Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by David Barrett
Season 4, Episode 16
Production episode 092
Original air date: February 25, 2005
Captain’s star log. After getting the highlights from “Affliction,” we learn that Columbia is going to rendezvous with going-zoom-fast Enterprise because Tucker needs to be on board to fix the engines. (Why Tucker can’t just relay instructions over comm lines is left as an exercise for the viewer.) Archer springs Reed from the brig to supervise the physical transfer of Tucker from Columbia to Enterprise on a tether while both are at warp five-plus.
They manage it, though the tether is lost, and Tucker is rather shocked when MACOs escort Reed to the brig when it’s done. Tucker does a hard reboot of the engines, which will only work if Columbia wraps its warp field around Enterprise so they can stay at ludicrous speed.
Tucker pulls it off, because he’s just that awesome. Archer asks Columbia to stick around.
On Qu’vat, Antaak visits Phlox in his cell, where he’s been beaten. Antaak has discovered a weakness in the virus that may enable them to cure it. Phlox points out that K’Vagh won’t let them work on a cure, he just wants Klingon Augments. Antaak replies that they don’t have to tell him what they’re doing…
Columbia joins Enterprise on the search for Phlox. Archer—who has gone through Reed’s correspondences—asks about this Harris guy he’s been talking to. He was with Starfleet Security up until a few years ago, but now he’s off the grid. Reed is unable to speak further on the subject beyond the fact that he worked for Harris once.
Tucker agrees to help Kelby with repairs. He and T’Pol lie to each other when they ask if the other is sleeping okay.
On Qu’vat, Antaak and Phlox discuss family, with the former revealing that he was disowned when he chose to become a physician. The Bird-of-Prey returns, with Laneth reporting that Enterprise was destroyed and that K’Vagh’s son Marab was captured by the humans and therefore died without honor. (This, boys and girls, is why you always stick around to make sure there’s a body. Or blown-up ship.)
Phlox claims to K’Vagh that he’s found the “off switch” that will deactivate the virus and make Augments. K’Vagh then reports that to General Krell, who says that the project has been shut down. Krell’s fleet will arrive in three days, and K’Vagh has until then to prove that he has valuable research that’s worth sparing the plague-ridden colony.
K’Vagh reveals that his son, Laneth, and the others who sabotaged Enterprise were volunteers on whom the Augment treatments were tried after they ran out of prisoners to experiment on. Those volunteers are now getting sicker, and Laneth complains of how she felt fear when she was on Enterprise. She worries that even with the enhanced strength and intelligence, if they survive, they’ll be outcasts because of how they look and act.
Phlox is able to narrow it down to four possible treatments. In the lab, he’d need a week to determine which was the cure. Since they don’t have that kind of time, they have to test them on Antaak, K’Vagh, and two of K’Vagh’s warriors.
Harris contacts Archer, insisting that Phlox is on an important mission, which Archer calls bullshit on, as you don’t assault and kidnap someone to send them on a mission. Harris refers to “the Charter, Article 14, Section 31,” ahem ahem, and that what Phlox is doing is necessary for the stability of the quadrant. Archer continues to call bullshit. Archer then goes to Reed, showing him the medical scans that show that Marab has been experimented on. Reed admits that he was ordered to delay Enterprise from finding Phlox because he was needed to find a cure. He doesn’t know where they might be taken, but Reed does know that Starfleet Intelligence has reports of a medical research facility on Qu’vat. Archer restores Reed to duty, and they head to Qu’vat, Columbia hanging back in reserve.
Harris then contacts Krell, with a report that the Klingon saboteurs failed to stop Enterprise. Krell tells Harris to just order them home, but he doesn’t have that authority, so Krell intends to destroy them. Harris poutily says that wasn’t the arrangement and Krell laughs in his face for being so naïve.
On Qu’vat, K’Vagh is the one who has the cure. Antaak is philosophical about dying from a plague that’s pretty much his fault, but Phlox thinks he’ll be able to synthesize a cure in time to save him (and, presumably, the two guards).
Enterprise arrives at Qu’vat, with Archer and Marab beaming down. K’Vagh is surprised first that Enterprise is intact and his son is alive, and also that Phlox was working on a cure, not perfecting the Augment genome. Archer wants to take Phlox back, but the doctor is very close to perfecting the cure, and he just needs more time.
