Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Divergence"

**

Air date: 2/25/2005
Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by David Barrett

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Never thought I'd see the stars like this." — Tucker, the first human being to be outside a starship traveling at warp speed

In brief: Watchable but disappointing. Too much mindless action and not enough character or story.

There's a fine line between audacity and goofiness, and "Divergence" flirts with it perilously. I see what's on the screen. I see that they're trying to do something new. I see that the envelope is being pushed on tech-action concepts. Do I believe what I'm seeing? Not exactly. But the real deal-breaker is: Does any of this feel necessary beyond the mechanics of a busy but meaningless plot? No.

If you will recall from the end of last week's "Affliction," the Enterprise's engine room was infected with a Klingon computer subroutine (i.e., virus) that caused the pressure in the warp core to build up (or whatever). The only way to relieve the pressure was to keep accelerating. Unfortunately, the ship is now maxed out and the pressure is still building. The only way to save the ship from a catastrophic core breach (i.e., explosion) is if Trip can get aboard and use his superb engineering skills to purge the subroutines and reinitialize the engines.

Already, the episode was losing me with its arbitrary tech solutions to arbitrary tech problems, and I had to wonder if this plan by the Klingons to destroy the Enterprise was more elaborate than it needed to be. Wouldn't it have been more honorable and glorious to take on the Enterprise in a direct fight rather than by sabotaging its engines? That doesn't seem particularly Klingon to me. But neither does it seem very prudently Starfleet that an entire ship has gone racing into hostile Klingon space to rescue one man. Check that; two ships.

The Enterprise's new chief engineer — Lt. Cmdr. Kelby — is apparently not up to the task of cold-starting the engines. Inconvenient for the crew of the Enterprise, but convenient for story conventions, which require zany stunts so that a hero can come in and save the day.

A warp-speed use of the transporter is not considered to be viable under these conditions. So instead, this leads to a crazy stunt that I'm calling a 49-to-51 percent blending of audacity and goofiness, with the slight edge going to goofiness. The Columbia rendezvouses with the Enterprise, inverts itself so that the bottoms of the two ships are just a few dozen meters apart, and then a tether is used to go between the two ships, attached at each end in the launch bays. Trip then lowers (raises) himself from the Columbia and into the Enterprise. Halfway through, he pauses to look at the stars warping by, and says, "Never thought I'd see the stars like this." No kidding.

I have to give credit for the spirit of this sequence — reckless and unprecedented and kind of memorable for its strangeness. At the same time, my voice of skepticism was saying, "Oh, come ON." Ultimately, I think the problem is that it feels too much like a stunt for the sake of itself. It ends up being neither good nor bad but merely a neutral fact whose surrounding events are both created and solved under completely arbitrary conditions.

Trip is able to purge the engineering systems and cold-start the engines, in a frenetic bit of plotting that is based on meaningless ship operations. I don't know or care about how to cold-start the engines, so Trip's geek-speak is all false urgency where there's nothing to understand as it unfolds. Maybe content isn't the point. Maybe the stunt is the point. But a clever stunt does not constitute substantive storytelling.

Fortunately, there are some story points here that aren't based solely on tech stunts. The Section 31 storyline is intriguing up to a point, including a scene where Archer gives Reed a way out but also an ultimatum: He tells Reed he has to choose a side; he can't maintain loyalties to both Starfleet and this shadowy intelligence agency. Archer launches an investigation into Reed's Section 31 contact, a man named Harris (Eric Pierpoint), who tells Archer that the fine print of Starfleet's code gives him the authority to make back-alley deals with the Klingons.

In this case (minus whatever lies Harris uses to cover his ass), the deal is that Section 31 permitted the kidnapping of Phlox so he could cure the Klingon outbreak, because a stable Klingon Empire is in the best interests of Starfleet.

I've always liked the notion of Section 31. It's too bad that it's a subplot here that doesn't get quite enough coverage. (Perhaps a Section 31 origin story might've been more intriguing.) And the down side is that Section 31— which is actually working in conjunction with a Klingon admiral named Krell (Wayne Grace) — finds itself deceived by its own co-conspirators. If Section 31 is supposed to be such a smart, skillful organization that survives for centuries in secret, they should not be so easily thwarted the way they are here by Krell.

