Enterprise proved to be the first series in the franchise to be canceled since Star Trek: The Original Series — something Scott Bakula blames UPN for.