Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Hatchery"

**

Air date: 2/25/2004
Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
Story by Andre Bormanis & Mike Sussman
Directed by Michael Grossman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Not the sort of thing they trained us for at West Point." — Major Hayes, on command scenarios complicated by sci-fi circumstances

In brief: Big, long, deep sigh.

In my "next week" comments, I like to belittle UPN trailers and offer up sarcastic comments. It's just a fun thing to do. And when I was dismissive in my "next week" comments for this episode, I was of course just kidding around, because I don't take the trailers seriously (often, how can you?). Even when I do, I usually try to poke fun rather than be serious.

"Mutiny aboard Voyager! I mean, Enterprise!" I wrote. Kidding.

Rest assured, come episode time, I was in serious, open-minded mode. In all honesty, I was looking forward to an episode that I hoped would supply some genuine tension, serious clashes of thought, and some meaty characterization and/or tough choices.

Well, now, after having seen "Hatchery," I can only report that this take on the mutiny plot is indeed about as authentic as any of the supposed mutinies that happened on Voyager ("Repression" comes to mind) — which is to say, not at all. There are some reasonably decent situational dynamics here, but the story is built on a cheat plot's foundation, where the mutinous behavior arises only because a Strange Alien Influence has compromised one or more of the characters — in this case, Captain Archer.

Boooor-ing.

Sorry, but this is exactly the wrong kind of routine story to be telling. Andre Bormanis, who wrote "Extinction" earlier this season, which I said was an episode that made all the typical Voyager mistakes, has basically done it again. This is not an Enterprise episode; it's a Voyager rehash. It's the mutiny show done the only way Voyager could ever do it, with abnormal behavior caused by an outside influence and therefore having no lasting significance to the people who participate in it.

What's worse, the whole show is telegraphed from the very beginning, rendering the hour painfully obvious. While an away team investigates a crashed Xindi insectoid vessel on a barren world, Archer is sprayed by a Xindi insectoid egg sac — and the whole plot instantly reveals itself as an exercise in going through the motions. Phlox examines Archer in sickbay and determines that the venom poses no lasting danger. By this point, I'm rolling my eyes and talking to the TV screen: What are you, stupid? (Phlox obviously has not seen enough Star Trek episodes.)

Immediately afterward, Archer starts exhibiting strange behavior, none of which tracks with his usual opinions. All season long, Archer has been only about the mission to save Earth; it has been Priority No. 1. Now he begins to be protective of this hatchery to the point of monomania, and he gives new orders to do whatever it takes to bring the damaged Xindi vessel back on line so the hatchery can be made operable and the hatchlings will survive. Archer argues that such a good-faith display would show the Xindi that humanity is not the threat they think it is. (Considering the Xindi preemptively killed 7 million people, I wouldn't be so optimistic.)

Unfortunately, to do this will necessitate a delay in the trip to Azati Prime and, worse, expend one-third of the Enterprise's antimatter fuel reserves. When T'Pol confronts Archer with reasonable logic, and explains to him that the Enterprise (and humanity) cannot afford compromising the primary mission, Archer relieves her of duty and confines her to quarters for insubordination.

Now it's up to Trip to talk Archer out of this plan. Archer isn't particularly receptive, and after an incident that leaves an attacking Xindi ship destroyed, Archer blames Reed (wrongly), relieves him of duty as well, and then puts Hayes in charge of the bridge. With Hayes in charge of the MACOs and Trip in the tough position of trying to do what's best for the mission, the situation quickly begins heading toward a showdown between Trip's Starfleet followers and the MACOs. Archer stays off the main stage, obsessing over the hatchery in increasing mind-altered-behavior fashion. (Does it strike only me as a little sci-fi convenient that his behavior shift is initially so subtle that it seems reasonable as he argues his position? Of course, by the end he's a borderline loon.)

It's really too bad that all of this stems from a hollow contrivance, because some of the dynamics here are interesting, and some of the responses to this problem make sense. We have, for example, the idea of T'Pol voicing the first of the objections — and then when she's confined to quarters, she has a meeting with Trip that starts the talk of undermining the captain. (The MACO posted outside her door buys a lame story pretty easily; he should be fired.)