Krell's orders on behalf of the Klingon Empire are to destroy a Klingon colony (with millions of inhabitants) to contain the deadly outbreak. Phlox's hope is that he can find the cure before Krell's ships arrive. Also on hand at the colony's base are Antaak (John Schuck), who also wants to save lives, and General K'Vagh (James Avery), who wants a cure that will also create superior, genetically-enhanced Klingon augments. The plot is about all the maneuvering of the players at this base, while the Enterprise and Columbia (and Krell's ships) head toward it.

Ultimately, all parties arrive at this planet, with the Starfleet ships and Krell's vessels in orbit around the colony, and Phlox on the surface trying to finish the cure. Phlox is close, but Krell does not have any patience and is ready to carry out his mass-extermination mission.

Where the show runs off the rails is in these final 10 minutes, which feature frenetic action crosscut with a crazed approach to solving all the problems of the plot by using Archer as a human host to accelerate the synthesis of the cure. "It won't be pleasant," Phlox warns. He's right; eventually we're watching Archer's facial contortions as he groans and convulses while strapped into a chair. It simply looks too silly to work; we're painfully aware we're watching an actor's less-than-convincing writhing.

And there's too much going on that's less exciting than it wants to be. All logic and story flow is lost to a general sense of mayhem. The way Phlox and Archer gain the upper hand and convince Krell to stand down is a little hard to swallow, requiring an obstinate character to immediately believe what he is being told.

The ship-based battle scenes are painfully routine, with phasers pummeling everyone, and sparks exploding on the bridge(s), and terse warnings of "hull plating down to 32 percent," which is about the only line that is actually worse than "shields down to 32 percent" — a line that has been in need of being expunged from Star Trek for at least half a decade. Really, when are they just going to invent shields for the Enterprise? Hull plating works exactly the same way as a contrived level of scripted protection, only less believably.

For some reason, Enterprise sets up these entertaining multiple-episode stories, but often has trouble delivering a satisfactory finish — "The Augments," "The Aenar," and now this. The biggest problem here is that we have too much plot and not nearly enough interesting storytelling or characters who are invested with depth or personalities. In particular, I was hoping to see Captain Hernandez (Ada Maris) in action here, since one of the story's selling points was that we get to see her ship working alongside the Enterprise. But the story's action doesn't permit her (or anybody) any decisions or actions that demonstrate leadership or personality. Everyone is too busy firing phasers and shouting about the hull plating. It's boring.

It's too bad, really, because the basic plot is okay and the idea that this disease and its cure creates the non-ridged TOS Klingons is reasonable. The plot elements are here and could theoretically work. But this is a show that's too concerned with moving pieces around a chessboard, and doesn't consider the fact that the pieces should be people, and their movements should feel organic rather than mechanical.

Upcoming: Reruns until mid-April, followed by Enterprise's final six episodes.

Previous episode: Affliction
Next episode: Bound

Season Index

17 comments on this review

Straha - Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - 2:37pm (USA Central)
Well, at least they managed to do what everyone thought was impossible: to come up with a believable idea to account for the human looking Klingons of TOS - hats off!
ugh - Thu, Dec 10, 2009 - 12:33am (USA Central)
Most of the time your reviews are enlightening. Sometimes they are disgusting. This review happens to be the latter. Trips moment was awesome, and your bias shows.
Ken Egervari - Tue, Feb 16, 2010 - 3:36am (USA Central)
I think you're being a bit harsh. While it is true that the Klingons may have just went on a frontal assault to destroy enterprise directly... and sending trip across the two ships was a little unbelievable... the episode was thoroughly enjoyable.

These Klingons are much more refreshing than the post TNG Klingons. They are ruthless, and dark.

I still give this episode 3 stars. While none of the episodes of this season were stellar 4 star episodes, almost all of them are competent and miles ahead of the crap that came before in season 1-3.

I initially went into these two episodes thinking it was the stupidest concept for a story ever, and I had no interest in explaining away poor costume design from the original series... primarily because I just don't care.

