Star Trek: Enterprise

“The Council”

3.5 stars.

Air date: 5/12/2004
Written by Manny Coto
Directed by David Livingston

"How I'm remembered isn't for you to decide." — Degra to the sphere builder

Review Text

In brief: Quite engaging, with the coexisting payoff/cliffhanger structure that worked for "Azati Prime."

With the title of the episode being "The Council," it's a safe bet that in the course of the hour we'll finally get to see Archer make his case to the Xindi council. Considering there are two episodes in the season after this one, it's also a safe bet that those discussions with the council will fail. Both of these inevitable facts come true in an exciting episode that proves that pacing and suspense can be a better asset than surprise.

The opening scene shows several sphere builders debating the possible outcomes of various timelines from within in their eerie timeline-bending transdimensional realm, which is an all-white zone that reminded me of DS9's Prophets. It's not the only DS9-reminiscent moment: In the course of the episode we find out that the sphere builders are practically worshipped in Xindi society because they saved the Xindi from destruction when their original homeworld was destroyed. The Xindi now call them "the Guardians."

Given their penchant for manipulation and using their near-godlike status in Xindi society to their own self-serving ends, the Guardians come across in ideology like a take on DS9's Founders (albeit a shallower and recycled version). There's a good scene where the Female Guardian (coming across very much like the Female Founder) confronts Degra and plays to his guilt, telling him that in one timeline he would've been a hero who saved Xindi society, but by going down the road of his current course of action he is betraying his people and dooming them. Why the Guardian doesn't actually try to expose or stop Degra I leave for you to decide.

But I like it better this way, because it makes this scene about Degra's character and his inner turmoil. It offers definitive proof that Degra has gotten more substantive character development this season than perhaps anyone else on this series, including the regular cast members. Degra, who began the season as a nameless device for plot exposition, has evolved into a respectable thinking man who has risen above the assumptions of his people — and has placed himself in a great deal of personal danger because of it. I also liked the running subplot where Trip and Degra come to terms with each other — the sort of subplot about mutual understanding that reminds us that, yes, this is still a Star Trek series.

Degra is escorting the Enterprise to the planet where the Xindi council meets. (The show raises the scope and awe factor by making the descent to this world its own compelling sight to behold.) Degra explains to Archer the nature of the Guardians in Xindi society and exactly the kind of skepticism Archer is likely to face in the council. We also, finally, get some names put to faces, as well as some general fleshing out of the other Xindi council players.

In summation: Jannar, the arboreal, is likely to be swayed; Kiaphet Amman'sor, the aquatic, is one of a species that debates matters for what seems like eternity; the insectoids make snap judgments that are not likely to be in Archer's favor; and then there's reptilian Commander Dolum, a hateful villain if there ever were one. (Much to my chagrin, Degra's closest ally, the other Xindi humanoid played by Tucker Smallwood, is still not given a name.) Of the five species, Archer needs to get three votes to stop the launch of the Xindi Death Star.

The actual council scenes are sometimes a bit underwhelming. There's a lot of urgent shouting, threats, and snarling. This sort of thing works with Klingons, like in last season's courtroom episode, "Judgment," but here, when a season-long arc is coming together with a planet's fate hanging in the balance, it somehow comes across as overwrought and overacted. Then again, as I reread the absurdity of that last sentence, regarding a planet about to be blowed up, maybe not. Maybe Klingons are just better for grandstanding.

What we instead have here are the obstinate reptilians, the indecisive aquatics, and the paranoid insectoids. Archer needs just one of their votes; he already has the humanoids and arboreals. He could be waiting awhile — maybe forever — on the aquatics. The reptilians, meanwhile, are committed to the launch of the weapon for their own self-serving reasons, because the Guardians have told them to stay the course and have ultimately promised the reptilians more power over Xindi society if they do.

"The Council," it must be said, is in full command of its plot. It manages to even bring further usefulness to "Harbinger," an episode that I didn't like but which I must now admit has contributed its small share of little pieces to the big picture. Phlox's scans of the sphere builder become evidence in the council chamber that the Guardians are actually transdimensional invaders who are trying to colonize the expanse, and ultimately the entire galaxy. (You know this show is in control when a notion like that can be delivered not only with a straight face but with relative conviction.)

