Zero Hour: B+ or 3 stars out of 4.
I found it to be a very solid episode and overall satisfying conclusion to the Xindi saga. It wasn't perfect but I think for the most part it captured the high stakes pretty well and answered all the questions that were raised along the way. Granted it held very few twists. The season pretty well set up the resolution with the Expanse having to cease to exist and Earth survive to preserve Trek history. Evenso the writers did a surprisingly decent job of imparting peril into it anyway.
I thought the teaser was interesting and made for a unique celebratory toast and added a little something however small to the Reptilians mindset. The VFX were fantastic. Both plots were equally thrilling cross-cutted between the efforts by T’Pol to destroy the sphere network and Archer confronting the Reptilians and boarding the weapon to destroy it. Something I thought was lacking from this season was character reactions to the circumstances they found themselves in so I welcomed the scene where T’Pol tells Trip that if Earth is destroyed then the only hope of saving the universe including Vulcan is to bring down the spheres. I think it works because it finally shows T’Pol realizing that all this interference from time travelers hints that Earth has a great destiny ahead and will play an important role in future events.
And speaking of future events—the scene where Daniels whisks Archer to the Federation ceremony in 2161 was a neat moment to show a glimpse at a historic moment where we learn the founders include Earth, Vulcan, Andor and Tellar. Although I must point out that Daniels’ cavalier attitude towards suggesting Archer sacrifice Sato or Reed came off not so well. I think this has to do with the difficulty the writers faced in keeping the focus on Archer instead of future time cops who would realistically be the ones sent in to take care of the weapon and eliminate the risk of Archer perishing since the whole attack stemmed from future interference.
I enjoyed seeing the Sphere Builders coming into the fray doing some dirty work themselves although I was hoping along the way they might be explored a bit more than they ultimately were. I would have liked to have learned a little bit more about them and was hoping there might have been a bit more to their invasion of our universe than simple domination. Perhaps their realm was becoming uninhabitable for some reason etc. Lots of little pieces come together--I liked how Phlox used the information he learned about them in Harbinger to suggest a way to fend them off to the MACOs. I also appreciated seeing the effects of the disturbance firsthand as the ship is immersed in the pinkish haze which also goes back to Harbinger and Azati Prime. There was a nice sense of tension present with the ticking clock.
The scene with the weapon dropping into range of Earth was chilling. I did wonder where, tiny as it may have been, Earth's forces were. I suppose one could argue that they had been erased from history but why was Yosemite still there and Archer certainly didn't act like the fleet's absence was strange.
Shran's cameo was okay but sort of came out of nowhere. As popular as he was with ENT fans I have to ask why they didn't have Silik and a few cell ships show up instead. It would have made more sense especially with the ending we got had they been sent by FG to shadow the NX in case they needed some help in stopping the Xindi.
The climax of both threads were pulse-pounding as the NX in a spectacular visual FX shot sees the sphere implode sending out waves to the other bringing down the network. Archer’s scenes on the weapon work well enough destroying the weapon. Although it could have been a bit more suspenseful. I did for some reason like the shot of Archer running as the weapon starts exploding with sparks going off around him as he takes off running down the catwalk and then of course the weapon exploding in a nice FX shot. And like the final arrival at Azati Prime or Archer entering the chamber in The Council, when the sphere network was finally destroyed and the Expanse ceased to exist it was another moment a whole season in the making that was thrilling & satisfying. I would have liked seeing Daniels appear one more time and show us a glimpse of what became of the Xindi in our familiar Star Trek timeline like the TNG era.
Other welcomed moments sprinkled in the hour—T’Pol/Phlox in sickbay, T’Pol/Trip in the situation room after the crisis had passed, Hoshi/Archer pep talk, T’Pol/Porthos, T’Pol/Xindi.
I loved how their homecoming was swiped from them. Everything has ended but the fallout is just beginning to set in. But B&B pulled the rewarding return home to Earth out from underneath the crew by jumping into yet another altered timeline. I liked it. I know some weren't too crazy about it but I’ve been a sucker for alternate reality stories and seeing Archer out of time was appealing. It would only make sense with a Temporal War raging there would be constant alterations in the timeline. Just because one campaign is over doesn't mean that others are. And I say if the writers are going to use a time war why not embrace it and go wild with it. So count me as one of the few who actually liked the Space Nazi cliffhanger. I see nothing fundamently bad about them. We only really had a fleeting glimpse of it and it could have potentially led to something fun. It served its purpose leaving me curious as to what was really going on.
And I have to say I loved the bizarre images of the shuttlepod being fired on by fighters and an unknown alien in a Nazi uniform—this image made me immediately think of Red Skull/Captain America/WW2 pulp comic book.
Overall, I thought this was the strongest ENT season and one of the most enjoyable since DS9. The only real problem was the fact the writers wanted this to last an entire season but clearly didn't have enough material to do so--so we were treated to far too many middling filler episodes to pad it out. I don't really think that needed to be the case. Afterall this was a perfect opportunity to bring in the Suliban, Future Guy, the Tholians and really explore and flesh out the TCW, the players we've encountered over the previous two seasons and their motives. The Tholians would have been perfect players to enter the Expanse given their previous history on TOS with odd spatial anomalies. Surely that could have replaced a few of those fillers.
The writers did a really good job with continuity dropping various elements like trellium into the episodes which at first blush seemed like throwaway stuff only to take on more significance as the season unfolded. Plot this season was priority and frankly I have no problem with that so long as I was entertained. The Xindi mythology was nicely developed providing some interesting players, political intrigue, some history. The spheres were a nice sci-fi device that injected some mystery regarding who built them and their purpose. I also liked how the spheres and the Xindi ultimately tied into one another with the revelation that the XFG=Sphere Builders.
And even though plot ruled the day the writers did manage to insert three pretty decent and compelling character arcs for the Big Three.
I'd give the entire season a B/B+.