Later, there's respectable urgency to the T'Pol/Trip/Reed plotting, as, faced with a deadline, they discuss what needs to be done and who can be trusted to take control of the ship.

I also liked some of the earlier character interaction between Reed and Hayes, who after beating each other up in "Harbinger" are seen here as having reached a level of coexistence but without the added cliche of having become best friends; they still have an edge of competition. At one point Hayes shows Reed a battle simulation, and Reed finds himself expressing skepticism almost automatically. I like that he catches himself doing this and apologizes for it.

One important question when it comes time to stage the mutiny is whether or not Hayes can be trusted to also turn against the captain (the mutineers decide the answers is no). Hayes, with a more military background, is more inflexible than the Starfleet personnel in his regard for the chain of command, and the point of character analysis here suggests that Hayes is more likely to simply carry out the orders given to him rather than question those orders under special circumstances. That's a dynamic that's somewhat interesting as a demonstration of the differing philosophies of the MACOs versus the Starfleet officers. (Although one hopes there are limits; just how out of control would Archer have to be before Hayes would acknowledge there's something wrong with his decisions?)

Belying the actual details of the mutiny — which work to some degree as we see Trip, T'Pol, and Reed making their plans — is the inescapable fundamental problem here: I just didn't care about the end result. The whole episode is built upon the fact that none of it ultimately matters beyond the execution of the plot points. Since Archer is not in control of his faculties, there are no actual choices being made here. We're just watching a "mutiny" that's seizing control of an artificially created situation. There is no actual conflict of ideology here. It's just your garden-variety retake-the-ship episode, where our characters are retaking the ship from each other.

As a result, the show is a disappointment because there's no need for anybody to be accountable for anything. The mutiny is ultimately viewed as it must be: a necessary measure to get the mission back on track after the captain is held hostage by his mind-altered state, which is laid out for us by Phlox in a tedious scene of medical exposition. There's nothing interesting about it. We've seen it too many times, and it's a dramatic cop-out. Who cares?

Why not have a real story where it's Starfleet versus the MACOs, with a real cause arising from real issues and real opposing views and having real consequences? You know, a premise that makes us think about what is happening and where something is genuinely at stake? Is that so much to ask for?

Next week: It looks as if the crew finally reaches Azati Prime.

Previous episode: Doctor's Orders
Next episode: Azati Prime

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20 comments on this review

robgnow - Sat, Jul 12, 2008 - 5:03pm (USA Central)
This episode was entirely pointless. As soon as Archer's face got squirted, WE knew he was under mind control and as he began to spend all of his time in the hatchery instead of on the bridge I kept yelling at everyone else that he was under mind control. It just made the crew look stupid that they didn't catch on a lot sooner and Hayes and the MACOs seemed to be pig-headed just to stretch the "plot" out.
As to your ending question, "Why not have a 'real' story...."? The answer is that Berman/Braga obviously have NO interest in Star Trek anymore. It was a job and nothing more and they just didn't have any energy to tell probing stories - they just had to get the 'product' out on UPN's schedule. The entire enterprise (excuse the pun- unintentional) was a cynical project to begin with. It's just too bad, because some new blood with passion for Star Trek could have really made this a fantastic series (as you can see hints of in S4 when real fans came on board).
Jakob M. Mokoru - Mon, Nov 10, 2008 - 10:28am (USA Central)
The thing that disturbed me most is, that Archer wasn't completely irrational. In my opinion this episodes premise could have been presented as real drama, not as the "mind-control"-Plot. I mean, when Archer compared the eggs with humanoid babies, he was right! When he commented that helping them could improve relations with the Xindi, he got a point! When he was angry about the missed opportunity concerning the destroyed Xindi-Ship....
PM - Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
Janeway would have done the same thing, Starfleet values and all.
Hasjtracker - Sat, Jan 9, 2010 - 12:13am (USA Central)
@PM

