“Proving Ground”/ “Stratagem”/ “Harbinger”

Archer: That's no moon, that's a space station! T'Pol: That hasn't been funny the 33 other times we've scanned a moon... sir.
Archer: That’s no moon, that’s a space station! T’Pol: That hasn’t been funny the 33 other times we’ve scanned a moon… sir.

Proving Ground: Our old buddy Shran (seen in “The Andorian Incident” and “Cease Fire”) shows up, purportedly to help Enterprise with its mission. Shran says all the right things and his crew helps repair Enterprise after a nasty encounter with some anomalies. Then, Archer and Shran work together to steal a prototype of the Xindi weapon at a test site run by Degra (from “The Shipment”) but it turns out Shran’s orders are to steal the weapon so his people can use it against the Vulcans. Archer stops him and the prototype is destroyed, but Shran secretly shares some scans he was able to make — showing that despite his orders, he wants to help humanity, thanks to his growing friendship with Archer.

Stratagem: Archer and Degra, looking disheveled and older, are on a shuttle, running for their lives. After evading their pursuers, Archer says Degra’s memory is failing him but that the two escaped from a Xindi insectoid prison — three years after Earth’s destruction and the insectoid takeover of the Xindi. But it’s all a ruse Archer cooked up to try to learn where the weapon is being constructed after discovering Degra and his crew unconscious on their vessel. Degra figures it out eventually but Archer still tricks him into revealing the coordinates of the ominous Azati Prime. Degra and his crew are then put back on their vessel, with memories wiped by Phlox.

Harbinger: Amid a couple meh subplots involving Trip and T’Pol getting busy (which is consequential) and Reed and Hayes getting fighty, Enterprise finds a trans-dimensional alien in a pod near a sphere. The alien can’t really exist in normal space, but the crew figures out that the alien and his people are trying to make our favorite galaxy habitable for their way of life — perhaps explaining the spheres, the anomalies and the Delphic Expanse itself. With the situation in the Expanse further complicated, the alien vanishes with an ominous warning for Archer.

"Mine says 'Degra 4ever' and yours says 'Archer 4ever'"
“Mine says ‘Degra 4ever’ and yours says ‘Archer 4ever'”

Why it’s important

The first two episodes continue to develop Degra, a key character in season three of Enterprise. “Proving Ground” is important as it also furthers the relationship with Shran and the Andorians (which is important later) while it clearly delays the weapon’s development. It also ties in with “The Shipment” in that the kemocite in the weapon apparently was sabotaged by Gralik (the Xindi Archer made friends with in that episode). We also meet Talas (Molly Brink), a key Andorian in season four.

“Stratagem” is important because it gives Archer the time to get to know Degra, which is important as he tries to argue against the Xindi’s plan to destroy humanity later in the season. Further, Enterprise gets the location of Azati Prime, which is a huge development.

“Harbinger” isn’t as strong because of the subplots, but the introductions of the trans-dimensional aliens is extremely important. These three episodes, as we’ll discuss, are really the turning point in the Xindi arc, taking it from a rather “meh” overall showing to something that actually works quite well.

I've taken the liberty of upgrading the galley's beer fridge.
“I’ve taken the liberty of upgrading the galley’s beer fridge.”

What doesn’t hold up

“Proving Ground” is pretty solid, though it’s hard to believe that the Andorians would go to such lengths to build up their defenses against the Vulcans.

“Stratagem” suffers from something we see a lot in Star Trek, in what I call “Blaze of Glory” syndrome. For those who aren’t familiar, that’s a strong DS9 episode that is undercut by implausibility of the plan of a key character. In “Stratagem”, the problem is that Archer and Co. likely could have found a much simpler — but far less dramatic — way of getting Azati Prime’s location out of Degra. But, then, it would have been less entertaining. I suppose it is good that Archer doesn’t resort to his torturing ways from “Anomaly”.

And while the key developments in “Harbinger” are good and important, the Reed/Hayes plot is pretty boring and trite, and the Trip/T’Pol romance feels far too trivial, even if it works out later. Also, Amanda Cole (Noa Tishby) the MACO whom Trip is starting to mess around with until T’Pol jumps in, shouldn’t have just disappeared after this episode. This Enterprise has a crew of just 80-some people, after all. It would have been interesting if Cole was one of the crew members who died in upcoming episodes.

Worst. Star Trek-Fantastic Four crossover. Ever.
Worst. Star Trek-Fantastic Four crossover. Ever.

Final thoughts

“Proving Ground” is the strongest of the three episodes, but they’re all good showings, if not great. As noted above, this is where Enterprise and season three started to hit their strides.

The three-episode review structure is something our dear readers will likely see a lot more of as we draw to a close with Enterprise.

Coming later this week …

Enterprise’s best and most visceral three episodes. Also, arguably its most controversial.

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