Sunday, June 23, 2013

Everyone Gets On Edge As The Enterprise Approaches A “Singularity!”

The Good: Interesting general idea
The Bad: No real character or consequences based on how the episode becomes a pretty standard possession story, No superlative performances
The Basics: Enterprise delivers its first possession episode with “Singularity, “ an episode that does not even give the performers successful variations on their characters to play.

As a conceit of the genre, it was to be expected that at some point, Enterprise would present an episode that found the crew being possessed by some form of alien life form or they experience a condition which seems to fundamentally alter their personalities. That episode comes with “Singularity.” While many of the Star Trek possession episodes use the opportunities to tell a creepy story that introduces a new alien threat, others try to explore the characters who have become familiar to the viewers. Only one or two actually use the possession to present a wholesale replacement of the crew and “Singularity” follows that model, despite there not being an actual possession from an alien force. Very similar to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Dramatic Personae” (reviewed here!), “Singularity” has the crew of the Enterprise slowly becoming preoccupied with tasks that seem innocuous enough before they become obsessed with tasks that redefine their characters.

“Singularity” does not do what “Dramatis Personae” did, in that it did not afford the performers to truly play different characters. Reed and Phlox, for example, seem simply to be more themselves as opposed to truly being new or replaced characters. Instead, the performers play their characters as if they were focused on a single task and the sense of focus does not allow the actors to shine. They just become focused, then irritable and that is hardly revealing of the actors’ process or their characters.

Opening with T’Pol narrating a log on how the crew is unlikely to survive their encounter with a nearby black hole, “Singularity” flashes back to T’Pol’s story of events in the two days prior. When Archer diverts the Enterprise toward a black hole, it affords the crew time to deal with lingering issues. Archer struggles to write a piece about his father, Trip tries to adjust the Captain’s chair to make it more comfortable for Archer, Reed begins developing new battle readiness plans, Sato tries cooking a family dish for the crew, and Mayweather visits Sick Bay to deal with what Phlox worries might be lingering effects from his near-death experience at the repair station. Even Porthos seems on edge, barking at Archer as he narrates his father’s tribute.

But what seems like it could just be a case of the crew’s nerves getting frayed becomes something else Phlox takes Montgomery hostage in Sick Bay by knocking him out. Reed and Trip butt heads in Engineering and when Reed performs a battle drill that shocks everyone, the situation comes to a head. T’Pol realizes that the crew is acting erratically and she comes to believe it is caused by radiation coming from the nearby trinary star system. She and Archer must fly the ship through the anomaly to save the incapacitated crew.

While not a true possession episode, “Singularity” acts like one and given that the cause of the crew’s odd behavior is simply radiation, it is a far more plot-centered than character-driven episode. Sato, for example, is not stuck with wanting to be a chef; she was just preoccupied for filling in at the galley when the radiation peaked. Similarly, Mayweather is not so obsessed with being punctual and afraid of the Captain that he would honestly believe that Archer would react super-negatively to him being late to his station for medical reasons. In fact, the only characters whose focus at the moment of the effective radiation dose was on characteristic activities are Reed and Phlox. And there is nothing revealing about Reed wanting better military protocols on the ship or Phlox working to maintain the health of the crew (in this case, Mayweather).

On the acting front, “Singularity” is nothing extraordinary either. Scott Bakula has played Archer as both focused and uncertain before and Reed has been played by Dominic Keating as irritable and on edge. As a result, the initial intrigue of “Singularity” fades fast and the episode becomes a mundane episode without any twist ending where each member of the crew focuses on their own (mostly pointless) activity which consumes them. It is not, however, enough to consume the avid viewer.

The two biggest gaffes in “Singularity:”
2. Reed has to work on a battle protocol. This is utterly ridiculous as StarFleet is modeled off of a naval system and the navy has had Yellow and Red Alert protocols for decades. Why an officer would be expected to make these on the fly is utterly ridiculous,
1. When using power tools on the bridge, T’Pol gets annoyed. As Trip notes, Vulcans are supposed to have mental disciplines which, as Tuvok and Spock amply illustrated (but T’Pol denies), can manage her biological responses, like how her superior hearing affects her.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophmore season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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