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On TV Today's Date:

Observer Effect
original airdate: 01-21-2005

Coming off of last week’s obvious plot, “Observer Effect” deals out a tickling narrative that keeps the audience wondering, “How DO the good guys win?” And really, when featuring an ensemble cast that has to survive each week’s dangers, this is the closest question of peril a team of writers can stick in their audience’s minds.

Quite often, the first thirty seconds of Enterprise can be clipped off without losing much. But this week, if you came in during the title sequence, you missed out. The camera spins two or three times around Mayweather and Reed as they sit in the mess hall playing chess. The dramatic lighting and near haunting music score accentuate their strange dialogue. By the end of the scene it’s apparent; something is not right on Enterprise.

Two shapeless aliens have taken Mayweather and Reed as hosts to watch the humans deal with a deadly virus. The two aliens bounce all over the ship, using different crew members as hosts, and then quickly erasing their memories. The whole time the aliens debate the morality of watching the crew die around them.

And thus the question is posed, “Will the aliens cure Enterprise of the virus or will they discover the lurking alien’s plot?”

While the question is being answered we hear from some of the regular cast members who are traditionally shut out. The aliens prefer Reed and Mayweather’s bodies as hosts, so they get a good deal of screen time. The first to be struck with the virus are Trip and Hoshi so they’ve got a couple of scenes. With Dr. Phlox working with T’Pol to find a cure and Archer trying to coordinate their efforts, all the lead characters have something to do! It’s a miracle!

“Observer Effect” affords a little more insight to Hoshi’s character, which is a long time in coming. Hoshi’s ability to “see the patterns of languages,” without the aid of genetic enhancing, Borg technology or alien brain tampering makes her the most brilliant human on Star Trek since Wesley Crusher (who eventually was able to stop time with his mind). And yet her unique characteristics typically earn her nothing more then a few lines per episode and maybe one story each season with her as the helpless victim.

She exercises her understanding of the patterns of language and breaks the security lock out on sickbay. This girl is dangerous.

Then we hit what could be the ugliest technical mistake ever on Enterprise. In television, a scene lasting 90 seconds may take half a day to film. First the stage is set and then the actors, camera operators and sound technicians rehearse the scene. Then they roll. And they may shoot the same scene over a dozen times. Two or three times from one angle, then two or three times from another, and so on.

As the alien inside Hoshi’s explains their motives they cut back and forth from her to Archer. One shot her hair is in her eyes and she’s looking really sick. Then when they cut back to her the hair is out of her face and she looks better. Then back again and the hair is in her eyes and sick again. Then once more and she’s better.


There are so many people watching the continuity between shoots, that for all of them to miss this incredible blooper makes one wonder just how drastically the budget has been cut. The make up artist missed it. The hair stylist missed it. The camera operators missed it. The director missed it. The assistant director missed it. The production assistant missed it. The actor missed it. Heck, the craft service dude even missed it. Probably the first person to notice was the editor, when cutting together the two shots and thought… “Why did they do this to me?”

At any rate, this scene will undoubtedly turn up in the Nitpicker’s Guide to Star Trek: Enterprise.

Some people doing their job properly include the composer. The sound score for ”Observer Effect” creates an unsettling doomed mood. But a real artist knows when not to play her music. Typically before a commercial break if the captain’s learning that his crew is about to die the music would swell and hold at a dramatic note till the end of the act. Not this week. Instead, there is no music and the audience’s attention is focused on the actor’s reaction to the news.

Eventually the debate between the aliens breaks and they resolve to cure Archer and his crew. And everyone’s memory is modified to forget the events. We’ve seen memories get erased making entire episodes virtually pointless. If your character’s don’t remember their adventures then why should we watch them? But when we learn identity of the energy based aliens it all seems to be OK.

They’re the Organians, the famed race from Star Trek’s “Errand of Mercy,” who dressed up as medieval peasants and stood their ground against a Klingon attack. On Star Trek the Organians seem removed from corporeal races much like humans remove themselves from the busy lives of ants. “Observer Effect,” reveals a new side to the Organians.

Enterprise has been exploring its roots regularly this season. The return to classic aliens and living in the prequel universe is what Enterprise was originally billed to do. As long as they don’t muck up the continuity (too much) let the good times roll.

Roll they shall into next week with the first of a three part story staring Tellarites, Andorians and Romulans – oh my!

Kevin Miller

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