Star Trek: Enterprise: Anomaly   Rewatch 
August 5, 2019 10:46 AM - Season 3, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Enterprise is attacked by pirates in the Expanse.

Per the Memory Alpha entry:

Background information
Changing the series title
> This was the last episode of the series to air before it was renamed Star Trek: Enterprise. The scripts for the remaining two seasons continued to refer to the series by its original name – perhaps a thumbing of the nose by the producers at the UPN network, which had insisted on the addition of the words "Star Trek" to help boost ratings.

Story and script
> In a first draft script of this episode, the Osaarians were initially to have been Orion pirates. Episode writer Mike Sussman had intended to show how the events in the Expanse could have led some Orions from the pre-Kirk era to turn to piracy. The name was changed during rewrites of the episode's script. The Orions and their culture were finally explored in the season four episodes "Borderland" and "Bound". (Information provided by Mike Sussman)
> Mike Sussman freely credited many of the ideas in this episode to the other writers in the ENT writing staff. He noted that the concept of the Spheres was from André Bormanis, who had first thought of the idea a year or two prior. He also noted that the memorable scene with Archer in the airlock was written by Brannon Braga.
> While writing this episode, Mike Sussman placed importance on jeopardizing the Enterprise crew. He commented, "It was really important to kill somebody, and get the ship into really dire circumstances – and show the audience that this arc this season is really going to be different."
> The final draft of this episode's script was issued on 3 July 2003.

> The rifles used by the Osaarian pirates were evidently repainted Starfleet phaser rifles from Star Trek: First Contact.
> The crates full of stem bolts that Reed looks at are the same props that were called warp injector casings in the episode "The Seventh".

> The Enterprise's brig makes its first appearance in this episode, established as one of several upgrades installed during the ship's retrofit in "The Expanse".
> This episode was later mirrored in "Damage", in which the crew of Enterprise is forced into piracy.
> This episode refers to stem bolts, a possible homage to numerous self-sealing stem bolt references made in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
> This is the first episode where a crewman dies on board the ship due to hostile action, underscoring for Archer – and the audience – just how dangerous the Xindi mission would be. (Information provided by Mike Sussman) Mike Sussman had made this development a personal goal, to respond to criticisms that the series to that point had been unrealistic by having no casualties. He noted, "It was never intentional. It's just that whenever we tried to kill someone, it never quite seemed the right way to do it, so it never happened."
> This episode mirrors VOY: "The Void" and VOY: "Concerning Flight", where Captain Janeway and her crew have their supplies stolen by raiders. They retrieve them later, like Archer's crew do in this episode.
> The numbers "8675309" appear as an in-joke in the sensor data shown on the viewscreen while the crew track the ion trail of the Osaarian merchant ship. "867-5309/Jenny" was a popular song, performed by Tommy Tutone, during the 1980s, and has since made several appearances in popular culture since its release.

Memorable quotes
"Where's Isaac Newton when you need him?"
- Trip Tucker

"When you're forced to resort to desperate measures in order to survive you have to be clever. You need to know how to hide."
- Orgoth

"Creating a stable warp field isn't easy when the laws of physics won't cooperate."
- Tucker

"Every species we run into seems to be gunning for us. We might as well paint a giant bull's eye on the hull!"
"What do you suggest we do, turn around and go back to Earth?"
"All I'm saying is that this mission, whether it succeeds or not, is looking like a one-way ticket all the time."
- Tucker and Reed

"Place one on your chest and one on your abdomen an hour before going to bed. Their secretions act as a natural sedative. Please, be careful to sleep on your back. If you roll over, you might anger them."
"Maybe an hour a night with T'Pol isn't so bad."
- Phlox and Tucker, discussing Aldebaran mud leeches

"Your threats aren't very convincing. I told you, you're too civilized."
"We'll see about that."
- Orgoth and Archer

"Mercy is not a quality that will serve you well in the Expanse, captain."
- Orgoth, to Archer

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Numerous. To cite two fun ones:
1) Self-sealing stem bolts are a commodity in the MMO which may be used in Duty Officer assignments or sold as vendor trash.
2) The general mission model of 'remain close to an enemy vessel while trying to upload or download something' is used repeatedly in the MMO.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Barely referenced, just Phlox pushing neuropressure on Trip again.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Further hijinks with anomalies due to the ship's lack of shielding.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: As with last time, the aliens have Trellium-D.

