Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 9, 2005)
Since the series only lasted four years, we head into the show’s end run with Season Three of Star Trek: Enterprise. As I’ve watched it, the program’s grown on me, so it’s too bad we only have two years left.
Without any further ado, let’s plow through Season Three’s 24 programs. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs. The plot synopses come from http://www.tv.com – thanks to them for their great work.
The Xindi: “It has been six weeks since Enterprise's new mission began and the crew have made virtually no progress. Now finally, they may have a lead as Enterprise is en route to a mining colony which is supposed to have a Xindi worker. But the attempt to learn more about the race threatening Earth leads Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker (Connor Trinneer) into a trap.”
It’s good to see that in the middle of a conflict, T’Pol had time for a makeover. As was the case with the final Season Two episode that introduced the new characters, “Xindi” is essentially expository. It gets the plotline underway with minimal muss and works fine for what it is. I do like the introduction of the military characters and hope to see more with them in the future.
Anomaly: “Strange things occur on Enterprise, leading most of the ship's systems to become disabled. Before the crew can make repairs, a group of Osaarians board and loot the ship. The crew pursue the Osaarians to retrieve what was stolen, but when Archer learns these aliens encountered the Xindi, he goes to extreme lengths to get information from an imprisoned Osaarian.”
During this episode, we get more of a feel for the Expanse as well as a grittier side of Archer. Enterprise always liked to make him surlier than other captains, and here it does so in a believable manner. The show moves along the story well and gives us a nice broadening of the crew’s surroundings.
Extinction: “Enterprise journeys to a planet a Xindi ship visited. Once on the planet, though, Archer, Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) and Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) become infected with a strange mutating virus. Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blaylock), however, is unaffected by it. As Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) races to find a cure, a group of aliens knowledgeable of the virus' origin and purpose, come to the planet and they plan to do whatever it takes to contain it; always lethal.”
Clever premise, bad episode. Once again we get a convenient immunity in which one crewmember isn’t affected by a problem – amazing how that always happens! The whole “monkey beast” side of this show simply ends up as silly, and that makes it almost unbearably goofy.
Rajiin: “Enterprise journeys to an alien market to get the formula to synthesize Trellium-D from a chemist. While on the planet, Archer rescues a slave named Rajiin (Nikita Ager) and brings her onto the ship, planning to return her to her home world. Rajiin begins using her strange powers on members of the crew, which is all part of a plan to gather information for the Xindi.”
Another well-worn premise: the alien who isn’t what he or she seems to be. At least this one’s hot. “Rajiin” suffers from a high “been there, done that” factor. It helps move the season’s overall story arc but that’s about it.
Impulse: “An automated distress call from a Vulcan starship is detected and the ship is found in an asteroid field. Archer, T'Pol, Reed and Corporal Hawkins (Sean McGowan) attempt a rescue mission, but they become trapped onboard and have to fend off the Vulcan crew, who have gone insane and become very violent. And if they don't return to Enterprise soon, the same thing will happen to T'Pol. Meanwhile, Trip and Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) attempt to obtain Trellium ore from an asteroid.”
For once a disease affects Vulcans but not humans! That remains convenient, but at least it’s a twist. Essentially “Impulse” is Trek with a George Romero flavor. It offers a decent horror episode.
Exile: “Hoshi is contacted by Tarquin (Maury Sterling), an alien with telepathic powers, and given an interesting proposition; he will use his powers to obtain information about the Xindi and their weapon, for the crew. All he asks is that Hoshi stay with him on his planet while he works on getting the information. However, she soon learns that Tarquin does not want her to leave ever. Meanwhile, Enterprise travels to where T'Pol has located another large sphere.”
More a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and Anne Rice than Trek, “Exile” turns into the token “let’s focus on Hoshi for once” episode. It’s never very interesting.
The Shipment: “After Enterprise arrives at a Xindi colony, Archer, Reed and Major Hayes (Steven Culp) sneak onto the planet for a reconnaissance mission of a facility producing a substance crucial to the Xindi weapon. Archer interrogates the head of the facility, a Xindi-Sloth named Gralik (John Cothran Jr.), only to learn that he knows nothing about the attack on Earth. Surprised by what has happened, Gralik decides to help delay the weapon's progress. Meanwhile, Trip and Phlox begin examining a Xindi-Reptilian weapon.”
