(written from a Production point of view)
With help from some Xindi factions, the Enterprise crew attempts to stop the arming of the Xindi weapon.
Ensign Hoshi Sato awakes on the Xindi-Reptilian warship after having been beamed off the Enterprise NX-01 while it was engaging the Xindi-Reptilian and Xindi-Insectoid ships guarding the Xindi weapon. She realizes she is in the clutches of Commander Dolim, who compliments her linguistic abilities in translating the Xindi-Aquatic language. He wants her to translate the encoded Aquatic launch codes, having her forced into a chair for some procedure.
The shuttlepod with the away team returns to the Enterprise with data from the Delphic Expanse sphere and are met by Trip Tucker and Major Hayes. Sub-commander T'Pol immediately orders Tucker to incorporate the data into the ship and meet her in the command center. Ensign Travis Mayweather asks what happened in their absence, and the team learns the bad news. When the others leave the launch bay, Hayes learns from Lieutenant Malcolm Reed what happened to Corporal Hawkins. Reed agrees to make a full report for Hayes later.
On the planet, Captain Jonathan Archer meets with Jannar and the Xindi-Primate councilor, who inform him they are trying to locate the weapon. With three sets of codes needed for activation, and the Aquatics apparently not taking sides, the Reptilians and Insectoids are likely going to try bypassing the command sequences, which will take time. Archer now sees why they abducted Sato.
While T'Pol and Tucker work on the sphere data, T'Pol needs to remind Tucker to focus on the task at hand, rather than letting Sato's fate be a distraction. Archer arrives, and the two report that they believe four of the spheres are control spheres for a common energy grid to all spheres. It's so far unclear if they are a single point of failure, which, if so, they can disrupt the entire grid with a single strike.
Dolim has Sato injected with neural parasites to ensure her cooperation, while "thanking" her for it. Meanwhile, Archer, Jannar, and the Primate councilor have located the weapon, but also find more ships have joined them and, despite equal numbers, they are armed better than their force, so they are no match. Archer proposes to convince Kiaphet Amman'sor that the Aquatics should help. They agree to meet and, after a bit of waiting on their ship, Amman'sor and her assistant councilor arrive to hear Archer. He asks them to intervene, as his officer was abducted to help translate their launch code. The Primate councilor reinforces that they could succeed. Amman'sor responds that they will not act rashly just because the Reptilians decide to, but Archer points out the decision will be made for them. He asks if the Guardians have told them where their new homeworld, the one supposedly destined to be destroyed by Humanity, will be: if it is in the Delphic Expanse, the spheres will eventually make it a trans-dimensional wasteland, uninhabitable for anyone. The Aquatics end the conversation and begin to leave, but Archer makes a final plea, revealing that he knows of a way to disable the spheres, something he points out that the Guardians have never attempted to do. This stops the Aquatics from leaving.
Sato, working under the influence of the parasites in the core of the weapon, is supervised. Dolim arrives for a progress report, and the guard says she's been working toward her goal. Dolim takes her head and asks to confirm if she understands what she is to do. She replies that she understands, but Dolim doesn't believe her. When he orders her prepared for another injection, she runs and tries to jump over the railing in order to sacrifice herself, but she is caught by a Reptilian. As she's taken away, the guard sits down and realizes she hasn't actually made progress, rather, she's added another layer of encryption. After the injection, Sato succumbs to the influence of the parasites and eventually unlocks the third code, giving the Reptilians full access to the weapon.
With Archer's promise to disable the spheres, the pressure is on Tucker and T'Pol. It's taken its toll, though, as Tucker dismisses each of T'Pol's suggestions, as they present too much risk to the ship. T'Pol, uncharacteristically, exhibits frustration and takes it out on him. He confronts her about it and decides to leave to engineering to work, but T'Pol stops him, admitting she's been emotional and has had difficulty keeping a lid on it on her own. Tucker understands and promises to be there to talk to her when it's all over.
The female Sphere-Builder contacts Dolim on his ship, and is happy to hear they have the weapon, but disappointed to hear the difficulties in activating it. Dolim subtly confronts her by asking if she could get the activation codes herself, due to her apparent ability to look back in time. She says it's impossible, as they only see large changes in the timeline. Dolim is skeptical of her abilities, but relents when she is emphatic about hurrying up, as many timelines favor the other Xindi species and Humans.
