Star Trek: Enterprise: Observer Effect   Rewatch 
March 22, 2020 6:29 AM - Season 4, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Shuttlepod One brings a new, highly contagious virus aboard the Enterprise and… wow, shit timing, FanFare.

Memory Alpha will not depart from protocol:

- Since the galaxy of Star Trek: The Original Series seems to be swarming with non-corporeal beings, the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise decided to implement such a race in one of their episodes again. Furthermore, like the previous episode "Daedalus", "Observer Effect" is a bottle show.

- This is one of the rare episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise which don't feature any credited guest stars, with the credits proceeding straight into the production staff after the opening titles.

- Tucker draws comparisons between his and Sato's situation and the film The Andromeda Strain, which was directed by Robert Wise (director of Star Trek: The Motion Picture).

- The Organians were first introduced in the TOS episode "Errand of Mercy", set over one hundred years after the date of "Observer Effect". Thus, the parting prediction in this episode that they would not make official first contact with Humans for 5,000 years would prove untrue.

- Obviously, Sato speaks German too, as she says, "Ich werde zu spät in die Klasse kommen," ("I will be late for class") when she falls to other languages while sleeping. She is also heard speaking Russian, Spanish, Japanese, French, Turkish, and Arabic.

"Trip, how you feeling?"
"Like I've been gut-punched by a Tellarite."

- Archer and Tucker

"Math is just another language."

- Sato, to Tucker, just before she breaks the lock-out code and exits the decon chamber

"Right now, Enterprise needs a doctor more than it needs a captain!"

- Archer

"No wonder you erase memories. Your behavior is appalling!"

- Phlox, to the Organian observers controlling Archer and T'Pol

"Maybe you've evolved into beings with abilities I can't comprehend, but you've paid a hell of a price. You've lost compassion and empathy – things that give life meaning. And if that's what it takes to be advanced... I don't want any part of it."

- Captain Archer, to the Organian observers animating Sato and Tucker

Poster's Log:
Good teaser scene—nice creepy acting and dialogue. Hoshi gets her first good scenes in, like, thirty episodes—including some of that crew-getting-to-know-each-other stuff that ENT seemed to largely forget to have, especially for the secondary crew. (Is it my imagination, or did we get to know the supporting cast of TOS better in three seasons than ENT's in four?) Good tense music throughout here, too, and pacing-wise they managed to make the last 1/3rd not boring, which is saying something given that the story is medical in nature.

I have only a minor gripe for this one: that humans are apparently so very Special from the Organians' POV. (TV Tropes also points out: "Apparently, sifting through the garbage dump on the planet without wearing any kind of bio-hazard protection gear is a common practice for visitors to the planet. Trip and Hoshi were in their normal uniforms and extremely filthy, making it amazing that they thought they wouldn't contract some kind of infection!")

All the same, it's a cool idea that the Organians' noncorporealness, ability to inhabit corporeals, and memory-editing ability makes for a just about perfect "duck blind" for pre-first-contact observation purposes. Great example of building off of stuff from TOS without being heavy-handed and fan-servicey about it.

All told, I feel like it's a better-than-average bottle show. It may be unfair to say so (since every Trek season 1 is rocky), but had this been an early season 1 show, I might've stuck with ENT on first viewing.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I also probably shouldn't discount the strong possibility that I found the episode more impactful as a result of watching it just as COVID-19 is starting to shut U.S. states down. Case in point: Archer's quasi-Kirk speech kinda got to me a little—made me think of gun-toting, TP-stockpiling, survivalist shitbrains and why I'm not one of them.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This episode is definitely better than I remembered it being, possibly because the multi-part episodes were more canon-intensive and just made a better impression by being longer and more in-depth stories. I'd filed this one mentally with VOY's "Scientific Method" and its own unseen alien scientific observers, although those aliens are more directly interfering with the crew. I liked this one much better because it had the aliens in question actually debating the ethics of what they were doing, suggesting that being intellectually advanced or having superpowers doesn't mean that a given race has necessarily transcended the need for ethical discussions, and may in fact need them more. (See also VOY's "Death Wish", maybe the only really successful Q episode that that series did.) I was also amused that the aliens in question were so involved in these discussions that they didn't stop to think that someone (Phlox) could see them acting uncharacteristically for their hosts. (That the Organians seem to need hosts is a bit of a retcon from "Errand of Mercy", and it also means that their experiment is kind of problematic from the start--their taking over two of their subjects at any given time as meat puppets would (and does) interfere directly with the experiment. But anyway.)

I was quite impressed by the performances here. Archer wasn't shouty for once; you can actually see the diplomat that he's eventually supposed to be. He also had tears in his eyes after talking to Trip in isolation. I was likewise impressed by the amount of (way overdue, I agree) character development given to Hoshi; it also seemed like this was the most dialogue that Anthony Montgomery has had outside of those two long-haul freighter episodes much earlier in the series, even though he was actually playing an Organian most of the time instead of Mayweather.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:30 AM on March 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, WRT Hoshi being able to hack the security on the quarantine chamber, that reminded me of Doug Ramsey in Marvel's The New Mutants (the comic, not the long-delayed movie); he also started out as a sort of living universal translator, and got so good at hacking that he eventually became a sort of symbiote with the title's alien techno-organic being, Warlock.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2020

Ha, for once I watched this on the right day. Then life got in the way so here we are.

Too soon, Enterprise. Oh, this was over a decade ago? Whatever, too soon. Did the first sign have to be coughing?

One nit: We know Hoshi is a master hacker with the math=language skills—she famously hacked the Xindi weapon under duress and drugs(?). She should not have been quarantined in a place that she could have hacked out of. What the hell, Archer?

Okay, if you'll allow another: The experiment, as it were, was about watching the humans. BUT, the most important character (minus Archer, but only kinda) was the doctor, a Denobulan! Kinda hard to to watch them being amazed by how the humans could solve the puzzle when it was really being done by another species. Sure, Archer, the human, was "ethical" or whatever, but anyways.

That said, this was a fun one. Let me also point out that in containment they were fully dressed. It was also nice to finally get back to the second string of the crew, which, imho are great performers, and their relegation to "oh they're also there" is a weakness of this series.

But wait why does Reed speak in an English accent when he's possessed? What do these non-corporeals know if England? Anyways.

It was fun learning new things about Hoshi. It would have been funner to have learned anything about her earlier.

I did make it obvious I liked this episode, right?
posted by General Malaise at 5:40 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was a pretty good episode. This one definitely fits the descritpion of feeling more like a classic Star Trek to me. The hook at the beginning is very good and promises a fun little episode that doesn't need to be thought about very hard.

It was nice to have Hoshi get some screen time, and, sorta, Reed and Mayweather too. I like the implied joke that the reason the bridge crew outside of Trip/T'Pol/Archer have been sitting around and staring without doing anything for the last few episodes is that they are being piloted by alien observers.

I liked the anecdote-swapping; the writing felt pretty solid in this episodes. Hoshi having aikido and hacking skills would be a great thing for her to have had the last three seasons.
posted by fleacircus at 9:57 PM on March 29, 2020

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