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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Affliction”


Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Affliction”

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Rereads/Rewatches Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Affliction”


Published on November 13, 2023


Written by Manny Coto and Michael Sussman
Directed by Michael Grossman
Season 4, Episode 15
Production episode 091
Original air date: February 18, 2005
Date: November 27, 2154

Captain’s star log. At the Qu’vat colony, a scientist named Antaak is conducting experiments under the direction of General K’Vagh. K’Vagh brings in a prisoner, who insists that he see the magistrate, but his protests are ignored as Antaak injects him with something that causes him great pain—and which also makes his cranial ridges disappear…

Enterprise is returning to Earth for the launch of her sister ship, Columbia, and also bid adieu to Tucker, who is transferring to NX-02 to take over as chief engineer. T’Pol confronts Tucker, who insists that he’s not transferring because of her. She looks skeptical, as does everyone in the audience.

Phlox and Sato depart from a meal at Madame Chang’s, which has become much more popular since they last visited Earth, which Sato takes rueful credit for. She spread the word far and wide as only a communications officer can about how fabulous the place is. They’re jumped by some aliens; Sato tries to fight back using the black belt in aikido that we only recently found out she has, but she’s clubbed on the head from behind and the kidnappers take the doctor away. She hears the aliens speak in another language right before she loses consciousness.

Archer and Reed arrive at the scene and talk to the investigating officer for Starfleet Security, Commander Collins. Sato doesn’t remember what the kidnappers said before she fell unconscious. Collins also mentions Phlox’s prior assault in a bar, but Reed recalls them being a bunch of dumb drunks, unlikely to have planned something like this six months later. They also picked up ionization disturbances that could be from a transporter—something not a lot of people have access to.

On Columbia, Tucker is working his new staff pretty hard, to the point that several have requested transfers. Hernandez has denied them, as she needs people. She also gently berates Tucker twice, first for reporting to engineering before reporting to her (he says he wanted to see what the lay of the land was before talking to her) and second for not switching out the patch on his uniform to a Columbia one.

Screenshot: CBS

On Archer’s orders (and with his coaching, since he learned some stuff from Surak’s katra), T’Pol initiates a mind-meld with Sato, which enables her to recall what was said by the attackers. Sato and T’Pol both recognize the language as Rigelian—and, it turns out, a Rigelian freighter left orbit of Earth two hours after Phlox was kidnapped, and its trajectory does not match its flight plan.

Reed tries to check the satellite network over Earth to see if transporter activity was detected in the area, but the grid was down for maintenance right then. When Reed tries to contact Starfleet Operations to ask about that, he instead gets Harris, a black-leather-clad operative for whom Reed used to work. The pair meet in person in San Francisco, where Harris makes it clear that Reed still answers to him, even though he doesn’t work for his “section” anymore (gee, think maybe it’s the thirty-first section????).

Phlox is brought to Antaak by K’Vagh. Antaak and Phlox met at a medical conference, though Antaak was disguised as a Mazarite at the time (Klingon physicians were—perhaps not surprisingly—not invited to the conference). They need Phlox’s help. There is a strain of Levodian flu that is threatening to devastate the empire. They’ve already had to wipe out the population of an entire planet to try to contain the virus. Phlox—who is disgusted at being kidnapped and at the Klingons’ medical practices—initially refuses to be Antaak’s lab assistant. But K’Vagh makes it clear that Antaak is to be his assistant.

On Columbia, Tucker has dinner with Hernandez, who wonders why he changed his mind about leaving Enterprise. He even said in an interview after the Xindi crisis that he couldn’t imagine serving on any other ship. Tucker says he was getting too familiar on Enterprise and while he has friends there, he feels there’s value in working with colleagues instead of friends. This is almost convincing.

On Enterprise, T’Pol is meditating. Mentally, she’s on a virtual plane of existence, one that is basically a big white space. Tucker shows up there, to both of their surprise. He was daydreaming on Columbia. Tucker criticizes her choice in mental vacations, as he thinks it should be a beach in Florida or the Fire Plains on Vulcan.

