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Star Trek: Enterprise – Damage (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

The stock comparison for Damage is In the Pale Moonlight.

This makes a great deal of sense. After all, both are Star Trek episodes that hinge on a series of morally questionable decisions made by the lead actor in a moment of sheer desperation. In In the Pale Moonlight, Benjamin Sisko starts a chain of events that builds towards the assassination of a Romulan Senator to trick the Romulans into joining the war effort. In Damage, Jonathan Archer resorts to piracy in order to obtain the parts necessary to make a meeting with Degra in order to plead against the use of the Xindi weapon.

A met a man who wasn't there...

A met a man who wasn’t there…

There are some notable differences, of course. In purely practical plotting terms, Sisko dominates the narrative of In the Pale Moonlight; the entire story is related directly by Sisko to the audience in the form of a personal log. In contrast, Damage is split between the demands of Archer’s own arc in the episode and various other continuity elements; the episode needs to get Archer back to his ship and devote a considerable amount of time to T’Pol’s addiction. As a result, it lacks the keen focus that made In the Pale Moonlight so compelling.

At the same time, there is something much more direct about Damage. Sisko is quite detached from the horrors of In the Pale Moonlight, with the audience insulated from his choices through the use of a framing device and Sisko himself insulated through his use of Garak to conduct all the unpalatable actions. In contrast, Archer makes a point to bloody his own hands over the course of Damage. He doesn’t have somebody else to make the decision for him; he leads the boarding party himself.

Everything comes apart...

Everything comes apart…

It is a very bold an unsettling choice, a culmination of a character arc that has been pushing Archer towards this sort of horrific choice since Anomaly. The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise has not been entirely consistent when it comes to its character arcs, working better in broad strokes than in fine detail. Nevertheless, Damage represents a very clear commitment to the promise of the third season of Enterprise; an interrogation of the franchise’s core values in an increasingly morally ambiguous world.

Damage is a deeply uncomfortable and unsettling episode of Star Trek, but it is arguably a necessary one. It is, in many ways, a criticism of the moral absolutism that informs a lot of discussion about terrible situations, suggesting that reality is often a lot more complicated than people might hope it would be.

Drowning his sorrows...

Drowning his sorrows…

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is something of a cliché. It is an academic truism, often accompanied with discussions about how the forces at work in the American Revolution were technically terrorists hoping to their independence from a hostile colonial force. That is true of most revolutions, given that the victors have the luxury of writing history. As the centenary of 1916 approaches, there is a sense that the Irish people could do to be a little more introspective about that moment in our national mythology.

The Star Trek franchise has hit on the theme a number of times, most frequently within the confines of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Episodes like The Darkness and the Light and When It Rains… touch upon the morality of such struggles, even allowing for just cause and righteous violence. In fact, Damage seems to acknowledge this precedent; not only does Randy Oglesby guest star in both The Darkness and the Light and Damage, but Casey Biggs is both the character at the heart of the terrorist dilemma in When It Rains and the top-billed guest-star in Damage.

Falling to pieces...

Falling to pieces…

Deep Space Nine does not get nearly enough credit for foreshadowing and predicting some of the larger ethical issues of the twenty-first century. Although written before the War on Terror, it explores many of the themes that would come to define the era. At the same time, these discussions are very much a product of the nineties. They are prescient and insightful, but they also feel somewhat academic. Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D. Moore have admitted that they never would have never been able to put a character like Kira on the show after 9/11.

The suggestion that war – in particularly guerrilla war – is a grotesque and unpleasant experience is hardly innovative. At the same time, it is a theme that is almost always timely. The third season of Enterprise was a rather blatant metaphor for the trauma of 9/11 and the horror of the War on Terror. There were certainly points (such as Chosen Realm) where it was a little too blatant. At the same time, the season does not get enough credit for emphasising the moral quagmire that such a situation creates, and how thoroughly it erodes Archer’s moral high ground.



Early in the season, the show allowed Archer and his crew a sense of moral righteousness. Their actions were justified; it is hard not to feel assured of your moral superiority when responding to the death of seven million innocent civilians. However, over the course of the season, the show has suggested that Archer is not as morally certain as he might like to think. The season repeatedly and consciously mirrors Archer’s experiences with those of other characters involved in the arc, demonstrating how quickly one can lose their way in the fog of war.

