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The Trek Nation - The Xindi

The Xindi

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 11, 2003 - 2:45 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Xindi' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: At a Xindi council meeting, a humanoid argues that an Earth ship's presence in the Expanse could be coincidence while an insectoid insists that it must be a prelude to invasion. They agree to keep a close watch on Enterprise. Meanwhile, aboard the NX-01, Archer rants that despite their new command center they have gathered no useful data on the Xindi and need to start taking risks, even if it means following advice from a freighter captain of questionable character. As Sato gets to know the new military assault command officers in the mess, Tucker frets about gravitational anomalies in the cargo bays and his own nightmares about his sister's death in Florida. Phlox has recommended Vulcan neuropressure, but both Tucker and T'Pol are reluctant to try it.

The planet to which the freighter captain has directed Archer has a massive trillium mine and a terribly polluted atmosphere. Archer and Reed visit the administrator, who breathes through an inhaler and shows them a finger from a Xindi prisoner...but he will exchange the prisoner only for liquid platinum, which Archer can obtain only by stripping it out of the coating of relays on Enterprise. When they return to the surface with the platinum, Archer and Tucker demand to see the Xindi miner, only to find themselves imprisoned by the administrator along with the alien. The Xindi promises to help them escape if they will provide a way off the planet, for all the miners are prisoners.

Enterprise has its own problems, for several heavily-armed cargo vessels are approaching the planet and they cannot communicate with the away team on the surface. Reed wants to take down a rescue team but T'Pol agrees with Major Hayes that the MACOs should go down to the surface, keeping Reed's teams on the ship in case of boarding. While the military officers take another shuttlepod to the surface, Archer, Tucker and the Xindi prisoner crawl up an unused plasma conduit. As they climb the alien explains that there are five distinct species of Xindi, all in disagreement about which is dominant. The mining administrator discovers their flight and reroutes plasma through the shaft, forcing the three escapees to dive through a hatch surrounded on the inside by a security force. The Xindi claims that the Enterprise crewmembers abducted him.

The MACO team drops in and rescues Archer and Tucker in a messy firefight. Archer threatens to leave the Xindi in the mine, but he promises to give them the coordinates of his homeworld. More shooting erupts in the fog on the surface and the Xindi is badly wounded but the Enterprise crewmembers escape unharmed. T'Pol orders the shuttlepods to dock simultaneously so the ship can go to maximum warp, fleeing the arriving "cargo vessels" which have turned out to be warships. The Xindi from the mine dies, but not before he dictates planetary coordinates to Phlox.

Phlox persuades T'Pol to persuade Tucker to try Vulcan neuropressure, so she convinces him to give her a naked backrub, then to let her return the favour. At the Xindi coordinates, the crew finds only a debris field — a planet destroyed about 120 years previously, with the same refined metals and alloys used in the Xindi probe. Archer does not understand why the Xindi attacked Earth over the destruction of their planet 400 years in the future when apparently it hasn't existed for decades already. He orders the ship deeper into the Expanse despite the anomalies. Discovering their entry into the distortion field, the Xindi Council debates the fate of Enterprise once more, with the insectoid representative insisting that if their weapon is not completed quickly, the Earth ship will be destroyed with or without Council approval.


Analysis: It's been a long road getting from there to here. Okay, I just had to say that, as I was ridiculously glad to hear "Faith of the Heart" over the opening credits (newly up-tempo, like the shooting sequences later in the episode). I'm of a double mind about "The Xindi." The things it did well, it did very, very well...but the things it did badly were horrid, and in many cases those were the same things Enterprise has done badly all along, which makes me wonder whether the writers have really learned anything. I'm not talking about silly stunts like topless T'Pol, either, but about dramatic tension among characters and between humans and aliens.

For reasons I don't quite understand, the episode starts by showing us the face of the enemy. I knew this was coming, but frankly I'm not sure why more mystery wasn't built up around them; ten seconds into the new season we've seen all five Xindi races, and learned that the ones that look the most human seem far more reasonable and diplomatic than the ones that look less human. The idea of several intelligent species sharing one world, some aquatic, all presumably having competed for the same resources at various points in their history, could be really fascinating if developed well, but they get flashed in front of us as a gimmick. And there's no denying that Enterprise does talking insects better than Andromeda, but can this show make us believe in them like Babylon 5 did?

From the face of the enemy, we turn to see one pissed-off Archer taking out his bad mood on Reed and T'Pol. He's got a more butch haircut than last season and a kick-ass demeanour; the MACOs look downright demure in comparison, gossiping about their accents with Hoshi in the mess, but that's their ten seconds of humanization before they start demonstrating their skills at Elite Force. Reed has a few moments of masculine anxiety over Hayes' muscles, but Tucker gets nearly all the human interest story for this episode, from the nightmares about his sister to the doctor-ordered bonding with T'Pol, which for obvious reasons he mistakes for a sexual come-on. Given that the attack on Earth is given a face for us via Tucker's sister, I'm fascinated by the ways in which roles on the ship are played out as familial: Archer as dad, Sato as friendly big sister, Reed as insecure younger brother, MACOs as visiting cousins and Phlox as the really creepy uncle you don't ever want to be alone with. Especially when he's playing doctor.

