Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It Could Have Been So Much, But “Hatchery” Ends Up As A Middling Episode!

The Good: Moments of concept, Moral themes
The Bad: A number of technical problems,
The Basics: “Hatchery” is a good concept, but is ridiculously executed . . . and settles on cheap as opposed to clever.

As the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise progressed, the ratings did not pick up the way the showrunners hoped the seasonlong arc would push them. Instead, the ratings were wobbling and the series was not maintaining anyone outside a very small core audience. As a result, by the time “Hatchery” aired, the show’s producers and writers were scrambling to finish the story arc they began back in “The Expanse” (reviewed here!) with fewer episodes as the season’s episode order was cut by UPN. With the renewed focus on the Xindi story arc, the show worked to make its points. With “Hatchery,” the Xindi Insectoids are explored.

Downed enemy ships are nothing new to the Star Trek franchise. In fact, “The Ship” (reviewed here!) was one of the most underrated episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that ended up being one of the most important to the series. Unfortunately, “Hatchery” lacks a certain level of intelligence that “The Ship” had. Where “The Ship” and later “A Time To Stand” (reviewed here!) illustrated the complications of trying to adapt to an alien’s technology, “Hatchery” minimizes that. The Xindi pod that is removed from the crashed ship presumably is inside the ship and therefore requires a shuttle bay door to be opened or docking clamps to be removed in order to separate it from the ship. The result is an episode weaker on the technical details and much stronger on the ethical front. Despite the latter half of the episode dealing with the technicalities of deciphering the alien ship, “Hatchery” feels surprisingly fresh and very much like a cerebral Star Trek episode.

The Enterprise is continuing on toward Azati Prime when it discovers a crashed ship on a desolate world. Taking a shuttle pod and Away Team down to the ship, Archer, Hayes, T’Pol, Reed, and Tucker discover that the ship belongs to the Xindi Insectoids and the crew is dead. One of the teams discovers thirty-one eggs in a hatchery aboard the alien ship. When Archer investigates it, he is sprayed by one of the eggs and after that, he becomes protective of the Xindi Insectoid eggs. Remaining at the planet, Archer orders the crew to get the hatchery up and running, though the attempt to save eggs and restore power to the hatchery leads to one egg casualty.

While Tucker works to bring the Xindi Insectoid reactor online and power the hatchery, Archer shows a willingness to sacrifice Enterprise’s resources for the unborn Xindi Insectoids. When T’Pol questions Archer, T’Pol is relieved of duty. While she is confined to quarters, she manages to appeal to Tucker to get Archer relieved on medical grounds. The remaining bridge officers find Archer’s behavior questionable when Archer relieves Reed as well and Archer turns to Hayes for help. Putting Hayes in charge, Archer returns to the hatchery to protect the eggs himself.

“Hatchery” is a good example of an episode that shows a strong sense of decent Star Trek ethics . . . for all the wrong reasons. Archer is pretty clearly under an alien influence when the toxin compels him to protect the Xindi Insectoid eggs. The thing is, his moralizations that he uses to keep the eggs safe are all ethically correct and militarily sound: the best possible way to prove to the Xindi that StarFleet is not a threat to them is to show them that they will not butcher the Xindi Insectoid eggs. In fact, there is something preposterous about Archer making the ethical argument for peace and life to T’Pol.

Beyond that, “Hatchery” is riddled with technical problems. Archer and his crew have encountered Xindi Insectoid ships in space before. There is no reason they would not have recognized the crashed ship for exactly what it was. After Archer finally showers and changes his clothes, he remains under the influence of the Xindi toxin, which seems biologically problematic. Equally important, when Reed destroys another Xindi Insectoid ship, Archer is outraged but only in a theoretical way; Phlox had theorized that the Xindi Insectoid ships all have hatcheries on them, so he should have been quite a bit more upset by the destruction of Xindi Insectoid eggs on that ship.

After being sprayed by the Xindi egg, Archer does not change his clothes. In addition to seeming like a dramatic breach of decontamination protocols, it makes no rational sense. As a result, after a captain’s log reveals that the ship has remained in orbit for more than a day, it is baffling that Archer has not changed his clothes and no one points out that he is essentially walking around in a poison-covered jumpsuit for no particular reason.

The episode degenerates into a very standard Star Trek “captain goes obsessive in a way that alarms everyone,” much like “Obsession” (reviewed here!). Along the way, Archer’s clean uniforms continue to get covered in alien goo . . . despite the fact that none of the other StarFleet officers in the hatchery get coated.

Ultimately, the problems of the episode take what could have been strong character episode and make it into a pretty standard “alien anomaly of the week” episode. Sadly, like Star Trek: Enterprise, the episode does not live up to its potential.

The three biggest gaffes in “Hatchery:”
3. In a firefight with humans, T’Pol is the last to fire . . . Vulcan reflexes should have allowed her to act before any one of the M.A.C.O.S. could shoot,
2. Archer tells a story about the Eugenics Wars which makes no sense. The Khan from “Space Seed” (reviewed here!) and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (reviewed here!) would have been much more tactically likely to kill the school children and then the shocked officers still standing on the other side as opposed to negotiate with them in the way Archer states,
1. Archer declares that humans don’t throw ethics out the window when things get difficult. At this point, that sense of ethics is not inherent to humans (Star Trek: Enterprise was supposed to be about how humans evolved into Roddenberry-esque humans). As a result, Archer lecturing to T’Pol about humanitarian ethics (which Spock usually had to remind Kirk of) seems utterly incongruent with the franchise.

[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 Daniel Dae Kim, please visit my reviews of:
Spider-Man 2
“Extinction” - Star Trek: Enterprise
“The Xindi” - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Blink Of An Eye" - Star Trek: Voyager


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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