Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Xindi"

**1/2

Air date: 9/10/2003
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"We don't have the luxury of being safe or cautious anymore." — Archer, perhaps talking about the battle for TV ratings

In brief: Some new places, and new faces, but some hoary old techniques. Call it a mixed bag.

It's been six weeks since the Enterprise entered the Delphic Expanse. And the Xindi are well aware of its presence. In the opening minute we see a sort of Xindi roundtable council meeting, where arguments over What Enterprise Knows are being presented by several different alien species, including one that looks like a giant fly — or maybe an ant — as well as a reptilian creature and a weird kinda-walrus-thing in a tank. The fly wants to send out forces to destroy the human ship. Maybe that's justifiable since I make it a rule to kill any fly that invades my living space.

The Enterprise crew, however, is still very much in the dark. They have not come across any hard evidence pointing to the Xindi. And, so far, the weirdest thing to have happened is that some containers are bouncing around from one wall to the other in a cargo hold, because gravity seems not to be working quite right in the Delphic Expanse. For the crew, indeed, there's been a bit of wandering and waiting thus far in the Delphic Expanse. The puzzle of the Xindi, which Archer's new mission has implored he assemble, has yet to supply any pieces.

But Archer has a recently acquired lead from a cargo captain whom Reed says is of "questionable character." Archer doesn't much care about his questionable character, because We Need Answers Dammit and we're not going to find them without taking a risk or two. The Enterprise follows the lead to a world with a harsh mining facility, where apparently a Xindi laborer is known to reside.

And so begins season three with "The Xindi," a so-so premiere that invites our curiosity while also delivering several notable disappointments that invite us to think, "You're kidding, right?" Here's an episode that tells us there is not one but five distinct species of Xindi, while also giving us a story where, almost hilariously inevitably, Archer and Trip are, yes, tricked into being imprisoned and must subsequently escape and/or be rescued. Meanwhile, 7 million human deaths from "The Expanse" have for the moment been reduced via microcosm to a personal vendetta for Trip, who has nightmares about the death of his sister.

There's a nightmare sequence where Trip sees his sister about to be killed by what we might as well call the Xindi Swath. It's an effective sequence in its visual sense of stark, melodramatic contrasts — a white, pristine paradise about to go up in the flames of a hellfire. I was less than thrilled, however, by the first moment in this episode where Trip comes in contact with his first Xindi (Richard Lineback), grabs him by the collar and says, "I'm not sure why, but I'm just itching to kick the hell outta you," which is dramatic overstatement.

(1) But of course Trip knows why he feels the way he feels, and (2) that doesn't make his actions justified under the circumstances. Given the level of information Trip has, his unchecked aggression here strikes me as not unlike an American in 2003 grabbing by the collar the first random Arab he bumps into on the street and accusing him of being a terrorist. I'm not saying such an exchange couldn't (or doesn't) happen, but in the 22nd century, Trip strikes me as cavalierly un-Trek-like here, revealing pumped-up visceral aggression without the benefit of reasoned thought. It might've been nice if the story challenged Trip on this point at least a little.

Then, of course, we get to the passage where Archer Goes to Jail [TM], which as of right now I'm declaring is this series' most obvious cliche — the equivalent of the Shuttle Crash [TM] on Voyager.

It's at this point my imagination takes hold, since the story's certainly doesn't. I'm imagining the initial writing of the first draft of the "Xindi" script, where Berman and Braga have gotten to the point where Trip and Archer meet the Xindi — who might be able to direct them to his homeworld — and the door in the mining shaft is closed by the mining foreman, who has told them, tellingly and telegraphically, "Take your time." The Xindi prisoner then informs them that they, like he, have been lured into a trap of forced slave labor.

I'm imagining Braga sitting at the computer keyboard (in this particular fantasy sequence, boss Berman dictates while right-hand man Braga does the typing). Berman stops dictating, having hit a wall, and Braga then suddenly remembers an important office tool at his disposal: He looks down at his keyboard, which has one of those plastic overlays that explains what the F-keys are programmed to do. Above F12, it says "SEND ARCHER & CREWMATE TO JAIL." Braga decides now would be a good time to press this button, since F12 is an oft-used function key that writes two acts' worth of script pages in which Archer and a random crew member (with Trip's initially equal chance multiplied by three before the random selection is made) are locked into a holding cell and must then find a way to escape, preferably by crawling through caves, tunnels, and/or ventilation shafts.