Screenshot: CBS

Enterprise catches up to the freighter, but it’s been destroyed. All the corpses they find are Rigelian. Reed reports that he can’t identify the signature of the weapons used on the freighter, but we see his viewscreen and know that that’s a lie. Archer orders that the black box be retrieved.

On Qu’vat, Phlox tries to convince Antaak to go public with this and ask for help. The IME would be more than willing to provide resources. Antaak says that they already have the IME’s entire database, which K’Vagh had stolen. K’Vagh brings in a person infected with the virus, but is at Stage 1—it doesn’t become contagious until Stage 3. Antaak moves to euthanize the patient, but Phlox stops him, saying that’s barbaric. While they’re arguing, K’Vagh casually takes out his disruptor and kills the patient, ending the argument.

On Enterprise, Reed contacts Harris on a secure channel and expresses his consternation with lying to his captain, and proposes the notion of reading Archer in on what’s going on. Harris thinks he’s adorable and encourages him instead to tell Archer that Orion raiders hit the Rigelians.

Enterprise comes under attack, cutting short Reed’s conversation. A Klingon ship is attacking them, and a boarding party transports over, all of whom are bereft of cranial ridges. They commit sabotage on the computer, and then most of them retreat; one, Marab, is shot by a MACO, and they have to leave him behind. The Klingon ship warps away; Mayweather is unable to pursue, as helm control is nonresponsive.

Screenshot: CBS

Archer and T’Pol are shocked to realize that, though the prisoner looks human, he is biologically Klingon. Warp drive is down and it will take at least six hours to repair. T’Pol also reports that the black box from the Rigelian freighter has been erased. Archer orders T’Pol and Sato to try to reconstruct the data.

On Qu’vat, Phlox is appalled to realize that there’s human Augment DNA in the flu virus. The other shoe drops: Antaak was trying to create Klingon Augments, using Augment embryos they salvaged from the wreckage of the ship Soong and the Augments stole. K’Vagh says that they couldn’t allow an inferior species (humans) to create super-soldiers. Phlox points out that they were relics of a time before Earth banned genetic engineering, and K’Vagh sneers and says he didn’t believe the Vulcans when they said that, either.

However, the experiments didn’t go well. Initially it was fine, and while the Klingons lost their cranial ridges, they did become stronger and smarter—but then their neural pathways degraded, and they died horrible deaths. One of the test subjects had the Levodian flu and the Augment DNA mutated the virus into this nasty-ass strain that is now threatening to wipe out the Empire. Phlox is more than a little peeved that they left that out of the information they provided him initially.

On Enterprise, while working on the recorder, Sato asks if there are residual effects from the mind-meld, because she had a dream about meeting Tucker in a big white space—basically, exactly what happened when T’Pol meditated and Tucker daydreamt—which disturbs T’Pol a bit, especially since Sato says the dream had a romantic quality to it.

Unfortunately, their investigation reveals that the recorder was erased on Enterprise by a microdyne coupler, which was last accessed by Reed. This leads Archer to have T’Pol double-check Reed’s analysis of the weapons signatures on the freighter, and it turns out to definitely be Klingons, not maybe being Orion, as Reed said. Reed refuses to explain himself, and Archer is forced to throw him into the brig.

On Qu’vat, K’Vagh makes it clear that Phlox has a timetable. The doctor counters that he needs weeks to work on this, but they only have five days before a fleet will arrive to wipe out this colony to contain the virus. (Phlox also points out that they should’ve kidnapped Arik Soong, not him, but Antaak says he was too well guarded to abduct.)

Screenshot: CBS

Antaak suggests sustaining the Augment DNA so that the Klingons who are enhanced don’t die horribly. Succeeding in the original experiment would probably convince the High Council to hold off on wiping the colony out. Phlox, however, refuses to go along with that, and he’s taken away at disruptor-point.

On Earth, Columbia successfully launches from drydock.