Archer tortures a captured pirate in Anomaly; Dolim tortures Archer in Azati Prime and Hoshi in Countdown. A lone Xindi makes a suicide run against the enemy in The Expanse; Archer makes a lone suicide run against his enemy in Azati Prime. Archer gives the order to murder three Xindi in what he perceives to be self-defense at the start of Azati Prime; the climax of the same episode features three crew members being sucked out into the void during a battle with the Xindi. The season never emphasises the “not so different” undercurrent of all this, but the point is clear.



After all, even righteous anger can spill innocent blood. There are debates to be had about moral equivalence and intent, but the statistics bear this out. Nearly three thousand innocent Americans died during the 9/11 attacks, but estimates suggest that approximately half-a-million people of have died as a result of the Iraq War; almost forty percent of people killed in United States air attacks are children. The emotions spurring the conflict might be understandable and justified, but that does not mean that any one side can wash the blood from their hands.

Damage brings Archer a full circle from his entry into the Delphic Expanse. In Anomaly, Archer was a victim of piracy. In Damage, Archer orchestrates a pirate raid. He justifies his actions by necessity, insisting that the stakes are so high that he has no other course of action. He tries to mitigate the damage caused by leaving behind food and supplies in place of the stolen technology. However, Archer ultimately decides to strand an innocent ship far from home so that he might be able to continue on his journey.

"It's a pirate's life for me..."

“It’s a pirate’s life for me…”

Phyllis Strong’s script is quite deft in its handling of the moral dilemma. The audience is sympathetic to Archer; they understand what is at stake and precisely how Archer can justify his decision. At the same time, the show is decidedly unambiguous about the consequences of the decision that Archer is making. Archer’s attempts to minimise the damage caused feel like an attempt to limit his own feelings of guilt and anxiety, rather than making his behaviour palatable or even acceptable.

As if to complete the symmetry between Anomaly and Damage, the episode consciously frames the Illyrians as naive and well-intentioned. In fact, they seem as optimistic and idealistic as Archer was when he first began his mission. In Azati Prime, he urged the crew to get back to the business of exploring the wonders of the cosmos. That is, quite literally, what the Illyrians are doing. The are completely oblivious to the darkness unfolding around them, blissfully unaware of the grim horrors that the Enterprise has endured.

"We come in peace, and you blatantly defy that peace."

“We come in peace, and you blatantly defy that peace.”

“Have you heard of a species called the Xindi?” Archer asks. The Illyrian Captain responds, “No. We’re new to this region of space.” When Archer asks what brought them out this far, the Illyrian Captain explains, “We’re studying the red giant. It’s the first one we’ve had the opportunity to explore.” As such, the Illyrians are on a very literal star trek; much like the Vissians were in Cogenitor. It frequently seems like Enterprise puts more metaphorical emphasis on stars than any other Star Trek show, perhaps reflecting its own anxieties and uncertainties.

The Illyrians are presented as good-natured and well-meaning. When Archer volunteers to assist them, their first concern is that the Enterprise does not get trapped in the same distortion that has damaged their vessel. “Thank you for coming,” the Illyrian Captain informs Archer. “But be aware: this region contains dangerous spatial distortions.” When Archer asks for the warp coil, the Illyrian Captain remains sympathetic. “I sympathise, Captain. I will help you in any other way, but I won’t jeopardize the lives of my crew. I’m sorry.”

Counseling against rash decisions...

Counseling against rash decisions…

The episode works hard to underscore just how selfish Archer’s decision is. It would be easy to present the Illyrians as jerks in order to justify the piracy. Instead, the episode emphasises that Archer is so desperate that he won’t even take the risk of asking twice or trying to negotiate. “We can’t risk tipping them off,” he insists. “We have to take them by surprise. That’ll reduce the losses on both sides.” It is a nice justification, but also a self-serving one. Attempting to renegotiate would also reduce the losses down to zero, even if it carried a higher risk.

(After all, there are all manner of compromises that Archer could try to make. He could ask to “borrow” the warp coil and promise to bring it back, offering something important as collateral. He could ask for a lift to the meeting site with the Illyrians. In both cases, there is a significant risk of refusal from the Illyrians. Archer is correct in his assessment of the risk, but the episode does make it clear that there are less violent alternatives to his course of action, just alternatives that are less likely to produce the outcome that he wants.)

