Star Trek 694: Stratagem

694. Stratagem

FORMULA: Twilight + Future Imperfect + Bounty

WHY WE LIKE IT: The double con. Getting to know Degra.

WHY WE DON'T: Uhm... Archer's fright wig?

REVIEW: My favorite thing about Enterprise is how the characters often opt for deception when dealing with threats, so I'm particularly stoked about Stratagem, which is just one grand sting operation (or to be less kind, con game). What's particularly fun for long-time Trekkies is that this kind of con has been used against our heroes for a long time. You know the episodes I mean - the hero wakes up in what seems to be an "alternate reality" or "future", but it's all a hoax to screw with their heads. Well, that's exactly what Enterprise does to Degra, the Xindi weapons designer.

Whether obvious from the title and as soon as Archer says it's been three years since the events of the last episode, or because I recalled the premise from seeing it when originally aired, it doesn't matter. It's just fun to see the con pulled off so masterfully. Indeed, I'm not sure we needed to flash back a few days to show Enterprise capturing Degra, reading his diary, etc., though it's still fun to see Archer engineer the plan (and yet give each crew member his or her role to play). Also cool is how Archer uses everything on hand to accomplish his goal, from previously seen Regulan blood worms to Shran's Andorian ale.

The point, of course, is to make Degra believe he's just spent 3 years in a prison with Archer where they became allies, if not friends, and escaped together. Archer and crew do their best to make everything believable thanks to a flight simulator and Hoshi's reconstructions of Degra's files. T'Pol's interim story is a good one, which includes the destruction of Earth and subsequent insectoid betrayal of the other Xindi. And like any good con, when Degra gives up the location where the superweapon is being built, he has to think it's his idea to do so. A side-effect of spending time with him is that we get to know him. Previously devoid of any real personality, we now see a family man doing what he thinks is best to protect his people and his loved ones. Again, the Xindi are given a "human" face and shown to be the victims of a temporal conspiracy (at least where the reptilians and insectoids are not concerned).

Of course, it's all going too well, so there must be a complication. A hydraulic malfunction reveals the deception and puts into doubt Degra's revealed secret. Are the coordinates to Azati Prime any good? A second con, this one without our prior knowledge, is beautifully choreographed for Degra's benefit. You're all like "Starfleet can't have access to subspace vortex projectors", when you go "oh... oh!" Yeah. Of course not. And so Degra is caught. Great moment.

LESSON: Don't believe anything you see, hear, feel, smell or taste. Don't even believe anything you believe.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Now that we have a definite target, you can feel the anticipation of season's climax building. And a great use of Enterprise's modus operandi.


Will said...

I enjoyed this episode, to me it was a great homage to Mission: Impossible.

Both TOS & M:I were Desilu productions & shared the same
stages. Nimoy of course would go on to replace Martin Landau in M:I.


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