52: The Expanse
This is the point where "Enterprise" really changed its fortunes with me. Up until this
point in its run I had only been tuning in occasionally and half-heartedly,
but the season two finale "The Expanse" captured my curiosity,
and I was hooked throughout the entire third season - the only season
of Enterprise that inspired my loyalty. That massive 25 episode saga launches here.
Mind you, we still witness a few threads carrying on from earlier episodes here as well.
Most of this episode's action comes from a Klingon pursuit ship, and is a bit extraneous
to the main story. It has more to do with following up on ideas from the episodes
"Judgment" and "Bounty". Still, it provides this episode with energy and typical Trek action,
and the episode would probably be lacking if it hadn't been here. This thread seems to come to
a satisfactory conclusion here. Is it really over? Only future episodes can tell us.
The main plot that kicks in concerns a serious threat of unknown origin, although early leads
point to a contemporary race called the Xindi, a race that Humans, Vulcans, and Denobulans alike
will have to discover, confront, and deal with, and the projected journey is a good deal more dangerous
than your average interstellar warp hop. Finally, a GOOD long term plot that our intrepid
crew can sink their teeth into. They've been REALLY needing a good plot in absence of
much character material.
I've actually been quite surprised at the number of vocal people in fan circles who consider
the whole Xindi saga to be some kind of historical mistake that actually never happens, and I'm not sure
why they want to back that assertion as a reason for not liking the saga. They worry that the events
of the Xindi saga were never mentioned in any of the other series.... well, a lot of historical Trek events
were never mentioned in the other series, including the existence of the NX-01 and Captain Archer who is
now supposed to be a pivotal figure in Human history. And like I said, "Enterprise" really needed to give
us a big story we'd never heard about, with races we would need to discover, so that the audience and
the protagonists could finally be on the same page, rooting for answers and discoveries together.
And to any fan who wants to point to
"Carpenter Street", I will point to
"Azati Prime" and my review of it in rebuttal.
As for how this all ends, interpretation amongst fans seems to have run
rampant before all the facts came in, but we'll get to that part when we get to it....
Even with all the Xindi and Klingon politics going on, the episode also brings us Sillick and
his mystery informant from the future - the first appearance of them that I'd seen since season two began.
Even though they only inhabit one short sequence, we do thankfully see something new here.
Archer formally meets the mystery man, they converse, and new information is brought forth.
This is the very thing that
"Shockwave" didn't do. And once done here, we waste no more time
on this bunch, and move on to our many other areas of interest.
We don't, however, learn who this future guy is. I found it hard to believe that such a
mystery was being dragged out for more than two seasons.... hindsight suggesting that
perhaps Braga and Berman didn't really know where they were going with this angle or how
to make it succeed. At best, it now seems like the future guy is simply meant to be a hidden
power wielder and string puller, like the original idea behind the smoking man on the X-Files,
only his latest manipulation is designed to help Archer rather than hurt him, so sides appear
to have changed here, at least temporarily.
He rattles off some stuff about how events are not going the way he thinks they should anymore,
as though his present has magically changed, or something.... the usual crap Braga-Trek schtick.
It's not convincing, but thankfully it doesn't really have to be to make this story work.
Perhaps it no longer matters what his temporal perspective might be. This story is firmly
rooted in Archer's present, with no time travel truly evident anywhere in it, and the story is
better off for it. Without knowing mysterio's identity or future situation, there's no reason
to try to invest in his motives.
Our real motivation comes from having seen real places like Florida, Cuba, and Venezuela
devastated, while Trip is asked to be a much more wounded character than his usual affable self.
All this is grounded in Enterprise NX-01's present day, and these are better, more tangible stakes.
I do enjoy all the scenes with Forrest and Sevol, and with Archer and T'Pol actually
able to stand next to them in a room and have scenes together, outside of flashbacks.
T'Pol's situation on Enterprise is examined from several angles today, including comparison
with Phlox, all of which was fairly satisfying.
Some of the conflict does seem artificially forced though. The Vulcans seem to want to
champion doubt against any proactive steps that Humans want to take to solve their problems,
instead of a reasonable course of confident diplomatic conflict-resolving stances. Equally,
Archer and Trip seem to be foreshadowing a kind of aggressive stance which is philosophically
far less ideal or palatable than what
most Star Trek audiences are accustomed to from their captains and crews. Arguably,
perhaps there should be room for that in this time period, but it just doesn't manage to
feel natural or smart under the Braga-Berman pen.
The story leaves off at the height of curiosity, where it is unknown who or what
Enterprise will encounter where Klingons fear to tread. For that.... tune in again next season....
In short, "The Expanse" was a big winner on "Enterprise", providing the very kind of big
boost that it needed at this point.
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