"You know, shows really should be a higher priority."

“You know, shows really should be a higher priority.”

As with Azati Prime, there is a sense of genuine existential crisis about this choice. In conversation with phlox, Archer muses, “It’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever get this ship back to the way it was.” Phlox is astute enough to know that Archer is not talking about the physical damage to the sets. “It’s a simple matter of repairs,” he replies. “Well, perhaps not that simple. Somehow, I don’t think it’s the damage to Enterprise that’s troubling you.” The title of Damage does not just apply to the ship itself, but of the threat posed to the franchise’s internal morality.

There is a genuine tension to the Xindi arc that extends beyond the immediate threat to Earth. After all, any half-astute television viewer knows that Earth will not be destroyed by the Xindi weapon. The tension exists outside the text itself. The suspense is around how far Star Trek can stretch and bend before it breaks. Just how dark and cynical can Star Trek become without losing its way. How much of the horror of the contemporary political climate can it embrace before it drowns in nihilism?

Giving the show a shot in the arm...

Giving the show a shot in the arm…

Watching the final stretch of the third season, it is easy to wonder whether this might be it for Jonathan Archer. His actions over the course of the season compromise the character, to the point where it is easy to wonder if he can be redeemed through anything other than a sacrifice. Can things go back to the way that they were? Can things go back to the way they were with Archer in command? The network had been pressuring the production to team to kill Archer off at the end of the season, and it seems quite possible that it might.

It is also worth noting that Archer’s rather dark character arc consciously plays against Scott Bakula’s strengths as a performer. Bakula is perhaps the most relatable and affable of the five actors to headline a Star Trek television show. As played by Bakula, Archer seemed the most relaxed and well-meaning of the franchise’s five lead characters over the show’s first two seasons. Archer might not always be right or smart, but he (generally) seemed enthusiastic and sincere. The scripts didn’t always capture that, but it was there.

Engines of destiny...

Engines of destiny…

That is largely down to Bakula’s performance style, embodying a particular strand of American “hands-on, can-do” spirit in the style of matinee idols like Harrison Ford. Episodes like CanamarCogenitor and First Flight captured it best, playing to the idea of Archer as a test pilot who was probably more comfortable in a cockpit or a bar than in a command chair. He seemed to lack the same weight and authority that William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew brought to their role; it was just a different style of performance.

For a lot of Enterprise, it seemed like the staff were actually working against Bakula’s strengths rather than in tandem with them. This arguably reached its peak with the infamous “gazelle” speech from the climax of Shockwave, Part II. It is the sort grand sweeping monologue that Shatner or Stewart would deliver in their sleep; Bakula trips and stumbles over it, entirely unsure what to do with it. Bakula is not that kind of actor; his approach to the craft does not lend itself to those sorts of moments, making it odd that the production staff would give him so many.

Holding on together...

Holding on together…

It could be argued that the third season arc is also an example of the production team playing against their lead actor’s natural strengths. On the commentary for The Forgotten, writer David A. Goodman concedes as much:

It’s interesting, Scott as an actor. I mean, I’m a huge fan. But I think that this isn’t what we like about Scott Bakula. He’s got such a kind of affable great presence and I don’t think that this arc served him well, even though he was great doing it. His natural friendliness and fatherliness is pushed away for this “dark Archer”, which is a great arc for this guy – he’s great doing it – but I felt like it doesn’t use him.

It is certainly a fair point. Bakula never quite regains the same level of comfort he enjoyed with the character in the final eight-episode stretch of the second season. However, it also seems likely that this is the point.

Reed-ing the signs...

Reed-ing the signs…

In many respects, the arc of the third season of Enterprise runs roughly parallel with the final seasons of Deep Space Nine. This is entirely understandable; Deep Space Nine dealt with many of the same themes during its own run. Archer’s arc runs parallel with that of Sisko, learning the horror of war firsthand and ending up changed by his experiences. However, there are a number of significant differences that prevent his arc from feeling like too much of a rehash of a familiar set-up.

