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    Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four

    Blu-ray Paramount TV Reviews

    May 03 2014 06:01 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Coming off a terrific third season that finally uncoupled the show from the rigidity of the producers (and the network’s) original design for the series, Star Trek: Enterprise sought to flex its creative muscles and experimented (by the design of producer Manny Coto) with short two and three episode arcs (beginning with the time-travel two part episode that effectively resolved the entire temporal war thread) comprising almost the entire 22 episodes. Sadly, the audience the show lost in the prior years, though stabilized, was apparently too much for the network to give this fine series more time. And so, history recognizes that Enterprise was cancelled before its time, with just four seasons and 98 episodes to its name.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Paramount
    • Distributed By: CBS
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 2.0 DD, Other
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Dutch, Other
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 16 Hr. 49 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: Multi-disc case with slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 04/29/2014
    • MSRP: $129.99

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    “I wonder how history would have played out if Cochrane hadn't turned the tables on your invasion force. Humans might be your slaves instead of the other way around.”


    About the Show

    Set in the 22nd Century, 100 years before the 5-year mission of Captain Kirk and crew, the new series would forgo the Star Trek moniker in favor of the broader and simpler title of Enterprise. The series premise involved the maiden voyage of the Starship Enterprise, designation NX-01, and the inaugural interstellar crew led by Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula). Since first contact with the Vulcans on April 4, 2063, humanity had come a long way in unifying as a species and in developing the concept of Starfleet, and despite the Vulcans continued belief that humanity was not ready for the universe, Archer and Starfleet disagreed.

    The Captain of the Enterprise, Jonathan Archer, is a no fuss leader with as much a penchant for diplomacy as a scientist’s curiosity; traits that would help get him into, and out of, more than a few tight spots. He is emblematic of a more measured, but still imperfect, human species. Serving as his science officer, initially with some reluctance, is Sub-Commander T’Pol (Jolene Blalock). T’Pol provides a logical spoil to Archer’s at-times untethered enthusiasm on the great frontier, and is at times a frustrating contrarian, though her experience is a valuable asset to the crew. The ships Chief Engineer, Commander Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker III (Connor Trinneer), is an eager and highly capable member of the NX-01 hailing from rural Tennessee. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) serves as the Armory Officer. A disciplined member of Starfleet, Reed’s dedication to duty learns to make room for his loyalty to his new crew. Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) is a gifted communications officer with an innate and uncanny ability to learn, dissect and digest new languages, often better than the onboard and early stage ‘universal translator’. Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) is a young but steadfast navigations officer. Having been born and grown up on a long-distance interplanetary freight hauling vessel, he brings a unique understanding of deep space travels. Finally, Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley), a Denobulan participating in the Inter-Species Medical Exchange program, comes with as much a sense of adventure and a quest to learn and understand as his human-filled ship he serves aboard.

    Season Four

    4/5

    Coming of season three’s fevered pace and driving purpose, the fourth season of Enterprise appears listless at times, particularly during the first seven episodes, but once it finds its way, revealed is a show in full embrace of its possibilities. Plots and stories come in abbreviated arcs (rather than single episodic adventures), and these short arcs allow stories to flesh out ideas the standard 42-44 minute episode length rarely allows. It likely helped keep costs down as well and this approach offered a renewed courage to explore familiar elements of the Star Trek universe; the Eugenics war and the genetically enhanced humans (known as augments), the Orion slave trade (featuring Orion slave girls), and the Mirror Universe, among others.

    The visual effects work continues to impress with ever more elaborate environments, space battles, and planet surface elements which are surprisingly detailed under the demands and timetable of a weekly television series. Enterprise didn’t kill Star Trek on television, it was merely a victim of Star Trek’s death (at that time). Since Enterprise’s cancellation, we’ve witnessed the Star Trek world roar back to life with the hugely successful big screen adventures reimagining the origins of Kirk’s enterprise, and that’s to be celebrated, but Star Trek is built for, and is best on, the small screen. And shows like Enterprise were servicing that universe nobly until its premature cancellation after just four seasons.

