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Season 3 Deconstructed
Season 3 Deconstructed
by Peter Simons
Now that the spasms of ecstasy have subsided, I feel compelled to take a step back and review what I have seen in season 3. I will do so by going through the episodes of the season, commenting on them individually. I'll also assign each episode a rating between 0 and 3 points, so that I can calculate an average for the season. Once that is done, I have several more general comments, which I will offer in a form of conclusion of the review. Here we go.
Whoever decided to use this script as the season opener deserves to be fired. For months we have been waiting for the bloody Xindi arc to unfold, we have been waiting for the series to return after the summer hiatus, and what do we get? Archer is taken prisoner. Again. As if we hadn't had that enough in the last season already.
I was less than underwhelmed by the episode. The Expanse had been promised to be weird shit: Spatial anomalies left and right, people turning inside-out — Vulcans or Klingons won't even enter it! Given this premise, the story line of The Xindi comes across as rather mundane. Archer and Trip are taken prisoner by some evil mining corporation guy. Oh well. It's for the greater good however, because they need to make contact with a Xindi prisoner there, so that they can learn where the Xindi's home world is. Which, as it turns out, has been destroyed long ago.
So I sit there and watch three guys walking around in the sewers, watch them climb through ventilation ducts while they quarrel over trivia, and I ask myself: Why is it that the continuation of the story always appears to be a lot less grandiose than the cliffhanger suggested? In the episode that set this arc up, The Expanse, Earth was attacked, 7 million lives were lost, space battles were fought, time travel, politics, Temporal Cold War — you name it, it had it all. But now I find myself watching three guys walking around in sewers. Why? Why does this have to happen to me?
In the end, all escape attempts had been for naught, of course, because our heros are caught again. That finally prompts the Enterprise to react and to send a bunch of MACOS down there, which resolve the situation in a firefight, and all is well. That's a bit too simplistic for my taste. Learning about the Xindi home world is good, but surely more interesting stories must exist that could lead to that? On its own right The Xindi would have been bad, but as a season opener it really sucked. When I watched it, I could literally feel 4 months worth of anticipation implode in a big ball of nothing. Breath-takingly new and unexpected? Certainly not.
What earned this episode one point is — believe it or not — the introduction of the neuro-pressure between Trip and T'Pol. The material in itself isn't that great, mind you, but still it set up the second arc of the season: the developing relationship between the Chief Engineer and the Science Officer. And this second arc happened to turn me into a 'shipper, so I guess it's worth a point.
With a week's delay, the season opener finally arrives. Anomaly was easily one of Enterprise's best episodes so far, certainly one of the high-points of the season. Looking back, it has so many things going in its favor, it's hard to list them all. First of all, the crew discovers the spheres, which I thought was a cute sci-fi concept, very curious and intriguing. The crew also discovers the anomalies created by the spheres. And while they are at it, a bunch of pirates attacks our heros' ship and strips them bare of all valuables. But they had no idea. This starship isn't commanded by Captain Picard or some other wimp. No! This starship is commanded by Jonathan »Airlock« Archer!
This episode is one of the rare cases where Captain Archer actually acts with a sense of purpose. He made tough decisions, he was focused on the goal, and he displayed leadership ability. Whether one likes his actions in Anomaly or not is beside the point: the point is that his actions are well motivated within the story. Plus, the episode also foreshadowed the development the Enterprise crew would make themselves: Come Damage, they will act no different than the pirates here did. This fact gives the episode even more meaning, and I appreciate this kind of thing. I would have liked a bit more controversial discussion of Archer's use of torture in the episode, though. Just seeing him make that decision was interesting, but I wanted to know what the others thought about it. Lieutenant Reed didn't seem to be overly enthusiastic when he found his Captain by the airlock … why isn't this explored on the show? Discussions among the crew have to happen, so why isn't it shown?
The writers decided to dedicate the screen time to the discovery of the spheres instead, so I am not complaining, because that was nice enough. A scene that stayed in my memory was the one where T'Pol and Archer stand in front of the window in the Captain's ready room with the sphere showing through it in the background, and T'Pol remarks with a sense of wonder: »They are nearly a thousand years old.« I don't know why I liked that scene so much. Perhaps it's because of the spirit of exploration it conveys, the idea that there are much older and much more wondrous things out there than we can imagine. Anomaly managed to combine this sense of wonder with an engaging ethical dilemma and some good old-fashioned space battles — which also gave Mayweather and Sato something to do for a change. That was the third season I had been hoping for.
Following up to Anomaly, this episode was like an ice-cold shower. In the name of the lord, what kind of substances are these people using when they come up with ideas like that? I won't even bother to point out how ridiculous the story was in terms of science. Heck, I won't even let the word »science« anywhere near that story! This was fiction at its best, to put it carefully. A virus infects Archer, Reed, Sato, and T'Pol; and it turns them into cavemen within minutes. Wonderful. Now we can spend almost an hour watching them grunt and crawl and fight over eggs with maggots in them. T'Pol is, of course, not affected thanks to her Vulcan immune system. While the others mutate into complete aliens, she just breaks out in a rash. Whatever. Good thing she is there though, because her immune system will later allow Phlox to reset all effects of the virus nicely. And the Expanse aliens have been trying to do that for almost a century. Idiots.
What else? We learn nothing about a species called Loque'eque, we learn nothing about the Xindi, we learn nothing about the characters. Except for: T'Pol eats a peach Trip brought her. They're both half-naked, and she eats it with her bare hands — something she normally wouldn't do. Arc II rocks!
