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Star Trek: Enterprise – Divergence (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Given the general directions and interests of the fourth season, an episode like Divergence was inevitable.

Before Affliction and Divergence aired, the subject of “Klingon foreheads” was of great interest to a fandom that had noted the change in Klingon make-up between the broadcast of The Time Trap in November 1973 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979. In the years following the debut of the “forehead ridges” during the introductory sequence of The Motion Picture, the ridges became a source of curiousity and fascination for the fandom.

Things come to a forehead...

Things come to a forehead…

This curiousity was stoked by the franchise itself, most notably Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Perhaps owing to the show’s engagement with its franchise roots, the production team teased out the dilemma on a number of occasions. Three classic Klingons – Kor, Koloth and Kang – actually gained ridges between their appearances on the original Star Trek and their reappearance in Blood Oath. Encountering flat-headed Klingons during Trials and Tribble-ations, the crew pushed Worf for an explanation. “We do not discuss it with outsiders,” he responded.

Given that the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise has been so fixated upon issues of continuity and history, it seems like it was only a matter of time before one of the season’s multi-episode arcs would be devoted to explaining what had originally been a quirk of make-up design and had evolved into one of the franchise’s most fun (and admittedly trivial) riddles.

Food for thought...

Food for thought…

Now that Affliction and Divergence have provided a clear and unambiguous answer as to how exactly the Klingons lost their ridges, while implying how they might have regained them, it is hard to properly convey just how engaged fandom was in the debate over the particulars of Klingon forehead ridges. The fact was that the production realities of the original Star Trek show had meant that the Klingons had a relatively simple design that was overhauled when the increased budget and technical advances of The Motion Picture allowed for a more radical reimagining.

Of course, while this reality made a great deal of sense in the context of a television show, it made no sense in the context of the franchise’s shared universe. To the production team working outside the universe, the change was perfectly logic. It was tougher to explain as part of the internal narrative. It became something of a recurring fixation for Star Trek fans, who obsessively studied the evolving portrayal of Klingon forehead ridges over the years and even speculated on plausible explanations.

Table this for later...

Table this for later…

There were all manner of potential complications and contradictions that only added to the mystery around the ridges within the context of the canon. How come Kahless the Unforgettable didn’t have ridges when he appeared in The Savage Curtain, but did when he reappeared in Rightful Heir? In fact, even the statues and murals of Kahless in Rightful Heir came complete with ridges. Had Kahless always had ridges? Had they materialised between shows? Was it a political act, akin to arguments over the depiction of Jesus Christ?

How did ridges suddenly appear on Kang between The Day of the Dove and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country? (As depicted in Flashback.) If one accepted that the actual Klingons (rather than simply the depiction of the Klingons) had changed, then it was clearly a change that affected individuals and occurred within living memory. For a fandom that was fascinated with references to events like “the Tomed Incident” or “the Earth-Romulan War” and which treated continuity as a jigsaw to be put together, this was an exciting challenge.

Creative sparks...

Creative sparks…

Even after Affliction and Divergence, the subject of Klingon ridges remained fascinating to fans and production staff alike. When Errand of Mercy was scheduled to be remastered in early 2007, the production team did talk “briefly” about the possibility of adding ridges to some of the background extras using computer-generated imagery. While it was never seriously considered, the fact that it was even mentioned at all demonstrates just how essentially the Klingon forehead debate is to the Star Trek franchise as a whole.

The debate carried over to the JJ Abrams reboot. The Klingons only featured in a deleted scene in Star Trek, as part of Nero’s somewhat convoluted back story. In that brief deleted scene, perhaps nodding towards the controversy and debate, their faces were concealed by masks. While those masks depicted the standard Klingon forehead ridges, make-up designer Barney Burman stated in 2010 that it “remained to be seen” whether the Klingons would have ridges when they appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness. They did.

Don't leave us dangling...

Don’t leave us dangling…

This debate is, in essence, the greatest strength and greatest weakness of the Affliction and Divergence two-parter. It is a strength because this is very clearly a subject of interest for hardcore Star Trek fans, and comes at a point in the run of Enterprise when nobody but hardcore fans were watching. While the fourth season’s fixation on the minutiae of the franchise’s continuity is distracting and overwhelming at points, it is too much to suggest that it was alienating to casual viewers. Those casual viewers had left the franchise a long time ago.

