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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Council"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: Quite engaging, with the coexisting payoff/cliffhanger structure that worked for Azati Prime. Plot
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2004
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      In brief: Quite engaging, with the coexisting payoff/cliffhanger structure
      that worked for "Azati Prime."

      Plot description: Archer makes his case for peace to a divided Xindi council
      while a shuttlepod team infiltrates a sphere to gather information about
      their weaknesses.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "The Council"

      Airdate: 5/12/2004 (USA)
      Written by Manny Coto
      Directed by David Livingston

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      "How I'm remembered isn't for you to decide." -- Degra to the sphere builder

      With the title of the episode being "The Council," it's a safe bet that in
      the course of the hour we'll finally get to see Archer make his case to the
      Xindi council. Considering there are two episodes in the season after this
      one, it's also a safe bet that those discussions with the council will fail.
      Both of these inevitable facts come true in an exciting episode that proves
      that pacing and suspense can be a better asset than surprise.

      The opening scene shows several sphere builders debating the possible
      outcomes of various timelines from within in their eerie timeline-bending
      transdimensional realm, which is an all-white zone that reminded me of DS9's
      Prophets. It's not the only DS9-reminiscent moment: In the course of the
      episode we find out that the sphere builders are practically worshipped in
      Xindi society because they saved the Xindi from destruction when their
      original homeworld was destroyed. The Xindi now call them "the Guardians."

      Given their penchant for manipulation and using their near-godlike status in
      Xindi society to their own self-serving ends, the Guardians come across in
      ideology like a take on DS9's Founders (albeit a shallower and recycled
      version). There's a good scene where the Female Guardian (coming across very
      much like the Female Founder) confronts Degra and plays to his guilt,
      telling him that in one timeline he would've been a hero who saved Xindi
      society, but by going down the road of his current course of action he is
      betraying his people and dooming them. Why the Guardian doesn't actually try
      to expose or stop Degra I leave for you to decide.

      But I like it better this way, because it makes this scene about Degra's
      character and his inner turmoil. It offers definitive proof that Degra has
      gotten more substantive character development this season than perhaps
      anyone else on this series, including the regular cast members. Degra, who
      began the season as a nameless device for plot exposition, has evolved into
      a respectable thinking man who has risen above the assumptions of his
      people -- and has placed himself in a great deal of personal danger because
      of it. I also liked the running subplot where Trip and Degra come to terms
      with each other -- the sort of subplot about mutual understanding that
      reminds us that, yes, this is still a Star Trek series.

      Degra is escorting the Enterprise to the planet where the Xindi council
      meets. (The show raises the scope and awe factor by making the descent to
      this world its own compelling sight to behold.) Degra explains to Archer the
      nature of the Guardians in Xindi society and exactly the kind of skepticism
      Archer is likely to face in the council. We also, finally, get some names
      put to faces, as well as some general fleshing out of the other Xindi
      council players.

      In summation: Jannar, the arboreal, is likely to be swayed; Kiaphet
      Amman'sor, the aquatic, is one of a species that debates matters for what
      seems like eternity; the insectoids make snap judgments that are not likely
      to be in Archer's favor; and then there's reptilian Commander Dolum, a
      hateful villain if there ever were one. (Much to my chagrin, Degra's closest
      ally, the other Xindi humanoid played by Tucker Smallwood, is still not
      given a name.) Of the five species, Archer needs to get three votes to stop
      the launch of the Xindi Death Star.

      The actual council scenes are sometimes a bit underwhelming. There's a lot
      of urgent shouting, threats, and snarling. This sort of thing works with
      Klingons, like in last season's courtroom episode, "Judgment," but here,
      when a season-long arc is coming together with a planet's fate hanging in
      the balance, it somehow comes across as overwrought and overacted. Then
      again, as I reread the absurdity of that last sentence, regarding a planet
      about to be blowed up, maybe not. Maybe Klingons are just better for

      What we instead have here are the obstinate reptilians, the indecisive
      aquatics, and the paranoid insectoids. Archer needs just one of their votes;
      he already has the humanoids and arboreals. He could be waiting awhile --
      maybe forever -- on the aquatics. The reptilians, meanwhile, are committed
      to the launch of the weapon for their own self-serving reasons, because the
      Guardians have told them to stay the course and have ultimately promised the
      reptilians more power over Xindi society if they do.

      "The Council," it must be said, is in full command of its plot. It manages
      to even bring further usefulness to "Harbinger," an episode that I didn't
      like but which I must now admit has contributed its small share of little
      pieces to the big picture. Phlox's scans of the sphere builder become
      evidence in the council chamber that the Guardians are actually
      transdimensional invaders who are trying to colonize the expanse, and
      ultimately the entire galaxy. (You know this show is in control when a
      notion like that can be delivered not only with a straight face but with
      relative conviction.)

      There's also a B-story, where T'Pol, Reed, Mayweather, and Cpl. Hawkins
      (gee, who's gonna die?) take a shuttlepod into a sphere to collect crucial
      data from its memory core, in hopes of finding a way to deactivate the
      sphere network. The inside of the sphere, like in "Anomaly," makes for some
      great sci-fi eye-candy. The details of this thread are crosscut in concert
      with the A-story; the results make for an entertaining hour that features
      both sci-fi action/adventure and melodramatic council chamber fireworks.

      That Cpl. Hawkins is predictably killed in the course of this mission is
      nothing less than mandatory. That the episode brings a degree of
      reflectiveness to it is commendable. "Maybe we're getting a bit too
      comfortable with losing people," Reed angrily laments, pointing out that the
      casualty rate for this mission has exceeded the traditionally "acceptable"
      level of 20 percent. T'Pol responds with a well-placed invocation of the
      famous Vulcan axiom: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

      Similarly, it comes as little surprise that the reptilians, who eventually
      claim to be swayed by Archer's evidence about the Guardians, are actually
      planning something sinister. There's a scene where Dolum has a discussion in
      a secluded room with Degra -- a room that is simply too secluded and too
      quiet and too dark and therefore raises our unease. We sense almost
      immediately that this will be Degra's final scene. We're correct. The scene
      is effective precisely *because* we can see it coming -- and because Degra,
      who believes peace has finally prevailed, cannot. Dolum kills Degra in
      retaliation for having destroyed that ship full of reptilians in "The
      Forgotten." It's a scene of potent brutality. Dolum is *not* a nice guy; as
      Degra lies dying, Dolum gets right in Degra's face and promises to find and
      kill the rest of his family.

      It's a shame to see the season's most pivotal and interesting character
      killed. But dramatically and structurally, this is on the right track. It
      sends the storyline back on its fateful collision course, and gives the
      Enterprise crew new hurdles and countdowns. The reptilians and insectoids
      ignore the council and launch the weapon on their own, which we see in a
      terrific and fearsome shot.

      In desperate pursuit, the Enterprise and their new Xindi allies chase after
      Dolum's ships and the weapon. Dolum kidnaps Hoshi in a transporter beam
      before his ships and the sphere vanish into a vortex. About all that needs
      to be said: This is a chaotic and effective battle/chase/escape/cliffhanger
      sequence. Well done.

      If you thought "The Council" would end with peace, understanding, and
      restraint, you were partly right ... but mostly wrong.

      Next week: The Enterprise crew must stop the Xindi weapon from reaching
      Earth. (Isn't that the plot every week?)

      Copyright 2004 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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