Category Archives: 2003

“The Shipment”

"We've located a planet of 'arboreal Xindi'." "Do you mean a planet of the apes?"
“We’ve located a planet of ‘arboreal Xindi’.” “Do you mean a planet of the apes?”

Enterprise finds the facility where the Xindi are making kemocite, needed for the weapon  to destroy Earth — which is just weeks away from completion. The facility is staffed by a small number of arboreal Xindi, including Gralik (John Cochran), who runs the facility but has no idea what the kemocite is to be used for. Archer, Reed and MACO leader Major Hayes (Steven Culp, introduced in “The Xindi”) capture Gralik in his home and tell him what the Xindi council members are up to. Xindi weapon designer Degra (Randy Oglesby) comes to the planet for an update, and Archer — with Gralik’s help — stashes a tracking device on Degra’s ship.

Why it’s important

From a plot perspective, this episode is important as it furthers the ship’s successful search for the Xindi. The groundwork laid here helps the crew find a smaller version of the weapon in “Proving Ground”.

Not only that, this episode gives Degra a name, the first time we learn the identify of anyone on the Xindi council that has been plotting Earth’s destruction. Degra is probably only behind Archer, T’Pol and Trip as far as importance during this season of Enterprise, as we’ll see in subsequent reviews.

Don't call me Dr. Zaius!
“What’s wrong with me?” “I think you’re crazy!” “I want a second opinion!” “You’re also lazy.”

What doesn’t hold up

It’s interesting that Archer’s actions here don’t bear fruit for another six episodes, or about a quarter of the season. Two of those episodes (the great “Twilight” and the passable “Carpenter Street”) only cover a few days for Archer and Co., but the other episodes (the stellar “Similitude”, the decent “Chosen Realm” and the forgettable “North Star”) take a while (about two months all told, according to Memory Alpha). Although things kick into high gear soon after this stretch, it’s clear why some fans were impatient with the Xindi arc as the season progressed.

This is more of a question than a complaint, but I’ve never really understood what the Xindi council’s relationship is to the rest of the Xindi people. Granted, the Xindi are scattered throughout the Delphic Expanse, but is the council the ruling party of Xindi? Or is it more of a rogue group?

Worst. Rave. Ever.
Worst. Rave. Ever.

Final thoughts

After all the hand-wringing about the Xindi arc going against Roddenberry’s vision, this episode is important viewing. Even as the future of humanity is in the balance, Archer relies on his trust of Gralik, rather than acting out of violence. Foreshadowing Archer’s relationship with Degra, this episode proves that common ground can be found even between enemies. Also, it’s important to note that Archer turns out to be right, even to the point where Gralik ends up tampering with the kemocite to delay the weapon development.

Lastly, the Hayes character was a nice addition to the show — even if he seems oddly absent at times. Steven Culp and Domonic Keating played well off each other as rivals, even if their antics became juvenile at times.

Coming next week …

An old friend returns as the Xindi arc continues.

“The Xindi”/ “Anomaly”

Then why do we have two tables instead of one big one?
“Then why do we have two tables instead of one big one?”

The Xindi: After weeks of searching the Expanse without any sign of the Xindi, the ship finds one on a mining colony, and learns that the Xindi have five different types of species (humanoids, reptilians and some others). Unfortunately, the mining foreman plans to capture the Enterprise crew and use them as slaves. Archer, Trip and the Xindi laborer try to escape and are eventually rescued by a party led by Reed and the new military assault command crewmen (MACOs) introduced in “The Expanse”. The Xindi is mortally wounded in the rescue but gives the crew coordinates to the Xindi homeworld before he dies. When the ship arrives, all they find is a large debris field more than a century old.

Anomaly: The weird effects of the expanse continue to wreak havoc on the ship. After being disabled, Enterprise is boarded by a group of pirates who steal a bunch of supplies, including the antimatter reserves. The ship follows the pirates to a base they’ve set up inside a large, cloaked sphere that is causing serious gravitational distortions (like the anomalies). The crew recovers much of their supplies and Archer learns the pirates recently dealt with a Xindi ship and obtained its database. Archer then tortures a captured pirate for information (eep). The ship has a short battle with the pirates and uploads much of that database — using codes from the captured pirate — providing the crew important information in completing its mission. Archer also returns the pirate, largely unharmed, to his people.

Hi I'm a MACO. You can't see me because of my space camouflage can you?
“Hi, I’m a MACO. You can’t see me because of my space camouflage can you?”

Why it’s important

These episodes set up some key pieces going forward, including the Xindi council (seen at the beginning of the first episode), the weird anomalies in the Expanse, the fact that the Xindi have five different races (humanoids, arboreals, aquatics, reptilians and insectoids) that don’t get along very well and the spheres. The idea that Archer’s mission will require him to bend his morals — hinted at in “The Expanse” — is important, as well. To be sure, what we see in season three is the most troubling extended sequence of Star Trek, even surpassing the darker parts of latter DS9.