That time is in short supply, as Krell’s fleet has arrived. Enterprise and Columbia engage the fleet, and while the firefight is going on in orbit, Phlox uses Archer to speed up the process, as he needs human antibodies to finish the cure, and it would go faster by injecting Archer with it. Archer makes all kinds of silly faces (and also gets some minor cranial ridges) and then Phlox has a cure. He then beams a canister with the virus onto Krell’s flagship, and tells the general that, if he destroys the colony, he and his entire crew will die of the virus.
Krell reluctantly stands down. The cure for the virus has one rather major side effect: loss of cranial ridges. Antaak grumps that his own targ won’t recognize him now, and now millions of Klingons who contracted the Augment-enhanced Levodian flu will be human-looking. And it will be inherited, so they’ll pass it on to their children.
Tucker says he’ll remain on board for a bit to help Kelby with repairs. Archer thanks Hernandez for the help, with the latter wondering how Archer survived without her all these years. Archer also still has vestigial cranial ridges, and a craving for gagh, which Phlox insists will pass.
Harris contacts Reed to say that everything came out more or less okay. Reed says he quits and never to contact him again. Harris all but laughs in his face.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Tucker does a good old-fashioned hard reboot and reset to factory settings to get rid of the virus. Why he needs to come over to the ship himself and do this simple thing that tech support always tells you to do is (once again) left as an exercise for the viewer.
The gazelle speech. Archer gets to squirm in a chair and make funny face and get minor cranial ridges.
I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol is in charge during the firefight in orbit, and is a nice calm presence, teaming up with Hernandez to kick all the butt.
Florida Man. Florida Man Does Crazy-Ass Space Walk.
Optimism, Captain! Phlox absolutely owns this episode, taking charge of the entire situation once he’s on the road to a cure, manipulating K’Vagh and Krell both with verve and aplomb.
Good boy, Porthos! Porthos is down in the dumps because Phlox is missing, though Archer suspect that he more misses the fact that Phlox sometimes sneaks him cheese from a stash in sickbay.
Qapla’! General Krell collaborated with Harris and Section 31 for his own reasons. Harris was stupid enough to let him.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Neither Tucker nor T’Pol are willing to admit that they’re getting into each other’s dreams. It’s really kind of silly.
More on this later… We officially have an explanation for why the Klingons we saw on the original and animated series looked so different from the Klingons after that. And the seeds for an explanation of why we’ve seen none since then (and why the three we’ve seen in both modes, Kor, Kang, and Koloth, are like that) are sown as well, though that has not been explicated on screen. (See Trivial Matters below.)
I’ve got faith…
“I need a little more time to cure this plague!”
“Cure? You were supposed to perfect the Augment genome!”
–Phlox saying “Bazinga!” to K’Vagh.
Welcome aboard. Back from “Affliction” are Ada Maris as Hernandez, James Avery as K’Vagh, John Schuck as Antaak, Terrell Tilford as Marab, and Eric Pierpoint as Harris. Pierpoint will return in the “Demons”/“Terra Prime” two-parter.
Also appearing are prior Trek guests Kristin Bauer as Laneth, having previously played one of Quark’s fantasy women in DS9’s “If Wishes Were Horses”; and Wayne Grace as Krell, having previously played a different Klingon, Torak, in TNG’s “Aquiel” and a horny Cardassian legate in DS9’s “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night.”
Trivial matters: This is the second of two parts, continuing from “Affliction.”
Following this episode, the Klingon Language Institute provided terms for the two types of Klingons: QuchHa’ (“the unhappy ones”) for those without cranial ridges and HemQuch (“the proud forehead”) for those with.
This episode establishes that millions of Klingons are QuchHa’ following this, and that they’re considered inferior to some degree or other. This is by way, not only of explaining the Klingons we saw in the original series, but why we never saw mixed crews, as it makes sense that all QuchHa’ in the Klingon Defense Force would be segregated. It also retcons the less-than-honorable behavior of some of those Klingons in the original series, if they weren’t considered “proper” Klingons.
Prior to this two-parter, various works of tie-in fiction proposed all manner of explanations for the discrepancy between types of Klingon, all of which were superseded by new onscreen evidence. John M. Ford’s The Final Reflection posited that Klingons created “fusions” of Klingons with other species, humans among them. The My Brother’s Keeper trilogy by Michael Jan Friedman posited that the Klingons with cranial ridges were a new species created via genetic engineering. Several works that came out pre-Enterprise, notably the graphic novel Debt of Honor by Chris Claremont & Adam Hughes, posited that there were two different species of Klingons, with the smooth-headed ones being ascendant during the original series, but became outcasts by the movie era.