Some of these differences are plot related; Archer tends to be more directly compromised than Sisko, and doesn’t have the luxury of commanding a station away from the front lines. However, a lot of the differences are down to the actors involved. Avery Brooks plays Sisko in a bombastic and operatic style that melds together the defining attributes of Shatner and Stewart’s technique into a larger-than-life leading performance. Across the run of Deep Space Nine, there is never really any doubt that Sisko will get done what needs to be done.

Highly illogical...

Highly illogical…

More than any other Star Trek captain – with the possible exception of Kirk – Sisko is the right man for the job; he is the only the man for the job. In fact, Emissary assures the audience that Sisko is a character who has very specifically been chosen for this particular seven year journey. Sisko might feel guilt and pain along the way. He might wander from the path when things get dark. However, Sisko will always find his way back and will always complete the mission no matter what the cost. He might not be happy about it, but he will do it.

In contrast, the third season repeatedly and thoroughly suggests that Archer is out of his depth. While Sisko seems like he could take the strain of those terrible choices, Archer does not seem as confident. (In fact, Azati Prime suggested that the character was mounting his own suicide mission as a way to escape the weight of living with what he had to do.) That tension presents itself in a number of ways, but most notably in the tension between Scott Bakula’s affable persona and the demands that the show makes of him.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

There is a sense that Scott Bakula is precisely the wrong performer for this sort of role. Bakula is charming and relaxed, fun and lovable. There is something disconcerting about seeing the actor pushed so far outside his comfort zone. It makes the third season unsettling in a way extends beyond the plotting of the arc. There is a fundamental wrongness to the portrayal of Archer here, which resonates with the fundamental wrongness of constructing a season-long Star Trek arc about the War on Terror.

That is ultimately what Damage is. It represents the low-point of Archer’s character arc and of the third season as a whole. This is as close as the show will ever come to consciously abandoning the idealism and utopianism associated with the Star Trek franchise. This is the point at which Enterprise plays at being Star Trek by way of 24, only to underscore how fundamentally uncomfortable that is. This is the point at which it becomes clear that the season’s arc has never been about getting away from the core values of Star Trek so much as about finding them again.

Time for trouble...

Time for trouble…

To be fair, there are some problems here. Damage does not work quite as well as In the Pale Moonlight did, for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that a trick is never as effective as it is the first time that the audience sees it. Other than that, Damage is not structured as a performance piece for Scott Bakula in the same way that In the Pale Moonlight was for Avery Brooks and Andrew Robinson. However, the biggest problem is that Damage lacks the singular focus that powered In the Pale Moonlight.

This is a result of the episode’s position in the larger arc. In the Pale Moonlight might have unfolded against the backdrop of the Dominion War, but it wasn’t part of a more immediate arc like the “Occupation” arc at the start of the sixth season or the “Final Chapter” at the end of the seventh. The entirety of In the Pale Moonlight could be given over to Sisko; Archer has to share Damage. The third season of Enterprise has struggled with serialisation; it gets a lot stronger in the final third of the season.

Love is not the drug...

Love is not the drug…

In a way, the issues with Damage demonstrates the limits of serialisation as a storytelling form. The demands of the larger story can conflict with the demands of the individual episode. The time taken to get Archer back to his ship following the events of Azati Prime might have been better spent developing the Illyrians; the time given to Degra and his colleagues might have allowed more introspection from Archer; the T’Pol subplot could have been written out entirely and the episode would not suffer for it.

There is a tendency to treat serialisation as a storytelling form that is inherently “better” than a more episodic approach. Perhaps this is a result of the relative novelty of the form on prestigious television and the high quality of the shows that really pushed the form to critical and commercial success. It is fair to say that some stories lend themselves to serialisation rather than episodic narratives; it is also fair to say that Enterprise is one of those stories, given its core premise. However, that is not to devalue the standalone episode.

Just in case you forgot that the show is on UPN.

Just in case you forgot that the show is on UPN.

After all, Damage is somewhat undercut by its choice of secondary story. Building off hints suggested in Azati Prime, it is revealed that T’Pol has developed an addiction to trellium-d. Damage is less than subtle in the way that it treats this addiction, right down to portraying T’Pol “freebasing” a rock of trellium-d before injecting it into herself for a euphoric high. Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic rather infamously described this take on the character as “crack whore” T’Pol, and it is not too far off the mark.

