the story: Archer learns more about the Suliban in a most unexpected manner.
what it's all about: "Detained" is the last great episode of the season, and it's notable for a number of reasons. The most superficial is still the most enjoyable: it's the reunion between Scott Bakula and his old Quantum Leap costar Dean Stockwell. In "Detained" they're enemies, not allies. The contrast actually helps strengthen the material, not only because it's unexpected but because they still maintain their chemistry, regardless of their relationship.
But there's more going on. As roughly sketched in the above summary, "Detained" is actually about the Suliban, Silik's species. As previously encountered, it's easy to assume that all Suliban are agents of the Temporal Cold War, but "Detained" makes it clear that they aren't. It's a sobering lesson. It's not without precedent in the franchise. Various Romulans have been depicted as sympathetic (the original series classic "Balance of Terror," Next Generation's "The Defector," Voyager's "Eye of the Needle"), and Deep Space Nine went out of its way to do the same with the Cardassians (most memorably in "Duet"). But this episode is still unique.
"Detained" explains that not all Suliban are engaged in the Temporal Cold War. It's a lesson that became relevant in the post-9/11 world, where terrorists were seen everywhere, and all Muslims were suspect. "Suliban" was deliberately fashioned after the Taliban, the corrupt ruling body in Afghanistan, after all. It's funny that the Temporal Cold War was clearly another echo of the '60s cold war era, and yet it also evoked very contemporary matters. In hindsight, just as we still live in a world of uncertainty, Afghanistan itself still at war, the idea of a Temporal Cold War, its agents spread out not just through space but time, it seems to have greater meaning now than it did when Enterprise was still producing new episodes. Fans thought poorly enough about the arc that it ended up being downplayed in later seasons, and outright abandoned at the start of the fourth season (Archer virtually speaking for the fans when he says he's sick of it), thus depriving it of reaching its full potential. "Detained" is an excellent example of what that might have looked like. At any rate, it remains one of the best episodes to come from it.
- franchise - Continues the rich tradition of socially relevant material.
- series - An unexpected entry in the Temporal Cold War arc.
- character - Archer plays well in this crisis.
- essential - In hindsight not just a good episode but an important one.