Monday, October 28, 2013

Information Without Character, “The Shipment” Is Necessary, But Unremarkable Star Trek: Enterprise.

The Good: Good information for the continuity of the Xindi plotline
The Bad: No superlative acting or character moments.
The Basics: “The Shipment” moves along the Xindi plotline that consumes the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, without advancing the main characters in any recognizable way.

With the long arc of Star Trek: Enterprise’s third season, the writers and producers of the series worked hard to progress the overall plot of the arc in each and every episode. In the wake of the largely contained episode “Exile” (reviewed here!), the show did a significantly more important episode for the overall Xindi arc with “The Shipment.” The problem with the seasonlong arc for Star Trek: Enterprise is that the writers and producers had a firm idea of the plotline they wanted, but no idea what they wanted to do with the main characters of the NX-01 Enterprise.

As a result, “The Shipment” is a wealth of information essential to the Xindi plotline, but it is utterly lacking in any character development for the main crew. In fact, with nothing exceptional to do to lead the characters to grow or develop, the actors are left doing extensive exposition. The result is that many of the performers do little but present technobabble for the episode and that makes it worth quite a bit less than it should be.

With the Xindi scientist, Degra, preparing to test the weapon the Xindi are building to destroy Earth and promising that, if the test is successful, Earth’s obliteration is only weeks away, Captain Archer takes Sato’s lead about a Xindi colony seriously. Reed, Archer, and Corporal Hayes investigate the Xindi colony where the weapon is being built. There, they learn that the Xindi Sloth are shipping out Kemocite to the facility where Degra is building the weapon. The lead Xindi on the colony, Gralik Durr, claims ignorance of the weapon that Degra is building.

As Tucker verifies the Kemocite is the same as what was used in the probe that attacked Earth, Archer interrogates Gralik Durr. With Hayes preparing to bomb the Xindi colony, Tucker and Phlox disassemble the Xindi rifle they confiscated and discover that it includes organic components. Gralik Durr tells Archer the history of the Xindi war and the destruction of the Xindi Homeworld (and the genocide of the Xindi Avians), which is interrupted by Degra’s early arrival at the colony. Taking Gralik Durr into hiding, Archer comes to believe that the Xindi might be telling the truth about his ignorance of the kemocite’s military destination. Rather than continuing with the plan to bomb the facility out of existence, Archer decides to use the kemocite to track Degra back to the weapons lab producing the ultimate weapon.

“The Shipment” contains a b-plot that is entirely unrealized in this episode, but sets the stage for subsequent episodes. Tucker, T’Pol, and Phlox studying the Xindi rifle leads the Enterprise crew to develop countermeasures to the weapons and that seems sensible, but very plot-focused as well.

On the acting front, Dominic Keating gives a particularly clunky delivery during a chase through the woods, which provides the episode’s only overt action sequence. Otherwise, “The Shipment” is a lot of decent actors presenting a lot of exposition. Actor John Cothran Jr. is given the heavy lifting of the episode, but the make-up does not allow the character of Gralik Durr to truly emote. As a result, Cothran delivers lines that contain an emotional journey for the character as he realizes he may have abetted in a horrible attack and may be aiding in a forthcoming genocide, but Gralik Durr is hardly presented as an emotionally-realized character. Archer barely develops and the lesson he learns in the final moment of the episode is hardly a remarkable one for fans of the Star Trek franchise.

In the end, “The Shipment” is a part of the essential Star Trek: Enterprise for its plot elements, but it is an unremarkable episode overall.

The biggest gaffe in “The Shipment” is that the devices used by the Xindi Reptiles are virtually identical to the devices used by the arms merchants on Minos in “The Arsenal Of Freedom” (reviewed here!), so the fact that Yar and company don’t recognize them two hundred years later seems dimwitted.

[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 John Cothran Jr., please visit my reviews of:
Yes Man
The Cell
“Crossover” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Chase” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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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