33: Singularity – Star Trek Enterprise Season 2, Episode 9

Matt and Sean talk about red alerts, Reed alerts, and where to put that cup holder. Oh, and what to do when flying through a black hole.

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Hey, everybody welcome to trek in time. This is the podcast that takes a look at star trek in order and in history what we’re doing is we’re taking a look at each episode of and of star trek in chronological order which means we are currently in season 2 of enterprise which in the Trek universe. Are the oldest stories and we’re taking a look at how things were at the time of the original broadcast of these episodes. So we’re currently in the year two thousand and two who are we I’m Sean Farrell I write write some sci-fi books for adults I write some stuff for younger readers as well and with me as my brother Matt he’s the guru and inquisitor behind the Youtube channel undecided with Matt Farrell which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives Matt how are you today I’m doing okay.
I’m very good. How about you.
I’m excited to talk about this episode which I thought was an interesting balance of tension and humor and did I thought a and ah a good job of balancing the 2 of making what was a legitimate threat seem almost.
Um, yeah.
Funny at various times before we get into that. Don’t forget you can directly support the podcast you can go to trekintime show. You’ll find a link there that allows you to support us directly even if you’re not able to do that and you’re just able to listen and share us with your friends. We appreciate that as well. All of that really does help. Ah, channel Matt I understand you’ve got some listener comments to share.
Um, yes I do one comment from Aj Chan on the last episode which was marauders instead of klingons and writers instead of klingons. The writers could have introduced the brien as the bullies because of their bulky suits. That’s why to Paul’s duck and roll maneuver actually works so well. The firetruck would also be more terrifying to a species that needs cold so that’s why they don’t return and I I liked that and then my favorite part was the follow up response to aj from sujoy was you’re totally getting quoted in the next upload I predict. Cheers. So sujoy, you’re correct and a J Chan I like that.
It does make more sense and the slow motion fighting that everybody seems to be doing would make a lot more sense. What’s your take on that.
Ah I Really like I Really like both those comments First of all I agree having an enemy like the brain where their threats could be something that makes up for their bulk and slow moving nature. So.
They could be coming in with weapons or in some way their threat could be really existential for this colony and then and then as is pointed out duck and roll maneuvers would be fine in that context. Wouldn’t be looking at it and saying like we’ve seen episodes of next generationation where klingons are eviscerating each other duck and roll is not going to be enough so head tip to both of those commenters. Those are both spot on Today. We’re going to be talking about the episode singularity.
And Matt do you want to share a synopsis of this episode this is again directly from Wikipedia and short and to the point talk about singularities.
The crew obsesses over trivial matters when they explore a black hole in a trinary star system and succumb to its radiation I Got to say the past few of these have actually been really good.
Yeah I would like to think that somebody who is an editor of Wikipedia listens to this podcast and heard us making fun of them and has moved through the enterprise episodes and has been slowly revising them to get ahead of us because yeah, they they got much better and they’ve stopped.
Ah, to get ahead of us.
Doing things like including the fact that enterprise is a tv show with a sci-fi bent by Gene Rod and Mary like it. It removed all that stuff which didn’t belong in a synopsis and actually kind of distills the episode down to its bare bones. This episode was directed by Patrick Norris it was written by Chris Black and aired on November Twentieth Two thousand and two part of my brain just wants to launch immediately into 2022 so you’re gonna hear me talk like this when I say dates. This episode was viewed by four point eight million viewers so it’s staying about level with previous episodes and at the time of its broadcast Matt you were still shaking your booty to underneath it all I know it’s one of your favorites. Can see the glint in your eye even now yes and in the movie theaters. Well a little film called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets had released guess what.
It’s on repeat as we speak.
Its placement in the box office was that’s right, it was number one and it would go on to make a paltry eight hundred and seventy nine million dollars in the box office I wonder why they just had a anniversary get together.
Cheese. Wow.
For Harry Potter yeah
Broadcast on Hbo for this. Do nothing franchise. Side note if anybody out there is also a Harry Potter fan I really enjoyed the hbo get together anniversary celebration. It was touching.
