Monday, January 6, 2014

Alliance-building Reaches “The Council”

The Good: Good plot, Wonderful acting, Decent effects, Clever
The Bad: Light on character development (annoying regression for Tucker)
The Basics: The third season’s serialized plot moves toward a resolution with reversals and politics during “The Council!”

As Star Trek: Enterprise reached the climax of its third season, it had a number of plotlines to resolve and when “The Council” came up, the true adversaries of the season are exposed. While most of the season has had Archer and the Enterprise confronting the Xindi, by the time “The Council” comes up, the Xindi have been exposed as puppets to an alien race of Sphere Building Guardians. The Guardians are essentially the Founders in the Xindi storyline and the concept of the Xindi is somewhat weakened by the derivative nature of the villains.

Moveover, Manny Coto – who wrote “The Council” - seems to be eager to prove to Star Trek fans just how clever he can be. And he is. “The Council” contains the Enterprise encountering what is essentially a Death Star . . . but he writes the solution the Empire should have used in Star Wars (reviewed here!) to protect its massive weapon (a hologram over the vulnerable air vent). As the episode progresses, it starts to strongly move the plotline toward a resolution and it is compelling and entertaining, if a little low on character development.

While the Sphere Builders worry that they are losing the chance to destroy Earth, Archer plans to infiltrate a nearby Sphere. While Degra is harassed by the Sphere Builders, Reed assembles a team to attack the memory core of a nearby Sphere. Degra is convinced Archer is telling the truth and he tells Archer of the history of the Sphere Builders and their relationship with the Xindi. He also briefs Archer on the state of the Xindi Council, including tales of how ruthless Commander Dolim is. While escorting Archer to the Council planet, Degra stands up to Dolim and backs Archer in a clearly military sense.

After appearing before the Xindi Council, the Xindi politicians fracture with the Aquatics breaking as the Council’s swing vote. When Dolim confronts the Sphere Builders, they assure the Xindi Reptillian of Reptillian dominance in the future. While T’Pol, Reed, Mayweather and a M.A.C.O.S. soldier infiltrate a Sphere, Archer presents the Xindi Council with the pod from the transdimensional alien they recovered. Seeing the hologram of the transdimensional alien, the Xindi Council agrees to hear more. With the potential of peace when the Reptillians agree to postpone the launch, Degra and Archer come to believe they can form an alliance to save Earth and the Xindi people.

“The Council” has a strong storyline for Degra. More than simply telling Archer incredible amounts of exposition, the stories Degra tells – most notably about Dolim having his grandson killed – enhance Degra’s character. Family truly is as important to him as it initially seemed. Moreover, Degra spends “The Council” with a surprisingly decent amount of rationality. He is a scientist above all and the way Randy Oglesby subtly emotes as Degra when delivering lines about the Avians enhances the character in a compelling and well-rounded way.

What stands out in “The Council” is the acting. The aliens who are members of the Xindi Council are all portrayed by actors who have a clear ability to play politicians. The arguing in the council chamber is done by Randy Oglesby, Tucker Smallwood, Rick Worthy, and Scott MacDonald, all of whom play their characters with a level of erudition and emotion that makes them seem like viable politicians. Even Dolim is given more in the way of character; the resolution to the episode is smart and illustrates the cunning and ambition of the Xindi Commander wonderfully.

What does not work especially well is Tucker’s character. It has been months since Tucker’s sister was killed in the attack in “The Expanse” (reviewed here!) and his level of anger at the outset of the episode seems unrealistic. The arc for Tucker seems like a forced reprisal. Similarly, Dominic Keating is given a wonderful acting moment as Reed when he reacts to the death of Corporal Hawkins aboard the Sphere. Reed’s anger is presented abruptly and in a fairly ridiculous way. It’s almost like the actor complained about having a shitty arc for the season and the scene was written as filler at the last moment.

The villains in “The Council” are pretty monolithically rendered. The Sphere Builders have an advanced knowledge of temporal mechanics, but their strategy – which, to be fair, evolved in “The Council” – plays along very predictable and linear ways. Instead of making any sort of statement on the value of their existing plan. Moreover, given that they are extradimensional aliens, they seem like they would leave the Federation alone if they weren’t invading our space, so . . .

“The Council” moves along exceptionally well and the episode is a good build-up to a strong ending. The plot-based episode is entertaining and pushes the plot forward in a compelling way, but it is a plot-based, action-adventure episode without a strong amount of character conflict or resolution. There are no truly large themes or concepts in the episode. Instead, the final battle that caps off the episode seems like a chance to show off the special effects and bring up the pulse. It does that, but little else.

The three biggest gaffes in “The Council:”
3. T’Pol cites honor when talking to Reed, a concept that is far more Klingon than it is Vulcan,
2. Phlox mentions having a worm in his body for weight reduction. Given that, it seems like the Trill would be much less shocking in “The Host” (reviewed here!),
1. The presence of the Spheres makes it seem like the Dyson Sphere in “Relics” (reviewed here!) would

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment