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Steven Culp on "Star Trek: Enterprise"

Production Notes: 323 - Countdown

Robert Duncan McNeill directs Steven Culp
Production Report: "Countdown" Ramps Up Toward Season Climax

The action and tension accelerate to a fever pitch in "Countdown," the next-to-last episode of Season 3, under the direction of Robert Duncan McNeill.

Without giving very much away, the story continues the struggle to prevent the Xindi superweapon from being used against Earth. In this chapter the Xindi are ready to initiate the weapon's arming sequence, despite opposition within their ranks. Those dissenting factions agree to help Captain Archer's crew stop that "countdown" from commencing ... but with conditions. The script was written by André Bormanis and Chris Black.

This production had a rare eight-day schedule (as opposed to seven) for principal photography, and even with that there was a lot to pack in. A great deal of action — almost two days' worth — took place on a Reptilian Ship, with specific sets for a Bridge, Cell and Corridor. Almost a full day was spent on a set representing the inside of the Weapon itself. Filming also took place inside an Insectoid and an Aquatic vessel, though those scenes will be mostly rendered in post-production.

Standing ship sets used included the Command Center, Armory, Engineering, Launchbay, Sickbay, Captain's Mess, plus lots of use of the Bridge where they just can't get away from the smoke and the sparks. Swing sets re-used from previous episodes include Degra's Ship, and the "Avian Residence" which will be seen in "The Council." A very white, bright "Transdimensional Realm" set was utilized for scenes from both "The Council" and "Countdown" lumped together in one day, with the three actresses portraying the "Sphere-Builder" characters, Josette DiCarlo, Mary Mara and Ruth Williamson.

The rest of the guest cast in "Countdown" consists of the recurring Xindi characters from recent episodes, plus Steven Culp as "Major Hayes," along with a few day players. Many of the recurring stunt players — who normally don't get credits — also returned and were put through the paces on this episode, under the coordination of Vince Deadrick Jr. Those included Dorenda Moore, Paul Sklar, Kevin Derr and Michael O'Laskey as stunt MACOs; and Ian Eyre, Jacob Chambers and Joey Anaya as stunt Reptilians. Alex Chansky stunt-doubled for Steven Culp as "Major Hayes," and Diana Inosanto filled in for Linda Park for a few physical moves.

Though principal production concluded last Thursday, March 4, some scenes were pushed off into B-unit photography taking place this past Monday, still with McNeill at the helm. Visual effects supervisor Dan Curry stepped into the director's shoes to film additional footage for "E²" that day. That all took place next door to production of the season finale, "Zero Hour" directed by Allan Kroeker.

This is the first time McNeill has come back to Enterprise for a second time in a season. He last directed the now-classic "Twilight," along with "Cold Front" in Season 1 and "The Breach" in Season 2. "Countdown" is the first writing collaboration between Bormanis and Black. Bormanis last co-wrote "Hatchery" and previously scripted "Extinction"; Black wrote "Doctor's Orders" and co-wrote "The Forgotten," among others this season.

"Countdown" is scheduled to air May 19.
Copyright © 2004

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