Monday, March 6, 2017

Episode Review – Observer Effect (Enterprise, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Hoshi and Tucker are suffering from a mysterious illness. While the crew work towards finding a cure, different crew members find are possessed by a pair of observers who belong to the race of Organians. The Organians discuss the reaction of the crew as they study humans.

Reed and Mayweather possessed by the Organian observers

Score: 8/10 – There are few episodes in the fourth season of Enterprise that are truly stand-alone episodes, and this is one of them. It takes a familiar theme (aliens possessing the crew) and adds a new dimension to it (observing their actions in a crisis). In a way, it reminds me of “Encounter at Farpoint”, where Q puts Picard and his crew on trial for the crimes of humanity. While the Organians are trying to see if humans are intelligent enough to merit contact, and watching how they react to a silicon-based virus found on an abandoned planet is the test they use. Starting with Reed and Mayweather, two Organians jump from one pair of crewmembers to the next as they discuss the progress of the crew. There are a few instances when it is a surprise that the Organians are in particular crew members. This is a very rare episode in that there are no credited guest stars, so all of the crew get a lot of screen time. No special effects are needed, and almost everything happens on the ship. It is the story that drives the episode, and the story is good. There is even a surprise twist when Hoshi and Trip both die from the illness, putting them in elite company of crew members who have officially died and then returned to life.

Trip and Hoshi waiting in quarantine

Relevance - 2 points. With the Organians being the main aliens, they are definitely a tie-in (or would that be lead-in?) to the episode “Errand of Mercy”, even establishing that the Organians had originally planned to make first contact with the Federation several thousand years later than what actually happened. Another point is scored for the first reference of the Cardassians, who as of Enterprise had not been mentioned.

Archer and Phlox reassure Hoshi that they are working on a cure

Continuity - 2 points. While character continuity easily scores a point, the other two criteria are a little dicier. Some may argue that story continuity should not be counted as the Organians plan on making first contact 5000 years from now, and in the timeline they meet about a century later with Kirk. All things considered, I can let that one slide. They do wipe the crew’s memories of what happened, so in the eyes of Kirk their meeting will be the first contact. Where I will deduct a point is for universe continuity. As a science teacher, I have always enjoyed how science is attempted to be maintained in Star Trek. This episode has a big flaw. In the episode Tucker and Sato are infected by a silicon-based virus. There is no way that humans, being carbon-based life forms, would be affected, let alone threatened, by such a virus.

One of the observers thinks the protocol needs to change

Character Development – 2 points. With all main characters getting some significant screen time, it is a bit of a challenge to identify which characters receive significant development. Malcolm and Travis actually get very little, as most of their performances are when they are possessed by the Organian observers. Hoshi and Trip, on the other hand, have to deal with the prospects of dying. Hoshi shows aptitude with math in breaking out of quarantine, even in a delirious state. She also shows some regret at not being able to say good-bye to her students at the start of Season 1. Trip seems to face his imminent death head on, only showing frustration that the best he can do is wait for other people to find a cure. T’Pol and Phlox work at finding a way to save their crewmates, and Phlox especially gets some good dialogue in with the Organians when he discovers what is actually happening. It is Archer that really gets some good moments here as he addresses the Organians and pleads to their sense of compassion. His passion is full tilt, as always, and he is able to appeal to the Organians to reconsider their “non-interference” protocol. If the future episode “Errand of Mercy” is any indication, Captain Archer leaves a lasting impact on the Organians.

Hoshi and Trip are possessed by the Organians

Social Commentary – 2 points. How do we judge the actions of others? That seems to be the underlying question in this episode. The Organians obviously find something in the humans. As they attempt to see how Archer and his crew treat those that were infected with the silicon virus, they start to question their criteria for worthiness. I particularly liked the line of Archer when he tells the Organians that if they want to understand humans, they should try to be like them and show some compassion. These days trying to see through the eyes of those who are different than us is sage advice indeed.

Archer about to lay Hoshi to rest

Cool Stuff – 1 point. Definitely scores a point for Organians and the Cardassian mention. Aside from that, there is not much else about this episode that is “cool”, but in this case it does not mean that this is by far a bad episode.

Discussing humans over a game of chess

Rank – Captain (17 points). I quite enjoyed this episode, even if it is somewhat predictable. In order to make the story work, a non-corporeal species was needed, and I liked how they tapped into the Organians to do this. They were able to work around the fact that Kirk and the Federation had no prior knowledge of the Organians with the memory-wiping bit, but that’s good for continuity. Definitely an episode that showcases the growth in Enterprise’s fourth and final season.

Hoshi escapes quarantine

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