Of course an episode that bad comes the benefit of the reviewers having a field day with it. My favorite comments are from O'Deus:
The first portion of Extinction was so bad that about halfway through as Archer and Reed gibbered and capered through the trees, I began hoping that another blackout would strike the northeast.
And from Jamahl Epsicokhan:
Extinction on UPN, by the way, was brought to us in part by Nextel, who was at least kind enough to supply us a hilarious commercial depicting a 30-second performance of Romeo and Juliet. This is a concept, and execution, far more entertaining than anything in Extinction itself.
What an horrible episode. And to top it all off, we see Archer making the ridiculous decision to keep one last virus in cold storage, because, well, we don't want to extinguish any species, do we? Like in Civilisation. Boy was that a mistake. But we learned from it! This time, we'll make it right and keep a virus in cold storage that could turn millions into the otherwise extinct species at the small cost of genocide. Who would not want to have something like that? It's certainly a much better way to remember the Loque'eque than, say, going down to the ancient city and exploring their libraries and universities. Idiots.
Archer and his underlings beam down to an alien planet where they hope to meet some underworld chemist to provide them with the stuff to kick the anomalies' ass: Trellium-D. Yay! They succeed nicely. For nothing more than a bit of salt and pepper they acquire the formular that will allow Trip and T'Pol to blow the science lab up several dozen times under the pretense of work. And when they realize they both love to blow shit up, they bond and grow fond of another. Yay!
Also, there is this cute sex kitten they found on an alien market. I loved the market, by the way. The market was pretty TOS'ish. Although the dialogues weren't exactly mind-boggingly inventive, I still enjoyed Archer & Co. exploring the market, arguing with the alien pimp, trying to figure out how to find the chemist, etc. Why don't we have alien markets more often? But no, this story is about the sex kitten, not about the market. Fine. I tolerate other people's kinks. If sex kittens appeal to you more than alien markets … more power to you.
This particular sex kitten was cute. I have read mixed reviews of Nikita Ager's performance as Rajiin, but I liked her. I thought, the intensity with which she focused on the person she was talking to was nicely done. I could imagine why this kind of intense attention would be flattering and attractive. As far as seductresses on TV go, I thought Rajiin was one of the better ones.
What I found lacking, however, was the attention to detail in the story. Why on Earth would the reptilian Xindi use Rajiin as a spy, if they can evidently just board the Enterprise and shove everyone around as they please? Wouldn't it be easier to capture a human? And once they have him or her, they could as well blow the ship up. For reasons beyond screen time though, they do none of that. They just get Rajiin out of there and leave everyone sitting around wondering about bio weapons. Fine. The reptilians' brains are of the size of a walnut after all, as we found out in Azati Prime.
As for spicing the episode up with sex-like things: It was stupid. Why wouldn't Rajiin just use a hand scanner to obtain the data she needed? What kind of species can get detailed biological scans (which can be read and processed by a computer later, no less) by rubbing her hands rub over people's bodies? That's ridiculous. And I thought the half-naked neuro-pressure was crude.
I'll give the episode a bonus point for the alien market though.
I saw little meaning or entertainment value in this episode. I realize Impulse was supposed to be fun, a bit like an Enterprise Halloween splatter episode. But you know, the standard for action-oriented fun material is somewhere around the level of the The Matrix these days, and I don't think TV productions should try to compete on that level. Because they invariably fail. The Zombie!Vulcans were funny the first two minutes, after that they were annoying. And not a single genre film cliche was left out, not even the scene where our heros have to flee over a plank laid over the pit of doom while the world explodes around them. Yawn. Been there, done that, kicked Agent Smith's ass with superluminal-speed kung-fu moves. Who cares about stroboscope lights?
As we will learn much later in the season, the events of Impulse have had repercussions for T'Pol, because she liked the idea of becoming a zombie so much that she chose to inject Trellium-D into her bloodstream. But I'll come to that later. We also learn that Trellium-D is no longer an option for shielding against the dangerous anomalies. Not, if we don't want to give up the resident hottie. Fortunately, the anomalies basically just stop being a problem now that we cannot shield against them.
I was tempted to give this episode one point of mercy, simply because it didn't suck as bad as Extinction did. But then I noticed how both names begin with the letters »Ex«, and that was enough. I recognize patterns when I see them. This episode is a ripoff of The Beauty and the Beast, nothing more, nothing less. It's not a particularly bad ripoff, but it's certainly not anything new or original either. Hoshi in slinky dresses may be something to have going in one's favor, but it simply is not enough. All the talk about how Hoshi was oh so gifted and oh so special just annoyed me. Don't tell us, make her do special things on the show!
The character of Tarquin was mildly interesting, but nothing was really done with him. All he did was suck up to Hoshi, his own story was never told. And his I can sense Xindi stuff by touching some metal routine was just too dumb to be taken seriously. But one thing was great: Tarquin's magic long-distance telepathy crystal lightened up when it was activated. I need to have one of those! Just imagine yourself standing around at a party, lots of hot chicks linger in the background, but none of them notices you, because you are an idiot. But then you produce this big fat crystal, put it on the table, ominously place your hands by the sides — and it lightens up! No power cords, no batteries, just the power of your will. Wow. That should get the chicks' attention. And the best thing is: You could also read their thoughts and check out which of them have honest intentions and which of them just want to get into your pants!
Right now I wonder whether I should give the episode one point for the B-story, because it contained Trip and Archer shooting down their own shuttle after it had accidently taken off and left them on the sphere. That was actually pretty funny. But then I think of the last scenes where Tarquin makes the power fail on the Enterprise by long-distance telepathy, because unlike Troi, he cannot only sense stuff, he can also flick switches and knock fuses out. Man, why doesn't Hoshi stay with the guy? Can Archer do that? Anyway, she threatens to break his long-distance telepathy crystal if he doesn't release her. He immediately understands that without it, he will be standing around like an idiot at parties. So he let's her go.
