Star Trek: Enterprise: Singularity   Rewatch 
March 25, 2019 1:24 AM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Archer turns down an opportunity to add a cupholder to the captain’s chair.

Memory Alpha doesn’t have much to say about this one:

Background information
Production history
> Final draft script – 20 September 2002

> This episode establishes black holes as a common phenomenon in the Star Trek universe. A conversation between Archer and T'Pol purports that the Vulcans have surveyed "more than 2,000" black holes. However, by the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Decker remarks that Voyager VI, "disappeared into what they used to call a black hole," implying that the definition of what constitutes a black hole may have changed in the intervening years. In fact, the Hirogen used a small quantum singularity to power their relay stations, which was referred to by the crew of USS Voyager as a black hole.
> This was the first episode to show the galley.
> Among the many things listed on the "Week's Dinner Menu" are peach cobbler, Plomeek tea, Argelian cole slaw, lamb, and beef in soy fondue, and French fries.
> A part of Reed's obsessive behavior in this episode centers around finding a "shipwide emergency alert". This culminated in the "tactical alert" to be used in future Enterprise episodes, and what eventually developed into the more familiar "red alert" (although this term is not mentioned in this episode, Tucker suggests a "Reed alert" after Malcolm's family name).
> In Tucker's obsession with improving the captain's chair, he says he plans to provide its armrests access to tactical data. Future captain's chairs, in fact, had this feature.

Memorable quotes
"Just what the captain needs in a crisis; a place to rest his beverage!"
- Reed, when Tucker suggests putting a cup holder in the captain's chair

"It's a chair!"
"It's the captain's chair."
- Reed, commenting on Tucker's obsession with fixing Archer's command chair

"What happened to my chair???"
"Did you know that this chair is the exact same model used on Neptune-class survey ships?"
"Is that why you called me down here?"
"Enterprise is the first warp five vessel in Human history. The pride of the fleet. And you're sitting in a chair they been using on warp two ships for over a decade. You deserve better. So, I'm starting from scratch. I'm gonna build you a throne. Stand right there. I need to get a few parametric scans. To get your exact dimensions – this baby's gonna fit like a glove."
"Isn't that used for aligning phase coils??"
"You won't feel a thing."
- Jonathan Archer and Trip Tucker, discussing the captain's chair while under the radiation's influence

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Weaponized black holes with a side of lethal radiation are part of one of several core strategies for gameplay in Star Trek Online.
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol is the only unaffected crew member.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Nothing specific, but this is another episode where their scanners leave something to be desired.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Averted, as no aliens appear in this episode.

Poster’s Log:
Having an episode where everybody behaves out of character for a one-off reason is supposed to be fun. The point of a story where Our Heroes behave strangely is to see the cast doing something different for a little bit without blowing up the premise of the show. That’s why it’s such a classic notion in fiction, whether the particular gimmick is madness or something else.

Star Trek’s efforts there have been mixed: for every Mirror, Mirror, there’s at least one The Naked Now or The Naked Time. On the up side, Singularity doesn’t go for truly cringeworthy stuff: nothing here is as grating as hearing someone sing off key over shipwide comms or listening to Data talking about how fully functional he is. Points to them for not going there, especially since 'choosing not to degrade T'Pol' is a recent innovation on the show.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do much with the premise either. Personally, I think that’s because they don’t know who the crew are under normal circumstances yet, (a season and a half in!), and their limited character development leaves the writers nothing much to play with. As I see it:

* Hoshi is given the kitchen and concern about her ‘family honor’ because she’s a woman and an Asian respectively, and I think that’s all B&B could think of. She’s had a little character development, but most of what we did know about her doesn’t apply here: she used to be anxious about being in space, but got over it.

* Reed being a cipher has been a literal plot point. All they’ve got is ‘he is wound pretty tightly’ and ‘he will eat whatever is put in front of him without complaint.’ Indeed, I can’t decide if him rejecting Hoshi’s soup is supposed to be a hint he’s going nuts, or the writers forgetting half of his only established character traits.

* Trip is, once again, completely wasted. It feels like they just had no idea what he was supposed to be doing most of the time, which is a shame because Trineer has some decent acting chops.

* Archer being unable to write a prologue is mostly boring, with the side benefit of reminding us about the whole ‘nepotism’ angle to his character.