As good.
In a very nice way of mainly focusing on not the the writerly aspects the rowling of it all. It’s focused on the actors and the filmmakers and showing the relationships between the directors and.
Cast and the cast the the network of relationships between them and it really kind of highlights. One of the things that came out of it that I really enjoyed was how it highlights the main 3 who were obviously children when they started making these. Really went into it without a full understanding of the caliber of british actors they were going to be working with so they’re surrounded by people like Helena Bonham Carter and learning as they got older. Oh my god I’m I’m working with.
People of these legends in British theater and film and how they really kind of had to deal with a sudden realization of the stage that they were on and the pressures that put on them.
Legends. Yeah.
And I thought that the documentary did a very nice job and I call it a documentary because it is both an anniversary celebration and an investigation into what those relationships were like and I thought it was for the nostalgic bone in your body.
It really does a good job of of getting to that meanwhile on television. Well Csi watch this week. It was not csi surprise surprise the number 1 show on television. This week was friends with 26000000 people. It’s always a shock. To see Tv shows getting 26000000 viewers when Tv viewership now is a very different monster and in the news on this day November Twentieth Two thousand and two the New York Times headlines included the senate votes.
Yeah, it is.
90 to 9 to set up a homeland security department geared to fight terrorism the senate voted today to reorganize broad elements of a scattered federal government around a focused response to terrorism approving the creation of a huge department of homeland security in Washington’s biggest transformation in 50 years ending months of rancorous debate on the new department. The senate approved the bill on a 90 to 9 vote that hid some misgivings many Democrats said they still harbored about president Bush’s design for the agency only after urgent phone calls from president and last minute promises by republican leaders to eliminate several special interest business provisions. Wavering moderates from both parties agree to the final vote and of course the legacy of the homeland security department hasn’t stopped since the passage of this bill and the creation of it and how it has gone on to not necessarily be about fighting terrorism. But becoming a large and bureaucratic monolithic law enforcement agency that is focused more intently on things going inside the United States as opposed to outside.
So this episode singularity starts in August of 21 52 and we find the crew on their way to explore a black hole. Which is nestled within a trinary star system. So. It’s a very unusual system with multiple stars and a black hole all clustered together. But when we see the ship. It doesn’t seem to be a pleasurable visit to this trinary system. Everybody aboard is unconscious and we are told the story in effectively flashback and I’m wondering Matt I gave my overall thoughts about how the episode balances humor and tension and I thought it did a good job I will admit to. And extreme confusion around why this was the means of telling this story this to Paul’s log seemed odd and not very.
Helpful given that she was including in this log things to which she had no firsthand experience.
Yes, that I will grant you but just from the pure mechanics of showing everybody unconscious as the hook to start the show and then go back and tell you how you got there. That’s very that’s commonplace but we see it all the time in every show That’s ever been made.
Um, so it’s like for that that part of it. It didn’t bother me at all the parts where she’s describing things that she clearly would have had no firsthand first hand knowledge of is problematic but um, not to give away my overall opinion which I’m about to give away I did like this episode. It’s like.
Um, yeah.
Those those issues I just glossed right over because they’re so minor in the grand scheme of things about how the episode escalates like when the show when they go start going back and starting from the very beginning and the conversations you’re having with people feel normal ish but just a little off. Which I really enjoyed and each interaction with each character gets progressively weirder to the point where I think it’s when you’re talking to um the doctor when um Travis goes to the doctor because he’s got a headache and looking for help and the doctor is clearly irritated as hell that Travis just came in.
When he finds out. It’s just a headache. He’s like really like clearly gone by the numbers of like oh geez here we go again and it was it was like so out of character that by the time you get to there. It’s like okay, something’s really wrong here. I love the the subtle escalation of that which is part of the reason why. I can forgive the you know to Paul log issues of the way they went back and told the story.
Right? It seemed like they introduced the to Paul log and wow that’s a phrase I never thought I would ever utter on this podcast to Paul’s log they introduce it as a way of avoiding.
