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The Trek Nation - The Shipment

The Shipment

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 30, 2003 - 4:16 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Shipment' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Using the information given to Sato by Tarquin, Archer has Enterprise hide behind a moon of the planet with the mining colony while he takes a shuttlepod with Reed and Hayes to infiltrate the refinery. While spying, they overhear three Xindi-Sloth discussing the kemocite they have been instructed to refine by a high-ranking Xindi named Degra. After stealing a container of the kemocite so that T'Pol and Tucker can analyze its potential use in a weapon, Archer takes the head of the refining project, Gralik, hostage in his own home to interrogate.

While T'Pol discovers that kemocite is one of the chemicals used in the weapon the Xindi used in Florida, Archer demands to know how the compound works and where the new Xindi weapon is being built. His plan is to blow up the entire facility, though he wants to keep casualties to a minimum by sparing the homes nearby. Gralik, however, claims to know nothing about how the refined ore is being used, and professes horror when Archer tells him that seven million people died because of the use of kemocite. He offers to help Archer, hiding him and the Enterprise crewmembers in the woods and later in caves when Degra (a Xindi-Humanoid) and one of the Xindi-Reptilians arrive several days early to pick up their shipment of refined kemocite.

Meanwhile on Enterprise, Tucker discovers that Xindi portable weapons have biological organisms living with them that generate synaptic impulses. Phlox discovers that the slug-like beings are vulnerable to delta radiation, though omicron radiation makes them reproduce at accelerated rates. But when Tucker tries to fire one of the weapons, it puts itself into an overload cycle, forcing him to beam it off the ship before it explodes.

Archer decides not to blow up the kemocite refinery, though Reed and Hayes express grave reservations. With the help of T'Pol and Sato, the captain modifies a container intended for the Xindi vessel, hiding within it a transponder that will allow Enterprise to track the material. He sneaks it aboard into one of the shipping containers. Meanwhile Gralik returns to his laboratory and runs a submolecular scan on the kemocite which presumably will render it useless for a weapon of mass destruction. Enterprise loses the ability to track the Xindi ship once it enters an energy portal, but Archer and Gralik agree to keep in mind that humans are not the enemy of the Xindi and not all Xindi are the enemies of humans.


Analysis: A very classic Trek episode, "The Shipment" allows Archer to do what Kirk and Picard did several dozen times: meet a presumed enemy, discover that they've made the mistake of judging people by their species and forge a personal alliance that prevents a much larger conflict from erupting. As Archer says early on in the episode, he has a dilemma: If he doesn't blow up the kemocite facility, the Xindi will be able to use it to keep refining ore for the weapon they intend to use against Earth. But if he does blow up the facility, he will be proving to the Xindi that in fact humans are as violent and destructive as they fear. Gralik gives him an option he hadn't considered before, namely finding those among his enemies whom he may be able to trust.

It's nice to see that theme on Enterprise, and it's particularly nice to see it in the midst of this arc, where even the people who have seemed like potential allies (Rajiin, Tarquin) have turned out to have ugly hidden agendas. It's not clear that Gralik is completely trustworthy — we must trust him just as Archer does, with the same concerns that Reed expresses, and that trust gets twisted nicely when Gralik hears from Degra that humans are believed to be ruthless killers. He's remarkably calm and sensitive given that Archer takes him prisoner in his own home, which makes him seem somewhat suspicious, but at the same time it's upsetting early on when Archer suggests to Reed and Hayes that they may have to "take care of" Gralik after blowing up the refinery, for they can't afford to let anyone know that humans have been on the planet, so anyone who has seen them there presumably must not be allowed to live.

We also learn some fascinating details about the Xindi past, including the fact that the Reptilians and Insectoids destroyed their own planet in a war among the various Xindi species that left one group, the Avians, extinct, as they had no members offworld when the planet was destroyed. Gralik, a Sloth, says he trusts that the Reptilians had no idea that global destruction would be the result of their tactics, yet it's clear that he doesn't trust his fellow Xindi not to make the weapons of mass destruction that Archer tells him are being built with materials from his own refinery. It also seems that for all their technology, the Xindi can detect neither Enterprise behind the planet's moon nor Archer's shuttle hidden in the woods near the facility.

Yet their hand weapons seem to be powered and controlled by living organisms, apparently not intelligent yet with sufficient synaptic activity to detect an unauthorized user and take appropriate action. The concept of a phaser that can't be fired by anyone except someone with authorized fingerprints always seemed like a good idea to me, something that could have saved previous Trek crews a lot of grief when aliens turned their own weapons against them, and isn't it neat that the Xindi not only have them but have them operated by a living creature. Phlox offers the opinion that the beasties are biologically engineered, making one wonder which Xindi group has the ability to fiddle with DNA and whether they've ever been tempted to play around with the DNA of their fellow Xindi. It certainly seems like something they would have considered, giving the longstanding hostility among Xindi groups. (I love that the Sloth describes the Xindi-Humanoids as primates!)

There's quite a bit of snarking among crewmembers in these tense situations, both between Tucker and T'Pol when she believes (correctly) that his tests may recklessly endanger the Enterprise crew and between Archer and Reed when the latter believes (incorrectly) that it would have been safer not to trust Gralik. Hayes chimes in an opinion too, leading to an amusing moment when Archer asks who gave him permission to talk freely — that's the second time in a recent episode that someone has had to lay the smackdown on a MACO for stepping over the line and butting in where his opinions aren't wanted, and it's rather nice to see that it's been the humanitarian position getting defended.

In terms of character and performance, Scott Bakula's Archer has the most interesting range, going from the snappish captain in the opening sequence to the take-no-prisoners Starfleet officer breaking into Gralik's house to the proto-Federation negotiator once he realizes that Gralik, like himself, may not know everything that has been going on. Mayweather and Sato barely appear in the episode, Reed serves mainly to play devil's advocate to the captain, T'Pol and Tucker get to quarrel without their late-night arrangements getting in the way for once. It's nice to see Phlox working alongside the engineering team for a change, too.

Gralik doesn't get quite enough development to become a great character like Captain Dathon from TNG's "Darmok", but he has some lovely moments professing horror at the mass murder on Earth and throwing a tantrum to get Degra out of his hair to buy himself time to sabotage the kemocite. He says that his facility will be fine despite his actions, but one suspects that the other Xindi will punish him at the very least for incompetence, even if they never suspect deliberate interference with their plans.

All in all this is a very solid hour of entertainment, with very few nitpicks (why didn't Archer let Gralik sneak the transponder into a kemocite container? why did Archer have his armory officer down on the surface with him and his engineer testing weapons on the ship rather than vice versa?), generally fine performances and solid dialogue on top of the usual excellent visuals. It's a slick package with the values I consider to be real Trek.


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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.