Written by Chris Black
Directed by Patrick Norris
Season 2, Episode 9
Production episode 035
Original air date: November 20, 2002
Date: August 14, 2152
Captain’s star log. We see that everyone on Enterprise is unconscious, except for T’Pol, who dictates a log explaining what the hell happened.
Enterprise is approaching a singularity that is part of a trinary system. While the Vulcans have charted thousand of black holes, this is the first one on record to be in a trinary system, so they head toward it.
Meantime, Chef has taken ill, so Sato volunteers to run the galley until he’s better. Archer, after asking Tucker to fix the captain’s chair—it’s annoyingly uncomfortable, and he keeps feeling like he’s going to slide off it—confides in T’Pol that he’s been asked to write a one-page preface for a biography of his father, and he’s struggling with it.
Reed is dissatisfied with the tactical readiness of Enterprise, and has several ideas for how to improve it, including wanting there to be an alert klaxon and a battle-ready stage. He also wants sensitive areas of the ship to be only available to authorized personnel with a personalized command code. He explains this to T’Pol when she is confused by his asking for a code when she enters the armory. T’Pol didn’t see the e-mail about that because she is working in her quarters because Tucker is working on the captain’s chair on the bridge and it’s very noisy.
Tucker is, in fact, trying to make the perfect captain’s chair, and he keeps coming up with fancier doodads to put on it. He’s also morally offended that the design of a Starfleet command chair hasn’t changed in ten years.
Sato prepares an old family recipe for the crew, but Reed’s complaint that it’s too salty sends Sato into a tailspin of constantly refining and retrying the recipe.
Mayweather goes to sickbay for a headache, and Phlox keeps him there for hours testing every possibility to make sure he isn’t carrying some horrible disease or other. When Mayweather gets fed up and tries to leave, Phlox offers him an analgesic for the headache, and Mayweather acquiesces, since that’s all he wanted in the first place. However, Phlox really gives him a sedative, and prepares to cut his head open to examine his brain.
T’Pol is growing concerned about the crew’s obsessive behavior, and tries to talk to Archer about it, but he’s too busy writing an eight-million-page preface about his Dad to pay attention. When T’Pol goes to sickbay, she is forced to neck-pinch Phlox before he vivisects Mayweather. She also notices the brain scan of Mayweather that Phlox took, and realizes that there’s possibly a cause for this.
As the human crew all start to collapse from the effects of the singularity’s radiation, T’Pol determines the cause of everyone’s behavior, and is appalled to realize that just turning around won’t do the trick, as they’ll continue to be exposed as they go back. Their best bet is to fly through the trinary star system, which will get them away faster. But it’s a two-person job—one to fly, one to make course corrections—and Mayweather has been sedated by Phlox and is unavailable. She gives Archer a cold shower which makes him compos mentis enough to (barely) fly the ship through the trinary system. However, there’s an asteroid in the way, at which point Reed’s tactical alert goes off (complete with loud-ass alarm that nobody liked) and weapons are already armed without having to be charged, which enables them to destroy it.
After they get out, everyone comes back to themselves, most with no memory of what happened. Phlox is massively apologetic, especially to Mayweather, and Reed offers to remove all his adjustments, though Archer tells him to keep the tactical alert—just change the alarm. Also, Tucker starts over with the captain’s chair and fixes it to Archer’s satisfaction—by lowering it by one centimeter.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, the radiation emitted by a singularity in a trinary system will turn humans and Denobulans very very obsessive. It doesn’t affect Vulcans, luckily for the ship…
The gazelle speech. Archer has been asked to write a preface for a biography of his father. He finds it impossible to boil down his feelings about his father to one page, and says it would’ve been easier if he’d been asked to write the book. T’Pol suggests he focus on a single incident or event that exemplifies his relationship with his father.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol’s usual role as the ship’s only grownup is taken to its absurdist extreme in this episode, as she’s the only one unaffected by the singularity.
