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4-16 Divergence

reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley

Overall this second part of what's unofficially known as the "Klingon Forehead Arc" was about as good as the first part. The reservations I had about the issue, that I wrote about in the Affliction review, remains. I won't bother to repeat them here. The execution was very good and some scenes where just awesome. Still, the unnecessary fanboyish element makes me deduct some points, as are some unexplained plot holes, which I will return to. So Divergence, as the first part, gets a grade of 8 on a 10 grading scale from me.

The resolution to the forehead issue was a foregone conclusion. Of course they couldn't have smooth looking Klingons be augments, so that Phlox came up with a cure that left the survivors ridgeless but un-augmented came as no big surprise. One is left wondering exactly how many Klingons were affected, since by the 23rd century (pre-movies) all we see are smooth foreheads. But it is never stated that the entire Klingon population looses their ridges. Will the smoothies, sick of being ridiculed, perform a coup d'etat? And exactly when and how will they return the ridges? Only a couple of years after the original series we see the ridges again (in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Even previous smooth-heads (Kor, Koloth and Kang) will sprout ridges at some point. Meh, this mess is all DS9's fault. Had they not shown previous smooth-heads with ridges and had they not made the Trouble with Tribbles tribute episode this wouldn't have been an issue at all. But from the events in this arc I can see why Worf said "It's not something we discuss". It is quite embarrassing, but not so embarrassing as the fannish obsession that went so far as to influence the producers to address it. Woops, it seems I repeated some of my reservations after all! Oh, well…

Section 31 becomes explicit here when the shady operative Harris refers to Starfleet Charter, Article 14, Section 31. I suppose some canonatics will scream "foul" and claim that there's no such thing prior to the establishment of the Federation Starfleet. I don't really care. I've always assumed that the United Earth Starfleet gradually turned into the Federation Starfleet, not that a different Starfleet was created the moment the Federation was founded in 2161. The Royal Navy existed both as an English navy and as the navy of the United Kingdom.

No, what bothered me about Section 31 in this episode were their motivations and actions. We are told that Starfleet needs a stable Klingon Empire. Why? Wouldn't a fractured Klingon "Empire" be less of a threat to Earth than a stable and thus more united one? A Russia torn apart by inner strife is less of a threat than a unified Soviet Union. Sure it would be chaotic and a bit unpredictable at times but that can me managed. A monolithic super power is something completely different. It's rather moronic to think you can manage and contain a large and powerful dictatorship. Maybe it's a learning experience (especially since Klingon Fleet Admiral Krel did double-cross Harris on no uncertain terms)?

And what about the augments? Did Section 31 have a hand in giving the Klingons the augment DNA? Are they smarter than they seem and deliberately afflicted the Klingons with the smoothie genes? But how could they believe that smoothie genes would make the Klingon Empire more stable? One would think the opposite would happen when smoothies fight it out with the ridgies! One thing is certain though and that is, as Harris said, that the Klingon won't experiment with augment DNA again anytime soon. Was that their goal? If so, did Section 31 enter the picture only after they learned of the plague? They allowed for the abduction of Dr Phlox, but could they really be certain that Phlox would come up with a cure, or that he even would refuse to help create Klingon augments? What if the only way to save the afflicted Klingons had been to augment them? Wouldn't Phlox's ethics then compel him to carry on? There's just to many variables and unanswered questions here to make this a satisfactory resolution.

Another stupid thing with Section 31's actions here is that Harris seems perfectly willing to allow for the destruction of the Enterprise, and probably even the Columbia. He says as much when he speaks to Krel that he was perfectly content if the Klingon boarding party had succeeded in blowing up the ship. But if Section 31 is dedicated to the safety of Earth above all else, why would he even consider that the destruction of the two fastest and most powerful Earth vessels? The Xindi threat if anything would clearly spell out the need for such vessels. Without the NX-01 and NX-02 Earth would be practically naked and quite defenceless. I don't buy the "learning curve" argument since this is just common sense.

One who really shines in this episode is Phlox. John Billingsley makes a strong performance and it's too bad that his character has been rather underused in the series. This shows that he's capable of great acting. Phlox can be good-natured and funny but he can also show great anger. It really is bad that the cancellation means that we won't see much more of him and the Denobulan civilization. It would've made some very interesting stories. His scenes with Antaak (John Schuck) were also very good. Both actors played off each other very well and you could see the mutual respect and even friendship develop between them.

I didn't care that much for the way Archer portrayed his anger towards Reed. It seemed forced and stilted. Whether that's because of the writing, directing or Scott Bakula's acting I'm not sure. It could be Bakula since I've never really bought his portrayal of Angry Archer. Dominic Keating was much better as the security officer with conflicted loyalties. As in the previous episode, his pain is visible and the audience can really feel it.

While Reed the secret agent is an interesting story, one is left wondering why this is the first time Section 31 has used him since he came onboard Enterprise. Surely there must've been numerous other situations during the past years when they could've needed his services better than doing some cover-up of the smoothie plague? And will we see more of agent Reed - or Harris for that matter - before the series ends?

Trip couldn't stay away from his old engines (and his Vulcan gal) for long. The Columbia's first mission is to get Trip back to Enterprise so he can use his engineering skills to fix the run away engines, something his replacement Kelby can't manage. The Trip space walk between the two ships while at high warp was awesome. It was really beyond cool! Having the ships go belly-to-belly and EVA Trip hauling himself on a tether between them was a novel idea (much like using the grappler to cripple an enemy ship, and the Archer airlock blow-out and transport from The Augments were). This is the kind of ingenuity I like to see.

It was really nice to see Trip and T'Pol working together again. They do that so well (well they do a lot of things well together too). It was fun to see the return (somewhat) of their banter and bickering. I've really missed that. And seeing T'Pol's thinly veiled attempt to pry any information from Trip was cute. ("You haven't been experiencing any problems? Adjusting to new food? New routines? Trouble sleeping?") I bet they both have trouble sleeping, what with invading each other's minds and everything! For all the iteration from Captain Hernandez that she need her chief engineer back, she sure don't mind him staying put on Enterprise for a while in the end. Maybe she realizes that Trip has some unresolved issues with a certain science officer. And from the look on his face after T'Pol follows Trip from the Situation Room, Archer does know that there's something going on between them. T'Pol seems not to unhappy with the fact that Trip is staying put. But poor Kelby here, he just can't catch a break!

The award for funniest line in the episode goes to Marab, the Klingon smoothie in the brig, when he says: "It's dead! I can't eat that!"

Anyway, a decent episode even for all its flaws. Imagine if the flawed episodes from the first two seasons had been written and executed like this - then the show would probably not have been cancelled!

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Two folks have made comments

why no review for allfiction??

Sorry, that was my fault. I forgot to change the status from "draft" to "publish."