Star Trek 681: The Xindi

681. The Xindi

FORMULA: The Search + Detained

WHY WE LIKE IT: T'Pol's new look. The deepening mystery.

WHY WE DON'T: The new, bouncier theme music.

REVIEW: A new season, a new mission, a new format. The switch to a longer narrative nonetheless split into relatively stand-alone episodes is held together by a couple of new subplots and indeed, the framing sequence of the Xindi Council. It's a bit odd for us to see the Xindi before Enterprise does, but it's a treat to see such non-humanoid types as the Bug Xindi and the Manatee Xindy among them. Do we believe five separate species could evolve to sentience on the same planet? Maybe if they remained completely isolated in their ecosystems. For now, it creates an interesting dynamic among the enemy leaders, and many potential friends and foes for Enterprise.

Other changes include a new command center set, which hasn't really proved its worth yet; a new, softer look for T'Pol which is rather fetching, and plays well with her subplot (we'll get to it in a moment); and the addition of a SWAT team on Enterprise, which will create competition between Malcolm and the new character, Major Hayes. Must I mention that the girl SWAT is the coolest one there? Yeah, she kicks ass in this first appearance. I should also mention that Archer is much more on edge than he used to be, playing it safe no longer.

While the Delphic Expanse has yet to deserve its reputation, Enterprise has already lost 6 weeks looking for the Xindi. Cool, but dangerous-looking gravitational anomalies have been encountered though, and more are to come. Finally, a clue: A Xindi is supposed to be working in a dank mine. The mine is atmospheric, if never pretty to look at, and turns out to be a trap (oh Archer, again?), but the Xindi is willing to give up the coordinates of his homeworld if Archer and Trip help him escape. Enterprise's usual level of action is maintained, if not exceeded, with a suspenseful escape from a plasma-filled shaft, and a later attack by the SWATs.

The whole adventure is underscored by Trip's hatred of the Xindi he's helping against his better judgment. We understand completely - his nightmares, seeing his sister killed in the attack on Earth, are actually shocking. Phlox, once again pushing the his crewmates into intimate situations, prescribes Vulcan neuropressure for his insomnia, which sparks what will become an unlikely romance between T'Pol and Trip. Yes, there's titillation here, T'Pol being topless at one point, but the scene is played rather more tactfully than usual, sensual and even comic. Perhaps because I know that this is the start of an ongoing relationship, it doesn't feel gratuitous like similar instances in the first two seasons.

Meanwhile, back in the plot, it looks like Enterprise is going to pull a Voyager by having the Xindi die before he can give Archer his coordinates. For a minute, you're almost afraid the season will be a series of close calls as Enterprise never quite gets to the Xindi. But no, Archer gets his coordinates with the Xindi's dying breath. But once they get there, they only find the planet's rubble. So is this as bad as not getting the coordinates? Not quite. While it doesn't really get Enterprise closer to its target, it does add to the mystery. Just what happened here? Did an earlier version of the superweapon destroy their world? Is it all a hoax? Keeps us guessing and watching.

LESSON: Don't bite the hand that feeds you information.

REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: Juggles well the introduction of new elements, continuiing subplots and a done-in-one adventure.


Nicholas Yankovec said...

These last two seasons of Enterprise are possibly my favourite of Star Trek. Unfortunately, the same reasons why they are my favourites are probably also the reasons it got cancelled long before it's time...

The idea of a season long arc, but each episode being pretty much stand alone is an incredibly great idea, and is probably the best use of this sort of episodic format. If only other good shows would follow suit, they could turn from good to great (I'm looking at you Heroes, and the last couple of seasons of Battlestar)

Doctor Mi said...

Don't forget 24. (season long story arc)

Jack Norris said...

Nobody's saying that a full-season arc had never been done before, just that it was a nice change to Enterprise.
Also, the first commenter was saying that other shows should follow it's implementation of the idea, using more stand-alone episodes that fit within the arc structure, rather than a one-to-the-next serial structure where every damn episode has a cliffhanger and a "to be continued."
This would seem to say that he's actually advocating a structure _unlike_ that of 24.
He may have a point there, as only "Lost" is still really holding my interest while still using cliffhangers, and even then each episode has a strong identity as its own story, not just "part 25 of the ongoing rambling narrative."
Finally, I've never made it through a whole episode of 24.

Siskoid said...

I think maybe Dr. M is saying that 24 should also "follow suit" and have more complete chapters in an ongoing story, though I doubt the show would work. Its main character isn't Jack Bauer. It's the ticking clock.

One format where the cliffhangers and rambling opera work is on DVD, since you can conceivably watch an entire season over a weekend. Sometimes it feels like some shows are basically "writing for the trade", if you know what I mean.

Doctor Mi said...

Please, no flame war. I agree with everyone here.

I was very glad when they announced the season long arc. It made more sense than the "reset-button" episodes that are sometimes forgettable. With the classic template, they would find the Xindi and work out a solution in a single episode. That would have been very dull.

By taking this direction, it's written more akin to DS9 style. All the episodes are self-supported but they also serve a greater continuity with is also scripted from the start.

My reference to 24 is that the whole season is scripted to be a single main storyline. You know the climax to the storyline is going to be in the last show of the season. It was announced that the entire ST-ENT season was going to be on the Xindi storyline so we knew that the conclusion was likely in the last show. That's were it's similar.

FWIW, I never made it past midway of Season 1 of 24 on DVD.

Jeffrey said...

I thought the arc started off promising. But there were some flaws. For the previous two seasons, they threw T'Pol together every chance they got. Seemed like a week didn't go by when they weren't tied together with Archer touching a butt cheek or a breast. Now, they decide to throw Trip and T'Pol together? Why? It seemed forced and unnecessary to me. And that made season three my least favorite season.


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