Florida Man. Florida Man Tries To Build A Better Captain’s Chair.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox’s obsessive desire to eliminate all possible reasons for Mayweather’s headache actually winds up saving the day, as his brain scan of the pilot enables T’Pol to figure out what’s happening. Luckily for Mayweather, T’Pol stopped him from cutting his head open…
Good boy, Porthos! Archer’s writing of the preface is interrupted by Porthos barking for his food, as apparently the captain’s writing time bled into feeding time. Archer yells at Porthos, who goes to his pillow and sulks. This is the best evidence that Archer is not himself, because he would never yell at Porthos like that if he was in his right mind…
The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… Vulcans have catalogued more than two thousand black holes.
More on this later… Both Reed’s improved tactical efficiency and Tucker’s designs for a new captain’s chair anticipate later developments in the Federation Starfleet, including weapons automatically coming online when needed and arms and a working mini-console on the command chair. Plus, Tucker suggests “Reed alert” for the name of the tactical alert, a cute play on “red alert.”
I’ve got faith…
“I thought Vulcans had all this mental focus and discipline.”
“We also have sensitive hearing.”
–Tucker giving T’Pol pushback when she complains about the noise on the bridge and T’Pol saying “Bazinga!”
Welcome aboard. The only guest in this one is Matthew Kaminsky, who makes the first of two appearances as Cunningham. He’ll be back in “The Crossing.”
Trivial matters: Phlox makes reference to a protocystian spore as a possible malady Mayweather may have contracted. This is a callback to Voyager’s “Caretaker,” where the titular being was a protocystian lifeform.
When Reed is mentioning Enterprise’s tactical weaknesses, he cites the events of the “Shockwave” two-parter, when the Suliban boarded the ship, and “Fallen Hero,” when the Mazarites did some nasty damage to the ship. He also once again expresses his discomfort with Archer’s friendliness with the crew, also seen in “Minefield.”
It’s been a long road… “You ignored a tactical alert for this?” I actually enjoyed the heck out of this episode, but I also found it disappointing in several ways. It could’ve been a great episode, and settles for being a good one—which is fine.
There’s only one aspect that actively annoyed me, and that’s Reed stumbling around trying to figure out ways to improve tactical efficiency, and everyone talking as if such things as “red alert,” “battle stations,” and klaxons to indicate an emergency were things that Star Trek made up in 1966. The term “red alert” goes back to World War II, the term “battle stations” goes back further than that, and people have been raising alarms to signify nasty situations for centuries. (As an example, the latter two were, in essence, combined in the old Royal Navy, when a drum beat would signify that general quarters was being signaled, which was done when the ship was getting ready for battle: beat to quarters.) Writer Chris Black and the producers show colossal ignorance in this particular aspect of military history.
Anyhow, leaving that aside, it’s fun watching the crew go slowly binky-bonkers. I’m disappointed that they contrived for Chef to be sick so it’s Sato doing the crazed cooking thing, mostly because this would’ve been a great opportunity to finally see Chef. (That’s a personal thing—I’ve never been fond of the person-always-mentioned-but-never-seen trope.) Still, Linda Park has fun with it, as does Connor Trinneer with his goofy-ass add-all-the-things mien which makes him sound—well, like an engineer, truly. Still, both of them don’t go nearly as far as they could with it. Dominic Keating’s a bit too over-the-top as the obsessive Reed, where Scott Bakula is too under-the-top with Archer’s trying so hard to do justice to his old man.
Jolene Blalock does fine trying to hold the ship together, as she really is the only grownup on board this time, but I wish we’d gotten a bit more of the sass that we often saw from Leonard Nimoy and Tim Russ when the humans were human-ing a bit too much on the original series and Voyager.
The only performance that hits the bullseye is, as usual, John Billingsley. Phlox never entirely loses his friendly affect, which makes his experimenting on Mayweather way scarier.
It’s also the fifth episode of the nine so far this season that feels like it was done on a budget. There’s a cheapness to this episode that we also saw in “Minefield,” “Dead Stop,” “A Night in Sickbay,” and “The Communicator.”
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido is also doing his every-half-year revival of “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” here on Tor.com, having covered four older movies he missed the first time through—It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!, Mandrake, Timecop, and Timecop: The Berlin Decision—and five newer releases—Spider-Man: No Way Home, The King’s Man, The Batman, Morbius, and, coming on Wednesday, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.