Star Trek: Enterprise

“Proving Ground”

3 stars.

Air date: 1/21/2004
Written by Chris Black
Directed by David Livingston

"The Andorian Mining Consortium runs from no one." — Shran, in Weyoun-like form after doing his best Brunt impression

Review Text

In brief: Now that's more like it.

Praise Jeffrey Combs.

Shran may not be Weyoun, but Jeffrey Combs is Jeffrey Combs, and his appearance in "Proving Ground" is like a godsend from beyond the borders of the Delphic Expanse. Shran is a familiar face we respond to, because he has an actual personality, and personality is one thing that has been woefully lacking this season on Enterprise. It's the current key missing ingredient, as far as I'm concerned. I don't much care about the plot arc or the fate of Earth because I don't much care about the characters.

The problem with the Delphic Expanse is simply this: The Xindi are total ciphers. (Far more interesting are the mysterious spheres, which I'd argue have been better developed as characters, which I guess is a problem since the spheres are inanimate objects and the Xindi are supposed to be people.) Consider the Xindi's presence here. What do we get? The same laughable — if they weren't so lamentable — scenes we've gotten all season: Xindi council guys grumbling about The Weapon and demanding answers for why it isn't ready to be deployed now, now, now!

I say, enough, enough, enough!

Also consider Xindi operative Degra (Randy Oglesby), who has been the guy overseeing the development of The Weapon in most if not all the Xindi episodes thus far. He might be the only Xindi bad guy so far to be given a name. And yet, unless you, like me, were checking press releases for the credits every week, it's unlikely you'd even notice he was the same guy. He could just as easily be an interchangeable Xindi placeholder, because he's as much a cipher as the ones sitting at the roundtable. (Come to think of it, he's often among those at the roundtable.)

So it's probably about time the writers port in a character from outside the expanse who predates this season. Enter Shran ... and enter the most purely enjoyable episode of Enterprise since "Anomaly." (Yes, "Twilight" was better, but more weighty and therefore less fun.)

The secret of "Proving Ground" is that it uses a character established in the first two seasons to lend credence to a story arc that has been hard to buy into because (1) the blandness of the Xindi and (2) the fact the Xindi are not accounted for in the Trek canon and thus don't feel like a legitimate end result of the timeline. The Andorians and the Vulcans (and the humans who have intervened in their previous affairs), however, do feel like Trek-canon elements, so there's something about this episode that seems more grounded in Trekkian reality. In short, it feels like there's something at stake here, because the Andorians and the Vulcans are players, whereas the Xindi are pawns.

If it sounds like I'm arguing in favor of a return to more traditional Trek character interaction and a Federation-building backdrop rather than this ongoing race against a vague doomsday situation ... well, I'll just say the writers might be on to something here.

Then again, they are able to play both aspects here pretty well (aside from the hopeless Xindi council meetings, which need to go away). We get Shran and the Andorians, and we get some worthwhile development along the Xindi front. Degra and his team are testing a prototype, smaller-yield version of The Weapon on the moons of an uninhabited world. (Being someone who must bring logic where it is not welcome, I must again ask why the Xindi needed to "test" an even earlier version of The Weapon on Earth in "The Expanse" only to do more tests here.)

Archer wants to spy and learn as much as possible about what's going on. Shran offers his help in a "joint venture" that ultimately becomes Archer's scheme to steal the prototype from the Xindi for study.

The central question is whether or not Archer can trust Shran. Is Shran's offer of help really what it seems to be, or does he have other motives, perhaps under the orders of the Andorian Imperial Guard? You can probably guess which, but the idea itself still proves interesting. Just what is Shran up to and why?

I appreciated the exchanges between Archer and T'Pol regarding caution versus trust. From what the Vulcans have experienced, the Andorians tend to have self-serving agendas. Archer argues in favor of giving Shran the benefit of the doubt given their history, which has not been "friendly" per se, but has shown a certain level of honor and fairness. At the very least, Shran has a nagging need to repay old debts.

The notion of working toward building a new trust is also demonstrated in some serviceable scenes between Reed and Andorian Lt. Talas (Molly Brink). It starts off a bit clichéd, with Talas and Reed initially disliking each other, but the relationship evolves reasonably into that of two military professionals who reach a mutual respect. Also, it plays a piece in the plot that shows Archer was thinking ahead and not lulled into trusting Shran completely.

The Xindi story takes some decent turns as the Enterprise crew witnesses a test of the weapon on a moon (playing like a smaller-scale version of the opening scene of "Twilight"), and then learn that the test was actually a failure — apparently, the writers have decreed, because of sabotage by Gralik (see "The Shipment"). I call this a writer's decree because it seems to me like a big jump to conclusions on Archer's part given his limited information. The weapon didn't work right, so Gralik must have been responsible? Don't know if I buy that.

Never mind, because Combs is what makes this episode work. Shran is under orders from the Imperial Guard to steal the weapon for the Andorians as a means to deter a possible Vulcan invasion (the paranoia!). Combs and the writers skillfully walk a line that allows us to empathize with Shran's situation even as he deceives Archer. I guess you could say that Shran is only as deceitful as he has to be under the circumstances, and that his deceit has no directly malicious intent. The character maintains a certain integrity behind the ruse. He does what he has to as a military officer serving his people; he's not serving Archer. The dynamic is tons more interesting than faceless Xindi plotting to destroy Earth for who-knows-why.

