[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Hatchery"
- Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
In brief: Big, long, deep sigh.
Plot description: At the possible expense of his mission, Archer goes to
excessive lengths to protect a hatchery filled with unborn Xindi insectoids.
Star Trek: Enterprise - "Hatchery"
Airdate: 2/25/2004 (USA)
Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
Story by Andre Bormanis & Mike Sussman
Directed by Michael Grossman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"Not the sort of thing they trained us for at West Point." -- Major Hayes,
on command scenarios complicated by sci-fi circumstances
In my "next week" comments, I like to belittle UPN trailers and offer up
sarcastic comments. It's just a fun thing to do. And when I was dismissive
in my "next week" comments for this episode, I was of course just kidding
around, because I don't take the trailers seriously (often, how can you?).
Even when I do, I usually try to poke fun rather than be serious.
"Mutiny aboard Voyager! I mean, Enterprise!" I wrote. Kidding.
Rest assured, come episode time, I was in serious, open-minded mode. In all
honesty, I was looking forward to an episode that I hoped would supply some
genuine tension, serious clashes of thought, and some meaty characterization
and/or tough choices.
Well, now, after having seen "Hatchery," I can only report that this take on
the mutiny plot is indeed about as authentic as any of the supposed mutinies
that happened on Voyager ("Repression" comes to mind) -- which is to say,
not at all. There are some reasonably decent situational dynamics here, but
the story is built on a cheat plot's foundation, where the mutinous behavior
arises *only* because a Strange Alien Influence has compromised one or more
of the characters -- in this case, Captain Archer.
Sorry, but this is exactly the wrong kind of routine story to be telling.
Andre Bormanis, who wrote "Extinction" earlier this season, which I said was
an episode that made all the typical Voyager mistakes, has basically done it
again. This is not an Enterprise episode; it's a Voyager rehash. It's the
mutiny show done the only way Voyager could ever do it, with abnormal
behavior caused by an outside influence and therefore having no lasting
significance to the people who participate in it.
What's worse, the whole show is telegraphed from the very beginning,
rendering the hour painfully obvious. While an away team investigates a
crashed Xindi insectoid vessel on a barren world, Archer is sprayed by a
Xindi insectoid egg sac -- and the whole plot instantly reveals itself as an
exercise in going through the motions. Phlox examines Archer in sickbay and
determines that the venom poses no lasting danger. By this point, I'm
rolling my eyes and talking to the TV screen: What are you, stupid? (Phlox
obviously has not seen enough Star Trek episodes.)
Immediately afterward, Archer starts exhibiting strange behavior, none of
which tracks with his usual opinions. All season long, Archer has been only
about the mission to save Earth; it has been Priority No. 1. Now he begins
to be protective of this hatchery to the point of monomania, and he gives
new orders to do whatever it takes to bring the damaged Xindi vessel back on
line so the hatchery can be made operable and the hatchlings will survive.
Archer argues that such a good-faith display would show the Xindi that
humanity is not the threat they think it is. (Considering the Xindi
preemptively killed 7 million people, I wouldn't be so optimistic.)
Unfortunately, to do this will necessitate a delay in the trip to Azati
Prime and, worse, expend one-third of the Enterprise's antimatter fuel
reserves. When T'Pol confronts Archer with reasonable logic, and explains to
him that the Enterprise (and humanity) cannot afford compromising the
primary mission, Archer relieves her of duty and confines her to quarters
Now it's up to Trip to talk Archer out of this plan. Archer isn't
particularly receptive, and after an incident that leaves an attacking Xindi
ship destroyed, Archer blames Reed (wrongly), relieves him of duty as well,
and then puts Hayes in charge of the bridge. With Hayes in charge of the
MACOs and Trip in the tough position of trying to do what's best for the
mission, the situation quickly begins heading toward a showdown between
Trip's Starfleet followers and the MACOs. Archer stays off the main stage,
obsessing over the hatchery in increasing mind-altered-behavior fashion.
(Does it strike only me as a little sci-fi convenient that his behavior
shift is initially so subtle that it seems reasonable as he argues his
position? Of course, by the end he's a borderline loon.)
It's really too bad that all of this stems from a hollow contrivance,
because some of the dynamics here are interesting, and some of the responses
to this problem make sense. We have, for example, the idea of T'Pol voicing
the first of the objections -- and then when she's confined to quarters, she
has a meeting with Trip that starts the talk of undermining the captain.
(The MACO posted outside her door buys a lame story pretty easily; he should
Later, there's respectable urgency to the T'Pol/Trip/Reed plotting, as,
faced with a deadline, they discuss what needs to be done and who can be
trusted to take control of the ship.
I also liked some of the earlier character interaction between Reed and
Hayes, who after beating each other up in "Harbinger" are seen here as
having reached a level of coexistence but without the added cliche of having
become best friends; they still have an edge of competition. At one point
Hayes shows Reed a battle simulation, and Reed finds himself expressing
skepticism almost automatically. I like that he catches himself doing this
and apologizes for it.
One important question when it comes time to stage the mutiny is whether or
not Hayes can be trusted to also turn against the captain (the mutineers
decide the answers is no). Hayes, with a more military background, is more
inflexible than the Starfleet personnel in his regard for the chain of
command, and the point of character analysis here suggests that Hayes is
more likely to simply carry out the orders given to him rather than question
those orders under special circumstances. That's a dynamic that's somewhat
interesting as a demonstration of the differing philosophies of the MACOs
versus the Starfleet officers. (Although one hopes there are limits; just
how out of control would Archer have to be before Hayes would acknowledge
there's something wrong with his decisions?)
Belying the actual details of the mutiny -- which work to some degree as we
see Trip, T'Pol, and Reed making their plans -- is the inescapable
fundamental problem here: I just didn't care about the end result. The whole
episode is built upon the fact that none of it ultimately matters beyond the
execution of the plot points. Since Archer is not in control of his
faculties, there are no actual choices being made here. We're just watching
a "mutiny" that's seizing control of an artificially created situation.
There is no actual conflict of ideology here. It's just your garden-variety
retake-the-ship episode, where our characters are retaking the ship from
As a result, the show is a disappointment because there's no need for
anybody to be accountable for anything. The mutiny is ultimately viewed as
it must be: a necessary measure to get the mission back on track after the
captain is held hostage by his mind-altered state, which is laid out for us
by Phlox in a tedious scene of medical exposition. There's nothing
interesting about it. We've seen it too many times, and it's a dramatic
cop-out. Who cares?
Why not have a *real* story where it's Starfleet versus the MACOs, with a
real cause arising from real issues and real opposing views and having real
consequences? You know, a premise that makes us think about what is
happening and where something is genuinely at stake? Is that so much to ask
Next week: It looks as if the crew finally reaches Azati Prime.
Copyright 2004 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...