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On TV Today's Date:

original airdate: 02-04-04

Hook, line and sinker.

Whatever that means. You'd probably have to enjoy long days sitting in a tiny boat smelling like squid bait in order to really appreciate the cliche, but it's graphic enough to describe this week's episode of Enterprise. "Stratagem" treated its audience just like fish, luring them in… ah ...hook, line and sinker.

For once the advertising for the episode didn't ruin the surprising twist. In fact it helped lay the trap. Or rather, bait the hook (careful now - don't mix those metaphors).

It went something like "The first shot has been fired … In the battle to save earth… Plus a terrifying glimpse of the future." Then it's a close up on a grey haired Archer informing a Xindi "Your people destroyed my planet."

So dramatic.

And so already been done! Since The Next Generation Star Trek spin offs have been accused of just rehashing Kirk and Spock adventures. Which in many cases is true, no doubt. But it's even worse for a series to rehash its own episodes - FROM THE SAME SEASON!

Back in November of 2003 the episode "Twilight" featured the future of humanity. The Xindi had destroyed Earth and all the remaining Terrans had settled on a remote planet, hiding from their attackers. T'Pol took care of the aged Captain Archer who was suffering from an extreme case of RAM depletion. Some anomaly was stopping his short term memories from become long term. So he'd wake up every day wondering why so much time had passed.

At the top of this episode Archer is fine and it's the humanoid Xindi leader Degra who has a memory problem. According to Archer the Xindi destroyed Earth and then the Insectoid Xindi started a galactic civil war, dominating all the Xindi factions. Degra and Archer lived together in a prison cell for three years, until they escaped.

Degra remembers nothing because of a Truth Blood Worm, so Archer has to convince him that time has passed and that they are no longer great enemies but instead trusted friends.

The similarities between the two episodes are almost so aggravating you want to change the channel!

But then, thanks to the magic of editing, we go back in time three days, to before the Enterprise was allegedly destroyed and mankind was wiped out.

They actually captured Degra and erased his short term memories in an attempt to learn where they're building the Xindi weapon.

You have to get out of your seat and applaud the cleverness Enterprise crew! (And their writers, sure.) This is an elaborate and brilliant plan. In the 24th century Picard would have just thrown the terrorist in the holo-deck. And we've seen that plot enough times. But man kind doesn't have holo-decks yet, so they're forced to build a ship inside their cargo bay. Like some flight simulator program.

Maybe mankind should never develop the holo-deck. It must make us lazy. No other Star Trek show has EVER used deception, perception and trickery like Enterprise. Finally, a crew that uses the element of the unknown. They surprise their enemies rather then fight them. They act out roles instead of fire phasers. And the best part of all: the audience is not in on it. We're just as surprised.

With such bold story telling comes even more impressive, and different, plot twists. Archer tries to manipulate Degra into giving up the coordinates of the Xindi weapon. But something tips him off, and he suspects a plot.

Now Archer has to decide if the coordinates he gave were real or not. So very Hamlet.

There isn't enough time to fly to the coordinates, which orbit a red giant star. And there isn't time to restart the whole scenario. The only option - use the Xindi spatial tunnels to get there.

But it doesn't work… or so it seems! Once Degra thought he'd seen behind the curtain, Archer and crew just lowered a second veil. They rock the ship. Set things on fire. Make it look like a bad warp trip, all to get Degra to blurt out that he had indeed given the true coordinates.


The second deception is a little more transparent then the first, but it still leads the audience through a narrative maze.

They leave Degra and crew, memories erased, on their ship, and zoom away to the red giant. And Archer admits the red star may be the final leg in the journey to save Earth. About time. Every week there is some additional hurdle to jump over. One more thing till we can find the weapon and turn it off.

What in the Alpha Quadrant is this series going to be about next season? Will there be ANOTHER year long adventure? Will they return to exploring the final frontier? Will the Klingon war start? Or will the Xindi continue to haunt mankind…?

Next week, before we reach the end of the Xindi hunt, there is another hurdle to jump. And tensions will rise among the crew… Really, T'Pol bares her Vulcan breasts to Trip, then apologizes to CBS while Trip still gets to go to the Grammys.

Is it a dream sequence? A mind altering alien? A flash forward to another alternate future where mankind is conquered? Because there is no way T'Pol will actually GET NAKED as early as season three.

Of course we'll all watch, because naked T'Pol is the bait and they've got us… Hook, line and sinker.

In the meantime, this week's episode, on the Alien rating scale, scores a…

Stratagem is one of the smartest episodes of Enterprise, to date. Worthy of the name Zakdorn, who are a race of aliens known for their superior intelligence (and arrogance). Interestingly enough, in the episode the TNG episode Peak Performance, Data challenges Kolrami, a Zakdorn, to a game of Stratagem...

Kevin Miller

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