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The Trek Nation - Anomaly

Anomaly

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 18, 2003 - 2:59 AM GMT

See Also: 'Anomaly' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: A number of small anomalies like floating coffee cups and mess disasters give way to warp field fluctuations and that bring down main power. Enterprise loses warp drive and weapons. At impulse, the ship travels to intercept a derelict vessel that appears to have been attacked by scavengers. Before power has been restored, aliens attack and board Enterprise, killing one crewman and stealing quantum torpedoes, food stores and all of the antimatter storage pods needed to power the ship beyond the next month.

One alien, whom Phlox identifies as Osaarian, has been taken prisoner, but he refuses to give Archer any information, saying that any ship without Trillium-D hull plating is too new and too civilized to torture him. His people became predators when anomalies ravaged their ships and crews, for they found that they could not leave the Expanse. Archer swears to do whatever it takes to retrieve his supplies. When T'Pol finds an ion trail, he sets off in pursuit of the Osaarians.

The crew discovers an enormous spherical station in the center of a massive cloaking field. Its gravometric energy may be connected to the anomalies Enterprise has encountered. When they enter via a docking port, the away team finds most of their stolen items, plus evidence that their Osaarian attackers had previously downloaded the database of a Xindi vessel. When asked, the Osaarian prisoner denies all knowledge of the Xindi, but Archer locks him in a decompression chamber and threatens to kill him if he isn't forthcoming.

Soon the crew has command codes for the Osaarian vessel and lures the predator back into the cloaking field, using restored weapons to stall for time while Sato downloads the Xindi database. Afterwards, Archer releases the prisoner onto the station, though the Osaarian tells him that mercy won't serve him well in the Expanse. Still Archer has the database, and begins to study it.


Analysis: A more creative and engrossing episode than last week's season opener, "Anomaly" also presents Archer as pretty despicable -- certainly by the standards of Kirk and later Starfleet captains. I can't imagine Picard locking someone in a decompression chamber and letting the air out, and though Janeway did something similar in "Equinox, Part Two", the whole point of the scene was to show how close she was to losing it, with Chakotay so distressed that he ignored her orders and rescued the intended victim. Archer is pretty desperate here -- he's lost his food, his fuel and his weapons, and he's just been told that he's probably stuck in the Expanse -- but when your captain snaps so early in a crisis, when the audience hasn't even seen the weeks of frustration and despair, it comes across as callous and horrific.

Yes, this is the post-9/11 Star Trek, but I grew up watching Star Trek because it didn't accept status-quo solutions to the war in Vietnam, to racism, to the fact that there are a lot of bad guys in the universe and no way to avoid the bullies. Kirk gets accused a lot of being an imperialist, sexist pig these days, but he dealt better with the Klingon who killed his son than Archer deals with this largely forgettable villain. I take no pleasure in watching a Trek captain adapt the same contempt for human rights, even those of terrorists, as certain factions in the U.S. government. I'm not saying that it isn't realistic, or that it shouldn't have been done -- if other viewers are turned off, and stop and think about why it bothers them to see Archer acting in such a manner, it will have been worth it to me. But it's a delicate line to be treading.

Reed is appropriately shocked by his captain's behavior, thus making this my favorite Reed episode ever, but he still doesn't interfere, and neither Tucker (who'd have a lot of emotional credibility after the death of his sister) nor T'Pol (who answers neither to Starfleet nor the Vulcans these days, and is beholden to no one's ethical code but her own) is around to interfere. If Archer's this close to tyrannical after a few weeks in the Expanse, what is he going to be like when he finally meets the Xindi? Mightn't they be justified in taking one look at him and seeing him as a serious threat worth destroying, as well as his crew, who obviously aren't standing up to him?

We get to see well-hyped hot babe MACO McKenzie, who does seem appropriately tough, though she doesn't get a hell of a lot to do. On the other hand, we get to see Sato make a major contribution to the mission, even though she doesn't get all that much screen time or real emoting. So my girl-power craving should be satisfied, but T'Pol is frustratingly useless in this episode, ignored on most of her suggestions and left back while Archer leads the away teams; in fact the only thing she seems to be good for at present is curing Tucker's nightmares, despite the uncomfortable intimacy of Vulcan neuropressure, Phlox gleefully reminds Tucker when Tucker appears to be considering leeches as an alternative. To this apparently ongoing storyline I say: ick, ugh, gag, make it go away.

The ongoing tension between Reed and the MACOs appears resolved already as they work very smoothly in concert on an away team, taking orders from a shirtless Archer as they all suit up together. Mayweather, too, gets his face in a lot of scenes, though it's pretty much flying the ship, flying the shuttlepod and flying the ship some more. Wouldn't it be interesting if, say, Mayweather was stranded somewhere with an alien who had information about the Xindi and he was in a position to torture the alien? Would he ask himself "What would Archer do?" or put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the one, or what? I think the writers are really dropping the ball by not giving the minor characters meatier storylines. Yeah, we get that Archer is playing a Hollywood fantasy (or nightmare) post-9/11 leader, but besides than Tucker's fear that they're on a one-way trip, how's this mission affecting the eager explorers of last year?

I don't want to overlook the superb stuff about this episode, the things Enterprise does better than any show on television...convincing us that a coffee cup can just hang in mid-air with its coffee spilling, showing us crewmembers in EVA suits walking on a ceiling that turns out to be a floor, producing an alien face that's just human enough to be empathetic and just warped enough to make us believe that the alien really has been through hell. Also, the electricity crackling through Engineering, the docking sequences, the exterior and interior visuals of the derelict ship with dead crew...creepy, vivid, entirely believable. The space station moon does look a little overmuch like the Death Star, both my kids said so immediately, but it's a neat concept, a hidden artificial moon that may create space anomalies to protect its secrets.

In classic Star Trek, the alien whom Archer let go against the alien's own advice would return in a later episode to save the ship and crew, thus proving that mercy really does make sense as a strategy. But on this series I won't even be surprised if we never hear of the Osaarians again; they've served their purpose, showing the necessity of being tough in the Expanse. I know what the Xindi arc is about plot-wise, but ethically, morally, emotionally, where is it going? Why are we seeing the crew run so ragged so soon? Are the Trek writers really so jealous of former scribe Bryan Fuller's success that they've named this season's first red-shirt after him? It's a bit funny, but also a bit unnerving. Like Archer playing John Ashcroft.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.