It is impossible to imagine how anybody involved in the production of the show thought it might be a good idea. Enterprise has struggled to figure out what to do with T’Pol as a character. She has never seemed particularly dynamic or compelling. In early seasons, the crew alternated between being condescending and aggressive towards her. T’Pol never seemed to move any of her own stories, existing as a passive character. Archer tended to rescue her, both figuratively and literally, in episodes like Fusion, Shadows of P’Jem and The Seventh.

What's cooking?

What’s cooking?

There were moments when it seemed like the show had figured out what it might do with her. In The Expanse, T’Pol was positioned in contrast to Trip. Trip was preaching violence and retribution in response to the Xindi crisis, while T’Pol advocated a more measured and reasoned response. Eschewing her position in the Vulcan High Command, T’Pol chose to remain on Enterprise and seemed to embody the optimism and idealism of the franchise. T’Pol could be the voice of the franchise’s core values; that seems like a nice fit.

However, turning her into a drug addict undermines all of that. T’Pol gets one big scene with Archer in Damage, where she points out that Archer is essentially doing something monstrous. “We can’t save humanity without holding on to what makes us human,” she advises Archer, and she is correct. “Those were your words to me.” The problem is that the appeal doesn’t come from a voice of reason, but from an emotionally unstable drug addict who seems barely able to string two sentences together.

Sleepless nights...

Sleepless nights…

Blalock herself was unsatisfied with the direction in which the show chose to take her character. She began airing her grievances in public interviews towards the end of the third season and the start of the fourth:

“You can’t take T’Pol and say ‘Okay, you’re a Vulcan’ and take away the Vulcan characteristics,” she protested. “You might as well clip the ears! For example: eating food with their hands – they don’t do that! And yet they’ll throw in episodes where she’s eating popcorn, and I’ll say, ‘Can I use a napkin?’…’No! Use your hands!'”

Blalock’s frustration was entirely understandable. It increasingly seemed like the production team had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do with the character and so she was wandering from story thread to story thread.

"I just want Trillium, no bloody A, B, C, or D! Actually, make it D."

“I just want trellium, no bloody A, B, C, or D! Actually, make it D.”

Blalock was not the first Star Trek cast member to openly question or challenge the writers. Robert Beltran and Garrett Wang had made similar complaints during the production of Star Trek: Voyager, for all the good it did them. Blalock even specifically called the producers out:

“Because it’s the same in any industry… You have this head guy who’s some kind of ancient old croaker with no concept of the real world outside, with his fine wine and his, er, crumpets,” said Blalock. “And what are ya gonna tell them? ‘Give it up’? ‘Go home, be with your wife, go play golf’? No – then ya got no job! A powerful job is your identity. Give that up, and who are you? What the hell are you gonna do with all that time? You can’t tell people what to do anymore!”

While it is perfectly reasonable to ask whether this was the most professional way of dealing with her frustration, it is hard not to be sympathetic to Jolene Blalock. The actress finds herself in a terrible position, stuck with questionable material and no real arc to which she might tether herself.

Injecting some drama...

Injecting some drama…

In the documentary In a Time of War, Brannon Braga is quite defensive of the way that the show treated T’Pol as a character and does not seem too concerned at his lead actress’ frustrations:

I heard wind that she didn’t like what I was doing with her character. I thought it was great. I never had a doubt about anything that we did with T’Pol. I thought T’Pol was a wonderfully interesting character who went to some surprising places. Her relationship with Trip? Yeah, I can see why people might be bugged by that, but what a great pairing; what an odd couple. Her journey into the depths of drug addiction, Vulcan style, I thought was fascinating. And I thought that, for all her complaining, she did an amazing job with the material. Truly.

Braga’s defense is not entirely consistent, and it seems like T’Pol’s arc is perhaps the most severe problem with the story that spans the entirety of the show’s third season.

The only real justification that might be made for the decision to turn T’Pol into a drug addict is that it serves to move along her relationship with Trip, a facet of the character that also posed problems for Blalock. T’Pol’s heightened emotionality in shows like Harbinger can be retroactively explained as a result of her recreational drug use. (Much like Michael Sussman would later suggest that her heightened emotionality could be explained by revealing her father was actually a Romulan.)

