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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Affliction"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: A solid outing that covers a good amount of ground, although the cliffhanger concept seems a little
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2005
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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

      Plot description: When the Enterprise visits Earth for the launch of the
      Columbia, Phlox is kidnapped and brought before the Klingons, who want him
      to find a cure for a deadly outbreak.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Affliction"

      Airdate: 2/18/2005 (USA)
      Teleplay by Mike Sussman
      Story by Manny Coto
      Directed by Michael Grossman

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

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

      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

      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

      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.

      Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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