There's also a B-story, where T'Pol, Reed, Mayweather, and Cpl. Hawkins (gee, who's gonna die?) take a shuttlepod into a sphere to collect crucial data from its memory core, in hopes of finding a way to deactivate the sphere network. The inside of the sphere, like in "Anomaly," makes for some great sci-fi eye-candy. The details of this thread are crosscut in concert with the A-story; the results make for an entertaining hour that features both sci-fi action/adventure and melodramatic council chamber fireworks.

That Cpl. Hawkins is predictably killed in the course of this mission is nothing less than mandatory. That the episode brings a degree of reflectiveness to it is commendable. "Maybe we're getting a bit too comfortable with losing people," Reed angrily laments, pointing out that the casualty rate for this mission has exceeded the traditionally "acceptable" level of 20 percent. T'Pol responds with a well-placed invocation of the famous Vulcan axiom: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Similarly, it comes as little surprise that the reptilians, who eventually claim to be swayed by Archer's evidence about the Guardians, are actually planning something sinister. There's a scene where Dolum has a discussion in a secluded room with Degra — a room that is simply too secluded and too quiet and too dark and therefore raises our unease. We sense almost immediately that this will be Degra's final scene. We're correct. The scene is effective precisely because we can see it coming — and because Degra, who believes peace has finally prevailed, cannot. Dolum kills Degra in retaliation for having destroyed that ship full of reptilians in "The Forgotten." It's a scene of potent brutality. Dolum is not a nice guy; as Degra lies dying, Dolum gets right in Degra's face and promises to find and kill the rest of his family.

It's a shame to see the season's most pivotal and interesting character killed. But dramatically and structurally, this is on the right track. It sends the storyline back on its fateful collision course, and gives the Enterprise crew new hurdles and countdowns. The reptilians and insectoids ignore the council and launch the weapon on their own, which we see in a terrific and fearsome shot.

In desperate pursuit, the Enterprise and their new Xindi allies chase after Dolum's ships and the weapon. Dolum kidnaps Hoshi in a transporter beam before his ships and the sphere vanish into a vortex. About all that needs to be said: This is a chaotic and effective battle/chase/escape/cliffhanger sequence. Well done.

If you thought "The Council" would end with peace, understanding, and restraint, you were partly right ... but mostly wrong.

Next week: The Enterprise crew must stop the Xindi weapon from reaching Earth. (Isn't that the plot every week?)

Previous episode: E2
Next episode: Countdown

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Comment Section

29 comments on this post

    I forget the exact timeline of Enterprise, but it occurs to me while watching this episode, that I'm PRETTY sure when Archer is talking to the council, there is no good reason for the majority of them to be speaking recognizable English. I believe translation at the time only worked ship to ship, unless the Xindi actually speak English, which would surprise me.

    To expand a little on what TH is saying there, this episode also had me wondering about the current state of the UT. My guess is that the reptilians kidnapped Hoshi at the end of the episode so that no one would be able to translate Archer's words to the Aquatics. But, if you think things through for more than a few seconds, that really makes no sense. In fact, Hoshi's whole role at the council meetings makes no sense.

    Let's examine this. Archer has spoken with Degra, the reptilians and the planet of the apes looking guy many times without Hoshi present, both on and off the ship. So, as TH says, either Starfleet already has personal UTs for the crew or three of the Xindi races speak English as their native language.

    I find it absurd to think that the Xindi speak English. So, starfleet must have personal UTs for their officers by now. I grant that the Aquatics and the insectoids might be harder for the UT to grasp without assistance. But, once Hoshi has successfully programed her own UT, you would think Archer could just download the her latest system upgrade and be set. This is especially true when you consider that Hoshi didn't seem to be translating for the aliens. She never spoke to them. So, all she's really doing is acting like a sophisticated version of google chrome for Archer; doing one way translation.

    Finally, even if Hoshi really was the only person on the ship capable of translating the Aquatic and insectoid languages, it's still not the end of the world if she disappears. Archer can talk to the other three Xindi races, and they can communicate just fine with each other. Basically, Hoshi's role in all this amounts to what? Fact checker? She's hardly as important as this episode would lead you to believe.

    If I were the reptilians, I would have kidnapped Archer! Or, if not Archer, then the I would kidnap the ship's pilot. Of course, the ship's best helmsmen was unavailable (along with the chief tactical officer AND the second in command) because Archer for some reason thought it important to send three bridge officers on an away mission during a time of war. Imagine if they had kidnapped Travis though? Would anyone have noticed?

