Star Trek 682: Anomaly

682. Anomaly

FORMULA: The Void + Relics + In Theory

WHY WE LIKE IT: The effects.

WHY WE DON'T: Anomaly? Can't Enterprise get some actually good titles?

REVIEW: The way it's been set up, we should expect episodes that deal with the dangers of the Delphic Expanse as described before the journey was begun (and here we also learn that the clouds surrounding the Expanse let you in, but not out), which Anomaly certainly does, but it also doesn't forget to place it within the context of the larger quest. By the end, Archer will have gotten his hands on a Xindi database that could help him track down the elusive race. But the crux of the episode certainly is the "physics gone wrong" aspect of the Expanse, and the deepening mystery of the region.

The first things you notice as the episode gets into it, are the really cool effects used to show the spatial distortions. Gravity reverses, inertia and momentum are all out of whack, and the floorplates distort violently throwing crewmen aside. There's also a great shot of the shuttlepod docking with another ship, the battle scenes are more than competent, and the interior of the spheres causing the phenomenon properly alien and mystifying. On top of that, the direction gives the episode even more style. Odd angles are used to give the anomalous region a creepy, offputting atmosphere, the animals onboard are shown to be sensitive to it, and the episode ends with weird lighting on Archer's face. The drum-filled music also sounds more like a movie score than most of Star Trek. Lovely.

Also victims of the region, the Osaarians, have turned to piracy to survive. Their attack on Enterprise is well-choreographed, as usual, and causes the first fatal casualty among its crew. Surprising in a franchise that has spawned the expression "redshirt", but there it is nonetheless. A small, but notable moment marks the event, and as much as the unprovoked attack on Earth, drives his growing obsession with getting the Xindi. Certainly, it's easier to buy his willingness to throw an Osaarian out an airlock than similar scenes starring Katherine Janeway. In a post-9/11 world, Archer's moral ambiguity here is perfectly relevant. Note the first appearance of the Enterprise brig, an interesting set that's unlike what's been done before, and which we'll see more of in the future.

The final battle between the Osaarians and Enterprise takes place around a Dyson Sphere-like construct that is responsible for generating the distortions, but that's a puzzle piece that will become important only later in the season. The fight is made tactically more interesting by the fact that Enterprise is trying to download the Xindi database out of their computers, so it has to stay close, but not disrupt the enemy's computer. Though the episode focuses more on Archer than anyone else, Trip's subplot progresses. He's becoming quite the pill popper and increasingly sleep-deprived. Back to T'Pol's it is!

LESSON: There's nothing more frustrating than losing your connection mid-Torrent.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Delivers on a number of promises, while making others. A great-looking early piece of the puzzle.


De said...

The database download was easily the weakest part of this episode. The Osaarians had more than ample time to lock out the password from the captured guy.

Speaking of which, I was aghast that Archer would turn to torture to extract information. I don't care what the stakes are, torture is never justified in my opinion. It's de-humanizing (to both the subject and the torturer) and usually the information gained is highly suspect. I appreciated Reed's reaction, but the scene still unnerves me to this day. Couldn't Phlox have given the Osaarian a truth serum or something out of his magic alien pharmacy.

Siskoid said...

If the Xindi attack is allegorically 9/11, then I think Archer's uneasy straddle across the moral fence is very relevant. It SHOULD make you uneasy, and yet it's something our governments have done in the wake of terrorist-fueled hysteria.

The show just about gets away with it by making it a bluff the Osaarian can't call, with no permanent physical after effects. He just had the fear of God put in him, as it were. Had he called Archer's bluff, it's left ambiguous whether or not Archer would have gone farther.


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