Monday, March 27, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: The Aenar

Enterprise, Season 4
"The Aenar"
Airdate: February 11, 2005
89 of 97 produced
89 of 97 aired


Archer and Shran discover that the operator of the marauding drone vessels is Andorian - but not a run of the mill Andorian. Rather, he is a member of an underground, pacifist sect of Andorians known as the Aenar.

 "I don't think Mark Zuckerberg is ever going to get this Oculus Rift crap to sell, Captain."




Kevin: I remember when I first heard about this arc, my concern was that adding a second species of Andorians would be about as successful as adding the Remans to the Romulans. Happily, this one comes off more successfully. The Aenar are sketched out pretty quickly with a clear culture and set of values and we get to see them wrestle, at least through a handful of people, with how their choices will play out. I suppose I still have a bit of a lingering of an objection that the Aenar were basically reverse engineered to provide exactly the complications they did. Beyond the fact that some Andorians are a paler blue in TOS than TNG, this pretty big distinction is absent until this episode. We needed someone from Andoria to be responsible for the drone to help tie a bow on the threat to the alliance. But I can't deny that the emotional beats of Jhamel's story work, so even if it's a little inorganic, I can't say I'm mad.

Matthew: The problems with the Remans were two fold - they were given too much of a role in prior Romulan history for credulity to remain intact (why hadn't we heard about such an important element of their history, especially in the extensive TNG episodes?), and they weren't given enough screen time or story responsibilities to be developed in a way that made them compelling or coherent. This episode suffers from neither problem. The Aenar are mysterious even to the Andorians, and they do not impact prior Andorian stories in any major continuity-straining ways. They're more like a remote sect, like the Amish or Mennonites in the US.  But the time we spend with them, and getting to know one of them well, really helps make them feel "real" as opposed to the plot filler the Remans came off as. As far as the overall plot goes, I was a little annoyed that Shran moved on so quickly, but that's really more of a last episode problem than a current episode problem. It makes perfect sense that Shran would fall for a sexy, exotic person like Jhamel, especially since she was caring for him and he was helping to find her brother. Ultimately, whatever quibbles I have with this or that decision are superseded by the overall clarity and effectiveness of the plot. I know what Jhamel wants, and there is no DARK SECRET or HIDDEN TRAUMA that is making her on screen motivations invalid. The same goes for the Romulans, who clearly state their objectives and complain about the irony of achieving their reverse. I quite liked the sketches of politics and skullduggery that we got, and could happily have watched more. And you know what? It's amazing what clearly laying out character motivations and characteristics can do for a story. It allows me to care about the people on screen, and to have faith that their stated goals are both real, and will either me met or thwarted within the teleplay I am watching. It's so much more satisfying than slathering episode after episode with gobs and gobs of pointless "mystery." Am I drawing a pointed comparison to some... other... "content" which is being called Star Trek? You'd better believe it.

Kevin: The T'Pol/Tucker story gets a little advancement, culminating with his transfer to Columbia. I think my own objection here, is that especially given how close to the end of the season we are, this will not last long. Of course, it doesn't, but you can't really blame this episode, I suppose. They are pretty solidly portrayed as having difficulty making difficult decisions about each other given their feelings, and that works nicely.

Matthew: In some ways, this is a classic 90s/aughts will they/won't they romance, and it is irritating for it. I wish people would talk about their feelings with each other, you know? And these two don't even have the lack of cellphones to blame for it. These are grownups who live in a better world than ours. I long for a Roddenberry-style conversation stripped from our sexual morality. Anyway, it's not that the scenes are bad in terms of dialogue, I just don't want them to happen. I like couples. I like romance. Why can't we just let characters be happy? We already endured the whole Koss subplot. Is it really necessary to give a couple with enjoyable chemistry further obstacles?


Kevin: I think across the board everyone did a great job, and to the extent the plot works, it's on the back of the performances. Combs' Shran is his usual excellent self. Bakula turns in good work this week. He's firm where he needs to be firm, but never shouty. Alicia Adams did nice work advocating for her people in a way that did a lot of organic world building. Alexandra Lydon as Jhamel and Scott Allen Rinker as Ghareb also did a good job seeming like the near children they were. Collectively, the Aenar were sketched quite nicely, quite quickly.

Matthew: Whatever my issues with the storytelling choices, Jeffrey Combs acted the heck out of his character's feelings and decisions. Alexandra Lydon had the unenviable task of following up yet another Fridged Strong Female (Initial Trademark registered to Paramount, Nov. 5 1990), and heck if she doesn't make it work.

Kevin: Rounding out the main case, Trinneer and Blalock keep turning in nice credible displays of chemistry. The loss of a hypothetical season 5 to give the relationship room to grow is certainly of the sadder losses of the show's cancellation. 

Matthew: Connor Trinneer turned in a master class reel of work here. His final scene with Bakula worked like gangbusters, and really paid off the years of work the two have together. Blalock also excelled in a tough role, since her character is being made to be standoffish and to conceal her feelings in an annoying way.

Production Values

Kevin: The drone chairs were overall well done for me. Lots of bits doing stuff while staying on this side of the cheesy line. The internal dance party of the helmets was less convincing. The Aenar sets were some classic TOS ice caverns, but little touches made everything work pretty well. The CGI of the worms themselves was a little video-gamey but the practical borehole lighting worked as a neat effect. The make up and costumes of the Aenar were also nice and thoroughly realized, so all in all a good outing for the design team.

Matthew: I was particularly impressed by the Aenar CGI city backdrop and set designs. Do I wonder why a blind race has such well lit environs? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I would much rather enjoy a well-lit drama than be fiddling with TV settings because anything and everything is "realistically" or "cinematically" swathed in darkness. I agree the worms looked hokey. Overall, this was a very strong effort in terms of effects and sets.


Kevin: I think this episode is well done, and entertaining overall, but it's a little too plot driven if that makes sense. Having successfully implicated an Andorian for running the drone, we need to tie it in a bow. Jhamel's story is nice, but she and her brother enter and exit the story in one episode. The concept of the Aenar feels like it could bear more time on screen. Lissan did a nice job portraying her people's pacifism, but it would have been more Trek-y to see more Aenar wrestle more explicitly with that. This episode has just a little too much to do to tie up earlier episodes, and it holds the overall episode back a little. Still, this is a nice, brisk, entertaining episode, so this is another happy 3, not an early season meh 3.

Matthew: Yeah, I think I am stuck at a 3, as well, for a total of 6. It's the Trip/T'Pol stuff that brings it down from a 4 for me. The world building was effective, Shran's romance mostly worked, the action plot was fine. I quite enjoyed the prelude to the founding of the Federation that this story arc represented overall. But T'Pol and Trip being forced to suffer yet again irks me.


  1. While I understand the attraction on both sides, the Shran+Jhamel coupling is moving rather fast for my taste. He's a rugged, veteran soldier and commander. Maybe mid to late forties in human terms. She feels like a teenager.
    I suppose she shows (or develops?) some considerable maturity and independence, but still... Oh, well, I'm not an Andorian, i shouldn't judge.

    But at any rate, I'm very grateful to the writers for moving things forwards, and towards something we want to see. There is a sense of triumph and accomplishment that we worked towards this for three episodes, and now we got there.
    The show becomes a more meaningful prequel when it is actively expanding on what it precedes. I guess it also makes it less a thing of its own, but that's not bad for me in this case. I don't think I would have followed this if it wasn't Star Trek, after all. Certainly not very far into season three.

    1. Yeah, the actress was (per IMDB) was 26 when this was made, but she definitely reads as teenager in a way that felt lightly off. Combs was 51 for however that impacts the math.