Having gone in with absolutely bad expectations... and then getting a very plausible and enjoyable story in return? I'd say that's a win.
Nic - Wed, May 19, 2010 - 7:59am (USA Central)
This has got to be the most ridiculous episode in the history of television. Only on a Star Trek show would anyone even try to get away with this. Were any fans vindicated by this "explanation"? Say, those who back in Enterprise's first season complained about the Klingons having bumpy foreheads? There are so many other things in Star Trek that strain credibility. For instance, why do 99% of aliens have a humanoid appearance? Why do all the women in the 23rd century wear 1960s hairstyles and act like bimbos? The answer: it's a frakking TV SHOW! Use your imagination. The joke in 'Trials and Tribble-ations' was funny in a toungue-in-cheek kind of way. But we definitely didn't need this.
Barry Wogan - Sun, Oct 17, 2010 - 5:26pm (USA Central)
Why is it that whenever the script requires the Enterprise to lose a battle, they always seem to forget that they have "photonic torpedoes"? I am I the only one who finds this rather tiresome?
Latex Zebra - Wed, Mar 28, 2012 - 5:19am (USA Central)
I think the Trials and Tribulations non answer by Worf was enough to explain the non ridged Klingons. Trying to explain it seems just to forced. Especially when we all know it was judt a budget issue.
I appreciate what Coto was trying to do with this season and he succeded in my opinion in most cases.
This was needless. Much better to do a section 31 origin story as suggested than this wishy washy nonsense.
Zane314 - Tue, Sep 25, 2012 - 9:05pm (USA Central)
So I'm watching the opening of Divergence and I think "wow, that's nuts, you can't take a cable between 2 ships at warp!" And then I remembered 2 things:
1) FTL is total BS, about as real as anti-grav and the universal translator
2) this is science *fiction* that is meant to be enjoyed

Once I recalled that FTL and warp technobabble was bull, I thought "why not take a cable across if the ship's warp fields merge?" Now I could really enjoy an awesome scene.

Both Affliction and Divergence were excellent, mining the Khan/mutant backstory and the ridgeless Klingons. I liked the general quite a bit. And the Klingon doctor was excellent, especially his warrior's take on victory and glory with medicine. Phlox's winning moment of beaming the cootie bomb on to the attacking ship and negotiating a peaceful conclusion was cool. Very good Trek, this is excellent stuff. 3.5 stars for both episodes.

ps - Hoshi kicking but in the first episode was great!

Cloudane - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 1:51pm (USA Central)
Crazy stuff.

Seems I have to make some corrections from my comments for the previous episode...
1) It wasn't a trilogy (yay!)
2) The general embarrassment of the Klingons is more likely them knowing that human DNA is involved in their "infection", not that they screwed up implementing it
3) No Trip/Hernandez stuff that I felt was at risk of brewing, thank goodness

Another case of "not really that bad" and nice to see this (in)famous explanation for what happens to the Klingons
Wisq - Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
Five minutes on Columbia's bridge is all it would take to make me ready to beam the designer into space. Pulsating floor-to-ceiling light tubes? Seriously?

It's bad enough that TNG's engineering crew had to deal with that from the warp reactor. Putting four of them on the bridge is perhaps the most ridiculous piece of anti-ergonomics I've seen on Trek to date.

I realise these are made for the TV audience's entertainment and not for the fictional crew, but some of us like our TV scenery to be at least _somewhat_ believable.
mark - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 7:50pm (USA Central)
This two-parter baffled me. Why were the Klingons trying to destroy Enterprise if this was a Section 31/Klingon coordinated plan? Wouldn't section 31 have insisted on no human casualties? And why did the Klingons use a small commando team with a fancy computer virus to do it? Why did the Klingons want to destroy the colony even after they were told that they were close to perfecting Klingon augments? How was section 31 so easily outmaneuvered by some Klingon general? Why is a stable Klingon empire in the best interests of Starfleet when the Klingons regularly attack Starfleet ships?

Most of all, why bother trying to explain TOS-era Klingons' lack of forehead ridges at all? Why take up valuable season four real estate to do it when there are so many more pressing issues to explore (like character development for some of the underused regulars, like Hoshi?) I suppose in a way I could blame DS9 for not giving us ridged Klingons in "Trials and Tribble-ations", which would have made the entire issue moot. I just think it's pretty silly that what was nothing more than a TOS budget issue is now driving ENT's last season's development.

