12

Enterprise "Terra Prime":

PAXTON [on viewscreen]: I've just taken over the verteron array on Mars. I can now fire on any ship or facility in the system. (He blasts a new crater on the Moon.)

Wiki says that the Array was built in the 2150's

The xindi storyline happened from March 2153 to February 2154

Enterprise "Zero Hour":

[Reptilian Bridge]

DOLIM: Are you detecting any Earth vessels near the co-ordinates?

SOLDIER: No vessels, but there is one small orbital station. Unarmed. (They emerge into normal space.)

Since they had already colonized Mars well before the "Terra Prime" episode (January 2155) I assume the Array was in place before the episode "Zero Hour" which was only 11 months before. The Arrays purpose was to blast comets from hitting mars, and redirect them for the colonies benefit.

The Array was very powerful.

Enterprise "Terra Prime":

REED: He's targeted us with the array. Apparently, they don't like being scanned.

ARCHER: Get us out of here. (The verteron beam strikes out at Enterprise.)

ARCHER: Damage?

REED: Massive power surge! We've lost half our relays. The beam was only two percent of the array's total output. He could have vaporised us.

It appears that comet hits were frequent on mars so the Array was needed and probably would have been in place before they colonized the planet.

Enterprise "Terra Prime":

SAMUELS: This wasn't an easy decision for the Council. The potential for disaster's even greater than you think. Over the next thirty months, the terraforming project has fourteen comets set to collide with Mars. Without the array to divert them toward the polar caps, the comets could hit anywhere, even the domed cities.

ARCHER: I'll take in a small team. We'll break into the facility and stop them.

SAMUELS: Paxton can destroy any ship that approaches Mars.

So it appears the Array would have been in place approximately 11 months earlier when the Xindi were attacking earth. Earth wouldn't build a colony on a planet that could take that many comet hits in such a short time without the array in place.

Enterprise "Zero Hour":

DOLIM: When we exit the vortex, how close will we be?

LIEUTENANT: Approximately two million kilometres from Earth.

DOLIM: Two million!

So when the Xindi drop out of orbit into the system, and they had to drop out well past Mars they didn't see the Array and no mention of it was used as a defense for earth. They only mention an unarmed science station.

If they had such a powerful weapon as the Array why didn't they use it against the Xindi weapon and warship when it dropped out of Warp or was it not completed yet?

34

Whether or not the Verteron Array was complete by the time of the Xindi attack, there is a very simple reason why it could not have been used to stop the Xindi device:

The Earth and Mars were on completely opposite sides of the Sun that day.

The date of the Xindi attack was February 14, 2154. On that day, the Earth and Mars would be almost 180 degrees apart. I used a solar system dynamics simulator from Fourmilab Switzerland to arrive at this.

For consistency, I also plugged in the date of the "Terra Prime" episode (January 19, 2155). On that day, the two planets would only be about 30 degrees apart — quite reasonable for Paxton's plans.

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    Ok, I gotta give you props - I didn't even think of calculating their actual orbits on the dates in question. – Omegacron Jul 17 '15 at 16:54
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    Thanks, @JMFB. It's a great question and I'm glad I could help. – Praxis Jul 17 '15 at 18:37
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    Okay, but you've gotta assume that it's dumb luck that the real solar system dynamics are saving the plot hole. – ThePopMachine Jul 17 '15 at 18:40
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    @ThePopMachine agreed, they probably didn't delve into things as deeply as we do as fans(although with an entire writing staff producers, etc. you think they'd think these things through). But with that being said it's still a great answer. And it was also a great idea to think up maybe Mars was on the other side of the sun, then find a site to verify, and then fill in the missing pieces. I thought it was clear, concise, and answered the question. It may have been dumb luck, we don't know either way. There are so many plot holes, I often ask about them, and sometimes get a pearl like this. – JMFB Jul 17 '15 at 22:37
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    @JMFB if you select 'inner system only' you can get an image of this which shows it a bit more clearly. – user12183 Jul 18 '15 at 1:45
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TL;DR: The array is not simply a big laser - both time and positioning prevent it from being any kind of quick, effective weapon.


While we don't know the exact status of the Verteron Array during ENT S03E24 "Zero Hour", there are several possibilities as to why the array wasn't used against the Xindi:

  • The array was not finished yet. We don't know the exact construction date of the array, only that it occurred in the "mid-2150s". It's entirely possible that John Paxton was waiting for it to be finished and/or thoroughly tested before enacting his plan in January of 2155. The Xindi attack was in February of 2154 - almost a full year earlier.
  • Re-targeting the array is not a simple process, and there may have simply not been enough time to do so. After all, the Xindi essentially popped out of space, followed by Archer & friends, then the whole event was over in (probably) under 20 minutes or so. Terra Prime had spent months planning their attack on Starfleet Headquarters, and missed the NX-01 after several minutes of re-targeting.
  • The array may have been on the wrong side of Mars. Without knowing the exact positioning involved, it's entirely possible that the array was on the side of Mars facing away from the Xindi at the time. That would make it literally impossible to use against them.
  • It may have been too risky. Again, we don't know the exact position of Mars, the Xindi ships/weapon, and Earth during the event. However, assuming that the array could fire at the Xindi vessels, what if the beam kept going and hit Earth? If the array is as powerful as indicated, accidentally hitting the Earth with it would be AS devastating, if not moreso, than the original Xindi attack shown in ENT S02E26 "The Expanse".

Any of these possibilities, or others that we haven't anticipated, could have prevented the array from being an effective weapon against the Xindi invaders.

  • 1
    +1 Good answer but he pulled out the swiss simulator. – JMFB Jul 17 '15 at 18:31
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    @JMFB np, that is indeed hard to beat. – Omegacron Jul 17 '15 at 18:56

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