There are a couple standout scenes involving Shran over the viewscreen. In one scene he wanders into the Xindi's test range, claiming to be a member of the "Andorian Mining Consortium" looking for a valuable substance called "Archerite." It's a rather amusing con job that makes for a funny sequence.

The other one is between Shran and Archer, and takes place after Shran has stolen the weapon and fled in his ship. The Enterprise tracks the Andorians, and Archer and Shran face off over the viewscreen in a dramatically charged exchange where it is clear that no one intends to back down. This proves entertaining and satisfying thanks to the solid performances. Scott Bakula is convincing as Archer in no-nonsense badass mode, and Shran — finding himself at a tactical disadvantage — has to give in, disgusted. The icing on the cake is Shran's decision to willingly transmit his data on the Xindi weapon to Archer, even after a confrontation that has left Shran's ship crippled. It makes perfect sense using Shran's brand of logic, where he feels a certain loyalty to Archer so long as it doesn't conflict with his higher priorities. Shran, it must be said, is becoming a complicated and interesting guy.

By the way, the reason this showdown works so well when scenes of this type can easily fall flat is because we have a stake in both the characters and we understand their behavior patterns. There is a context to the conflict, rooted in legitimate character interaction.

Alas, this is the context that is missing with the Xindi, and it's the reason this story arc — despite the nods to continuity, despite the upped action — will remain ho-hum ... until the Xindi become figures we can respond to with something besides a blank stare.

Until then, I'll take Commander Shran any day.

Previous episode: Chosen Realm
Next episode: Stratagem

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Comment Section

66 comments on this post

    Bit of a pet peeve, but iirc I noticed the reptilian call the other xindi guy a 'humanoid' in an insulting fashion. Now them sea xindi could say this alright, and mebbe even the bugs....but 2 arms and 2 legs the reptilians have, making them quite humanoid in shape, just like 99% of trek.

    Silly writters....

    When Shran first appeared on the viewscreen, I almost spilled my drink with how they presented it. Haven't laughed that hard in a while. :D

    Another nice touch: Shran's stalks bent down as he passed under a bulkhead while talking to Archer on the ship. Subtle, and not strictly necessary, but it was very cool.

    Yes! More Jeffrey combs please! I've said it before and I'll say it again, Jeffrey Combs can take any kind of turd and turn it into a shining diamond. This was the most fun I've had watching Enterprise... Possibly ever! I love Shran. He should be a series regular.

    Jammer, I pretty much agree with your review. The only thing I felt differently about was the stand off scene at the end. I'm still not buying into bad ass Archer. Petulant, angry and impulsive Archer maybe. But, I can't pull together enough admiration for his character to call him "no nonsense". He's done too many idiotic things in the past for me to suddenly feel like he's in control and knows what he's doing now. However, that scene still worked well for me because Jeffrey Combs has enough bad assery and charisma for the both of them.

    @fortyseven haha, I loved that moment with the view screen too!

    For once, I really don't have any major complaints about the episode! The writers did a good job of bringing things back to the Trek we know and love with a really entertaining plot. The actors were all good in this one and the visuals on this show continue to be fantastic. I would have easily given this one three and a half stars!

    Based on these reviews, I skipped the last 4 episodes on DVD. Judging by the previouslies, I missed exactly nothing. I pity those who had to endure them in real time.

    Wholeheartedly agree with Jammer & Carbetarian. THANK GOD for Jeffrey Combs. He is the real standout here, and this despite still obvious traces of the writers' incompetence. He redeems the episode in and all by himself.

    Sadly, I must also agree with Jammer's commentary on WHY this one is a good episode and how we can appreciate the Archer/Shran interaction. Indeed
    hollowness of the Xindi is a big problem (one of the many) in Season 3, which really makes me wish the Andorians really stole the Doomsday device (a finalized version would be even better). I'd have taken a Terran-Andorian story arc over a Terran-Xindi one any day, if it meant seeing more of J.Combs.

    Unbelievable indeed. What's the logic in hiding your test weapon after you used a prototype on Earth, left to be examined in detail? Inviting the planet you attack to go and search for you?
    Am I the only one who should test a prototype first and in secret, then deploy a weapon in the open, not the other way around?

    It shows the writers are stumbling from week to week, coming up with stories without knowing where they're going. Even worse, often without even knowing where they came from. Sloppy, unprofessional but first and foremost so many chances lost for a good, coherent story.

    "Praise Jeffrey Combs" indeed, 3, maybe 3.5 stars for me since Combs is awesome. The b-story of conflict between Reed and the Orion tactical woman was predictable and boring (and thus skipped). But Combs delivers again. Excellent actor, great voice, he's just superb. On DS9, he was my 2nd fave guest star after the incomparable Andrew J. Robinson but Combs is still fantastic.

