Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Affliction"

***

Air date: 2/18/2005
Teleplay by Mike Sussman
Story by Manny Coto
Directed by Michael Grossman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"This is my daydream. You go away." — Trip to T'Pol

In brief: A solid outing that covers a good amount of ground, although the cliffhanger concept seems a little unnecessary.

One nice aspect of "Affliction" is that the varied story ideas allow the episode to breathe. Often on this series, the focus is so narrowly put upon a few key characters and situations that it's either success for their specific arc, or bust. With "Affliction," there's a central plot line, yes, but there are also enough other things going on and enough people involved that we become interested in the characters and little details as well as the plot they inhabit.

And it never hurts to get back to Earth, which itself opens the series up to breathe a bit. The Enterprise has returned for the long-delayed launch of the Columbia, where Trip has been transferred to serve as chief engineer. Early in the episode, as he packs up to leave, T'Pol asks him if he's leaving the ship because of her. The answer is obviously yes, but he tersely tells her otherwise. What's a smitten man in this situation to do? I don't know, but it is kind interesting to see that the not-credible hooking up of these characters last season has now resulted in messy consequences. Let this be a lesson to future Star Trek generations: Don't sleep with your superior officer.

While on shore leave, Phlox and Hoshi are confronted on the street by ominous men in hoods. There's a brief scuffle (in which Hoshi's martial arts knowledge — as suddenly/retroactively revealed in "Observer Effect" — is exploited), and Phlox is shot and carried away. An investigation into Phlox's abduction is launched, beginning with interviews at the crime scene. With a little tweaking and additional insistence, perhaps this could've played as a teaser for CSI: San Francisco 2154. Or maybe Law & Order: Starfleet Security Unit.

As the investigation begins to sprawl, we're taken into some familiar Star Trek places. Hoshi's witnessing of the kidnapping doesn't turn up enough conclusive facts, so Archer suggests T'Pol perform a mind-meld to help Hoshi remember all the details. I guess this is like hypnosis, only better. When T'Pol expresses concern over her ability to initiate a mind-meld, Archer tells her, "I can walk you through it." I'm not sure what I think of that. It certainly makes sense on a plot level, arising from the events of "Kir'Shara," but do we really want the human teaching the Vulcan how to mind-meld?

The mind-meld produces a lead that has the Enterprise chasing a Rigellian ship to a space station that the Enterprise crew finds destroyed by the time they arrive. Destroyed by whom? Reed knows, but he's not saying.

On the other end of the plot, we already know that Phlox is in the hands of the Klingons, who are forcing him to help one of their doctors, a man named Antaak (John Schuck, not new to Klingon roles), research a cure to a deadly contagion threatening the Klingon population. Refreshingly, Antaak is not depicted as a villain but as a man of integrity — in spite of his adherence to accepted Klingon medical protocol, which permits the theft of data and resources and the "euthanasia" of live Klingon test subjects (a brutal notion played for mild laughs).

Through his search for a cure, Phlox learns that the outbreak began when the Klingons attempted to create genetically enhanced subjects from embryos discovered in the wreckage of the ship hijacked by the Augments (see "The Augments"). In terms of self-reference without literal self-reference, this will evidentially provide the explanation for the difference in appearance between the TOS Klingons and the Klingons from the feature films onward. The tie-in with the Augments arc is fairly clever.

Lt. Reed's investigation comprises the other major strand of the story, and the most intriguing. He discovers Starfleet's security grid was down at exactly the time of Phlox's kidnapping. When he tries to find out why, he's contacted by a mysterious agent (Eric Pierpoint, of Alien Nation fame). The show doesn't come out and say it, but this is clearly intended to be some version of Section 31 (their uniforms apparently won't change during the next 200 years; for the DS9 uninitiated, see "Inquisition"). Furthermore, Reed turns out to be a former Section agent. Because of the plot involving Phlox's kidnapping, Reed is reactivated by the Section, and ordered to thwart the Enterprise's investigation, for reasons we cannot yet be certain of.

Reed's conflict makes for the show's best drama, because it involves loyalty and betrayal. He's forced into hiding key evidence from Archer on the orders of an organization that he was apparently affiliated with before Starfleet. When he tells his Section contact that he's uncomfortable hiding things from Archer, the response comes back, "I suggest you adjust your comfort level." Eventually, a trail of clues leads T'Pol back through Reed's interference. Archer dresses him down and has him thrown into the brig as a traitor, which makes for some potent scenes.

