Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S03E18 – Azati Prime

In the eighteenth episode of the third season of Enterprise, I genuinely did not expect this to be so horribly messed up. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek

WELL. W E L L. THANKS FOR THAT MID-SEASON CLIFFHANGER WITH NO “To Be Continued…” ENDING. WHAT HAVE Y’ALL DONE TO ME.

The Plan

I’m realizing how much of this season is about this crew entering a previously unexplored area of space and then MAKING EIGHT TRILLION MISTAKES IN A ROW. Perhaps more so than any other season, this really feels like the show is depicting a ragtag crew learning how to do deep space exploration by doing it the hard way. Without the more intensive Starfleet and Federation rules that come later on, they’re constantly breaking new ground. But they’re doing so with their flaws on display! A lot of the time, Archer’s improvisation or boldness keeps them ahead of their foes, but I’d argue that what he does in “Azati Prime” is just downright foolish. I’d also say that’s a major factor in his decision to change his mind about Daniels. If he hadn’t screwed up so badly, would he have tried diplomacy?

Lemme back up a bit. Even from the start, I felt like these characters were flying by the seat of their pants. That’s not a bad thing! This whole seasons has largely been thrilling because of the great big unknown that surrounds them at every single turn. It makes for compelling storytelling. So when Travis and Tucker headed down to the planet where the weapon was being built, the tension was unbearable. It was hard NOT to assume the worst. They’d get captured. They’d never make it to the weapon to take scans. And even if they did, what if they couldn’t discern any weakness in it?

And by gods, that underwater sequence was INCREDIBLE. It beautifully portrayed the sense of awe and terror that those two men felt while staring upon the thing that had been built to guarantee their people’s demise. So when the scans of the Death Star – er, sorry, the Xindi weapon revealed a way to destroy it, and then we found out it would be a one-way trip, I was again floored by the awful plan that Archer had come up with. And make no mistake: it’s REALLY bad. Did no one think to scan again as they got closer to it to even see if it was there? Even if the defense perimeter prevented Enterprise from scanning on the planet, surely they all realized that if they destroyed the weapon, the Xindi would just build another one in a more secret location, right?

But Archer’s terrible plan had a separate motivation behind it: it was an act of penance for all the awful things he’d asked of others and himself since entering the Expanse. Y’all, THIS WAS THE THING I WAS WAITING FOR. I desperately needed to know if the show would address Archer’s shifting ethics, and LO AND BEHOLD, he was going to sacrifice himself to save humanity… for a few more months.

Daniels

It’s a spectacularly bad plan, so that’s why I love that Daniels LITERALLY PULLS ARCHER INTO THE FUTURE TO TELL HIM THIS. I had hoped that the sheer drama of this act was enough to get Archer to abandon this bad idea. Yet let us not forget the power of the certainty of misguided men! Despite being shown the eventual war between the builders of the Spheres and LITERALLY ALL OTHER SPECIES, Archer refuses to budge. Can we just all sit here and acknowledge how FOOLISH that is. Archer got handed the answer to the mystery of the spheres and he STILL DID NOT CARE. Gods grant me the overconfidence of white men, I swear.

Hearts & Minds

And so “Azati Prime” escalates. And escalates. AND ESCALATES. The second Archer leaves his ship on his one-man kamikaze mission, each horrible moment is followed immediately by another one. T’Pol had an emotional breakdown over the imminent death of her friend, which I need ALL PARTIES INVOLVED to apologize to me for since it’s one of the most gut-wrenching things in this whole show. Then T’Pol finds it difficult to be the captain because she’s distraught, and then Archer finds out that the weapon was MOVED and he’s too late, and then he’s captured, and then NOTHING GOES RIGHT AT ALL.

A funny little thing happens at this point, though, and I’m convinced that this is a huge turning point for season three. Archer changes his mind. Faced with his failure to destroy the weapon, he tries a tactic that honestly should have been attempted a long time ago: he talks. It is literally what T’Pol suggested earlier, isn’t it? (Though I admit I may be remembering this wrong.) Now, this is not an easy task, especially since Degra does not remember the events of “Stratagem.” I am also curious how Archer is going to justify killing those Xindi on that lunar base, but we’ll have to see. It’s a tall order. How do you convince these people not to kill you after everything that’s happened? Even more daunting is the challenge of convincing the Xindi that the sphere builders lied to them about humans. Why would any of the Xindi ever believe Archer?

It was astounding to watch Archer chip away at the certainty of the Xindi, first at Degra, then at the primates. He introduces doubt into their minds, which is a hell of a technique. He doesn’t need them to believe him 100%. He just needed them to question what they’d been told, even a little bit. It sure makes the reptilian look incredibly suspicious, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing that this doubt is what Archer is going to capitalize on, though it’s not like he has many options. Enterprise is… look, no words feel right in describing the devastation that was rained down upon that ship. WHAT IS WITH THIS SHOW AND VENTING CREW MEMBERS INTO SPACE. IT HURTS. NO MORE. But the ship is a sitting duck, and Archer is too far away to do much of anything. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, and I still can’t believe we’re only three-quarters of the way through the season. If the writers are committing to this now, what the hell do they have planned for later?

The video for “Azati Prime” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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