    But anyway, plot holes aside, this was a very good episode. I was right there on the edge of my seat the whole time. I kind of can't believe they killed Degra. It was a great scene and a good plot development, don't get me wrong. But, I'm finding myself wondering if the Xindi will become boring and one dimensional again now that the only Xindi with a real personality is gone.

    Once again, the visual departments on this show continues to amaze. I loved the mountain planet. I loved the little tribute area to the Avians too. Very good stuff.

    Speaking of the Avians, this is more of personal wish from the stand point of design appreciation; but I would really like to see a living avian. Maybe they could find that they're not really extinct at the end of the war arc. I say this not because I think it would be particularly good for the story. But, just because I love what the design, effects and make up people have done here. If the writing could consistently be as good as the visuals, this would be a truly outstanding show.

    Anyway, this gets three and a half stars from me as well!

    2 stars.

    I like "The Council" for all the reasons cited by Jammer. I hate it for all those cited by sfdebris ( The well-executed suspense & visual pyrotechnics just aren't enough to fully redeem the episode's nonsense, stupid dialogue, and plot holes.

    (My consolation is that every time I look at a Reptilian, I can't help but stare in awe at just how cool their costume & make-up looks)

    @ Marco

    I thought the makeup was okay (I preferred the reptilian look in VOY's "Distant Origin"), but the Reptilian constumes here I found quite goofy.

    Time to unleash some video game comments:
    The manipulation from these all powerful and worshipped "Guardians" reminds me a lot of the Fal'Cie from Final Fantasy XIII - of course, if anyone was inspired by anyone else then it's XIII inspired by Trek, and it's far more likely a coincidence, but it was neat.
    The defence system inside the sphere (and the inside in general) reminded me a lot of a core out of the game "Rez", or maybe also "Portal"

    Just throwing that out there!

    Good point on how yes, it was incredibly obvious immediately that Degra was about to be killed, and that rather than this being a bad thing it helps highlight his own complacency.

    I also enjoyed the long awaited Enterprise invocation of the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" quote, especially the exchange right after that whilst it doesn't make his death any more acceptable, "no, but it makes it honorable". I liked that little clarification.

    Good, edge of seat stuff all the way through... here's hoping it continued for the final 2!

    Oh yeah, these are the episodes wherein T'Pol becomes T'Beiber. She seriously looks like a pre-pubescent boy. Anyone finding themselves sexually attracted to her may wish to stay away from children.

    All of the spherebuilders in the zany opening scene were female...was anyone else mused that the only male spherebuilder was the one used as a guinea pig?

    @Jack - I thought the female sphere builders were all the same one but in different timelines.

    Why do the reptiles always have to be the aggro race? It would have been a nice flip if the reptilians were more pacifist and the humanoids the brutal war-wagers. Is it because as mammals, we're more freaked out by reptiles, because they eat mammals? Because it's really speciesist to always make reptiles evil.

    And second-most aggressive is, of course, the insectoids, stars of "Them" and countless other B movies. Godzilla and The Fly take their revenge, apparently. But not the nice aquatics -- they're too much like dolphins and walruses to be the bad guys.

    Just wish they'd shaken up our expectations some.

    @ skadoo...if those were all the same spherebuilder she sure changed her clothes a lot.

    I love the fact that the Xindi studied the spheres for "decades", but were never able to find a way in. Meanwhile, Enterprise crew got into two of them within minutes of their arrival: one by just shooting at a very obvious door and the other by simply scanning a little bit for a camouflaged hole.

    I 've been watching ENT for the second time. While in the first time I found this 3rd season kinda interesting, I think now that it's rather boring, full with stupid dialogues, cliches, uninteresting characters with 0 depth (even Degra is soon forgettable) and cheesy costumes that remind me of... Power Rangers.

    VOY was way better than this boring nonsense.

    I rather like the Reptilian make up and costumes although I am not sure how they could get through the scanner at the spaceport wearing slinkies.
    I think the female sphere builders look like Odo's relatives.
    Kidnapping Hoshi seems senseless.