* Phlox... actually, Phlox’s subplot was pretty great. His slide from ‘a little neurotic’ to ‘mad scientist who’s gonna cut up Merriweather’s brain’ was the only really entertaining part of the episode. That managed to be both funny and creepy in equal measure. I feel this only reinforces my point: Phlox is one of the few characters on ENT that has received much in the way of backstory, development or depth of personality. As a result, Phlox is the only one the writers can do something fun with.

A couple other things I noticed:
* T’Pol grabbed Archer instead of Merriweather when she needed a pilot.

I actually approved of that here, since Merriweather was anesthetized and they established a good reason for T’Pol to trust Archer last week.

* Reed’s reinventing the wheel again.

I was pretty sure ‘red alert’ was a term for awhile before Star Trek, and a few different sources corroborated it dating back to WWII. Merriam-Webster had the first modern usage of the term in 1941. If VOY made me want to write angry letters to the writers about racism, ENT makes me want to go back in time and buy them a set of encyclopedias or send them to space camp or something.

Overall, I found this to be a really annoying viewing experience, and I’d probably be a lot more down on it if not for Blalock’s performance and Phlox's subplot actually working for me. The rest of it felt more like a chore to watch, because if there’s one thing I really don’t need out of ENT, it’s everybody being even dumber and less professional.
posted by mordax (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For now I will only remark that I rewatched this one right before the last DISCO, in which a chair also featured prominently. This allowed for riffing that ended up entertaining us a lot more than anything in this episode (e.g., Michael while struggling in the chair: "I REALLY WISH THIS CHAIR HAD SOME CUPHOLDERS...").
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:48 AM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I dunno, I liked the chair stuff. Can you imagine how much more Picard could have accomplished with a cup holder for his tea?
posted by Servo5678 at 5:33 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Greatest Generation guys always point out that Sisko has a little thermos full of soup in a cupholder when he pilots the Defiant.
posted by painquale at 6:36 AM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

The point of a lot of those the-crew-is-behaving-strangely episodes (in particular, the "Naked" ones) is that they're supposed to reflect on the crew's normal behavior in some way, ideally. The Psi 2000 infection revealed the kind of tendencies that the crew normally tried to suppress, whether it was Spock's feelings about his mother, Sulu's fantasies about being a swashbuckler, or Kevin Riley taking over the ship from engineering and being an asshole. Even the mirror universe counterparts were somehow supposed to be reflective on the prime universe people; Sisko jumped into the role of the womanizing, only-out-for-himself privateer captain pretty easily, well enough to fool a lot of people (if not mirror-Jennifer), and Spock made some pointed comments about how well the mirror-crew that he put in the brig matched up with his impressions of humans in general. (There's an ongoing bit in DSC about the mirror-Georgiou seeming to consider Burnham with the same regard that she held for Burnham's deceased (AFAWK) mirror counterpart; that may or may not be part of M-Georgiou's long game.)

Where this episode succeeds and fails is, as mordax notes, how well the crew's obsessions line up with what we know about them. I think that Archer's is pretty good, because his relationship with his dad is fairly important--we see the two of them in the first episode, and a lot of his feelings regarding the Vulcans seem to center around his anger at them having somehow impaired his dad's work on warp drive technology--and it's really plausible that he'd obsess over the wording of this foreword. Reed, also, tends to be pretty absorbed in his work most of the time, and even though he seems to slide a bit toward mutiny at the worst point, his obsession is the only one that seems useful in the situation. And, yes, Phlox's bit really hit home because he does straddle that line between quirky and creepy--the character basically lives there. On the other hand, Sato being obsessed with the recipe adds nothing to her character (as someone who's pretty centered on her work, she could have gone with being obsessed with translating a dead language; that could have been worked into the plot as being useful if it turned out to be key to understanding the phenomenon), Mayweather likewise being obsessed with not missing work didn't really go anywhere (maybe he could have been the one to have piloted the ship through the asteroid field--that would have made more sense), and Trip's thing with the chair, while funny in spots, likewise turned out to not be much of a much (not sure how that could have been improved--if he'd included something that could have helped them out of the radiation field, maybe?); they could have done something with his trying to improve the efficiency of the warp core at the expense of actually getting anywhere, like the real-life drivers who are obsessed with getting as high an MPG from their cars as possible, mostly by driving really slowly because acceleration burns extra gas.