A good expository episode, this one moves along the Xindi plot nicely. It also posits some interesting philosophical questions in regard to the responsibilities of neutral parties. It never quite soars, but it succeeds for the most part.
Twilight: “With no idea what has happened, Archer discovers that he is living on a planet with T'Pol and that twelve years have passed. T'Pol explains that an anomaly caused Archer to be infected with strange parasites, preventing him from retaining memories beyond that point. Archer was relieved of command and the mission continued, but the crew ultimately failed and Earth was destroyed. Now Phlox has a cure for the captain's condition and stumbled upon a way to retroactively undo the last twelve years, but they'll have to hurry as the Xindi are coming to wipe out what's left of humanity.”
This episode bears a startling resemblance to the movie 50 First Dates. I’m not sure if one influenced the other, but the coincidence is startling. This kind of program is always problematic; we know that the events won’t “stick”. It’s generally interesting, though I don’t like its conclusion at all.
North Star: “Archer, Trip and T'Pol head down to a planet where humans are living in a wild west-like society. Archer learns that aliens named Skagarans brought humans from three hundred years ago there for slave labor, but the humans resisted and turned the tables on them. Now the humans' descendants are in charge and the Skagarans are forced to endure prejudice and unfair laws. The crew have to decide what to do with the humans and the prejudice will lead to a showdown.”
Often episodes in which Trek personnel visit Earth – or an Earth-like situation – it comes across as little more than an excuse to play dress-up. And that’s exactly the vibe I get from the uninspired “Star”. The episode features a very intriguing backstory, but its actual plot is tedious and predictable. At least the gang gets to play cowboy for a little while.
Similitude: “Something goes wrong during an attempt to improve the warp engines, causing Trip to be severely injured and leaving Enterprise crippled in a dangerous polaric field. Archer allows Phlox to create a simbiot of Trip, which will only live for fifteen days and provide neural tissue needed for a vital transplant. The simbiot is named Sim and, aging years in a matter of days, actually thinks of a plan to free Enterprise from the field. However, a difficult decision must be made after it's learned Sim will be prematurely killed by the transplant, even though there is a chance to exceed his lifespan.”
At times “Similitude” feels like a forced attempt to be timely, as it echoes the debates over cloning and stem cell research. It also wants to have its cake and eat it too; when we see a dead Trip at the start, we know some gimmick will become involved eventually. That said, the episode gets into some sticky ethical issues with a reasonable degree of thoughtfulness, and it doesn’t take the easy way out of its predicaments. This ends up as a compelling and emotional program.
Carpenter Street: “Archer receives a visit from Daniels and learns three Xindi-Reptilians are in Detroit, Michigan in the early 21st century. Archer and T'Pol arrive in early 21st century to find the Reptilians and to learn what they're doing there. They discover the Reptilians are operating out of an old factory and that a man named Loomis (Leland Orser) has been kidnapping people for them. It turns out the Reptilians are using the kidnapped people to further work on the bio-weapon and they're getting closer to completing it.”
What an amazing coincidence that the Xindi choose to come to present day for their mission! At least that saves on production costs. Despite the presence of the great character actor Leland Orser – in an atypically subdued performance – “Street” is an average episode. I like the glimpses of Archer and T’Pol as they try to adapt to the 21st century; we’ve seen these bits in the past, but they get amusing twists here. Overall, it’s a decent show but nothing remarkable.
Chosen Realm: “Enterprise saves a Triannon crew, a race that worship the creators of the spheres in the Delphic Expanse. However, it was all a set up as D'Jamat (Conor O’Farrell) and his followers seize control, threatening to destroy the ship unless Archer cooperates. D'Jamat wants to destroy those opposed to his beliefs and orders the ship to the Triannon homeworld. D'Jamat is also not happy after learning Enterprise has explored the spheres before and tells Archer one of the crew must die as punishment.”
The parallels with current events is unmistakable, as the Triannon bears an awfully strong resemblance to the extremists in the Middle East. The show turns a little ham-handed but I do like the “religious zealots in space” side of things. We saw some of that in Deep Space Nine, though with a less dangerous twist. I do think the story too readily dismisses the beliefs of the Triannon, though, as we never see their attitudes as realistic. It might have been more interesting if we more actively entertained their side of things.
