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Affliction
Date: November 27, 2154
Original Airdate: February 18, 2005
Reviewed by Diesel Micky Dolenz

The Story

We see a Klingon being forced into what turns out to be a medical lab. He insists that his death sentence has been commuted, but an IV is forced into his arm. As the contents of the IV begin to take effect, he screams and we see the ridges on his forehead begin to flatten out.

On board the Enterprise, Trip is still packing for his transfer to the Columbia. T'Pol confronts him and asks point blank whether he is leaving because of her. He simply replies that not everything in his life revolves around her.

On Earth, we see Hoshi and Phlox leave a Chinese restaurant after diner. It's dark and the two are ambushed as they walk and chat. The two put up a struggle, they are outnumbered. Hoshi is knocked to the ground and Phlox is stunned and carried off. Hoshi manages to overhear part of the attackers conversation before passing out, but they are not speaking English. Archer and Reed arrive, and Starfleet security is already scouring the crime scene. Commander Collins notes that they have picked up a residual trace of ionization. Archer asks Reed to check Starfleet satellite sensor logs to see if they picked up signs of transporter activity.

Trip arrives on the Columbia and immediately starts to shake things up in engineering. Captain Hernandez gives him a difficult time because he didn't bother to check in with him first. He notes that the launch date, the end of the week, is doable, but will require triple shifts. The captain insists that he join her soon in the captain's mess to exchange stories about Trip's former captain. Let's hope they don't discuss hiking.

Hoshi can't clearly recall what the attackers said as they were leaving, and Archer asks T'Pol to perform a mind meld to help her recover her memories. T'Pol has never initiated a mind meld before, but Archer assures her that he can walk her through it. Apparently hosting Surak's katra has made Archer an honorary Vulcan mind meld expert.

Reed tries to access satellite data during the attack, but finds that the network was down for maintenance. When he tries to reach Starfleet operations to find out why, he instead gets someone from Section 31, we'll call him "X," for now. I know he's from Section 31 because fashion has apparently gone completely unchanged between now and the 24th Century. Reed obviously recognizes X, and is instructed to meet planet-side for information.

During the mind meld, T'Pol sees the attack unfold. The attackers were speaking Rigelian, and it turns out that a Rigelian freighter left orbit shortly after the attack. The course the freighter took didn't match its filed flight plan, so Archer orders all hands to return to the ship for pursuit.

This, of course, is the perfect time for Reed to be meeting with X. Despite Reed's belief that he was no longer involved in the Section, X gives him assignment. Reed isn't interested, but X assures him that it's the only way to save Phlox.

Speaking of Phlox, he's been brought to a Klingon research facility at the Qu'vat Colony. He has been brought there to work with Dr. Antaak. More precisely, he has been brought there so that Dr. Antaak can work for him. The Klingon Empire is facing a crisis, a virus that is infecting millions. The situation is so serious that the Klingon species could cease to exist. They could have simply asked for help, but that would make them look weak. Kidnapping a Denobulan is so much less desperate sounding, you know. Phlox was chosen because Antaak was impressed with a paper Phlox has presented at a medical conference.

The Enterprise is hot on the trail of the Rigelians when their ion trail comes to an end. The spot where the trail ends is still over eight hours away at current speed. Archer calls down to engineering to ask for more speed, but the new chief resists. Apparently, Archer doesn't believe in promoting from within, because he has to tell the Chief that Tucker managed to get more speed out of the ship before. Reluctantly, he agrees to try. Gosh, Archer must be missing Trip right about now. Wonder what he's up to?

Funny you should ask. Trip is having diner with his new captain. Apparently the engineers under his command don't care for his style, because two of them have already asked for transfers, which the captain has denied. Trip defends being a taskmaster by noting that the job is finally getting done. Hernandez comments that she was surprised that Tucker accepted the transfer to the Columbia, which is odd seeing as Tucker was the one who requested it. Tucker just replies that sometimes it's just easier to work with people that are just colleagues (instead of Vulcan neuro-pressure sex buddies, I presume).

And speaking of Vulcan neuro-pressure sex buddies, we now find T'Pol meditating in her quarters. A trip inside her mind finds Trip there waiting for her. She ends up asking him to leave, and we see Tucker onboard the Columbia awakened from the very same daydream.