But, even though T'Pol gets to save the day, they especially missed a couple of bits with her: I was expecting them to reveal that everyone had passed out because she'd used knockout gas to calm everyone the fuck down. Also, they could have made the point that she wasn't immune to the effect, and that the reason that she was still able to function was that the Vulcan system of logic is in effect a systematized, cultural obsession with keeping your shit together, and that it just happened to be the perfect situation for it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:23 AM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

So, back in the thread for the Seventh, I made a comment about Trip "finding the captain's chair uncomfy" which was supposed to be a funny way to describe Trip's discomfort with being in command that episode. Little did I know...

Once I realized that this was going to be Enterprise's version of The Naked Now I just mentally shrugged. Appreciated Archer taking a shower with his clothes on as a nod to that episode, though I would have loved to see somebody running around topless with a rapier.

Always amazing to see that an effect that took the better part of two days to build up in the crew vanishes in about 15 seconds.
posted by nubs at 7:28 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can I also point out the sloppy thing where T'Pol is supposed to be narrating an extended flashback in log form, yet we get scenes where she's not there to witness what's happening?

Pedantic of me? Maybe. But e.g. Sisko is in every scene of "Pale Moonlight," IIRC.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:30 AM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I didn't realize The Naked Time is seen in a negative light by some. I consider it a classic despite whatever flaws it may have.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd agree that "The Naked Time" (TOS) is a classic, but "The Naked Now" (TNG) is basically a nothingburger because it's so self-evidently a remake of "Naked Time" (not to mention being self-evidently the 1987 equivalent of a Decon Gel Scene to Reel Viewers In)—and only two episodes into the damn series! By comparison, ENT is to be commended for its restraint in waiting this long.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

In general, I have no problem with The Naked Time; it's just that it felt kinda lazy to me to do it again and not really add anything new. As noted above, the relative successes or failures of these types of episodes depend on using what we know about the characters and then adding extra dimensions to them, because we are seeing them when vulnerable/altered. The sequel episode The Naked Now suffers because it is the second episode of TNG and we don't know these people yet; I give the episode some respect for the fact that things established in it (Data/Tasha; the friction between Crusher & Picard) are touched on throughout the series (but this also includes the unfortunate establishment of Wesley Crusher as wunderkid saviour).

This follows the same formula, but doesn't give me any new insight into any of the characters. They are all just more annoying versions of themselves. Phlox is good creepy fun; T'Pol deserves credit for not just knocking everyone unconscious, and that's about it. I had hoped that the ultimate payoff was going to be Archer creating a preface that focused on the personal, rather than the professional father, that somehow tied into an insight or a realization from the episode, but there's no payoff here (just like his big speech at the end of the series, right?). Instead, the big payoff appears to be the creation of the "red alert" system, which just isn't that interesting.

I mean, I get it - there's only so many stories, and Enterprise is doomed to repeat some of them; I don't have a problem with doing that, so long as they add a wrinkle or do something a bit unexpected.
posted by nubs at 10:05 AM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I can't believe I misspelled Mayweather's name. Hah. (I wrote most of this while I still had that cold. I am over it now, but playing a lot of catch up right now.)


Also, they could have made the point that she wasn't immune to the effect, and that the reason that she was still able to function was that the Vulcan system of logic is in effect a systematized, cultural obsession with keeping your shit together, and that it just happened to be the perfect situation for it.

That would've made the whole thing a lot funnier.

Once I realized that this was going to be Enterprise's version of The Naked Now I just mentally shrugged. Appreciated Archer taking a shower with his clothes on as a nod to that episode, though I would have loved to see somebody running around topless with a rapier.

Reed actually putting on a Navy uniform would've also been sufficiently gonzo for me.

I didn't realize The Naked Time is seen in a negative light by some.

