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Proving Ground

zealousgirl’s SPECIAL EDITION

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! (if you don’t have the chance to see this until later)

Production 065
First Air Date: January 21, 2004
Mission Date: circa December 6th, 2153

Director: David Livingston
Written By: Chris Black

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Star Trek or Paramount. I do this for amusement and not for profit. Be forewarned that this will be seen through the biased eyes of a proud Tuckerite!!! (and, a Trip/T’poler!) I will try to focus on what is happening with Trip in these spoilers. Please check Li’s Trekpulse review for more details.

About ‘PROVING GROUND’: I liked it! Andorians, especially Shran, are wonderful Trek aliens. . . this is what I miss the most with this series. A little more of the cast was seen, but still not enough. Of course the T/Ter in me was overjoyed with the small, but sumptuous, scene between them. And, it’s been a while, but we get to see a few of the many faces of Trip (A4T will have fun with this) including amused, focused, slightly vengeful and nostalgic.

Synopsis (from StarTrek.com):

Andorian Imperial Guard Commander Shran and his warship track Enterprise down in the Delphic Expanse to offer Captain Archer help as an ally, and together, the two former adversaries plan to steal a prototype of the Xindi's planet-destroying superweapon. As a confrontation with the Xindi looms, Lt. Reed gets help fixing the NX-01's damaged weapons systems from a striking Andorian female, Lt. Talas, a contentious officer with her own agenda.


“Trip-centric” Enterprise REVIEW

{Episode starts with quite a lengthy recap of the Xindi arc so far}

The actual episode starts with the Andorian vessel. Shran is called to the bridge where he is informed that they have lost the warp trail. He orders them to keep looking as it “shouldn’t be too difficult to find”. A female Andorian (later find out she’s Lt Talas) challenges him on the value of this mission, but Shran remains firm in keeping to their orders. Talas tells him that they should return to Andoria while they are still able.

Shran insults her by saying that she is behaving like a scared Vulcan rather than a member of the Imperial Guard. “Don’t underestimate these pinkskins Lieutenant. . . they’re still out there.”


Degra is speaking to the Xindi council (all members as antagonistic with each other as ever) and announces that they have organized a test of the weapon in 3 days which the council can view – if all works well, the weapon should be ready to destroy Earth within the month.


Back on Enterprise, Hoshi is reporting to Archer and T’pol in the command centre that she has relocated the signal from the beacon planted on the Xindi ship which was carrying the kemocite shipment. Archer plans on chasing after the signal. Hoshi then gives an update on the status of the lost database; they have been able to recover about 30% from the redundant datacore. T’pol has been able to roughly map the upcoming spatial anomalies and there seems to be a dense field just before reaching the point that the signal is originating from. It will take 17 days to get around it. Archer tells T’pol to alert the crew as it’s going to get rough (does this mean they are going around it or are they going to try to go through it?)


Trip, from engineering, contacts the bridge. “I’ve got the warp reactor buttoned up. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be.”

Archer acknowledges this and defers to T’pol to direct Travis through the anomaly field, using charting based on the retrieved data. She does this by looking into her ‘microscope’ at her station (by the way, I know it’s been there the whole time but what exactly is she looking at when she does this?) She calls out headings, and even yells out “hard to port” at which time they are just grazed by an anomaly. Unfortunately this is in vain as the anomalies start to merge into one and expand. Enterprise gets caught in one. This scene is cool with the anomaly edge passing through the ship and warping things as it goes; people are knocked down or even over balconies (I wonder what happened to that guy?).

They are now enveloped by the anomaly; systems are failing; things are going off line. Travis notes that he has detected a ship but can’t tell who it is. They lock on to Enterprise and pull them out of the anomaly.

Archer responds to the hail from the other ship. And (surprise, surprise) it’s Shran. (cute intro with the camera positioned behind Archer’s head so that when the viewscreen is activated it looks like he has 2 blue moving antennae on his head.

Shran, with his usual humor, says, “Captain Archer. Look at the trouble you’ve gotten your pink skin into this time.” Archer responds with a sigh.

{Ready room}

Shran comments that Archer is brave to attempt to traverse the Expanse in a vessel as fragile as Enterprise. We find out that Shran, with his faster and sturdier ship, has been following Enterprise warp trail (which they had on file from previous encounters). Shran explains that the Imperial Guard decided to help the humans fight the Xindi after they heard about the attack on Earth. T’pol is highly suspicious and makes a few comments about Andorians spying on Earth transmissions.