T'Pol and Tucker inform Archer on their initial plan to use the deflector dish to disrupt part of the control sphere, but they don't have the details worked out. Archer leaves them to it, and invites the Primate councilor on board. He relates that the Aquatics' excessive deliberateness usually kept the Council together, and is part of the reason why Degra had them build the weapon. Archer brings up the topic of a future weapon, even in their current success, but the councilor promises that there's a future where they cooperate together. Soon, Archer learns the Aquatics have sent six ships, to the Primate councilor's pleasant surprise, remarking on the relative speediness of their response. Amman'sor hails them, promising help in exchange for Archer's.
The crew continues in high gear to prepare for the assault en route. Hayes prepares a rescue mission for Sato in the armory when Reed arrives to give his report on Hawkins' death. During the discussion, Reed asks if they have a problem, as Hayes seems to dismiss him. Hayes admits he doesn't like putting his people in someone else's command, but Reed insists he felt his responsibility for Hawkins. Hayes also notes they no longer feel like outsiders on the ship, and this puts the two in agreement. At dinner, T'Pol, Tucker and Archer talk about what they'll do after the mission is over. Archer wants to get back to their mission while T'Pol, surprisingly, considers formalizing her service with Starfleet. Tucker chuckles and wants to be there to see Soval's expression at seeing her in a Starfleet uniform as Archer is informed they've arrived at the coordinates of the weapon and its force.
As the weapon begins to arm, Dolim is informed of a massive fleet consisting of Enterprise, the Aquatics, Arboreals, and Primates that has arrived to intercept them. Dolim orders Kolo to stay there while sending a patrol to engage them. When the Aquatic ship releases the Enterprise, Dolim orders them to target it, but the Aquatics protect it. Reed happily targets the weapon's primary generators, getting several shots off. Soon, T'Pol finds Sato on one of the Reptilian ships and Archer orders Hayes' team to be beamed there. They arrive and, with Kelly, Money, and Richards, Hayes leads the way with a scanner to pinpoint Sato's location. They quietly stun one Reptilian and blow open the door to Sato's cell. Sato is unconscious, and they can't get a hold of Enterprise, so Hayes carries her back to the beam-in point.
The Sphere-Builders, meanwhile, see that the weapon is about to be destroyed and decide to act: they instruct at least one sphere to emit intense bursts of gravimetric energy, causing massive spatial anomalies to form near the weapon, forming a barrier and destroying several Aquatic and Arboreal ships. Enterprise, inside the barrier, gets a little leeway but the ship is rocked, disabling the transporter. Possibly alerted when the cell was blown, Hayes' team is discovered en route but forced to hold their ground in a hallway as Tucker works on it. He gets it back up soon, but can only transport two at a time before resetting the pattern buffer. Hayes has Sato and the others transported back first, Money getting hit in the shoulder, but while he's being beamed out, he is shot through the torso. He painfully collapses on the transporter pad and Tucker rushes over to him.
The arming sequence soon completes, forcing Archer to order the ship closer, despite the anomalies. However, it departs into a subspace vortex with one Reptilian and one Insectoid ship, heading for Earth.
Reed goes to see Hayes in sickbay to thank him for bringing Sato home. Hayes, seeing his eventual death, tells Reed to use McKenzie for the MACO team's lead. Reed doesn't want him to give up, but he then starts convulsing: despite Phlox's attempt to stablize his heart, he flatlines moments later.
Jannar and the Primate councilor inform Archer that the weapon will reach Earth in ten hours and they can't reach the weapon in time. The Aquatic ships have powerful weapons but are too slow, and conversely, though Degra's ship is the fastest it is not well-armed. Archer intends to use its speed to board the weapon and destroy it from the inside, but the councilors emphasize the Aquatics decided to help them on the condition of dealing with the spheres. Archer orders T'Pol to execute their plan with Enterprise to disable the control sphere while he and the MACOs go for the weapon.
Taking a moment to steel himself with the bad news, Reed enters the armory to meet with the MACOs on duty and regretfully informs them Hayes didn't survive, giving his condolences. He goes on to explain the situation with the weapon and the captain's intent to board and destroy it. The Reptilians will not make it easy, but that's why they're present as Hayes handpicked each of them for Enterprise's mission as he knew they "could get the job done." He then asks for three volunteers to join the captain: they all step forward. Giving a nod of approval, Reed picks Woods, Romero and Forbes. He orders them to assemble their gear and meet him at the starboard airlock in ten minutes.
