SPOILER ALERT!!! Warning: Information here may also spoil previous episodes!
Peter Weller continues on as the villain in the conclusion of a two-part story where human goes up against human, but this time at the fourth planet from the Sun, in the next-to-last episode of the series.
The episode title, "Terra Prime," refers to the human isolationist movement which Weller's character, John Frederick Paxton, leads from his lunar mining colony. Picking up where "Demons" left off (related production report), Paxton has moved his Orpheus mining complex — which, it turns out, is detachable and has warp drive — from the Moon to Mars, where he has tied his reactor into the "verteron array" there. That array is a huge row of particle cannons used to redirect comets for terraforming purposes, but Paxton has turned it into a formidable weapon against any target in the solar system. He lays down an ultimatum: all non-humans must leave the system within 24 hours, or Terra Prime will "defend the rights of every human." And he'll start by destroying Starfleet Command in San Francisco with a verteron beam. Enterprise is vulnerable also, so Archer, Reed and Mayweather devise a plan to infiltrate the complex undetected, that involves using a comet as camouflage. Complicating things is a potential Terra Prime operative aboard Enterprise.
Besides Weller, Harry Groener ("Tam Elbrun" in "Tin Man," etc.) remains on as "Nathan Samuels," a human politician trying to hold together talks with alien diplomats to form an interstellar alliance in the face of the crisis. Johanna Watts continues as "Gannet," a reporter and an old flame of Mayweather. Also staying on from "Demons" are Peter Mensah as "Greaves" and Adam Clark as "Josiah," two Terra Prime members working for Paxton.
Recurring players joining this episode are Gary Graham as "Soval," plus Derek Magyar as "Kelby" and Eric Pierpoint as "Harris" (the latter two were introduced in "Affliction" and will be seen several times hence).
The guest cast also includes Joel Swetow as an Andorian Ambassador named "Thoris." Swetow played "Gul Jasad" in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot "Emissary," and "Yog" in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Firstborn." Swetow has also lent his voice to several Star Trek video games including "Armada" and "Voyager: Elite Force."
Principal photography on "Terra Prime" began halfway into the day on Tuesday, February 15, and went halfway into the day last Friday, Feb. 25 (the day of the "Save Enterprise" rally outside Paramount's main gate), for a total of seven days. Marvin Rush, normally the director of photography (DP) on the show, took the reins as full director for only the second time in this series, stepping into pre-production on this episode immediately after completing "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II." Camera operator Doug Knapp took the DP title in the meantime.
Day 1 of the schedule was more-or-less a continuation of shooting for "Demons," with a second day being spent in the Paramount Theater lobby representing the Assembly Hall of Starfleet Command. Like Day 7 of the previous show, this set was filled with a wide array of aliens, from Tellarites to Rigellians to several new species, and the production hired at least two dozen additional personnel in Makeup, Hair and Wardrobe to populate these interstellar conference scenes.
Sets representing the interior of the Orpheus Mining Complex were re-used from the previous show, including the Control Center and Crew Quarters. Built specifically for this shoot was a set depicting an Access Tube of the Verteron Array.
About half a day was spent with four of the actors in a very rocky ride on the Shuttlepod setpiece. Normally the bumps and rocks of a ship under attack or duress are simulated by camera movement coordinated with the actors' responses, but this time the Shuttlepod was set on tubes to create actual motion. This was for the scenes where Archer and company hitch a ride to Mars on a comet. Among the props on the set that day were two white paper bags — one fresh, and one "used" (Reed, we find out, can't handle so much motion).
Several pieces of existing rock walls combined with a full-sized greenscreen backdrop served as the surface of Mars, for when the characters land the Shuttlepod and cross the terrain to the Verteron Array (the landscape will be rendered in post-production and inserted in the green portions of the shots). Because the Martian atmosphere has been partially terraformed, the characters do not need the usual EV suits, so instead the actors were outfitted in thick cold-weather gear, clear goggles, and "re-breather" units resembling a fighter pilot's breathing mask. Wardrobe and Makeup covered their clothes, hair and faces with red dust for the appropriate shots.
The usual standing ship sets were also put into use, including the Bridge, Ready Room, Mess Hall, Launchbay, Engineering, Brig, Sickbay, Corridors, Crew Quarters, etc. Paramount's Wood Mill was used again, as in "Demons," for a San Francisco Alleyway scene between Reed and Section 31's Harris.
A couple of things to look out for in this episode: The script calls for a shot where the Shuttlepod flies over the resting place of Sojourner, the Mars rover depicted in the show's opening credits, now dusty and motionless among familiar red rocks. Plans call for a close-up of a Mars Historical Society plaque identifying that 1997 landing spot as the "Carl Sagan Memorial Station." We say "plans" because this shot will be created in post-production, but sometimes budgeting, scheduling and editing demands force compromises. Let's hope this homage to the real space program survives the cut.
Also, the episode depicts a baby with Vulcan ears (played by a pair of six-month-old twins). You'd probably expect that the infants would have undergone a couple of hours of makeup to get those pointed ears on. But no, not quite. Actually, all Makeup did was apply "tracking dots" on the babies' ears, and the Vulcan-points will be applied later through computer graphics.
As for the writers of this episode, "Story by" credit is assigned to Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Andre Bormanis. "Teleplay" credit goes to the Reeves-Stevens couple along with Manny Coto. Coto was the sole writer of "Demons." Judith & Garfield's last script was "Divergence," and Bormanis last wrote "The Aenar."
"Terra Prime" is tentatively scheduled to air Friday, May 13, at 8:00 p.m., followed immediately by the season finale at 9:00 (ET/PT). Updates will be posted in Episode Detail.
As for the upcoming airdate schedule, this Friday the show will be pre-empted, but last season's "Hatchery" will be available to UPN affiliates to air over the weekend per their local schedules. The next two weeks will see repeats of "Storm Front" and "Storm Front, Part II." Then for the subsequent three weeks, UPN.com is holding a sweepstakes for fans to determine which episodes from all four seasons will rerun in those spots; see this related story for details. The final six new episodes will commence April 15.
The current airdate schedule for the rest of the season (subject to change) is as follows:
3/11 Repeat of "Storm Front"
3/18 Repeat of "Storm Front, Part II"
3/25 Repeat TBD per sweepstakes
4/01 Repeat TBD per sweepstakes
4/08 Repeat TBD per sweepstakes
4/22 "In a Mirror, Darkly"
4/29 "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"
5/13 8:00 "Terra Prime", 9:00 Season Finale
(Times shown are Eastern and Pacific. Check your local listings.)