the story: Archer finally talks with a Xindi involved in the construction of their doomsday weapon.
what it's all about: "The Shipment" marks a definite shift in the season, between episodes where the crew probed the Expanse looking for answers and finally where they chased after the Xindi themselves. As such, it's always been a favorite of mine, especially in how it features Archer in the unlikely predicament of having friendly relations with the first significant Xindi he meets.
But it's actually more significant, in hindsight, as the first real spotlight for Degra, the Xindi scientist tasked with designing the weapon that will obliterate Earth, the follow-up to the attack that set off the arc at the end of the second season ("The Expanse"). Degra would become crucial to the arc; although he made his debut in the season premiere ("The Xindi"), he remained a fairly anonymous figure along with the rest of the Xindi Council in their few appearances before "Shipment." He would eventually become Archer's most important ally. As such, "Shipment" amounts to a dry run of his whole arc.
Archer definitely took an emotional rollercoaster ride throughout the season, and sometimes he appeared to go off the rails. So this is an important moment for him, too, where he passes the Starfleet ideal with flying colors, which given everything else is an important moment to commemorate, to have at all, especially as it is the first time he's confronted with concrete experience with the Xindi.
franchise- Even in Deep Space Nine I always wonder if arc-specific moments translate well with casual viewers, regardless of how well they're executed.
- series - No such compunctions for Enterprise fans.
- character - Our first real look at Degra, who becomes crucial to the whole arc.
- essential - If you ever wanted a single moment in the arc where the good guys looked unabashedly like good guys, here's your chance.
Randy Oglesby (Degra)
Steven Culp (Hayes)