    The scene with Shran leaving the room as Archer says he wants to be on Shran's ship seemed a little fakey and overplayed. And Archer saying you son of a bitch before the commercial fade at the end of Act 3 was an empty throwaway. Maybe a better actor like Patrick Stewart or EJO could have just intensely stared at Shran to convey his anger. Or maybe better writing was required.

    No matter, Combs is so good the blah b-story and other minor quibbles are just that, minor. I could watch Combs in the worst Trek, maybe playing Brunt in stupefying stupid Ferengi episode. He’s that good.

    Heheh, I just read Jammer's review and the comments. So much Combs love, I made a highlight reel:
    * "The Andorian Mining Consortium runs from no one." — Shran, in Weyoun-like form after doing his best Brunt impression [nice one Jammer! I call this the Shran/Weyoun/Brunt trifecta]
    * a godsend from beyond the borders of the Delphic Expanse
    * Yes! More Jeffrey combs please!
    * Jeffrey Combs can take any kind of turd and turn it into a shining diamond
    * Jeffrey Combs has enough bad assery and charisma for the both of them
    * THANK GOD for Jeffrey Combs
    * He is the real standout here ... He redeems the episode in and all by himself

    Makes me realize just how much I love and miss watching DS9 back to back. I've only watched it once through, I'm going to have to do it again. Jeffery Combs makes me nostalgic for that show.

    It's very easy to place all the credit on Combs, but he's "just" the actor. Shran is an interesting and complex character, one that I'm loving the development of (and of the Andorians in general with it) - I guess they decided to put the most effort into the character played by one of the best actors, perhaps, I just think there's a shared credit due here with the writers even if they do screw a lot up.

    The appearance on the viewscreen with his antennae popping up on Archer's head like the bunny ear thing people do in photos was cute in a "hehe he's your friennnnd" kind of way :D Hilarious, brilliant

    I'm shocked the "Reed and the girl" thing didn't go further (it was going for alllll the cliches) but pleasantly so.

    Good stuff, weak boring Xindi aside.

    Thank you Cloudane :-).
    I very much like J. Combs too, but it's obvious the writers have put some thoughts in his character. Yes, Combs is great, so the fleshing out of Shran feels real, charisma, internal conflict and all. But I wouldn't dismiss some of the very good actors on the show (Trinneer, Billingsley): it's not really their fault if the writers makes them less entertaining. If used correctly, they could surely highlight the show as well as Combs.

    As for S. Bakula, I can only commend him for putting up with the terrible writing his character is given.

    So far, the Xindi arc is mildly interesting. I'm also more intrigued by the mysterious spheres and the purpose of those fabricated anomalies. So andorians were very welcome; it's an interesting race - and yes, it's childish, but I love the way their antennas reveal their emotional state - and there's hope this is a race with which the seeds of future Union of Planets could be planted.

    On a light note, the Reed/tactical andorian interactions were indeed clichés. However, there was some nice chemistry between those two, which made the scenes pleasant to watch.

    I'm still slogging along watching these for the first time. I loved this one, and was glad when I went to Jammers reviews to find that most agreed with me. I had to go back and re-watch the beginning to see those antennae up on Archer's head again. So funny and cool!

    I agree with lizzzi, I'm also slogging along through the series (well, actually "slogging" isn't quite right, since lately I'm enjoying it more) and reading the reviews as I go along, and I'm equally enjoying reading Jammer's reviews and the comments.

    The moment where Shran contacts Archer has to be my favorite moment of the entire series. I agree, Jeffrey Combs really adds to this episode, and that scene was priceless.

    Unlike Jammer I don't mind not getting much information about the Xindi — nothing wrong with them being enigmatic — though I do get the feeling they could speed it up a little. Would have made a lot more more sense to have the Wild West episode before or after the Xindi arc, not in the middle, when the Enterprise hardly has the time to go investigating odd colonies.

    Sorry, I cannot even begin to understand how you could give this episode anything more than 1 star. Besides the horrible acting, which you have to constantly address, you have the storyline:

    - the Andorians have a military mission
    - the captain of the Andorians actually likes Archer and their relationship is constantly growing
    - the Andorians are at all out war with the Vulcans, who have superior firepower and technology
    - Archer hasn't made clear what his overall plan of action is to settle the threat of the Xindi
    - finding the prototype weapon is all by chance
    - the Andorians have a real plan of action
    - the Andorian technology is well ahead of human technology

    Given that, we are supposed to side with Archer and the humans because they didn't get the weapon? They couldn't even get the weapon. Also, the humans are the aggressors in this.

    The entire episode could have gone FAR better if the Andorian captain had said, "well I see no reason not to give you all of our analysis of the weapon. Please tag along while we analyze the weapon, but we have a mission too, it's not all about you, Archer."

    But, in a fit of infantile rage, Archer starts the weapon, and blows it up a la, "if I can't have it, neither can you."

    So Archer is the aggressor, juvenile, and obviously not a captain of a starship, and explorer since he so bad at diplomacy.

    The writers of this entire series have no inkling of what the word diplomacy even.

    As the heir of a diplomat, myself, it makes me rage when writing like this happens, that's supposed to be about diplomacy. The Andorians owe nothing to the humans.