When I think of The Shipment, I think of … Why is it that every other episode is named The Something? In seasons 2 and 3 combined we had 11 episodes named like that out of 50 in total. That's 22% of all episode titles, my dear producers. What are you guys getting paid for, if I may ask? Why don't we have titles like »City on the Edge of Forever« or »For I Have Touched The Sky« anymore?
When I think of The Shipment, I think of a long boring scene where our characters sit in a cave for no apparent reason. Oh right, they are in there to hide from the Evil Reconnaissance Drones. As if sitting in a cave would help matters somehow. After lots of talk our heros realize they must trust each other, do so, and then they sabotage the Xindi weapon good, tack homing devices onto the enemy's ship, and whatnot else. It's all nice and done well, but I cannot imagine that I'll ever wake up and yell out: »Oh my, today I just have to watch The Shipment again.«
I would have said it's average fare, weren't it for the fact that this was the first episode where the new and improved Dark!Archer™ really bugged me. I couldn't help noticing how much like an asshole he behaved. He was outright unfriendly to everyone, and he ordered his people around with a frightening unwillingness to listen. He continued to go down this road for all season, unfortunately, and I disagree strongly with this character trait. Unwillingness to listen to others is perhaps the single worst thing you can possibly find in a person who holds power. Command authority, ignorance, and arrogance don't mix well; and it's sad that our supposed hero was portrayed like that. I cannot fathom why some people perceive this behavior as »strong« or »decisive«. All I see is stupidity, sorry.
On the Trip/T'Pol front things develop great. Trip decides to take their relationship one step further and proposes … to blow up something different than the lab this time. Like, the Xindi rifle they acquired. T'Pol hesitates for the appropriate amount of time, but then accepts eagerly.
I am torn on this one. I recognize it's a pretty entertaining and watchable episode. T'Pol looked good with long hair. Trip was a great Captain. Hoshi got promoted too. Lots of good things, I admit. But what rubbed me the wrong way was how derivative this material was. They basically rolled two of my favorite movies into one: Memento and Titan A.E. But they did it in a very disappointing way. Archer's loss of short-term memory should have spawned fantastic scenes — just the interaction between him and T'Pol should have been hilarious! But nothing is ever made of it. The focus is not on him, it's on space battles. Which looked better in Titan A.E. All we learn about Archer is that he spends his days listening to T'Pol telling him what had happened. We never learn what his life is like, he appears to be completely useless. Thank god we have techno-babble to fix the problem. I shrug, I am not emotionally involved.
I am happy for the Archer/T'Pol 'shippers. I thought T'Pol looked better in a Starfleet uniform than she does in her cat-suits. There is hardly anything more I can say about this episode. I'll give it one point because it's technically done well, but I doubt I'll ever re-watch it either.
To get this out of the way as soon as possible: The one point is for the scene where Reed shoots T'Pol. Great stuff! And after it had happened, she was not seen on the screen again for the rest of the episode. Why didn't they go along with that? »Hey, do you know where T'Pol is? I need my neuro-pressure.« — »Are you dumb? I shot her two days ago. She is dead.« And that should have been the end of her character. He, he. There would have been blood in the streets if that had happened.
Other than that, the episode was horrible. It reminded me of Marauders from the second season. Horrible! Why do they keep doing this Western crap in a science-fiction setting? It doesn't make any sense! If I wanted to watch Westerns, wouldn't I watch Walker, Texas Ranger or something? Why do aliens who are advanced enough to travel dozens of light-years to Earth need a bunch of primitive humans to work for them? Don't they know how to build machines? Isn't there any other inhabited system that is a bit closer to the Expanse than Earth? And given this most unlikely setting, isn't there any other story to tell about them than the most hackneyed Western cliches you'll ever find?
What the hell has all this to do with this little arc we had going on? How does this constitute character development? Where is the discussion about the ethical problem of what to do with the humans they have found on that planet? Where did they find the Western wardrobe out of the sudden? Why is a script like that ever filmed?
This episode has the heart in the right place. It's essentially the episode that finally set Trip/T'Pol in motion, and it has done so in a beautiful and heart-warming way. Trineer and Blalock really shine together, and the actors are what made this episode so good. Even Scott Bakula was able to show subtle signs of his moods for a change, instead of just yelling at people all the time. This episode works because the actors managed to get so much interpersonal depth into the story.
But the story itself was not what I expected. All the absurd ideas about how your DNA would entail the memory of your life so far aside, this script dodged all the tough questions. How can you show a story about cloning in this day and age and manage to avoid any discussion of the ethics? Isn't this exactly what Star Trek used to do?
In addition to that, I didn't like how really all pieces just fell into place. Boy was this all convenient: Phlox didn't realize Sim won't survive the procedure until after the clone was created. Archer doesn't really have to decide whether he'll murder Sim or not, because Sim mystically realizes it's a good idea to die so that Trip can maybe live. Again, nobody's thoughts about the whole matter where vocalized or shown on the screen. Apparently the whole crew worked with a clone of Commander Tucker for several days: doesn't this prompt any reaction at all? Is T'Pol the only one on the entire ship who feels uncomfortable about him? Why doesn't Archer consult his senior officers before approving something like this? How does Trip react to the news that an artificially created sentient being had to die so he could live? Instead of seeing cute little Sim playing with toys, I'd like to have these topics discussed. The more controversial the better.
It's good entertainment as it is. It's just not really great, because the lack of depth distracts me when I watch it.
