RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

TrekToday title image

The Trek Nation - Damage

Damage

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 22, 2004 - 2:33 AM GMT

See Also: 'Damage' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While the Enterprise crew tries desperately to repair the ship, Tucker tells T'Pol that the warp drive cannot be repaired without a primary warp coil that they don't have. Meanwhile Degra and other Xindi council members demand that the Reptilians release Archer into their custody, saying they need him in good condition for interrogation and they have therefore chosen the Aquatics to transport him. Soon after a small Xindi craft approaches carrying a single life form, which turns out to be an unconscious Archer. In sickbay he learns that the ship has suffered fourteen casualties and there will be no impulse drive for six hours.

Reed suggests hiding the ship in a gas cloud to make repairs, to which Archer agrees since they can't search for the weapon without working sensors. Tucker doesn't understand why Archer trusts Degra when he designed the weapon set to destroy Earth, but Archer says that while he may not be on the humans' side, he is questioning his own people. T'Pol, who is suffering from hallucinations, alerts them that an unknown ship has sent out a distress call, which Archer answers in the hope that they can trade supplies. But the aliens refuse to trade their warp coil for Trellium-D, for it will take them three years to reach home without it.

Waking from a nightmare about sex with Tucker turning violent, T'Pol puts on a spacesuit and nearly dies in a decompressed cargo hold trying to obtain Trellium-D for herself. Later, after a bitter argument with Archer, she visits Phlox to admit that she has become addicted to the substance after learning on the Seleya that it helped her explore her emotions. Elsewhere Sato discovers that Degra has hidden a document on the pod that brought Archer back to Enterprise, containing a rendezvous date and coordinates that Enterprise cannot reach in time without warp drive. Desperately, Archer hatches a plan to steal the nearby aliens' warp coil by boarding their ship and taking it by force.

The Xindi Council meets with one of the mysterious sphere-builders, who insists that they must not quarrel among themselves but must concentrate on destroying their mutual enemies on Earth, though she admits to helping the Reptilians attempt to build a bio-weapon. Degra says he trusts Archer's word over hers because Archer has offered something she hasn't: Proof. At that moment Archer is wrestling with his conscience over his decision to rob the aliens of their warp coil, but he insists that it is the only way to salvage Enterprise's mission and protect Earth.

Using the transporter, the captain leads a boarding party of MACOs onto the alien vessel. A difficult battle in the corridors and in space is ended when T'Pol has Reed destroy a power juncture on the alien ship. Archer beams out after explaining to the commander that Enterprise has beamed aboard Trellium-D, food and supplies in trade for the warp coil, but they had no choice other than taking it to protect their own mission. Leaving the alien ship drifting in space, Enterprise heads at warp to meet with Degra. Tucker tells Archer that he did the right thing, but Archer is uncomfortable with how often he must make that rationalization to himself. And T'Pol discovers that, even without Trellium-D in her body, she is still experiencing strong emotions.


Analysis: "Damage" is Archer's "In the Pale Moonlight", but unlike Sisko in that Deep Space Nine episode, Enterprise's captain doesn't have a Garak to make the difficult decision to commit an act of treachery in order to protect his own ends. He must make the decision himself, despite the stated concerns of his tactical officer and a near-hysterical tantrum from his second in command, who quotes his own words to him: "We can't save humanity without holding on to what makes us human." In the DS9 episode, an introspective Sisko concluded that a couple of dead agents and a guilty conscience were a very small price to pay for the protection of millions of people; here, Archer still appears to be struggling with his slippery ethical slope, though Tucker assures him that he did the right thing and Phlox has promised to be ready for any casualties resulting from Archer's decisions.