    The Council aka The League of Extraordinary Overactors Wearing Cher Hand Me Downs has its pulpy charm in the turn your brain off action department — particularly the heist in the sphere — but I continue to be tripped up by the schoolyard level gamesmanship the writer's keep concocting to generate conflict, and all the tedious exposition those pitiable actors have to declaim, over and over again to have any of it make any sense to the audience (a flaw shared by every Trek series produced by Berman).

    "There's also a B-story, where T'Pol, Reed, Mayweather, and Cpl. Hawkins (gee, who's gonna die?)"

    ^ I laughed out loud at that line. I think the audience would have been justifiably upset if Hawkins hadn't died. Hey, redshirts are a Trek tradition.

    I'm glad they gave Hawkins' death some meaning though with Reed and T'Pol's discussion.

    I thought this was a bit of a let down in the end. After all the build up Archer's intervention to the council results in a bit of shouting and a lot of over-acting and then the Reptilians (who by this point are basically caricature villains) do what the hell they want anyway. The Sphere Builders are also definitely coming over like the Founders as they direct behind the scenes.

    The B-story is fairly light and throws away Hawkins to justify an extraordinary outburst from Reed that was so over-acted it threw me right out of the story. The action scenes are, as ever, exemplary so that gains another half point for a 2.5 star total.

    The words "some kind of" in Star Trek dialogue should be a drinking game. "Some kind of" force field, "some kind of" tractor beam, "some kind of" alloy, here Mayweather says he detects "some kind of movement". How about just "I'm detecting movement"?

    There's some kind of supercut about exactly that, Dave. For Voyager, specifically.

    Whats with all this complaining about everyone speaking English.

    how long do you think this show (or any trek for that matter) would have survived if there were constant subtitles in every episode. They have tried their best to placate the fans by coming up with universal translators and so forth.. but the reality is the fans need to let that one go. Yes, we know that nobody would speak an earth language... but this is a TV SHOW,and they do need to make it easy for people to enjoy it. Only a tiny portion of people who keep the ratings high enough for renewal would stick around if it was subtitles for all aliens.

    Plus, it would be a nightmare for the production crew to have to come up with distinct languages for every species.

    We all just have to let that one slide...... everyone needs to speak English for the TV show to be viable......

    4 stars

    After all the previous episodes of confirmation and revelations these last three episodes are all about forging ahead

    This arc gave the series a lot of scope which I enjoyed greatly. You had all the various players from the humans to the xindi to the Reptilians to the Sphere Builders to Daniels. You had all the various locations--the enterprise, degra's ship, the reptilian ship, the council chamber, the ENT J, the Federation ceremony, the spheres and here we visited the Sphere Builders transdimensional realm--which I liked that scene in teaser. Then you also has historical scope with events not only in the 22nd century but 21st century, 2161, 26th century

    Exciting moment as the humans and Xindi--who only know about each other from third parties--finally come face to face

    The reveal of the council's location was very well done giving it finally geographical context
    We get more fleshing out of the Xindi which was interesting. The Archer/Hoshi scenes were good and liked how Hoshi brought into the mix. Liked the Sphere Builders manipulating the Reptilians into taking action

    Lots of great thrilling plot developments--Hoshi kidnapped by Reptilians, the weapon launched, the Reptilians and insectoids going rogue.

    'Dave johnson's point about languages and the 'Universal Translator' is well-made, and valid.

    It would be nice, however, to understand *if* the U.T. was being used in the scenes with the Xindi. Seems unlikely, as we have seen numerous scene of the Xindi talking to one another without any humans present.

    You could also wonder how the words of the Aquatics and Insectoids are being expressed to Archer when see them as written subtitles. Although I'm pretty sure I recall Hoshi actually translating on the spot in those instances.

    All in all, I agree with the original point that was made, but there does need to be some understanding of the mechanics of the U.T. to help out the staple Trek fayre episodes of encounters with species where cooperation is required, and communication is impossible.....

    My own snipe? Just what is the purpose of the weird copper piping that the Reptilians wear? It doesn't appear to serve any purpose. I'm all for cool costumes and the rest but it just looks.....daft (in my opinion).

    3.5 stars for the episode, for me.

    Much of what made ENT S3 a success is showcased in this episode -- good story, good action scenes, great production, visuals and character moments. Definitely one of the best of the season and the whole ENT series. The plot has enough moving parts so that it is not overly simplistic and it all fits well for a riveting hour.