Proving Ground: “Enterprise detects a signal leading to a testing ground for the Xindi weapon prototype, but they have to move through a field of anomalies in order to get there faster. Enterprise takes heavy damage in the process, but is ultimately saved by an Andorian ship under Shran's (Jeffrey Combs) command. Shran offers Archer assistance in the battle against the Xindi and both work together to take the Xindi weapon prototype. But Shran and the Andorians have different plans for the weapon.”
Gradually the Andorians have evolved from a gimmicky species first seen during the Original Series into interesting characters on their own. Shran is particularly intriguing, and this show gives him a new dimension. He’s unusually complex, and that factor helps make this a strong program.
Stratagem: “Degra wakes up on a cargo shuttle that is under attack and being piloted by Archer. Archer tells him three years have passed and that they escaped together from a Xindi-Insectoid prison colony. However, this is really all a carefully planned deception being carried out by the crew three days after they captured Degra's ship. Archer hopes this deception will get Degra to tell him where the Xindi weapon is being built.”
As with “Twilight”, “Stratagem” is another show that starts with “facts” that we know won’t prove to be true. At least this one doesn’t maintain the ruse for long, and it focuses more on the mechanics of the gambit itself. This ends up as a good premise but a lackluster program.
Harbinger: “Enterprise comes across a massive convergence of anomalies and an alien pod is found inside. After rescuing the pod's dying occupant (Thomas Kopache), Phlox attempts treatment while Archer tries to learn what he was doing, unaware that this alien has a hidden motive. Meanwhile, a series of training drills with the Starfleet officers and the MACOs lead to an explosive fight between Reed and Major Hayes. Also, T'Pol learns Trip has been having neuro-pressure sessions with Corporal Amanda Cole (Noa Tishby), bringing certain feelings to light.”
The Xindi plot gets lip service here, but “Harbinger” is mainly about tensions on the Enterprise. This largely acts as an excuse to further things between Trip and T’Pol – and also give us an unusually racy shot for Trek, as we get a quick glimpse of her butt. I won’t complain about that, but I think this show is more soap opera than Trek.
Doctor's Orders: “Journeying to Azati Prime becomes more difficult when Enterprise encounters a trans-dimensional disturbance that would take two weeks to go around. Archer allows Phlox to put the human crew members into comas to protect them from the disturbance so the ship can move across it at impulse. However, the disturbance has unforeseen effects on Phlox as time goes on and he begins experiencing hallucinations. Even worse, the disturbance is expanding and could leave Enterprise trapped inside for weeks if Phlox doesn't take a drastic course of action.”
Am I the only one sick of stories in which Phlox and/or T’Pol conveniently have physiology that allows them alone to succeed? At least this one twists that tired plot to make Phlox go a little loopy. Unfortunately, that means it borrows liberally from the famous “gremlin on the plane” segment of The Twilight Zone. The derivative nature of “Orders” renders it less effective than anticipated.
Hatchery: “Archer leads an away team to study a crashed Xindi-Insectoid ship, finding the adult Insectoids have died and a hatchery. Archer decides they must make sure the Insectoid offspring hatch safely and survive, saying it will help prove to the Xindi that their beliefs about humanity are wrong. However, Archer's orders and behavior become more and more unusual, putting Enterprise's mission at risk. Some of the crew decide they'll have to do something extreme in order to ensure their mission will succeed.”
One problem with Enterprise stems from the manner in which it deals with philosophical questions. When Archer poses the notion that the crew needs to defend the wee bugs or they’re as bad as the Xindi, he has a good point. However, the show takes this to an extreme due to his infection and pummels its ideas rather than massages them. The program still works, but these issues make it less effective.
Azati Prime: “After getting to Azati Prime, the crew discover the almost complete Xindi weapon is on an ocean planet. Their plan to destroy it calls for someone to pilot the recently acquired Insectoid shuttle on a suicide mission and Archer decides he'll do it. However, Daniels brings Archer to the future to tell him that he must instead make peace with the Xindi and convince them that they've been manipulated by the Sphere-Builders. Archer refuses to put Earth at risk and goes on the mission, but he's captured by the Xindi and gets interrogated. Even worse, Enterprise has been found and the crew face a devastating attack.”