The Enterprise finds the Rigelian freighter, but it has been destroyed. Multiple bodies float about the wreckage, but none of them are Denobulan. Reed scans the wreckage, but says he can't determine who the attacker was. He doesn't sound too convincing, but he insists that he'll have to analyze the debris to make a determination. Archer orders a scan to find the data recorder.

Phlox determines that the virus is a mutated form of the Levodian flu. Antaak tells him that the virus resist every antiviral agent they've tried. They have a stolen copy of the IME medical database, but no genome sequencer to help with mapping the virus. A live patient is dragged into the room and Phlox is alarmed. The patient is in phase one of the disease. It's safe to bring him because patients don't become contagious until phase three. Once his alarm passes, he's confused. He requested a patient to dissect, expecting a dead patient. While Antaak and Phlox argue over whether to euthanize the patient, the Klingon commander shoots said patient, making the point moot.

Reed establishes an encrypted comm link to X. Reed knew that the Klingons were involved, but expected they'd just be meeting the Rigelians. X responds that the Klingons just needed to hide their tracks. Reed doesn't like lying to Archer, and insists that they can trust Archer with the truth, but X will have none of it. Archer would have to report anything he knew to Starfleet command. Keeping Archer in the dark isn't going to be easy, and X suggests blaming the attack on Orion raiders. The conversation comes to a close when the Enterprise comes under attack.

A Klingon ship attacks the Enterprise. During the attack, Klingons with smooth foreheads beam onboard the ship, and interface with the ship's computer, disabling the ship. The smoothies manage to beam out, but not before one of them is stunned and captured. The Klingon ship jumps to warp, and the Enterprise is unable to follow. In sickbay, the alien is found to biologically be a Klingon, though looking human. The smoothie refuses to answer any questions. Reed suggests that he was surgically altered to look human.

The immediate damage is pinned down as disabled antimatter flow regulators. Archer orders further testing to be done to make see if any other systems were damaged. The Rigelian data recorder was found, but it had been erased. Reed suggests that there may have been a safeguard in place to keep others from accessing it. Archer gives T'Pol and Hoshi the job of recovering any data from the device.

Phlox determines that Augment DNA is present in the virus' base pair sequences. The Klingons confess that they found Augment embryos in the wreckage of their bird of prey, reversed engineered them, and added the DNA to Klingons. 'They considered the Augment technology a threat which they must answer; after all, it took only two human Augments to take out an entire Klingon crew. The augment Klingons’ ridges dissolved, but they became stronger and more intelligent (the Klingons, not the ridges). Unfortunately, they eventually died in agony. One test subject had the Levodian flu, which the Augment DNA modified, allowing it to be transmitted from Klingon to Klingon.

As Hoshi and T'Pol work to reconstruct the data from the Rigelian recorder, Hoshi mentions a dream she had. The odd part about the dream is that it was strikingly similar to T'Pol's meditative "dream," including Trip being there, even though Hoshi had never previously dreamt of Trip. The two come to Archer with the conclusion that the data recorder had been erased deliberately, even producing the microdyne coupler used to do the job. Archer comes to Reed with the information about the sabotaged data recorder, but Reed tries to keep up the ruse. The Lieutenant suggests that Orions were responsible for the freighter's destruction, but Archer is one step ahead of him. T'Pol already double-checked the sensor data, and it was the Klingons that were responsible. At this point, Reed clams up, and Archer has him sent to the brig. Reed won't reveal what's he's in on, but insists that he isn't working for the Klingons.

Phlox is running out of time to find a cure. The High Council has dispatched a fleet and order the annihilation of any infected colony. The first colony where the virus showed up has already been destroyed, and the fleet will reach Qu'vat Colony in five days. Antaak suggests working to find a way to stabilize the augment DNA so that augment Klingons would survive. A success in that area would give them leverage to ask for more time to find a cure. Phlox refuses to help, even if it costs him his life.

The Columbia is finally ready to launch. Hernandez orders the ship to jump to warp the moment it clears space dock. So much for leaving orbit first. As bizarre, cheesy columns of light pulsate among the rear bridge consoles, the Columbia starts its first successful warp flight.

The captured smoothie is tossed into a cell next to Reed in the brig. Reed asks why they attacked the Enterprise, but gets no response. When the smoothie starts coughing, Reed suggests that the two of them are after the same thing: a cure.