Whatever momentum the arc had had until now, here it seriously lost it all. This time-travel story comes — like so often — completely out of the left field. We have a pretty decent threat to Earth with this big gun the Xindi are building, so why is it necessary to sidetrack an already unfocused narrative into a completely different direction? Was that bio weapon idea really that inventive that it simply had to be there? I think not. Were the scenes of Archer and T'Pol in the past so innovative that they simply had to be filmed? I think not.
Yeah, yeah, the dead Xindi and the technology they acquired were useful much later in The Council, because they could use it as proof that … well, whatever this stuff proves. I don't know it either. God, just thinking about this episode makes me depressed. I better move on.
And when you believe it couldn't possibly get worse, there it is.
For a moment, I was actually holding my breath wondering whether they would really dare to make an episode about religious fundamentalist. But then it turned out they do not. They dared to make an episode about cardboard figures that walk and talk and explode when their leader presses a button. The episode isn't about religious fundamentalism, it is about re-taking the ship from evil aliens. Yawn. Can they top First Contact? No, they cannot. So why bother?
And how does all this advance the Xindi arc? Is there any point to this story? Religious fundamentalists are bad? Suicide bombing is bad? That's the message? You must be kidding me. You cannot seriously use a premise like that in times like these and deal with it in such an amazingly superficial way! That is insulting. And when it's revealed that the whole dispute is over whether the Expanse was created in 9 or in 10 days, then I knew the insult was intentional.
At the height of the Cold War era, Star Trek went on the air with a Russian, an Asian, and an African crew member on the bridge. That was a political statement. What I saw in Chosen Realm is not a political statement, it's stupid, stupid, stupid black-and-white thinking with no shades of grey and absolutely no insight at all. And that they make this kind of episode and expect me to swallow it is insulting.
It was about time, finally there is something going on in this weird arc. I may be over-reacting a bit, because the previous two episodes were so bad in comparison, but I thought Proving Ground was very good. For the first time in so long, it really felt like we were on a spaceship! And not just any ship. No, it's actually the Enterprise, with Captain's Mess, Science Officer T'Pol, Lieutenant Reed — even Shran has come for a visit. Who would have thought? There are still living, breathing characters on the ship!
The story was set-up cleverly enough, and for the first time, there was actually a sense that something could be achieved arc-wise. Previously, the crew had been fishing in the dark, so to say, but this time we really knew we were up to something: the weapon's prototype. Yay!
I liked how Reed and the Andorian Tactical Officer learned to appreciate each other. Their interaction was really believable, I thought the respect was really there. It can be as simple as »You are from a military family?« and snap, two aliens connect and realize they aren't so different after all. This is what I enjoy seeing in Star Trek.
I also liked how the episode centered around the problem of whom you can trust. And there were wonderfully many different answers to it. The scene where Trip asks Shran for help with the injectors and they end up talking about his feelings was fantastic. There is so much humanity in that exchange, and the cream comes on top of it when Shran concludes: »I'll have that injector delivered to you.« Wonderful, really. There is genuine friendship between them.
When it comes to business matters though, the trust and friendship isn't as deep as on the personal level. Not only did Archer have the Andorians supervised while they were on the ship (and caught them sabotaging stuff), he also used the Andorians' sensor telemetry to eavesdropped the initiation sequences for the weapon, but didn't tell them. Very nice. That's complex and thoughtful behavior I appreciate in Starfleet Captains.
Plus, the acting was top-notch — particularly from Jeffrey Combs. The dramatic climax was truly memorable, as well as the »Andorion Mining Corporation« incident, and the introduction of Andorian Ale into Star Trek lore.
Was there something on the Trip/T'Pol 'shipper front? I seem to recall there was a scene … Was it the one where Trip asks T'Pol whether she has been avoiding him? And she almost blushed and looked away panic-stricken, afraid he might realize the depth of her true feelings? Terrified she would be unable to control herself if she looked in him the eyes? Where she needed all her strength not to jump at him and tear the clothes off his body, not to revel in the warmth of his touch which she needed so badly after her world had been shattered by a kiss from his clone?
I tell you, this episode had it all.
Yes! We do have a Captain who knows how to use his head except for catching punches while in prison! Mission: Impossible meets Enterprise, great stuff. I don't know why, but these elaborate and utterly impossible scams appeal to me. I just love the idea you could get useful things done without actually killing or even harming someone. An idea, which had been somewhat neglected on the show as of late. But there it is: Not once, but twice does the valiant crew pull off the deception. And their inventiveness is rewarded with the coordinates to Azati Prime, where the evil Xindi weapon awaits them. Yay! We are making real progress here.
I really only began to appreciate the episode now that I have seen how the arc played out, now that I have seen how important the character of Degra has become in the end. The purpose of this episode in the arc was to introduce him, and it did so in a spectacular fashion. A good deal of the things to like in this episode have to be credited to Randy Oglesby, in my humble opinion. In the previous episodes, his character appeared to be a ruthless, cold engineer who builds the Xindi's Doomsday Machine. But in this episode he makes a complete turnaround into a three-dimensional character with feelings, motivations, ethics, love, and integrity. It's not a small turn to pull off, to do it believably is quite an achievement. I think the majority of us viewers was more shattered by the death of Degra in The Council, than we were when Major Hayes died in Zero Hour. This is the episode where it began, so that's full 3 points.
Revelation time, baby! We have bullshitted the audience long enough, now we drop the bomb, now we hit them in the face with shocking news: Judgement Episode! Out of nowhere the arc goes into full swing on all fronts. The spheres transform the Expanse into a trans-dimensional realm. Wham! And if they do, we will all be dead. Wham! And there is a sphere builder alien guy in a medical pod, who — once revived — tries to explode the Enterprise into smithereens. Wham! Trip is giving neuro-pressure to Amanda Cole. WHAM!
