At D’Jamat’s command and with the crew confined to quarters, Enterprise sets a course for Triannon. D’Jamat explains to Archer that he intends to use Enterprise to end a religious war on his homeworld. He goes on to tell Archer that he’s been reviewing records of Enterprise’s encounters with the spheres, in the course of which they’ve flown inside the cloaking barriers of three spheres and even landed on one. For crimes of this magnitude, D’Jamat is obligated by his faith to destroy the ship and put the crew to death.
But because Archer’s crew put themselves at risk to save his people – and because he likes Archer – he decides to show mercy, allowing Archer to choose a single crewman to be executed. He gives Archer six hours to decide and deletes the sphere data. Sometime later, Yaarek delivers a PADD to Archer, as D’Jamat felt the captain should be kept up to date on the repairs. Before Yarrick can leave, Archers stops him. It was Yarrick’s wife Indava who approached Phlox earlier. We now learn that the reason she did so was her desire to terminate her pregnancy. Phlox (and by extension Archer) came away from the encounter with the distinct impression that the two no longer see eye to eye with D’Jamat’s interpretation of their faith and that she, at least, has grown to hate D’Jamat.
Upon leaving Archer’s quarters, Yarrick confronts Indava, terrified of D’Jamat finding out what Archer now knows. We learn that their desire to terminate is at least partly borne of Indava’s refusal to watch her child fight D’Jamat’s war. After this, Archer approaches D’Jamat in the ready room. After some more arguing, Archer reveals which crewmember he has chosen to die: himself.
D’Jamat is stunned but understands. He tells Archer he would make the same choice and agrees to Archer’s request as to the means of execution – the transporter. After a demonstration, Archer steps onto the pad and with T’Pol operating the controls, dematerializes. Later, in sickbay, Phlox receives a cryptic message in a control panel. It’s Archer, not from beyond the veil but from inside a Jeffries tube. The doctor is working on a way to neutralize the organic explosives but he needs a medical scan, which Archer provides by knocking out one of D’Jamat’s people.
Armed with this information, Phlox is able to render the bombs useless. In the ready room, D’Jamat realizes one of his men (guess who) is missing. He intends to use internal sensors to find him, but just as he steps onto the bridge, the ship drops out of warp as main power is disrupted. One of the guards in engineering is able to locate the source of the malfunction, and D’Jamat sends him and Yarrick to investigate.
As they approach the section, Archer gets the drop on them, stunning one and pleading with Yarrick to help him retake the ship. Yarrick agrees, and Archer sends him to the bridge to reroute the environmental controls to sickbay. Once this is done, Phlox will be able to release an airborne agent to neutralize the organic explosives. Meanwhile, Enterprise is intercepted by a group of four Triannon ships, all belonging to the so-called heretics. (Their sin? Believing that the Chosen Realm – the Expanse – was created in ten days. D’Jamat’s faction believes it took nine.)
With Enterprise’s weaponry at his disposal (and despite T’Pol’s attempt to intervene), D’Jamat cuts through the Triannon ship like butter. During the battle, Phlox releases his pyrithian bat, taking advantage of the ensuing chaos to get the drop on his assigned guard. With the environmental controls successfully rerouted, Phlox then releases the neutralizing agent.
Meanwhile, Archer releases Reed and the MACOs and sets about retaking the ship in earnest. After retaking engineering, they are able to reroute all command functions away from the bridge, much to D’Jamat’s chagrin. The remaining Triannon ships come about as Reed and the MACOs retake the bridge, finally forcing D’Jamat to stand down. With D’Jamat no longer in command, the Triannons move off. Enterprise continues to Triannon.
Upon arrival, Archer angrily escorts D’Jamat and his followers to the planet’s surface where they find… a wasteland. Some eight months ago, the war went nuclear, decimating both sides. No major cities remain. Millions are dead. This is the peace that D’Jamat’s faith has wrought.
This is the kind of story that I’m honestly surprised it took ‘Enterprise’ as long as it did to tell. After all, to say that religious extremism was “topical” or “in the zeitgeist” at the time would be an understatement. Hell, it still is. In fact, ‘Chosen Realm’ first aired about a month after the miniseries that kicked off the re-imagined ‘Battlestar Galactica’, so it’s very much in the vein of where a lot of sci-fi even was at the time. I just would have expected ‘Star Trek’ to be quicker on the draw is the thing.
With regard to the episode itself, there’s an elephant in the room I can’t even pretend to ignore. And its name is ‘Let That Be Your Last Battlefield’. Yes, the original series’ iconic meditation on the superficiality of race hatred. You see, ‘Chosen Realm’ borrows a lot from that episode. A lot. To the point that it may as well be a twenty-first century remake of the former. This is most obvious in the ending, which is quite literally the same ending but there are other nods throughout. Among them, the fact that the Triannons have been at war for a century over so minor a doctrinal difference as nine days versus ten, and (more subtly) the fact that the two Triannon factions have contrasting facial tattoos – red markings on the right side of their face for D’Jamat’s people, black markings on the left for the “heretics.”
All of that is not to say that the episode is bad. Quite the contrary. In some respects it’s the episode ‘Battlefield’ should have been. It’s got a sense of tension throughout that its counterpart never quite managed. Beyond that, writer Manny Coto treats D’Jamat with a good deal more shading and nuance than either Bele or Lokai was afforded in the sixties iteration of the story. Some of that is down to the nature of the allegory. Racism is an inherently superficial thing, and there’s really not much more to the conflict between Bele and Lokai than the color of their skin. It doesn’t get any deeper than “He looks different,” and that’s really the whole point.
By contrast, religion – even an extremist, fanatical perversion of genuine faith – is an intrinsically meatier subject. It’s also interesting to see dissension in the ranks, in the form of Yarrick and Indava, though I would have preferred to see more done with that. Yes, they both ultimately turn on D’Jamat and aid our heroes, but it would have been nice to dig a little deeper into their issues with D’Jamat. All we really get from them is a vague sense of disillusionment and Indava’s remark about not wanting her child to fight “D’Jamat’s war.” Understandable, I suppose, but how did they get to this point? After all, much of the point of the episode is the rigidity of the Triannon faith (or at least of D’Jamat’s particular interpretation of it). It’s got to take more than a few months in space with your spiritual leader to break through that sort of mindset.
That’s it for this week. What did you think of ‘Chosen Realm’? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check back in two weeks for the next ‘Final Frontier Friday’!