Sunday, December 25, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Damage

Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: April 21, 2004
70 of 97 produced
70 of 97 aired


Archer faces a difficult decision when Enterprise's battle damage threatens to end their mission to save Earth.

Also, the production staff gets their money's worth this week from the Spark Guy.



Matthew: There are two and a half stories being developed here. We have the continuation of the Degra plot line, in which he creates a date with Archer and the Xindi council suffers some internal division; we have the piracy plot, in which Archer authorizes the theft of an alien warp coil; and we have the T'Pol on drugs story. I'll just get my least favorite out of the way first - T'Pol freebasing Trellium-D in order to experience emotions (or something) just doesn't work for me. I might feel better about it if 1. we had been given more development of it before this episode, or 2. if it had been tied to a particular emotional goal for T'Pol, such as her desire to have a meaningful relationship with Tucker. Instead, this episode just kind of springs it on us fully formed, and the only motivation we are given for T'Pol was "I liked it." I am OK with having characters engaging in morally dubious behavior, but I want to understand their own perspective on the behavior if I'm going to watch it. I also don't know how efficient this is a use of the show's time at this point. Drug addiction is potentially a very interesting story - if given time to develop the motives and outcomes for the characters involved. But here we don't get enough of that, and it takes time away from the other two stories.

Kevin: I agree this is not a successful plot. I think they were trying to payoff her behavior with Trip, but it wasn't clear in those episodes that any of the characters were aware that T'Pol was acting out of character rather than leaving the viewer to assume it's bad writing. Also, given that Phlox basically cures it in an episode or two robs it of any teeth. I get that Star Trek has always had a very Reagan-esque view of why people use drugs, but this one is pretty bad. She literally watched a whole crew driven mad by it. It would have been better had they foregone the sexual assault angle and have T'Pol be genuinely interested in the emotional Vulcan philosophy way back when if they really wanted to develop this angle.

Matthew: The Degra/Xindi Council story gets some development, and I like it. Any time we have differences of opinion within a "villain," things seem more realistic. If we were telling a story with Putin as the bad guy, for instance, shedding light on dissension within the Kremlin would make it more interesting. Anyway, we meet the Founde... I mean Sphere Builder, who has been manipulating things from behind the scenes. I can't help thinking this would have been better introduced earlier in the season as well. I absolutely think "people being manipulated into unnecessary conflict and then realizing they need to work together" is a solid basis for a Trek story. I just wish they had developed it sooner.

Kevin: I agree with you, but will only suggest that this late in the season, we've had this tense council meeting many times now. I agree that introducing the Sphere Builders earlier would have helped solidify the stakes and players' motivations. This is a solid Trek idea, but the execution has gotten pretty flabby.

Matthew: The last thread here, which receives a resolution, is Archer ordering a piratical strike against the Casey Biggs aliens. I think they pitched it well, having the crew react with various shades of revulsion.  This and the prior episode did a good job of making the rationale for the choice clear to the viewer. The scenes themselves were well done and entertaining, too, which is no small thing. Well executed action with clear stakes and motivations is something that sadly is in short supply these days.

Kevin: I agree this is the most successful, for the reasons you cite, but I have a couple of notes. The fact that Casey Bigg's character doesn't get a name really drives home that these people were invented only to be the perfect victim for Archer's actions. I think it would have had more sizzle if it were someone we met before, even the original pirates from earlier in the season. I also think that they've gone to this well a few times now as well. Archer literally tried to space a guy. He's crossed that thin red line, or at least danced on it more than once, so it's not the most shocking action here. It is the most unambiguous of the moral compromises, and it works for itself, but given where it is placed in the season, its impact is a little dulled. Also, I kept waiting for them to say something like "Assuming we don't die, we'll bring it back. Or otherwise send help. Or something." The lack of follow up nags me for this thread.


Matthew: Scott Bakula was a bit too Angry Dad for me here. I preferred performances like the more restrained Connor Trinneer and John Billingsley, who reacted to the grim events around them in ways that were subtly consistent with their established characterizations. Jolene Blalock is being asked to do the nigh-impossible - sell a radical character shift with little preamble. It is to her credit that she is almost (but not quite) able to overcome a threadbare script.

Kevin: I think the tone of Archer's character hamstrings the story a little here. He's closer to a Kirk-era cowboy than the other Trek captains. You really need one of the philosopher king captains to make this story really land. Picard or Janeway being forced into this decision just carries way more pathos with it. I agree the rest of the crew did a good job overall with material that was challenging, either in a good way (Trip, Phlox) or a bad way (T'Pol).

Matthew: Casey Biggs was not given enough to do here. We know from DS9 that he can give us complex emotional shades, and here he was just sort of a put-upon alien. I liked the Xindi Council yet again, as a complete unit.  I liked Josette Di Carlo quite a bit as the Found- I mean Sphere Builder. She seemed to have real motivations, emotions, and agendas. I look forward to getting more of her.

Kevin: There was something almost sleepy to his characterization this time. I think there just needed to be more detail on this one to give the story something for Biggs to sink his teeth into. Di Carlo definitely did a good job with not a ton of set up. She and Salome Jens should start a club for smoky voiced villains who can handle tons of make up.

Production Values

Matthew: While last episode the damaged ship CG worked for me (perhaps because of the action and phaser blasts) here it looked kind of like haphazard Photoshop. The Aquatic vessel interior was also a bit bland - if you're going to have a water-based space-faring creature, I want to get more architecture and user interface design that meaningfully fits their needs. Here it was just sort of brown and water.

Kevin: The problem is the Aquatic ship still reads as an aquarium. It feels like it was designed for humans and also has a big tank. It might have been too tall an order, but getting a sense of what a space faring water-based being would like would be really cool if they cracked that nut, but they really didn't. And the faces on the Aquatics are just weird.


Matthew: This was absolutely a mixed bag, but I still think it lands in the fat part of the curve for a 3. Jettisoning one of the story threads, or perhaps going back in time to do a better job of foreshadowing them, could have elevated things. But I was nonetheless entertained.

Kevin: The complex villain and the ethical quandary are the Star Trek drugs I want to mainline, and they are here. Their execution is competent if not extraordinary. The T'Pol plot largely only serves to take time from the other, better stories. It's not perfect, but it's definitely average. I agree with the 3, for a total of 6.


  1. So, I agree with your points. Shocker.

    The Biggsoids should have been old acquaintances, so very true. I may misremember, but I don't think there was any proper discussion on whether taking their stuff was acceptable given the circumstances. Or any doubt that this is what would happen barring any other developments. And yes, at least make a commitment to repairing the damage later if possible.

    "Gee, Berman, wadda you wanna do to T'Pol this time?"
    "Same thing we do every time, Braga. Try and take away her emotional stability."

    I don't know if it was their idea this time, but it seems to be the only well the writers want to go to. We can't have our Vulcan being too, you know, Vulcan, can we?

    1. Luckily, happier storytelling days (at least for a season) are right around the corner.