We pick up where we left off last week ("Affliction"). The Enterprise is hurtling through space at warp 5.2, unable to slow down or the bus will explode. Archer makes his way to the brig, flanked by two MACOs. He tells Reed about the Enterprise's condition. The reactor will breach in 47 minutes. The Columbia, with the former Enterprise chief engineer Tucker aboard, will rendezvous with the NX-01 in half an hour. Trip knows how to repair the subroutines that the Klingons damaged, but he'll have to do if from onboard the Enterprise. Reed continues the exposition by telling us that the transporters won't work at warp and docking would be out of the question. Archer needs Reed because the Lieutenant has experience in moving people between ships while at warp. Of course, the exercise was done with weeks of planning, and at warp one, but since there's really no chance of reproducing either of those conditions, we'll just have to give it a shot anyway. The two ships will have to come within 50 meters of each other, and merge their warp fields. It's probably too much to hope the Traveler will show up to assist anyone. Taking a cue from Tucker's "I can't do it from Columbia," Reed insists he can't get Trip onboard from within his cell.
Despite the fact that the Enterprise is traveling faster than their engine is rated, the Columbia does, indeed catch up. Tucker is in a space suit waiting for his trip to the Enterprise. Columbia flips on her back and the two ships merge warp fields. They both open their bays and the NX-01 deploys its tether, which locks onto the NX-02 in her launch bay. Trip climbs the cable between the two ships, but the warp field starts to fluctuate, causing Mayweather to have trouble maintaining position. This, in turn, puts a strain on the tether. Trip makes it onboard just before the tether assembly breaks lose and tumbles into space.
To make the subroutines reinitialize, the warp reactor must be shut down completely and restarted cold. The Enterprise must stay within the Columbia's warp field, and use their field to maintain speed. This is only possible for 2 minutes. The Columbia extends its warp field, and Trip shuts down the reactor. The reactor comes back online just as the warp field is about to fail. With the restart, the subroutines get purged and the sabotage has been undone. Trip suggests dropping to impulse to effect repairs. Since the Columbia apparently has nothing better to do than pull Archer's ass out of the fire, Archer asks for Hernandez's help in finding Phlox.
We find Phlox in his cell, having refused to help create Klingon augments, and he's obviously been roughed up. Dr. Antaak has come bearing good news. Phlox, it turns out, is a genius. While looking through Phlox's research, Antaak found that Phlox discovered a way to halt the virus' progress. Klingons that get infected would have physical and some minor neurological changes, but wouldn't progress to develop advanced strength, intelligence or agility. More importantly, they wouldn't die. General Zod won't like that he doesn't get his army of uberKlingons, but it's always better to ask forgiveness than permission. We all know how good the Klingons are about forgiving these things, but Antaak reasons that being executed after saving millions is an honorable way to go for any doctor. How nice of him to include Phlox in that little death wish.
With repairs complete, the two Earth ships streak through space at warp, The Search for Phlox continues.
Archer confronts Reed about his covert communications. T'Pol recovered everything Reed tried to erase, including a picture of his secret contact. The man's name is Harris, and he worked in Starfleet security until 5 years ago, but there's nothing in his record past that. Archer insists that Reed could have come to him. Reed responds that he was under orders not to tell Archer anything. Archer wants to talk to Harris directly.
Phlox and continue their Antaak work on cure. Antaak admits that he didn't properly screen his test subjects. He's the reason for the outbreak. A Bird of Prey enters orbit around the colony. It's the smooth-headed Klingons that sabotaged the Enterprise. They meet with general K'Vagh, and report the Enterprise as destroyed. The General's son, the one sitting in the Enterprise's brig, is reported as killed. When the General asks if he died with honor, the female Smoothie reminds him that he was killed by humans, duh!
Phlox has found where to look for the "switch" to turn off the virus, he'll need one hour to find it. K'Vagh reports the progress to Fleet Admiral Krell. His fleet will reach the colony in 3 days. They will be spared only if a cure has been found by then.
Trip reports to Archer that he will pull double duty to help Kelby in engineering, then leaves to head back to the Columbia. T'Pol walks him out, and asks if he's been experiencing any problems, like sleeping. He insists that he's sleeping fine, but asks T'Pol how she's been sleeping. Since they're both accustomed to lying to each other, the conversation ends there.
Phlox's hour is up, and he's getting test results. Antaak has told Phlox that General K'Vagh's son is infected. His son became a test subject when they ran out of prisoners. Later, the female Smoothie confronts K'Vagh. She's becoming infectious. K'Vagh tells her that Phlox is finding a cure. He promises her increased strength, but can't promise a normal appearance. She thinks they'll be outcasts. He responds that her heart is Klingon. She's not so sure, as on the sabotage mission she felt fear for the first time since childhood. She fears they've inherited human traits like weakness and cowardice. The General insists that the empire won't turn its back on them if there's anything he can do to stop it.