To pauls log.
Simply saying two days earlier dot dot dot and which is what they I think they should have done. Yeah, um because they’ve introduced that as a part of the story in a way that it kept interrupting I had like you I was willing to forgive it. But it’s.
Yeah, which they should have done. They should just done that.
Harder to forgive when it keeps interrupting the ongoing Narrative. So The best kinds of loopback storytelling where you want to bookend the the heart of the story with attention filled moment are the ones where. Gives you a glimpse of the horror to come but by the time you then get there. You forget that you’ve already seen it. This does not do that and I think that that’s a mistake on the part of the the writers and.
Right? and.
They could have shown the crew completely incapacitated and then started the episode with two days earlier and then by the time we get to the point where they’re incapacitated. We likely would have forgotten that we knew that was coming. We would have gotten there and been like oh right? This is how it all this is where it all started as opposed to this which.
On multiple occasions shows to Paul walking around her cab and narrating this leaving me to think. Okay, first of all, ah, 1 of the biggest issues for me around that is it’s distracting for me as a viewer. It’s reminding me. Something I didn’t like from the beginning but also it doesn’t make sense within the context that she’s taking time away from trying to find a solution to spending how much time in our cabin just saying like let me tell you all a story in case, this ever gets found that doesn’t seem very that doesn’t seem very vulcan that seems that seems ah. A little illogical to me. But ultimately as Matt pointed out in his response I liked this episode quite a bit for it’s a type of story. We’ve seen before which is something is happening to the crew and it is. Creating tension and friction in ways that highlights the normal smooth operating and we’ve seen this in trek and other yeah sci-fi shows have used this as a as a storytelling mechanism before I think you. Is okay to be reused in different series in this way because you have different characters so you have different opportunities for different moments for me the heart of this one is as you’ve pointed out flocks which becomes effectively. It becomes a.
Yeah, yep.
Yeah, a monster. Yeah, it’s body horror.
It becomes a horror story of he is going to he is going to dissect mayweather’s brain in order to determine why he has raised levels of serotonin and one of the things that they did not. Ah.
They didn’t cross every T they didn’t dot every I in this form he is looking for causes of heightened levels of serotonin heightened levels of serotonin would create intense focus on details in this way. Serotonin levels are what ah are adjusted in people who struggle with add and the medications they take are to help regulate the serotonin levels So an overabundance of that an increasing ever increasing level of that and the D The the fact that they’re all debilitated by it. Is effectively as if they’re all on some level overdosing on adderall or something like that where the intensity of focus the inability to let go and eventually becoming Ill as a result of that is something.
Yeah yep, yep.
Related to the serotonin and I actually kind of appreciated the fact that there was no looping back to the doctor saying ah the serotonin and let me tell you about serotonin and here’s what happened with Serotonin It was just in there as a fact that if you knew these things you the viewer could connect it. But ultimately you didn’t need to have that to also understand you didn’t need that.
Um, you didn’t need to know what’s the point you bring up I think is a great one which is the we’ve seen this before this basic structure before numerous times and numerous shows. But it’s always comes down to the individual characters that make it interesting and. That’s the part about this I liked I’m always big on I like it when I see character development in Star Trek Character Development Star Trek and this episode is doing that like yoshi in the kitchen becoming obsessed with making her like Grand Grandmother’s recipe perfect reads obsession with setting up the the.
Yeah, nice comedic, Nice comedic callbacks. Yeah.
The alert system and I I got to bring this up. Yes, my wife and I when this show first aired so back in 22002 almost did the same thing you did 2022 back in 2002 when my wife and I both watched this episode for the first time we were laughing so hard at the the point where trip suggests.
Calling it read alert after read she and I make that joke to each other still today. It’s like a running joke with the 2 of us talking about read alert making that joke. So it’s like for me like you pointed out the humor of it and the tension of it.
Is so character specific. It gives us a deep dive on that character and it takes a character flaw of that person and drives really deep and it’s really interesting to see how that all comes together for the doctor for Travis because Travis is like I don’t say he’s like a puppy dog. He’s just like a very.
