So here I am, awaiting the download of Enterprise 2×14 “Stigma” with trepidation. When the download finally finishes, and I start the video for my viewing pleasure, I am greeted by the familiar Enterprise theme music, settle back in my comfy “fabric manager’s chair” from OfficeMax (or was it Staples? … anyway, I digress) to enjoy another riveting episode of Enterprise … and am treated to sound, but no video.
Ack. Okay. It’s supposed to be DiVX. It says DiVX in the properties. No matter, try xvid. Hmm, no. Okay, try it on C’s computer. Hmm, also no. Alright. Delete the file. Download it again, this time from a different P2P service.
Several hours later. The download is (once again) complete. But now! Ahh …. Enterprise. Nothing like a new episode on a Saturday night to relax. Start the video and …. nothing. Blackness. With sound. Not again!
It turns out that I had DiVX 5.0.2 installed, and this video has been encoded using DiVX 5.0.3. After installing the latest, it plays fine. Thanks, DiVX developers. If you’re going to break playback, be nice and don’t do that with a .01 increase in version numbers. Better yet, have your codec warn me. “Hey, this has been encoded with a later version. If it behaves oddly, try downloading the latest and greatest”. That’d be real helpful.
The episode, I hear you ask? How is it? Terrific.
The episode reveals that T’Pol is suffering from a rare Vulcan disease, one that Phlox, the ship’s doctor, does not know how to treat. This disease is found only among a small group of Vulcans, whose “intimate practices” (mindmeld, should you wonder) are condemned by Vulcan society. Phlox’s attempts to gain information about the disease and thus stay its course are met with stonewalling from Vulcan physicians. Since the disease only affects a despised minority of Vulcans, the Vulcan science directorate is not very motivated to find a cure. To make matters worse, these Vulcan doctors decide to relieve T’Pol of her duty once they learn she is infected.
To make this plot yet spicier, T’Pol is actually not a member of this minority, and the mindmeld was forced on her (you may remember 1×17, Fusion). She, however, has moral fibre in abundance, and refuses to reveal that she was, essentially, raped; arguing that if she uses that as her defense, she would condone the discrimination of this Vulcan minority.
Allright, so now I spoiled most of the episode for you; but to not do so completely, I won’t mention some of the plot twists, nor how this conundrum is resolved. The episode also has some much needed comic relief through the visit of Phlox’s wife, who promptly starts hitting on the chief engineer. Which leads to some very amusing scenes of Tripp stammering and stuttering and uttering assurances that he has been “nuthin’ but a complete gentleman”.
This is what I love Star Trek for. Time and again, it delivers insightful social commentary about current issues by packing them into a sci-fi story (anyone remember the TNG episodes in which the question “is Data property or does he have rights?” is raised and finally answered?). Speak about AIDS, and the first reaction is to shut down. There’s only so much one can take in on any one given subject. But talk about “Pa’nar Syndrome”, and you have the viewer’s attention, and a fresh, unspent viewpoint on the issue.
As the good doctor would say: Remarkable.