Friday, December 23, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Azati Prime

Enterprise, Season 3
"Azati Prime"
Airdate: March 3, 2004
69 of 97 produced
69 of 97 aired


Enterprise finds the Azati Prime weapons installation and the crew must formulate a plan of attack.

'Tis but a scratch!


Kevin: So, here we are, finally at Azati Prime. I like what happens in this episode a fair bit, and it's a good kick off to the home stretch of episodes about the Xindi weapon, and it puts the Enterprise in direct contact with the Xindi government. My issues fall mostly in where this episode sits in the season rather than anything within the four walls of the episode. We are three quarters through the season. That's a long time to get here, and while this episode is good, the question is of course raised if it was worth the trip. And I think it would have been better to get to this point a little earlier in the season. We've been talking about the weapon and looking for the weapon, and now we're here and need to deal with the weapon and we at least start to deal with it, but I don't know if I feel that the trip really needed as much of the season as it took up. Especially since we don't resolve it, we just set up a cliffhanger of the Enterprise under attack and Archer in Xindi custody. It's an open ended ending that given how close we are to the end of the season feels like they are padding for a time a little. I think if they wanted this to be its own multi episode arc, we should have gotten there sooner to kick it off. But like I said, that's a season level decision, not a 'this episode' decision.

Matthew: With respect to the structure and cliffhanger, this certainly feels like a stab at truly serialized storytelling, in the sense of movie serials with cliffhangers. I don't mind it necessarily, and I thought the shot of the Enterprise burning in space was punchy and effective, but I could have stood for it to be marked out as such with a "part 1" in the title. Anyway, one thing I really liked in this particular episode's story was the crew wrestling with destroying the listening station.They displayed some sense of compunction against killing people in the service of their mission, even as they knew it was a classic "needs of the many vs. needs of the few" situation.

Kevin: The episode we get is pretty good action fare. The first shuttle trip to the weapon was pretty tense in an enjoyable way. Archer deciding he's the one who has to go feels a little silly, but I'll say it feels silly in a proper way. The Captain nobly doing the mission himself when there should really be pilots and munitions experts literally more likely to succeed is a proud tradition of Star Trek. And Archer at least unapologetically did the thing that got him taken into custody this time. So that's good, too. And the back and forth with Degra was great, and played well off the previous work in "Stratagem."

Matthew: This was the aspect of the story that worked least for me - especially Travis trying to volunteer and being rebuffed. Like, come on Archer, if you need to be briefed on how to fly the thing less than an hour before launch, maybe you're not the guy? I also felt T'Pol's emotional outburst really came out of left field. I think I recall what they're building towards, but I also don't think quite enough work and foreshadowing has been done prior to these scenes to make them feel like a totally organic development.

Kevin: The one truly soft spot is another cryptic field trip with Daniels. Some of the fan service like the Enterprise-J is obviously fun, but it's annoying narratively because it keeps doubling down on the Great Man of History theory of social change, and it continues to be fuzzy how changes in the timeline propagate in the future. Also, Daniels seems to really be tipping his hand about what the Federation is and who is in it in a way that should itself be affecting the timeline. Shouldn't Archer knowing that Vulcan and Andoria eventually team up impact how he interacts with Shran or Soval?

Matthew: Yeah, the thing about the Sphere Builders being able to chart out potential time lines was a huge can of worms with many implications that go unexplored (for instance, whether there is one time line or a Parallels style multiverse). I think when it comes to these Daniels scenes, they can occur with this frequency, but they need to be more impactful each time, delivering more exposition and setting the stage for more of the season plot. This was one of the better ones, at least. I did like, however, the idea that Xindi will be allied with the Federation in the future (which dovetails nicely with the previous mention of a space traveler with both Xindi and Human DNA). It's a very Star Trek turn in the story, by which I mean, not a predictable one necessarily, but an ethically consistent one. Archer would like to thread the needle of preventing the destruction of Earth while also building alliances and exploring the universe.


Kevin: Bakula did good work this week. His goodbye to the crew was good, and his scenes with Randy Oglesby's Degra really built nicely off of the earlier episodes. The Xindi councilors all did good job with the back and forth with the decisions to make. The crew also had some nice ensemble scenes trying to figure out how to act without Archer. All in all, a lot of nice pieces of conversation in an action heavy episode. 

Matthew: We've certainly seen Bakula in "just got a beating" makeup many times before. He's an old, practiced hand at it by this point.  

Production Values

Kevin: I liked the idea of the underwater base. I think it was a small notch above "video game cut scene" but not as great as a full model would have been. That said, I will give praise to the design department for really exploring the options the set up gives them. The underwater base is obviously more secure and you literally have an aquatic species who I assume makes these. It's nice when they follow the thread of the idea to interesting other ideas. 

Matthew: Interior sets were a bit "meh" on the Enterprise J - the corridors and sconces felt more like "things we had left over" than "intentional design choices." I also think the Xindi shuttle interior is pretty uninspired, especially if it's supposed to be "designed for someone with compound eyes." 

Kevin: The ship battle was good, and though I clocked a few repeat effects sequences in the battle, I can't tell you how many times I've watch the same Bird of Prey blow up in TNG and DS9, so I'm calling that nostalgic. The future battle in the nebula was a pretty soupy, but I think it doesn't hurt the story since we're only supposed to be getting bits of it anyway. Overall, a nice competent outing for a big episode.

Matthew: I think the space CGI was as a whole really well done. The Enterprise J battle looked neat, the destruction of the Xindi station had a nice "Operation Iraqi Freedom" vibe to it, and the underwater base was like an improved VOY "Thirty Days."  The damage and destruction on the Enterprise itself in the finale battle was effective, and gumby people floating in space were the least artificial looking ones so far.


Kevin: I think this falls short of a 4 to stay in 3 territory. It's a heightening of the action now that we are here, but for being a self contained episode, the ending is a little too open. This is a nice step on the journey, but not more than that. So I am going with a nice, solid, respectable 3.

Matthew: Yeah, it's hard for me to award "above average" points when I have so many questions I would still like answered, and can point to unexplored outcomes that should or could have been. It was a solid installment in a serial, basically. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. Happy holidays everyone!

    I don't have anything real to say about this episode. I barely remember it. I thought E2 was the next one, but it seems there's a few more in between.

    The next season's three-episode arcs can drag a little some of the time, but they're impressively tightly structured compared to this.