    Regarding the above comment, the Andorians and Vulcans are in more of a Cold War. The thought was that no one should have such dangerous weapon, introducing it to the Alpha Quadrant could only end badly. But I agree Shran isn't in the wrong to have his own interests. I like that he was conflicted over his orders. And Shran rules! And yeah, Archer is a petulant blowhard.

    Jammer love ur reviews I got thinking as to ur question and mine, why the xindi would launch a protype weapon on earth why not just send the final and complete product to blow up earth. In a logic sci-fi way a theory developed in my mind so tell me what u think....the xindi had to see if a protype weapon of this magnitude could travel through one of there spacial vortexs to the destince earth was from the expanse and could not only operate after such a journey but perhaps confirm that the weapon could pass starfleet defenses, and or penitrate earths atmosphere....just a thought as I think on the initial attack....

    Jammer's reviews (and the comments here) have made my Netflix-driven jaunt through ENT a real pleasure. I'm able to appreciate some of the reasons why I like some episodes and really dislike others, which I couldn't put my finger on before. And the controversy & argument on certain episodes makes even some mediocre episodes much more interesting - good SF makes you think, and sometimes ENT rises to the occasion.

    An observation re: this thread - no one complaining this time that Travis was hardly noticeable. Do you know why he's hardly got anything to do? Because he's a pointless character played by an inexperienced actor. We have some talented actors on this show who can carry a scene or a show (Billingsley of course, but also Trinneer and Park and Bakula) - Mayweather will have less to do than Sulu did, and rightly so.

    A very solid outing, greatly assisted by J. Combs but as others have pointed out, with some decent script writing, goes to show what Enterprise is capable of, if written well.

    Another solid episode, reflecting the fact that the Andorians are clearly the go to guys in this iteration of Star Trek. It never truly takes off but everything about it - performances, production, direction (loving the way Shran's antennae appear above Archer's head on the viewscreen), VFX - are high quality. 3 stars.

    You had to know the Andorians had something up their sleeves (or in their antennae) coming this far to help the Enterprise -- it was almost too good to be true how much help they were giving at first. Yes, Shran likes to repay debts but this was going too far.
    Definitely nice to get Shran and the Andorians back into the story given so many nameless / unrelatable aliens. It does help to understand Shran's character and then have him involved in the story.
    Definitely getting tired with the Xindi roundtable - it's the same old crap as Jammer says and it's not helping build up any personalities or deeper understanding of the issue.
    I suppose the interaction between the female Andorian lieutenant and Reed was ok -- that's kind of where the first hint of subterfuge came in (with the scanners).
    A good story, Coombs as Shran gives the episode some life but I'm still not riveted to the greater story arc. On it's own "Proving Ground" deserves 3 stars adding an interested and much-needed twist to the story arc.

    One excellent scene which I havenvt seen mentioned here is the one between Shran and Trip, when they talk about family they have lost. Trip closes by again asking for the engine component, which Shran is now willing to share. I thought the acting was superb.

    I was thinking the same thing as 'lt. holman' above, as to why the Xindi would test the weapon out on Earth. As he said, maybe they needed to see if it would survive the journey, get past the defenses, etc.

    But also Earth would have no way of knowing who had sent the weapon, so the Xindi would have nothing to fear. The Xindi didn't know that a guy from the future would tell Archer who sent it and why and that they were building another one, and had no reason to think Earth could figure any of that out on their own.

    The last 2 episodes were pretty average. This one is a good one.

    3 stars from me

    Had so much fun watching this episode. Hope Mr. Combs gets many more opportunities to go and chew the scenery elsewhere. So, which came first--that Mr. Combs breathes life into a character that was well written or the writers find that Mr. Combs has a certain sensibility and they write toward it? I have a theory that writers find it easier to write for an actor who has a personality. They can "hear" his voice and picture how he will deliver the lines. Then it ends up being a symbiotic relationship between him and them. I also liked his acerbic engineer (Molly Brink). Good job by the cast all around on this episode.

    And I also have to say, watching on Netflix with headphones, even though I don't love the opening theme (Diane Warren maybe not the right person for that assignment, though in general I love her stuff), the score for this show is very good.

    I think Combs isn't bad as Shran, but he doesn't quite fit into the character as naturally as he did Weyoun. When I first saw Weyoun I immediately got his character - something about Combs' voice and mannerisms perfectly fit a measly sycophant. :-)

    2.5 stars

    I thought it was pretty mechanical and mediocre. Most of the scenes were not very involving They were just “there”

    I enjoyed this one, the Andorians are turning out to be quite interesting after a bit of a harsh and overdone introduction to this series.

    This was a solid episode. Yes the Xindi are shell's of a promising adversary and I agree with Jammer and others on this point. If I had designed the story arc I would have devoted a complete episode, towards the beginning of the arc, on the Xindi including information about their history, what their civilization is like today, and detailed information on why they believe Humans are their downfall. Maybe a separate episode on this latter point about their fear of humans would be great. For instance showing how, from the beginning, where did this crucial information about the Humans came from, from whom, etc.

    Not only could we have more information about this race but we could have met some of their main characters and had some development of their personalities. We love Andorians and Vulcans, amongst others, because of their cultural and character development within storylines. The Xindi are hollow enemies and this affects the story negatively.