Janeway would have travelled trough time to save them,no need for alien infections.
Carbetarian - Tue, Dec 28, 2010 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
This was a one star outing for me because it was so boring and obvious. Also, how many freakin' MACOS are there on this ship? Did they bring an army with them? This episode made it sound like there was a MACO in front of every starfleet officer's quarters. Seriously, I am tired of the MACOs being such a shamless plot device in every episode.
Grumpy - Sun, Apr 17, 2011 - 12:09am (USA Central)
Adding to Jakob's comment (from, oh, almost 3 years ago...), the episode would've worked better if the spray had been a red herring. That is, if instead of being a final revelation, someone had said earlier in the episode, "Hey, that spray must've affected Archer's mind!" Which would've led to the revelation at the end: "There was no mind control. I was totally serious."
Grumpy - Sun, Apr 17, 2011 - 1:01am (USA Central)
I should add that, as it plays, the revelation that Archer's compassion was the symptom of an illness comes off as deeply cynical.
Marco P. - Sun, May 8, 2011 - 1:03pm (USA Central)
Jammer wrote: "Why not have a real story where it's Starfleet versus the MACOs, with a real cause arising from real issues and real opposing views and having real consequences? You know, a premise that makes us think about what is happening and where something is genuinely at stake? Is that so much to ask for?"

Battlestar Galactica: 1
ST Enterprise: 0
darwinawards - Wed, Jan 11, 2012 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
I keep asking myself why the crew needed to takeover the ship in the first place instead of using Starfleet regulations that were available to them.

T'Pol had grounds to relieve Archer of command, even just temporarily so she could contact Starfleet Command for further instructions. Instead, she just accepts being relieved of duty without question.

In the scene with Tucker and Phlox where Archer defies Phlox's order to report to sick bay, Phlox had the legal authority to relieve Archer of command (and he even mentions this fact). Yet, he just walks away with Tucker.
Milica - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 11:51am (USA Central)
I actually sided with Archer - I think he was right to save them and was surprised when the crew thought he was totally crazy. Saving insectoids could have served the purpose of preventing the war - much better than just trying to find the weapon because that does nothing to stop the war.
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 10:04am (USA Central)
I share the view of a few others here: I was actually on Archer's side.

I knew there was something wrong, and if there wasn't I would've objected strongly to the sudden 180 in Archer's behaviour. (I'd be glad for him to find his Starfleet-style morality, but disappointed in how inexplicably sudden it was). But I think that's what makes it so frustrating - it takes a mind control "illness" to make Archer a respectable captain. who is more about saving some children and demonstrating that Humans are not the threat the Xindi think they are, rather than wading in torching the place like Trip wanted to do.

His "whatever it takes" attitude has rubbed off on the crew, and... I don't know, I just think it really comes to something when you're siding with the guy who's supposedly ill and "wrong". Maybe we'll see in the upcoming episodes that that's the *point* and if so it'll be one of the best things Trek has done. If not, then oh dear. Either way, as we know this is the penultimate season of all of Trek, in hindsight I'm not so sure it was a risk the writers should've been taking.
Ken - Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 7:28pm (USA Central)
I don't know why Enterprise even bothers to tell stories like this. Within minutes, I told myself, "Oh, it's one of these episodes."

I am always baffled how nobody on screen can see what's to come when Archer was sprayed with alien goop. It is the most obvious thing in the world.

And didn't we just have an episode where the ship was taken over? I never liked these kind of episodes - it's just action and nothing interesting dramatically or nothing that affects the characters. Why do the Star Trek writers feel they need to keep doing these kind of stories?

For a season that was supposed to bring something new to the table, and even some serialization like DS9 had, there is certainly a lot of useless filler being produced here. This episodes is one of the worst examples of it.
Pete - Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
How about this set up; the Captain, Trip and T'Pol are in the ready room discussing something important when the Enterprise is hit by a surprise attack by the Xindi. All three are injured as the impact was just outside the window.

In a instant, the command structure of the Enterprise is shattered, Reed steps up and takes command, the Enterprise is continually attacked and boarded leading to a conflict between Reed and Hayes. Maybe Reed is still trying to be in charge of Security when he should by commanding the entire ship.

This all leads to the crew becoming splintered, Starfleet v. MACOS. Faced with a problem that could mean they'll be late to Azati Prime both men believe only they can solve the problem.

