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Best of Enterprise: Observer Effect

February 11, 2014


Plot: Two Organians possess Malcolm and Mayweather, instantly imbuing the latter with double the personality of the regular Mayweather. The reason: the Enterprise is orbiting a planet with a silicon virus that could kill everyone on board and they’re gonna be observers and observe the shit going down [and possibly have an effect]. Meanwhile, Trip and Hoshi contract the virus and start sweating a little. Archer sticks them in quarantine and tells Phlox to make a cure. Phlox argues that it’s the evolutionary will of the universe for Trip and Hoshi to die from this virus and what right do they have to interfere. Actually, he doesn’t, because this isn’t ‘Dear Doctor’ and there’s no time for hypocrisy.

Subplot: The subplot is non-existent. There’s some fleshing out of Hoshi’s background, but it’s not that interesting. In fact, it’s basically bullshit. She’s a linguistic genius because she can see patterns easily. Apparently, pronunciation, accents and remembering vocab comes in the same package.

What’s so good about it?

It ain’t perfect, but at least it’s got nothing to do with the temporal war or Vulcans or Archer’s dog.

I should probably say more…I haven’t written anything about Enterprise since I started this site, people might start to think I don’t like it.

Actually, I don’t mind it. To me, it’s better in a lot of ways than Voyager, but suffers from the complete opposite problem to that series: the concept is tedious.

Really, doing a prequel in itself isn’t a terrible idea…I like the idea that the human ships are weak and often over-awed by other species…I like the way Archer doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing half the time…or nine tenths of the time…I like the way he tried to be nice to the Klingons and almost got his ship destroyed…but the concept itself is quite weak simply because Trek space isn’t as interesting when they’re exploring things we’re already aware of. Voyager, on the other hand, had a premise with unlimited possibilities [which they mostly wasted week after week]…Enterprise couldn’t do the same, so it was ‘operation hobbling’d’ right from birth.

I guess that’s why they introduced the temporal war arc…they knew people wouldn’t watch unless things in the Trek universe could change dramatically…and the only way to do that, would be to fuck with the timeline.

But that’s not fair…we’ve never really seen Andorians and Tellarites before…we’ve never seen Vulcans act so deceitfully either…

Nope, we haven’t, and the Andorians are a nice addition to the series, but it doesn’t alter the main conceptual problem. We know this planet [Andoria] will join the Federation and by association will become a boring place. There’s no mystery or fascination with Andoria, it’s just an ice planet with blue people led by Jeffrey Combs who think Scott Bakula is trying to fuck them over. Same with the Tellarites, they’re just another planet not too far from Earth that joins the Federation.

And that’s the problem right there. The series is exploring parts of space that can hold no surprises.

If there’s anything really weird or surprising then we should have heard of it in one of the other series…this is the knot that ties the writers’ hands, and it’s a tough one.

What about the Earth-Romulan War? That sounded dramatic…

It did, and for some reason it’s left out in the cold in ‘Enterprise.’ Perhaps they were saving it for seasons 5, 6 and 7…

Was the temporal arc really such a bad idea?

Yes, it really was.

Once you start introducing time travel and visits to the thirty-first century, you start drifting into the world of really fucking stupid science fiction. No, it’s not even science fiction, it’s more like fantasy…the year 3145 or whatever it was, is just too far away from what we know to be seen in a believable, detailed way. And if they really wanted to show it then it shouldn’t look anything like the Trek we know.

But it pretty much did.

Remember that idea Bryan Singer had for a Trek series set in the 30th century, where the federation was dying and the Klingons were mystical warriors? It’s the same thing, the concept’s flawed from the beginning because it’s so far into the future that it can’t just be a dumb expansion of what we’re already familiar with…it needs to be fully drawn out and coloured in, with lots of screen-time…not a quick stop over from Archer in one episode.

I should get back to ‘Observer Effect’…

Season Four of Enterprise ditched the temporal war [in one single episode, ha] and focused on aliens that we knew already. It tried to build towards the formation of the Federation, which was an okay idea, then rushed seven years into the future when the show got cancelled.

Was the whole season that bad?

No, it was quite good. As was [Aswad?] Season Three, and even some episodes of Season One. Like I said, the half of the show’s concept that dealt with human technology being shit was quite interesting…it was the exploration part that was dull. The planets they were going to were tedious and too close to Earth, and the Vulcans were just lurking around like perverts outside a school playground…they never really did anything interesting [They couldn’t, they’re Vulcan!]

Season Four couldn’t really save the exploration part; that half of the concept was ingrained in the show too deeply…but it did manage to pull a few not so ugly rabbits out of Scott Bakula’s hat.

‘Observer Effect’ was one of those rabbits, and was arguably the best episode in Season Four, maybe even the whole series.

An episode that gives breathing space to Mayweather…and it’s good?