Like a labrador. It’s like he just he’s a good guy wants to do the right thing he he’s always trying to do the right thing and please the people around him. He’s a people pleaseer and he’s just going along with the doctor as the doctor is progressively doing more and more stuff because he respects the doctor and it’s just gonna do what he’s being told and then you have yoshi? yeah.
Yeah. And at the same time He has the nice tension about I’m going to be court marsialed because he’s afraid of upsetting the captain and it’s so it’s it’s doing a lovely job with that and the balancing between.
Yeah, correct.
The horror aspects of the doctor progressively getting more aggressive and disconnected from his patient is as we’ve talked about before with flocks. He has a little bit of a disconnect. He always has that and this is a natural magnification of that and they also clearly have set up that mayweather.
Is a person who sees himself in the hierarchy of Command and he takes that very seriously he knows he has a job to do in a role to play so they’ve magnified that they’ve taken read in all the previous episodes where he has said we need more order and organization aboard this ship.
And he’s put Len it all together. He’s put it together. Yep.
And now suddenly he’s wearing a side arm in I mean the the scene between him and to Paul is similar to the scene between flocks and mayweather there’s a moment where it if he had drawn the phaser and stunned to Paul. It would not have been surprising in this in the context of this episode. Think that’s a really great bit of writing around him and the demonstration of the episode doing a very interesting job with all of the pieces that are the result. Of this hyper focus on nitty-gritty details in some cases tap into things that become standard operating procedure. The fact that they have this very and I will cut to the to the end of the episode. We have another Mcguffin like we did last week.
Getting through the trinary system in the black hole is ultimately just a needless a needless element. The the actual route that the ship would have been taking to approach the system. Mayweather never would have set a course that would delete them directly toward the center of this system.
No, that wasn’t what was that’s not what was happening. That’s what she ended up doing to get through quicker that was the whole thing so they were going around it and she had to cut through it.
Right? right? But it’s but still I think that an exploratory approach would have been at a tangential angle to begin with like this is it’s setting up an element as a as a moment of danger and the idea that the radiation is. Less dense at a point in the middle of this system like okay like I don’t like that’s all, you’re setting up this thing just to become the harrowing danger of the moment I get that I’m able to forgive all of that. Because you then end up with this great sequence of them flying through a debris field and it’s reed’s setting up this system without authorization but setting up a system that saves the day because his read alert.
Saves the day.
Automatically does things to polarize the plating bring weapons online all of that is automated so that when they have that moment of like it’s going to take too long for the phasers to be brought up and then she discovers they’re already activated and and nearly comatose captain archer mutters fire. It’s. It creates a moment of of a legitimate linking in to the larger star trek history in a way that I think is very effective I also like you with read alert I couldn’t help it every time it was said I heard it in Rikers voice I heard riker yelling read alert.
Yeah, yeah.
And in a way that just made me chortle every time I heard it.
Well, there’s there’s another plot element that happened in this that is we’ve seen before or 2 numerous times and it was how everybody basically ends up unconscious and only to Paul the lone person has to get the ship to safety. Ah I just saw this ah the newest season of. http://startrekdiscovery has an episode not to give anything away but something happens on the episode where the ship is in horrible danger and 1 person has to remain in a special suit on the bridge to try to help navigate it through whatever’s going on and all the other people are basically put into the transporter buffer to keep them safe. And so it’s like we’ve seen this before on other star trek shows and I thought it was funny I watched that one and then immediately the next day I’m watching this episode and I was like well this feels familiar but it the.
Yeah I was reminded of of the episode of voyager where the emergency medical Hologram becomes the emergency Command Hologram in order to be able to take the ship.
Out of danger I was reminded of multiple episodes of next generation where data is the sole member of the crew who knows what’s going On. There is the wonderful episode and of next generation where everybody on board. The ship wakes up and their memories have been altered so that they don’t know who they are. And there’s an additional person on the bridge that none of them know shouldn’t be there but we the viewer do so this kind of ah setting up a scenario where everybody has to kind of organically figure out how to interact with everybody and the tensions between the crew members.
