Well, that space station sure looked familiar didn't it? (It's the Midas array from Voyager.)
We also get one of the most long-standing questions in all of Star Trek answered - the founding members of the Federation are Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites. The signing of the Federation charter was held on Earth, and the episode confirms that it happened in 2161.
This episode is a nominee for the DITL "Best of Trek" award.
Back on Enterprise, T'Pol takes the ship to Sphere 41 in order to fulfil Archer's promise to the Aquatics that he will destroy the spheres and so bring an end to the anomalies in the Expanse once and for all. Unfortunately, the Sphere Builders have created a huge super-anomaly around the sphere; Phlox manages to come up with a treatment which will allow the crew to survive inside for ten or fifteen minutes, but this is leaving them very little margin for error. With no other choice, the ship proceeds into the anomaly.
Degra's ship arrives as the weapon heads into firing range of Earth. Dolim has taken a little time out to go blow up a space station full of innocent scientists; they use the distraction to get closer, but Dolim returns. Luckily Shran arrives to lend a hand, and his interference gives Archer a chance to transport his team aboard the weapon. They begin eliminating the Reptilian crew and rigging it for self destruct while Shran and Dolim exchange fire.
The Sphere Builders, meanwhile, are getting a little worried. Their scans of the future timelines indicate that they have less and less chance of success as events unfold. They decide to take direct action; conditions inside the anomaly are sufficient to allow them to survive on board Enterprise, so several of the builders board the ship and begin to interfere with the equipment, draining power from the weapon Trip has rigged to destroy the sphere. Anybody who gets in the way is hit with a huge energy bolt the builders can throw, whilst the crew's own weapons just pass through the aliens harmlessly. The ship is almost out of time and things are looking grim.
Back on the weapon, Archer rigs the power systems according to Hoshi's instructions whilst the firefight goes on around them. Hoshi takes a couple of near misses, but holds it together and does her part. Several MACOs are lost, but finally all the Reptilians are killed. Archer sends Reed and Hoshi back to Degra's ship, staying behind to complete the process of rigging the weapon.
Unfortunately, Dolim beams aboard the weapon. Whilst a triumphant Shran finishes off Dolim's ship, it's time for some mano-a-repto action. Dolim effortlessly pummels Archer as the weapon begins to fall apart around them, but Archer proves too smart for the Xindi and managed to plant an explosive charge under his armour. At the touch of a button Dolim becomes a large red smear on the walls, and Archer sprints for the beam-out point as the weapon explodes.
Back in the Expanse, Phlox comes up with a way to modify the weapons to affect the Sphere Builders and they are driven back. With their time all gone, Trip demands one last second for his weapon - and the gigantic sphere collapses in on itself. A massive bolt of energy leaps through space, obliterating the next sphere - and sending a new bolt on to the next, and so on. The super-anomaly vanishes, killing all the Sphere Builders on the ship instantly.
Degra's ship returns with news of a bittersweet victory. The weapon is gone forever and there's no way the Xindi will ever build another, but Archer failed to make the beam out point and is presumed lost. The saddened crew hitch a ride home in an Aquatic ship, and a shuttle heads down for Starfleet. Amazingly, they find themselves under attack by some World War II vintage fighters!
Meanwhile, half a world away, a badly injured Archer lies in a German army hospital whilst an alien in a Nazi uniform looms menacingly above him…
Zero Hour is, without question, the best "action" episode that Enterprise has ever done and one of the better ones that any Star Trek has ever done. Which is not to say that it's a perfect episode; there are way too many "happy accidents" for one thing. "We can't go into the anomaly!" - "well here's this medicine, we can now!" - "But ten minutes isn't enough..." - "okay, I'll change it to make it fifteen!" - "our weapons don't affect the sphere builders" - "well okay, just set them to this frequency!" - "We're no match for Dolim's ship" - "Here I come to save the DAAAAY! Shran and friends are on the WAAAAY!"
There's also the question or originality. Many have commented that there are more than a few parallels to Star Wars going on here, and I have to agree with that. But like I said in my "Vanishing Point" review, it's not so much an issue of whether you recycle but how well you do it. And whilst recycling from somebody else's franchise is rather more of a no-no than recycling from your own, as far as I'm concerned Zero Hour does indeed succeed in putting enough of a new and interesting spin on things that the similarities don't really jump out and smack you in the face.
In terms of how it engaged me, Zero Hour did better than any Enterprise episode ever. When Dolim turned up and started his big fight with Archer I was actually cheering. "This guy is so, so dead!" I shouted. It didn't matter that Dolim is six inches taller and five times stronger; he could have been fifty feet tall, you just know he's a dead man the second he takes Archer on.
And that is a measure of one of the best things about this last year of Enterprise. Many times before I've whined about Archer getting beaten up by every passing girl-scout that fancies a go. He was undoubtedly the weakest Star Trek captain ever - even the almost 70 year old Picard could take Klingons on in hand to hand combat and have a good chance of winning, but not so Archer. But season 3 saw a New and Improved Archer, and by the time Dolim took him on you could actually believe that Archer was going to find a way to win. And so he did, in a clever and amusing way (you aren't amused by seeing bad guys blown into little itty bitty bits? Well, I am!)
The battle with the Sphere Builders was a little less interesting; I have to say this wasn't staged all that well. In particular, once the Starfleet weapons were re-tuned, they didn't actually seem to do anything to the aliens; they just looked a little worried and slowly backed away whilst being shot, which looked odd and not especially effective. But the death of the spheres themselves were amazingly well done, and I loved it.
And now, here we go… the ending.
When we heard that Archer was dead, my first thought was that Daniels would have saved him and he would be returned, perhaps setting some temporal cold war arc into motion. By the ending, they really, really had me on the edge of believing that Archer was going to stay dead. And then... well to be honest I don't even want to write it, because "he wakes up in a Nazi hospital with an alien SS officer standing over him" is just such a stupid thing to write that I'm not sure I can make my fingers do it.
On one level, you can't fully judge this ending because we don't know where they are going with it. For all we know Daniels did save Archer, and this is the start of some new Temporal Cold War arc. Or maybe it's something completely different. Maybe it will turn out well, maybe not. Okay, probably not, but you've got to have a little faith.
However, it's a poor argument to say "hey, wait, you never know, this just possibly might not suck after all!" - the fact is that this ending, as things stand right now, does suck, and suck like a warp-driven vacuum cleaner. It's a measure of how much it sucked that after a bloody good, exciting hour of action, virtually all the discussion of the episode that I saw afterwards was centred purely on how awful the ending was. As far as I am concerned, "they woke up and found themselves facing alien Nazis" is about on a par with Vanishing Point's "and then she woke up on the transporter platform and it was all a dream".
And yet. It was only a few minutes of suckiness out of 45. Enterprise is a series where time travel and powerful people meddling with the past is a normal part of life. Within the parameters that the show has established, this twist is reasonable. So, weighing all that up, I deduct one shield from the episode for this bit of silliness. The report card reads "Good overall effort, but could do better. Four out of five."
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