Braga presses F12. Accompanied by the default Windows XP chord sound, a dialog box appears that says, "Automatically generate random imprisonment-and-jailbreak narrative?" Braga then clicks "OK," at which point 16 pages of standard jailbreak material is generated from a database of events from previous Enterprise scripts and other action movies — in this case including Archer (and the random crewmate and the tagalong guest-star prisoner) traipsing through raw sewage and then crawling up through a shaft that is about to be filled with flames that would kill them.

These events do not allow Archer and Trip and the Xindi prisoner to escape, however, as they are forced out of the shaft (flames, etc.) and caught by the guards.

About here, I'm imagining, is where Braga hits another wall and presses F11. Accompanied by the default Windows XP chord, a dialog box now appears that says, "Automatically generate shootout-and-escape sequence?" Braga clicks "OK," and this generates several minutes of sustainable action and shooting and the narrow escape of our crew and rescue team with, of course, zero casualties (unless you count the Xindi prisoner).

(Triumph voice on.) I kid, I kid. (Voice off.) I suppose it's to the credit of the production team and director Allan Kroeker that this lackluster material is somehow made watchable, almost to the point of being mildly entertaining. Completely unsurprisingly, "The Xindi" is terrific from a production standpoint, and if the writing had been up to par they might've had something here. The technical aspects of this show — the production design, the lighting, the direction, the editing, the visual effects, the action choreography, the Michael Westmore makeup — are right where they should be. The alien mining facility is a triumph of dusty, murky, grubby art design, intensely cold colors, incessantly coughing actors, and exterior CGI shots that convincingly and simply say "unfriendly."

Stephen McHattie, playing the mining facility's foreman, turns in an effective — if stylized — performance that suggests a man who has been breathing toxic air for his entire life, and probably longer. Meanwhile, Scott Bakula plays Archer in an almost unremittingly grim, no-nonsense tone. Archer is strikingly serious, of no smiles, and exudes an attitude of getting the job done so the ship can get on with its important mission.

We're also introduced to some of the ship's new Military Assault Command Operations team (MACOs), led by Major Hayes (Steven Culp). They provide much of the action in the inevitable rescue scene, but are otherwise of only limited story value. Now that they've been established, I hope future episodes will develop them or give them a purpose beyond action scenes.

Of course, no review of "The Xindi" would be complete without a healthy deriding of the "Vulcan neuro-pressure" scene. Vulcan neuro-pressure, described by T'Pol as "a very intimate act," might help the grieving insomniac that is Trip sleep through the night, so Phlox talks T'Pol into giving Trip lessons in said technique. (For the writers, such a technique is probably in lieu of a mind-meld, which, as we know, the Vulcans deem illegal in this century.)

This eventually leads to a laughable scene in which both T'Pol and Trip appear shirtless for, well, no good reason. The problem with this scene is its utter and shameless transparency. It has nothing to do with sex or intimacy or characters but simply panders — like all of Enterprise's previous attempts at pseudo-sexual material (with the exception of Hoshi's night in "Two Days and Two Nights") — to the audience with sex-LIKE material that really has nothing at all to do with sex and everything to do with puerile snickering.

When are the producers going to grow up and get over it? Do they honestly think people tune in to their show for scenes like this? I'll tell you what — under the right circumstances and writing, I'd be much more in favor of seeing two of the characters actually having sex rather than be fed this juvenile Sexuality Lite that thinks it's funny because, tee-hee, we can put almost-naked people on the screen and show non-sex sex!

