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Zero Hour

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 27, 2004 - 2:25 AM GMT

See Also: 'Zero Hour' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: As the Xindi weapon heads toward Earth, Archer asks a weakened Sato to decrypt Degra's schematics to force the weapon to self-destruct. Yet after telling Reed of his plan to board and disable the weapon, he suddenly finds himself seven years in the future with Daniels, witnessing himself giving a speech at the founding of the United Federation of Planets. Daniels tells Archer that it is too great a risk for him to be part of the weapon boarding party, but Archer insists that his place in history is saving Earth. His resolve only increases when he and the Xindi on Degra's ship witness the Reptilian destruction of one of Earth's orbital stations.

Meanwhile, T'Pol and Tucker prepare to take Enterprise to disable Sphere 41, though the Guardians have surrounded it with powerful anomalies that Phlox says will kill the entire crew in less then 15 minutes as they approach. While the crew's skin begins to decay from the anomalies, the ship successfully approaches the sphere and uses the deflector dish to emit a pulse intended to disrupt the sphere's systems. Several Guardians appear on Enterprise, attack the crew and attempt to sabotage engineering, but Tucker is able to compensate from the bridge and the Guardians disappear from the ship - and from the Expanse - as Sphere 41 implodes, destroying both the sphere network and the anomalies transforming the Expanse.

The Reptilians attack Degra's ship as it attempts to put Archer's team on the weapon. Unexpectedly, Shran arrives on an Andorian vessel and defends the friendly Xindi, then destroys the Reptilian ship, though not before its commander has followed the humans aboard the weapon. With Reed and the MACOs to defend him, Archer follows Sato's directions to invert the weapon's firing platform and sends the crew back to safety on Degra's ship. The Reptilian commander attacks him before he has finished destroying the reactor; Archer kills the Reptilian with a charge he detonates remotely, but Degra's ship cannot get a transporter lock on him. The weapon explodes in space, leaving Earth safe.

The surviving Xindi rendezvous with Enterprise, where Reed unhappily tells Tucker that Archer did not survive the destruction of the weapon. While the Aquatic ship transports the damaged Enterprise back to Earth, T'Pol thanks the Xindi for their help and says that she is pleased to hear the Xindi Council plans to reconvene, though the Reptilians have not yet accepted that the Guardians' promises were empty. "Your captain's sacrifice will not be forgotten," one of the Humanoids promises her. Back on Enterprise, Phlox assures her that her skin will recover from the ravages of the anomalies in time, and Porthos, too, will recover in time from the loss of the captain.

Approaching Earth, Sato cannot hail Starfleet, nor any of the orbital platforms, nor the lunar base. When T'Pol sends Mayweather and Tucker in a shuttlepod to San Francisco to find out what has happened, their vessel is shot at by World War II airplanes. On the surface, in a hospital displaying a Nazi flag, a German-speaking doctor shows a burned, unconscious Archer to a Nazi officer. No one can identify his uniform. An alien wearing a Nazi uniform steps forward to examine him.

Analysis: If there were any doubts about the worthiness of Enterprise to bear the name Star Trek, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga put them to rest with "Zero Hour", which lands the prequel firmly in classic Trek tradition. I don't mean because we get a glimpse of the founding of the Federation, a battle on a spherical weapon with more than a passing resemblance to a Borg sphere, a bunch of talk about timelines and the coming together of former enemies under the banner of peace. No, I'm talking about EVIL ALIEN NAZIS!

You must forgive me for giggling when, after a near-perfect 50 minutes of television science fiction in which the Xindi arc was wrapped up stylishly in a very First Contact-like manner, the episode ends with the cheesiest of cliffhangers, throwing us back into "Patterns of Force" territory. What in hell are EVIL ALIEN NAZIS doing with U.S. warplanes? What year is it supposed to be on Earth? Did the Aquatics trick us? Was the entire Xindi arc a ruse to distract the crew from the real threat, in the form of the Suliban and time-tampering and a World War II which ended the wrong way? These questions won't be answered until the fall, by which time hopefully I will be able to address them with a straight face.

I mean...this show has been so serious all season. End-of-the-world scenarios, grave moral choices, seeking hope for peace and exploration in a universe filled with distrust and fear, that sort of thing...darker than Deep Space Nine, which was too dark to be considered Star Trek by some fans. And where does it all end up? The captain makes the big sacrifice, the ship takes the great risk, the interdimensional aliens are vanquished, the lethal aliens become allies, the future Federation members come through in a pinch...and there are EVIL ALIEN NAZIS! I'm sorry, I can't help it; I'm not ready to stop giggling.

Before this insane left hook of a cliffhanger, some nice things happen in "Zero Hour." T'Pol tells Trip how old she is - 66, same as the year the original series went on the air - and admits that it is an intimate act for a Vulcan to confess her age. Later she quotes Trip's concern for her to Phlox, saying that she guesses she's not so tough after all...and she pets poor Porthos, who is resting morosely in Sickbay, unaware, as the audience is, that of course Archer can't be dead because the show has been picked up for a fourth season. Malcolm has some nice moments doing he-man stuff aboard the Xindi weapon while his redshirts fall over railings into a bottomless pit ("No, Luke, I am your father!"), and Hoshi gets to have the tearful breakdown she was denied last week, predictably blaming herself for decrypting the Xindi launch codes and wishing she'd done a better job of killing herself.

But suicide is Archer's job, as he earnestly informs Daniels and then Reed, refusing to allow his tactical officer to peform a task for which he's probably better qualified than the captain and certainly more expendable. That's fine - Janeway would have done the same, and did, in "The Killing Game", which also had EVIL ALIEN NAZIS...oops. I know that this does not sound like a very serious review. Maybe I'm just dizzy from all the cross-cutting, jumping from the weapon to Degra's ship to Enterprise to the sphere-builders' realm to the Reptilian ship to Shran's ship to the Sol system. Maybe I'm giddy to have seen Phlox on the bridge offering critical command advice, which was great, and then to have seen him back in Sickbay providing the comic relief as well in the form of dictating his will and placating his plants. Or maybe I'm in shock, so great is my relief and surprise that the Xindi weapon has not destroyed Earth. I can't help wondering: if the show had been cancelled, making a cliffhanger unlikely, would the episode have ended with the universe as we know it exploding in a ball of fire?

If the idea is to shake the show up, this cliffhanger is sheer brilliance. No one could have seen it coming in a million years, no matter which timeline you were in! And now we're going to have to have an arc in the fall explaining how the timeline got changed, whether it was related to the Xindi threat and the Guardians or completely incidental, whether this all ties back in with Silik and Future Guy, or if maybe Captain Kirk saved Edith Keeler and Archer's going to have to find the Guardian of Forever and go back in time and phaser them both before her peace movement lets Hitler take over the world...fine, I guess someone's going to have to phaser me before I manage to get serious. EVIL ALIEN NAZIS!

I shall write an essay wrapping up Enterprise's deeply enjoyable third season in a few days, after I have time to assimilate it all. For now, however, I just want to address Jonathan Archer with a quote by Agent Scully from "Triangle", the X-Files episode with the evil time-traveling Nazis and the submarine and all the kissing: "Now I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to keep saying, 'There's no place like home.'"

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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