Indeed, for all the praise that Coto receives for his work on the fourth season of Enterprise, a lot of his major storytelling decisions only really make sense in the context of a dying franchise. While fans and fellow staffers might argue that Enterprise should have looked like the fourth season from the outset, Coto’s vision of Enterprise held even less appeal for a mass audience than that championed by Berman and Braga. Imagine casual viewers trying to parse stories that explain a change in make-up or which unfold in a mirror universe without a single regular character.

Physicians, heal thyselves...

Physicians, heal thineselves…

The fourth season of Enterprise is very much a love letter to the franchise and a valentine to the fans, but it was never an approach that would win new viewers or court the mainstream. It could never have saved Enterprise; as much as fans might love it, and justifiably so, there is every possibility that this approach would have alienated the mainstream audience even more quickly and accelerated the cancellation. This was never a sustainable approach to Star Trek, a detail that gets lost in the affection for the season.

Of course, the simple fact is that Star Trek was not sustainable at this point in its lifecycle. There is a lot of blame to be apportioned, and fans have been more than willing to do apportion it. However, Enterprise was a doomed show airing on a doomed network, a television series that had limited market saturation and a high budget while sitting well outside its parents network’s aesthetic and caught in the middle of a change of management. Enterprise was dead before the fourth season began; it was arguably doomed as early as the end of its first season.

Inject a little excitement.

Inject a little excitement.

As such, it is hard to begrudge the production team for pandering so aggressively and so blatantly to the base. Nostalgia seems like the right note to strike at this point in the Berman era, before Star Trek disappears from television after almost two decades on the air. After all, who else could be watching? And the truth is that the fourth season is largely carried by a sense of fun and excitement that extends beyond the in-jokes and references. There is a sense of indulgence to all of this, and this fannishness makes Affliction and Divergence charming.

After all, what are episodes like Affliction, Divergence, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II but the creative team talking eagerly and excitedly (and animatedly) about something that deeply excites them? Some of that enthusiasm is infectious, especially compared to the dull fatigue that set in around the sixth season of Star Trek: Voyager and haunted the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise. There are definite flaws in the approach, particularly where storytelling is sacrificed for continuity, but it is hard to hate.

A little light Reeding...

A little light Reeding…

It helps that Affliction and Divergence are well-constructed pieces of television in their own right. There is a strong sense of momentum to Affliction that carries the episode quite well, even if the cliffhanger (like so many fourth season cliffhangers) feels rather underwhelming on its own terms. Velton Ray Bunch provides his last score for the series, a soundtrack that evokes the work of Jay Chattaway on Deep Space Nine. Playing the background of the procedural investigation scenes, it helps to create a palpable sense of tension.

The two episodes also have a solid sense of theme running through them, to the point that the virus affecting Enterprise at the end of Affliction feels like a culmination of the episode’s core elements rather than something arriving entirely out of left-field. The augment virus is a very literal example, but the corrupting influence of Section 31 within Starfleet also plays into the recurring theme of contamination and decay. These are clever ideas that would be interesting even without anchoring them to the mystery of Klingon foreheads.

A commanding presence...

A commanding presence…

However, the fact remains that the production team working on Enterprise are not simply fans sitting around shooting the breeze and wrestling with continuity lacunas in their spare time. They are the staff working on the official version of the fan franchise, and so this carries an extra bit of weight in the sorting algorithm of continuity. This is is “canon”, this is official. In a way, episodes like Affliction and Divergence serve to close the debate and speculation on the matter by offering a concrete and absolute answer to a riddle that long engaged fandom.

Of course, no piece of Star Trek is any more or less imaginary than any other. John M. Ford’s exploration of Klingon culture in The Final Reflection is a good and thoughtful book, regardless of the fact that Sons of Mogh takes the aliens in a different direction. Nothing in practice stops fans from building their own internal canon, choosing their own unique version of Star Trek. And the fourth season of Enterprise has been quite generous in this regard, drawing from novels and role-playing game source books in addition to the more official on-screen canon.

There is no honour in administrating...