Harris contacts Archer in Archer's quarters. Harris tells Archer that Phlox is on mission of great importance to Starfleet. Archer responds that Phlox was kidnapped, something Starfleet would never authorize. Harris suggests that Archer check Starfleet Charter Article 14, Section 31. It states that the rules can be bent at times of great threat, and Earth has plenty of enemies. Harris implores Archer to take it easy on Reed because he was just following orders. He also warns that if Archer interferes before Phlox finishes his work, the result will affect entire worlds.
Phlox has developed four possible cures, but only one will work; the rest would be fatal. It would take one week to test each in the lab. There's not enough time for that, and Fleet admiral Krell will not extend his deadline. The only other way to test would be to infect healthy Klingons. K'Vagh points out that between he, Antaak and the two guards, they have four healthy Klingons. Phlox questions the ethics of such an experiment, but Klingon ethics are a bit different than Phlox's. Three lives to save millions is a bargain.
Reed insists to Archer that this was the first time Harris had contacted him aboard Enterprise. Archer tells Reed about the human DNA found in their Klingon captive. This has the markings of a military experiment gone wrong. Reed claims he didn't know. Harris claimed that Starfleet needs stable Klingon Empire. Archer, of course doesn't trust Harris, noting that there are easier ways to get Starfleet's help. He asks Reed where his allegiances lie? Reed responds that he doesn't know where Phlox is, but he does know there is a research facility on Qu'Vat colony.
The Enterprise and the Columbia proceed to Qu'Vat at warp speed. Reed returns to the bridge. Their current position is six hours from Qu'Vat. Reed suggests the Columbia retreat to safe distance, so that the two ships won't make for a single target.
While preparing the serum for injection, Phlox asks K'Vagh why he thought he could succeed where Dr. Soong failed. The General replies that Soong made too few Augments to succeed. Phlox points out that Earth once had thousands of Augments. With their increased abilities come increased aggression, and decreased inhibitions. Phlox predicts that the Klingons would lose control of their Augments just as the humans had. Phlox injects the General, and remarks that it would be an hour at most to find which version is the cure.
In the Enterprise sickbay, Archer questions his Smoothie prisoner about the location of the lab within the colony. The prisoner only responds that Krell would have recalled his patrols to enforce the quarantine. Archer tells him that if he won't help his captors, then he should still help his people.
Phlox attends to the Smoothies that attacked the Enterprise. The redshirts, er, guards are showing symptoms, so they account for two of three lethal strains. Either K'Vagh or Antaak has the cure. Phlox scans Antaak and determines that K'Vagh has the cure. Phlox tells Antaak that if they work quickly, they may be able to treat Antaak in time.
Harris contacts Krell onboard the lead ship of the "fleet". I put fleet in quotations because I don't normally consider three ships a fleet. Harris reports that there's been a complication. The Klingon smoothies didn't stop the Enterprise. She's on her way with the Columbia. Krell suggests that Harris order them back, Harris has no authority to do so. Krell says he'll just have to destroy them. Harris insists that they had an arrangement. Krell replies that Harris did what Krell wanted, now he doesn't need Harris. Harris presses Krell, reminding him that he said it would benefit both worlds if they worked together. Paraphrasing Krell, "Sucker!"
Phlox starts to extract what he needs from K'Vagh's blood when superArcher enters the lab alone, but armed. He does this because it's standard operating procedure for the commanding officer to beam down into an enemy colony without any kind of armed backup. Oops, he's not alone, he's with generals son. I'm sure he'd be a huge help in a fire fight with Klingon soldiers. Phlox says thanks for the rescue, but he needs a few more hours to cure the plague. K'Vagh finally catches on to the use of the term, "cure," and roars that Phlox was supposed to perfect Augment genome. Phlox states the obvious, "I lied."
Three Klingon battle cruisers, the afore mentioned "fleet," drop out of warp and start jamming communications. The Enterprise can't contact the Columbia. Archer also can't contact the Enterprise. Somehow, they can contact Krell, but he isn't interested in a cure. Simply wiping out all life on the planet is more appealing to him, and you have to admit it would be an effective means of eradicating the virus. Phlox transmits details of the cure anyway. Krell has his spam-blocker on, and claims the Enterprise and the Columbia are now property of the Klingon empire. Guess it doesn't pay to double park around Qu'Vat. He orders the two ships to stand down or be destroyed. The fleet starts firing on the colony. The Enterprise starts firing on the Klingon ships. To no one's surprise, the Klingon ships return fire on the Enterprise, and the Columbia joins the fray.