In this episode like some of it’s very subtle. You mentioned Sado is in the kitchen. She’s working hard to perfect the recipe. The guy she’s working with is becoming fixated in his own way around the fact that there’s crew members Waiting. He’s literally following her around the kitchen repeating the same thing over and over again in that scenario. Yeah yeah, he’s not in this scenario. Normal quote unquote and she’s having a problem. She’s having a problem. She’s not letting go of the recipe.
there’s there’s 25 people waiting. There’s 25 people waiting.
He’s having a problem too. He on his own isn’t able to go back to those people and say look look. Let me give you this food. Let me give you this sandwich. Let me like he’s not taking command in a way that makes sense either. So there’s a very subtle touch there. The fact that to Paul is the only 1
Who remains unaffected and again they don’t go into the details of like does a vulcan not have serotonin does a Vulcan not have the part of the brain that the humans have that that caused this issue Why does flocks also get affected if aliens other than Humans wouldn’t be affected. They don’t go into all of that. That’s not.
Um, they do.
Important what’s important is the opportunity to show to Paul in that moment of needing help and going to archer the pinnacle of the show. The the pressure point for this story is her trying to get somebody who is completely incapacitated. Arguably the least important thing aboard the ship even trip with his focus on the captain’s chair and figuring out a command chair some of the elements of which again like read some of the elements that he suggests are elements that you see in the future.
Are good suggestions. Yeah yep.
You see Captain Picard able to command the enterprise through his chair. He’s able to actually fly the ship through his chair but these are first introduced in the hyper fixation of trip. But even that is connected to the reality.
Of life aboard the enterprise archer is the one who is exhibiting the least important fixation. He’s trying to write a ah document about his father. It has nothing to do with life aboard the enterprise it has nothing to do with the importance of their mission or staying alive in the scenario. So. Creating that tension between to Paul the one who is not affected and the person who is the most pulled out of what the day-to-day reality of the enterprise is is a great tension and it includes what I thought was an intentional callback to the wrath of con.
This is.
When she gets him into the shower and you have this conversation taking place on either side of a glass partition. She even puts her hand on the glass so that you end up it seemed very deliberate and it seemed like this again. The Pseudo humor in this episode I thought was.
Yeah, that seemed very deliberate.
So there’s 2 things I want to bring up about that specific aspect at the very end of the episode Flox makes a comment when the captain says asks him about him about himself. He says I was affected rather profoundly and so it’s like it’s it’s interesting because you have basically flocks who probably got affected.
Very smartly done.
The most you have to Paul who got affected the least and then you have humans in the middle is kind of by the end of the episode. What they’ve kind of established which I thought was interesting but we got to talk about trip and the chair that was the funniest to me the funniest. Like whole thing for the entire episode was him and his obsession with making the perfect chair and taking at one point he’s taking the body scan of the captain and he’s using something that’s used to align some kind of like something in the engine and the captain like looks at him like whoa is that even safe to scan me with and he’s like yeah, don’t worry about it scanning him.
Yeah, yeah.
To get this 3 d image of him so he can create the perfect chair and the punchline of all of it by the end was all he had to do was reduce the height of the chair by one centimeter and it made it better and then the extra punch line was after trip leaves the the bridge the Captain’s like shuffling in his chair and then.
Stands up and looks uncomfortable anyway. So it’s like I like the joke of it. It did help but it still is not comfortable to the captain to sit in so it’s it’s it was. It was a very funny joke to me.
Um, yeah.
Yeah, as far as a moment of of character revelation for archer I think that that’s an ongoing element of his character. Which is presenting the idea that he’s never going to be fully sure of himself as captain of this ship. He understands the responsibility and he takes it very seriously and he does his duty and he does the job very well but part of him recognizes.
Am I really the right first person to be doing this and the people who will follow him and I’m referring to those shows that actually preceded all of this.
