The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Affliction

When Enterprise returns hom, Dr Phlox is kidnapped by none other than the Klingons, who need him to work on a genetic engineering experiment gone awry. Meanwhile, Trip settles into his new role as chief engineer of the USS Columbia, Enterprise’s sister ship.

Sometimes, there are things that are better left unexplained. Take the excellent anime series SaiKano. That series is set against a backdrop of war, but the reason for said war is never explained, because it doesn’t really matter – what’s important is the human cost to the main characters.

I digress because this particular arc covers a topic that I feel should have been left equally mysterious – why the Klingons of the 2260s were “smooth-headed”, when all subsequent Klingons have cranial ridges. Yes, it was annoying gap in continuity, but I was prepared to live with it. I could even accept that the 22nd century Klingons of Enterprise were also ridged, causing two continuity blips. Worf told Odo that Klingons did not discuss this issue with outsiders, and that was enough for me.

But in this two-parter, we start to learn where the smooth-headed Klingons came from. Some of the Augment embryos which were seemingly blown up in The Augments were salvaged, and the Klingons tried to use their DNA to create enhanced Klingons. What follows is Phlox getting abducted to work in a lab, whilst the rest of the crew try to figure out what’s going – all except Trip and Malcolm, that is.

Trip’s arc is fairly inoffensive – thanks to the whole awkwardness of still having feelings of T’Pol, he’s transferred to Columbia, although he won’t admit that that’s the real reason behind it. Instead, he drives his new team so hard that some of them immediately request a transfer – way to win hearts and minds, Trip. Well, whatever – we all know it won’t last.

Unfortunately, the other thing the writers choose to do with this episode is ruin Malcolm’s character. All of a sudden he has a shady past association with Section 31, which was never once before mentioned or even vaguely alluded to. As with the Klingon storyline, this feels like the last gasp of a dying series, which of course is exactly what it is.

Franchise nods

Antaak mentions the Hur’q invasion. In The Sword of Kahless, the titular sword was found amidst the ruins of their civilisation.

Notes and Observations

  • T’Pol performs her first mind meld in this episode, under Archer’s guidance – his knowledge of the procedure having come from the time he carried Surak’s katra. As well as being a convenient way to get a lead on the Klingon story, it provides the first hint that T’Pol and Trip share a psychic bond.
  • Last time Phlox wanted to visit Madame Chang’s, he had to abstain because of the fear of xenophobic violence. This time, he almost makes it to the restaurant when he gets captured and abducted. Clearly Phlox should just give up on that egg drop soup.
  • As in Judgment, a Klingon who is not a warrior speaks of the ‘warrior caste’. In all other Star Trek series, there’s no real concept of castes and pretty much every Klingon we meet is a warrior.

Summary – Affliction: Like the Klingons affected by the virus, Enterprise is dying a slow death.

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