Monday, April 17, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Divergence

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: February 25, 2002
91 of 97 produced
91 of 97 aired


Phlox races to find a cure for the augment virus, while Malcom and Archer butt heads over Malcolm's secrecy.


The diabolical Westmorehead Virus claims another victim.



Kevin: This isn't the deepest episode in the world, but it certainly moves briskly. The ticking clock of the Enterprise's reactor gives way to the ticking clock of the Klingon fleet enforcing a quarantine with extreme prejudice. Does this seem to make Tucker (again) the only engineer in the fleet? Yes. Is Phlox's solution, and the need to infect Archer too neat? Also yes. Do I mind? Not entirely. The episode was fun enough to watch and it moved well. The solutions are all in the nick of time, but it's a dramatic trope for a reason. I continue to question if the episode really needed to be made, but now that it has, I'm not mad at it. I don't really have that much more to say about it.

Matthew: I definitely rolled my eyes at the Archer being infected scene. In addition to being cheesy in the extreme, it also relies on Archer's savior trope far too much for my liking. We basically got a whole season of that during the Xindi arc, and it's played out for me. The other Archer thing I didn't like was his browbeating of Reed. I don't like Shouty Dad Archer, and that was definitely present here. With that said, I agree that the nuts and bolts of this episode were good clean fun. Intellectually challenging sci-fi? Nope. But climbing up/down a line between two ships is fun. Cold restarting the warp engines is fun (if predictable). Space battles are fun. So this was sort of like the instant ramen of Star Trek. It's got Klingons and phasers and warp engines, oh my! And no one was murderous or eeevil who shouldn't have been. I am still capable of having fun, you know. On the continuity question, the explanation was not needed, but all in all, this was about the least offensive possible attempt at one.

Kevin: I think my only real "Oh, come on" moment had to be getting Tucker back on the Enterprise, even if it's only "temporary." We knew it was coming, but boy did they chicken out quickly. 

Matthew: Yeah, I wonder what was behind this.  If there is a glaring weakness to the whole season's "story arc," it is this reversal to the Tucker/T'Pol romance. It doesn't feel real. It is predicated on their being obtuse morons to each other who refuse to communicate any feelings, and this setback is undone before it even has a chance to set in. Add in the pointless Kelby subplot, and you have a dud for me.


Kevin: John Shuck is, as always, a delight. His presence is fantastic and he brings a level of intelligence and empathy to the proceedings to almost make it seem like a serious operation. James Avery will always be Uncle Phil, so it was really like watching Uncle Phil play K'Vagh, but damned if he wasn't having a blast. He was doing a permissible amount of scenery chewing given the setting. Billingsley was his usual delightful self throughout the episode as well. So, all around, a nice outing in the acting department.

Matthew: I never watched Fresh Prince, so I can come to James Avery with no preconceptions. I think he brought a good sense of nuance to his role, and his relationship with this son. He elevated it beyond "My son should die because honor, blah blah blah." John Schuck will always be there, preventing the annihilation of the Klingon people. His character story of not finding acceptance as a doctor worked pretty well, too. Agreed on Billingsley, the only actors that fell a little flat for me were Bakula and Keating. Their jousting didn't meet the mark for me, but it's as much writing.

Production Values

Kevin: Overall, this was largely a continuation of last week's effects and sets, so I don't have a ton to add. I will say I have one additional concern about bringing back the TOS makeup: it's unsettling close to black face. With the head ridges, it's an alien. Without them, John Schuck is just a white man wearing a lot of brown make up. The TOS Klingons don't age particularly well in that regard, so I'm not eager to see it again. 

Matthew: I think the concern is not hiring actors of color, more than the makeup itself (this is setting aside the 60s Orientalism in choosing the skin shade to begin with). I think the Klingons are enough of a well-developed fictional race so as not to call forth unpleasant comparisons to our own cultures (cough, cough, looking at you, Code of Honor...). 

Kevin: The highlight effects wise was the Columbia in formation with the Enterprise. The internal plot mechanics aside, it was an ambitious shot and the sense of scale and danger came off nicely. The fleet over the colony also looked pretty good.

Matthew: Yeah, all the space shots were of at least average quality. I still am not over the dumb blinky tubes on the Columbia bridge. I get that they needed a quick visual differentiator, but a can of paint on one accent wall could have done the job just as well.


Kevin: I feel like I'm giving the episode short shrift, but I don't think there's that much to chew on. The action falls from the starting point the last episode established, and it does so briskly enough. There's not really a deeper story here, and I renew my objection to 'explaining' the ridge thing, but as explanations go, it was fun, and I will always enjoy John Schuck and James Avery acting for the back row. This is a solid 3 for me.

Matthew: I was never bored, even if I wanted more ideas from the story. A tighter and more fully explored ethical dilemma might have elevated things for me. It was sort of quickly brought up and then quickly dismissed from the story they filmed. But lots of fun things occurred, no one dropped any f-bombs or decapitated anyone, and no canon characters were fridged for "stakes." So I can hardly be mad.  I'm at a 3 as well. That brings our total to a 6. 

1 comment:

  1. I get the feeling that the writers didn't really know what to do with the T'Pol-Tucker romance. I think B'Elanna-Tom didn't officially start until about half-way through Voyager, but it was just written so much better. And, of course, Voyager ended up with a full seven seasons, so it was a good decision to let the characters get to define themselves on their own terms, and then organically develop a relationship.

    I never liked that T'Pol was put into a relationship, but maybe I could have been brought around if it had worked really well. This 'will they, won't they?' stuff is not convincing or interesting. But I'm repeating myself, and you guys.

    It was a nice touch to have the Columbia stay around rather than just warping off as soon as the reset button had been mashed. It makes you wonder why Starfleet didn't have their vessels operate in twos more often. But then they would cover half the ground, of course. And the narrative tension would suffer, I suppose.