Shran takes the opportunity to point out T’pol’s non regulation uniform to which she counters that she is no longer with the High Command. Of course, Shran already knew this.

Shran chastises the Vulcans for refusing to help the humans, and forcing T’pol to step down. He says that the Andorians are here as allies, to help.


Archer gets the report from Malcolm on the state of weapons – basically most are affected. (people in the background are busy at the repairs) Archer tells Malcolm that Shran has offered the services of his tactical officer. Of course, Malcolm is reluctant as he fears what the Andorians would have access to. Archer concurs but knows they could use the help.


T’pol meets up with Archer. The Andorian shuttle has docked. She recommends each pair be assigned a security detail but Archer says no. T’pol remains suspicious as she has had too much experience with Andorians. She briefly recaps some of Vulcan’s past dealings with the Andorians; in the end the Andorians will only honor those agreements that are beneficial to them. Archer replies that he feels that he can trust Shran.


Malcolm, looking exhausted, orders coffee from the machine.

Trip: “No tea?”

Malcolm: “Yeah, no crumpets neither. Thank you. I need all the caffeine I can get. What’s the situation in engineering?”

Trip (carrying a plate with a very large submarine sandwich on it): “Bad. The armory?”

Malcolm: “Worse.”

Just then Talas walks in and asks which one of them is Lt Reed. Malcolm says that him. She is surprised to see him relaxing here rather than in the armory. Malcolm defends himself by saying that he hasn’t taken a bathroom break in nearly 12 hours. She introduces herself. Malcolm introduces Trip to her.

Trip (seemingly trying to not snicker at the exchange between Talas and Malcolm): “Pleasure.”

Talas barely acknowledges him, and offers her assistance albeit reluctantly. Malcolm tells her that he might find something for her to do.

Trip (in a slow drawl): “Well, I’ll let you two get acquainted.” He stuffs a chip into his mouth, gives Malcolm a side glance and a smirk, and then leaves.

{Captain’s mess}

Shran and Archer are chatting. Shran offers him some Andorian ale which he initially refusing since he has a lot of repairs to do. Shran replies that “your crew is doing a fine job making them” (yeah Shran! – ‘bout time someone points out that there is a whole crew of qualified people on board and that Archer doesn’t always need to save the day. I know . . . I know. . . that’s probably not exactly what he meant, but that’s what I read into it. I actually cheered with that statement and place it as the best quote for this episode!)

They make a toast to a swift victory and drink up.

Shran tells Archer that he volunteered for this mission, since he’s had the most experience with humans and that Archer was instrumental in averting a war with the Vulcans. He alludes to the formation of an alliance.

{Engineering – yeah. . . a T/T moment!}

T’pol walks into engineering looking for Trip. He is working with his back turned but seems to know it’s her before she even says a word.

Trip (not looking at her yet): “I haven’t seen you in a while. As long as you’re here. . .(he briefly glances at her) . . . maybe you could give me a hand.” He hands her an instrument, and points at something on the equipment in front of them. “Touch this to the phase regulator, here. . . (places the penlight, which he was holding, in his mouth so that his hands are free, but he now speaks a little less clearly). . .while I check the polarity.” He uses another instrument to do this.

Only a few seconds later, he starts talking again. “I thought you might be avoiding me.” He glances at her quickly, and seems to be almost teasing her.

T’pol: “Three neuropressure sessions a week is hardly avoiding you.”

Trip smirks (which is really cute as he still has the penlight clenched between his front teeth) and gives a little chuckle (almost like a dirty thought may have quickly crossed his mind). “Yeah.”

T’pol: “The Captain asked for an update on your repairs.”

Trip’s demeanor changes immediately as he’s now talking business. Taking the penlight out of his mouth, he reports that “well, three of the injectors are burnt out. The restrictor coils are completely fried. . .”

T’pol: “How long until we have warp?”

Trip: “I would say at least 2 days but, uh, the blue guys really know their stuff. We should be up and running in about, oh, 12 hours.”

T’pol seems uncomfortable and Trip picks up on this. “Is there a problem?”

T’pol: “No. Keep me informed on your progress.” Then she leaves.

Trip gives her a quizzical look but then goes back to work.


Malcolm is busy with repairs and is using Talas more like an assistant. He asks her to pass him tools, and ignores her suggestions. She sarcastically asks if he would like some coffee and he says that would be great. Talas, now fed-up, thanks him for his hospitality and decides to go back to her ship. She tells him that she’s not after his secrets, especially since it wouldn’t be worth her efforts. Affronted, Malcolm takes the bait. She tells him that Enterprise’s weapons are antiquated – “I felt it nostalgic”. She points out that he forgot to do some technical thing so to be careful when he puts the weapons back on line. Malcolm, realizing that she indeed wants to help, calls her back and apologizes to her. He asks her to stay to help him.


