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Observer Effect

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Title :
Observer Effect
Series :
Rating :
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
21 Jan 2005
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season Ep :
4 x 11
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
So this episode centres around the fact that Trip and Hoshi are infected with a silicon based virus. Um, how exactly does that work? Viruses are essentially just a hunk of DNA coated in protein. They can't reproduce on their own like bacteria can - they work by invading the cells of whoever catches them, and sticking their own DNA in to take control of the cell and turn it into a factory for making more copies of the virus, which invade more of your cells and so on. So how does that work if the virus is based on an entirely different chemical? Both protein and the nucleic acids that make up DNA are based on carbon chemistry. Whilst it's conceivable that you could have silicon based versions of these things, how in the hell could a silicon virus infect one of your carbon-based cells and turn it into a factory for making more silicon viruses? All the chemistry in your cells would be completely wrong for the job! If we ever do discover silicon life forms, we can pretty much guarantee that you would be utterly immune to their diseases, and they to ours.

At one point the two Organians want to have a private conversation. They decide to jump into Trip and Hoshi's bodies and chat in the decontamination room. Why do they have to be inside bodies to talk to one another? We know the Organians are non-corporeal, surely they must have some way of talking to one another whilst they are in their natural state - telepathy or something.

At the end, we see Phlox declare Hoshi and Trip free of the virus. Shouldn't he have gone into the sickbay in a pressure suit to make this determination?
Great Moment :
Connor Trinneer and Linda Park do an excellent job as the sick Trip and Hoshi. Both their performances and the makeup were great!
Body Count :
Both Trip and Hoshi die, but both are revived by the Organians.
Factoid :
More inter-series continuity; the Organians are, of course, from the TOS episode "Errand of Mercy", where they prevented a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

According to Archer, M class planets are rarely if ever inhabited by silicon based life forms.


Enterprise explores a new planet, but on returning from the surface both Trip and Hoshi develop symptoms of an infection. Phlox finds that they are contaminated with a silicon-based virus, and may have only hours to live. Whilst he and T'Pol race to find a cure for the two officers, a pair of aliens possess various crew members as part of a mission to observe how the crew deal with this crisis.


A rather mixed episode, this one. It had high ideals - no fighting for one thing, there's not a punch thrown or a weapon fired anywhere in the episode. Nor does it rely on special effects - apart from the shuttle returning there's barely a special effect in the entire episode, which is obviously a very deliberate decision because normal practice would have shown the Organians entering and leaving bodies as some sort of glowing cloud of energy. Both of these attributes are much to the episode's credit, and give it a different and interesting feel to most Enterprise efforts.

The characters and performances are what drive this episode, and here there is again much to commend. Everybody gets some screen time this week - even Anthony Montgomery gets more than his usual one or two lines! All the actors acquit themselves well, especially when they are playing the Organians rather than their regular characters. Linda Park turns in an especially effective performance, playing the virus-induced polyglot babbling brilliantly.

I also liked how the aliens were portrayed. The Organians are shown not as being evil, nor even disinterested really, but simply as being people who are following their own rules despite the fact that this will allow others to suffer. We've seen this before many times, usually when a Starship crew must condemn some primitive alien race to suffering or even destruction because of the Prime Directive. We rarely get to see a more advanced species doing the same to Humanity, and it puts an interesting spin on the episode. The Organians are depicted well - they are obviously vastly superior to Humans in an intellectual sense but the episode doesn't really dwell on this as such. The Organians don't go around saying that they are superior, rather we are simply allowed to see it in little touches like the casual calculation of the number of possible games of chess, the way they so easily inhabit Human bodies and then alter the memories afterwards. At no point does anything the crew do in any way threaten the Organians with more than a minor inconvenience, and it rapidly becomes clear that the Humans are utterly incapable of even trying to fight against them.

However, whilst the Organians are depicted as a positive and interesting species in their own right, this also leads to the biggest flaw in the episode; these Organians are absolutely nothing like the Organians from TOS.

The TOS Organians were almost completely disinterested in Humanity, or indeed anything corporeal. They were willing to put up with the visits by the Federation and the Klingons, and humour both of those powers to an extent, but they were not investigating us in any way. We could argue that the Organians changed after this episode, much as the Vulcans are changing after the Vulcan arc of a few episodes ago, but how likely is this? Yes the junior of the two Organians talked about forcing a change in the way they investigated other species, but they have been running this experiment of theirs for 10,000 years now. They talk of getting ready for a real first contact with Humans in as little as 5,000 years from now. It's clear that Organian culture changes very slowly, if at all. Yet we're forced to believe that they are going to revolutionise the way they do things in only the next hundred or so years? And the change we see isn't even anything to do with the one the episode suggests, the Organians of TOS are not investigating other species in a different way but rather not investigating at all.

This episode would have worked much, much better if the Organian name hadn't been used for the aliens. They should have used a new species. That's an odd thing to say really because I'm all for establishing continuity between Enterprise and other Trek series, especially TOS. But whilst continuity is certainly a good thing, it shouldn't be forced in where it doesn't belong. This is one case where Enterprise should have stood alone.

So back a few years in "Dear Doctor", Archer encountered the Valakians, a species who were threatened with extinction because of a disease. He initially wanted to help, but ultimately decided to leave them to become extinct. "Someday my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can't do out here, should and shouldn't do. But until somebody tells me that they've drafted that directive I'm going to have to remind myself every day that we didn't come out here to play God," he says.

Yet here, with just two lives on the line, the Organians use the exact same argument on him. And his response? "Maybe you've evolved into beings with abilities I can't comprehend, but you've paid a hell of a price! You've lost compassion and empathy. Things that give life meaning. And if that's what it takes to be advanced, I don't want any part of it!"

One wonders what Archer would say if a Valakian had said those exact words to him. I can only guess that he would curl up into a little ball of tightly wound shame and hypocrisy...
© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 29,900 Last updated : 29 Sep 2017