Affliction: The Klingons kidnap Phlox after their experiment to make Klingon augments (using some embryos recovered from the Augments trilogy) creates a nasty plague on one of their colonies. As he investigates what happened, Reed is contacted by his former boss, a shadowy character named Harris (Eric Pierpoint) who dresses an awful lot like those weird Section 31 guys from DS9’s last couple seasons. Turns out Reed used to work for that “section” before joining the Enterprise and still must follow Harris’ orders — and Harris actually helped the Klingons kidnap Phlox to cure the plague and maintain a “stable Klingon Empire.” Archer finds out that Reed is interfering with Enterprise’s mission and throws him in the brig. Then, some weird, flat-foreheaded aliens board the ship and embed a computer virus. One of them is captured, and Archer learns he’s a Klingon who’s been infected with augment DNA. About this time, the computer virus starts forcing the ship to keep increasing speed or explode, and the episode ends with Enterprise accelerating the dangerous speed of warp 5.2.
Divergence: Enterprise meets up with sister ship Columbia — which just left space dock thanks to new chief engineer Trip Tucker, who requested a transfer in “The Aenar” — to try a risky plan get rid of the Klingon computer virus. It involves Tucker, on a tether(!) and in a spacesuit, going aboard Enterprise (with Reed’s help) to merge the two ship’s warp fields long enough to cold start Enterprise’s engines and purge the virus. It works, naturally, and then the two ships head to the Klingon colony where Phlox is being held. Phlox has made progress on the disease, but the Klingon leaders want their own augments, and not a cure. Phlox and Klingon Dr. Antaak (reliable voice John Schuck) work secretly to find a cure, which they eventually develop despite some battles in space with Klingon ships. The day is saved, Reed is brought back into the fold — with a final rebuke to Harris — but the next few generations of Klingons will (ahem) likely have flat foreheads. Or something.
Why it’s important
This, of course, was the creators’ way of addressing one of the biggest inconsistencies comparing TOS with the rest of Star Trek. Beginning in “Errand of Mercy”, the Klingons we see are essentially humans with facial hair, big eyebrows and (sometimes) dark face makeup. That changed in “Star Trek — The Motion Picture”, where the Klingons suddenly got facial ridges. More on this below …
Also, we see the launch of Starfleet’s second warp 5 ship, Columbia, in this two-parter. It’s the last we see of that ship or Captain Hernandez (Ada Maris), which is too bad, as Starfleet having more of a presence in deep space was interesting — and Hernandez was a strong character in the limited times we saw her (she first appeared in “Home”).
What doesn’t hold up
This is where the season of fan service went off the rails for Enterprise.
Did the creators REALLY need to address the Klingon forehead point? Sure, it probably had been the source of more fan fiction than any other inconsistency, but I’ve got to believe the creators could have used what were two of Enterprise’s final hours on something more interesting. Anyway, the explanation doesn’t even truly hold up, as it doesn’t explain why Klingons Kor, Kang and Koloth appeared in TOS without bumpy foreheads and showed up in DS9 with them. It also doesn’t explain why DS9’s Bashir — medical genius and product of genetic engineering himself — wouldn’t know about what happens in this incident (he shows that he doesn’t in “Trials and Tribble-ations”). I suppose you could say on the second point that what happened here was classified?
I’m also highly doubtful that Columbia could have caught up with Enterprise in time to make a bit of difference. Keep in mind that, in part one, Columbia hasn’t been able to leave space dock, in orbit of Earth. It goes to warp at the end of part one and, then, very suddenly, is close enough to Klingon territory to meet up with Enterprise. Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Keep in mind that in “Broken Bow” getting to Kronos was going to take several days and the events on Columbia in part one appear to be happening concurrently with the events on Enterprise. Even if they weren’t, it’s sure lucky that Columbia just happened to set a course that made catching up with Enterprise easy.
Then there’s the business of transferring Tucker to Enterprise from Columbia while both ships are at warp. While it was a somewhat interesting concept, it wasn’t as cool as the creators hoped it would be. And I have a hard time buying that Tucker is SUCH a good engineer that no one else could have cold-started the Enterprise in a minute.
Aren’t Archer’s actions rather cavalier in this episode? After he learns that Phlox has been kidnapped by the Klingons, he has no problem violating their territory. While it’s great that Archer is loyal to his people, his actions could have started a war — something he was dead set on avoiding the last time we dealt with genetically engineered individuals. Without being too blunt, was Phlox’s life really worth it? Keep in mind that Archer sets out to save Phlox BEFORE he knows about the plague.
And, of course, there’s the whole matter of Tucker leaving Enterprise. While some of it’s handled well, I’ve always felt the creators missed an opportunity to have a better parting moment between Archer and Tucker. Keep in mind that these guys are best friends and all Archer says about Tucker’s departure is that he was “one helluva chief engineer” in a log entry. Weird.
More to come on Tucker’s rather goofy transfer …
Coming next week …
It’s apparently green to be easy.