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On TV Today's Date:

original airdate: 02-25-04

Remember when Star Trek was about exploring the unknown? People were optimistic. Science was the goal. Humanity was a species of heroic space cowboys. It seems like that was a long time ago… or at least last season.

Enterprise has been playing the same one note on the Xindi instrument all season long. They're terrorists. They're terrorists. They're terrorists. Hey, guys, the violin has four strings.

Archer started the series as the Federation's first starship captain. The galaxy had no limit. Neither did his positive outlook on life. Then the Xindi struck Earth, and his wide eyes began to squint with rage.

Captain Sisko went through the same sort of metamorphosis. But Scott Bakula, unlike Avery Brooks, would look silly if he shaved his head and grew a goatee. Likewise, Archer cannot make the same hate-driven transformation without coming off as crazy.

So when an episode rolls around where he's manipulated by an alien chemical to act obsessive it doesn't seem out of the ordinary. In fact, it only highlights the degradation of his character.

This is all so very unfortunate, because it's becoming clear just how talented Bakula really is. Captain Archer isn't a stretch. But Star Trek often affords its stars decent acting challenges. So when he's given the opportunity to play an obsessive compulsive, his choices are subtle and very believable.

In fact, if this were an episode from last season there would be hardly anything to complain about. If the crew of the Enterprise was RESEARCHING a crashed alien vessel and the captain became consumed with its onboard hatchery, then it would've been a much more palatable story.

But it still wouldn't make the top five. Or even the top ten. "Hatchery" has no mystery. Within the first five minutes the captain is sprayed by a nozzle from an egg sack and he begins to act weird.

The only thing going for Enterprise at this point is its recent track record of narrative illusions. The audience finds themselves thinking, "Its so obvious he's acting erratic because of the alien egg sack spray." But then a little voice whispers, "No, that's what they want you to think. Everyone else is acting compulsive, too. Archer is the only one immune to the alien's effects."

Then the crew walks around the egg sacks for five days, and no one else gets sprayed. How convenient. Or confusing. Or maybe egg sacks only come with one nasal shot.

In the end, Doctor Phlox has the nerve to say, "Remember when you were sprayed by that thing," as if the audience couldn't remember something as obvious as an alien egg sack.

It felt like filler. We're just stalling before the destruction of the menacing Xindi death star. It was also an excuse to do some cool special effects. The Xindi babies crawling over Archer was cool, but could've been more creepy, with some different lighting. And the Hatchery was fascinating, but it too could have used a little more Alien in its aliens. Comparatively, the machine-like Borg are more organic then the Xindi insectoids.

Maybe the insectoid Xindi will get a better shot at being cool next season. When there is no more super weapon, and we can (hopefully) return to exploring the final frontier, and not trying to avenge it.

It's high time to bring back the Temporal Cold War. Bring back the Suliban. Bring back the Space Cowboys. Without N*Sync.

However, next week the Xindi saga will continue and the Enterprise will go on a suicide mission. Surprised?

Until then, this week's episode, on the Star Trek Alien Species Scale, scores a…

The most annoying people in the galaxy.

Kevin Miller

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