Archer, Shran, T’pol and the bridge crew are preparing to arrive at the coordinates where the beacon signal is coming from. To avoid detection, Shran has his vessel use their long range sensors to assess the situation; this info is relayed to Enterprise’s bridge.

We see 4 Xindi vessels orbiting a planet.


{Command Centre}

Archer, T’pol, and Shran are looking at the info picked up by the Andorians. They surmise that this is testing area for the weapon – a proving ground. Archer wants to get a closer look. Shran sarcastically asks if he’s proposing that they just fly up and as them what they’re doing. Archer gets a gleam in his eye. . .


Shran is being escorted to the docking bay by an unknown crewman. Trip catches up to them and offers to accompany Shran the rest of the way. He thanks Shran for his help and then asks for a favor. He says that he knows that the ‘antimatter injectors use variable compression nozzles’. Shran is taken aback by the fact that Trip knows this sensitive information. Trip says that he doesn’t want anyone to get into trouble, but that these would be very helpful with the repairs. You can tell that Shran is actually impressed that Trip came right out and asked for this – but doesn’t agree right away.

Shran goes on a bit of a tangent, and offers Trip his condolences on the loss of his sister. Trip gets a little melancholic but replies that a lot of people lost family members. Shran empathizes with Trip as his older brother was killed in one of the skirmishes with the Vulcans. He tells Trip that he understands his need to get vengeance on these Xindi.

Trip (a little darker tone than before): “I’d love to get my hands on whoever ordered that attack. . . but that’s not why we’re here.”

Shran (seems to be trying to get him riled up or something): “You have no desire to make these people pay for the death of your sister?”

Trip: “I just want to make sure that they don’t get the chance to finish what they’ve started. . . so any help you can give us?”

Shran agrees to the equipment.

Trip: “I appreciate it.”

{Proving ground}

Degra is in one of the 4 vessels near the weapon. Meanwhile, via a link, the Xindi council are impatiently watching the progress of the test. Degra orders the start of the test but it has to be aborted as they have detected an unidentified vessel in the area.

Shran, in a very cheerful tone, hails Degra and introduces himself as part of the Andorian mining consortium. (Off to the side of the Andorian bridge, Archer and T’pol as standing and watching Shran’s performance) Shran claims that he wasn’t aware that he was in restricted space. He is looking for a rare element ‘Archerite’ and have found evidence of this nearby. Shran claims that he wants to scan the area, and actually starts to do so. The Xindi notice that there vessels are actually being scanned. Shran tells them that they mean no harm but after threat of being destroyed agrees to leave.

{later – Command Centre}

Archer, T’pol and Shran are reviewing the data from their scans of the Xindi weapon. Repairs are not quite done yet, but Archer is getting impatient and wants to do something now. Shran thinks that Archer wants to destroy this weapon although it is obviously not the final product. Archer says that is not want his plans are, but rather that he wants to take the weapon so that Starfleet can investigate it first hand and maybe find a way to fight it.


Malcolm and Talas are doing repairs, and seem to be working well together. There is a bit of complimenting and subtle flirting going on. After a bit Malcolm leaves; we then see Talas seemingly tapering with whatever they were working on.


It is noted that the Xindi are making a 2nd attempt to launch the weapon. Sensor telemetry from the Andorian vessel is transferred to Enterprise. They watch as the weapon blows a hole in the uninhabited moon.


The Xindi council is not happy that the entire moon was not decimated – just split in 2. Degra tells them that there was an overload of some kind and that they had to shut the weapon down early. Degra tells them that they need to recover the probe to figure out what went wrong.

{Command Center}

T’pol reports that the weapon is more powerful than the one that attacked Earth but that for some reason it still did not work as it was supposed to, as it was building towards an overload. Archer chuckles and says “Gralik” – he remembered that the Xindi-Sloth has promised to help as best as he could and it seems like he did sabotage the weapon somewhat.

Archer wants to retrieve the probe before the Xindi but they can’t yet because it’ll be another 6 hours before the radiation is low enough to be safe. Shran offers his ship, since their force field will protect them until it’s safe to give the probe to Archer. Of course Archer is reluctant to give up the probe and still suspicious of Shran.


Malcolm reports that weapons are nearly back on line. Archer tells him that they will need them soon.

We get more complimenting and flirting between Talas and Malcolm.