This is the first Trek episode directed by David Barrett. He’ll return to the franchise to direct two episodes of Discovery, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” and “Saints of Imperfection.” Barrett’s father, Stan, played a small role in the original series’ “All Our Yesterdays.”
While Kelby is mentioned several times, Derek Magyar doesn’t appear.
Reed’s determination to not do anything for Harris anymore will last all of four episodes, as our heroes will once again deal with him in “Demons.”
The other half of this story, to wit, how the Klingons got their grooves back, as it were, was told in the Star Trek: Excelsior novel Forged in Fire by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, which also served as a prequel to DS9’s “Blood Oath.” The novel focused on Hikaru Sulu, Kor, Kang, Koloth, and Curzon Dax, establishing the relationship the latter four of them would develop, and part of the plot explains how the QuchHa’ were eliminated (as evidenced by those three Klingons having cranial ridges in the twenty-fourth century). The novel also connects in an interesting way to the original series’ “The Omega Glory.”
The Columbia is not seen again onscreen, but is featured in the Romulan War novel Beneath the Raptor’s Wing by Martin, the Destiny trilogy by David Mack, and Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman.
It’s been a long road… “My own targ won’t recognize me!” Parts of this episode are excellent, especially the climax where Phlox basically owns everyone. It starts with Archer and K’Vagh arguing over who gets Phlox and the doctor barging in and saying that he can speak for himself, thank you, and from that moment forward, he’s totally in charge, and it’s fabulous. Some of John Billingsley’s best work is in the back half of this episode.
So much of the rest of the episode is pointless filler, though. The lengthy sequence where Tucker gets on a tether between two ships travelling way way way faster than light and shimmies between them is visually pretty nifty, but at no point does anyone explain why Tucker can’t just explain what he’s doing and walk Kelby and/or T’Pol through it over video chat. Especially given how long the transfer takes.
The entire subplot with Harris and Reed and Section 31 is just so much sound and fury signifying nothing, especially since Harris is so unbelievably stupid in this. I mean, his original notion of having Reed sabotage Enterprise was idiotic, because all it was going to do was call attention to the conspiracy. If Harris had just told Reed to hide the fact that the sensor grid was down when Phlox was kidnapped, maybe I could see it, but all of this extra sabotage just shone a light on the conspiracy. And then Krell turned out not to be trustworthy, which any idiot could’ve seen coming, but Harris is obviously not just any idiot.
In the comments section of my “Affliction” rewatch, the reader “mr_d” pointed out that, for all of Section 31’s protestations that they’re necessary, protestations that are echoed by people who are fans of the use of 31 in Trek (a number that will never, under any circumstances, include me), they’re actually not very good at what they do. This two-parter is a classic example, as they don’t do anything particularly useful here. In fact, the first question that comes to mind when you realize that there was conversation between Earth and Kronos on the subject should’ve been the same thing Phlox said when he was kidnapped: why not just ask for help?
Ultimately, it’s more filler for a two-parter that doesn’t have enough story for two parts, and really is only in service of explaining something that didn’t really require an explanation. It certainly didn’t require taking two episodes out of a season to explain it. While the end result is still eminently watchable, thanks to the continued wonderfulness of putting Billingsley, John Schuck, and James Avery in a room together, it still feels like paperwork masquerading as a story.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s most recent work includes several short stories: “Prezzo” in Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird, a story about Italian immigrants in 1930s New York City and monsters; “Know Thyself Deathless” in Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups (which he co-edited with Jonathan Maberry), teaming H. Rider Haggard’s She with the Yoruba goddess Egungun-oya; “Another Dead Body on the Corner” in Joe Ledger: Unbreakable, featuring Ledger in his days as a Baltimore homicide cop; “What Do You Want From Me, I’m Old” in The Four ???? of the Apocalypse (which he co-edited with Wrenn Simms), about the four septuagenarians of the apocalypse; “The Legend of Long-Ears” in The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, a Weird Western tale of Bass Reeves and Calamity Jane; and “The Kellidian Kidnapping” and “Work Worth Doing” in the two most recent issues of Star Trek Explorer, the former a Voyager story featuring Tuvok, the latter the backstory for Discovery’s President Rillak.