    Despite some moments or unevenness, season four sent Enterprise off into the sunset of the universe with, on balance, a strong season ripe with ever-maturing story-telling, actors fully immersed in their characters, and glimpses of more greatness to come. The highlights of the season are:

    Storm Front Part I / Storm Front Part II
    In “Storm Front Part I”, the time-travel opening episode of the season, the show posits that a species interfering with our timeline has altered the course of World War II. Using weapons and tactics from the future, they have emboldened the German army to successfully invade the Unites States, laying claim to the northeastern states, from North Carolina to Maine. The Enterprise, following the completion of its mission to destroy the Xindi weapon (and save Earth and the human species), finds itself trapped in the past orbiting 1940’s earth, and Captain Archer has crashed and been taken captive by the Nazi’s and a faction of the temporal cold war, led by the mysterious Vosk.

    “Storm Front” may lack boldness of execution (and the spirited pace that marked a good deal of the third season), but it’s a relatively good opening episode, and though strives to be more thoughtful and authentic that it’s able to achieve, it lacks a certain grit that would have made this interesting start to the season stand out among Star Trek’s many, many time-travel tales. The second part has some fine moments, sharing some flavorful characters of the era and a spirited battle to restore the timeline, but after the single narrative thread of the third season it suffers from coming to a close so quickly. Still, the time-travel tale and WWII setting comes with fine production values and entertains regardless.

    The Forge / Awakening / Kir’Shara
    This three-part story is a genuine highlight of the fourth season. Following a deadly bombing of the Vulcan Embassy on Earth, resulting in the deaths of 43 humans and Vulcans, the Enterprise is dispatched to investigate at the behest of the Vulcan High Command. It is quickly discovered that a rogue faction of Vulcan society, the Syrrannites, is to blame. However, things are not quite that simple, and what unfolds is a fascinating plot and framing of the Vulcan belief system.

    Exploration of the Vulcan species has largely followed Spock’s life and the customs explored through his time serving on the USS Enterprise. Expanded some by Lt. Tuvok serving on USS Voyager, the Star Trek universe has never delved too deeply into the society. Enterprise from its beginning has given more favor to the machinations of the Vulcan approach, yet through these three episodes we are given chance to peak further behind the wall and it’s absorbing. The first episode in the 3-episode arc is perhaps the best, setting up the plot with a crime to be solved and the emotional push following the death of Admiral Maxwell Forrest (Vaughan Armstrong). And as the story unfolds, revealed is more about katra’s, mind-melds, and the struggle of the Vulcan soul. Again, the visual effects are superb (with a shot rendering a portion of a major Vulcan city being particularly impressive – reminding of how the planet of Coruscant was shown in the Star Wars prequels).

    This three-part story is excellently produced and portrayed. Coming off an imbalanced opening set of episodes for the season, this arc reminded audiences of what this show could do. It isn’t the strongest arc of this season (though it comes close), but its quality and intrigue came at a pivotal moment in the season.

    Babel One / United / The Aenar

    A mission to transport a Tellarite delegation through Andorian space for peace talks is jeopardized when Commander Shran’s (Jeffrey Combs) ship is almost destroyed by what appears to be a Tellarite attack. Thrust in the middle of regression of relations that threatens to dissolve into war, the Enterprise investigates the origins of the attack revealing a mysterious ship able to look like other ships. This might come as a spoiler, but the mystery involves the Romulans and a sub-species of the Andorians (ice-dwellers known as the Aenar).

    What a cracking good time this three-episode arc turns out to be. Despite taking some liberties with Romulan/Human history, the story fleshed out over three episodes is given time to breath; to explore the Tellarite and Andorian cultures in more detail, and to play with drone ships and a meddlesome Romulan threat (that would most likely come further into play should Enterprise have been given additional seasons).