If some dude from the future tells me to do “X” or it’ll royally screw my people, then I’ll do “X”. Why does Archer resist this? I don’t understand that notion, and the way in which the series makes him jump from one perspective to another seems inconsistent. At least it moves the plot along despite these problems.
Damage: “The Xindi ships are recalled from the battle, leaving Enterprise with heavy damage and losses. As the crew struggle to make repairs, some Xindi manage to send Archer back to Enterprise. Not long after his return, Enterprise encounters an Illyrian ship damaged by anomalies. Archer attempts to make a trade for a vital warp coil, but the Illyrian Captain (Casey Biggs) states they can't spare it. To ensure his mission's success, Archer will have to cross a line and take the coil by force. Meanwhile, T'Pol tells Phlox the secret behind her unusual behavior and divisions between the Xindi Council continue to grow.”
T’Pol – smack addict? That’s where this show takes her, and it seems like an odd choice. The decision does open up the character a bit, though. This episode digs into more philosophical questions when Archer has to decide whether or not to abduct the warp coil. Inevitably, it flies through the dilemma and ends up as an action piece.
The Forgotten: “Still suffering from the battle with the Xindi, Enterprise makes it to the rendezvous point and docks with Degra's ship near one of the Spheres. Learning the Xindi weapon will be launched in several days, Archer works to prove to Degra and the Xindi-Arboreal that everything he's said about them being manipulated is true. However, a ruptured warp plasma conduit threatens Enterprise and the arrival of a Reptilian ship later threatens the meeting. Meanwhile, Trip has been asked to write a letter to the family of a dead crewman, but it proves to be very difficult for him.”
More intrigue comes from this story. While it doesn’t solve anything, it moves matters along well and takes the characters down interesting tangents. It puts us in a position to become more interested in what will eventually happen with the Xindi story.
E²: “Before the crew attempt to enter the subspace corridor that will help them get to the Xindi Council chamber, they suddenly encounter an NX class ship. Surprisingly this NX class ship is really Enterprise and is controlled by the crew's descendants. Lorian (David Andrews) - Trip and T'Pol's son - and Karyn (Tess Lina) - Archer's great granddaughter - explain that Enterprise did enter the subspace corridor, but something went wrong and the crew were sent over a hundred years back in time. Trying to make sure history doesn't repeat itself and that the mission succeeds, Lorian has a plan to increase the ship's warp speed. However, T'Pol's older counterpart thinks his plan will cause Enterprise to be destroyed instead and that entering the subspace corridor can still work if certain modifications to the ship are made. When Archer decides the corridor is the best option, Lorian makes a difficult decision.”
Shows related to time travel are tricky due to the many potential plot holes. That’s one problem with this one, as there are parts of it that cause head scratching. That said, it’s an interesting view of an alternate reality and an enjoyable program.
The Council: “With Degra's help, Enterprise arrives at the planet where the Xindi Council chamber is located. Hoshi uses her translator skills to help Archer as he tries to convince the Council that Earth mustn't be destroyed and that the Sphere-Builders have manipulated them, which isn't easy given the reverence many Xindi have for them. However, the Sphere-Builders find their plan is being threatened and they convince the Reptilians and Insectoids to take control of the Xindi weapon. Meanwhile, T'Pol leads a team inside a Sphere to acquire data from its memory core.”
These last few episodes of Season Three are essentially one long interconnected program, so I’ll delay my comments until the trilogy concludes.
Countdown: “With time running out and the Xindi weapon about to be armed, Archer has to make a deal with several Xindi.”
Didn’t you read what I already wrote? Go down to see my remarks.
Zero Hour: “Archer leads a team to stop the Xindi weapon before it reaches Earth. Meanwhile, Enterprise will have to face the Sphere Builders.”
Season Three ends with a literal and figurative bang here. The Xindi plotline concludes in a fairly expected manner, though that doesn’t negate its excitement. Lots of ups and downs occur to create the requisite tension. One complaint: if you pay attention to the opening credits, it’ll ruin one potential surprise. None of this alters the shock that comes with the episode’s conclusion; for all the parts that went as expected, I definitely didn’t anticipate its ending.
I wouldn’t call Season Three of Enterprise the best year of any Trek series, but it stands as one of the more ambitious. The overriding story line about the Xindi usually adds depth and drama to the season. At times it falters, but I think it succeeds more often than it drags. This is a solid year that makes me look forward to Season Four.