    Still, Bakula was very good as was Combs. There were interesting twists and turns, such as the Andorian duplicity. I liked the toughness that Archer displayed both in his gutsy call to try and steal the weapon, punching Shran when deserved, and threatening to activate the weapon while it sat in the Andorian cargo hold. T'Pol advised Archer well not to trust Shran, and I enjoyed looking at the Andorian females, love the blue lips! Would their antennae be creepy in an intimate setting? I'm not sure yet. Still, all-in-all a very good episode.

    Rating: 3 and 1/4 stars

    Excellent episode! Everything seemed taken up a notch. There was just more energy to the directing, acting, and score, plus the script was solid.

    Don’t believe anyone has mentioned this, but they actually were planning to bring on Shran as a series regular if ENT had gotten a fifth season. Now that I would’ve loved to see. Who knows? It might’ve given ENT the same jolt of energy that Seven of Nine gave Voyager in S4. An entertaining frenemy relationship with Archer, friction with T’Pol, his likely respect for Reed as a fellow military man… Ah, we can dream.

    I enjoyed the B-plot between Reed and the Andorian officer. The writers walked a perfect balance between building genuine respect between them, playing understated notes of sexual tension (I was reminded of Reed hooking up with ANOTHER visiting alien in “Cogenitor”), and keeping Reed smart and vigilant. He’s clearly enjoying his time with her, but he still keeps his head about him and doesn’t trust her completely. In a season where the supporting characters are getting swamped by the main arc (except for Hoshi in “Exile”), Reed is getting some good screentime.

    This is all I want from good space opera. Bombastic acting, energetic music, a zippy, adventurous tone, solid drama, and intergalactic politics. Heck, I’m even enjoying the scenery-chewing, comic-book Xindi council scenes because they’re so over-the-top. (It helps that I remember the concluding stretch of S3 is so strong.) 3.5 stars.

    This episode was marvellous. I haven’t really enjoyed any of the Xindi stuff really but this is an easy 4/4 from me. It’s fun. Everyone acts according to their natures - any stupidity is natural and not contrived. Everything’s nicely set up. I like how it shows how 3/4 of the Federation happened - and again how humans were necessary to get peace between the Andorians and the Vulcans (I guess this is the third episode about it? The monastery spying post, the ruins with blue K'Ehleyr?) I liked how Shran spoke against the fighting with the Vulcans twice, and Archer has again prevented them going to full on war.

    Jeffery Combs is always a delight. I get similar vibes from Shran and Archer as Q and Picard. Maybe even the barest hints of Garak and Bashir, particularly when dining, but more one sided. It’s something about looking into someone’s eyes whilst you cork or uncork a bottle and say something suggestive. In any case, I love their chemistry. You can really see just how torn up Shran’s orders make him. Archer shouldn’t have hit him! He’s your friend, Archer! But it’s great. You can see why Archer hit him. It’s good writing! And it’s hilarious to watch Shran feel physical pain when he calls T’Pol competent, and the way he leaps to his feet when Archer mentions Vulcans.

    "Based on these reviews, I skipped the last 4 episodes on DVD. Judging by the previouslies, I missed exactly nothing"-- Grumpy

    I did the same: straight from Twilight to this one. It's as if those four episodes didn't exist.
    I wonder what happened. Did they write and FILM these episodes that mattered, and then come back to film those four as filler? Massive mistake in pacing if so. Part of Jammer's problem with the season so far is that the Xindi are ciphers. But if the filler is cut, it doesn't matter if they are ciphers - they remain an interesting mystery.

    Agree! Very fun episode! I was confused by the ending, though--who sent the secret subspace scans? Was it Shran, or the female weapons officer?


    I am pretty sure it was Shran.

    I liked this episode, and I like the Andorians. I just wish they WERE being more forthright, and not have a layer of intrigue behind Enterprise's back.

    I will say this-I was concerned about continuity wondering how the timeline could possibly be fixed as there is so much that has been skewed with the Xindi affair. Well, I think I know how things are fixed by the time of Kirk: has anyone read Isaac Asimov's Foundation books? Well, after the Mule changed the way events were supposed to unfold (via the Seldon Plan), the Second Foundation was secretly and surreptitiously guiding things back on track. I want to think Daniels and his "time squad" did something similar

    I am struck by how awful the Xindi Council scenes are. I mean the acting and the delivery of the dialogue. It is just so much ham. We get it, these aliens are EVIL, jeez! All that's missing is some mustache twirling and maniacal cackling. I can't get through one of their scenes without cringing.

    Can you imagine any of the Dukat/Damar/Weyoun scenes on DS9 being written and performed this poorly? No. Because those were actual, well-defined characters played by actual actors taking the material seriously. Weyoun, Damar, Dukat--they were each the heroes of their own stories. We understood them and understood the line of thinking that led to them taking the actions they took. This Xindi Council is just cardboard villains growling at each other for no discernable reason.

    I've watched ENT twice all-through, and can't remember almost a single detail about the Xindi or their council.