This seems like a terrible way of trying to repair perceived problems with a character. As a rule, revealing that a central character has secretly been a drug addict is never an elegant resolution to outstanding character issues. There are a whole host of other ways to explain her heightened emotional state; maybe it’s the Pa’nar Syndrome, maybe it’s background trellium-d exposure, maybe T’Pol is just really bad at repressing her emotions in general. These are all solutions that avoid irreparable damage to the character.

T’Pol’s addiction could be seen as one of the early examples of the more trashy soap opera elements running through the romance between Trip and T’Pol, a long line of melodrama that would lead to Trip attending T’Pol’s wedding before transferring to another ship only to be confronted by a baby cloned from their shared DNA. It is all very absurd, but it works surprisingly well because it feels much pulpier than any other long-term Star Trek romance. It fits with the pulpier vibes of the third and fourth seasons.

T’Pol’s addiction also fits with this pulpy aesthetic, demonstrating that pulp is not always something to be celebrated for its own sake. After all, pulp genres have a long history of exploitation and frequently come with a host of unpleasant undercurrents. Earlier in the season, Extinction had demonstrated that pulpy and trashy science-fiction stories could come with unfortunate colonial and imperialist subtext.  Turning T’Pol into a drug addict is melodramatic, but doing it at this point of the season (and in this manner) feels exploitative and clumsy.

It becomes an excuse for the gratuitous shower scene, which is very much a call back to the worst excesses of the second season like Bounty. (Why do so many T’Pol-centric episodes focus on her as a sex object, as compared to episodes based around Archer or Trip?) Similarly, the decision to portray her drug addiction through outward monstrosity feels a little unfortunate. The idea that Vulcans affected by trellium-d physically transform was established in Impulse, but here it feels like an effort to dehumanise (or devulcanise) T’Pol as a drug user.

After all, what does T’Pol’s drug addiction add to the season? It is heavily hinted at in Azati Prime, explicitly confirmed in Damage and resolved by The Forgotten. It is not as if it is truly a runner across the entire season in the same way that Archer’s morality, Trip’s grief or even Reed’s insecurity are. It seems like the production team decided that T’Pol should do something at this point in the season, and it is a little disheartening that “become a drug addict” was the best possible answer that the team could come up with.

Damage is a fascinating hour of television, and an important episode in the third season arc. It is bold and provocative, brave and daring. However, it is also perhaps an illustration of the limits and demands imposed by arc-based storytelling as opposed to a more episodic approach. It is a third season highlight, but one that stops just short of being a Star Trek masterpiece.

9 Responses

  1. Braga can say what he wants.

    My suspicion at the time (as it remains) was that T’Pol as a character was simply not working out; the long-held biases against the Vulcan ethos, which you’ve pointed out in the season one reviews, could not be overcome–particularly not by a show on autopilot, where Captains think with their gut and echo Aldo Raine, “Naw, more like chewed out. I’ve been chewed out before.” There isn’t any place on this ship for a moral conscience or an obstinate bureaucrat, or anything like that.

    So ‘crippling’ T’Pol with unwanted emotions, on a permanent basis, made sense. There is no possible way to salvage this character without tearing her down and building her from the ground up. A more likeable (i.e. human) T’Pol. I don’t really like the drug addiction storyline, or really anything to do with the T’Pol character, but I accept the rationale.

    On a side note. I really like Jolene on a personal level. If anything she’s more McCoy than McCoy. But I don’t think T’Pol clicks on any level, apart from a punching bag. I think she’s an outlet for venting Braga’s and the writers’ frustrations with the franchise at this point.

    • That’s an interesting observation. I think the most interesting thing that S4 does with T’Pol is to completely “fix” (or, if you’re being less kind, “erase”) every thing that happened to the character dating back to Fusion, what might be the first real T’Pol episode, and finally pay off a thread established in Breaking the Ice. I mean, the fourth season has its own problems with T’Pol – and its own problems in general – but the bluntness with which it rolls back all those problematic decisions is fascinating in its own right.

