[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Divergence"

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Jamahl Epsicokhan

Mar 11, 2005, 8:36:28 AM3/11/05
Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

In brief: Watchable but disappointing. Too much mindless action and not
enough character or story.

Plot description: The Enterprise teams up with the Columbia to rescue Phlox
from the Klingons, who are planning to destroy one of their own colonies to
contain a deadly outbreak.

Star Trek: Enterprise - "Divergence"

Airdate: 2/25/2005 (USA)
Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Directed by David Barrett

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **

"Never thought I'd see the stars like this." -- Tucker, the first human
being to be outside a starship traveling at warp speed

There's a fine line between audacity and goofiness, and "Divergence" flirts
with it perilously. I see what's on the screen. I see that they're trying to
do something new. I see that the envelope is being pushed on tech-action
concepts. Do I believe what I'm seeing? Not exactly. But the real
deal-breaker is: Does any of this feel necessary beyond the mechanics of a
busy but meaningless plot? No.

If you will recall from the end of last week's "Affliction," the
Enterprise's engine room was infected with a Klingon computer subroutine
(i.e., virus) that caused the pressure in the warp core to build up (or
whatever). The only way to relieve the pressure was to keep accelerating.
Unfortunately, the ship is now maxed out and the pressure is still building.
The only way to save the ship from a catastrophic core breach (i.e.,
explosion) is if Trip can get aboard and use his superb engineering skills
to purge the subroutines and reinitialize the engines.

Already, the episode was losing me with its arbitrary tech solutions to
arbitrary tech problems, and I had to wonder if this plan by the Klingons to
destroy the Enterprise was more elaborate than it needed to be. Wouldn't it
have been more honorable and glorious to take on the Enterprise in a direct
fight rather than by sabotaging its engines? That doesn't seem particularly
Klingon to me. But neither does it seem very prudently Starfleet that an
entire ship has gone racing into hostile Klingon space to rescue one man.
Check that; two ships.

The Enterprise's new chief engineer -- Lt. Cmdr. Kelby -- is apparently not
up to the task of cold-starting the engines. Inconvenient for the crew of
the Enterprise, but convenient for story conventions, which require zany
stunts so that a hero can come in and save the day.

A warp-speed use of the transporter is not considered to be viable under
these conditions. So instead, this leads to a crazy stunt that I'm calling a
49-to-51 percent blending of audacity and goofiness, with the slight edge
going to goofiness. The Columbia rendezvouses with the Enterprise, inverts
itself so that the bottoms of the two ships are just a few dozen meters
apart, and then a tether is used to go between the two ships, attached at
each end in the launch bays. Trip then lowers (raises) himself from the
Columbia and into the Enterprise. Halfway through, he pauses to look at the
stars warping by, and says, "Never thought I'd see the stars like this." No

I have to give credit for the spirit of this sequence -- reckless and
unprecedented and kind of memorable for its strangeness. At the same time,
my voice of skepticism was saying, "Oh, come ON." Ultimately, I think the
problem is that it feels too much like a stunt for the sake of itself. It
ends up being neither good nor bad but merely a neutral fact whose
surrounding events are both created and solved under completely arbitrary

Trip is able to purge the engineering systems and cold-start the engines, in
a frenetic bit of plotting that is based on meaningless ship operations. I
don't know or care about how to cold-start the engines, so Trip's geek-speak
is all false urgency where there's nothing to understand as it unfolds.
Maybe content isn't the point. Maybe the stunt is the point. But a clever
stunt does not constitute substantive storytelling.

Fortunately, there are some story points here that aren't based solely on
tech stunts. The Section 31 storyline is intriguing up to a point, including
a scene where Archer gives Reed a way out but also an ultimatum: He tells
Reed he has to choose a side; he can't maintain loyalties to both Starfleet
and this shadowy intelligence agency. Archer launches an investigation into
Reed's Section 31 contact, a man named Harris (Eric Pierpoint), who tells
Archer that the fine print of Starfleet's code gives him the authority to
make back-alley deals with the Klingons.

In this case (minus whatever lies Harris uses to cover his ass), the deal is
that Section 31 permitted the kidnapping of Phlox so he could cure the
Klingon outbreak, because a stable Klingon Empire is in the best interests
of Starfleet.

I've always liked the notion of Section 31. It's too bad that it's a subplot
here that doesn't get quite enough coverage. (Perhaps a Section 31 origin
story might've been more intriguing.) And the down side is that Section 31--
which is actually working in conjunction with a Klingon admiral named Krell
(Wayne Grace) -- finds itself deceived by its own co-conspirators. If
Section 31 is supposed to be such a smart, skillful organization that
survives for centuries in secret, they should not be so easily thwarted the
way they are here by Krell.

Krell's orders on behalf of the Klingon Empire are to destroy a Klingon
colony (with millions of inhabitants) to contain the deadly outbreak.
Phlox's hope is that he can find the cure before Krell's ships arrive. Also
on hand at the colony's base are Antaak (John Schuck), who also wants to
save lives, and General K'Vagh (James Avery), who wants a cure that will
also create superior, genetically-enhanced Klingon augments. The plot is
about all the maneuvering of the players at this base, while the Enterprise
and Columbia (and Krell's ships) head toward it.

Ultimately, all parties arrive at this planet, with the Starfleet ships and
Krell's vessels in orbit around the colony, and Phlox on the surface trying
to finish the cure. Phlox is close, but Krell does not have any patience and
is ready to carry out his mass-extermination mission.

Where the show runs off the rails is in these final 10 minutes, which
feature frenetic action crosscut with a crazed approach to solving all the
problems of the plot by using Archer as a human host to accelerate the
synthesis of the cure. "It won't be pleasant," Phlox warns. He's right;
eventually we're watching Archer's facial contortions as he groans and
convulses while strapped into a chair. It simply looks too silly to work;
we're painfully aware we're watching an actor's less-than-convincing

And there's too much going on that's less exciting than it wants to be. All
logic and story flow is lost to a general sense of mayhem. The way Phlox and
Archer gain the upper hand and convince Krell to stand down is a little hard
to swallow, requiring an obstinate character to immediately believe what he
is being told.

The ship-based battle scenes are painfully routine, with phasers pummeling
everyone, and sparks exploding on the bridge(s), and terse warnings of "hull
plating down to 32 percent," which is about the only line that is actually
*worse* than "shields down to 32 percent" -- a line that has been in need of
being expunged from Star Trek for at least half a decade. Really, when are
they just going to invent shields for the Enterprise? Hull plating works
exactly the same way as a contrived level of scripted protection, only less

For some reason, Enterprise sets up these entertaining multiple-episode
stories, but often has trouble delivering a satisfactory finish -- "The
Augments," "The Aenar," and now this. The biggest problem here is that we
have too much plot and not nearly enough interesting storytelling or
characters who are invested with depth or personalities. In particular, I
was hoping to see Captain Hernandez (Ada Maris) in action here, since one of
the story's selling points was that we get to see her ship working alongside
the Enterprise. But the story's action doesn't permit her (or anybody) any
decisions or actions that demonstrate leadership or personality. Everyone is
too busy firing phasers and shouting about the hull plating. It's boring.

It's too bad, really, because the basic plot is okay and the idea that this
disease and its cure creates the non-ridged TOS Klingons is reasonable. The
plot elements are here and could theoretically work. But this is a show
that's too concerned with moving pieces around a chessboard, and doesn't
consider the fact that the pieces should be people, and their movements
should feel organic rather than mechanical.

Upcoming: Reruns until mid-April, followed by Enterprise's final six

Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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