Did he make the right call? I suspect we won't know until the end of the season, and it doesn't sound like these aliens are coming back, but, Star Trek so often being a morality play, I suspect that Archer will pay somehow for this choice. In fact I wondered whether it was a Xindi test to see how ruthless humans really were, whether they would commit the same sort of piracy to which they were first exposed when they entered the Expanse, as T'Pol pointedly reminds Archer during their argument; for an out-of-control drug addict, she gets some prime zingers off before she slams her hand into his desk and makes him see that she's close to collapse. Phlox promises not to tell Archer the reason, but this is an instance where the ethics of doctor-patient confidentiality seem to me to be secondary to safety concerns as well: you don't leave a heroin junkie going through withdrawal in command of the vessel for which you're trying to steal a vital piece of equipment to save your planet. Yet Phlox, unlike Archer, does not appear to waver.

I can argue either side concerning Archer: that he shouldn't have committed an act so un-Starfleet, so inhumane, so likely to give humans a reputation as the sort of thugs who might destroy a Xindi homeworld, particularly at this moment when he's so close to earning Degra's trust, or that he had no choice, he can try to make it up to these strangers later but the need of all humanity is so urgent that their inconvenience is a small price to pay and even they would have understood that if they had time to learn the full story. Archer could have rationalized his decision far more than he did...the aliens were as likely to be destroyed by the sphere-builders if he didn't make Degra understand what was at stake as the humans were, the Xindi wouldn't have let them study their red giant anyway, and anyone who's not an ally must be counted as a potential adversary, etc.

I think it's to Archer's credit that he does not rationalize his behavior, but acknowledges repeatedly that he is committing an act he abhors. I also think it's to Archer's credit that he leads the illegal boarding party himself, taking personal responsibility and risk for the theft, though some might argue that the captain has no business endangering himself like that. On the other hand, the good captain sounds a bit like a certain contemporary national leader, who keeps insisting that anyone who doesn't support his ways of promoting his causes is by definition an adversary and thus responsible for bringing the wrath of his country's military down upon itself.

What I can't rationalize at all is T'Pol's behavior. That she became addicted, I can understand: she didn't try the drug by choice in the first place, but was exposed to it against her will, and she was drawn to the feelings it created in her because it damaged her neural pathways. But she must have known that her actions were endangering the ship as well as her own life, long before her near-suffocation in the cargo bay. It's very hard to forgive her for not asking for help when there was so much at stake; she could have gone to Phlox any time, she could have confided in Tucker, or she could have told Archer the truth. I'm not particularly sympathetic to her withdrawal symptoms and I just don't like her very much right now...and maybe that's cruel and insensitive of me, but for her to want to explore her emotions and have fun with her human stud while the rest of the crew is frantically struggling to stay alive and save a planet seems utterly selfish and immature.

The worst part of T'Pol's behavior is that it makes her back down during a critical debate with Archer, when she's making the vital, counterbalancing argument which gets lost as the ravings of a woman in the throes of a drug-induced emotional breakdown. The implication is that Archer shouldn't have listened to her and the audience doesn't have to listen to her because she's not in her right mind, and given the nature of her statements, that's quite distressing: she is saying exactly what Archer needs to consider, and to keep considering even after he's made his choice if he wants to stay off that slippery slope. T'Pol's so much further along her slippery slope that she comes across not as a kindred soul for him (especially since she doesn't confide her problem) but as someone whose logic can be dismissed.

Otherwise, there are a few nice moments for other characters in the episode - Mayweather assuring Sato that they'll get home, Tucker pleading for help for his crews, Phlox returning a shellshocked Porthos to Archer's wrecked quarters - and a neat look at the ship in ruins, with visual effects and sets that have become easy to take for granted on this series as the standard it's set has been so high. (I don't understand why the containers in the cargo bay didn't float out into space during the hull breach, but that's a minor nitpick that I'm sure someone can rationalize with magnets or force fields.) The pacing's strong, the dramatic tension is sustained superbly, there's little screen time wasted on the aliens and I firmly approve. I'd have liked to see more of Casey Biggs, and it would have been a more interesting dilemma for Archer if we knew more about him and his people, but ultimately they're secondary concerns in this morality play.


Discuss this reviews at Trek BBS!
XML Add TrekToday RSS feed to your news reader or My Yahoo!
Also a Desperate Housewives fan? Then visit GetDesperate.com!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.