In this episode, they really pulled out all the stops. And the result is one big mess. The story about Reed and Hayes was annoying, to say the least. What the hell are these two doing? Out of nowhere there is a massive problem that only alpha males can comprehend, and as every alpha male in the Alpha Quadrant knows, there is only one way to solve it: a fist fight. There just is no other way! And apparently that won't change in the near future. Even Commander Riker and his father had similar problems, only they used sticks to beat each other up.
What else? Well, there is this mysterious alien guy thing going on. Looking back at the episode, that was actually pretty significant. Not that the episode made any efforts to underline the significance. Instead, we got the producer's best impression of Enterprise 90210 and witnessed T'Pol's jealousy fit. I have to admit: The scene which lead to her sexual encounter with Trip was better than I had expected. The dialogue was snappy, definitely. But all in all the whole affair seemed rather empty to me. Trip and T'Pol had already spent more than two years together, for crying out loud; shouldn't there be a minimum of trust between them? Shouldn't it be possible for them to handle the aftermath in a way that resembles anything grown-ups would do? Like, talk?
But no, we get T'Pol in full passive-aggressive denial mode (which she will keep up for the next few episodes). Especially with the knowledge that she was a drug addict at the time, the whole incident leaves the bad taste of manipulative and dishonest behavior in my mouth. That's not how I wanted their »first time« to be. I certainly didn't want it to be caused by a jealousy fit, of all things. I had wished, they would deal with their mutually assured attraction a bit more maturely. Well, whatever.
In this episode, I discovered how much a fan of John Billingsley I am. I just like the guy. The script certainly wasn't worth two points, but somehow he turned this mediocre episode into something that left me happy. I, for one, was totally surprised when I realized T'Pol had been an hallucination. Apparently I was drawn into the atmosphere deeply enough not to notice the subtle and not-so-subtle signs. Others have complained that this episode had been a ripoff of some Voyager episode with 7-of-9, but since I don't know that particular episode (or anything of Voyager in general) that didn't disturb me.
What I would like to complain about, though, is that Phlox (and some other characters) are used too little on the show! This episode felt like a breath of fresh air in a room full of Archer, T'Pol, and Trip. Why don't they use the other guys? Are they paid on a per-episode basis?
How was this possible? How could they ever manage to screw this episode up? Why didn't they let me write the script? I am serious! Just consider the premise: While on a massively important mission, some insect egg sprays the Captain stuff in the face which causes him to think he is the MOTHER INSECT of the whole bunch. So he totally freaks out over the eggs — and the crew has to mutiny to get back on the mission.
Great stuff! I would have gotten Peter Sellers to star alongside Bakula as his possessed alter ego in some really strange dream sequences. Like, Sellers would have stood on one leg only all the time, but he would refuse to explain why he did it. I would have had Archer talk in clicking sounds for the entire second half of the show. When asked whether they'd like to participate in the mutiny, Trip and T'Pol would have denied politely and would have withdrawn into T'Pol's quarters to care about their own offspring. T'Pol would have said: »Screw the mission. The Commander and I have more important things to do right now.« Reed would have looked at Hoshi with a strange expression, and then the two would have decided that mutinies are not for the bridge crew, so they would have found a comfy spot of their own. Amanda Cole would have lost her grief in the arms of Travis Mayweather, and Phlox … oh, Phlox would have been all over the place. This crew would have performed a munity like no-one before or after them. The ship would have rocked hence and forth with care for offspring. And as the episode's climax, I would have hired Monty Python to choreograph one big fat ballet for all of them, which they had performed on the Xindi ship together with the newborn insects while the sun breaks through the clouds. It would have been great television.
Since this episode insisted to take this premise seriously though, I have no choice but to award it 0 points for the most boring and consequence-free mutiny I have ever heard of.
When I saw this episode for the first time, I knew immediately I had seen a winner. But now that I know how all the threads are resolved in the end, I have to admit I had no idea:
But wait, it gets better …
And just to piss off everyone with an IQ higher than the body temperature, the stupid cliffhanger from 2 months ago was resolved in the most lazy and insulting way possible. They didn't even bother to pretend the material from Azati Prime had any significance whatsoever. It's not like Archer couldn't have gone the let's talk route weeks ago, when he had Degra as a guest aboard of Enterprise. No! We need people to die before we see the necessity of dialogue between our species. Why am I even watching this kind of junk? Is this some reactionary George Bush propaganda program? Why is nobody using his or her brain anymore? Why do they waste two full episodes on an absurd idea like attacking a military installation in a shuttle pod? What kind of idiot would do that?
Then we have some superficial drama about Archer's decision to attack innocent bystanders to get a new warp coil. Should he have done it? Or was it wrong? Who cares? The writers have Archer do whatever pleases them, and since they don't care what their character does, why should I? If you ask me, Archer needs some serious therapy and shouldn't be commanding a starship. If there ever was a time for mutiny, this would be it. Whatever.
About T'Pol's addiction: I actually liked the idea at first. That was because at first I assumed her addiction would actually be dealt with on the show. I thought the stock crack-whore footage in Damage was just the first step into a longer exploration of her motives and her healing process. A Vulcan becomes a drug addict, that has to be something, right? Unfortunately, the only explanation ever offered is that she wanted to access certain emotions. Right. Once more I quote O'Deus:
[It was difficult to imagine] that Vulcans need to take drugs in order to experience emotions when in fact Vulcans experience emotions far more intense than humans — the very reason that requires them to maintain such strict control. The idea that a Vulcan needs to take drugs to experience emotions is as insane as saying that a weightlifter needs to take drugs in order to be able to put down barbells rather than to lift them up. […] Trellium-D degrades those disciplines but those disciplines are a voluntary exercise to begin with. It simply makes absolutely no sense at all.