Archer gets Sato's status. Phlox says she's stable but has undergone severe neural trauma. Archer needs her with him on Degra's ship for information, but Phlox points out the potential harm to her. Archer has no choice, and orders her there in 20 minutes and for him to teach Reed how to perform her next cortical treatment to be done in Degra's medical bay. Phlox protests that Reed is not a doctor and asks that he be allowed to go instead, but Archer gently points out that he's needed on Enterprise.
While in the vortex, the Insectoid captain contacts Dolim, angry as he realizes that the anomalies appearing just when they needed them was more than good luck, and starts to realize that Captain Archer may have been correct about the Guardians building the spheres. The Insectoid captain is startled when Dolim points out that it's good for him then that the Insectoids already provided their launch codes and cuts communication. Dolim has the Insectoid ship immediately fired upon; disabled, the ship falters, falls into the path of one of the weapon's relentlessly rotating arms and is destroyed.
As Reed makes his way to join the captain at the airlock, Tucker catches up to him with a request: bring him back a piece of the weapon as a souvenir, which Reed says would be a pleasure. The MACOs take Sato through the airlock on a stretcher. Confirming that Enterprise will rendezvous with them at prearranged coordinates afterwards, Archer boards Degra's ship last as T'Pol and Tucker look on, wishing him good luck.
"She's surprisingly strong-willed… for a primate."
"We'll see how defiant she is after our surgeons have finished with her. We'll have the launch codes soon enough."
- - The Xindi-Reptilian lieutenant and Commander Dolim
"Before your primate brain is too badly damaged to understand, I want to thank you for helping us destroy your world."
- - Dolim, to Hoshi Sato just before she spits in his face
"Have these Guardians told you where you'll establish your new home world? The one Humans are destined to destroy? Is it here, in the Expanse? In case you haven't noticed, the Spheres are turning it into a trans-dimensional wasteland. None of you will be able to survive. You say the Guardians have helped you. Have they ever tried to disable the Spheres? Because we've found a way. Help me save my people, and I can help you save yours."
- - Captain Archer, to the Xindi-Aquatic Councilors
"When this is all over, if you want to talk… I'm all ears."
- - Tucker, to T'Pol
"Commander, I can't access the arming matrix. She's added a layer of encryption!"
- - The Xindi-Reptilian Lieutenant, to Dolim
"You've seen more than enough detail to learn how to meddle in our affairs – to turn the Xindi species against each other."
"Everything we've done has been to protect the Xindi."
"Then finish what you've started, if… it's within your power."
- - Dolim and the Sphere-Builder Woman
"I knew Degra for many years. He could be difficult… uncompromising. We argued often, for instance, when he insisted that we meet with you. But when Degra spoke, only a fool would ignore him. He believed that there was a future between your people and ours. When this is over, I intend to see if he was right."
- - The Xindi-Primate Councilor, to Captain Archer
"When we first came aboard Enterprise, we definitely felt like outsiders."
"If I contributed to that, I apologize."
"My point is, none of us feel that way anymore. We're all part of the same crew, no matter which uniform we wear. Don't worry about Ensign Sato, we'll bring her home."
- - Major Hayes and Malcolm Reed
"I've considered formalizing my service with Starfleet."
"I may be able to pull some strings… get you out of basic training."
"Can you imagine the look on Soval's face when he sees her in a Starfleet uniform? Please, let me be there!"
"I said I was considering it."
- - T'Pol, Archer, and Tucker, discussing T'Pol's plans once their mission has been completed
"The Guardians will not let us fail."
- - Commander Dolim
"I told him I was ready for duty."
"I'm afraid he's a bit of a mother hen."
"Heh. How's Ensign Sato?"
"Her bio-signs are stable."
"Thank you. For bringing her home."
"All in a day's work."
- - Malcolm, a dying Major Hayes, and Phlox
"We've got less than ten hours before this weapon reaches Earth. The captain wants to take a team aboard to destroy it. I don't imagine the Reptilians will make this easy for us, but that's why you're here. That's why Major Hayes picked each one of you for this mission: because he knew you'd get the job done. I need three volunteers."
- - Reed, to the assembled MACOs, after which all of them step forward
"The anomalies worked to our advantage."
"We were fortunate."
"It was more than good fortune. The Human claims the Guardians control the Spheres."
"He also started a civil war between our species."
"He didn't kill Degra, you did!"
"Degra was a traitor."
"I'm no longer certain of that."
"Then it's a good thing we already have your launch codes."