    I'll sort of come to ENT's defense here. Re. the Xindi council, there are really only 2 members that are noteworthy and they are reasonably well acted/conceived -- Degra and Dolum, the reptilian. Aside from these 2, the other council members basically side with one or the other. I guess the Aquatics are pretty neutral.

    But I totally feel that in the first half of the season, they are basically just thrust upon us and don't come across as anything but cardboard baddies. This was always going to be a problem for the writers to make us feel anything toward the Xindi council without any proper background. But yes, for the most part, the council scenes aren't great Trek.

    But Degra eventually becomes a sympathetic figure, works with Archer and has some decent scenes with Trip. He has a family, and he realizes he is caught up in a bigger scheme that he increasingly feels wrong about. The true baddie on the council Dolum kills him in a terrific scene in "The Council" in revenge for Degra destroying a Reptilian ship.

    It was always going to be tricky to integrate new recurring characters and make them mean something to the viewer and so the first half of the season upon 1st viewing can have this aspect detract.

    @Peter G. -- you must have a bad memory :) -- though I've gone thru ENT several times and quite like Season 3.

    The fact that the Xindi are five different species from the same planet and work together in harmony (almost like a mini Federation) is the best part of the story. Unfortunately, the Reptilians are just moustache twirling assholes and the insectoids are their yes-men. Just Saturday morning cartoon stuff there. The mammalians and the other humanoid guys were pretty non-descript, as was Dagra. I didn't really care about them.

    The Aquatics were actually my favourite because they had a little bit of a personality that wasn't just cartoon skeletor style villainy or generic nobility. They were pretty fair minded and I liked that they were the balance of power. The idea of Archer using diplomacy to solve his problems was a nice thing - until the Reptilians just do their thing and turn it into a big spacefight anyway... sigh.

    I might add that the show would have improved immensely if they had trimmed the Xindi down to, say, three species. Five was just unwieldy. And I'm sorry, the Reptilians are just jackasses. Even after Archer proves to them that their guardians have hoodwinked them they just go ahead with the mission to destroy Earth because... evil? It's just obnoxious to have such blatantly irrational villains.

    In DS9 red-eyed fire demons aside, the villains had pretty well explained motivations and logical goals. They're played with nuance and the dialogue always sharp. It's a show for adults. This is... not.

    @Peter G., "I've watched ENT twice all-through, and can't remember almost a single detail about the Xindi or their council."

    I'm going to have to agree with @Rahul here. The Council was actually one of the fairly interesting ideas in Enterprise. Of course, this being Enterprise, the execution of that idea fell far short of its potential. But it was memorable.

    In a lot of ways I think ENT was going for something like The Babylon 5 Advisory Council & League of Non-Aligned worlds. You had a nice spread of characteristics across the 5 Xindi species.

    The Aquatics, as @Jason R. says, were actually pretty cool, and might even remind you a little of the Vorlons. The Reptilians were paranoid and belligerent, much like the Drazi. The Arboreal (sloths) were the go-along get-along types, a little like the Abbai ambassador in Deathwalker (“It is fair. And wise.”). The Insectoids were in obvious ways like the Gaim. The Primates were the only really reasonable ones, like the Minbari. And of course the Reptilians had a shadowy advanced civilization “helping” them and setting the whole conflict in motion, like the Shadows.

    And what was really interesting is that the Avians were a dead Xindi race. Babylon 5 did that twice, once with the Markab, and even more operatically with the Hyach in and Hyach-do. There is that beautiful scene in ENT Season 3 where they show what I think is an avian skull shaped entrance to the Xindi chamber. I thought it was very haunting - and memorable!

    JMS famously pitched a series for Star Trek, but of course TPTB turned him down. That said, once you read JMS’ actual treatment of what his Star Trek show would have been, maybe turning him down wasn’t such a bad thing,

    "A re-boot means a fresh start. That means not just new stories, but looking at our continuity in new ways....

    We know that Scotty was constantly called upon to perform technical miracles and ably did so...but what if Scotty was a female character (just an example!), proof positive that in the future women equally excel in science and math?”

    This is the power of Math!!!

    JMS also had a mystery box. And JMS goes on, "Even if elements prove controversial, it will only fuel interest in where the series is going. Web-sites will come alive again. TiVOs will be programmed."

    Kill me now.

    @Mal sone good comments about the council. The biggest flaw in my mind there are the Insectoids and especially the Reptilians. They are completely unbelievable. Why are they even in this alliance? What do they care about the lost Avians or about the other council members? There's nothing remotely about them that suggests they'd be capable of working together with anyone in common alliance.


    Interesting comparing the Xindi council with the advisory council & league of non-aligned worlds from B5. I never thought about that, but I don't think that's quite what ENT was going for here. I find it hard to compare the Vorlons, Shadows, or Minbari who are far too advanced (the Minbari less so than the other 2 of course). Maybe if you limit the comparison to just the league of non-aligned worlds (Drazi, Pak'ma'ra etc.) I think all the Xindi council sub-species are of roughly equivalent technological advancement. Maybe the Drakh could be the sphere-builders as they sit behind the scenes and pull the strings?

    What I think of the Xindi council is, while I said there are really only 2 characters that are noteworthy, is that, to some extent, the 5 sub-species represent various characteristics of a human being. We know the council is also being manipulated by the external sphere-builders, who can communicate through time etc. And they are particularly favouring the Reptilians at the expense of other council sub-species.