What doesn’t hold up

It’s puzzling that the Xindi in the first episode (in his dying breaths) would provide coordinates to his peoples’ homeworld … which has been destroyed for a century. Was he trying to mess with Archer, or did he think the coordinates would somehow be useful? It’s not as if he didn’t know the planet had been destroyed, unless he was more than a century old.

I’d argue that the second episode holds up, even if it paints Archer in a very troubling light. It is odd that Archer would dramatically call up the Xindi database as the episode ends, considering he couldn’t possibly read anything in it. I suppose it did make for a cool shot.


Final thoughts

This is about the point where longtime Trek fans were probably (at best) thinking the series was imitating “24” and (at worst) was completely betraying Trek principles. The first criticism certainly has something to it, and the second criticism is likely valid IF you don’t watch the entire season. “Anomaly”, viewed alone is highly, highly problematic. But Archer’s later actions in trying to make peace with the Xindi (as we’ll discuss) put this more into the “lessons learned” category. In other words, the Enterprise crew acts out of desperation a lot in season three but ultimately doesn’t forget its principles.

Where appropriate in the third season, we’ll combine reviews, similar to what we did with DS9’s final episodes.

Coming later this week …

The Xindi arc continues.



“The Expanse”

Mickey Mouse must die!
It’s as if thousands of mousekeeters suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

A weird sphere pops up over Earth and attacks, killing 7 million. Enterprise is recalled and on the way home, Silik and his future guy boss tell Archer that a species called the Xindi is responsible — as they think humanity will destroy them in the future — and that an even larger attack is coming. Archer makes his case to Starfleet, over the objection of Ambassador Soval, and sets course for coordinates given to him by future guy, which Soval says are in a particularly nasty part of space called the Delphic Expanse. Without clearance from Soval, T’Pol resigns her commission to help Archer with the mission. Enterprise has to deal with some Klingons out to get Archer (wrapping up a mini-thread from late in the second season) but makes it to the expanse as the episode and season end.

Why it’s important

Well, the entire series basically changed in this episode. The attack on Earth is hugely important for Enterprise and Trek generally, and the ship’s mission in the third season truly needed to succeed for everything we saw in previous Trek to still have happened. No Earth, no Federation, no Starfleet, no Kirk singing around the campfire with Spock and McCoy, no Picard rolling his eyes at Q’s jokes, no Sisko fooling the Romulans into a war and no Janeway going through shuttles like Pez.

Interestingly, the fact that we knew the creators wouldn’t undo all of that sort of undercuts the drama in the third season — we know Earth won’t be destroyed — which basically makes the Xindi arc about HOW Archer will save Earth, not whether he would.

Can all our species agree, we'll never, ever. mention The Xindi again after we deal with this.
“Can all our species agree, we’ll never, ever, mention The Xindi again after we deal with this?”

What doesn’t hold up

Well, big picture, I can’t not mention that in all the Trek that takes place after Enterprise, we never hear of the Xindi or this attack. There are plenty of lines in Star Trek about how some threat to Earth is the biggest since the “last World War,” (or something similar) without any mention of the death of 7 million and the possibility of another, more cataclysmic attack. The only way you can write this off is to figure that the events of Enterprise are in an alternate timeline, perhaps created by all the time travel in previous series. Maybe Data winning at poker in 19th-century San Francisco is to blame? Or that time Chekov left a Klingon phaser behind in 1986?

Lastly, why did the Xindi mount a small attack before the big one? That’s probably the biggest logical issue with the entire Xindi storyline, because without the initial attack — which wasn’t necessary from the Xindi perspective, as the final attack was aiming to destroy the entire planet — Starfleet wouldn’t have known to send Archer to the Delphi Expanse.

I’m a big fan of season three of Enterprise, but that logical flaw is something that takes away from the overall quality.

Torpedos. Lots of torpedos.
Torpedos. Lots of torpedos.

Final thoughts

The attack, of course, is an obvious parallel to 9/11, which occurred about 18 months before this episode aired. Interestingly, much of the first season was shot before 9/11, even though it didn’t air until after. That’s one explanation I’ve heard regarding the first season’s unevenness — and the show’s general inability to connect with audiences.

Now, not a lot of fans liked where the series went after “The Expanse” and were probably unnerved by how the Archer/Trip scene in this episode indicated a darker, non-Roddenberry approach to the third season that clearly was meant to echo the politics of the early aughts. While that’s certainly a fair criticism at points, it’s not a major problem (IMO) if you watch the ENTIRE third season. It never QUITE gets to the point where the the characters aren’t at least torn up about their actions. Despite some dabbling (to be kind) in moral ambiguity, Archer and Co., as we’ll discuss, eventually get back to Trek idealism. Stay tuned on that.