On Enterprise, Marab is thrown into the brig next to Reed. Marab tells Reed that he’s lucky to be alive—on a Klingon ship, lying to the captain is punishable by death. Reed also says that he is working toward the same goal as Marab: a cure.

The ship shudders. Apparently Marab and the rest of the boarding party sabotaged the warp drive. The matter/antimatter intermix chamber is malfunctioning. Increasing speed alleviates the pressure on the flow regulators, which are locked open, so Mayweather puts his foot on the gas. But they can’t sustain ludicrous speed for very long…

To be continued…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? If the flow regulators are locked open, the warp core will breach if you drop out of warp, but if you go faster, the pressure is lessened. This is actually rather a spiffy bit of sabotage, akin to that which we saw in the movie Speed

The gazelle speech. Archer gets to coach T’Pol in how to initiate a mind-meld, as he picked up a few things after having a couple of Vulcan katras embedded in his brain meats for four days.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol gets to initiate her first mind-meld and also learns that she and Tucker have a mental link.

Florida Man. Florida Man In Denial Over Why He Requested A Transfer.

Screenshot: CBS

Optimism, Captain! Phlox is kidnapped by Klingons because he was awesome at a conference. He’s willing to work with his kidnappers when it comes to curing Klingons of a deadly flu bug, but draws the line at creating Klingon Augments.

Better get MACO. The MACOs are, as usual, completely ineffectual in repelling boarders, though at least one of them is able to get them a prisoner, at the price of being shot himself.

Also when Reed is tossed in the brig, Archer has a MACO do it rather than a member of Reed’s security staff, which is considerate.

Qapla’! The Klingon High Council is revolted by the notion of human Augments, and want to try to do to themselves what was done to the humans in the past. It doesn’t go particularly well.

We also see Klingon medicine at its worst, as their “quarantine” measures involve utter destruction of all patients. 

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Tucker insists that he’s not transferring off Enterprise because of T’Pol, even though they’re obviously connected enough to be mindlinked.

More on this later… While the phrase “Section 31” is never used in this episode, it’s obvious that the organization that Harris belongs to (and that Reed used to be affiliated with) is supposed to be an early version of that black ops organization introduced in DS9’s “Inquisition,” and seen (sigh) far too often in Trek since.

Also, this two-parter finally provides an explanation for the discrepancy between what Klingons looked like in the original and animated series, and what they have looked like in every other Trek production.

I’ve got faith…

“I don’t know who’s in charge of your mess hall, but he’d give the Chef on Enterprise a run for his money.”

“I stole him from the Republic. Captain Jennings said I could have anything I wanted when I left, so I took his cook.”

–Tucker and Hernandez chatting over dinner in the Captain’s Mess.

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Several Trek veterans are back in this one: John Schuck as Antaak, having previously played a different Klingon, the ambassador in The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, as well as a Cardassian legate in DS9’s “The Maquis, Part II” and a member of the chorus in Voyager’s “Muse.” Eric Pierpoint as Harris, having previously played an Eska hunter in “Rogue Planet,” an Iyaaran in TNG’s “Liaisons,” Captain Sanders in DS9’s “For the Uniform,” and the mythical Klingon figure Kortar in Voyager’s “Barge of the Dead.” Brad Greenquist as the Rigelian kidnapper, having previously played Khata’n Zshaar in “Dawn,” Demmas in Voyager’s “Warlord,” and Krit in DS9’s “Who Mourns for Morn?” And Marc Worden as the doomed prisoner in the teaser, having previously played Worf’s son Alexander in DS9’s “Sons and Daughters” and “You Are Cordially Invited.”

Ada Maris officially makes Hernandez recurring, returning from “Home.” Derek Magyar debuts the recurring role of Kelby. Terrell Tilford plays Marab, Kate McNeil plays Collins, and Seth MacFarlane makes another appearance as an engineer being ordered around by Tucker, though it’s unclear whether or not he’s the same unfortunate who got chewed out by Tucker in “The Forgotten.”

