Countdown (Star Trek: Enterprise)
|Star Trek: Enterprise episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Robert Duncan McNeill|
|Written by||André Bormanis
|Featured music||Dennis McCarthy|
|Original air date||May 19, 2004|
"Countdown" is the 23rd episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Enterprise and is the 76th overall episode. It first aired on May 19, 2004, on the UPN network within the United States. Set in the 22nd century, the series follows the adventures of the first Starfleet starship, Enterprise, registration NX-01. Season three of Enterprise features an ongoing storyline that follows an attack on Earth by aliens called the Xindi, a group of aliens that did not appear in preceding series.
In this episode, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) convinces the Xindi-Aquatics to aid him in his fight against the Xindi-Reptilians and Insectoids alliance to prevent Earth's destruction by their superweapon. In the midst of a battle between the two Xindi factions, an away team is sent to rescue Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), previously captured by the Reptilians. However, the superweapon departs for Earth, with Archer in pursuit on board a Xindi vessel.
"Countdown" was the first collaboration between writers André Bormanis and Chris Black, and was directed by former Star Trek: Voyager actor Robert Duncan McNeill. It was shot over eight days, with additional sets built for the Xindi-Reptilian vessel and the interior of the superweapon. Critics praised the change in the dynamic between Major Hayes (Steven Culp) and Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating). Roughly 3.5 million viewers watched "Countdown" on its first broadcast.
Needing a third species' codes in order to arm the weapon, Ensign Hoshi Sato is injected with neural-parasites while she is a prisoner of the Xindi-Reptilians. With the Xindi superweapon about to be armed and time running out, Captain Jonathan Archer tries to persuade the Xindi-Aquatics to help destroy it. Sato's kidnapping, and Archer's promises to shut down the 70-plus known spheres, finally convinces the Aquatics into believing that the Sphere Builders, and not the humans, may indeed represent their true enemy.
A battle between Archer's Xindi-fleet and the Reptilian-Insectoid fleet soon breaks out around the superweapon. With the support of Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, a small squad of MACOs, led by Major Hayes, transports on board to extract Sato. With the space battle ongoing, the transporter system is damaged so that only two personnel can beam out at one time. Hayes sends one of his men and Sato out first, and then the rest of the team. Hayes, now alone, is forced to retreat and just as he is beaming out, a Reptilian soldier fires through his chest. Back on board Enterprise, he collapses on the transporter platform, and soon dies of heart-failure in Sickbay.
With the "threads of time" turning against them, the Sphere Builders decide to intervene by creating spatial distortions around the weapon. A number of Aquatic ships are destroyed, which buys the Reptilians enough time to finally activate the codes. Dolim (Scott MacDonald) has the superweapon enter a vortex and heads for Earth, escorted by allied ships. Inside one of the vessels, having witnessed the interference of the Guardians, the Insectoid leader begins to doubt the motives of the Reptilians. Since the Reptilians already have the Insectoid's launch code, they dissolve their alliance by destroying the Insectoid's ship. Archer makes a plan to pursue Dolim using Degra's faster spaceship, taking a sickened Sato with his team to guide them through the superweapon.
This was the first episode written as a combined effort by André Bormanis and Chris Black, although they had both written earlier episodes of the series with Bormanis writing episodes such as "Hatchery" and "Extinction", while Black wrote "Doctor's Orders" among others. "Countdown" also saw the return of Star Trek: Voyager actor Robert Duncan McNeill as director. The episode was his second during season three after previously working on "Twilight". "Countdown" took longer to film than most episodes of Enterprise, having an eight-day shooting timetable versus the normal seven.
Additional sets were constructed to present the interior of the Xindi-Reptilian ship, and the inside of the superweapon. Two full days of the shoot took place on the Reptilian sets, while a day was spent filming on the superweapon set. The scenes set inside the ships of the Xindi-Aquatics and the Xindi-Insectoids were created in post-production rather than using physical sets. This was in addition to the standing sets, and the Xindi specific sets built initially for previous episodes, such as the interior of Degra's ship, and the "Avian Residence" which had both been built for use on-sceen in "The Council". Scenes involving the Sphere Builders; played by Josette DiCarlo, Mary Mara and Ruth Williamson; were filmed in a combined shoot featuring the scenes from both "Countdown" and "The Council". Filming concluded on March 4, although B-unit shoots continued on March 8, with McNeil directing once more. This was in addition to further B-unit filming under the direction of Dan Curry for the episode "E²" and the start of the work on the season finale, "Zero Hour" under Allan Kroeker.
Several elements of the props and effects were re-used from previous episodes. The reactor core on the superweapon was a combination of the props previously used as a Romulan mine in "Minefield" and rings from the Enterprise gymnasium which had appeared in the episode "Vanishing Point". The special effect used for the subspace vortexes created by the Sphere Builders had originally been created for the transwarp effect in the Voyager episode "Hope and Fear". The guest stars in "Countdown" were recurring from previous episodes, although it would be the final appearance for Steven Culp as Major Hayes. Culp had appeared in the series throughout the third season since "The Xindi". During the development of "The Shipment", Culp proposed the backstory for Hayes, which was accepted by the production team. The role was not his first in the Star Trek franchise however, as he had been cast and filmed for an appearance as Commander Martin Madden for the film Star Trek: Nemesis. It would have seen him as the replacement for Commander William Riker at the end of the film, but it was cut from the final version.
Reception and home media release
"Countdown" was first aired in the United States on UPN on May 19, 2004. According to Nielsen Media Research, it received a 2.3/4 percent share among adults. This means that it was seen by 2.3 percent of all households, and 4 percent of all of those watching television at the time of the broadcast. It was estimated that "Countdown" was watched by 3.5 million viewers. The following episode, "Zero Hour", received a 2.7/4 percent rating with the viewer number increased by 400,000. "Countdown" won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects, after being nominated alongside the previous episode, "The Council".
Michelle Erica Green, in her review for TrekNation, said that she saw the Hayes/Reed arc come full circle with the death of Hayes and the return of Reed to the position he had previously held prior to the MACO's arrival. She felt that otherwise, the episode consisted of action to the exclusion of character development but Green criticised the ease at which some of the Xindi side with Archer. She called it a "strong arc episode" and set-up the finale, but was concerned that the strong build-up could lead to it being an anticlimax. Jamahl Epsicokhan, on his website "Jammer's Reviews", gave the episode a rating of three out of four. He felt that the structure of the plot was the same as the previous episode, but that it had no story and was "simply plot and action skillfully assembled — a series of events framed as goal-oriented nonstop momentum." He was pleased to see an improvement in the writing of the Reed/Hayes relationship and the MACOs, although he felt the collaborative working between the two parties should have occurred earlier in the season.
The only home media release of "Countdown" has been as part of the season three DVD box set which was released in the United States on September 27, 2005. The Blu-ray release of Enterprise was announced in early 2013, and released on January 7, 2014.
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