Star Trek: Enterprise: Stratagem   Rewatch 
October 28, 2019 7:44 AM - Season 3, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Archer saw his homeworld destroyed! Degra built the weapon that did it! Now they're on the run together, because they are... The Defiant Ones! ... or are they?

Memory Alpha has a phobia about blood worms now:

- The basic story concept of this episode is very similar to that of 36 Hours; a 1965 film starring James Garner and Rod Taylor, which also inspired "The Train"; a 1967 episode of Mission: Impossible directed by Ralph Senensky and guest starring William Windom and William Schallert.

- The bottle of Andorian ale Archer shares with Degra is a reuse of a Skagaran whiskey bottle seen in the episode "North Star".

- In this episode, Phlox refers to Regulan bloodworms as "harmless." Ironically, David Gerrold's rejected "Blood and Fire" script for Star Trek: The Next Generation would have included Regulan bloodworms carrying a dangerous and terrible plague, with a social stigma on carriers.

"The captain's certainly drinking a lot."
"The doctor gave him an anti-intoxicant."

- Sato and T'Pol observing Archer and Degra drinking Andorian ale in the simulator

"When it arrived in your star system, I watched the incoming telemetry with the other members of the council. Seven million lives… were extinguished in front of my eyes. I asked myself how many of those were children? I suppose I've told you this before."
"Actually, you haven't."

- Degra talks to Archer about viewing the deployment of the prototype weapon while in the simulator

Poster's Log:

As with the better episodes this season, a relatively high-quality installment that, even though it relies on a, ah, venerable trope, it's very well-done and noticeably moves the needle on the season arc. The wikipedia article for 36 Hours notes that it's based on the Roald Dahl story "Beware of the Dog", which is what I thought of when I watched it; the trope (which doesn't seem to be specified as such in the episode's TVTropes page, although many related tropes are) has an elaborate simulated reality created for some hidden purpose--this happens many times throughout the franchise, including DS9's "Inquisition." It's also been used in very different versions in a couple of MCU movies: Steve Rogers awakes in what he soon realizes is a fake version of a 1940s bedroom, although it's for a benevolent reason, and the recent Spider-Man movie riffs off of the theme in a number of ways. This version works in the sense that it extends the scenario to a plausible situation in which Degra and Archer not only might be working together (i.e. the The Defiant Ones reference, which had two mutually hostile men of different races escaping jail together), but be in a limited space that's easy to simulate, especially for people who have worked in similar simulators at Starfleet Academy (although it stretches credulity that they were able to knock together something as detailed as that in a few days), and have a reason for Archer to be asking the questions that he is about a particular location. It also makes Degra a bit more sympathetic, as he shows that he's not unmindful of the cost in lives of what he's doing, although that doesn't prevent him from resisting Archer after he realizes the ruse--well, at least the first ruse. (Although that, in turn, lessens the space racism of the Insectoids being the only bad ones, since Degra is still bent on completing the project, even if a big part of the plausibility of the scenario is that Degra believes that the Insectoids are willing to extend the genocide to the other Xindi races.)

There are also a bunch of other nice little touches to the episode: the Xindi wiping their data files when their capture is imminent (destroying sensitive records and technology when faced with the possibility of enemy capture is a standard procedure for military vessels and vehicles of all sorts); the simulator having technical difficulties; even the crewman who's bloodied on the bridge near the end casually getting up and acting normally once the ruse is over. And, of course, Regulan blood worms.
posted by Halloween Jack (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The plot of somebody being trapped in a simulator by their captors has been done plenty of times, including TNG. But this is an interesting variation, with the POV characters being the captors. It says something about where America's head was at, following 9/11. In the past this kind of mind fuckery would have been left to the bad guys, along with torture and brainwashing and all that stuff, but now we were ready to do all kinds of heinous shit if we thought it'd get results. It became almost routine to see the heroes torturing people on TV, and here we see the heroes doing the same kind of twisted sci-fi con job that we used to see from nazis and Romulans.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:53 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Going into this one, I remembered nothing at all except the vague fact that, late in this season, Degra and Archer shared a lot of screen time together somehow.

This is definitely a stronger episode, partly because it’s cashing in on lots of stuff from the rest of the season. Ah, the benefits of serialized storytelling. (Though the final Captain’s Log was as artless a transition as any I can recollect in Trek.)

It was neat to watch the crew set up their titular stratagem. The process was reminiscent of players in a TTRPG hatching an elaborate plan…though perhaps moreso because, like a DM, I know—roughly—how it ends. Likewise, there’s a touch of that same thrill from waiting to see how long until, and in what way, it all goes sideways.

It became almost routine to see the heroes torturing people on TV, and here we see the heroes doing the same kind of twisted sci-fi con job that we used to see from nazis and Romulans.

True, though at least the humans willingly gave them back their lives at the end. The other comparison I thought of was "Ship in a Bottle," where again the Enterprise crew were the con-jobbers (not the …con-sumers?), though in a less morally dubious circumstance.

One thing about Bakula’s Archer performance in the first few scenes is he’s pretty believable as a despondent, utter failure. Probably some of my opinion of the character seeping in there.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:57 AM on November 1 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what the trope is called but the prime example for me is Marathon Man. I remember thinking Farscape did a pretty good one of these.

One thing about Bakula’s Archer performance in the first few scenes is he’s pretty believable as a despondent, utter failure

I guess I've commented many times many ways by now but Bakula is best when he's only like halfway in command. Putting him as a kind of whiny authoritarian captain... well maybe no one can pull that off.
posted by fleacircus at 4:20 PM on November 8


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