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The Council

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 13, 2004 - 2:51 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Council' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: As Degra prepares to send Enterprise information on the spheres in preparation for an attempt to prove that their builders plan to alter the Expanse, one of the sphere-builders appears to him, saying that he has betrayed them after all they did for his people and claiming that the future, which they can see, may no longer include a strong, united Xindi species. Archer promises evidence that the "Guardians" (as the Xindi call the sphere-builders) have lied. Though Degra must threaten to shoot at a Reptilian ship in order to get Enterprise to the Council, he brings Archer and Sato into the chamber. There Archer insists that if the Xindi wipe out Earth with their weapon, the "Guardians" will colonize the region and destroy the Xindi themselves.

A sphere-builder then appears to the Reptilian leader, demanding to know why he allowed Archer to speak to the Council and insisting that the Reptilians and Insectoids must take possession of the weapon from the Humanoids, Arboreals and Aquatics. While Archer prepares to bring a holographic representation of the dead sphere-builder and his pod before the council, Degra begs Tucker to understand that he is risking his own life and the lives of his family to save humans and Xindi alike, and Tucker finally overcomes his loathing of the man who built the weapon that killed his sister.

With Mayweather piloting, T'Pol leads an away mission and takes Reed and Hawkins inside a sphere. There they find the memory core which they hope will provide proof of the true origins and purpose of the spheres. But before they can escape with the evidence, they trigger automated defense systems that kill Hawkins and fire on Reed and T'Pol. As the shuttlepod makes its escape, Reed miserably declares that the casualties on this mission have been painfully high. T'Pol tries to console him with the Vulcan axiom "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few", telling him that Hawkins died honorably for a cause he believed in.

Degra arrives on Enterprise to report a surprising development: the Reptilians have agreed to postpone the launch of the weapon until Archer has presented all his evidence about the sphere-builders. But it's a ruse, and the Reptilian commander kills Degra in his quarters after declaring that they have proof that Degra's ship destroyed a Reptilian scout. Archer is warned by the other Humanoid on the Council that his ship may be targeted, but soon they have bigger problems, for the Reptilians and Insectoids have launched the weapon. While war breaks out among the different Xindi species, and the Reptilians damage Enterprise in order to kidnap Sato from the bridge via transporter, the Insectoids escort the weapon into a subspace corridor where the Earth ship cannot follow.

Analysis: "The Council" is a taut, tense action episode whose plot twists are somewhat predictable, yet that doesn't stop them from being wrenching when they occur. We've waited all season for the launch of the weapon, yet when it finally arrives, it feels anticlimactic compared to the murder of Degra and, perhaps more significantly, to Tucker's finally having accepted that he must forgive the man who built the weapon that killed his sister if either of their species is to survive. Enterprise has been strikingly topical all season, and despite several moments when I found Archer reminding me in a disturbing manner of a certain President, it's never been possible to draw easy parallels or distill easy political messages from the show, as some of its detractors claim.

This week, the Xindi United Nations fragments along racial lines. It looks a bit stereotypical - the two most human-seeming species, the Humanoids and Arboreals, are behaving most reasonably, while the more alien Reptilians and Insectoids are being set up as the bad guys and no one's sure what the mysterious Aquatics will do. Yet despicable as the Reptilian leader seems, murdering Degra in cold blood and threatening his children, his position doesn't sound all that different from those of certain Americans in the wake of 9/11, swearing vengeance for bloodshed and betrayal on entire nations. I received many letters from fans in the wake of "Damage", when Archer elected to violate his principles and bully an innocent ship in the name of his higher cause; the Reptilian leader, who is certainly guilty of arrogance and short-sightedness yet claims the same noble goal, the salvation of his species, acts with a self-righteousness that looks chillingly familiar.

The sphere-builders, the real outsiders to the galaxy, play on these internal divisions, fostering distrust and hatred among people who united would represent a threat to their plan for domination. Though they speak in English on the show, thus making them seem superficially less alien than the Insectoids, they are also revered as quasi-religious figures, often a trigger for distrust (on this show in particular: "Chosen Realm" focused on people who revered the Xindi Guardians as the Makers, and were prepared to commit genocide in their name). There's never any doubt that these are the real bad guys and the Reptilians are just their pawns, the hired muscle promised power in exchange for acquiescence. It's both predictable and annoying when the Reptilian leader bows to their promises of glory and triumph, but rather poignantly believable, based on human history.

So Degra is dead, and what a loss that will be for the show...not only in the arc, where he was Archer's closest ally, but in terms of moving character development, for Randy Oglesby played beautifully off both Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer. Degra and Tucker have been headed toward a confrontation for weeks, so neither its arrival nor its contents are really a surprise. Yet there's a real emotional wallop when the weapon designer finally grabs Tucker's arm to tell him that he understands Trip's pain but Trip's got to work with him now, combined with the engineer's unhappy realization that he isn't honoring his sister's memory by refusing to let go of his hatred and may in fact be endangering more people.

The episode suggests, though it isn't entirely clear, that while the Reptilians and Insectoids may have been able to launch the weapon, they can't initiate its firing sequence without a code from one of the other three species. I assume that the remaining episodes will focus on Archer's trying to convince the wild-card Aquatics not to give up their code, though perhaps I'm confused and the fact that they were able to launch means that there's already someone giving the Reptilians inside information. It's interesting that "The Council" begins with a glimpse of another apparent ruling group, the sphere-builders, who don't sound entirely united in their plans even if their goals are clear. They can manipulate time, and fewer potential futures show the results they want to see. Does this mean that if their plans are thwarted, a giant reset button will go into effect that negates the Xindi attack on Earth entirely? I'm a little nervous about that, but it would certainly be the simplest means by which to bring Enterprise back in line with Star Trek canon.

In addition to killing off Degra, this episode also presents the death of a MACO we know by name from previous installments, which gives Malcolm's grief more weight for viewers than Trip's for the unknown ghost in "The Forgotten." It's also the trigger for what is presumably the first human exposure to the words by which Spock lived and died about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. I've had that saying on bumper stickers and t-shirts since the movie came out, but beyond its simple message of altruism, there's another possible interpretation, the one Archer used to threaten a being in an airlock and later to rationalize taking engine parts from an ally. It's the same one the Reptilian uses to justify killing Degra and taking over the Council. The skull of an Avian, the extinct species of Xindi, represents what's at stake. These people are all fighting for their lives; they're merely too determined to press forward to notice who the real enemy is, as Archer and Tucker were when they first went out to find the Xindi.

Great pacing, fine acting and some appreciated moments of humor in the script enliven an episode that's already quite engrossing; I giggled about Archer being sent to the principal's office and got choked up by Reed's rant about acceptable losses, not to mention Phlox's tapeworm diet (love the message that diets can be self-destructive even in people who supposedly need to lose weight). And those were minor aspects of "The Council." It's an odd, bittersweet thing to see this show coming into its own so beautifully in what may be its last weeks on the air.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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