    So you have the Arboreals, Primates who are "good" and reasonable -- they eventually side with Archer; obviously the Reptilians represent the "bad" and are backed by the belligerent Insectoids. And the Aquatics are neutral and take forever to decide on any course of action. But we have the sphere-builders who put this council together -- they are revered as Gods, let's not forget. But ultimately, to make things as relatable as possible, the good and bad have to be boiled down to 1 character each -- Degra and Dolum.

    One thing I am struggling with is why don’t the Xindi go and hunt down Enterprise?
    I cannot remember, was Enterprise spotted by the Xindi before this episode? Did the Xindi know the humans sent a ship to the expanse?
    Even if they did not know until now, why are they not sending 10 ships after them?
    If I were them that would be my #1 priority.
    Maybe someone with better recollection can help me out here.

    @ RonB,

    Yes, the Xindi knew a ship was in The Expanse. They knew since the episode 'The Xindi'. They chose to not pursue as that would possibly give away their location.

    Thanks @Yanks!

    Kinda weird then that they do not chase them all guns blazing. Especially now.
    Maybe they will… on to the next episode!

    "Yes, the Xindi knew a ship was in The Expanse. They knew since the episode 'The Xindi'. They chose to not pursue as that would possibly give away their location."

    To the one ship that they could easily destroy lol.

    And a better question would be why didn't they test their smaller version of the weapon on a barren moon in their own backyard rather than on Earth?

    Ummm I know, because if they had done that, the humans would have had no way of knowing they were building a Death Star and zero chance of preventing it from completing their mission.

    Ummm.... ya, the Xindi are massive nincompoops.

    Obviously the Xindi using the smaller weapon on Earth as a "test" and thereby pointlessly squandering the element of surprise was a huge plot hole.

    What bugs me about this is that it was so unnecessary. You could have fixed it by saying the weapon was actually supposed to blow up the Earth but failed due to some design flaw. It does some damage and then blows up. Then the Xindi arc continues as before, with the Xindi building a new weapon that corrects the original design flaw.

    I mean why is this so hard? Why were Enterprise's writers such idiots?

    I cringe every time the Andorians refer to the humans as “the pink skins”. This reveals an incredible ignorance and cultural bias of the writers that the default skin colour of the human race is Caucasian. I can see the first time the andorians met Archer to assume that all humans have similar skin as Archer but that should have been clarified early and put to rest. Also, have you noticed that any issue on slavery ( the conginator, North Star) Travis is kept very far away. This is a lost opportunity to use the lessons of humanities mistakes to provide guidance for the conflicts Enterprise is facing.

    Also, if the Xindi have a “planet killing” weapon, what is the need for all the bio weapon storyline.

    "Cringe" TeeBone? You need to take a valium. No one was "defaulting" anyone. It's Shran's nickname for humans. Don't be so butt-hurt.

    Northstar was a Archer/T'Pol/Trip episode, you could say the same for Malcolm, Hoshi and Phlox, Cogenitor isn't a "slavery" episode.

    The BIO Weapon option was put to the Xindi Council and voted down. The impatient Reptilians and Insectoids chose not to wait and went behind the council's back. I'm glad they did because it gave us a great time-travel episode (Carpenter Street)

    TeeBone is offended that the Andorians' derogatory slur for humans isn't PC enough.

    No, he objects to a racist slur not being more inclusive.

    I also find it very funny that in America Caucasian means white. My brain always needs a few seconds to separate between actual people from the Caucasus which are really not that white and the term Americans for some reason have chosen for european-minus Iberia looking.

    To be fair, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to object to the idea that the writers clearly equated "human species" with "pink skin" in assigning that slur to the Andorians. It's a bit of a silly thing to get up in arms about, but just as a matter of observation it does seem to say something about the mental image of humanity in the mind of the writing team. This particular type of misstep was even a screwup at the timing of its original airing, IMO. Even in TNG S1 they took some (minors) steps to show that humanity wasn't just about white people. Also funny that Mayweather never gets in a mot juste to comment on that particular slur (or does he?).

    Well in universe, with the exception of Mayweather, every human the Andorians encountered was basically pink or close to that (Hoshi included). I am sure that the Andorians figured out there were variations, but I'm also sure they didn't give a shit because it's a slur. Nobody worries about being offensive or reductive when they use a slur. That's why it's a slur.

    I guess it's the fault of the showrunners that so few black or brown people were in the cast - but as a plot point in-universe, it's a pretty ridiculous quibble.

    I mean if Archer decided to call the Andorians "smurfskins" is it supposed to be more offensive because unbeknownst to Archer, there are white skinned Andorians? Is that the thing to focus on?

    "No, he objects to a racist slur not being more inclusive." ... lol

    Honestly, It never occurred to me that "pink skin" is some kind of racist thing. Too many snowflakes around these days. Maybe in the 22nd-century folks don't find ways to get worked up over trivial crap.

