In the twenty-first episode of the first season of Enterprise, Archer and Mayweather have an experience that changes their perception of the Suliban. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Enterprise.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of racism/xenophobia, internment camps, war, and terrorism.
Well, this is a difficult one, both to watch and discuss. This has been happening a lot, especially with the Discworld books I’m reading over on Mark Reads. I imagine that the writers hoped that this was a case where they’d address something and hope it would never happen again, that in drawing parallels to the Japanese internment camps, we could all learn from history.
And then Guantanamo happened. And then we’ve got a President urging for there to be Muslim camps. And then there’s Chechnya. And I couldn’t even list all the examples of humanity treating those who are different from them in monstrous ways. So there’s an unnerving and unsettling aspect to “Detained” because it hasn’t stopped being relevant. The construction of this nightmare is intentional, too, a means of exploring all the small and big ways in which a detention camp is horrifying. From the start, we’re tricked by appearances. Look, even I assumed that this was a Suliban-run prison, and it took a shifting perspective for me to adjust how I thought about this episode.
But that’s the point. Archer and Mayweather assume the worst and believe they’ve been captured by the Suliban. Even when they learn that the Tandarans are running the prison, they still view the Suliban through a critical lens. And why not? At that point, they believe they have no reason for seeing them as anything other than villians, determined to infiltrate the world and destroy it through use of the genetic modifications.
Why the Cabal is a real thing, this episode cleverly demonstrates that they are a minority within the population of the Suliban, yet the majority are being treated as if they’re nothing more than soldiers. It’s a horrifying dynamic that the writers lifted from actual history. Which is why there’s such a direct reference to Manzanar, one of many internment camps that was managed by the United States government during World War II. It’s an eerily similar idea: my country’s government held all Japanese responsible for the actions of others. They believed the worst of them. They even perpetrated that same bullshit logic that the camps existed so that the Japanese could be protected. My god, that might have been the one line that Colonel Grat uttered that enraged me the most. Hell, he might have even believed it, which horrifies even more. Instead of prosecuting or punishing the Tandarans who committed hate crimes, Grat and his officers believed an internment camp was a safer, more reasonable option. Yet even within that place, you could tell that these guards and officials never really cared about the safety of the Suliban. They’re treated with cruelty, derision, and suspicion all the time. There’s no way that any of this was about their protection!
So yeah, the Prime Directive is thrown out of the window here. (Yes, I know it doesn’t exist yet, but you get the point.) Archer and Mayweather argue that they can’t let this place continue existing, so much so that they’re willing to stage an elaborate escape. Is it a solution to the ongoing persecution that the Suliban face? No, not at all, and “Detained” doesn’t attempt to say it is. These characters know that this is a temporary solution. But I appreciated that they did this regardless, knowing that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the escaped Suliban. It’s better than leaving them there to suffer indefinitely. (Did Danik and Sajen make it out, though??? That was a really weird thing to leave unaddressed, y’all.)
Most of all, I was pleased that the script for “Detained” was not ambiguous about how we should feel towards Grat and the other Tandarans. They were the antagonists here, and they deserved what they got I HOPE THEY ALL GOT BLOWN UP. I am also interested to see if there will be ramifications for the events in this episode. How will they affect this Temporal Cold War plot? I DON’T KNOW. But anyway: Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula were in an episode together!!!! I DID NOT EXPECT THAT.
The video for “Detained” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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