Okay, I should get on with the analysis of the action and aliens and fight sequences, but I must get my distaste for the Order of the Backrub out of my system. Phlox, who doesn't want to give Tucker drugs and seems never to have heard of verbal psychotherapy, strongly encourages — demands, really — that T'Pol use touch-therapy on Trip. She doesn't want to. He doesn't want to. With a cheery country doctor smile and a refusal to accept the right to say "no" of both his patient and a Vulcan whose customs he doesn't understand as well as she does, he presses.

And the pressure almost leads to a sexual misunderstanding which could have been catastrophic had either Trip or T'Pol been slightly less mature about the whole thing. T'Pol may want to stay on a ship full of humans but if I were her I'd file a harassment suit against the Denobulan before he starts demanding that she service other crewmembers. Please, let's not have any personal relationships if they're going to be cheap and exploitative. Those of us who want crew romance will pull it out of the subtext anyway. Keep T'Pol's catsuits but leave her dignity alone.

We can see that Tucker really does need help, because in addition to not sleeping, he slaps a Xindi around a bit. A very little bit. In fact, the courtesy with which Archer and Tucker treat their prey seems nearly comical; they have an armed assault team, they could have five weapons pointed at the guy's cranium and say, "COORDINATES. NOW." Instead they behave like Starfleet officers, even being so silly as to walk into a cargo bay filled with gravitational anomalies (they missed a chance to give Mayweather something to do in that scene; his enjoyment of weightlessness is one of the three things we've learned about him in the previous two seasons). For all Tucker's unhappiness about his sister's fate, it's hard to get a read on how he feels out in the Expanse, so far from the cleanup effort on Earth and not making much headway. Archer's the one throwing tantrums, and Reed's too worried about losing his role to a hunk in space camouflage to have time to give Tucker a pep talk.

Some things Trek has done well since The Next Generation, and continues to do superbly this episode: alien makeup, costumes, weird-looking planets, battle scenes that look convincing enough to scare small children (mine did NOT like the neck-breaking, and neither did I). The mine administrator with his inhaler, his filthy locks and his twisted sense of humour is instantly believable despite having alien prosthetics, superbly sketched and acted in a very few minutes of screen time. The crawl through the muck and up the filthy plasma conduit is creepy and claustrophobic. The new command center looks...well, shiny, and I can't say I'm sorry about T'Pol's fiery orange and glittering blue catsuits because they add much-needed color to a very blue-gray show. She also looks more Vulcan, her eyebrows more slanted, which, on a ship full of humans fighting a universe of seemingly hostile aliens, is very welcome.

I would have liked the MACOs better without the Black Hawk Down darkness, without the neck-breaking and without the shot through a rifle that looks like an image we'll see again in the inevitable Enterprise: MACO Team Rescue game. The Xindi, whose name I did not catch, has a lot more personality, wit and depth than any of these new semi-regulars; hopefully that will be remedied later on, but given that it hasn't happened with Mayweather, I can't be sure it will. I do like the idea of potential red-shirted ensigns with names and faces; it will be interesting if these characters end up dying one by one on dangerous missions, if we get a real sense of the danger and loss to those we care about.

As for the ending...what did we learn? That Dark Future Guy may have been lying? No shock there. That some of the Xindi want all the humans dead? Again, we knew that coming in. That the Xindi homeworld is ALREADY GONE? Okay, didn't see that one coming, but given that the overriding arc of Enterprise has concerned a temporal war, it makes a certain amount of sense. I have an ongoing sense that all continuity issues in Enterprise will ultimately have to be settled via reset button, and it's just hard to care too much given that suspicion, no matter how much enhanced action or how many enhanced romances we see.

Conclusion: I enjoyed "The Xindi", as did my husband (who agrees that the Xindi Council should have remained more mysterious), my ten-year-old son (who was fascinated by the inhalers on the mining planet and said "That's just like Alderaan!" when they found the destroyed Xindi homeworld), and my seven-year-old son (who was thrilled that Archer and Tucker both said "son of a bitch" but complained, "They're doing SEXY stuff!" at the end). But we're not the audience that Berman and Braga need to lure back, since we've been watching all along. And I don't think firefights and T'Pol's breasts alone will bring in viewers. The Xindi arc needs to have mystery and drama and direct relevance to our own century — for viewers from all over, not just the narrow American post-9/11 experience. We have to care passionately about the characters, villains as well as heroes to some extent, and it must all remain complex and believable. I know that Star Trek can do this because they've done it already, with Deep Space Nine's Dominion War. Combine that with The Next Generation's resolute sense of optimism, and we'll have a Trek that bridges all the generations.


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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.