      Blalock is charming. She is probably my favourite disgruntled Star Trek performer; no disrespect to Wang or Beltran, but Blalock is much more interesting in her (admittedly impolitic) observations. And her frustration seems to amount to more than just “I wanted more scenes.” That said, I also kinda like that Montgomery never seems too upset at how he had nothing to do for four years; he acknowledges it, admits that he’d liked to have done more, but he generally seems really positive. (Montgomery just seems really nice in general; on the blu rays he pretty much says “where the heck were the good scripts for the first two years of the show?”, but in a way that is more “season three and season four are awesome!” than “heads should roll!”)

      • That’s probably why the producers invited him back for Ship in a Bottle. Maybe he’s the only TOS regular who wasn’t constantly stumping for his own spin-off!

        “Och, this is Captain Montgomery Scott of the U.S.S. Faithnbegorrah! Stand down ye shields!”

      • Sorry, I meant Anthony Montegomery. Mayweather!

  2. I wonder if any of the effectiveness of this episode is also down to having Casey Biggs guest starring as the alien captain? Long-time Star Trek fans are immediately going to see Biggs and think “It’s Damar!” The thing with Damar is that by the end of DS9 he had become a heroic figure and had died a hero’s death. So even though this was a one-off role, when the audience sees Archer stealing this guy’s warp engine, it feels even worse than it is because Biggs is a well-regarded actor who played a popular character in the franchise.

    Agreed one hundred percent that T’Pol becoming a drug addict was a really bad decision on the part of the show, and it mars what is otherwise a very good episode.

    • Yeah, it’s a very strange creative choice, in large part because there’s absolutely no need for it. With Archer going off the rails, T’Pol already has a pretty great arc. Even if she didn’t she still has the basic arc of going against High Command.

  3. Count me as one of the few lifetime fans that appreciated both this episode and its revelation about T’Pol.

    It’s maybe not very “Star Trek”, but as an addict in recovery when I went back to give “Enterprise” another look, it was nice to see one of the main cast struggling with drug addiction without a “clean” metaphor between the concept and the execution. The franchise often seemed to feel it was necessary to interpose some sort of futuristic, sci-fi equivalent to tell that sort of story, as though it would sully a character too much to involve them directly in something that seemed as likely to happen in the “Star Trek” world as it is in ours.

    I was also glad to see the conflicted nature of what entices people to use explored, and doing it through a Vulcan character was, I feel, a deft way to utilize the show’s existing mythology. T’Pol wanted to tap into an aspect of herself that felt liberating and “out of control”, but once she’d taken that step, she found herself bound to it and driven to deceive the people around her. Her sole and total responsibility for what she’d been doing wasn’t downplayed, but she wasn’t presented as irredeemable either. Rather, those around her accepted that she’d done something wrong, but also that she was still the person they’d appreciated having in their lives before they knew about the mistake she’d made. This mapped very closely to my own experience.

    I think a lot of it comes down to how Blalock worked hard to improve her craft as an actor over the show’s run, something that many young actors eschew when given an enviable role in a long-running franchise. I enjoyed seeing her take a character that was, in its worst moments, nothing but a clumsy mish-mash of previous shows’ character concepts, and build it into someone defined as much by Blalock’s efforts in front of the camera as by the writers’ room and the directors. The turn in her character in “Damage” did a lot to both justify that and to open up future opportunities for it.

    • I hope you’re okay. I’m glad to hear your story and touched that Damage resonated with you so personally. I have a few stories like that myself, whether Star Trek or otherwise. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Well, I am happy to see Casey Biggs pop up here, because Damar is one of my favourite Star Trek characters of all time. He was one of the best arcs of any character in the franchise. Biggs is good at playing with his limited role so that we empathize with him. His alien makeup emphasizes his cranium rather than his jaw or neck, which sort of inverts the Carassian look. He is rounded, soft. His ship looks like a calm little manta-ray baby. I also like how the director shot the attack by Enterprise, inverting the usual framing of the show. Enterprise comes in overhead like a star destroyer all menacing.

    If I had directed this episode, I might have shot the whole thing from the alien ship’s perspective, and only at the very end cut to Archer so we learn of his reasons.

    Much like Tuvok, T’Pol’s Vulcan identity seems to be a serious problem for the writers, so much that most plots around her involve the fragmentation or loss of that identity. She is rarely allowed to wallow in her sheer Vulcanness without some form of criticism, failure, or mental breakdown at play.

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