Sunday, September 22, 2013

Despite The Pounding Soundtrack, “Anomaly” Is A Bland Adventure Episode.

The Good: Generally okay acting
The Bad: Overbearing soundtrack, No real character development, Mundane plot
The Basics: Another piece in the puzzle that is the Expanse is revealed in “Anomaly,” which is a pretty banal chase episode that is largely lacking in a compelling villain or motivation.

Despite not being a huge fan of Star Trek: Enterprise, one of the aspects of the show I have generally admired is that it tends to have a pretty decent sense of internal continuity. So, when episodes pop up with frequent issues that overwhelm the episode, I get pretty annoyed. “Anomaly” is one of those episodes.

“Anomaly” continues the arc in the Expanse, but almost from the beginning, it starts to raise troubling questions. Despite Archer mentioning that Porthos was along for the ride in “The Expanse” (reviewed here!), it seems suddenly cruel given how Porthos appears both helpless and disturbed in “Anomaly.” Given how the Vulcans have feared the Expanse because of how it dements the Vulcans’ brain chemistry, T’Pol should have been crazy long before now. As it is Jolene Blalock opens her eyes wide and looks kittenish in “Anomaly,” but there is no context for her change of performance in the episode. The issues within the episode and its place within the series stack up quickly and it makes the episode more erratic than at all clever.

After Porthos freaks out in Archer’s quarters, the laws of physics become erratic all over Enterprise. Archer’s mug floats, the gravity reverses for food in the mess, and ripples go through the entire ship. Shortly thereafter, the Enterprise is attacked by a boarding party who beams aboard and starts to systematically rob the ship. Phlox identifies one of the corpses as an Oosarian and Archer discovers the one pirate left alive aboard Enterprise to be predictably unhelpful.

As the Enterprise hunts down the pirates, they discover the changing laws of physics might be the least of their worries. Following the Oosarian ship’s ion trail into a cloaking field, they discover a massive, artificially-constructed sphere. Using a shuttlepod, Archer and a small team enter the sphere where they discover a Xindi artifact. Archer returns to Enterprise where he tortures the prisoner for more information on the Xindi.

The closest thing to character development present in “Anomaly” comes in the form of Archer having a mini-meltdown and torturing the Oosarian. This seems entirely unlike Archer and not only is a lousy direction for Archer (he’s seemed smart enough to know that torture does not provide reliable results), but it makes little sense in context. Trip Tucker would have been an ideal person to rough up the Oosarian – the Oosarians attacked Engineering, he’s still feeling grief over the loss of his sister’s death, and he hasn’t been sleeping. That combination would have made it reasonable for Tucker to snap. Archer just seems like he is overreacting to the death of a single crewmember. Moreover, the very final shot of the episode, which has Archer smiling subtly, implies that he is a psychopath

What the episode is about more is teasing another aspect of the great mystery of the Expanse. In “Anomaly,” the Enterprise encounters the first giant sphere and Archer acquires the most valuable piece of military intelligence about the Xindi to date. Even more than that, the episode is about presenting a pretty brainless adventure chase experience. More than any Star Trek: Enterprise episode to date, “Anomaly” features an invasive soundtrack that is designed to get the heart pumping. The problem is that for much of the episode, there is no clear, definable, or compelling villain the Enterprise and its crew is chasing. The Oosarian ship is long gone, so most of the “chase” is following an ion trail.

Perhaps more disturbing is how lazy the episode is in presenting its adversary. The Oosarians, we are told by Phlox, are a race from outside the Expanse, yet Archer has had no experience with them. That’s fine, but then the episode falls apart on the details. Archer confronts the captured Oosarian without Hoshi Sato to translate their language. The Oosarian says his ship has been in the Expanse for quite some time. There should be no way, then, that he would recognize a StarFleet ship and have any idea at all what their morals would be. And yet, he instantly chides Archer and says Archer does not have the stomach for doing what he needs to in the Expanse.

Ultimately, “Anomaly” is a bland episode that adds some new information to the Xindi plotline without any genuine flair or substance.

The three biggest gaffes in “Anomaly:”
3. The Oosarians are yet another local alien race that is never before seen or referenced in any of the subsequent series’, despite being in the heart of what will be the core of the Federation.
2. Given that the Oosarian pirates download the Enterprise’s database as a matter of course, one would think that future generations would thwart such an easy and obvious attack. Yet, by “Q Who?” (reviewed here!) when the Borg attack, they do the same thing and it is clear StarFleet has not adapted. StarFleet has never been that stupid before.
1. Given the physics of the anomaly in this episode, the spatial distortion ring in Star Trek: Voyager’s “Twisted” (reviewed here!) should have been diagnosed dramatically faster and should have seemed far less extraordinary.

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

For other works with Nathan Anderson, please visit my reviews of:
"The Xindi" - Star Trek: Enterprise
“Learning Curve” - Babylon 5
“Nemesis” - Star Trek: Voyager


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page where the episodes are organized from best to worst!

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