In the nineteenth episode of the third season of Enterprise, Archer and T’Pol make surprising choices. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For talk of addiction
Well, that was one of the most fucked up episodes of Star Trek.
At this point, Archer has one thing working in his favor: doubt. “Damage” tracks the complicated path these characters take once that doubt is introduced. Again, I’m glad that we get to see things from the perspective of the Xindi council because it’s a needed element of the story. Archer had an effect on them; they’re openly questioning what they were told. AND IN THIS CASE THAT IS LITERAL! We actually get to see the member of the sphere-building race as they OPENLY LIE TO THE XINDI. Yet there still a crucial element missing here, and I think Degra’s going to focus on it. Archer has attempted to prove his point, while the spherebuilder just told them about this possible future.
So, while that’s falling apart, Archer and his crew have to deal with the ramifications of the attempt to take out the Xindi weapon. Y’all, this arc is A LOT. The last episode was violent and disturbing and Archer’s plan didn’t really work at all, at least not until he changed it from the destruction of the weapon to what Daniels had suggested. Even then, what does he get? The aquatics, the arborals, and the primates free Archer and give him the coordinates to a meeting that will take place in three days. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but “Damage” doesn’t really deal with that. This is an episode about the logistics, and in this case, the Enterprise was really messed up. Fourteen crew members died! Entire parts of the ship are decompressed. The warp coil was destroyed, and most of the weapons are down. This is all depicted with a number of haunting images that show how the Enterprise has LITERAL holes in its hull. There are scenes where the ship hums with the sound of the crew rushing to repair as much as they can as quickly as they can.
What does this all lead to? A choice. See, I call bullshit on that trope-y response that Archer gives to the captain of the ship he steals from. He always had a choice. Oh, the options he had were shitty as hell, and I wouldn’t deny that. But saying that you “don’t have a choice” is a distancing act. It makes it sound like someone or something else forced you to do one thing, as if that was your only option. Is Archer tormented over this decision? Sure! To an extent, it’s depicted on the screen. He has crossed a line that starship captains are never supposed to. He does so methodically, involving the crew and his senior officers in this decision, despite their protestations, despite their reservations. It should be noted that aside from T’Pol, Archer doesn’t really receive that much push back. Instead, these characters are visibly uncomfortable while obeying the orders they were given.
Y’all, they stranded those people in the Expanse for THREE YEARS. That’s the price those people paid!!! What Archer offers them in compensation is TERRIBLE. It’s not even remotely a comparable price! Three years is an incredible length of time to strand someone, and yet Archer does it because of the Xindi weapon. He does it because he needs that warp coil. The ends justify the means. He’ll theoretically be able to save all of Earth, so by comparison, stranding people for three years is nothing.
But he sure had a choice about the matter.
Wow, I didn’t pick up on a single clue toward T’Pol’s addiction. I can’t even think of a moment where it was hinted at, except… well, I guess the show does need to be clear about one thing. Was her pursuit of Tucker meant to be a part of this experimentation? Look, as someone who dealt with addiction a long time ago, I know how addiction can influence you and make you do WEIRD SHIT. You justify all kinds of weird behavior. In my case, I took extreme steps to hide my alcoholism from everyone, so much so that I bet if you asked people I went to high school with, they’d all say that I never drank at all. NOT TRUE. But there was so much shame and fear and stigma all swirled together in my head, and I just… I just hid it all? It’s one of those things that hindsight can’t even seem to explain. I just did it.
So is that what’s happening to T’Pol? Are her feelings real, and how much did her addiction play into her attraction to Tucker? That’s such a weird question, I KNOW. Phlox makes reference to it, and it’s both cruel and necessary. “Damage” doesn’t untangle anything here, but instead shows us T’Pol in withdrawal and the ramifications of that. Which is fine as an introduction, but I’m eager to see if there will be more addressed in these coming episodes. I do need more from this story, not just because it’s incomplete, but because T’Pol deserves it. If she’s truly interested in exploring her emotions, is there a way for her to do that without an addiction to Trellium-D? How long will she be in withdrawal? Will she tell Tucker? I HAVE QUESTIONS.
The video for “Damage” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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