There is no honour in administrating…

Even allowing for that, there is something sad about this. Offering a definitive explanation for the (admittedly trivial) mystery of Klingon forehead ridges serves as a form of closure. It cuts off speculation, taking the fun of trying to piece it all together from those fans inclined to worry about such things. Given that the Star Trek franchise is about to enter a “quiet” phase of its history, it is a shame to deprive fandom of those sorts of details. (After all, a lot of the joy with the novels and role-playing games following the original Star Trek was in putting pieces together.)

On a more prosaic level, the simple fact is that the explanation offered by Affliction and Divergence almost feels too neat and too streamlined. Less of an organic plot developed on its own terms and leaving windows for fans to explore or expand, the plot of Affliction and Divergence bends over backwards to answer every possible question the audience might have about the process of the Klingons losing their ridges and even awkwardly foreshadows future developments in a manner that is meticulous to the point of being airtight.

Infectious fun.

Infectious fun.

How did Kor, Koloth and Kang get their ridges back? Phlox offers an answer at the end of Divergence, remarking that “cranial reconstruction” is “about to become very popular.” How about the difference in behaviour between the Klingons on the original show and in the rest of the franchise? Laneth explains that the human DNA has corrupted them. “We’ve become like them,” she confesses. “Weak, cowardly. It would be better for us to die.” Never mind that the later shows suggested Klingon honour was just an illusion.

One of the more interesting aspects of the final season of Enterprise is watching it prefigure certain aspects of the mainstreaming of nerd culture. While those elements were the hallmark of cult television in the late nineties and at the turn of the millennium, they have become more popular in the intervening years; the engagement with the “shared universe” above the show’s own storytelling setting, the structuring of arcs in “bingeable” chunks, the decision to tell fewer stories in a season, the priority of the canon.

Chewing the fat.

Chewing the fat.

The type of storytelling in Affliction and Divergence has become increasingly popular in recent years, an approach that seems to treat any information that exists outside the narrative as a plot hole, suggesting that the ideal narrative (or fictional universe) is entirely self-contained. It is an approach to criticism that has seen the rise of critics like Everything Wrong With or Cinema Sins, framing what essentially amount to nitpicks as logical failings on the part of the film or television show.

This is very much a modern phenomenon. After all, many childhood classics would not hold up to such scrutiny; after all, nobody every really cared that Indiana Jones was inessential to the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark or that the strange friendship between a high school student and an eccentric scientist formed the basis of Back to the Future. It perhaps says a lot about contemporary popular culture that the friendship between Marty McFly and Doc Brown now has an “origin story”, confirmed by the writer in 2011 and later explored in comic book form.

"Archer's all Tuckered out..."

“Archer’s all Tuckered out…”

These days, it seems inevitable that any major blockbuster film will experience a backlash predicated on perceived plot holes or logical gaps. The Dark Knight Rises is perhaps the most obvious example in recent memory, with one of the stock criticisms of the film insisting that it was impossible for Bruce Wayne to get back into Gotham without any money or identification following his escape from “the Pit.” This perceived error in plotting became a stick with which fans might readily beat the film.

Of course, it does not matter that The Dark Knight Rises was a film that was already well over two-and-a-half hours, and that adding another five-minute sequence to address this perceived gap would kill the pacing of the film. It also does not matter that the criticism glosses over the internal continuity of Nolan’s film trilogy, the opening act of Batman Begins focusing on Bruce travelling the world without any money and identification. More than that, Bruce Wayne is Batman. That is what Batman does.

Homecoming...

Homecoming…

As with a lot of the changes in the discussion of popular culture driven by the internet, it is possible to tie this critical aesthetic back to the mainstreaming of nerd culture. The insistence that plot holes represent a logical failing in a film or television culture seems rooted in the idea of objectively right opinions about a given work of art, that there are elements of a film or television show that are empirically wrong. Matt Singer suggests as much:

[David] Ehrlich does posit an interesting theory why comic book fans embrace nitpicking even as they reject negative reviews. “Plot,” he says “is something that can be incontrovertible.” Nitpicking, he adds, “is a much easier tact than… arguing that [something] doesn’t work in an artistic way.” Speaking anecdotally, I have noticed how often the angry commenters on Rotten Tomatoes or other similar sites chide critics who write negative reviews for being “biased” or for offering their “subjective opinions” instead of “objective facts.” This, of course, is a ludicrous mindset — it’s basically the reason I have a Funniest Internet Commenter every week — but it does jibe with Ehrlich’s logic. Plot holes and narrative mistakes can be seen, in the warped eyes of some, as a more “objective” form of criticism.

