687. The Shipment
FORMULA: The Undiscovered Country + The Battle for Endor
WHY WE LIKE IT: Archer gets his moral center back.
WHY WE DON'T: The maggot gun subplot taking us away from the main story.
REVIEW: A fourth of the way through now, the story picks right back up (with a "Previously on..." no less) as their new information brings Enterprise's crew to an arboreal Xindi colony apparently involved in the creation of the weapon. Our heroes play it smart, disguising their shuttlepod approach as a meteor crash, and never managing to get caught by the heavies. Some of that is thanks to their new ally Gralik who, like them, thinks on his feet.
Gralik is a fine creation. A scientist whose work has been misused without his knowing, who nonetheless doesn't trust Archer and his "ape-like ilk (hehe). Why should he? His scenes with Archer are the highlight of the episode, both men needing to be convinced of the other's motives. Not only must Gralik trust Archer, but the reverse is also true. This is where Enterprise's new direction intersects Roddenberry's Star Trek ideals. Archer, brought to the edge in the last few episodes, steps back a little and shows some moral qualms about his mission. Not all Xindi were in on it, and these certainly weren't. He goes from total devastation to a surgical strike to leaving the arboreals alone completely (in exchange for help in tainting the kemosite shipment and identifying the real villains). But we're not the bad guys, and even the Xindi are given the benefit of the doubt. Is this mission going to become about fixing the temporal misunderstanding rather than starting a war?
Speaking of wars, we learn a great deal about the Xindi from Gralik. He tells of the great war that reduced his homeworld to an asteroid field. How the reptilians and insectoids are the more aggressive and reckless, and how there once was a 6th, avian, species of Xindi. That history paints the picture of a society with a powerful war engine, and what do such societies do when the war is over. "Start another one" seems a safe answer. Degra and his reptilian friend come out of that mentality.
The stealth mission and interrogation turned conversation on the planet are so engaging, I'm a little sorry to leave it for the episode's B-story. This tells of the crew's attempts to understand and counter Xindi weapons. Seems like the reptilians, at least, use biological components in their technology, like a gross maggot as a power cell and down on the planet, hunter-seekers with tentacles. It's interesting and all, but still takes us away from the main action.
LESSON: You can't blame civilians for the actions of their leaders.
REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: At the quarter mark, a strong episode to advance the story arc and set Archer back on the right track.