Bah. (Yep, it's F10: "Automatically create non-sexual circumstance for character 'T'Pol' to remove her shirt? [OK/Cancel]")

Anyway, enough. The bottom line is that "The Xindi," while giving us some elements that work reasonably well and laying some groundwork in terms of new faces and situations, is too much business as usual: prison breaks, shootouts, a few hints that we might be going somewhere but precious little in terms of believable Xindi motivation (aside from cartoon exclamations that they "must finish the weapon!"). We do learn, at least, that there's a mystery of contradictions here somewhere; the Xindi homeworld has (apparently) already been destroyed for over a century, which doesn't track with what Future Guy told Archer regarding the Xindi and their motives. Will this end up a mystery, or a muddle?

As I said before, this season has potential. "The Xindi" is proof that such realized potential still lies ahead of us, since it doesn't lie here.

Next week: Archer does his best impression of Janeway's interrogation in "Equinox, Part II."

Previous episode: The Expanse
Next episode: Anomaly

Season Index

22 comments on this review

Omega333 - Mon, Oct 1, 2007 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
I sorta found the Xindo to be fairly alright people. Sure, they want to destroy Earth, but looking at it from a broader perspective they have every right to want to do so. I mean if us lowly earthlings learned aliens were going to kill us in the future, I'd want something to be done (although genocide IS a bit harsh...still, self preservation is a paramount instinct).

Although, I do find it odd that a species that has five different varieties, which would have undoubtedly have had a bajillion wars with each other, wouldn't be able to think in terms of negotiating a peace to ensure the future predicted wouldn't happen. Because I can't see any justification for wanting to get revenge for people that will continue to exist should they try things a bit differently...

But then, this is Trek....time travel is the puppet of the writters....*shrug*
Jeffrey Bedard - Mon, May 18, 2009 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
So the Xindi arc begins. Having gone back to watch this episode one thing I noticed in the council scenes is how prominent the Insectoids are. In fact the Insectoid council member gets the closing lines of the episode and the final scene.

Because we saw so little of the Insectoids in this season (and they were the species which interested me the most) I enjoy whatever bits and pieces I see. I understand that from a cost perspective it's still cheaper to go with actors in makeup than CGI characters, but here was a chance for ENTERPRISE to focus on some truly non-humanoid aliens and I don't feel that took full advantage.

The Archer/Trip plot of being captured is repetitive of other episodes in ST, but one thing I had forgotten was how quickly it wraps up. Most episodes with this type of plot wouldn't have rescued the crewman(men) until the last act. But act 4 of this episode as everyone back on Enterprise and Trip and T'Pol doing that stupid neuropressure stuff.

I can only guess that the writers were wanting to get a Trip/T'Pol romance going. In a way I felt that since "Breaking the Ice" from S1. I can only assume that this "intimate" relaxation technique was the writer's way of getting Trip and T'Pol to relax with each other and become more comfortable. But there are more dramatically satisfying ways to do that, I would imagine.

Bakula's performance is quite stunning. In the first two seasons I kept feeling Archer was too much like a John Denver/type. Overly friendly, aw shucks, thank god I'm a Starfleet boy type of thing. Starting here and through the rest of the series for the most part Archer grows up. I felt I could take the character more seriously because Bakula was.

I've been enjoying this site for a couple of years now. Can't wait to read your review of ST XI. Thanks for giving us fans the chance to voice our opinions too.
Jeffrey Bedard - Thu, Feb 11, 2010 - 5:16pm (USA Central)
So I'm watching the Xindi arc in its completion for the third time now (why? I don't know) and I noticed something I hadn't before: A whole half of a year goes by (probably longer) from the first attack on Earth to the crew of Enterprise even meeting a Xindi.

The Xindi attacks Earth, it takes however many months at Warp 5 for Enterprise to get back to Earth. It takes however long for Enterprise to refitted with new weapons, the Command Center, etc. Then they have to launch and travel 5 months (!) just to reach the cloud that surrounds the Expanse. Then a further month and a half which takes us to the events of "The Xindi." Archer was definitely right when he told Forrest that Future Guy wouldn't have warned him about the Xindi if there wasn't a good chance of stopping them. You would almost think that by the time Archer and Reed were first visiting the mining facility, the full size weapon would have been near completion.