This can be tied back to nerd culture in a number of different ways. In terms of Star Trek fandom and the fourth season of Enterprise, it is worth comparing to how the notion of “canon” allows individuals to serve as gatekeepers on the objectively “right” way to approach fiction. In terms of modern nerd culture, it ties into GamerGate’s obsession with the idea of “objective” reviews.

"I need to talk to your Section Chief..."

“I need to talk to your Section Chief…”

Affliction and Divergence speak to this aspect of contemporary popular culture, the desire to has a single absolutely correct answer with little room for nuance or interpolation. While it made sense for the fourth season to do things like explore the roots of the Federation, Affliction and Divergence feel very much like an attempt to fill in a gap rather than to tell a story that needs to be told. Perhaps this makes sense in the final season of Enterprise. It is closure, in a way.

At the same time, there is something disappointed about how functional the explanation is. Not only do Affliction and Divergence go out of their way to avoid leaving any gaps in continuity, the episodes also take great pains to integrate with what came before. Much like the portrayal of the Tellarites in episodes like Bounty and Babel One, there is a sense that bulk of Affliction and Divergence has been adapted from an overly literal interpretation of a joke made by an early production team.

Brig it on.

Brig it on.

Much like Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong seemed to take Sarek’s dismissal of the Tellarites in Journey to Babel at face value rather than simply a rude dismissal of a diplomatic rival, the mystery of Klingon ridges is helpfully resolved by reference to a gag from Trials and Tribble-ations, when the cast of Deep Space Nine offered possible explanations for the change in appearance. O’Brien suggested “some kind genetic engineering”, while Bashir offered a “viral mutation.” Worf dismissed both, but Affliction and Divergence allow both to be right in their own way.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the origin story posited by Affliction and Divergence is the decision to tie the Klingon forehead ridges mystery back to Khan Noonien Singh, by revealing that the disappearance of those forehead ridges was the result of an experiment by the Klingon Empire to create its own augments in response to the hijacking of the Bird of Prey back in Borderland. On one hand, this makes a certain amount of sense; it is a nice piece of internal continuity within the season. However, it also ties back into the franchise’s obsession with Khan.

Malcolmtent.

Malcolmtent.

According to Mike Sussman’s edits to Memory Alpha, that connection drove the episode:

At first, the producers were only interested in a story with one or more “ridgeless” Klingons who had infiltrated Starfleet for the purpose of intelligence gathering. It was thought the story might involve a surgically-altered Klingon operative aboard the Enterprise, someone like Arne Darvin a century later. Around this time, the writing staff had recently concluded the three-part Augment Crisis arc, and it occurred to them that some of the genetically-engineered embryos might have survived the destruction of the Bird-of-Prey, and that the Klingons might use these embryos to bio-engineer their own version of “Klingon supermen”. This seemed to be a way into a story dealing with the origin of Human-like Klingons. More to the point, the Enterprise producers thought it was simply “too cool” an idea to reveal that Kor, Kang, and other Original Series Klingons may have had the DNA of Khan inside them.

Again, there is a sense of a strong underlying thematic connection to Into Darkness.

A ropey gambit.

A ropey gambit.

In particular, the revelation that the Klingons featured in the original Star Trek have a strong connection to “the DNA of Khan” recalls the decision to have Kirk infused with the blood of Khan at the climax of Into Darkness. There is a conscious attempt to incorporate Khan into the very fabric of the franchise, recalling Roberto Orci’s suggestion that “if you’re a Trek fan, there’s no way Khan isn’t at the top of the list of things you want to play with” or Alex Kurtzman’s observation that “you can’t think of Star Trek without thinking of Khan.”

A lot of the issues that fandom would take with Into Darkness can be seen to gestate during the fourth season of Enterprise, from the obsession with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to the fixation on the continuity of the shared universe. Indeed, Affliction and Divergence overlap with Into Darkness in more than just their connection to Khan Noonien Singh. These are both stories about Section 31 attempting to manipulate our heroes in the midst of a political crisis involving the Klingon Empire.