    Degra as a guest character is excellent here and the scene where he gets killed is a powerful one. One could see it coming like in mafia movies where he's all alone in a dimly lit room and the assassin pays him a visit, accuses him of something and then does the dirty deed. The Dolum character is just one bad dude -- nothing more than that. But this episode certainly benefits from all the groundwork laid in prior episodes this season such that Degra's death is poignant.

    "The Council" also gives the impression of grandeur when the shuttle approaches the location of the council meeting and all of a sudden, the somewhat paper-thin council takes on more depth and importance. Liked how Degra characterized the various Xindi species to Archer. He was put through the wringer by the sphere builder who accused him of treason and while it is a bit foggy why the Xindi treat the sphere builder as Gods (Guardians), it becomes clearer how much Degra is departing from the norm to help Archer & co. when he stands up for what he believes in that goes against what the Guardian tells him.

    Degra also makes peace with Trip (or is it the other way around?) -- this was a good scene for both of them. Degra's also told by Archer that humans and Xindi will work together in the Federation and that that's worth fighting for -- so we get some Trekkian ideals thrown in too.

    Nothing too special with the B-plot breaking into the sphere but what came out of Hawkins' death between the major and Reed was great -- the 2 have an understanding for each other and respect. And of course T'Pol getting to use the "needs of the many..." line as Reed takes the death pretty badly. All good stuff.

    3.5 stars for "The Council" -- in terms of structure a lot of plot was going on, a lot gets accomplished and the setup for the next episode is clear, but it doesn't lose sight of the characters' development. In a way it reminds me of "Tacking Into the Wind" which is a superior example of tons of awesome things going on but also with plenty of depth and implications for characters and the overall arc.

    Some things I was wondering about. The reptilians need 3 of the 5 codes to launch the weapon but only have 2. How did they launch it....or is this addressed in a future episode? The weapon is supposed to be under some sea, but appears to have been launched from under dry land. Was it moved from where it was made for some reason?

    The weapon was indeed moved, after Archer got caught trying to sneak into the weapon's original underwater hiding place. That happened a few episodes ago, in "Azati Prime".

    And a future episode does answer your other question: It makes it clear that the 3 codes are only needed to deploy/arm the weapon. They aren't required for merely moving it, even though this technically involves a launch.

    Not saying more, just in case you're a first-timer who cares about spoilers. Hope my reply helped.

    I’m really enjoying this storyline. I wish they knew how translators worked, though. And it’s so disappointing that they had a believable motivation for the reptilian leader - defend all Xindi, whatever the cost - which also stopped him firing on the initial convoy - but then changed it to make him just Evil. That’s so boring!

    I really liked Degra, he reminded me of a more fleshed-out version of Jetrel from Voyager... someone who made a hard decision that resulted in the deaths of millions, then had to live with himself. Degra had the benefit of being able to develop over an entire season, whereas Jetrel had to compress this journey in 1 episode because Voyager. So that’s not surprising. What IS surprising is that Degra was developed far more than Reed or Mayweather. Everything was done well, I personally didn’t appreciate how obviously Degra’s murder was telegraphed, but I mean hey, we all knew it was coming eventually. 3.5 stars from me.

    Agree with whoever said that the Sphere Builders look like Odo's relatives. They have that spooky not-really-there aura of the gods.

    As the episode progressed, I began to get confused (again) regarding the planetary status of the Xindi. On the one hand, their homeworld was destroyed (literally to bits) and proverbs develop about wandering in some wilderness (to paraphrase Degra). On the other hand there is now a planet hidden by clouds and it is here, in chambers created by the long extinct avian Xindi that the surviving species meet.

    Visual inspiration for this whole extinct avian backdrop may have come from the Rite of Spring segment of Disney's Fantasia (1940). At one point, it showed pterodactyls swooping down from very tall escarpments. Anyway, I posit that something like that was channeled by the show's creators.

    On top of which, I must say that the council location had a general resemblance to the Buddhist rock-cut temple sites of the Silk Road area, e.g. those of the Tarim Basin (Kizil Caves). My viewing took place after 1:00 am so I may have dreamt all of this. : )

    The xindi speaking English:

    I kind of assumed that, while the humans do not have UTs working in the council scenes, the xindi do. They are clearly more advanced than most of the species we have met on Enterprise, as seen by the weapon.

    It makes sense to conclude that they are handling the translations.

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