Phlox tells Archer he needs a few hours to perfect the cure. Archer has an idea for how to proceede, if Phlox can speed things up. Phlox replies that he could finish faster if he had a human host to replicate antibodies. How convenient, Archer just happens to be human, the only human on the colony. Good thing he left those MACOs behind, or we'd miss an opportunity for some mighty fine overacting. Archer volunteers, and Phlox injects him with the virus and a catalyst to accelerate Archer's immune response (and to explain Archer's growing insta-ridges).
In space, one Klingon ship bites the dust. I wonder if two ships still constitute a fleet. Someone manages to break through jamming. It may have been Hoshi. It may have been T'Pol. I didn't write it down, and neither has a role memorable enough this week for me to bother looking it up. T'Pol calls Archer, and Phlox responds. Archer is indisposed with his viral reaction. The Enterprise positions itself between the remaining cruisers and the colony to buy time. Archer grunts, grimaces and strains. I expect the David Banner green eyes any moment. The Enterprise is taking damage, down to 40% hull plating. The Columbia loses weapons. Archer grows ridges. More writhing. Finally, Phlox has had enough, as have we all. He takes Archer's blood.
A canister is designed to disperse 5 seconds after being transported. Phlox orders a channel open to Krell, and the capsule gets transported to the Admiral's ship. Phlox informs Krell that they're all now infected with the virus. If Krell wants the cure, Krell must power down his weapons.
Krell convinces the high council to call off the sterilization program and distribute the cure. Antaak has changed into a smoothie (he claims his Targ won't recognize him), but carries no trace of the virus. Antaak laments that this disfigurement will affect generations to come, though apparently not The Next Generations. He considers finding a new specialty, "cranial reconstruction." Given the monumental mess he's made, and his treason in finding a cure rather than perfecting the Augment gene, I suspect a death sentence is more likely, but right now it's feel-good time.
Archer is in sickbay, too, recovering. He still has small ridges and craves live gagh. Phlox tells him the cravings will pass in a few days along with ridges. Hernandez takes off with the Columbia, but Trip stays behind temporarily. That sound you hear is Kelby throttling the first ensign he comes across.
Harris once again contacts Reed. He lies that everything went as they wanted. The Klingons won't be experimenting with Augments again. Reed suggests that they could have told Archer everything, but Harris insists that Krell wanted it this way. Reed asked the logical question, "since when do we do what Klingons want?" He replies, "when its in our best interest." He apologizes that some details were held from Reed, but Reed demands that Harris never contact him again. Harris balks and suggests that Reed didn't understand their recruitment policy, and can't just walk away. Reed pouts to Harris that he answers to one commanding officer, Captain Jonathan Archer. Trumpets sound. Angels weep. Episode over.
The phrase, "worst... episode... ever!" comes to mind, but I'm not about to let "A Night in Sickbay" off the hook that easily. This episode was a nightmare from start to finish. From the inane Trip-on-a-rope routine to Archer's schoolboyish "IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT!?!" to the God-please-make-it-stop ridiculousness of Archer's turn as a human guinea pig, this episode was just plain awful. Over the years, I've grown used to seeing two-part episodes have a promising beginning, and a less inspiring conclusion, but often that's because parts one and two are written in separate seasons, and the beginning is done without really having a solid idea on how to end things. Mid-season two-parters shouldn't suffer from that.
Instead of getting a crew working together to find an ingenious way to repair the ship, we get a poorly done semi-action sequence of the last chief engineer climbing from one ship to the next on a tether. I'm sure this must have sounded cool when it was first proposed, but it just didn't work for me. If the two ships are traveling at the same speed, why not just haul back in the tether with Trip hanging on to the end? They're in the vacuum of space, within a warp bubble, no less. It's not like he's going to get windblown.
Multiple other chances at great character moments are let go. Lip service is paid to the ethics of genetic engineering, using healthy soldiers as lab rats, and the propriety of having an organization such as Section 31. The only real character interaction we got was between Reed and Archer, and instead of being rapt with the dueling loyalties that Reed must have felt, I was fighting down the laughter at Scott Bakula's horrendous angry-guy routine. Maybe that's just beyond his abilities to pull off, but I'd swear we'd seen better from him last season.
Surely, you say, there must have been something redeeming about the episode? This is true, and I'll get that out of the way before continuing my hatchet job. John Billingsly deserves an Emmy, or at least a free box of Tic-Tacs for delivering a performance that belied the mess that got made of the story. Connor Trineer also manages to stay believable, possibly because he knows his character gets to sit most of this one out. Either way, both reinforce that they are the two best actors on the show. Also, having the female Klingon fail to salute General K'Vagh was a nice touch, confirming Phlox's assertion that the Klingons would have eventually lost control of their Augments, too.
There's little point in my going on about the episode in general, as I don't think you have to guess at what I thought about it. When the news came out that Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens were joining the writing staff, I cheered. After this outing, that may have been premature. Let's just get to the things that made me go "hmmm":
Grade: 3/10 (F)
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