To be fair, if they'd never gone back to that well, I probably would too. TNG kind of ruined the premise for me - I can't un-link them in my head.
posted by mordax at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2019

Just to note, The Naked Time was the fourth episode of season one of TOS. For millions though who've seen TOS out of order in syndication or just know the characters already due to cultural osmosis, that fact is largely forgotten.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

From Memory Alpha: Meanwhile, Lt. Reed recommends to Archer implementing a ship-wide emergency alert, something more comprehensive than battle stations

The whole idea of Reed inventing Red Alert is just... really silly to me, as a Navy veteran. There really isn't anything "more comprehensive than battle stations" on a Navy warship. There's literally a list of every single person on board and exactly where they need to go and what they need to do when battle stations is called. Maybe you run to Manuvering and relieve the Reactor Operator, because the command considers you the most competent RO on board. Maybe you run to Crew's Mess to dress up in firefighting gear and stand by to combat any fires that might break out. Maybe you run to Crew's Mess and dress up, but you're the FLIR operator for a hose team. Everyone on board is given a very specific job to do and the crew is judged on how quickly everyone can get to where they need to be. Maybe it's different on surface vessels versus submarines, but the NX is already more like a submarine than any other kind of human vessel.

This is more or less how Red Alert is portrayed on Star Trek. Usually it's an excuse to populate the bridge with all the starring actors, but I admit I've always been impressed that they bother to show other people standing watch on the bridge and elsewhere on board. I admit I haven't been keeping up with the rewatch, so I'm not sure how exactly the NX's battle stations differs from real-life battle stations or later depictions of Red Alert, but if they're not even maintaining the standard that naval warships maintained hundreds of years earlier then I guess I agree with Reed that something better needs to be established.

I do get the impression that a lot of these episodes feature the general ineptitude of the Enterprise crew, which was supposed to be "Hey look at how these standard Star Trek tropes got established" but really comes off as "Wow humans really aren't ready for this."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:15 PM on March 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I admit I haven't been keeping up with the rewatch, so I'm not sure how exactly the NX's battle stations differs from real-life battle stations or later depictions of Red Alert

I guess the major difference appears to be that under Red Alert, they charge weapons. At least, Archer says something about that when he and T'Pol are piloting Enterprise out of the debris field at the end.

I think that means ENT's 'battle stations' in earlier episodes corresponded more to Trek's 'yellow alert' in prior spinoffs - everybody's supposed to be at their post, but tactical systems are not primed because that is detectable by scans and thus might escalate a confrontation.

At the same time, there's no reason an armed vessel - military or not - wouldn't already have both sets of protocols before they ever launched, because duh.

I do get the impression that a lot of these episodes feature the general ineptitude of the Enterprise crew, which was supposed to be "Hey look at how these standard Star Trek tropes got established" but really comes off as "Wow humans really aren't ready for this."


I mean, there's an earlier episode where Reed literally comes up with the idea of security check-ins at regular intervals.
posted by mordax at 2:56 PM on March 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I noticed (probably because of this episode's "Reed Alert") Picard calling general quarters in a TNG season 3 episode this past week. You don't realize how much you miss the absence of Trek's occasional feaux-navy-ness until you encounter it again, in some TNGs or TOSs or of course the Nicholas Meyer films. (And speaking of Meyer, I'm really starting to wonder where his influence on DISCO is purported to manifest… but I digress.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:25 AM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know if Meyer has had any influence on DSC aside from lending the enterprise (heh) a certain credibility, but I do think that he helped bring a lot of space-navy-ness to the franchise; Roddenberry had military experience, but in the Army Air Force, not the Navy, which might explain why, aside from the usual corridors passers-by, the Enterprise generally seemed to be run by about as many people as you might find in the crew of a large bomber.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did like the effort spent on expanding the main cast's inner lives, even if the specifics were a bit wanting (they really don't seem to know what to do with Hoshi or Malcolm, at this point) but the hard turn from that to 'what if Enterprise, but everyone is annoyed and upset' wasn't a particularly interested place to take things. I agree with the idea that this might have worked better if they had pushed it farther: instead of Sulu buckling swash, we get nepotism and chair calibration.
posted by cjelli at 4:44 PM on March 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think this is the one Enterprise episode that will tell you whether or not you're going to like the show. I thought this episode was a lot of fun, but I like the show most when it's a low-stakes hangout show.
posted by Automocar at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I missed 'Reed alert' haha. They absolutely did need some kind of character reveal. It wasn't so much that characters got pushed to absurd lengths so much as they got extremely irritable and fixated.

Having T'Pol say she was affected but felt herself being even more logical and calm would have been some Spock level trolling. I like the scene where she gets Archer to follow the chain of logic and reach the conclusion why he must do the thing she's telling him to do, and the actual steering the ship out of the danger zone scene was pretty good.
posted by fleacircus at 2:22 AM on October 30, 2019

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