Klingon to yourself.

Klingon to yourself.

The involvement of Section 31 in the plot of Affliction and Divergence makes a great deal of sense. Although Section 31 were introduced in Inquisition long before the start of the War on Terror, they still feel perfectly attuned to the political climate of twenty-first century America; Inquisition does feature a non-white subject to “enhanced interrogation”, accused of being a collaborator or a traitor without access to a fair trial. In the context of Enterprise as a post-9/11 show, including Section 31 feels entirely appropriate.

That said, there are moments where the production team’s obsession with continuity feels a little heavy-handed and awkward. Most notably, the costuming would seem to suggest that Section 31 have not changed their uniforms in over two centuries. Harris is wearing the same black leather custom that Luther Sloan wore during some of his appearances on Deep Space Nine, which feels like an odd choice; the leather is not as flattering on actor Eric Pierpoint as it was on William Saddler, making him look like a biker more than a government spook.

Ridging the gap between human and Klingon.

Ridging the gap between human and Klingon.

It seems like Enterprise is being overly literal in its application of continuity, as if arguing that viewers would never accept Harris as an agent of Section 31 if he wore a different costume. It is akin to the characterisation of the Tellarites, a very rigid and direct interpretation of what came before, and a reluctance to compensate for the more organic and subjective considerations. Just as the production team seems to think it was impossible that Sarek might have been a condescending jerk in his dismissal of the Tellarites, they seem to think leather was never out of fashion.

Again, the War on Terror haunts the fourth season of Enterprise. Just because the Enterprise has left the Delphic Expense, it does not mean that the show is clear of the fog of war. The relationship between Section 31 and the Klingon Empire is presented as an immoral bargain, Section 31 gleefully assisting in the “extroardinary rendition” of Phlox from Earth to the Qu’Vat Colony. It is presented as a piece of realpolitick, a piece of cynical manoeuvring that violates basic decency in the short term in favour of a long-term objective.

Indicate while merging.

Indicate while merging.

These sorts of secret alliances were very much of interest during the War on Terror. In particular, the United States’ alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan seemed particularly hard to reconcile with the stated objective of encouraging democracy overseas. It was even harder to accept given the trouble that countries like Saudi Arabia had caused (and continued to cause) for the United States. This has become more obvious in the years since:

Contrary to President Obama’s statement, Saudi Arabia’s role in brokering Middle Eastern peace has, at best, been unhelpful. King Abdullah bitterly opposed Washington’s support of pro-democracy protesters in Egypt and urged President Obama to use force to preserve Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. Since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed the country’s leadership in 2013, Riyadh has helped finance his brutal suppression of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia has also resisted the rise of Shiite movements in the region out of fear that Iran, its main rival, will gain influence. When Shiite protesters threatened the Sunni dictatorship in neighboring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia dispatched its military to suppress the uprising. Riyadh’s support of Syrian rebels, too, has backfired: Islamic State fighters have benefited from Saudi money and weapons.

However, these connections between countries like Saudi Arabia and enemies of the United States were obvious even in February 2005. In late 2004, a lawsuit was filed against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for having “provided funding and material support and substantial assistance” to Al Qaeda in planning the 9/11 attacks. Despite awkward efforts to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, fifteen of the nineteen hijackers had Saudi Arabian passports.

Fore(head) the Empire!

Fore(head) the Empire!

The Klingon Empire is presented as a similarly unreliable ally of Section 31, a partner that receives support and assistance, without offering anything substantial in return. “We had an arrangement,” Harris protests, when Krell inevitably double crosses him. Krell responds, quite simply, “You did what I wanted. I don’t need you anymore.” It is perhaps an idealistic and optimistic interpretation of some of the United States’ more problematic alliances, rooted in the idea that those involved in such arrangements genuinely want the best possible outcome.

In the end, this alliance is justified in pragmatic terms, much like the United States’ alliances with dictatorships that actively undermine its international credibility. “Since when do we do things the way the Klingons want?” Reed wonders at one point. Harris responds, “When it’s in our interest.” The idea would seem to be that a destablised Klingon Empire is more dangerous in the long-term, regardless of the short term harm caused in propping up the status quo. Archer summarises, “Harris claims he’s doing this because Starfleet needs a stable Klingon Empire.”

