the story: Archer must resort to desperate measures.
what it's all about: "Damage" continues the momentum from "Aazati Prime" in both obvious and subtle ways. It directly follows the events of the previous episode in a serialized rather than two- or three-part episode fashion, something even Deep Space Nine shied away from during its heavily serialized six- and ten-episode arcs at the beginning of the sixth and end of seventh seasons. Once again, only the later Discovery features storytelling like this. But then it branches off into a more episodic development, even as it echoes material from the early-season "Anomaly" as Archer discovers he's going to have to make a tough choice about ethics if the crew will be able to continue its mission.
Specifically, he decides to raid another ship. This is a bold moment, both for him and the series. Repeatedly throughout the arc we've seen Archer pushed to his limits, but more often than not in metaphorical ways, such as when "Similitude" presents a Trip clone to demonstrate the importance of essential personnel to continue the mission. This time there's no mitigating factor involved. It is exactly what it is.
"Damage" also finally reveals a pair of secrets that've long been hinted: the Xindi Council is in contact with the Sphere Builders, and T'Pol has been compromised by a drug addiction. The Sphere Builders link at last puts aside any doubt about all the time the season has spent exploring the mystery of the spheres almost at the expense of the Xindi. T'Pol's addiction has been building since at least "Impulse," the "zombie Vulcan" episode where she first experiences the harmful effects of the Expanse on her people. It's affected her relationship with Trip and now her ability to perform rationally, even though it gives her the perfect excuse to be Archer's loudest critic. It's a perfect confluence of elements all the way around.
franchise- As with a lot of serialized material I wonder how accessible it is to casual viewers.
- series - Although its significance is surely evident to committed viewers.
- character - From Archer to T'Pol, there's some heavy-hitting material here.
- essential - Just with Archer alone it's must-see.
Randy Oglesby (Degra)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)