Poster's Log:
Another mixed bag.

* The action is pretty good.
I honestly loved the anomaly running down the corridor like a mobile speed bump, knocking down the surprised crewman. I also loved Archer's coffee mug suspended in midair. The final action sequence is also pretty fun, where they're trying to get the Xindi database out of the pirate vessel.

I talked about this last week, but ENT remains very pretty. I didn't remember it that way, but I'm really coming around on that, and I guess it'll give me something positive to say most of the time.

* We're seeing long-form storytelling in earnest.
The presence of the sphere is early and mysterious, and I think it's well-played in this story. They learn enough to be curious and interested later, without really giving away the game in any meaningful way.

* The neuropressure stuff remains skeevy.
Phlox's use of leeches was funny, but the general goading of Trip to continue seeing T'Pol against either of their wishes is a terrible way to push the Trip/T'Pol relationship forward, and I did not enjoy the whole 'oh maybe it's just too intimate for you' routine. Ugh.

* The captured pirate is a failure on basically every level.
Breaking this up into three separate issues:

- The pirate is a violation of 'show, don't tell.'
The pirate just straight up tells Archer what we're supposed to be thinking. 'You're too moral,' 'you're too civilized,' 'you need too toughen up.' These are not things a captive should be saying, especially not when someone could throw him out an airlock. That is just a writer putting unrealistic speeches in the mouth of a character who should be working an angle to survive. Total amateur hour.

- The pirate furthers the 9/11ification of the show.
Star Trek is about the victory of decency, communication and friendship over violence. Having the characters pushed into 'you gotta do what you gotta do' and 'things work differently here' is against the spirit of why I've stuck with the franchise despite my misgivings, and reminds me of stupid shit following 9/11 in the US in a bad way.

- The pirate endorses a very classist view of crime.
The notion that educated, civilized people won't commit atrocities is ahistorical and self-congratulatory. It's a notion that people cling to in order to believe that only the Other could do bad things. Trek is also normally better than this - across the franchise, the powerful and the rich are normally as untrustworthy as anybody else, if not more so. So that was disgusting to see here too.

Anyway. Mixed bag. It's still a step up from earlier seasons I think, and again, the production values are much more impressive than I recalled, holding up pretty well even twenty years later.
posted by mordax (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Something I noticed on this one is the theme song for season 3 also got a little bit of a facelift. Still absolutely terrible though. I've been lucky to have the Netflix "skip intro" option available, so didn't notice for the opener.

The spheres are ridiculously cool, and I'll die on that hill.
posted by General Malaise at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

A good dry cider in a large can. Because while the episode is technically very well done, there are all sorts of issues with how the conflict is presented that go against established Star Trek morals, and that's a whole nother kettle of fish. And cider is a wonderful drink for ethical quandaries I think. Maybe pour yourselves another if you want, because the spheres are very cool.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:36 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The spheres are ridiculously cool, and I'll die on that hill.

Yeah, the spheres are pretty cool. They have a very TOS feel too, which is a plus.
posted by mordax at 1:01 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

He also noted that the memorable scene with Archer in the airlock was written by Brannon Braga.

Well, just imagine my shock. I mean, it's not even that Braga is the worst writer that Trek has ever had (he isn't, by a long shot), or that he's solely to blame for the 9/11ification of the show (I doubt it; it's easy to forget how popular 24 was at the time, even though Joel Surnow was repeatedly and willfully wrong about the efficacy of torture). It's that he'll throw something in for an easy, cheap effect, without considering the long-term consequences of it on the show or the franchise in general. This is just the latest of several episodes in which the NX-01 has been attacked by pirates; yeah, the NX-01 still doesn't have shields, therefore probably no effective defenses against either transporter boarding or beaming supplies off (although, if they knew where to board, why not just beam the supplies directly off, instead of risking themselves?), but with all the piracy that they've already experienced, maybe their recent refit could have included more robust sensors, cameras, and/or automated stun phaser turrets in their equipment storage areas. Just a thought. I also recall a VOY episode (maybe this one?) where they were stuck in some weird space phenomenon, only there's the impulse to work together instead of necessarily preying on each other. And, of course, DS9 took a much longer and nuanced look at the pressures and rationalizations of ethics decay under massive, potentially civilization-ending threats. This is a regression, and it's not fun to watch.

