702. The Council
FORMULA: Encounter at Farpoint + Sins of the Father + Anomaly
WHY WE LIKE IT: The political maneuvering.
WHY WE DON'T: The desintegrator arms.
REVIEW: Y'all ready for this? After a punched up "previously", I think you are. The first part of the Xindi climax begins with Archer's mission to convince the Xindi council of humanity's true intentions. While he has the arboreals and humanoids in his corner, the Sphere Builders (with a POV reminiscent of the Prophets) are whispering sweet nothings into the ears of the reptilians, and where the reptilians lead, the insectoids follow. The marine Xindi are the inscrutable swing vote. What follows is an absorbing political thriller.
The episode doesn't skimp on the details. Archer gets fully briefed by Degra about how the Sphere Builders have set themselves up as gods to the Xindi (or at least, guardian angels), making them almost impossible to beat in an argument. He also gives a good account of each race's personality and point of view, and we see the dead avian planet for the first time. Righ away, the reptilians don't even want Archer to be heard, and having been offered the dominance of their race in the future, are in no way inclined to listen when he is. Though the "trial" is serious and intense, there are amusing moments as Archer and Hoshi compare it to being called to the principal's office, a conversation filled with bravado.
Meanwhile, Reed leads a raid inside a sphere to collect information. This will come in handy given that Archer is out there promising a way to stop them from creating anomalies. This is the weakest part of the episode, with mechanical arms creeping out of the shadows and killing a recurring (and yet, totally nondescript) Maco. It's a rare instance where the effects just don't play well in a scene. Reed's guilt over the man's death is perhaps overdone for a "military man", but speaks to the difference between this season and the previous two as far as the death toll goes.
The reptilians seem to change their minds, but the audience immediately smells a rat. Degra is assassinated, and shock of shocks, you actually care. This was a well drawn antagonist-become-ally, who at least got to have a final "healing" moment with Trip. Then, the reptilians launch the superweapon and kidnap Hoshi so she can decipher the three arming codes they didn't get from the less violent council members. Obviously, Archer can't win yet, but the episode is at least set up so that he gets a partial victory, which will help him win the next and the next. Great stuff.
LESSON: Bajorans are a lot easier to manipulate than Xindi.
REWATCHABILITY - High: An absorbing, sometimes Shakespearean, first act.