Helmet, old friend.

Helmet, old friend.

Affliction and Divergence play into the realities of the War on Terror in other ways. As with the Romulans in The Aenar and as with the Terran Empire in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, there is a sense of perpetual warfare. According to Harris, Section 31 exists as a result of “allowances for bending the rules during times of extraordinary threat.” Certainly, on Deep Space Nine, there was some insinuation that the organisation was at least more active during the Dominion War. It was a pragmatic response to war, not an everyday occurance.

However, Affliction and Divergence suggest that Section 31 is not simply an organisation that exists in times of immediate crisis. Viewers watching Deep Space Nine might be forgiven for assuming that the organisation went “dormant” during peace time, that it was not a fundamental part of the Federation while Kirk and Picard were around. In contrast, Affliction and Divergence make it clear that Section 31 was always around, that it was continuously lurking in the shadows acting according to its own agenda.

Q'apla at Qu'Vat.

Q’apla at Qu’Vat.

This is an idea very much rooted in the War on Terror, the sense that conflict is a perpetual state of existence, that modern life is best approached with a siege mentality. The implication is that war is the default state, even during times when there is no clear or singular enemy against which a state of war might be declared. When Archer inquires as to which threat Section 31 is responding, Harris simply replies, “Take your pick.” As far as Harris is concerned, every moment of Starfleet’s existence is a moment of “extraordinary threat.” The war is on-going. It never ends.

This idea of ongoing ever-lasting war seems well-suited to a narrative focusing on the Klingons. Although the conversations between Phlox and Antaak largely cover ground already explored by Judgment, it is fascinating to see Enterprise play with the idea of Klingons as a warrior culture. Tying into that Hobbesian idea of perpetual conflict, Reed gets to have a philosophical discussion with Marab about the impulses that drive Klingon culture. “Do you ever question why you fight?” Reed wonders at one point. It certainly seems like a pertinent question in February 2005.

Antaak attack.

Antaak attack.

Although the majority of American citizens had initially supported intervention in Iraq, public support for the Iraq War declined swiftly and sharply. By April 2004, the public were more or less evenly split on the question of whether the United States should stay in the region long enough to ensure stability. As early as July 2004, there was evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder for one-in-six veterans of the conflict. In January 2005, some of those veterans had begun organising in opposition to the war. The question of how long a war could be sustained hung in the air.

Affliction and Divergence are also notable for the launch of Columbia, an example of the nice internal continuity maintained by the fourth season as a whole. The launch of Columbia was set up in Home, and feels like a logical expansion and development of Enterprise‘s core premise. Mankind is exploring space, it makes sense for other ships to join the Enterprise in that mission of peaceful exploration. It is another step towards the ideal of the Federation, and towards the utopia associated with the original Star Trek. It feels like a move towards an optimistic future.

Prisoner of his past.

Prisoner of his past.

For writers Judith and Garfield Reeve-Stevens, the launch of Columbia had a more sombre connotation. According to Garfield in the documentary Before Her Time, the writers came to realise that Enterprise was definitely doomed during the production of this episode:

We had two clues, I think, that the season was on the way out. And one of those was in the episode in which the second starship was going to be launched. Columbia. And the first starship was named after the first shuttle, Enterprise, so the second starship was going to be named Columbia. And, of course, that shuttle had self-destructed on entry. And NASA heard that we were – not we, but the show was – naming the second starship Columbia. And we got feelers that the astronauts currently aboard the space station wanted to record a little “God speed Columbia.” Just a little fifteen-second thing that we could throw at the beginning of the episode. And it was just too much trouble for it to go through all the network approvals. And when you think about all the connections between NASA and Star Trek, all those years, that lack of enthusiasm at the corporate level was the first clue.

Although the writing had largely been on the wall since the start of the season, the cancellation would not be officially announced until production of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. Still, it was becoming increasingly clear that the fourth season represented the end of the road for this particular incarnation of Star Trek.

Mirror, mirror.

Mirror, mirror.