The ST franchise rarely did story arcs, outside of the Klingon episodes in TNG and the Dominion War on DS9 so I think that's one reason why I keep watching the Xindi arc from time to time. But for some reason I've only just noticed just how much time has passed from "The Expanse" to "The Xindi." I don't know what that says about my attentiveness as a viewer, but at least it shows that even some of the weaker episodes of the franchise can give a viewer something new to think about after repeat viewings.
Katie - Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - 4:29pm (USA Central)
"Harder...harder...[sigh]...just like that."

Bah, indeed.
Jacob T Taylor 7 - Sun, Jul 4, 2010 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
So Archer couldnt see he was walking into a trap. Man this guys dim as a flashlight thats been left on for 2 days with cheap RITEAID batteries. Come on hes been in these situations before! The MACOS add a nice element. The Trip/T'pol scence I thought was really gonna be a sex scene w Pholx giving Trip some kinda stimulant (or so i thought) but it endend up being just a bunch of balognia sausage and some hand on boobs. Why cant ppl just have sex in star trek? I thought that was the doctor and sciece officer tPOL were planning for Mr. Charles Tucker anyway. Prolly would helped his drepression and let him sleep better than that stupid press my back crumb buminess. ARcher takes the starship Enterprise to the destroyed planet Xindi and pick to go thataway into the expanse and continue looking for??? who knos. Man it seems like these writers really do just wing it.
sweezely - Tue, Jul 6, 2010 - 10:30am (USA Central)
I may be in a minority here, but I think the Xindi arc was one of the best things Star Trek has ever done. If anything (and people won't like this) I find it a far more coherent and just generally better series of episodes than the finale of DS9. The key is to consider this season apart from the first two. The first two seasons were essentially Voyager-lite but with an arguably more likeable cast (no fucking Neelix on Enterprise); season three veers off into more 24-like territory, and makes this is the season when Enterprise establishes its own identity. Take it on those terms and this becomes one of the finest seasons Trek has produced, up there with season five of DS9 and the middle seasons of TNG.
Marco P. - Mon, Mar 28, 2011 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
Once again, despite the usual B&B-tagged shortcomings, I'm on board for this episode. I won't say yet the show is actually going somewhere, but my interest is sufficiently renewed.

That said, I can only agree on Jammer's whole "F-keys" tirade. As satirical as it might be, it is probably very close to the truth, if only figuratively. Let's hope the inevitable let-down will occur as late as humanly possible.
chris - Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 3:28am (USA Central)
Ok, T'Pol is hot as hell, but it's a shame the producers are treating her like this... :(
Nathan - Mon, Nov 21, 2011 - 8:15am (USA Central)
Definitely a missed opportunity with Vreenak holding the cylindrical platinum container :)
Paul York - Sun, May 13, 2012 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with Jammer - the T'Pol shirtless scene was an insult to our intelligence. Ditto with the T'Pol bodysuit - as well as the 7 of 9 bodysuit and high heels. Honestly, how pathetic.

As for the inter-species cooperation of the Xindi -- I wish humans could be so cooperative with the other intelligent species on Earth. Imagine developing a working relationship with whales and dolphins and chimpanzees for example -- they could teach us a lot about the necessity of protecting eco-systems - which we rely on as much as they do.

The alternative is an Earth that looks like that Mordor-like mining slave camp. I have to agree with the above statement that the Xindi are just doing a pre-emptive strike to protect themselves - from the sound of it - but wouldn't it be easier to simply talk with Earth folks and work it out beforehand? Clearly they don't trust us, and perhaps not without good reason: after all, look at what we have done to our marine mammals, insects, and reptiles.

Anyway, the whole scenario is totally implausible: temporal wars, stupid test weapons of mass destruction (why not just introduce a pathogen that would kill the humans and leave the flora and fauna intact?), a Delphic expanse where Vulcans go mad and Klingons get turned inside out ... Enterprise seems to oscillate between hard SF and fantasy; these segments are more on the fantasy side of it, but I have to admit, it is entertaining nonetheless.
Cloudane - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 6:23am (USA Central)
Hehe, Jammer here sounding more bitter than Trip.
I thought everyone said ENT actually got pretty decent with S3 and 4?

