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REVIEW: Enterprise – Season Three – The Xindi Incident

Enterprise’s Third Season reflects a significant shift in content and quality of the tv series. Up until then, the previous seasons of Enterprise had consisted of stand alone episodes with a loose story arc connecting some of the episodes. With the show’s Third Season, Enterprise ran a year-long story arc that ran a much tighter and connected story arc with events following on in each subsequent episode and also having heavier impact as the story progressed.
The Xindi arc allowed Enterprise to set itself apart from previous Star Trek shows, although it ran somewhat closer to Deep Space Nine with its multiple season Dominion War story arc. Over the course of 24 episodes, the viewers would watch as the Enterprise would make its way through the unexplored Delphic Expanse in an attempt to save the Earth from the Xindi who were planning to build a weapon that could destroy planets. As each episode would progress, another layer would be revealed so that gradually over the course of the season a bigger storyline would be revealed.
This allowed the show to progress in a far darker tone (possibly even darker than Deep Space Nine) and showed the characters out of their depths. Archer determined to save humanity must sacrifice elements of his own humanity in order to accomplish his mission. T’Pol struggles with herself after encountering a ship filled with mentally deranged Vulcans (I was tempted to say Zombie Vulcans but i’ll keep it simple for now). On top of this there was also the continuing romance between Trip and T’Pol and each character gradually finds their way in the expanse and not all like what they see in return.
One of the best additions to the series comes in the form of the MACO’s (Military Assault Command Operations) or more typically, the marines. The MACO’s add another layer to the crew. Whereas before the ship was on a mission of exploration. Now its on a mission to save the Earth and it cannot fail. At times the MACO’s clash with the Enterprise crew, best example here would be Hayes and Reed. But gradually they too become a part of the crew. The continuing darkening theme of Enterprise’s Third Season is of particular note since for the first time it shows crew-members being killed. It had been noted by viewers before that with all the incidents the Enterprise encountered during its first two years. There had never been a crew death. When it happens during the Third year, it comes with a bang to the crew as it soon becomes clear that not all of the Enterprise crew are going to make it. Enterprise herself becomes badly damaged and for the course of 6 episodes it often looks like all that’s holding the ship together are duct tape and luck.
The Third year does have some bad episodes. Twice in the year it does the alternate future/time travel concept and it does once again look like the shows producers were borrowing story ideas from previous Star Trek shows. But in the case of the Third Season, because of the improved quality and strength of these episodes it does allow the Third Season to feel more vastly improved than the 2 previous years. This is also why I also like the fourth year since they took what worked in this third year and applied it to the fourth year episodes (more of that another time).

Episodes of particular note is
The Xindi: Introduces the main threat of the season with the 5 races of the Xindi. I loved the idea of a planet producing 5 different species and them all working together. The episode is also useful for the first appearance of the MACO’s after their brief mention in the Season Two finale The Expanse The episode is a great way of launching the new year, setting the tone and paving the way for a dark year.
Anomaly: When compared to one of the later episodes (specifically Damage). Anomaly is a good episode which shows how Archer wants to keep to his own humanity. Later on he has to weigh his own human morals against the possibilities of completing their mission. Also worthwhile for the first introduction of the “Death Star” spheres.
Proving Ground: A good episode that allows Jeffrey Combs’ Commander Shran make a return appearance. While immediately appearing that the Andorians are working with the Enterprise crew, it isn’t long before the crew learn what the Andorians are really after. The episode is worth it alone for Shran’s work for the Andorian Mining Company and how it runs from no one!
Harbinger: For the majority of Season Three it appeared that the Xindi and the Xindi council were the main threat. As Harbinger plays out, it soon becomes clear who is really pulling the shots and the Enterprise crew learn about the connection between the Spheres and the Delphic Expanse.
Azati Prime: This so-so episode is made even better for having one of the best cliffhangers that I’ve ever seen on any show. I almost believed that Azati Prime was going to be the series cliffhanger as it places the crew in great jeopardy, the Enterprise is brought to the brink of destruction and the viewer is left wondering what will happen next.
Damage: Following on from Azati Prime, this is a great episode when compared with Anomaly as it shows just how much the situation has changed for the Enterprise crew, how far Archer is willing to go to complete his mission and how they can manage to proceed any further with Enterprise now barely holding it together.

All in all, Enterprise’s Third Season is far more improved over its previous seasons and while it makes confusing viewing for those who join it midway through the season. It is worth it to watch all 24 episodes and see the story gradually play out.

Previously – Season Two – Shadows of War

Next Time – Season Four – Birth of the Federation

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