The launch of Columbia is arguably a more essential story for Enterprise to tell than any narrative concerning the disappearance of Klingon forehead ridges. A large part of the fourth season is dedicated to tying the series back into the overarching continuity of the franchise, of covering ground and trying to get closer to the familiar Star Trek universe. In the context of the franchise, presenting a bright and optimistic future in which mankind has reached out into the stars seems more important than resolving a long-standing make-up issue.

Or, at the very least, it should be.

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10 Responses

  1. I admit I can’t stand plot holes or logic gaps in movies. I appreciate it when a movie at least tries to address the problem. The more skillful movies will at least throw in a line that either deflects attention away from the problem or minimizes it. For example, in Force Awakens, I thought it was quite clever that Han mentioned a homing beacon on the Falcon, explaining how he found the ship so quickly. Yes, it’s still awfully convenient that he managed to find the Falcon so quickly after it took off from Jakku, but I didn’t break suspension of disbelief.

    By contrast, in the 2009 Star Trek, I kept wondering why Spock exiled Kirk to a dangerous planet rather than putting him in the brig (or confining him to quarters). There was no attempt to explain such an illogical decision and for the next part of the movie all I could think about was how contrived it all was. It diminishes the characters if they come across as merely making decisions in order to advance the plot. You don’t need a long explanation, but at least give the impression that things happen for a reason.

    All that said, I agree with you about the Klingon foreheads. It was pretty clearly motivated by something that occurred outside the Trek universe and I never felt the need for an explanation. Before Kor returned to DS9, I always thought the best explanation would have been that the Klingon Empire was multiracial and that one race was dominant during the TOS era and another during the TNG era.

    • You’re not wrong about that sequence for Star Trek. Even a small line about the escape pod’s homing beacon malfunctioning would have worked reasonably well. (I actually have no issue with nu!Spock wanting Kirk off the ship, given that the prospect of a Kirk-led mutiny was not outside the realm of possibility in the middle of an emotionally-charged crisis. And sending him to the nearest Federation base makes sense, as does having classic!Spock on that planet.)

  2. I liked Phil Farrand’s solution: The ridges were always there, but your television was too primitive to pick them up.

    • It’s only fair that the NX-01 crew spend a season with spiky foreheads of their own.

      Also, someone explain to me the logic of Khan’s DNA being desirous to a Klingon. If anything, Section 31 should be the ones shooting up their agents with Klingon DNA.

      • Because didn’t that massive three-part homage to The Wrath of Khan teach you anything! Khan is supercool!

        (Not that I can afford to be too glib here, as seemingly the only person in the history of the world who liked Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan and who appreciated Into Darkness for having the balls to just redo the Wrath of Khan again with no attempt to hide it once you were actually watching the film. Accepting, of course, that the whole John Harrison thing was a misguided attempt at misdirection.)

    • Ha! I like that.

  3. “Marty McFly and Doc Brown now has an “origin story”

    It was in the original draft (Doc hired him to clean the garage, Marty befriended him just to get close to Doc’s vinyl record collection), but the point still stands. 🙂

  4. Very good review. I know some of the tie-in books overuse Section 31 but I’m a pretty big fan of them as they’re depicted in series, as a shady organization engaging in black ops that underscores the darkest impulses of Starfleet and not an entity responsible for every bad thing Starfleet has ever done. This wasn’t the greatest arc of the season but I do love me some Phlox.

    Also I really don’t get this fixation we have with what you call the completely self-contained narrative. My theory is perhaps there are essentially different audiences for avant-garde stuff and genre stuff, and when you mix the two it causes tension. Like, I have no trouble searching within to fill the gaps between depicted events in a narrative. Building a personal relationship with art is kind of the entire point of the endeavor, and when you watch something by David Lynch or Ingmar Bergman you have to do a hell of a lot more searching than that.

    • Yep, there’s a weird suggestion that everything that isn’t explained within a narrative is a plot hole, which ignores both (a.) the idea that a story takes place within a world, and that story is not the entirety of the world, and (b.) the fact that certain storytelling conventions (naturalism, absurdism, etc.) are based entirely upon the existence of gaps and ellipses. I suspect it’s in large part tied up in this obsession with “objective” reviews, and that criticism is point-scoring pattern recognition.

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