Friday, September 20, 2013

A New Theme Song, A New Name, “The Xindi” Starts The Third Season With A Stumble.

The Good: Good pacing, Decent plot progression.
The Bad: Little in the way of character development, Continuity issues
The Basics: “The Xindi” opens the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise with enough to keep the viewer interested, but nothing that is at all superlative.

In redefining Star Trek: Enterprise, the executive producers worked to make both substantive and cosmetic changes with the series. On the cosmetic front, the show changed its name to Star Trek: Enterprise (from Enterprise) and the opening theme song was jazzed up. Substantively, “The Xindi” reboots Star Trek: Enterprise with a direct follow-up to “The Expanse” (reviewed here!) and a third season that is heavily serialized. The second episode in the arc is the third season premiere, “The Xindi.”

To its credit, “The Xindi” picks up well-enough with a plot that is engaging enough, though it is pretty much an action-adventure story. There is almost no character development and the acting is nothing exceptional. Instead, this is a building episode and one that adds new information to the storyline without actually giving away the store or feeling much like anything else called Star Trek. The key for a season premiere is to try to get the viewer to keep tuning in and “The Xindi” hardly does that, though it is engaging enough to divert the viewer for the course of the episode.

Six weeks after entering the Expanse, the Enterprise is targeted by the Xindi Council. Aboard Enterprise, Archer is frustrated by how little information the ship has accumulated about the Xindi. Sato gets to know the new military assault commandos brought aboard before the Enterprise left Earth while Archer explores a strange physical anomaly inside the ship with Tucker. Arriving at a mining planet, Archer finds himself and Tucker at the mercy of the foreman who requires a bribe to connect Archer with the Xindi who is living on the planet. After supplying the foreman with liquid platinum, Archer meets with Kessick, the nine-fingered Xindi.

Kessick reveals that he is enslaved on the mining planet and he demands that Archer take him with Enterprise before he will give Archer the location of the Xindi homeworld. While Archer and Tucker work to liberate the Kessick, T’Pol and Reed employ the M.A.C.O.S. to rescue them in advance of a conscription force arriving at the planet to enslave Enterprise’s crew. Kessick reveals that the Xindi have five distinct races, before he betrays Archer. Upon making it back to Enterprise, T’Pol and Tucker attempt to sooth their frayed nerves in advance of the ship arriving at the Xindi homeworld.

“The Xindi” is a mess of substance and sensationalism. For those fans desperate for Jolene Blalock sideboob, the episode is bound to satisfy as T’Pol ends up pointlessly topless in the episode. I’m all for gratuitous nudity, but in “The Xindi,” it’s just stupid; the pretense for getting T’Pol topless is that she needs Tucker to give her a back massage. The thing is, where she wants him to apply pressure is just below the collar of a loose-fitting shirt, so there is no earthly reason for her to remove her top.

On the flip side, the episode starts to flesh out the Xindi both internally and by reputation. Seeing the five Xindi races (two of which are computer generated) well in advance of Kessick telling the viewers what they have seen is an interesting way to go, as is the display of power by the M.A.C.O.S. The M.A.C.O.S. are much more aggressive than the standard security officers in the Star Trek franchise. The rescue scene is pulled off in an impressive way.

The character front of the episode is remarkably barren. Outside Tucker daydreaming about his dead sister and the fact that Reed has some friction with Major Hayes of the M.A.C.O.S., the big character elements in the episode are Archer’s irritability and the fact that T’Pol cannot sleep. That T’Pol cannot sleep is an underwhelming follow-up to the Vulcan chaos shown in “The Expanse.” T’Pol is not going psychotic like the Vulcans were shown in “The Expanse” and given that the Enterprise has been in the Expanse for far longer than those Vulcans were, this seems like a serious oversight.

Otherwise, “The Xindi” is a blasé beginning to the third season. The episode is not bad and Stephen McHattie stumbles through the role of the alien foreman with little room to truly shine, but he lands the creepy alien with the same level of talent he has brought to every other character he has played. His performance stands out amid stiff acting from Connor Trinneer, Scott Bakula, and Dominick Keating. But even McHattie cannot make “The Xindi” into more than it is; a simple action adventure start to a season that struggles to be more than sensationalism at its most mediocre.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the penultimate season here!

For other works with Stephen McHattie, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Watchmen: Under The Hood
The Fountain
A History Of Violence
"In The Pale Moonlight" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The X-Files - "Nesei" / "731"


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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