{Command Centre}

Shran prepares to leave for his ship, but Archer demands to go with him. He wants to oversee the retrieval of the probe, as he is the one in charge here. Shran tries to dismiss him, but Archer will not back down. They have a few heated words and Shran finally agrees.

{Andorian vessel}

Shran is communicating with a General at the Imperial Guard Headquarters. They are discussing the data on the Xindi weapon that Shran sent them. The General seems happy with their progress and tells him to continue with the plans. Shran challenges him on this; he thinks that they may squander the opportunity to gain an alliance with Earth. The General says that they won’t need alliances if they get their hands on this weapon.

Shran is not happy.


Malcolm catches Talas accessing the sensor array. She claims that she was just being thorough as they may have created a problem during their repairs. All seems to be OK, except is a misalignment somewhere. He thanks her for her help. She comments that she would even consider taking Enterprise into combat. Malcolm asks her if that includes the primitive weapons on board. Her reply was that “it’s not the weapon but the soldier that wields it.” (it’s not the size that counts but how you use it. . . wink wink. . . nudge nudge) She then walks away.

Malcolm, however, is not deterred in his usual suspicious nature, and then proceeds to double check what she was accessing.

{Xindi Vessel}

They note an approaching ship – with human biosigns (why couldn’t they detect Archer when he was the Andorian vessel earlier???). Degra orders the 2 escort ships to intercept Enterprise and keep them away from the weapon.


They see the ships coming and go to tactical alert. T’pol hails Archer on the Andorian ship. He tells them to keep the 2 ships busy.

{Andorian vessel}

Shran orders his crew to go for the weapon.

{Action sequence – lots of switching of points of view}

Basically want happens here is that Enterprise keeps the 2 escort vessels busy while the Andorian vessel goes for the weapons. The usual space battle ensues. Enterprise is able to disable the 2 ships. Shran gets the weapon and then goes to warp.

Archer asks for Talas to hail T’pol and tell her to meet at the rendez-vous point. She refuses. Shran tells her to contact their superiors to say they have the weapon.

It finally dawns on Archer that Shran is planning on keeping the weapon. Of course, he’s not happy. . . “you son of a bitch!”


Shran and Archer argue. Shran justifies his actions; this way they can protect themselves against the Vulcans. Archer says that Enterprise will not let them get away with it. Despite the faster speed of this ship, they will have to slow down to get through the anomaly field and Enterprise will catch up at that time. Shran’s not worried as Talas tampered with the sensor array, so Enterprise won’t be able to find them. Archer sucker punches him, and is escorted off the bridge and sent out in an escape pod.

Enterprise picks him up. (Shucks! Hee Hee. . . just kinding. . . sorta)

Now back on board, Archer is getting updates from Malcolm (who knew Talas was up to something so found the problem quickly) and T’pol.

Meanwhile, Shran is chatting with the General, but you can tell that he’s not happy with himself. Shran gets called back to the bridge because Archer is hailing them. Shran is surprised that they found them so quickly.

Archer demands the weapon; Shran refuses. Archer claims that when the Andorian vessel transferred the sensor telemetry to Enterprise that they were able to determine the activation codes for the Xindi weapon and that if Shran does not surrender the weapon he will discharge it in his a cargo bay.

They banter a bit. Shran thinks he’s bluffing.

Archer asks T’pol to activate the weapon – it’s no bluff.

Shran panics and has to release the weapon, which explodes within seconds of being released. The blast disables the Andorian vessel. Archer offers his assistance, but Shran refuses.

{Command Centre}

Hoshi reports to Archer that just before going to warp, the Andorian vessel relayed an encrypted message to Enterprise which contains all the data gathered on the Xindi weapon before it was destroyed. Archer tells them to send this to Starfleet.

Archer seems pleased with himself, and invites T’pol (along with Trip who’s not in the room at the time) for dinner that evening; he has some Andorian ale he wants to share with them.


Return to Miscellany

Three people have made comments

Thanks for capturing one of my all time favourite moments - Trip asking for the part - Connor played him with an air that I took to be independence - I believe he hadn't discussed the acquisition with Archer or T'Pol. This was a scene that demonstrated the quality that made Trip the only choice for Chief Engineer on the original mission.

Your welcome - and I agree this scene was well played. You could tell that Shran was impressed with Trip's honesty. As well, Conner was able to play so many different 'moods' in just that one scene: friendly, professional, melancholic, vengeful, restrained, and appreciative.

Thanks for posting your report!! this ep is showing soon in the uk and after reading your report i can't wait for the episode!!!