Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S03E02 – Anomaly

In the second episode of the third season of Enterprise, well, this was uncomfortable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of torture.

I must admit that there’s a chance this isn’t a complete story. Already, season three is more serialized than the others, so it’s possible that the ramifications of Archer’s actions won’t be addressed until later. Which is fine! I’ll eat my words if that is the case, but I only have this to comment on. As cool as some parts of this episode are – especially that bizarre sphere that is left almost entirely unexplained – I couldn’t escape the nagging sensation of horror over what Captain Archer did and the way his behavior appeared to be rewarded.

This is another episode full of tropes, from the abandoned spaceship floating in the middle of nowhere to the ruthless space pirates who loot because that’s just how it is out in space. These elements are done competently within the greater story that is “Anomaly,” especially when you consider how much subtle worldbuilding there was for the Osaarians. That sphere was a thousand years old at least, which, if the info we got here is correct, means that the Osaarians found it abandoned and then utilized it for themselves. The very object that was creating all those spatial anomalies allowed them to exploit the anomalies for their own needs! Of course, aside from the only Osaarian we meet, we get no information on this species or even an outright confirmation of what that sphere was. That’s not a bad thing by any means, and I actually enjoyed that this mystery was left unsolved. That element of “Anomaly” was deeply satisfying because this wasn’t the crew’s main concern; it was getting their stuff back! Learning more about that sphere was mostly incidental.

Yet in the quest to get information, Hoshi finds out that the Osaarians robbed a Xindi ship. This sets in motion a disturbing set of scenes where Archer threatens to torture the Osaarian they captured, and then actually does it. Was it clear that Archer had crossed the line? From the music and the cues in the acting… I think? Like, the scene is billed as a thrilling moment, and Reed’s presence provides that immediate reaction of, “HEY, MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T DO THIS.” Which is a step in the right direction!

Except in the scene that directly follows the Osaarian’s torture, no one brings it up. All T’Pol asks is if the Osaarian cooperated. So you’re telling me that no one objected to what Archer did? No one thought he went too far, not even Reed, who witnessed the near murder of the Osaarian?

Even worse, Archer gets exactly what he wants, and there is literally not a single consequence for his actions. Perhaps that final scene is meant to push us slightly in the opposite direction, to view Archer through a critical lens. And perhaps this will come back to haunt him at a later date. But I’m also aware of the time period in which this episode aired, and torture was kind of a huge thing in American television. From 24 to LOST to any number of shows that aired post-9/11, heroes tortured Bad Guys for information, and then said information saved the day. It’s implicitly the kind of narrative that supports torture as a technique, despite that torture kinda actually doesn’t produce usable and trustworthy results.

So… what’s the real story here? I don’t know, but I felt I should bring up my criticism rather than ignore it. If this is the first part of a larger story, great! If not, however, it’s a troubling moment in a greater canon that’s supposed to be about how humanity got past this sort of thing. And I’m curious to find out which it is.

The video for “Anomaly” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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