FORMULA: Paradise Lost + The Undiscovered Country + Borderland + Extinction
WHY WE LIKE IT: Finally an explanation..? Great targ action!
WHY WE DON'T: Everything aboard Columbia.
REVIEW: Now that we've prepped the Vulcans for TOS and beyond, it's time to do the same for the Klingons. Though you might prefer Trials and Tribble-ations' non-explanation, I see nothing wrong with attempting an actual one. And this one is fine. A metagenic virus (we know they exist thanks in part to Extinction) has been ravaging the Klingon Empire, and the species is facing extinction. Klingons are first transformed into the TOS model (affecting both appearance and mindset), then start to deteriorate, becoming contagious in the process. Obviously, by the end of this arc, the virus will be prevented from killing, but not from altering the Klingons' DNA, altering their society for the next century or so.
A stronger connection to Enterprise exists: The virus actually stems from attempts to use Augment DNA to create Klingon supermen. This explains why these new Klingons look a lot like humans. Further, there's a connection between these attempts and Section 31. Yes, it's back for the first time, and it seems Malcolm was once (and forever) a member. In that sense, Affliction goes a bit overboard. Do we really need Earth to be so intimately involved with a potential Klingon genocide?
Our man in the Klingon camp is Phlox who, under the guise of a xenophobic attack, is kidnapped by the Klingons and brought to Qu'Vat colony (always nice to see older Klingon ships' names repurposed). He's to help a not unsympathetic Klingon doctor stabilize Klingon DNA, or at least cure the plague, but he isn't given very much time by the colony's governor. The attack in the street gives Hoshi a chance to showcase her recently revealed martial arts abilities, but she's still knocked unconscious. To help her remember something about the assailants, Archer guides T'Pol in her first initiated mindmeld (he picked up a few tricks from Surak's katra). This will have strange repercussions later.
Malcolm, under orders from Section 31 (his first master), erases information that could lead Enterprise back to Phlox before he can cure the virus, but he's found out by Archer and is sent to the brig. Malcolm is torn and his anguish palpable. Is this why he was such a closed off, mysterious character? Or was that always his nature, making him a perfect recruit? Enterprise also deals with a raid from Klingon Augments, but that's a lot less memorable.
Speaking of unmemorable, Trip's transfer to the Columbia is lackluster in the extreme. Has there ever been a duller starship in Star Trek? The engineering crew overreacts to Trip's manhandling them, totally unwarranted given the scenes we're shown. Trip isn't much of a hardass. The launch of the ship lacks any joy, and is in fact quite somber despite those big glowing tubes in the back of the bridge (ugh). No wonder Trip is always daydreaming about T'Pol. These daydreams, shared by both characters and recently melded Hoshi is a strange bit. Has the couple bonded in the Vulcan marriage sense? Hard to say as this is totally unlike anything we've ever seen concerning Vulcan telepathy.
LESSON: You don't quit the unit.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Though there are important revelations here, there may just be too many of them. There's no reason for this complicated a plot, and the potential of Columbia, Trip and Captain Hernandez is wasted.