Friday, December 9, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Stratagem

Enterprise, Season 3
Airdate: February 4, 2004
65 of 97 produced
65 of 97 aired


Xindi weapons scientist Degra wakes up without his memory on an errant spacecraft next to his friend Jonathan Archer.  

 Jonathan Archer's prison tat side hustle gets off the ground with a rocky start.




Kevin: So this is another episode that focuses on the main plot of the season, and more on character and political maneuvering rather than a big sci-fi idea. On the heels of last week's enjoyable Proving Ground, I find myself liking another episode in a similar vein. The main plot of the season, outside of The Shipment, has not really advanced beyond "oblique disagreements in the Xindi counsel chamber." Another crack at actually getting Enterprise closer to its goal is welcome, and I would say overall, well achieved. The careful way they set up and pull of the deception is a welcome change from threatening to space someone or otherwise torture them, and watching the crew set up and execute the plan was fun. I particularly enjoyed small touches like Phlox growing out Degra's hair and the crew scrambling for the kid's names to be well done. 

Matthew: I think this was a bit more sci-fi than none at all. Memory wipes and simulating a spaceship are pretty sci-fi in my book. The premise is a bit over the top, to be sure. I think in some ways it is weakened by comparisons to a recent episode like "Twilight," which also had us in an alternate future with a grizzled Archer and memory loss. Obviously, this approaches it from a different angle, but the emotional impact of saying Earth has been destroyed is blunted, even before the reveal. Nonetheless, the nuts and bolts of he plot were fun to watch, the tension felt real, and there were lots of nice little touches like Archer saving the bloodworm - which seemed weird at the time but was then explained by Phlox later in the episode.

Kevin: I also liked that Degra wasn't a credulous idiot. Upon being told that he's missing years of his life and has become friends with a mortal enemy, he is rightfully confused and skeptical. What makes it work is how well Archer acts the part. It's a series best for Bakula for me. He really expanded beyond 'angry suburban dad' again, to the point that I wondered if they would actually leave the episode as something closer to friends. He gave the manipulation a soft sell and it made the back and forth between the two really credible. Degra has been portrayed as the most cautious and thoughtful of the Xindi council so far, and that work is built on here. I enjoyed hearing about his family since it gives some context to his actions while not rendering him two-dimensionally evil. 

Matthew: Yeah, I kind of wanted them to become friends. That would be a very Trek note, showing that two people who are at odds actually share many similar hopes, dreams, feelings. But the scene you mention elevated the episode, at least for us the viewers if not for Archer as a character. It kind of reminds me of Annorax in VOY "Year of Hell," even if we disagree with his methods, we understand his motivations. Creating understandable motivations for characters is what good shows do, and what most of Kurtzman Trek utterly fails at.

Kevin: If I had to pick at a soft spot, the final resolution is a little too pat. Having just gotten out of one simulator, it should be front of Degra's mind that he is still in one. That said, even though the resolution was clear a mile off, I can't deny I enjoyed Archer turning on Degra after he inadvertently revealed that they had correctly identified the right location. It was cute, but not too cute, and I would say the episode earned it. And being able to flawlessly remove specific memories is a bit much, but boy have those horses left the barn already. It would be peevish to get too mad about it now.

Matthew: I kind of wanted Archer's threat of restarting the whole thing with another memory wipe to come to pass - it would have added to the unreality of the proceedings, kind of like a TNG "Frame of Mind" or "Ship in a Bottle." But I did like the resolution of rebooting all three crew members, even if it does start to strain credulity a tad (just how long is this "recent" memory proviso on memory wiping? Those other guys have been in the brig for days now). Maybe they could have added a button of Degra retaining some memories.


Kevin: As I said, this was a great episode for Bakula. He was chummy with Degra in a way that read credibly, no mean feat, given the characters have never shared a scene until now. Their grudging rapport was really well played. Oglesby also did a good job playing genuine confusion and hiding that he had figured out what happened. The deception plot largely lives or dies by how well those scenes in the 'shuttle' come off, and because both actors brought it, the episode succeeds for me.

Matthew: Randy Oglesby was great. It was easily possible to empathize with him - both with his confusion at being thrown into a weird situation, but also with his motives as a scientist working towards a military objective. He and Bakula definitely had the chemistry to make this episode work, and work well.Bakula was at his most modulated. He was doing something "extreme," but for good reasons and without relish.

Production Values

Kevin: This was a bit of a bottle show, but they made good use of the bottle. I liked the interior of the shuttle, and in particular thought the simulation rig was really well done. It looked they converted one of those carnival ride motion simulators, and the prop had a nice heft that made it feel like the real deal. The shot of the Azati star was also nice. The photosphere was really well textured. This was the sweet spot of good effects work that unobtrusively supported the story.

Matthew: Agreed. A shout-out should go to the melding of CG and practical effects on the bloodworm - oozing through Degra's arm, but then also the physical prop and extraction scene. It was just a bit grisly but not over the top.  


Kevin: I'm torn between a 3 and a 4. It's a good episode, certainly. It's well acted and paced. The story beats are fairly predictable, but that's not always a crime. It further advances the season plot in a credible way, while giving Degra some back story that makes him read closer to, say, Voyager's Jetrel rather than Marvel's Thanos. I like that a lot. The scenes between Degra and Archer worked really well. I think the too neat ending for Degra is what keeps holding me back. I think he should have been stuck on Enterprise and then the action could be about trying to actually convince him of the folly of the plan. So, I think I am landing on a high three. That's still good, and I wish Enterprise delivered like this more consistently, but I would like to see a little bit more a reach in the stories they try to tell.

Matthew: I think the character interplay, along with the sense of unreality and with the plot being advanced credibly, gets this to a 4. If they had really gone full bore into an examination of O.G. Star Trek moral relativism, a 5 might even be on the table. Anyway, our total is a 7.

1 comment:

  1. This one reminds me a lot of the TNG episode Homeward. It's the one where Worf's adopted brother puts some aliens in the holodeck to keep them occupied while they are transported to a new world, giving them the impression they are travelling to their new home on foot and not in a spaceship.

    I agree again, though I'd say this is more where I'd hope an average episode would be in quality. I think the revelations on Degra make it okay that there is nothing much going on character-wise with the crew. The acting is good, and the plot is fun, so it's not one to skip on rewatch. The obligatory technical glitch and the way they get Degra in the end I can forgive on the strengths of the rest.