So were they trying to go darker than DS9 or what? I'm getting the impression they were trying a bit too hard with it or something. Who knows.
I erm, like the remixed opening song. Carry on.
Brock - Sat, Aug 4, 2012 - 11:03am (USA Central)
I think I know what caused the cancellation of this Star Trek series....the opening song. I mean it was bad enough to start with, but then the tropical samba remix? that was the nail in the coffin :|
Zane314 - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 9:40pm (USA Central)
Solid 3.5 stars, excellent episode!

I'm omitting from consideration anything to do with the T'Pol/Archer scene by Breman & Braga (aka Beavis & Butthead)! That was beyond stupid. In fact I'm quite sure this was the episode that stopped me from watching Enterprise way back when it was being broadcast (or pumped through cable). Just dumb, real dumb. Like Jammer rightly pointed out, it's not even sex, it's PG-13 titillation, sexual illusions. And Jammer got it perfectly about Hoshi (a natural beauty) on Risa having a normal, believable sexual encounter - with sex! And Jolene Blalock ... well, I just want to say I'm not very titillated. Her face is pretty but plain and featureless. She's model thin and seems fit. Of course, B&B must have cast her because of her decision to get cosmetic surgery on her lips and chest (at least those spots, maybe some more on her face). I just don't get the appeal, the proportions of both her lips and chest seem all wrong to me and not attractive. Before and after pics on the web show her smile just went to pot after the lip surgery. And her chest is so obviously augmented as to make her playing a Vulcan, a race that would never do something so vain, just unbelieavble. So Vulcan massage therapy allows us to see the bottom of T'pol's back and the top of her butt. Oh, and some side boob and the big payoff, T'pol holding her boobs. Teehe indeed. I mean even in September 2003 when this originally broadcast you could Google X Y Z and get what you searched for pretty easily. No need to even subscribe to Maxim. Ok, I'll cool off but this was the back breaker for me originally and I'm glad that I'm happily skipping stupid scenes like this now which lets me enjoy the good stuff Enterprise has to offer.

So why 3.5 stars for The Xindi? Other than the never-to-be-mentioned-again-T'Pol-boob-scene, it was solid all the way with new aliens, a great mining world, and an excellent Xindi for them to rescue. The mining world looked great, the outside shots, the hallways, the boss's office, the mines, all excellent. It reminds me of how well they do with this sort of thing. I'm sure it cost more than Battlestar Galactica episodes but wow, the difference in quality! Sets, make up, etc all stellar. Poor ENT just needs better, more consistent writing and no T'Pol. I loved the mining boss, his scabby head, his breathing apparatus, the sci-fi/steam-punk office - did you catch the 40s style microphone he used later in the episode? And the Xindi wasn't just good or bad, he was ... both. The Reed vs the military pissyness was a little fake feeling but that's ok, they wanted a tension hook. And I liked how the military guys (and a gal!) actually were very bad arse. These are supposed to be "the best" so were talking DEVGRU/Pararescue/SFOD in space. Sure, they were toned down to tv/Trek standards but still it was a good dose of military toughness. I really, really enjoyed the Star Wars Episode II homage scenes with the Xindi multi-racial council, excellent! The insect dude, the seal-men/women, all kinds of humanoids including Rick Worthy aka Simon from BSG. He's got such a good voice. I think it's very sci-fi and very new for Trek to have a "race" actually be several races mashed together into a single alien unit. Very cool. I'm excited to forge ahead, ready to skip T'Pol teehe junk, so I can see the Xindi story unfold.
Zane314 - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
Hi Jammer, I just read all of your review and am struck by similarities and differences with my comments. We match up on the T’pol nonsense and the excellent production quality of The Xindi. But the criticism of Archer getting captured and the shootout seems a bit misplaced. This is a tv show and we’re going to have “insert action here” quite a bit. I’m not sure if it’s the same amount but I recall Kirk getting captured many times. With The Xindi, we have a whole new context in which Archer is captured ending with a shootout: a very dangerous, uncharted part of space; a dangerous planet; unknown races; and a mission to find answers and justice for an attack that cost 7 million lives by a race(s) that wants to completely destroy Earth. I mean, really, 2.5 stars? I’ve read most of your Enterprise reviews and you give 2.5 stars to a lot of turds and The Xindi seemed much fresher, more enjoyable, and better executed than your previous 2.5 star reviews.

