The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Stratagem

Enterprise has captured Degra, the designer of the Xindi weapon. In an attempt to extract information from him, Archer has Phlox wipe some of Degra’s memories, so that he can be convinced that he and Archer are prisoners escaping from the Xindi reptilians. Archer hopes to trick Degra into revealing the location of the final weapon, but will he really be able to pull it off?

There’s an episode of Mission Impossible with a plot much like this one. A bad guy is kept in what he thinks is a moving van taking him to somewhere unpleasant – little realising that he’s just in a warehouse on a simulated journey. In that show, it worked, because that kind of deception was exactly what Jim Phelps and the gang needed to do to foil the villain of the week. In Star Trek, it feels much more out of place.

I’ve touched several times upon the tone of this season, and how it really feels like Star Trek loses its moral compass here. Even in Sisko’s darkest moments, or when Janeway was doing something dubious, it still felt like the pure and innocent soul of Star Trek remained intact. Not so here. We’ve seen Archer torture, deceive and generally become more of an arsehole this season, and this episode is yet another example.

It’s possible I could just about get behind this story if not for Phlox’s memory manipulations. From the time that Pulaski excised Sarjenka’s memory without her consent in Pen Pals, I’ve always had a problem with the morality of this plot device. Never mind the fact that it’s use is inconsistent (sometimes it’s a cinch, other times it’s impossible) – it’s invasive and downright unethical. When you add in unnecessarily inserting a worm under someone’s skin essentially for dramatic effect, I suddenly find myself unwilling to ever trust my life and health to Doctor Phlox.

Points of Note

  • It’s only three weeks until the final weapon will be ready to deploy, but we’ve still got ten more episodes to go in the season. I can’t remember how the pacing works out – does it slow right down, or do more things happen to delay the launch of the weapon?
  • Why did Archer have to be the one to befriend Degra? Why not just get the best actor on the crew to do it – not to mention someone less important than the captain? They could have also pretended to be a species other than human, which might have made it more plausible that Degra had grown to trust them.
  • As I was watching the episode, I couldn’t help but wonder if Archer could have bluffed through not knowing about Degra’s kids, by saying something like “of course I can’t remember your kids’ names, I just don’t care that much about them”. On reflection, though, I realised that I do usually know the names and relative ages of the children of closer friends and colleagues. I wouldn’t necessarily know their ages or birthdays, though, nor would I feel like it was a failing in our friendship for me not to know that.
    Additionally, although it’s plausible that you might not remember the names and relative ages of children you’d never met, I guess the difference is that Archer and Degra wouldn’t have had much else to occupy their time and memory over the purported three years they spent together. If Degra believed that he would have excessively talked about his family during that time, it might seem outlandish that Archer would not have absorbed even the most basic facts about them by this time.
  • Archer’s really getting a taste for the old Andorian ale. Should we be worried about his incipient alcoholism?

Summary – Stratagem: I liked it better when Mission Impossible did this plot.

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