But, yeah, the show looks better, so there's that. One of the first shows available in HD at first broadcast, I think.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:26 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is a regression, and it's not fun to watch.

Agreed. Especially because... hm. Trek goes to 'captain goes off the deep end for emotional reasons' from time to time, but most of those stories depict it as bad, and have someone calling the captain out on it.

This all would have been easier to stomach if T'Pol or Phlox or some of the human crew were pushing back on the whole thing. (Reed feels like a good candidate for that too, for that matter, since he's all about proper military discipline.)
posted by mordax at 8:46 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


On that topic, Mrs. CoB & I recently started a DS9 rewatch (because why the hell not), but prior to doing so, we rewatched the TNG episodes that collectively serve as a preamble to DS9 (basically, BoBW + all the Cardassian episodes).

I mention it because this episode made me think of

- my first-watch impression of ENT S3 being that this was ENT trying to be DS9 insofar as it's developing (or trying to develop) a single area in more detail than Trek is known for, and engaging with (or trying to engage with) dark ethical themes.

- the fact that TNG: "Chain of Command" actually got torture right—as with hitting your kids, it's really only about allowing the abuser to indulge base impulses. We can and should condemn ENT S3 for this stuff, and Jack's right that the influence of 24 was almost inescapable, but popular entertainment across the board has been doing torture the way it's done here since wellllll before 9/11, and in fact I'm pretty sure I saw it done in Saturday morning Disney cartoons. It's just one of those bad ideas that hierarchical human societies seem unable to shake.

- the ways in which Trek spinoffs do, or do not, differentiate themselves from the pack in terms of visual and musical style. About the only thing in "Anomaly" that I actively enjoyed and found to be kind of fresh was the music; amusingly, fresh and different music is one of the areas where DS9 tended not to achieve. But also, these past couple of S3 episodes seem more dynamic w/r/t camera movement (in live-action scenes and in CG'ed space maneuverings), and this plus the act breaks being hard cuts rather than TNG-style dissolves has a really pronounced impact that you can fail to consciously notice on first watch, just like the design of the station on DS9. I'm obviously getting a bit into intangibles here, and I don't want to give the impression that I'm praising S3-so-far unduly—I'd call the stylistic changes safe, not bold, but they are at least changes, and not bad ones—but I feel like it might matter a lot more to the "overall feel" of each Trek "chapter" than one might generally be aware of, though I'd say not as much as "types of stories told" or "style of comedy when they decide to do a comedy episode" or the actors' theatricality or, as we have often discussed, the era in which that chapter was made.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mrs. CoB & I recently started a DS9 rewatch

Me too! Must be that time of year. On a side topic, are we going to do a FanFare topic for the new DS9 documentary, What We Left Behind?
posted by Servo5678 at 3:52 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Me too!

Me three! It's starting to get spooky, maybe we should start checking the chirality of our ambient neutrino flux!
posted by traveler_ at 5:52 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would love to have a thread for What We Left Behind; I've just watched it and it's very interesting, not only for what they include but what they didn't. (Much of what isn't in the main documentary is in the deleted scenes extras; in fact, Ira Steven Behr and Nana Visitor come on in the credits and direct people toward the deleted scenes.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

T'Pol seems very tan. I like the sphere, mysterious space objects are good.

Archer is a vacuum-boarder now I guess.

Phlox is bothering me a little too. He won't give trip medication, so he is suggesting new agey shit instead. But he'll give him some abdomen eels bc they have a "natural" sedative. Milk the eels if they're so fucking great, Phlox.
posted by fleacircus at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2019

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