The Good: Decent performances, Good dialogue, Good character development
The Bad: Terrible stunt casting, Mediocre (at best) plot development, Timing in season.
The Basics: “Harbinger” is part of the serialized third season of Star Trek: Enterprise where almost nothing happens . . . except for characters actually interacting!
The Star Trek franchise has a bad habit of putting episodes out of time even when the show is semi-serialized. The best example I have of this is how Major Kira reacts in “The Maquis” (reviewed here!); it was a character regression the way she conflicted so loudly with Sisko in that episode. In a similar vein, “Harbinger” comes a bit late in the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise for one of the three major threads to be truly believable. Given that “The Expanse” (reviewed here!), which saw the addition of the M.A.C.O.S. took a month and “The Xindi” (reviewed here!) occurred months later and “Harbinger” is still months later, the idea that Reed and Major Hayes either have such a deep hatred for one another or that it has taken this long to boil over seems to be dramatically out of place in the series.
That said, “Harbinger” actually is one of the best-written episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. For a change, the writers – in this case Many Coto’s script – have a sense of fun with the dialogue. This is a fun episode, even if it is a little predictable for the reversals in the conversation.
Tucker has one of the M.A.C.O.S., Corporal Cole, over to his quarters for the pressure point exercises he usually shares with T’Pol when Cole kisses him and expresses her interest in him. A week later, Phlox speaks to T’Pol about Cole’s headaches and Tucker misapplying the neuropressure therapy, which seems to unsettle T’Pol. Reporting to the bridge, Archer is alerted to the existence of an inordinate number of spatial anomalies. Tracing the gravimetric disturbances back to their source, they discover a small vehicle trapped in an unstable region of space. Reed uses the grappler to bring the small ship, which he suspects is an escape pod, aboard. Inside is a single life form, who is suffering from rapid cell degeneration.
The alien is belligerent about having been rescued and he refuses treatment from Phlox. After Reed and Hayes disagree over M.A.C.O.S./Starfleet crosstraining, T’Pol confronts Tucker over his fraternization with Cole. Learning that the alien in Sickbay is disintegrating, Archer has Phlox revive him in order to get some answers about his purpose in the spatial anomaly. Questioning the alien, Archer withholds his pain medication to get information out of him, learning that the alien is part of a transdimensional experiment and the pod contained all the same alloys that were part of the Xindi weapon. When the alien begins to phase out of existence, he attacks the warp core, which makes Archer even more suspicious about him. When Reed and Hayes’s sparring session turns into a brawl, they are able to bring down the alien. And T’Pol and Tucker finally consummate their relationship.
Reed picking on Tucker in the mess hall is a fun scene. Long after “Shuttlepod One” (reviewed here!), the two finally have developed a friendship and in “Harbinger” we get to see that in a very realistic and enjoyable way. Actors Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer have a great banter between them and the scene with them in the mess hall is one of their best together of the series.
Connor Trinneer actually has a good episode with “Harbinger” as his scene with Jolene Blalock that culminates in the T’Pol/Tucker sex scene (and Blalock upper butt shot, which seems to be about the most nudity of the Star Trek franchise outside the new films) has wonderful banter as well. Trinneer and Blalock both play off one another very well in the episode and it enhances their characters nicely.
But the big plot event in the otherwise aimless episode is the revelation of who the alien is. While its complete nomenclature is not revealed, the insinuation is clear: the Xindi are being manipulated by his race and that revelation makes “Harbinger” an exciting set-up for what follows.
“Harbinger” is very much dependent upon episodes that precede and follow it. The build-up to the T’Pol and Tucker scene has been coming the entire season and while the Reed/Hayes plot may be poorly timed (in season), the apparently aimless alien inserted into the episode makes for an awesome ending and sets up the rest of the season well!
[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 featuring Thomas Kopache, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
No Country For Old Men
"Broken Bow" - Star Trek: Enterprise
The West Wing
"Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Ties Of Blood And Water" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"The Thaw" - Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Generations
“Emergence” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Next Phase” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Parliament Of Dreams” - Babylon 5
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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