Star Trek 663: Singularity

663. Singularity

FORMULA: The Naked Time + Dramatis Personae + In Theory

WHY WE LIKE IT: The stuff with the chair. Reed Alert.

WHY WE DON'T: They can't all be that funny.

REVIEW: Well into Enterprise's second year and we only now meet a space anomaly. I like the pace of discovery. Of course, this black hole emits radiation that makes people obsessive, which is totally ridiculous, but the episode works despite its bogus science (our galaxy is apparently filled with black holes to the brim) by avoiding the usual technobabble and just letting the story play out. Essentially, as a comedy.

I want to call this Enterprise's version of The Naked Time, though both that episode and its TNG sequel came too soon (second episode!) to be as effective as they needed to be. Writers and actors were thrown into the deep end and required to dig deep into characters they were still getting a handle on, and the audience didn't necessarily know what was normal and not by that early stage. Turned out well for TOS, not so much for TNG. In this case, we know the cast rather well, so it takes longer to notice something's afoot (just like it does T'Pol). We're already aware of the characters' nevroses, and in point of fact, Malcolm has always been unhappy with security measures on the ship, Hoshi's always been afraid of her colleagues' opinions, etc.

No, it just looks at first like everyone's got his or her own little project and this is going to be a lighthearted character episode (with a B-plot danger). Malcolm's "tactical alert" recommendations are a highlight, providing us with the first Red Alert in Star Trek history, though the name hasn't been coined yet, nor the sound effect perfected. Trip's fussing over the captain's chair is also hilarious, with a good, ergonomic punchline at the end. Phlox has some nice moments as well. His comic timing has always been unimpeachable. What makes it work well is that everyone plays it as seriously as if they were dealing with a warp core breach. The script isn't as generous to other characters. Hoshi's cooking (hey, we haven't seen a proper galley since ST VI!) and Archer's book prologue are only mildly interesting. As for Travis, well, he just wants to get back to the helm... not much help for his character there.

The comedy is balanced with the promise of danger, as all this is a flashback played to T'Pol's log. We know it all has to end up with the crew passed out where they stood. The episode plays its cards close to the vest by mentioning Chef's virus and having Travis stroll into Sickbay. An epidemic seems to loom. As the obsessions take over, there are also a couple of more sinister moments, mostly connected to Phlox's vivisection of Travis and Reed's paranoia. The climax is a fair action scene with Archer fighting through the psychic damage and flying the ship out of a debris field.

LESSON: There's nothing a good shower can't fix.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Dumb physics and mood-altering anomalies have always been a part of Star Trek. Doing this one as a sometimes black comedy keeps it fresh and interesting.


Jeff R. said...

I'd have been tempted to formula out this one as The Naked Time-Alcohol+Caffiene...


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