And man, ENT's stupid, thuggish Klingons are almost as bad as its pre-Kirshara Vulcans. At least in TOS the Klingons weren't hypocrites: sure, they were constantly backstabbing us, but they didn't pretend they were being "honorable" at the same time. ENT's Klngons make me want to punch a wall. Or maybe punch Archer instead.
mike - Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - 6:45am (USA Central)
I am generally so annoyed with the merged warp field/tether climbing stunt that when I do watch this episode, I aim the remote at the television and hold my finger firmly on fast forward until I'm past it. It's all a little too tedious when you know Tucker is going save the engines in the end anyway. And why is it that in a ship full of engineers Malcolm or T'Pol always seem to be the only people able to help Bubba fix the carburetor? The episode's saving grace is Phlox, of course. John Billingsley can act circles around every member of this cast. I don't like Columbia or Capt. Hernandez at all. She and her ship become pretty useless all too soon when really needed. I have no problem with the story or the way Phlox finally saves the colony from annihilation. Aside from having Archer being a part of the solution--again--I thought it rather clever. I do have a problem with the need to go to such great lengths to explain why Klingons will have smooth foreheads in Kirk's century. I think we all understand that TOS had a small budget and they cut a lot of corners in costumes and make up back then. There was no need to rationalize it with this elaborate two-part story.
Elliott - Sun, May 26, 2013 - 12:46am (USA Central)
I'm normally not one to quibble over technical details, but if the Columbia could bring Enterprise into its warp field, why could they then not simply do that. Have Enterprise shut down its warp drive as it did and then drop to impulse? It would not have been necessary for the whole tether stunt to boot.
Sam S. - Mon, Jul 29, 2013 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
Am I wrong for wanting to call the general's son Carlton?
crackerjack - Sun, Aug 25, 2013 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
"rendezvouses"?!?!
Jack - Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
It's pretty clear that the whole storyline of Trip transferring to Columbia was to enable this action sequence where he has to return and save the day.
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, May 25, 2014 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
This was a very cute amusing little story arc, but Krell was way too stubborn for my liking.

In DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations", Bashir and O'Brien speculated that the cause of the smooth heads might be either genetic engineering or a viral mutation. Nice to see they were both right:

Worf: "They are Klingons... and it is a long story."
O'Brien: "What happened? Some kind of genetic engineering?"
Bashir: "A viral mutation?"
Worf: "We do not discuss it with outsiders."

Also laughed Harris's line "Re-read the charter: Article 14, Section 31. There are a few lines that make allowances for bending the rules during times of extraordinary threat." even though the black leather already cued us in on who this guy was working for.
Snooky - Fri, Jul 18, 2014 - 1:18am (USA Central)
I loved this entire arc, because it answered the question of why Klingons looked different in The Original Series! Like Worf said, "We don't discuss it with outsiders." No wonder, because millions of them were contaminated with human DNA! How embarrassing for them!

I also loved the Section 31 stuff, now that I've seen DS9.

I am so happy to see so many TOS things being addressed this season. It makes me sad that there never was a fifth season. This is exactly what Enterprise needed to be -- a vehicle to fill in all those pesky gaps in our Star Trek lore.

And no, the show didn't HAVE to address the forehead-ridge thing, but why not, when an interesting story could be made from it, a story that tied in so cleanly with the augment arc, which also tied in with TOS? Besides, the topic came up in DS9 (albeit briefly). If it had never been addressed, continuing to ignore it would make more sense, but they chose to mention it.

I loved the sequence with the two ships flying in tandem. Seeing Columbia flip was cool, and the whole thing was thrilling down to my Trekkie soul. I don't care about the warp field mechanics (which are totally fictitious and nonsensical anyway!) -- the visuals were stunning.

Nor am I bothered that Trip is indispensible. That is also very Trek. McCoy alone cured disease, as does Phlox. Only Scotty could nurse those engines to perform, as does Trip, and only Kirk could get them out of impossible scrapes (as Archer does, but with not nearly as much grace!).

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