Importantly Archer, Trip and T'Pol don't wake at the end to save the day.
Charles J Gervasi - Tue, Jan 29, 2013 - 11:52pm (USA Central)
I used to think it was irrational to give babies special consideration over other sentient beings. Now that I've had two babies who are now young children, I can understand that biological urge to protect children even at the expense of adults. So many of Archer's actions seemed reasonable to me. If I were in a war situation and saw the Taliban or North Korean soldiers give similar regard for infants, it would make me inclined to sympathize with people who I otherwise oppose completely. There is a chance helping the Xindi eggs/infants could have led to a resolution to the conflict. It could have entered Xindi mythology like the story of the Good Sameritan-- you find a member of a mortal enemy on the road and you help him despite the conflict between your peoples. I agree with Archer under the influence of the Xindi chemicals-- part of the reason humanity is worth saving is we take risks to protect children.
Arachnea - Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 4:58pm (USA Central)
Some have said it, the writers missed almost every detail, or rather gave the details the wrong note.

What an interesting debate: Archer is totally right when he states that if those babies were... well, babies and not eggs, the dilemma for the crew would have been different. (he becomes wrong when he starts acting like a monomaniac, because there were certainly other ways to save those hatchlings).

So, what is bothering is, the episode doesn't even begin to adress the point. Worse, it makes us feel that it's wrong to try and save new borns. In fact, for the first half of the episode, almost everything Archer is saying rings true. It's a shame they had to put him under influence to think in a "trekkian" way.
mark - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
In the last scene between Reed and Hayes, Reed was far too conciliatory. With the captain imprisoning senior officers for doing their jobs, attempting to give away a third of their fuel and topping it off with ordering Hoshi to alert the Xindi to their position, even a dolt could see Archer needed to be relieved of duty. Hayes showed a profound lack of judgment here and I wish Reed had called him on it. If I were Reed I would have lost all respect for Hayes after this incident.

This episode showed us that Hayes and the MACOs are good for shooting things; nothing more. And that's a bit of a shame.
Anonymous - Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
There is a flawed scene where Phlox and Trip confront Archer in the shuttle bay, demanding that Archer immediately report to sickbay for a full medical examination.

When Archer says he'll report to sickbay later, but not immediately, Phlox says that if Archer does not report immediately, Phlox will have to relieve him of duty per Starfleet regulations.

Archer threatens to confine Phlox and Trip to quarters, and Phlox and Trip leave the shuttle bay and begin planning the mutiny.

I see no reason why Phlox did not simply relieve Archer of duty as soon as Archer refused to comply, which would have solved everything and avoided the need for mutiny.

I would also have liked to see the Enterprise remove as much Xindi weapons and technology as possible from the wrecked Xindi ship, to be studied and possibly adapted for use on the Enterprise.
gabrielcrim - Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - 9:29am (USA Central)
I can't understand why this episode required mind control for archer to do something entirely reasonable. I think in the same situation i would have done my damnedest to save them. especially after seeing the little insectoid foetus. If this was any other star trek the rest of the crew would be treated for unusual levels of apathy instead of archer.
lizzzi - Fri, May 16, 2014 - 8:32pm (USA Central)
I thought the baby insectoids were cute, and the crew should have been helping Archer to save them. It was obvious that the alien goop was controlling Archer's mind, but that was beside the point. The hatchery should have been nurtured and the little Xindi-lings cared for. This was another Enterprise episode that, like Crossings, didn't seem to care about new life forms, but only about killing them. Phlox feeding that Tribble to one of his lab creatures (can't recall which ep) really sums up the disrespect the Enterprise writers have for Trekkian ethics.
John G - Fri, May 23, 2014 - 6:07am (USA Central)
I have to agree, this one had way to many weird holes in it. Phlox and T’Pol had every right to relieve Archer of command and demand an immediate medical examination, and even the MACOs would have had to agree with that. It’s not like they were wanting to permanently remove Archer from command.

There were also so many other avenues that could have been pursued with the story. I actually agreed with Archer that saving the eggs could have helped change the Xindi’s minds about the human “threat”, and that would have been a classic Trek way of approaching it. Very much a missed opportunity in the storyline here. Surely they could have gotten the ship’s communications working again to send a distress call, then leave some sort of calling card to let them know it was humans who did it once help arrived, but in a subtle enough way that it wouldn’t tip off the Xindi about the Enterprise’s whereabouts right away. (Though in the beginning of the arc the Xindi seem to know exactly where Enterprise is, but lately they seem strangely clueless about her location and motives. Huh?)

The series had been looking up until now, but this one really disappointed me. One star.

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