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03-111968
04-041969
05-1701D
06-071984
07-081940
08-47148
09-081966

Proving Ground

Synopsis

We open with a montage of scenes from previous Season 3 episodes.  Followed by a scene where Shran drinking some water and is called to the bridge where we find out that they are in the Expanse looking for Enterprise.

An upbeat Faith of the Heart segment and commercial later we are given a scene in the Xindi Council chamber where we find out that they are ready to test the weapon and if the test goes well the final version can be deployed in under a month.

We then find out that Hoshi has located the tracking beacon in the kemocite from a few episodes ago but it lies behind a huge field of anomalies that would take 17 days to go through, so they decide to punch through it.  Once inside 2 anomalies merge to form a larger anomaly, it badly hurts the Enterprise when they are pulled out of the field by Shran.

There's a rather comic shot of Archer standing in front of the viewscreen when suddenly antennae appear over his head, then pan to view Shran saying "Captain Archer, look what trouble your pink skin has gotten yourself into." 

Shran, Archer, and T'Pol hold a discussion in Archer's ready room where Shran is offering his "selfless help" in his mission, which he makes a great deal of pointing out is "unlike the Vulcans."

Shran offers to help give repairs but T'Pol and Reed both want the Andorians followed on the Enterprise, though Archer insists on trusting them.

With Andorian help, they find an uninhabited system containing Xindi vessels that appear to be running tests of some sort.  T'Pol refers to the place as a Proving Ground.

The prototype weapon was deployed and split a small moon in two.  The test was a horrible failure.  No that's not a typing mistake.  The sabotaged kemocite made the weapon unstable, it was not able to reach its full yield before it began building for overload.

The weapon cannot be retrieved by the Xindi right away because it is still emitting large amounts of radiation.  It will be 6 hours before the Xindi can safely bring it aboard, Archer doesn't want to wait that long to steal it, but the Enterprise isn't safe for it either.  Shran generously volunteers to steal it with his ship because his force fields can safely contain it until it is safe.  Archer agrees with the stipulation that he goes along with them.

Before the run, we find out Shran's true motives however as he discusses with his commanding officer the plan to steal the weapon for the imperial guard over subspace.  Archer beams aboard the Andorian vessel and while the Enterprise keeps the Xindi occupied the Andorian ship rushes in and steals the Xindi weapon and warps away.

They drop Archer off in an escape pod saying that Enterprise would never find them because the female Andorian officer sabotaged the sensors.  Enterprise picks Archer up but fortunately, Reed had already known about the sabotage and rectified it, they find the Andorians before they enter the anomaly field and ask Shran to return the weapon to them.

Shran of course declines but Archer points out that he was able to intercept the activation codes for the weapon and if the Andorians don't give him the weapon he'll detonate the weapon inside the Andorian hold.  Shran points out that Archer will "Lose his prize," to which Archer replies that he'd rather destroy the weapon than see the Andorians use it against the Vulcans.

Shran tries to call Archer's bluff so Archer has T'Pol activate the weapon, the weapon begins to charge up to prepare to overload in their hull and the Andorians release the weapon at the last possible second.  It explodes in a brilliant blue effect.  Enterprise didn't receive any damage but the Andorian vessel was heavily damaged.  Archer offers to help them and Shran respectfully declines and beings limping back home.

As Enterprise continues their journey however they receive an encoded message from an unknown individual on the Andorian ship transmitting the detailed scans of the weapon to them.  It is unclear who the mysterious benefactor is, it is most likely either Shran or the female Andorian, either would make sense and I personally have no idea which one it is.

Archer commands Hoshi and T'Pol to make sure that Starfleet Command gets the details of the weapon as soon as possible.

Episode Review

Proving Ground was an interesting episode.  I expected a Shran episode to not further the Xindi plot at all but this both had the Andorian angle and the Xindi angle.

I was also impressed with the gimmick used to get Shran there, I was so worried that this episode was going to feature some completely pointless reason for Shran to be in the Expanse which would have made me very angry.

I like the way the situation between Reed and the female Andorian was handled, and I personally suspect it was her not Shran who transmitted the scans of the Xindi weapon to the Enterprise at the end.

The scene where Shran greets Archer is particularly humorous in my opinion.  The shot of Archer standing dead center in front of the viewscreen and then antennae appearing as if out of his head is done rather well, then pan to view Shran to the side of Archer.  I do think this scene would have worked better, however, if we were not introduced to Shran earlier in the teaser.

Obviously, I knew this was going to be a Shran-centric episode, but if I had not known and seen it on television the scene would have worked better if the viewers were just as surprised to see Shran as Archer and co.

On another note in the opening scene... I must express my personal dislike for arcs that require you to pay attention every week to know what's going on.  The montage involved scenes from almost every single episode this season to bring us up to speed on what's going on with testing the Xindi weapon, if I had not been watching heavily I would be very confused as to what is going on.

On to the obligatory mention of special effects.  Both times the Xindi weapon was fired the effect was spectacular.  First on the moon, what a great shot, then when it destroyed itself and damaged the Andorian ship, it was a beautiful special effect.  I've been watching episodes of TNG lately (on DVD) and after watching a TNG mid Season 3 episode earlier today and then watching an ENT mid-season 3 episode tonight I'm forced to pay attention to how far special effects have come in episodic television.

Overall I enjoyed the episode and I give this week's Enterprise a B+