    It would have been funny if Travis had a one-liner around Shran though. Something like, "you talking to me"? ... lol

    @ Jason R.,

    At this point it becomes a meta discussion that starts to scramble based on what reality you think the show is project. For instance if most bridge members are white, does that mean the show is saying that literally speaking most humans in space during ENT's run are white? Or should we just assume that it's a diverse complement and that the way they cast the show is not technically meant to translate into a literal breakdown of ethnic variation? For instance if Starfleet is representing a unified Earth, you'd think there would be a number of East Indian and Chinese people on board, just by the numbers. There are none, which mostly should be chalked up to who's available for casting in the U.S., where the show is made. Should we take American talent agencies and the stats that go along with them as figuring into the show's actual realty in the future? My argument would be no. So in a sense we should assume that the Andorians are used to a great mix of humanity rather than a mostly white Enterprise crew. I agree it's not a hill to die on, but in the abstract I don't think it's an inaccurate observation to suggest that the showrunners were not thinking intelligently about what a starship crew would look like in 250 years.

    By the way we can make a similar comment about Vulcans. To date, we've seen maybe a handful of 'black' Vulcans, compared with mostly pale-skinned Vulcans. So going by the "what you see is what you get" logic, most Vulcans the Andorians would meet are also pale skinned, barely any different from humans, and they are also way more familiar with the Vulcans than they are with humans. So humans get the pink skin slur even though they look practically identical to Vulcans in their 'whiteness'? It is, to coin a phrase, highly illogical.

    I was chuckling when I wrote the non inclusive racism line.

    "Honestly, It never occurred to me that "pink skin" is some kind of racist thing."
    Never? Somebody using the skin tone of a species as a derogatory remark never occurred to you as being racist. That's hilarious. :D

    "Maybe in the 22nd-century folks don't find ways to get worked up over trivial crap."
    Everybody becomes more tolerant when the racists fly bigger ships.

    Yes, never Booming... and I'm supposed to be the one offended I guess... you know in the day when everyone has the right to be offended!!

    Big ships? You sound like big tech... do as I say or get out of the way.

    @Peter Andorians like Shran haven't had much contact with humans other than the Enterprise bridge crew and Archer would be the most memorable. So even if in-universe there are buckets of Sri Lankens and Nigerians on the crew, Shran wouldn't be paying much attention to them.

    Incidentally, wouldn't most east Asians have somewhat "pink" skin too? Is there a pinkish hue to Chinese / Japanese / Korean skin? I don't know. It is certainly closer to being pink than it is to being black or brown. Don't Asians get pinkish when they are flushed?? If they do then Shran's slur is pretty inclusive of much of humanity.

    @ Jason R,

    I agree that if we go just based on what's shown on-screen it would seem to the Andorians that the Enterprise crew is indicative of the human race, i.e. mostly 'pink skinned'. Especially those ruddy-cheeked Englishmen. But my point was more whether it's appropriate to take the Hollywood casting literally and assume that what we see visually of the bridge crew is what humanity supposedly sends into space. Or should we sort of close our eyes and see the crew in a more color-blind way and assume 'it's a mix' and not count heads. I mean it's not like Shran says "Pink-skins...except for that quiet dark fella." Basically it's the 2-4 main characters, which is another artifact of the TV format. If we were being a bit more literal I imagine the Andorians would have more time talking to Hoshi (communications) than to the 2nd officer.

    To be clear, I agree with Peter's view that white was seen as the default and that a crew from all over the planet should be more colorful.

    I just found it amusing that TeeBone's argument sounds like he demands inclusion into a racial slur. :)

    From @Peter G.: "just as a matter of observation it does seem to say something about the mental image of humanity in the mind of the writing team. "

    I 100% agree with this and with TeeBone's point. I am a Shran Fan, and he made the episode for sure, but it's obvious to everyone that 'pink skin' means white person and when you are not a white person (I am not), that kind of line is a flashing light indicating whom the writers consider the "typical" human. I like Trek because it sets a pretty high standard generally, by not reinforcing those antiquated norms.* To keep it within the realm of the show, none of the humans the Andorians encounter have antennae-- why not point that out instead (I can't think of a "good slur" but I'm fine with that)? Instead they go for this weird skin color comment that just feels gross. Shran deserves better.

    *Enterprise has not been as good about this as other shows, as other posters have mentioned.

    Really good episode. Probably my favorite Andorian episode. Good plot and good guest stars. Shran's Andorian Mining Consortium scene is a classic. I'm also a fan of episodes like Voyager's "Counterpoint" where the captain turns out to be one step ahead of their opponent so it was nice to see Archer coming out on top here.

    I've seen some fans talking about how they'd have liked to have seen Shran onboard the Enterprise in season 5, but I think I'd have preferred it if Talas had been made a new crewmember. She would have made a good foil for T'Pol and kept Reed on his toes too. Too bad she wasn't just wounded in Babel One.

    An animated gif of Archer and T'Pol's reaction to Shran's Andorian Mining Consortium routine:

    I liked Shran's Admiral Ackbar impersonation when he said he couldn't repel firepower of that magnitude 🙂

    The part that was too arbitrary for me was cutting a moon in half was a failed test. Seemed successful, just a way to delay deployment.
    It is pretty stupid that they already attacked earth.

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