An old friends returns to give Enterprise some assistance. Originally broadcast on January 21, 2004 this is Proving Ground.
Captain’s Starlog date December 6, 2153
Able to recover about 30% of the data lost because of their stupidity in the last episode, Enterprise is getting close to finding the Xindi Super Weapon. However, all seems lost when the ship is enveloped in a gigantic anomaly only for things to take a surprising turn when a ship captained by Shran arrives and saves Enterprise in the last minute. Shran explains that he was sent there to help Enterprise in their mission against the Xindi but, of course, Reed is suspicious since these guys clearly don’t have any religious reasons for being allowed to just walk around the ship.
Before long they find a scarred moon which appears to be the proving grounds for the prototype weapon. There they find a version of the Xindi weapon and Shran volunteers to take it aboard his vessel for safe keeping. Soon it is revealed that they are not really there to help Enterprise but to steal the Xindi weapon for Andoria even though Shran feels it might be worth making allies with the humans instead. Shran is shocked when Archer is able to arm the weapon aboard the Andorian ship threatening their destruction. Archer finally convinces Shran that this weapon is too powerful for them to take as Shran’s people may use it against the Vulcans. So Shran ejects the weapon and allows it to be destroyed resulting in a failed mission. Shran leaves after refusing any assistance with the damage done to his ship from the destruction of the device but, just before he leaves the Andorian secretly transmits data to Enterprise containing scans of the Xindi weapon. This proves that while the Andorians are suspect, Shran is still an ally of Archer’s.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
We finally get back on track with the ‘lets get the Xindi’ story line that seems to only pop up when it’s convenient even though it is the overarching story this season, and what does it bring with it, well only one of the best characters in the series, Shran the Andorian himself.
It’s no secret that I adore any role that Jeffery Combs embodies and Shran is no exception. To bring this character back into the series, albeit rather suddenly, is tremendous. Combs is one of my favorite actors and, even if this episode was a little predictable and telegraphed it’s obvious oncoming deception from the Andorians, it is still pretty great just for the fact that Jeffery Combs is there. I still wonder why he has not taken a more substantial role on a Star Trek series, I mean, this guy clearly has the chops. Personally, I think he needs to be the Doctor on the new ‘Brave New Worlds’ series but that’s just me.
As I alluded to above, the episode itself is a very predictable story. Knowing what we know about the Andorian government, it would be highly doubtful for Shran to be simply allowed to ‘help’ Enterprise despite what Archer had done for them in the past. The Andorians are a suspicious and very militaristic people who clearly have an interest in a weapon that is as powerful as the one that attacked Earth. So if there was a chance to get a better version, well, of course they would want it. Shockingly, Archer never suspected that Shran wasn’t there just as a friend, which is kinda odd really. Even though even though he trusts Shran more than he trusts any other Andorian, Archer knew the odds of Shran just showing up out of the blue is pretty unrealistic at best but he just ignores this. Interestingly, Archer was cunning enough to be sure the Andorians were watched while on Enterprise but he still trusted Shran. Kinda inconsistent of Archer but, I mean, this is the same guy who just let a bunch of Religious Zealots run around the ship so, sure, why not.
The thing that makes this episode work despite itself is that it sets up the suggestion of the origins of the Federation itself. There is a moment where Shran suggests to his superior that it could be in their best interest to ally themselves with the Humans but is dismissed. This single moment is quite important as it sets the stage for things to come. What happens to Shran and his crew? Well, they apparently left the Expanse….but…did they?
Overall, this is a key episode for the overarching story but also one that really could have been handled a little bit better with some additional planning. It’s clear by this point the writers are just tossing whatever they can into the mix but, imagine if Shran had arrived two or three episodes earlier and gained not only Enterprise’s trust but the audiences as well only to have these same results. Certainly would have been more impactful, then again, Enterprise has never really been about the long game.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- You get the sense that Reed and Talas have a few ‘moments’. I kinda wish that had had more time together.
- Enterprise now has data to help combat the next weapon, should one be developed.
- It is clear that the Xindi have an internal problem of their own as the multi-species people are starting to break apart and infight, will this finally come to a head?
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Strategem
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Late To The Game 9/20/2021
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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