Synopsis: Columbia and Enterprise team up to rescue Phlox.
Review: In retrospect, it seems as if “Divergence” and “Affliction” would have made stronger episodes if they were aired together as one large two-parter, the way some TNG and VOYAGER episodes have been in the past. While it’s an entertaining episode, “Divergence” is following up on far too much of the plot “Affliction” set into place to be as strong on its own.
Columbia’s rescue of Enterprise is probably ENT’s best use of ship and character-based special effects since “Minefield” and arguably surpasses it. It also has the sense of adventure and excitement that ENT has been sorely lacking for some time. Indeed the scene is spectacular enough that even on its own it’s likely to be remembered for some time.
Phlox, arguably the show’s best character and who has been all too often neglected, has gotten a much needed focus in “Affliction” and “Divergence” and it seems fitting that he is the one offering the ultimatum to the Admiral, rather than Archer. Not just because using biological weapons seems a bit of a stretch for Starfleet (though not so much of one considering “For The Uniform”) but because it lets Phlox shine in a completely unexpected scene that would have been a cliche had it featured Archer.
Trip’s sulking is, however, still tedious but at least it’s understated now and for once we actually get to see why he’s considered a great chief engineer in one of the more exciting engineering crisis scenes since Scotty was drinking and powering up warp engines on the old Enterprise (no bloody A,B,C,D or E). This is all the more of an accomplishment considering ENT’s rather boring warp engine, which unlike the spectacular lava lamp engines of TNG and VOY is really nothing to look at. The Director of the episode also appears to be experimenting with smash zooms that are somewhat cliched as a technique but bring a little life to the action scenes.
The sense of galactic politics and scale isn’t nearly as strong in “Divergence” with a lot of the material losing steam along the way and becoming reduced to individual character conflicts. Still, Reed’s moral dilemma is well played even if it’s not quite as gripping as it should be. The plot involving the Klingon general and his son is as hopeless as Archer’s brow ridges. Archer, meanwhile, once again in two months risks his life to expose himself to a virus for the greater good. There simply have been a few too many stories in which Archer is ready to give his life in suicidal actions and it’s almost as if he has a death wish by now.
Archer’s role in the episode is really nothing too spectacular, especially considering that his best moment of the episode involves talking to his dog. Bakula himself may look back proudly on his ENT acting days if he chooses to, but the scene of him writhing with the virus won’t be one of them. Instead it’s one of the unintentionally funniest bits of the series. His brow ridges though seem like a nice TOS reference to James Kirk’s Romulan ears, left over from “The Enterprise Incident.”
And it is scenes and references like that, which tell you that even if Manny Coto’s season four doesn’t always get it right, its heart is in the right place and so is “Divergence”‘s spirit. While the episode falters in places it is ultimately a work of love and a valentine to STAR TREK. It should be remembered as one.
Next week: Temporal incursions better known as reruns.