[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Council"
- 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
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
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
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.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...