Category Archives: 2153

“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.

“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.