Aboard the Columbia, Trip cracks the whip and tells the other engineers that the ship's engines will be online and ready for launch within the week. (He comes across as so inflexible that several engineers request transfers off the ship.) This is before he even reports to the captain for duty. The truth of these scenes are in the simple details of a man moving to a new post, and especially in the quiet observation of Captain Hernandez (Ada Maris), who seems to silently size Trip up while coming across as both professional and friendly. Maris' subtle and internalized performance is one of the show's highlights. Perhaps it's too early to say until we also see the action side of her character in command, but Hernandez already seems like a character that I could see as an anchor for its own series. Show me more.

In keeping with the show's effective "do a little bit of everything" approach, there's also a bizarre daydream involving Trip and T'Pol, which they both seem to share. The sharing goes even further: Hoshi has dreams of Trip, evidently because something spilled over from the mind-meld.

Then there's the action, where human-looking Klingons board the Enterprise and plant a computer virus, which has the effect of forcing the ship to accelerate out of control. Although one of the Klingons is captured, the MACOs still seem way too incompetent as security forces. As for the notion of the ship speeding out of control: Do we really need this as a cliffhanger, and isn't there something vaguely silly about it? (It begs someone to shout out: "We're going too FAST! We're gonna BLOW!")

My biggest fear is that the interesting stuff here will be all too casually reset in the follow-up. I'm speaking specifically of the fallout from Reed's betrayal and Trip having transferred to the Columbia. It seems to me that Reed can't remain in the brig forever, and we're not about to see Trip on an ongoing, parallel Star Trek: Columbia. Hopefully, however they resolve these matters will be worthwhile.

Like many outings this season on Enterprise, "Affliction" is solid and entertaining, but with no real signs of greatness. This, unfortunately, limits my review to another where I basically say "here's what happened in the episode" and "I mostly liked what I saw." Deep analysis or heavy thought doesn't really seem to be required. Not that that's a problem.

Next week: The Enterprise keeps accelerating until it explodes. Okay, probably not.

Previous episode: The Aenar
Next episode: Divergence

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5 comments on this review

Cloudane - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 12:56pm (USA Central)
Ugh, think I prefer either an ongoing saga, ideally (DS9) or single episode stories with two parters being for special occasions (Voyager/TNG/TOS). Trilogies - I'm guessing this is another - are getting old, fast.

Speaking of getting old, T'Pol and Trip. We had all the dancing around each other stuff before - then they finally admitted things, then she got married, then she got divorced, and now we have to sit through it again from square one? We know Trip's not going to be transferred permanently, it's not late enough in the season... so for goodness sake, just bang their heads (and other things) together already. Sheesh.

Other than those rants, good stuff. Interesting to see Reed working for section 31.... that certainly came unexpectedly! Now the slightly overused but generally interesting "where do your loyalties lie" story.
Yes, got to agree on their uniform, I guess such a seedy part of Starfleet needs Sinister Looking Leather Clothing regardless of the year, hehe.

I'm really liking this explanation for the Klingon transformation. When it's mentioned in DS9, Worf said "we don't talk about it" with a very 'this-is-awkward' look on his face, indicating a high level of embarrassment amongst the Klingons about it. This embarrassment is projected very well by the guest Klingons here. You can see the sheepish look quite a lot while he's explaining how "we kind of um.. tried to augment ourselves and didn't really think it through..." (not exact words). It's done brilliantly! They're like the poor guy in hospital explaining how he ended up with a vacuum cleaner nozzle hanging from his groin.

"Hernandez already seems like a character that I could see as an anchor for its own series. "
Man, that would've been awesome. She's got a great presence as a captain... an air of authority but with a lot of friendliness, and better than Janeway on a first impression as female captains go. I'm just already afraid of the subtle chemistry between her and Trip. Must we have a love triangle?
Arachnea - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 7:46pm (USA Central)
A nice episode and like you, I think Hernandez shines. What a great captain she would have been for Enterprise: she's subtle, sensitive and sensible. She doesn't go into histrionics to resolve a crew problem, but offers an ear and then hints about what's inappropriate. (We had already seen her having instinct and insight about what was wrong with Archer).
Mahmoud - Fri, Nov 15, 2013 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
Agreed on Hernandez; she reminds me very much (despite the huge differences) of Admiral Caine from BSG - high praise, for those who haven't seen it/her.
tlb - Sun, Jun 8, 2014 - 9:09am (USA Central)
Section 31 ---- nice!
Snooky - Fri, Jul 18, 2014 - 2:38am (USA Central)
Does Trip have chemistry with EVERY female? Geez! I also felt the chemistry, and he was only with Hernandez in a couple of scenes. More sparks than Hernandez with Archer, her friend/boyfriend. A good actress and good character.

LOL over the comment above about the Klingon transformation, and the vacuum nozzle!

I also want to knock Trip and T'Pol's heads together -- mostly T'Pol's. Obviously she's got a thing for him; pretending it doesn't exist isn't going to work. They were almost there, then she got religion. *sigh*

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