They created this to demonstrate how not only is the ship the prototype of later starship enterprises. But how he is the prototype Captain. There are some rough edges. There’s some elements that don’t quite fit but they will be refined. And ultimately you know Picard stands as probably the gold standard of what would the textbook definition of the right person for the job look like it would be the.
First years of next generation the demonstration of Picard as he is a textbook commander but he had to evolve through the next generation into the softer commander that he would become to become more human in effect. So. It’s an interesting the way they’ve constructed his character and the way they’ve demonstrated in various episodes the subtlety of his inability to be comfortable in the Captain’s chair is literally like hitting it on the nose but doing it in a way that makes it look less on the nose than it actually is.
Yeah, it’s it’s he’s not comfortable in the the actual physical chair and he’s also not comfortable in the metaphorical chair and so it’s like by the end of the episode. There’s a subtlety in the humor of the delivery of those 2 final like punch lines that kind of drive that home.
So I really appreciate that.
And it comes back to like at 1 point the captain says about his discomfort in the chair to trip. He said I I always feel like I have to be perched on the front of the chair like I’m sliding out of I always have to be perched and it kind of explains the first 2 seasons of the show whenever he’s seeing that chair. He’s always like got like a rod of his back. He’s always sitting there in this really weird way and it’s like.
Um, yeah.
Um, my God They just explained why he’s sitting like that and I thought that was so clever to kind of integrate that into like ah a character aspect of him which is one again once again, it’s my favorite part about Star Trek episodes when you start building and layering the complexities around the characters and the relationships with each other and the.
The the tension of what the topics that they’re dealing with are creating conflicts between those characters is what makes Star Trek Star Trek to me and so it’s like this episode was laying some really good groundwork that we don’t see enough on this show and I wish we would see it more.
Yeah I absolutely agree and the second season of a series like this is always where they now have enough history to begin doing callbacks like that and I couldn’t help but wonder as you mentioned his reference to I have to stay perched and in all the earlier episodes. He literally was perched. Wonder how much of that is Scott Bacula at some point saying to the showrunners. This chair is uncomfortable I can’t sit in it whenever I sit there I look weird on camera can we have me standing up and walking around more often and the writers then picking up on that it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something about that.
Or or it’s part of the brand bible that they came together with and in Scott Bacula crafting who he thought the character was the whole idea that he’s not comfortable with the metaphorical chair. So he’s always going to be walking around. He’s never going to want to sit in it. He may he may have come up with that. The the writers may have come up with that from the beginning. So it’s like we don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was part of the construction of the character deliberately.
Before we sign off on this episode I wanted to include this bit of trivia from I believe I pulled this from imdb and it was a list for people who are interested in this kind of story. We mentioned previously that. This kind of setup of the crew being affected on mass has been done before and if people would like to watch some of the other episodes around this the list includes but is not limited to in star trek the original series the naked time in star trek next generation the naked now. Next generation the episode seric which is I think a great example of this kind of everybody and being affected and heightening ah personality traits and in deep space 9 the episode fascination and if any of our listeners can think of. Other episodes that they wanted to share with the group please leave those comments below or you can reach out to us through the contact information and we’ll reference those other episodes in a future episode. Before we sign off Matt do you have anything that you want to share with the listeners about what you have going on in your other channel.
I would actually just say just to check out the still to be determined podcast which Sean and I both do which is follow ups to the feedback on my Youtube episodes. It’s just a fun kind of like follow up chat about what we think about the episode. What we think of the viewer comments and the feedback we’ve been getting. It’s a lot of fun.
For me. Anybody who’s interested in checking out. My books can look at my website http://seanferrell.com and you can look for my books on Amazon Barnes and noble or your local bookstore or public library as a reminder you can visit trek and time show. You can directly support. Podcast if anybody has any comments or corrections please do reach out if we reference flocks but it was actually trip. Let us know we don’t want to screw up like that you can find the contact information in the podcast notes or on Youtube you can leave a comment directly below the video. Please do remember to subscribe to like the episode and share it widely with your friends and strangers and to come back next time we look forward to talking to you then and thanks so much for listening.
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