Connor Trinneer absolutely knocks it out of the park here, as Tucker is in eighteen kinds of pain. His ability to compartmentalize his grief over his sister has been completely blown to pieces by the bodies dropping all around him, plus the ship is being held together with, as he himself puts it, spit and bailing wire and he’s responsible for fixing it. Then, as the rancid cherry on top of this awful sundae, the guy responsible for the weapon that killed his sister is standing there on the ship being all chummy with the captain.
Randy Oglesby hits a back-to-back homer here (he says, abusing the baseball metaphor), as he also is having a great deal of trouble reconciling his need to save his people with everything he’s learning from and about the Enterprise crew. At one point when Tucker is yelling at him as he leaves the room, Degra hesitates, and you expect him to turn around and say something. But instead, he leaves, shoulders slumped, saying nothing—because what can he possibly say? It’s a brilliant choice by writers Chris Black and David A. Goodman, phenomenally executed by Oglesby and director LeVar Burton.
The latter was particularly frustrating because Voyager didn’t have access to starbases or any other kind of Federation repair facility. The ship should’ve become more and more scarred and unrecognizable as the show went on.
So to see Enterprise heavily damaged, and knowing that it will retain that damage for the rest of the season, is extremely gratifying.
But it’s not just the damage to the ship, it’s the damage to the people on board it. T’Pol has become a trellium junkie and Archer is starting to realize that being a square-jawed action hero means doing some really really horrible things.
I love how Archer’s continued response to violent interrogation is to be a smartass (cf. “The Andorian Incident,” “Detained”), and I like how Scott Bakula plays his desperation in trying to convince Degra (whom he knows is not an entirely bad person), Jannar, and the Primate councillor (for fuck’s sake, why the hell couldn’t they give Tucker Smallwood’s character a damn name?????) that they’re on the wrong path. Randy Oglesby in particular continues his excellent work in showing Degra’s moral struggle that we started to see in “Stratagem.”
On top of that, we have the ridiculous conflict with the MACOs, who are portrayed as automatons who will just blindly follow whatever stupid order the captain gives. At the end, after being told by Phlox that Archer was under the influence of an alien neurotoxin, Hayes says, “Not the sort of thing they trained us for at West Point,”and I have to call bullshit on that. They absolutely do train you to notice signs that your commanding officer might be compromised or acting in a way that jeopardizes the mission. Depleting the ship’s antimatter reserves, hanging out on a planet when they’re supposed to be booking it to Azati Prime, reprimanding the acting captain for doing his fucking job when the ship is fired upon, giving an order to betray their position to the Xindi, and, again, not sleeping for three days are all things that should’ve been red flags to Hayes if he was actually any good at being a military commander.
This, by the way, is a much better example of how you do a “filler” episode in a season-long story arc. (As opposed to, say, a ridiculous diversion to The Western Planet.) They’re en route to Azati Prime, the urgent sub-mission that they’ve had since learning of the place in “Stratagem,” but they’re delayed by something that gives one of the show’s breakout stars a chance to flex his thespic muscles.
And there’s lots of Porthos. As it should be. He’s a very good dog…
We get forward movement on the Sphere-Builders, but to do that, we have to wade through macho idiocy between Reed and Hayes and a lust triangle among Tucker, T’Pol, and one of the MACOs that feels more at home in a 1980s teen sexy comedy. The Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch plods through “Harbinger.”
And that’s not the worst of what happens in this episode, because, of course we have the T’Pol’s Bare Butt scene.
I mean yeah, sexual tension, jealousy, Tucker flirting with someone else, gobby gobby gobby, but ultimately, all of it was in service of the producers’ continued efforts to make sure that their show primarily appealed to heterosexual teenage boys who used their allowance to buy copies of Maxim.
There are so many things I love about this episode, and not just because I’m a fan of the M:I TV series (among other things, Leonard Nimoy’s landing spot after Trek was cancelled, starring on that show as Paris for two seasons). I like that the crew get information, not by threatening to throw people out of an airlock, but by using actual humane interrogation techniques. (Okay, you can argue that wiping out someone’s short-term memory isn’t that humane…) Yes, it involves trickery, but as anyone who does interrogations for a living can tell you, trickery is a very important part of a good interrogation, especially when the person you’re questioning is hostile.
Shran’s sudden-but-inevitable betrayal works mainly because everyone is in character. Most Andorians are likely to view humans as little more than the Vulcans’ pets, even taking the events of “Cease Fire” into account. Shran knows better, and he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place—either betray someone he’s come to respect and sabotage a potential ally, or follow orders. The latter is really the only choice he can makes—if he’s court-martialed and tried for treason, everything will happen the same way anyhow—but at least he mitigates it by helping Archer out at the end.
Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the dumbshit Temporal Cold War plot, which apparently ties into the Xindi crisis on a macro level, but on a micro level all Daniels’ presence induces is groaning that we’re revisiting this nonsense again. There’s not even a token effort to try to make any kind of sense out of all of it. Daniels knows just enough to make the plot mechanics work, but not enough to actually provide any useful information. He’s a plot device, as usual, and this particular device is buggy and malfunctioning and probably needs to be rebooted.
The second problem with the moral dilemma is that it’s so completely artificial. Trek is at its worst when it creates problems with one bit of made-up science and then solves it with another bit of made-up science. All the science in this episode is not just made up but so obviously constructed in such a way as to maximize the pathos and also make the solutions blindingly obvious and easy to restore to the status quo when it’s all over.