- For the military term, see proving ground.
An Andorian ship commanded by Shran unexpectedly appears in the Expanse to help the Enterprise locate the Xindi superweapon.
As Enterprise is hot on the trail of the Xindi superweapon (thanks to Gralik's sabotage), the ship must traverse an exceptionally intense anomaly field. When the anomalies become too erratic, the ship is nearly destroyed; at the last moment, an unidentified ship locks on with a tractor beam and pulls Enterprise to safety. When Captain Archer contacts the ship to express his gratitude, he is flabbergasted and speechless to see Commander Shran looking back at him on the viewscreen.
Shran comes aboard the ship and explains that he brought his ship, the Kumari into the Delphic Expanse to help stop the Xindi from destroying Earth. Shran phrases his speech so that it seems that the Andorians are using the occasion to show moral superiority to the Vulcans, who have not assisted their allies on Earth despite possessing the resources to do so. After a moment of hesitation, Archer accepts Shran's offer of assistance. Andorian engineers and maintenance crews come aboard (despite objections from Reed and T'Pol) and Shran himself brings Archer some Andorian ale and alludes to future cooperation between Humans and Andorians. Shran's tactical officer, Lt. Talas, is visibly annoyed by her assignment to help Lt. Reed repair the weapons systems. Trip later convinces Shran to share an advanced antimatter injector.
Meanwhile, Degra contacts the Xindi Council and informs them that while the superweapon is not ready, he is testing the second prototype in the Calindra System and will broadcast the test back to the Council.
Enterprise and Kumari arrive just outside the Calindra System and the Andorians are able to obtain limited sensor data. During a brainstorming session, it is decided that since the Andorians are unknown to the Xindi, the Kumari will fly into the system and take scans during the test, then fly back out. Archer and T'Pol join Shran on the bridge of his ship for this venture, which leads to a humorous moment when Shran claims he is with the "Andorian Mining Consortium" and searching for a valuable mineral called "Archerite." Degra is not amused and orders the Kumari to stop scanning the weapon and leave the system or else be fired upon.
With detailed scans in hand, the Kumari returns to Enterprise and the crew focuses on repairs to the ship. T'Pol deduces that this weapon is not large enough to destroy an entire planet, and Archer concludes that this is a proving ground, not unlike Bikini Atoll.
The crew of the Enterprise is able to watch the Xindi test via a relay from the Kumari's more advanced sensors. They are horrified to see a moon split in half by the weapon; however, it is later found that this was a failure. The Xindi council is furious with Degra for this setback, but Archer is gratified that Gralik had kept his promise to sabotage their weapon.
Back on Enterprise, Archer muses aloud that he wishes they could capture this prototype and study it, but T'Pol does not believe the weapon can be brought aboard due to the lethal radiation it is emitting. At this point, Shran offers to steal the weapon and store it in the Kumari's (better shielded) cargo bay until it is safe to transfer it to Enterprise. Archer is immediately suspicious of Shran's motivations for this uncharacteristically altruistic offer, which leads to a confrontation. Archer accepts Shran's offer, but only on the condition that he be allowed to command the Kumari during the retrieval. Shran grudgingly agrees.
Talas and Reed have come to an understanding and are working together quite nicely, even getting phase cannon efficiency up to 94%. Reed mentions that Talas' talents would be appreciated in Starfleet, and Talas retorts that Reed should consider joining the Imperial Guard if he ever tires of exploring.
Shran has an ominous conversation with an Andorian General, where he questions his mission and asks if it is worth making enemies of the humans. Meanwhile, Reed catches Talas working on the sensor array without reason, but pretends to believe her flimsy excuse.
Enterprise enters the system first, and Degra orders all the defending ships to attack; while those ships are distracted, Kumari enters the system from the opposite side and tractors the prototype into its cargo bay. Before Degra realizes that the Andorians are assisting the Humans, the weapon has been captured and both ships exit the system, without any damage.
After the surprisingly successful raid, Archer orders the Kumari to rendezvous with Enterprise. At this point the Andorians end their charade of cooperation and reveal that their real intention was to steal the Xindi weapon for themselves.
Archer is angry, but Shran tries to defend his actions. First, Shran emphasizes that his loyalty is with the Imperial Guard, and not with the "pinkskins." Shran reveals that the Imperial Guard wants to keep the Xindi weapon for themselves, as a weapon to potentially be used against the Vulcans. Archer states that Enterprise will fight for the weapon, but Shran counters that Talas had secretly sabotaged their sensor array and that Enterprise would not be able to find them. Furious that the Andorians would endanger Earth over a border dispute with the Vulcans, Archer punches Shran in the jaw, drawing blue blood from his lip. Shran orders Archer dropped off in an escape pod and tells Enterprise where to find him. The Andorians begin making detailed scans of the weapon. When Shran informs his superiors of the mission's success, he is visibly upset.
When Enterprise arrives to pick up Archer, it is revealed that Lt. Reed had been closely watching Talas and her sabotage attempt was unsuccessful. Enterprise catches up with Kumari at an anomaly field, and Archer reveals that T'Pol had decrypted the weapon's arming protocols; Archer threatens to detonate the weapon while it is in Shran's cargo bay, but Shran believes he is bluffing. Shran asks Archer why he would do this, and Archer counters that he can not take the risk that the Andorians would use the weapon against the Vulcans. Shran questions Archer's loyalty to the Vulcans, and Archer senses that there is no compromise to be had. With no other options, Archer orders the weapon armed, and it begins to overload while still on board. Shran orders the weapon jettisoned, and it explodes in space. Enterprise is far enough away to avoid damage, but Kumari is heavily damaged. Archer offers help, but Shran graciously refuses. When the ships part ways, the Andorian vessel is limping away on auxiliary power.
