Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – The Xindi

Summary: Leave behind everything you know because it won’t work here. Well, actually it will work here. Forget we said anything; feel free to take along everything you know.

star trek enterprise xindiReview: After drooping ratings and a widely popularized overhaul, ENTERPRISE might have been expected to come out swinging in its season three premiere to amaze and win back viewers with something new and exciting. But while “The Xindi” clearly has more FX and production dollars invested in it and more action scenes than the average episode, all told it’s a rather commonplace affair. While season three ran under the tagline ‘Leave behind everything you know because it won’t work here,’ “The Xindi” is clearly a poor demonstration of that philosophy. Indeed, if we eliminate the actual Xindi elements from the episode, what we have left is an episode that could just as easily have taken place in any of the earlier seasons.

After the previous season ended with the Enterprise NX-01 vanishing into the mysterious and ominous Expanse to confront unimaginable horrors and wonders, “The Xindi” is a rather pedestrian episode in which the only major effect of the Expanse appears to be some flying cargo crates. Not only that, aside from brief scenes of the Xindi council, we end up with another typical ENTERPRISE storyline in which Archer and Trip are captured by another group of funny looking aliens with cardboard motivations and T’Pol and Reed have to arrange a rescue. A plot twist that the show hasn’t just done to death but actually resurrected and done to death all over again. The addition of the Xindi arc rather than enhancing the episode further impoverishes the non-Xindi content as it removes any need for the writers to give the non-Xindi events any depth because they’re just marking time to the Xindi encounter.

Aside from Archer acting slightly edgier, most of the intensity and drive we saw in “The Expanse” seems to have been replaced by the ennui of their routines as if the characters are just as bored by what they’re doing as we are. Only Trip manages to retain some of the energy from the season two finale, and that too is promptly squandered by the episode’s end. “The Expanse” was certainly far from perfect but it set up some interesting potential stories. “The Xindi,” by contrast, not only fails to follow up on that potential but shows that the writers would rather return to the same old stories than actually try anything new.

Indeed in many ways “The Xindi” is a rehash of the original ENTERPRISE pilot, “Broken Bow.” Like the debut, Archer and his crew are venturing into the unknown with a new mission that seems interesting on paper, a mysterious new enemy Archer needs to learn about, an informant who is located and then pursued by enemies resulting in a shootout, an escape from an alien base during which time the informant is killed, and an episode that ends with tantalizing suggestions about the nature of the new enemy. Perhaps the producers should have gotten the message that a new ENTERPRISE might require new writers or at the very least new ideas, instead of the same old ones recycled and massaged into a slightly different form.

The episode’s highlights, aside from Trip’s dream of course, concern the Xindi themselves. Moments like the Xindi council and the view of the shattered Xindi planet evoke some of the awe and mystery the episode should needed. The sense that we’re going, if not quite into uncharted territory, but into at least somewhere bigger and different than we’ve seen on ENTERPRISE in the last two years. But those moments were sadly few and far between. Trip’s story appeared to have potential initially with an effective dream sequence and a seeming addiction to sleep aids but the show’s gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory manifested itself again as by episode’s end the story was reduced to another clumsy and graceless attempts to boost its sex appeal by getting T’Pol’s clothes off. As absurd as previous attempts like the ‘Spread Your Germs Around’ blue light decontamination chamber have been, “The Xindi” manages to hit a new level of absurdity with the Vulcan topless back massages that also relieve stress over the death of loved ones.

The military team have no particular function except to upstage Trip’s red shirts with a display of efficiency and precision design that make them look cool and us wonder why every starship in the future doesn’t come with a similar team, but don’t really tell us anything about the characters or let us get to know them. And it’s doubtful that they can repeat this trick too many times because it would foil ENTERPRISE’s traditional plot device of getting Archer captured. At the same time, I found myself more interested in them than in the regular cast, which is never a good sign. Nor was being able to guess that Archer and Trip would be captured the minute they walked into the mine, despite having not read any spoilers for the episode. These are all signs that a lot of this material is growing stale. Season three seemed advertised on the premise that it would be delivering fresh material that seems to be on back order.

Next week: Archer goes 24’s Jack on a Xindi.

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