- - The Xindi-Insectoid Councilor and Dolim
"Bring me back a piece of that weapon - a souvenir."
- - Tucker and Reed
"Open the vortex… Set a course for Earth!"
- - Commander Dolim
"I expect you to keep him in line."
"I'll do my best."
- - Archer and T'Pol, referring to Commander Tucker (last line of the episode)
- This episode marks the deaths of Major Hayes (Steven Culp) and the Xindi-Insectoid councilor.
- The parasites used on Hoshi were similar in effect to the Ceti eels put into Chekov's ear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which also made their victims more compliant.
- T'Pol calls Charles Tucker III "Trip" for the first time in the series in this episode.
- The subspace vortex effect is a recycle of the Borg transwarp hub effect from VOY: "Endgame" (which, in turn, was a reuse of the quantum slipstream effect from VOY: "Hope and Fear" and "Timeless").
- This is the final episode of the series that was directed by Robert Duncan McNeill.
- The reactor aboard the Xindi weapon is a combination of two props seen previously in the series: the core formerly used as the Romulan mine from "Minefield", and the outer rings formerly used in the ship's gymnasium in "Vanishing Point". ("Countdown" text commentary)
- This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series, beating out the episode "The Council".
- Soval seeing T'Pol in a Starfleet uniform, when it eventually occurred in "The Forge", was not the shocking event Archer and Trip hoped for, as it would come when during a solemn meeting aboard Enterprise in the wake of the bombing of the United Earth Embassy on Vulcan – and the second time was as the ambassador, not believing a word of his government's "official" account of the tragedy, was clandestinely aiding the Starfleet crew in their own investigation, one he himself advised Archer to conduct.
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
- Scott MacDonald as Dolim
- Rick Worthy as Jannar
- Tucker Smallwood as a Xindi-Primate Councilor
- Josette Di Carlo as a Sphere-Builder Woman
- Bruce Thomas as a Xindi-Reptilian Soldier
- Andrew Borba as a Xindi-Reptilian Lieutenant
- Mary Mara as a Sphere-Builder Presage
- Ruth Williamson as a Sphere-Builder Primary
- Joey Anaya as Xindi Reptilian
- Jorge Benevides as R. Azar
- Solomon Burke, Jr. as Billy
- Jacob Chambers
- Jason Collins as R. Ryan
- Daphney Dameraux as operations division ensign
- Kevin Derr as Kelly
- Yuri Elvin as M. Romero
- Ian Eyre
- Ricky Lomax as W. Woods
- Andrew MacBeth as E. Hamboyan
- Dorenda Moore as S. Money
- Michael J. O'Laskey as M. Forbes
- Lidia Sabljic as command division crewman
- Paul Sklar as R. Richards
- Ator Tamras as A. Tamras
- Unknown actor as C. Black
- Kiaphet Amman'sor
- Xindi-Aquatic Councilor
- Xindi-Aquatic crewmember
- Xindi-Insectoid captain
- Xindi-Insectoid Councilor
602 Club; automated defense mechanism; avionics; basic training; bearing; boarding party; cardiostimulator; Chef; cipher; civil war; command center; cryptologist; defense mechanism; deflector array; deflector pulse; Degra; Degra's ship; dozen; Earth; EPS conduit; firing range; full report; Hawkins, F.; heart attack; impulse reactor; injection; interspatial manifold; Jaina; joule; Kemper, N.; Kolo; kilometer; lead ship; letter; linguistic abilities; logistics; McKenzie, J.; Naara; neocortex; osmotic eel; parasite; Piral; primary generator; primate; ration pack; Santa Claus; senior tactical officer; Shuttlepod 2; Soval; Sphere 41; Sphere, unnumbered; Sphere-Builder; spitting; squadron; Starfleet, Earth; Starfleet Quartermaster; steak; stun baton; stun grenade; subspace energy; subspace vortex; surgeon; synaptic pathway; tactical alert; tactical officer; Temporal Cold War; thermal chamber; timescape; traitor; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan High Command; Xindi; Xindi-Arboreal; Xindi-Aquatic; Xindi-Aquatic cruiser; Xindi-Aquatic language; Xindi-Aquatic scout ship; Xindi-Arboreal starship; Xindi-Insectoid starship; Xindi mission; Xindi neural parasite; Xindi-Primate starship; Xindi-Reptilian warship; Xindi weapon
- "Countdown" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Countdown" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Countdown" at Wikipedia
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