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On TV Today's Date:

Proving Ground
original airdate: 01-21-04

"Last time on Star Trek: Enterprise…"

Typically, these words are spoken right before a season premiere. Or as the introduction to the second half of a two-parter. Last week's Enterprise left the crew with critical data stripped from their computer. But nothing that warranted an introduction to remind the audience about previous events.

But this "last time..." doesn't deal with last week's episode. In a minute or so the UPN showed a highlights reel, summing up the season so far, and the humans' pursuit of the Xindi. Enterprise has been heavy on re-incorporation from the beginning -- or at least the first episode after the beginning. Why start reminding the audience about the entire show now? If a clip reel needed to be run, why not play it out last week since that was the first episode in over four weeks?

The last few scenes of this clip reel focused on the episode "The Shipment," which aired originally on October 29th, and then again just two weeks ago. Also odd because there are about two lines in this entire episode dealing with the events of "The Shipment." Enterprise has reminded the audience of even more obscure story lines without a "last time..." introduction. Is this a new trend? Or something to make syndication easier?

So much to be said and we're not even to the episode.

The previews to this week's episode let on that the humans and blue skinned Andorians would be working together to steal the dreaded Xindi weapon prototype… and that the recurring character Commander Shran (Jeffrey Combs) was not to be trusted.

Bad. Bad. Bad advertising.

Since the very first time we met the retro cool Andorians we've been hopeful for an alliance with the humans to start forming. And now here, in what could be mankinds' greatest hour of need, the Andorians warp in - not to the rescue - but to assist, as true allies do. And Commander Shran makes some very bold efforts to help Archer. But thanks to the commercial, you're waiting for Shran to stab Archer in the back, so he can punch him out. Hey, it's in the commercial.

So Shran convinces Archer to let him help the crew of the Enterprise get their weapons back on line. The Andorians upload to the humans data they lost after last week's run in with the Triannon (as was foreseeable).

And then Shran fools the Xindi with a performance worthy of Enterprise. One of the motifs in this prequel Trek has been the use of lies. Or acting, depending on your perspective. But this is the first time we've watched a non-crew member work up a performance. Which only makes his betrayal more personal.

The Andorian Imperial Command has ordered Shran to steal the Xindi weapon so they can use it in their border disputes with the Vulcans. They actually succeed, too, in stealing the device, with Archer on board, then dump him off and head for Andoria.

What the Andorians don't know is that they've really kidnapped the Death Star. Spherical. Deadly. With enough power to shoot a beam of light into a planet and pop it like Alderaan confetti.

While the Death Star may not be all that impressive, at least the Andorians do things in style. They are the only aliens who actually dress the part. Their dark shiny uniforms bring out their strangely blue faces and white hair. Their warship command deck actually looks like a space ship - not a set on a show. And you've got to love the emoting antennae.

Also spicing things up this week is the musical underscore's use of the quick violin strings. And not to mention some cool hand held tracking shots during intense scenes. After Archer clips Shran the camera cuts to Shran's perspective - an effect, on Star Treks, usually left for the eye of a machine.

In the end, Shran and Archer have a showdown on their respective bridges. And Archer wins by detonating the Xindi device while it sits in the Andorian cargo bay. Fortunately, for all of us Shran fans, the Andorians escape just in time, and its Enterprise's turn to offer help fixing their ship.

The Andorians decline.

But not before sending the Enterprise the schematics for the Xindi device. And a holographic note from the princess that reads, "something something something… you're my only hope."

And now the question is: Was it Shran that sent the data to help mend his and Archer's relationship? Or was it the hot blue chick that came onto Reed while doing repairs?

We'll find out when they open the episode with "Last time on Enterprise…"

Until then this week's episode, on the Star Trek alien rating chart, scores a…

It's hard to tell with these Andorians. Are they our friends? Are they not? The Cardassians were a thorn in the side of Picard and Sisko, but in the end saved the galaxy by overturning the Dominion. Will the Andorians take the same rollercoaster of allegiance, or will they just be the cool forgettable blue guys?

Kevin Miller

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