And finally, the great James Avery plays K’Vagh, and the amazing thing is that it took so long to cast him as a Klingon, as he’s perfect in every way.

Shuck, Avery, Maris, Pierpoint, and Tilford will return in “Divergence” next time. Magyar will return in “Bound.”

Trivial matters: This is the first of a two-parter that will conclude in “Divergence,” and was specifically done to address the discrepancy between how Klingons looked in screen productions made between 1967 and 1974 and how they looked in all screen productions made since 1979.

Tucker requested a transfer to Columbia at the end of “The Aenar.”

Phlox was previously attacked while visiting Earth in “Home.” That episode also established that Madame Chang’s was Phlox’s favorite source of egg drop soup, and Sato went there on the doctor’s recommendation.

Collins says that assaults against aliens are rare, a statement belied by both Phlox’s previous assault in “Home” and the events forthcoming in “Demons” and “Terra Prime.”

Sato was established as having a black belt in aikido in “Observer Effect.”

Archer held the katras of both Syrran and Surak for several days from the end of “The Forge,” through to “Awakening” and “Kir’Shara.”

T’Pol took Tucker to the Fire Plains on Vulcan in “Home.”

The Klingon ship stolen by the Augments was blown up over Qu’vat in “The Augments.”

Antaak references the Hur’q invasion, which was established as a long-ago event in which Kronos was pillaged in DS9’s “The Sword of Kahless.”

Hernandez’s previous assignment, the Republic, appears in The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm by Michael A. Martin.

This is the first time Section 31 has appeared outside of DS9. But it will continue to appear on this show, in Star Trek Into Darkness, and on both Discovery and Picard for no compellingly good reason.

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “Given the choice between honor and saving lives, I choose the latter.” On the one hand, this two-parter doesn’t have any particularly good reason to exist. I’ve never had much patience with storylines that try to explain something in-universe that has a very good out-of-the-box explanation. And honestly, the previous time they addressed the discrepancy between original/animated series Klingons and all the other Klingons, in DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations,” was, to my mind, sufficient. Worf just said, “It is a long story” and “We do not discuss it with outsiders,” and that’s it. That’s all we needed.

Having said that, unlike some other examples of this breed—like TNG’s “The Chase”—this is a genuinely compelling story. If they did have to come up with an explanation for smooth-headed Klingons, having it be the result of trying to create Klingon Augments based on the genetically engineered humans was, frankly, a stroke of genius.

And the storyline created around it is genuinely compelling. Honestly, the whole storyline is worth it to have three actors of the calibre of John Billingsley, John Schuck, and James Avery in a room together for large chunks of it. Avery in particular is magnificent, bringing a calm and efficient brutality to the role of K’Vagh.

Ada Maris gives us in Hernandez a wonderful shipmaster. I love how even-tempered and friendly she is without ever once losing her authority or command presence. It’s a magnificently low-key charismatic performance, continuing the good work she did in “Home.” Honestly, given how lackluster Scott Bakula has been in the role of Archer all this time, one longs for the alternate universe where the NX-01 was commanded by Hernandez as played by Maris.

The episode loses points for the insertion of Section 31 bullshit. Leaving aside that the whole concept of 31 is idiotic and a blight on the franchise that has metastasized into a cancer (though I will admit to it making more sense on twenty-second-century Earth than it does in the twenty-fourth-century Federation), it’s just there to pad out the plot and create artificial conflict between Archer and Reed.

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be an author guest at Philcon 2023, where he and Wrenn Simms will have the official launch of their anthology The Four ???? of the Apocalypse, which they’re publishing through their very-small press, WhysperWude. Several of the authors who contributed to the anthology will be present as well, and it will be part of the eSpec Books/WhysperWude launch party Saturday night at the con. Keith and Wrenn will also have a table in the dealer room where they’ll be selling and signing Keith’s books, as well as some of Wrenn’s craft items. Keith’s full schedule can be found here.

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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