Hello and as always, welcome to ‘Final Frontier Friday’! Settle in and join us as we return to ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ for a look at the 2004 episode ‘Chosen Realm’.
‘Enterprise’ was produced (mostly) and aired (entirely) after the events of September 11, 2001. Despite that, it took a while for the show to morph into something that you could actually describe as “post-9/11 ‘Star Trek'”. In fact, the shift didn’t really begin until halfway through the series’ run, with the season two finale ‘The Expanse’. (Incidentally, that episode and the storyline that followed are still what pops into my head when someone mentions the Syfy/Amazon series of the same name. You know, because of who I am as a person.) That episode saw Enterprise return home in the wake of a devastating attack on Earth that served as an obvious parallel to 9/11.
In the wake of that, the show was retooled somewhat for its third season. For the first time, (and indeed, the last time until the premiere of ‘Discovery’) a season of ‘Star Trek’ would have a clearly defined, serialized arc. This is in contrast to the latter seasons of ‘Deep Space Nine’, which though more serialized than was typical of the late nineties, tended to define their story arcs broadly in terms of the progression of the Dominion War, as opposed to what ‘Enterprise’ was doing, which was dedicating a season to a story with a beginning, middle and end. This wasn’t just post-9/11 ‘Star Trek’, in other words. It was post-’24’ ‘Star Trek’.
In focusing on Enterprise’s mission to counter the Xindi threat, the show also took a darker thematic turn (though again, not in quite the same way as late period ‘Deep Space Nine’). It was a season that would see Archer grapple with any number of then (and, sadly, still) relevant questions, often forced by his increasing desperation to protect Humanity to act in ways that challenged his evolved, Roddenbery-ian sense of morality. And it was in ‘Chosen Realm’ that the show looked one very particular post-9/11 elephant in the room square in its face: religious extremism. How? Read on…
A shuttlepod from Enterprise is investigating one of the mysterious spheres that dot the Delphic Expanse. As the pod emerges from the sphere’s cloaking barrier and return to Enterprise they are observed by an alien vessel whose captain remarks that they may have found what they’re looking for.
Back on Enterprise, Archer, and T’Pol review the data collected by the survey mission, which the Vulcan notes should allow them to more accurately map the spatial anomalies that make the region so hazardous to navigate. They are interrupted by a distress call from a vessel trapped in a cluster of anomalies. Enterprise docks with the vessel and brings the survivors aboard. In sickbay, Phlox’s efforts to provide medical aid are stymied by their religious objections to invasive medical procedures – including bioscans. But he is able to ascertain that they are generally healthy, barring some minor injuries. Archer then introduces himself to their leader, D’Jamat. D’Jamat – the commander glimpsed in the teaser – tells Archer that he and his people – the Triannons – were on a pilgrimage to one of the spheres, adding that they are “better at prayer than space travel.” He accepts Archer’s invitation to dine with himself and T’Pol.
During the meal, D’Jamat gives a sort of Cliff’s Notes version of his people’s beliefs. They venerate the spheres, whose creators – the Makers – they believe to be the creators of the universe. They wear the scars inflicted by their encounters with spatial anomalies – which they call “the Makers’ Breath” – as a badge of honor, seeing it as a form of communion. The Makers, or so the Triannons believe, are using the spheres to reshape the Expanse in preparation for their return. Later, a Triannon woman approaches Phlox in sickbay to ask about an unspecified procedure. Meanwhile, D’Jamat and others plot in the mess hall. When one of his fellows – Yarrick – seems to doubt their plan, D’Jamat reminds him that not only has Enterprise desecrated a sphere, but that their crossing paths with such a powerful ship may finally give them the means to “end the bloodshed.”
Later still, D’Jamat approaches Archer in his ready room. He explains to the captain that a number of his followers have positioned themselves throughout the ship with organic explosives planted in their bodies, enabling D’Jamat to order any of them to sacrifice their lives at a moment’s notice. He demonstrates this, and the ensuing blast blows a whole in C-deck, killing a crewman. Archer’s response is interrupted when D’Jamat tells him that he has people stationed by the warp core. Enterprise is at his mercy.