Soon the Enterprise develops a malfunction. Pressure in the antimatter intermix chamber begins to rise. Dropping to impulse would cause the reactor to breach, but raising their speed would relieve the pressure. Archer orders an increase to maximum warp, and heads to the brig to question the Klingon captive. The smoothie gives Archer the standard Klingon "I'm prepared to die" line and refuses to tell what they did to sabotage the ship. Reed pleads to be allowed to help in the repair effort, but Archer brushes him off. A Klingon virus is discovered in the Enterprise computer. The virus has compromised the warp matrix, and may be difficult to remove because it infiltrated command protocols. The intermix chamber pressure begins to rise again. Archer orders an increase to warp 5.2. The ship strains to maintain the higher speed, and we close with the Enterprise hurtling through space, Speed-style. To Be Continued...

Analysis

Since the initial release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Trek fans have wondered about the origin of Klingon forehead ridges. They may not have wondered very much, but they wondered all the same. The most obvious answer is that we were supposed to believe, from a continuity standpoint, that they were always there. Budget constraints on the original Star Trek made such extensive prosthesis prohibitively expensive. With a motion picture came a larger budget and finally the Klingons could truly look alien. That answer seemed to be supported by the appearance of TOS Klingons Kor, Koloth and Kang on Deep Space Nine, all sporting ridges on their foreheads. But what Ronald D. Moore giveth, Ronald D. Moore taketh away. When the crew of Deep Space Nine traveled into the past, we were once again presented with smooth headed Klingons, much to the astonishment of our 24th Century human characters. Worf’s reaction was a terse, "we don't talk about it." With that, both smooth and ridged Klingons staked a space in modern canon and continuity.

Finally, Enterprise is going to set the record straight. I try to stay relatively spoiler-free, but working for a sci-fi site with a BBS doesn't make that easy. I found out weeks before the fact that we'd be dealing with this issue. I said then and still say now that this is an issue that never needed to be settled. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the episode. I just wish the forehead angle hadn't been added to the mix. The one knock that I've heard against this fourth and final season has been that it's taken on a fan-boy quality. This episode cements that feeling. I've wanted more "origin" episodes from the beginning of the series, feeling that ENT often tried to escape from the franchise's pre-history, rather than embrace it. Careful what you wish for, I suppose. It's been a case of "too much, too late," with years worth of origin stories crammed into a single season. The forehead ridge change has, for years, droned on in the realm of fan fiction; it should have stayed there. Toss in the added introduction of Section 31 to the Trek universe, and it's no wonder that some people have had enough.

Taking the episode on it's own, it was well done enough. We got solid storytelling, with the abduction of Phlox, an aggressive viral attack threatening the Empire, the threat of rebellion if it can't be stopped, and the odd collusion of Section 31 and the Empire to, apparently, find a cure. I suspect Section 31 just wants to get its hands on stable augment technology, but time will tell. For the 'shippers in the crowd, we even got a dose of Trip/T'Pol angst, and the knowledge that Trip, T'Pol and, now, Hoshi are somehow telepathically linked. Don't think that won't come in handy at some point.

The only complaint I have about the acting this week was with Reed. The pouting, self-tortured thing doesn't work well for Dominic Keating. He comes across as more whiny than conflicted. The action was evenly spread so that we didn't have too much of a breakneck pace or too many dull moments. With the exception of the idiotic Columbia bridge set redress, there was little to complain about visually, as usual. In all, an enjoyable episode, even if it did tell a story that never needed to be told. I suppose if there were to be a season six, we'd have to be told where the Romulan foreheads come from, too. Those weren't even around for TOS films.

Grade: 7.5/10 (B-)

Cast:
Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer
John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox
Jolene Blalock as T'Pol
Dominic Keating as Malcolm Reed
Anthony Montgomery as Travis Mayweather
Linda Park as Hoshi Sato
Connor Trinneer as Charles "Trip" Tucker III

Guest Cast:
John Schuck as Antaak
James Avery
as General K'Vagh
Ada Maris
as Captain Erika Hernandez
Eric Pierpoint
as Harris
Terrell Tilford
as Marab
Kate McNeil
as Lt. Collins
Brad Greenquist
as Alien #1
Derek Magyar
as Kelby
Marc Worden
as Klingon Prisoner
Seth MacFarlane
as Ensign Rivers

Creative Staff:
Director: Michael Grossman
Teleplay By: Mike Sussman
Story By: Manny Coto

 

 

 

 

 

 

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