Just before it leaves sensor range, someone aboard Kumari sends a covert transmission to Enterprise, consisting of the detailed scans of the Xindi weapon. Archer orders the scans sent to Starfleet, and offers to share some Andorian ale with Trip and T'Pol.
"Captain Archer. Look at the trouble you've gotten your pink skin into this time!"
- - Commander Shran, to Archer, after rescuing Enterprise from certain doom inside of an expanding anomaly
"Your world is in jeopardy, and where are your friends, the Vulcans? Where is their mighty fleet? They couldn't even spare one officer! She was forced to abandon her career to remain on your ship – a remarkably selfless act... for a Vulcan. But we've come to your aid. We've come into the Expanse when they refused. We're here to help you."
- - Shran, to Archer and T'Pol, in response to the captain's query about his intentions
"Well, I'll let you two get acquainted."
- - Trip, to Reed and Talas, after witnessing their first meeting
"So... how did you get picked for this assignment?"
"I volunteered. It made sense. I've had the greatest amount of contact with pink... with Humans, and the last time we met you helped my people avert a war. I don't like unpaid debts."
"We keep doing each other favors."
"Isn't that how alliances are born?"
- - Archer and Shran
"How long until we have warp?"
"I would say at least two days, but, uh, the blue guys really know their stuff!"
- - T'Pol and Trip
"Is there anything else I can get you... some coffee, perhaps?"
"Oh, that'll be lovely!"
- - Talas and Reed
"The last time I saw weapons like these was during my early tactical training."
"I'm sorry I wasted your time on our primitive systems."
"Not at all... I found it nostalgic."
- - Talas and Reed
"Lieutenant Talas... I apologize if I've been rude. Why don't I get us both a cup of coffee and we can align these relays... together"
- - Reed, to Talas
"The Andorian Mining Consortium runs from no one."
- - Shran, sarcastically
"You don't trust me."
"No offense, but when it comes to our weapons frequencies, I wouldn't trust my own mother."
"Is your mother considered a security risk?"
"That's just an expression."
"An odd one... my mother's security clearance is higher than mine!"
- - Talas and Reed
"I'd take this ship into combat myself."
"Even with our primitive weapons?"
"It's not the weapon, it's the soldier who wields it."
- - Talas and Reed
"This was a failure?!"
"A spectacular one - but, yes."
- - Shran and T'Pol, watching the unsuccessful test of the weapon
"Gralik...looks like he kept his word."
- - Archer, knowing why the test failed
"For 200 years, all that's kept them from invading Andoria is the threat of massive retaliation. With a weapon of this magnitude at our disposal, they wouldn't dare attack us."
"You're putting Earth at risk because of a border dispute with the Vulcans?!"
"We disrupted the Xindi test, took their weapon. We may have helped save your world!"
"I guess I'm not familiar with the Andorian concept of help!"
- - Shran and Archer
"You like to talk about repaying debts. I've owed you that for a long time."
- - Captain Archer, after sucker punching Shran in the jaw
"Open a channel to Shran. Ask him if he requires our assistance."
- - Archer, to Hoshi
- This episode featured not only the first good look at the interior of an Andorian ship but also provided the first glimpse of Andoria, albeit briefly on a monitor.
- A costume worn by an Andorian officer on the Kumari was auctioned off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction. 
- The part of the Andorian general was originally played by actor Ted Sutton. Sutton was unable to do the re-shoots and the part went to actor Granville Van Dusen. 
- Despite the destruction of the prototype well before the Andorians could make any use of it, the Vulcan High Command was told that Shran had been successful and that the Imperial Guard was, in fact, studying it for their own purposes, and a year later would use their supposed possession of the weapon in order to launch a "preemptive" invasion.
- The kemocite with the modified radiolytic signature in it from "The Shipment" is finally detected and tracked down in this episode, six months after its inception.
- Commander Shran makes reference to Archer's love of Andorian ale, previously seen in season two's "Cease Fire".
Links and references
- Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer
- John Billingsley as Phlox
- Jolene Blalock as T'Pol
- Dominic Keating as Malcolm Reed
- Anthony Montgomery as Travis Mayweather
- Linda Park as Hoshi Sato
- Connor Trinneer as Charles "Trip" Tucker III
- Molly Brink as Talas
- Randy Oglesby as Degra
- Scott MacDonald as Dolim
- Tucker Smallwood as Xindi-Primate councilor
- Rick Worthy as Jannar
- Granville Van Dusen as Andorian General
- Jeffrey Combs as Shran
- Mark Correy as Alex
- Hilde Garcia as Crewman Rossi
- Doug Mirabello as an Andorian officer
- David Venafro as an Andorian officer
Andoria; Andorians; Andorian ale; Andorian Imperial Guard; Andorian Mining Consortium; Andorian battle cruiser; Andorian escape pod; Andorian shuttle; antimatter injector; Archerite; bathroom; Bikini Atoll; caffeine; Calindra System; cargo bay; coffee; crumpet; cycle; Degra's shuttle; General; Durr, Gralik; G-type star; EPS synchronizer; first contact; force field; infantry; isotopic signature; kemocite; Kumari; Lieutenant; memory core; microspanner; nuclear weapon; omni-directional sensors; phase coupler; phase regulator; photonic torpedo; pinkskin; potato chip; prototype; Reed, Stuart; Royal Navy; security clearance; Starfleet Command; tea; Thy'lek Shran's brother; tractor beam; Tucker, Elizabeth; variable compression nozzle; Vulcans; Vulcan High Command; Xindi; Xindi-Arboreal; Xindi-Aquatic; Xindi-Insectoid; Xindi-Primate; Xindi-Reptilian; Xindi-Reptilian warship; Xindi Council
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