It was about bloody time. We have had crewmen die like flies the whole season, but it isn't until now that this is finally acknowledged on the screen. I thought the actual scene where Archer delivers his morale speech to the assembled underlings was terrible, but it was better than nothing. Who made the decision to have him and the senior officers stand above the heads of the mortal crew? What kind of atmosphere was that? Are they listening to the Führer or what?
As usual, Connor Trineer saves the day with an amazing performance as Trip on the edge. And what kind of problems they all threw at him: explosions, plasma fires on the hull, junk food, you name it. Fortunately though, there is this intensely focused Vulcan who is out there to care for him. Awwww. For a crack whore, she sure is cute sometimes.
Also as usual, we have never heard of the woman to whose parents Trip has to write a letter of condolence. But I am not as concerned as Samuel T. Cogley seems to be, it was all good enough for me at this point. I just marveled at the poor engineer and his Vulcan angel. Everything else were merely plot devices to me.
Something about this episode was completely wrong. It begins with the question: Why didn't they focus on the alternate reality, like they did in Twilight? Why didn't they show Trip and T'Pol have their honeymoon in a sand-filled cargo bay? Why didn't they show the generational Enterprise? Or Trip's tragic death? Why didn't we see Archer being a father figure for Lorian, teaching him how to command a starship lunatic-style? How did Archer meet his wife? How came it that Reed stayed a bachelor? This would have been far more interesting than the weak conflict they produced with these characters in our reality.
It also bothered me how candidly Lorian and others discussed potential future events with their counterparts. Should they really be doing this? Shouldn't this question at least be asked on the screen? And while I am asking questions: Is the entire Enterprise crew brain-dead in the alternate reality? They have had 116 years to think about what they're going to do, and it never occurred to them that destroying the weapon is maybe the wrong approach to it all? With that much time on their hands, shouldn't they have tried to stop the weapon being built in the first place? Or try to stop this entire Temporal Cold War disaster from happening? Or establish contact between the Xindi and Humanity long before the sphere builders interfered? Or try to destroy Sphere 41 with a reconfigured deflector dish? Anything more original than this mind-numbing »blow it up good« crap? Don't they have any other ideas? I don't get it.
Last but not least, I really wondered what the writers have against T'Pol. What they have been doing to her with this Trellium-D story line is really a shame. Last episode, she couldn't be dragged away from Trip for more than 5 minutes, but only two days later she treats him like shit so much that even our good-natured love-sick Chief Engineer has enough of it. What is going on? I don't feel like we are making proper progress here. Old!T'Pol knows of course what kind of idiot she had been back then, so she gives herself a kick in the butt to make sure she gets her act together and Trip can be an outlet for those evil emotions. How romantic. T'Pol is drawn to Trip because of a brain defect caused by drug abuse. If that is not true love, I don't know what is.
The thing I wonder about this episode is: Why didn't it air about three months earlier? Why didn't we have interactions between all these characters all season long? The Council offers a lot of great scenes, the gruesome death of Degra probably being the one that will stand out most. I also appreciated the details on the avian Xindis and the details on the Xindi characters in general. This was much better material than most of the other scripts we have seen in the season. I found it sad, though, that by the end of the episode it became increasingly clear the remainder of the arc would focus on getting the weapon blown up after all. This direction hurt the impact of The Council somewhat, in my eyes, because it's just a one-episode wrap-up of the non-action part of the Xindi arc. After a certain point in the episode, we knew exactly how things would turn out: The way they did turn out.
Anyway, as a one-episode wrap-up of the non-action part of the Xindi arc, The Council was very good.
I can't say I particularly cared for the B-story. If these spheres have been there for over 1,000 years, how is it possible nobody ever figured out how to get inside before? Why didn't the people who lived in the region research what's the matter with these things? If the Xindi are capable of building a planet-killer, why can't they rip the hull of a sphere open? Wouldn't they want to know what these things do? Apparently not, because it needs us cool humans to do it. And it needs T'Pol, of course. Speaking of her: wasn't the shuttle they used to pass the cloaking barrier the one they outfitted with Trellium-D? Should T'Pol really fly in that thing? Wasn't it suggested before that she should stay away even from the shuttle bay it was in? You ask why? Well, because of that Trellium-D addiction issue of hers. Oh right. That is so yester-episodish … who cares about that.
I have to grant a bonus point for setting the valuable precedent of getting highly specialized redshirts killed instead of essential bridge crew, though. And Reed, the wimp, was even troubled by it. Can you believe it? Lighten up, Malcolm. That's these guys' job. This is what they do: getting killed so you can walk away unharmed. There is really no need to get hysterical. Fortunately T'Pol managed to shut him up by quoting Surak to him.
It's official. The conclusion of our mighty Xindi arc will consist of a 08/15 chase game. Archer will chase the weapon, T'Pol and gang will destroy the spheres, and all will be well. Of course there still is the powerfully moving question of whether the aquatic Xindi will go along with this plan. Will they? They will. Who would have guessed? Now I wonder whether they will destroy the weapon successfully one episode before the season finale. Will they? No, they will not. Boy, I am on the edge of my seat.
Then the Xindi have abducted Hoshi to crack the missing initiation sequence. As they put it, the »third layer of encryption«. I don't know what kind of ciphers these Xindi use, but Human encryption algorithms are pretty much unbreakable unless you have MAJOR computing power, lots of time, and a group of highly trained specialists at hand. The idea that a drugged linguist could do it in a couple of minutes is outrageous. Experience suggests that future codes will most likely be harder to break, not simpler. But then … what do I care?