Just a side note: as soon Corporal Chang was introduced I thought to look him up since I always like to see if Trek matches the real ethnicity with that of the character in the show. Well, what do you know, they got DDK for Cp Chang! Too bad a Korean actor can’t play, I don’t know, a Korean!
Corporal Chang, Chinese - Daniel Dae Kim, born in Korea
Ensign Hoshi Sato, Japanese - Linda Park, born in Korea
Cloudane - Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 5:19pm (USA Central)
Revisiting this to revise my comment on the opening music....

It's kind of.. flat and sedate?

Whilst the old was was all action-y and rocky and had its guitar riff type bits and whatnot. It's as if the series LOST confidence.

Kind of the opposite of things like DS9 o.o
John the younger - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 10:30am (USA Central)
I like the idea of non-humanoids in Trek.. but the Separatists.. I mean Xindi council.. seem kinda lame.
Q - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 11:07am (USA Central)
Yes. Idea beyond earlier "Vox Sola", altough very poor executed, was far better.
Nancy - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 6:52pm (USA Central)
This is minor but.... That hick accent of Trip's is supposed to be Floridian???
Buck - Mon, May 26, 2014 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
I must admit that I get a chuckle out of all your comments that trash the writers for their almost-sex scenes, as if it's some sort of transgression that can't be forgiven. After all, Captain Kirk was certainly took a vow of chastity ...
Petrus - Thu, Jun 19, 2014 - 10:28am (USA Central)
I just finished watching this. I was bored. I'm not even really sure why. I mean, the episode *looks* great.

On reflection, I think there's two reasons.

a} As Jammer says, practically everything that happens in the episode is a repetitive, boring stereotype that I've seen I wouldn't know how many times before. The gulag looked like something out of an Unreal Tournament map, and the overseer of it was derivative as well.

b} There was very little dialogue, no character development, nothing for me to really care about. I watched Season 2's "Cease Fire," a couple of hours ago, and thought that was a lot better. I like Jeffrey Combs' character, Shran, and I especially like the fact that whenever he shows up, it means that they're working towards actually getting the Federation together, or at least it feels like that.

The other thing that bothered me about this episode was the fact that they have non-Starfleet infantry on board the ship, and in these action scenes, those infantry were killing people. That's not Star Trek, or at least not in my mind.
bhbor - Sat, Sep 13, 2014 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
Petrus wrote, "The other thing that bothered me about this episode was the fact that they have non-Starfleet infantry on board the ship, and in these action scenes, those infantry were killing people. That's not Star Trek, or at least not in my mind."

I completely agree, those cocky Navy Seal types bothered me too. They represent the myopic- seek and destroy aspect of the military that I find repulsive and counter to the spirit that the military career represents in Star Trek. The whole depiction really felt a touch propogandic and inconsistent considering it was established that humanity's focus after the third world war and First Contact was one of peace, self improvement through knowledge and exploration. These guys would be relics of a shameful, and not-so-distant period in Earth's history and do not fit at all in this vision of the future. Given that, I doubt active training for such commandos would even exist. Lt. Reid and Star Trek's other portrayal of tactical officers fits better than these all-America jerks.

Given the post 9/11 timeline, I feel like the whole Xindi arc should have been thrown in the trash in favor of the more optimistic and evolved version of humanity found in previous depictions of the the 22nd-24th centuries and I think a more peaceful, insightful and cerebral Star Trek Enterprise would have served as a better example for viewers trying to deal with the shock and aftermath of 9/11.
NCC-1701-Z - Thu, Sep 25, 2014 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
I didn't even recognize Stephen McHattie until I looked up the credits on Memory Alpha. They should have had him say some variation of "It's a FAAAAAKE!" in this episode. Wasted opportunity.

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