the story: The Xindi conflict's resolution.
what it's all about: Well, this is it! And finally we see where Archer's bull-headed pursuit of victory has landed him, and that's almost more interesting to talk about than the episode itself.
But let's just acknowledge that seeing the crew defeat Dolim and the Sphere Builders is a terrific and thrilling reward, well worth investing in three episodes to see them beat the clock. Archer first demonstrates his apparent lack of perspective by pushing Hoshi, who's just survived slightly worse pressuring by the Xindi-Reptilians in "Countdown," to help him destroy the weapon. Then Daniels appears and at first it seems like a reversion to "Carpenter Street" making the Temporal Cold War arc look cheap, instead of "Azati Prime," which made it look strong. Fans who think it's a little on the nose for Archer to be outright crucial for the birth of the Federation might gag at this material, and again, it makes the Temporal Cold War look weak if all it ultimately accomplishes is produce Daniels to say how important Archer is, in this instance putting truth to the old adage show rather than tell. But by the end of the series Archer is once again being given credit for the Federation, and fans complain that we don't get to see his big speech in "These Are the Voyages..." So I wouldn't worry too much about whether or not fans are happy about Archer's status so much as quibbling about how it's presented.
But the real treat of "Zero Hour" is its twist ending. In a way, it redeems two other Temporal Cold War stories. One is from near the start of the series, "Shockwave," which concluded the first season and began the second. In hindsight "Zero Hour" links "Shockwave" with "Storm Front," the two-part story that opens the fourth season and concludes the Temporal Cold War arc. Daniels showing up to warn Archer in "Zero Hour" in effect translates "Storm Front" into a rephrasing of "Shockwave." "Shockwave" is about what happens if Archer is removed from history. He and Daniels discover a future that has been devastated. "Storm Front" suggests much the same, only instead of going with Archer and Daniels to the future, we go to the past, WWII. Our last glimpse of Archer in "Zero Hour" is with Nazis staring down at him, and one of them is an alien.
Now, I began to view "Shockwave" as ultimately disappointing, and "Storm Front" has always frustrated me as a conclusion to the Temporal Cold War arc. "Shockwave" shortchanges its story by making it too simple too early. "Storm Front" shortchanges itself by providing no conclusive answers about "Future Guy," the leading antagonist of the bad guys in the conflict. And yet, as Archer angrily states he's tired of being a pawn in someone else's conflict...he's also admitting what "Zero Hour" makes plain, that he has been a pawn. The Temporal Cold War is a complex series of power plays. "Storm Front" illustrates how a faction of antagonists becomes trapped in the past. I always wanted to believe that alien Nazi was "Future Guy," but I guess that was never really necessary. Archer's disgust is its own statement, and illustrative of his emerging need to take control of his own fate, and as such embrace his destiny. But it's also a confirmation that Daniels wasn't kidding when he said Archer was crucial to the future. Whether or not he ends up captive of the Nazis for a time, we see him isolated from his crew by the end of "Zero Hour," and so it's is Archer and not him and his crew that Daniels is worrying about. It's his choice to destroy the weapon personally that Daniels worries about, the risk he's taking, and Archer is transported to the past, and the rest of the crew, separately, too.
In a last desperate bid, Daniels is responsible for transporting Archer and the crew to the past. Happily, he sets about the circumstances that stop the alien Nazi and also Archer's declaration. So Daniels has actually helped push Archer out of the conflict. You kind of need the whole context to appreciate this, and so I give "Zero Hour" most of the credit for this. It's appropriate for Daniels' ultimate role to be obscure like this, as his first appearance, in "Cold Front," features his rival Silik trying to convince Archer it's not so clear cut about which of them to trust. But both Silik and Daniels, or versions of them, die in "Storm Front," Silik more obviously as a hero. So it really does even out.
- franchise - The big conclusion to one of Star Trek's biggest arcs.
- series - And the setup to the conclusion of another.
- character - Archer's determination motivates him to the last of his extreme actions.
- essential - Provides the key to unlock the Temporal Cold War.
Matt Winston (Daniels)
Scott MacDonald (Dolim)
J. Paul Boehmer
Jeffrey Combs (Shran)