The next thing I wonder about is why the Enterprise's transporter was able to beam people in and out of that weapon. Through a massive spatial anomaly, no less. Don't these guys have any shielding? I seem to recall that transporters and shielding didn't get along well in all the other series. But apparently the early prototypes of the transporter didn't have that problem? Then why didn't they use the transporter to beam a little gift in form of several warp plasma tanks into the weapon? In Dead Stop that seemed to do the trick.
You know what? Let's just forget this whole arc. I realize, I have stopped caring about the Xindi several episodes ago, I just watch it so that I know whether Trip and T'Pol will get together. And this is where two points come from! Because Trip/T'Pol-wise, the episode was great. When T'Pol finally apologized and asked him for help, sort of, I was already happy.
Then there comes dinner in the Captain's Mess and we witness T'Pol say to our favorite Chief Engineer: »You may buy me a drink, if you wish.«
That did it. I forgave her everything. The drug addiction, the psychotic behavior, the lies, the denial, the responsibility for the death of several crewmen — who cares about minutiae like that? T'Pol is so cute sometimes! If I'll ever meet a girl who can do stuff like this, I'll marry her on the spot. And how she looked! Left, right, at her plate, everywhere but at the man she loves, because she is just too innocent and pure to look at him while speaking such earth-shattering words.
She fidgeted, anxious to know his answer to her offer. Would he still care for her after all she had done? What if not? She had no idea. There simply was no alternative. She needed him, she could no longer resist these emotions raging inside of her when she saw him. So she swallowed all her pride, gathered all her strength, and spoke: »You may buy me a drink, if you wish.«
She had done it! Had it been too aggressive? She needed him so much, she was in no position to sound demanding. Still she could not look at him. Her hands began to shake slightly under the table. And then he laughed! Oh how wonderful this sound was. She knew he had understood her.
Awwwwww. Two points for that scene.
Look. When it comes to stopping weird super-weapons or blowing shit up under difficult circumstances, Archer means nothing when compared to MacGyver. If MacGyver had had five minutes on that weapon, he would have used a splinter of titanium, his pocket knife, and a twirl from Hoshi's hair to reconfigure the whole weapon into one giant flying amusement arcade. He would have trapped the evil guys in the wine cellar, and then the Phoenix Foundation would have bought the place and had opened the doors up free-entrance to underprivileged children from Vega colony, so that they could play educational and non-competitive games in an aura of interspecies peace and understanding. Not a single shot would have been fired.
And what does Archer do? He turns five fluorescent lamps around in their sockets so that they glow red instead of green, and then it all explodes. It's of course more difficult than it sounds, because you have to do it in the right order. And to make sure Archer can remember the correct order in which to turn the FIVE lamps around, he takes Hoshi with him, so that she can read him instructions out loud from a PADD. But drama strikes and she accidently drops the PADD into the bottomless pit of doom, so she has to tell him the correct order for the last two lamps from memory. I almost had a heart attack because of the tension.
MacGyver would certainly have treated Hoshi better than Archer did. At some point I was seriously thinking that they set Archer up to die in this episode and were intentionally making him look like an asshole so that the audience is happy when he is dead. And it would have worked spectacularly for me. But no, Archer lives. Great.
To counter-balance the endless macho fist-fights on the weapon with a softer, more feminine form of stupidity, the writers have T'Pol steer the ship into mindless danger for no apparent reason. I realize that the Evil Spheres must be destroyed. But why does it have to happen right now? They were there a thousand years ago. They will still be there tomorrow so that you can blow them up. With proper preparation, one might even be able to do it from a distance. Where is the need to rush things? Just so that the director can alternate between two story lines in snappy cuts?
And all I say about the cliffhanger is: So what? Am I supposed to be excited about seeing Nazis in addition to time travel next season? Archer is taken prisoner, so what could possibly happen? Gee, let me guess. They will beat him up. Would be a great opener for the next season, wouldn't it? If you ask me, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are nuts.
What the two points are for? For the scene where T'Pol told Trip her age, of course. God is she cute! And how she kept her hand at the exact same spot in the air for several moments after he had let it go! The powerful loss of his touch really shocked her into irrationality — had he called her old? No, that could not be right. She wasn't old! Had she misunderstood him? But her emotions got the better part of her, »I am not old!« she blurted out and shook her head no so hard that her long braids fluttered at her sides.
Intimate information, eh? T'Pol is really pulling out all the stops now. The last time she felt decisive like this, she jumped out of her clothes and had sex with him. Too bad Archer the idiot interrupts them with his blatant non-homecoming. It would be easier to forgive him, if he actually were dead.
If Archer were dead, MacGyver could become Captain of the Enterprise next season! That would be cool. Has anyone asked Richard Dean Anderson whether he'd be interested? I hear he has a sci-fi show going on too? I hear it's pretty successful? See the pattern? Anyone else interested in founding a MacGyver-for-Captain fan movement?
If the heavy-duty computer algebra software I put on the calculations didn't make any mistakes, the ratings above sum up to a total of 31 points. Divided by 24 episodes, this gives an average score of 1.29 points for the season. That is well below the arithmetic average of 1.5 points. So I guess, I was not happy with season 3 after all. I haven't done a similar rating for seasons 1 or 2, so I cannot really compare how much better or worse the other seasons were than the third one has been. Intuitively I'd say, it's about the same: A few very good episodes, many average episodes, and several really, really bad ones.