All that said, Trek is at its best when it makes you think. And whether you like season three or hate it, it’s not the sometimes boring, by-the-numbers fare that we saw for much of early Enterprise that made the show feel dated. Put another way, season three’s ambition beats the malaise of much of seasons one and two, at least, in my humble opinion.

Last point: T’Pol’s decision to remain with Enterprise is one of the high points for the series. Her growing respect and even devotion to Archer was a well-crafted part of Enterprise’s first two seasons — as it developed slowly and believably over time. We pointed this out in our previous review, but it’s worth noting that the Archer-T’Pol relationship was as multi-faceted as (or close to) anything we saw in Trek — though it helps to forget that the absolutely horrid “A Night in Sickbay” ever happened. And it’s unlikely Archer’s mission in the Delphic Expanse would have succeeded if T’Pol had left the ship.

Coming next time …

The season of “This isn’t open for debate” begins.

“Cease Fire”

"I'll tell you what the high command wants. What they really, really want."
“I’ll tell you what the high command wants. What they really, really want.”

Archer is asked to mediate a dispute between the Vulcans and Andorians over a small planet both species claim. The request comes from Shran (our buddy from “The Andorian Incident”) and is opposed by Vulcan ambassador Soval (whom we first saw in the pilot as a thorn in Archer’s side). Despite some firefights on the planet, some infighting among the Andorians and a tense standoff in orbit, Archer is ultimately successful at getting the two sides talking, paving the way for a greater role for him — and humanity — in interstellar events.

Why it’s important

Although this episode has a lot of forgettable action sequences, it’s probably one of Enterprise’s most important pivot points. Archer, in a scene with Phlox, discusses how Starfleet’s mission might be about more than just “charting comets.” He begins to realize that his ship’s time in space might be about being part of a bigger community. This, of course, is a huge focus in season four, when the Federation begins taking shape, led by Archer’s efforts. And Earth’s neutrality between the Vulcans and Andorians (and later, the Tellarites) is extremely important.

Also, this episode furthers Shran as the main point of contact among the Andorians and shows Soval’s (very slowly) growing respect for Archer. It’s also interesting to watch T’Pol here, as she’s clearly rooting for and trying to help Archer and growing further apart from Soval and the Vulcans generally.

Andorian sexual dimorphism?
Andorian sexual dimorphism?

What doesn’t hold up

Well, the action sequences (as noted) were fairly routine. But the biggest annoyance is the way this episode (like a lot of early Enterprise) paints the Vulcans. Their disdain for humanity is actually quite emotional. Granted, the creators clearly realized they needed a way to explain why 22nd-century Vulcans were such jerks so different than 23rd- and 24th-century Vulcans and did so in the fourth season, as we’ll discuss. But, the condescension is really over the top in a lot of Enterprise, particularly here.

The last quibble pops up in a lot of Trek — when aliens use Earth time increments. Often, this is for the smooth flow of an episode. But here, when an agreement between Vulcan and Andoria is called “the treaty of 2097” by Soval, it really stands out as being awkward and unnecessary. Enterprise wasn’t the only series in which aliens used Earth time measurements, (DS9 was probably the worst, with references to Klingon blood wine of vintages measured in Earth years) but this was a particularly egregious example. There was just no reason a time/date needed to be mentioned in the treaty.

I demand that this treaty be dated August 15th, 20XX. Because the Earth calendar makes absolutely no sense to either of us!
“I demand that this treaty be dated August 15th, 2152. Because the Earth calendar makes absolutely no sense to either of us!”

Final thoughts

This is about as B+ of an episode as Trek can produce. It’s not bad and it’s entertaining at points, but there’s a definite feeling of “been there, done that,” even if it was a key moment of foundation for Trek and for the series. I can imagine there were times in Enterprise’s second season when the creators wondered why episodes like this didn’t resonate the way they would have 10 years earlier. Realizing that TV was changing and that fans were going through some Trek fatigue likely led to the drastic change in tone that we’ll address in our next review.

Archer’s line about comets is also interesting, in that Enterprise really doesn’t do much exploring for the rest of its run. There is even some meta-ish dialogue in the third and fourth seasons about this — but I think it came down to the creators realizing that they couldn’t make exploration (on its own) that interesting, either because TV had changed or this particular series did better with action-oriented stories. Instead, Enterprise’s best showings usually focused on conflicts with aliens, coalition building or both.

Coming later this week …

It’s the second-season finale and some major, major stuff happens. Hold onto your butts.