    Although there is a silly distraction of an Andorian cultural dual in the second of the three episodes, this trio collectively delivers a solid story with capable execution. It has energy and a penchant for twists that marked the best of the third season. Moving swiftly from a dispute between the Andorians and the Tellarites, to a mysterious plot involving the nefarious and popular Romulan species, and on to a mysterious and telepathic species, all while featuring entertaining space battles, excellent subterranean visual effects, and some fine performances (particularly the terrific Jeffrey Combs as Schran), this is as fine an example of what Enterprise had to offer as you could find.


    In a Mirror, Darkly Part I / In a Mirror, Darkly Part II

    Taking place entirely in an alternate (mirror) universe in which Zefram Cochran killed the Vulcan first contact landing party, giving rise to a war-loving human race, the crew of the Enterprise discover something that could turn the tide of a long war in their favor. In this universe, Archer is second in command to Captain Forrest (Vaughan Armstrong), but not for long. The ambitious Archer stages a coup, with a select group of equally hard and ambitious crew (including a torture-loving Malcolm Reed). Archer has put his faith in intelligence that posits the Tholian’s have discovered a portal to a mirror universe and have captured a ship from the future of that universe, and he intends to take it.

    This two-part episode in the mirror universe, a place first explored in The Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror” is surprisingly dark. Each character is a crueler, more manipulative, and more brazen version of themselves from the prime universe, with perhaps the exception of T’Pol in her position as a member of the subservient Vulcan race. The mirror universe is always fertile ground for a cast to play more theatrical, dramatically boisterous versions of their main characters, and “In a Mirror, Darkly” is certainly no different. Scott Bakula plays his alternate Archer with considerable ferocity, scowling his lines and glimpsing no weakness of a ‘thoughtful’ leader. Park’s Hoshi is superbly manipulative, leveraging her sexual wiles to take shelter in whomever is the most powerful person on the ship at that moment, and Keating’s Reed and Trinneer’s Trip favor portrayals that border sadistic and unforgiving. Montgomery’s Mayweather is the muscle in this dark universe, more henchman than member of the crew, and T’Pol’s position of weakness as an underclass species gives her the role of heroin, of sorts, with Billingsley’s Dr. Phlox being both brutal and conflicted. It’s a wonderful spectrum of alternate versions of characters we’ve grown to love.

    This trip into the mirror universe was to be the first of many on Enterprise. Alternate opening credits were created to set these episodes apart (credits that focused on war and destruction verses the explorative pursuit of something greater). But alas, cancellation stunted that possibility. The plot involving the USS Defiant from the prime universe is a small stroke of genius, offering us a thoroughly entertaining vision of the classic Constellation class ship from the gallant United Federation of Planets through the accomplished visual effects capabilities of the day (similar to the glorious USS Enterprise in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s brilliant Original Series crossover event, “Trials and Tribbelations.”)

    Bleak though it is, the closing moments are beautifully earned and a reminder of all that we lost upon Star Trek: Enterprise’s cancellation.


    Special mention must be made of the final two-part episode of the season, “Demon” and “Terra Prime,” before the disappointing finale, in which a xenophobic faction threatens the progress earth had made in building allies amongst the stars. It features remarkably mature storytelling and the promise of a great deal of more complex storytelling possible from this show.

    The final season of Enterprise is overall solid, with an overt attempt to see the origins of a number of memorable elements of the future we saw explored in The Original Series and beyond (including the non-ridged Klingon’s of TOS versus the ridged version of all other series). And yet, after five series and multiple feature films, the world of Star Trek had almost run out of creative steam (despite coming of a pulsating and pleasing third season, and despite the surge of fresh risk taking from Manny Coto demonstrated in this final season). Still, dipping into characters and notions from Trek canon, including transference of a Vulcan katra (harkening back Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), the genetically engineered humans (who speak of the famed ‘Botany Bay’ ship) and the origins of Soong’s work on androids (the creator of Data), among other tidbits, didn’t always hit the mark. The sheer volume of references was also a worrisome sign, though the likely result of the pendulum of cancellation swinging clearly toward the show.