If I had to guess what went wrong with the Xindi arc, it would be that the producers made the mistake of stretching the material over a whole season. The Xindi story line was good enough, had they condensed it into half a season, at most, it could have been quite a roller coaster. But as it was, there was too little going on to really fascinate me. Besides, at no point did I have the impression that the characters had any idea what they were doing. They went into the Expanse to save Earth. So what was the plan? What were they doing for 8 months in there? Finding the weapon site, blowing shit up, and hoping that would be it? This is the most complex story line you guys can come up with for a 24-episode arc? You cannot be serious. This whole idea is wrong on so many levels that I cannot help but question the intelligence of the people who came up with it. I have read dozens of fan-fics that offered more complex ideas than the Xindi arc did. Other shows tell more complex stories in a single episode than Enterprise did in a whole season. How is this possible?
I don't get it. Weren't it for the romance between Trip and T'Pol, chances had been pretty high that I would have stopped watching in mid-season. Arc II has certainly been more interesting to me than the stupid »seek and destroy« bullshit they copied straight out of the wet dreams of Donald Rumsfeld. But then, was it really explored how an interspecies relationship could work? Was the relationship really explored at all? Trip and T'Pol had sex. Earth-shattering news. Wow. What else? Thanks to the wonders of Trellium-D, T'Pol is now even more emotional than most human women I know. Thanks to the wonders of Phlox, her months-long drug addiction has been cured overnight. Thanks to the wonders of time travel, she has met her future self 116 years from now, so that she could tell herself that she loves Trip. In case she hadn't noticed that before — what she didn't. Thanks to some permanent brain damage, she realizes she needs Trip as an »outlet for those emotions«. Wonderful. And after 8 months of will-they/won't-they in the Expanse, they are friends. Hurrah! At that speed, we might even see them actually talk to each other some time around season 5. I am not impressed.
Reportedly, Brannon Braga has actually had the hubris to say the following sentence out loud: »I feel like after this season, I'm not sure how I can top myself.«
Brannon, I am certain you cannot top yourself. But why do you say so out loud? Don't be so harsh on yourself! You and your buddy Rick have nothing left to prove, believe me. Why don't you take the shit-load of money you have earned and buy your girl-friend something nice, tell her you love her, consider settling down, get kids, live a peaceful life away from all this? Come on, 14 years are really long enough. I'm sure other shows will be gagging to get you aboard.
If there is a reason why I still watch this show, the actors and production values are it — not the scripts. Let's just hope next season will be new and improved beyond recognition. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
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Half a dozen of you have made comments
ur definetely not giving t/t points!!! thats bad!!! i mean, some points are given BECAUSE of that, but i like the ones given for amounts of t/t (like zero hour). oh well- this is ur stuff.
I agree with your conclusion, all be it without the references to the TT relationship. I don't honestly believe that the characters are even written properley, let alone likely to form a relationship. B&B just don't know how to write romance, they only know how to titilate young 12 year old boys.
I'm ambiguous about that 'romance'. I absolutely love watching Trinneer and Blalock, but just as Stewey says, there is nothing of substance really...maybe some sweet moments from time to time. I don't agree at all with the writers' portrayal of the Vulcans and T'Pol and that clouds my judgment a bit...but I have to say, I immensely enjoy their acting.
The season review -- dead on, friend. I understand your frustrations, because I share them with you...
Nicely done. I agree with everything, and I too would have stopped watching mid-season were it not for the bastard writers who kept stringing me along with my Trip and his T'Pol.
I can come up with better stuff in my head, and have done so. Yet, I continue to watch. Witchcaft, I say.
You are right. B&B have a great premise, fantastic sets, amazing special effects, all supported by fine actors and writing that fails on every front. It is so dissapointing. All they have to do is write a straightforward story about dull space exploration and let the character interactions rule the script. People like stories about people. They don't need time travelling gimmickboys and freaky aliens every week.
How about just a visit to a space station? A nice place, like DS9, but not run by humans. Archer meets a girl.
Trip and T'Pol go shopping and argue about Trip's illogically loud civvie shirt. T'Pol begins to act domestic, moving in on Trip's space, changing things, like any girlfriend.
Malcolm is caught by maco's coming out of a hotel room with two well endowed ladies of the evening. Its all a big misunderstanding... or is it?
Hoshi inadvertantly wins a contract slave, an Orion slave girl, in a poker-esq game, and the slave is afraid that she will starve on her own. Hoshi has to find her a job or convince Archer to take her with them. She gets Malcolm to help.
Travis goes to a bar and wakes up next to a Klingon girl. An arm-gnawing moment ensues and Phlox later twits him by intimating that he might have picked up a loathsome and terrifying social disease.
Admiral Forrest is in political trouble and Archer worries about the future of Starfleet. He dumps his alien girlfriend, another explorer captain, For The Good Of The Service. Hears in passing some enlisted crewman refer to him as 'The Old Man' and goes to drink alone.
Reluctantly, Trip lets T'Pol cull the really bad stuff out of his wardrobe. No more wildman outfits. He fishes them out of the garbage and hides them. T'Pol makes a verbal slip about their future together and he throws the hidden shirts away again.
Travis finds out the Klingon is bragging that she *had* him. Demands to be allowed aboard to speak with her 'husband.'
Travis hides until Enterprise leaves at warp four.
Like all bosses, B&B are probably looking for the problem everywhere but in the mirror.
That's not too suprising though. Voyager had stories that were even worse. I quit watching that one ages before it was put out of our misery. It was pathetic. Archer is John Paul Jones compared to Janeway.
^^ LOL. THat was great Nemo.
Overall, I agreed with you, Peter, and even when I didn't I was too busy laughing to care.