Summary: The crew’s personal hobbies spiral into obsession as the Enterprise spirals towards a black hole. The origin of the Red Alert revealed.
“Singularity” is a well told sci-fi oriented second season episode in the vein of “Dead Stop” with resemblances to the style of the Original Series. From its shocking opening, “Singularity” jettisons Enterprise’s often drearily linear storytelling for a series of flashbacks told from the perspective of T’Pol on a ship where the crew is either unconscious or insane. Like the first half of “Dear Doctor,” the flashbacks serve to give us a sense of how an ordinary day proceeds on Enterprise, which is important on board a starship that far too often seems deserted by all but the regulars. The radiation is a plausible enough plot device, considering how lightly Enterprise is shielded and the ‘Serotonin’ reference suggests that at least some effort is being made in proofing the science, after “Marauders”‘s deuterium oil wells and “Communicator”‘s magic invisibility dust.
The ‘diseased crew’ episode is a conventional enough standby story to which innumerable Star Trek episodes from every series have been dedicated. from TOS’s “This Side of Paradise” to Voyager’s “Macrovirus” with notable low points along the way like TNG’s “Genesis.” But where such episodes usually focus on the search for a cure resulting in rather predictable stories, “Singularity” focuses on the crew’s usual idiosyncrasies spiraling out of control into lunacy, producing a story about a disease whose effects are personalized and character-oriented. Dr. Phlox’s usual scientific curiosity turns him into a mad scientist ready to lobotomize Mayweather to discover the reason for his headache. Reed’s insecurities drive him to turn the ship into a police state and Trip’s gadgetry spirals out of control. Archer and Hoshi are not given particularly interesting topics to stage mental breakdowns around, but then nothing Archer could do would top his breakdown in “A Night in Sickbay” and it’s hard to imagine an interesting topic for a Hoshi breakdown anyway.
T’Pol, who has been filling the Spock role of being trapped on a ship full of illogical humans, quickly finds herself in a Vulcan’s worst nightmare: actually being trapped on a ship full of out of control and emotionally unstable humans. While the crew’s breakdown is entertaining, T’Pol’s solution comes a little too easily as with some cold water and a little shaking, she manages to get through to Archer, convince him of the problem and enlist his cooperation. The basic idea serves as an effective way of following up on the events of “The Seventh” with T’Pol now in the trusted position, but considering the fact that Archer is rarely that easy to convince even while sane and the crew up to now had been completely unwilling to listen to reason, T’Pol and Archer team up together too easily and from there it’s just a matter of watching the pretty special effects on the viewscreen.
In the meantime, the revelation of the genesis of the famous ‘Red Alert’ is a light and entertaining piece that unlike some of Enterprise’s previous attempts to cut and paste continuity with the rest of the Star Trek universe, is actually realistically and organically, if still a bit self-consciously, developed. The irony is that most of Reed’s suggestions, even when he’s out of his mind, are still good ideas. If half of Reed’s ideas had been implemented on Starfleet vessels from this point forwards, any alien wouldn’t have been able to waltz through two Enterprises and one Voyager whenever they pleased on a weekly basis.
Archer’s chair project, on the other hand, smacks of the same unproffesionalism in which Archer orders Trip to fix the squeak in his floor in “Dead Stop.” They may be good friends, but it’s still ridiculous for the Captain to summon his engineer from his duties in engineering to make adjustments to his furniture that any other maintenance personnel could do for him. I don’t recall Captain Kirk ordering Scotty to fix his chairs or Captain Picard summoning LaForge to his quarters to take care of that squeak in the floor. And really, Archer is humanity’s first real Starship Captain. He is descended from one of the most brilliant scientist’s in earth’s history. Can’t he figure out how to do what anyone cubicle monkey can, adjust the height of his chair?
Like Phlox’s reference to Mayweather’s neural implants, the foreword to the biography of Archer’s father is a good piece of continuity as well as a way of letting us know that there is a world outside of Enterprise. It would have been nice to let us know why Archer was so initially conflicted about writing it, however. Perhaps he does feel some ambiguity about his father’s legacy after all. Since the focal points of the instability for each individual are so personal, it would have been nice if they tied in more neatly with existing issues for the characters. For instance, why did preparing that particular home dish produce that sort of emotional resonance in Hoshi? Certainly the ‘disgracing my family’ reference is outdated for 20th century Japan, let alone 21st century Japan. In Jeff Greenwald’s book on Star Trek, ‘Future Perfect’, Japanese fans comment on how outdated Keiko’s memory of traditional calligraphy in “Violations” was by modern Japanese cultural standards. A similar criticism might be made of Hoshi’s characterization in this episode. Perhaps post-war Japan had become more traditional, but in failing to deal with how Earth has changed from the present day and pretending that it is just like the 20th century except that everyone gets along with each other, the episode squanders opportunities for creativity and interrupts the otherwise well-constructed universe of the story.
All in all, “Singularity” is another good second season Enterprise episode based around a solid character oriented story.
Next week: Vanishing Point. And no the title doesn’t refer to Enterprise’s vanishing ratings.