Well, it’s not really him, it’s an Organian…so, yeah, he does quite well in this episode, although his ‘alien’ is, at times, very close to the ‘talking dummy’ line readings of the regular Mayweather. Thankfully, there are no space truckers in this episode though…did you know his family runs freighters? Did you know he was born in space? Did you know his entire personality is so insanely narrow that it revolves solely around these two details?

What about the militant one?

Malcolm’s ‘alien’ is also quite close to the character’s regular personality…quite cold and pragmatic, with an unemotional reading of the line ‘somebody always dies.’ Without him, this episode probably wouldn’t work as well as it does…

Having said that…

This episode is mostly good because of the premise, not because of the cast. Trip and Hoshi play their scenes well, they’re relaxed and charismatic, Archer is Archer, Phlox is a fat doctor, T-Pol is a walking pair of tits…basically, the characters don’t matter as much as the idea being played with…

Main theme [that I got] from this episode = The Organians are superficially similar to humans, the way they observe events without interfering…but humans are better, ha!

Yes, as usual with Trek, things are very pro-human. We’re great, we’re kind, we’re gonna morally correct the entire Alpha Quadrant one planet at a time. But in this case, it’s a fairly inarguable, almost partisan conclusion to arrive at.

I mean, by the end of the episode, I knew exactly what Archer was gonna say to the Organians because I was thinking exactly the same thing. It was obvious the Organians weren’t being moral, and it’s obvious that in this case the Prime Directive was infinitely superior to sitting back and watching people die of a horrible disease.

I suppose, from the Organian’s perspective, it’s understandable…they are advanced beings, why would they care about inferior species? [Do humans care about cows?] It’s probably not an issue that came up before the Mayweather Organian came along…definitely not an issue after watching the way the Klingons dealt with the virus…

Could the virus really have killed everyone on the ship…or any ship that previously encountered it?

Only if they didn’t have quarantine procedures. Or the entire ship’s crew went down to the planet. Or they were too drunk to remember where quarantine was…

In short, no.

Was it too moral at the end?

That’s the only problem with the episode. The speech by Archer…it just slips frustratingly onto the wrong side of patronising, especially when he says the lines ‘you have to experience compassion for yourself’…’to know what it is to be human’. It was much better when he said, ‘not from where I’m standing…you may be advanced, but you’ve lost a hell of a lot…’ – this was the perfect mix of anger and righteousness, but…man, I don’t know, whenever I hear ‘what it is to be human’ or ‘I’m learning about humanity’, I cringe…it’s reflexive, I can’t help it…must be all those Voyager episodes with Janeway and 7 of tits…

Anything else good?

Well, it’s mostly all about the premise with this one. It’s not a perfect episode, the end speech is smug, the resolution is fast and convenient, yet…this is what I love about Trek…this is what makes it better than any other sci-fi show…its optimism.

When they show an episode that shows the best of humans, how can you not get goosebumps? How can you not think, please let this be the way the future goes?

The only thing that drags it down is the speeches, which is the worst of Trek. We don’t need to hear the characters overtly reference how great humans are; we just need to see it dramatized. That’s enough. That’s what makes it to great.

‘To know what it is to be human, you must experience compassion…’

‘Please, use your powers, bring them back…try.’

It’s not just Enterprise that does this though…it’s all Trek series. If they do make another one, I hope they can find a way to balance things…to keep the optimism at the same time as shooting the speechifying in the face…or shooting the writer who comes up with it in the face…or, at the very least, punishing him with whatever the equivalent of a Mayweather episode is…

What else?

There is a plot hole in the episode, of course there is, it’s Trek…but it depends solely on your tolerance for the ‘humans are the most moral things ever’ factor. If you think we really are that great then…no plot hole.

Plot hole = none of the other races to encounter this virus left a warning buoy around the planet?

No, it doesn’t make much sense. The Klingons and Cardassians probably wouldn’t bother, but are you really telling me, Rick Berman, that no other species had the basic decency to stop others being killed?

In fact, wouldn’t they put a warning buoy there just in case some of their own species accidentally dropped by?

Or maybe they did, and the Organians disabled it? But why would they do that, if they have a policy of non-interference?

Doesn’t make sense.

Anything else?

Only the bullshit of Hoshi and her language-learning skills.

Trip: so…how many languages can you speak?

Hoshi: It doesn’t work like that.

Trip: err…

Yes, it does, Hoshi. It does work that way. How many languages can you speak? It’s not a hard question. Answer him, you disgracefully underused, quite talented actress, you. How many?

Well, I guess it’s not as bad as the Abrams Trek movie…Uhura knows three Romulan dialects and she’s in her mid-20’s…hey, writers, have you ever actually tried to learn a language? Do you know how good you have to be to be at an interpreter’s level? Three Romulan dialects? Plus God knows how many other languages…you can’t just write it, fuckheads, there has to be some realism behind the thing.

At least make her intermediate at some of the languages…or a little rusty…anything that shows some kind of reality.

Are there any other good episodes of Enterprise?

More than you think…but I’ll leave those ones for another time…there’s a lack of Original Series on this site and I need to rectify…

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