The Good: The acting is fine, Good special effects
The Bad: Surprisingly low tension, No real character development, Plot
The Basics: “Zero Hour” resolves the third season in the most obvious way . . . until it takes a pointless right turn that seems very forced.
The climax of the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise came exactly where the second season finale, “The Expanse” (reviewed here!), promised. As a result, the culmination of the entire season of television – albeit shortened by poor ratings and thus, fewer produced episodes – was something of an anticlimax. Given that Star Trek: Enterprise is a prequel, there was little in the way of surprises the show could do; as a result, the predictability of “Zero Hour” seems obvious and the major surprise of the episode is unfortunately contrived.
Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who wrote “Zero Hour,” built up to the episode and it follows directly on the heels of “Countdown” (reviewed here!). The problem with “Zero Hour,” outside the predictability, is that Braga and Berman seem to insist on creating an ending that leads into the fourth season in a way that takes an entirely different direction. Unfortunately, like the whole concept of an alien weapon that is being built to destroy Earth in a prequel, the resolution to the episode sets up another contrived plot that cannot possibly be sustained for an entire season. A time-travel or alternate universe scenario hardly seems as compelling as (I’m sure) Braga and Berman wanted.
While the Xindi Reptilians race toward Earth with the weapon, Archer, Sato, and the allied Xindi are in pursuit of them. Degra encrypted his schematics to the weapon and Archer applies pressure to Sato to break his code, but Sato’s guilt and inexperience leave her largely unable to focus and complete the decryption. Aboard the Enterprise, T’Pol and Tucker prepare to attack Sphere 41, which seems to be the key to knocking out the Sphere network that creates the Expanse. As Archer prepares to board the weapon, he is teleported to a point seven years in the future by Daniels, who tells him that the Captain is integral to the formation of the Federation.
With the distortions around Sphere 41 deeper than before (courtesy of the Sphere Builders panicking), the Enterprise has fifteen minutes inside the field to infiltrate and destroy the Sphere. Archer and Reed are actually excited when they detect that the weapon is now being escorted only by a single ship, Dolim’s. As Dolim attacks Earth’s largest space station, the crew aboard Enterprise begins to disintegrate from the spatial distortion. Disregarding Crewman Daniels’s warning, Archer stays aboard the weapon while Shran provides assistance to save Earth.
“Zero Hour” has a number of technical flaws in addition to its plot predictability and then abrupt plot turn. The Xindi have a technological level well beyond that of the StarFleet crew, which makes the fact that they need the help of the Enterprise to defeat the Xindi Reptilians and the Sphere Builders. While the trip to the future and even the return of the Andorian Shran, last seen in “Proving Ground” (reviewed here!), are unsurprising, the episode twists in its final moments, though it is hardly compelling. The idea that Archer is integral to the founding of the Federation is unsurprising; so when it appears he is lost, the viewer has to really stretch to believe that a Star Trek captain is being killed off.
There is a moment when it appears like “Zero Hour” might actually be clever or impressive on the character front and that is when the episode focuses on Hoshi Sato. Sato is misused yet again as a cryptographer; she is a linguist and has no real talent as a computer cryptographer. It seemed like Braga and Berman might have been clever enough to include the idea that Sato had been programmed by Dolim to stop Archer instead of leave her entirely able to recover from her torture in the prior episodes. Just as Sato easily overcomes her trauma, the character of Dolim is further diminished by the events of “Zero Hour.” Dolim hardly seems menacing or smart in “Zero Hour.”
As well, the Sphere Builders are diminished as well; they appear aboard the Enterprise in a disorganized and inefficient manner. With nine transdimensional beings aboard the Enterprise, there should have been no chance of the Enterprise succeeding. In fact, a minimal disruption in nine of the conduits from either the warp drive or deflector dish should have utterly destroyed the Enterprise; that the Sphere Builders utterly fail, despite suddenly manifesting energy weapons that blast from their hands and dematerializing transdimensional abilities that allow them to walk through walls and stick their hands into the power conduits.
While there are no bad performances in “Zero Hour,” there are no superlative acting moments either. Scott Bakula is downright dull as Archer; he presents Archer with no sense of consequence for his actions. The potential destruction of Earth is presented as blandly as possible by Bakula. Similarly, Sato is presented as entirely whiny – as opposed to traumatized – by Linda Park. Jeffrey Combs makes a powerful return to the program as Shran, which overshadows the emotional uncertainty Jolene Blalock plays as T’Pol. Most of the performances are pretty unimpressive, but the characters are not given much in the way to do to challenge the actors. Furthermore, the M.A.C.O.S. soldier who assists the assault on the Xindi weapon is not one of the ones who has been seen before, so his easily foreshadowed demise has absolutely no emotional impact.
Ultimately, “Zero Hour” finishes the arc of the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise in a thoroughly unremarkable way.
The three biggest gaffes in “Zero Hour:”
3. The Xindi use conduits that are far faster and more efficient than the StarFleet warp drive . . . so how did the Federation develop following “Zero Hour” to be the dominant power in the Quadrant?!,
2. The initial Federation seems larger than the Council seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (reviewed here!),
1. Tucker’s weapon against the Sphere is a deflector dish pulse; weaponizing the deflector dish did not happen until “The Best Of Both Worlds” (reviewed here!).
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the penultimate season here!
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© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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