    The final sadness in the chapter of Enterprise comes with the inappropriate close-out episode, “These are the Voyages.” It isn’t a bad episode, but as a finale for Enterprise it is woefully inadequate. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, long stewards of the Star Trek television franchise, wrote the episode as an epilogue to the legacy of Trek on television (since the early seasons of The Next Generation), but in choosing to put a full stop on the larger trek picture, a coda for Trek’s television run, they sacrificed the due of the Enterprise cast and crew, taking time and focus away from their accomplishments and exploits (even while the story celebrates their ultimate triumph). In an interview, producer and writer for Enterprise, Manny Coto, spoke of his view that the prior two-part episode, “Demon” and “Terra Prime” should be seen as the true finale to the show. And with that view, Enterprise closes out on top.

    The Episodes

    Disc One:
    Storm Front, Part I
    Storm Front, Part II
    Home
    Borderland

    Disc Two:
    Cold Station 12
    The Augments
    The Forge
    Awakening

    Disc Three:
    Kir'Shara
    Daedalus
    Observer Effect
    Babel One

    Disc Four:
    United
    The Aenar
    Affliction
    Divergence

    Disc Five:
    Bound
    In A Mirror, Darkly, Part I
    In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II
    Demons

    Disc Six:
    Terra Prime
    These Are The Voyages

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    The first (and sadly, last) season of the series to be filmed with digital cameras (versus film) and the results for its premiere on Blu-ray show off the results. The image is terrifically sharp throughout with pronounced details - noticeably sharp detail of actor’s faces. The shimmering of stock visual effects are still at issue here (as they have been throughout the series run) and some holdover dimness in darker shots can be found, but the overall results are very, very good. Flesh tones are beautifully natural and although the color palette of the show is, and has been, heavily in the grey range, when other colors are introduced into the frame, they pop (with the Original Series uniforms in the Mirror universe episodes standing out particularly).

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is solid. Opportunities to shine and exercise among the channels are many, starting with the growl and bullets from the P-51 Mustangs hitting the shuttlepod at the opening of “Storm Front Pt. I”. The tumult of a huge storm on Vulcan in “The Forge,” the Romulan drone-ship attacks in “The Aenar,” and the USS Defiant laying waste to inferior Tholian and rebellion ships in “In a Mirror, Darkly, Pt. II,” are just a few moments throughout the season where the lossless audio is given space to shine. Strong ambient sounds run across the season and the clarity and distribution of sounds is fine.

    Special Features: 5/5

    Once again the special features are a feast. With the special features from the previous DVD release ported over and a number of new special features created especially for this release (notably the terrific four part documentary “Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise”), there is a wealth of good stuff spread out over the six-disc set. Episode commentaries are, for the most part, very interesting (with the text commentaries by Mike & Denise Okuda focusing on the fan/encyclopedic viewpoint).

    While feature-film releases vacillate on the nature and amount of special features included (and some, like the recent Blu-ray release of Star Trek: Into Darkness frustrating fans by spreading out the features among retailer exclusives), CBS must be recognized and applauded for the time, effort, care, and consideration placed into these season-set releases.

    Disc One:
    Deleted Scene on "Storm Front" (SD)
    Extended Scene and Script Gallery: Original Editing on "Home" (SD)
    Archival Mission Logs:
    Enterprise Moments: Season Four (SD)

    Disc Two:
    Episode Commentary by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Mike & Denise Okuda on "The Forge" – NEW!
    Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda on "The Forge" (2005)

    Disc Three:
    Episode Commentary by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Mike & Denise Okuda on "Observer Effect" – NEW!

    Disc Four:
    Episode Commentary by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and David Livingston on "United" – NEW!
    Deleted Scene on "The Aenar" (SD)

    Disc Five:
    Episode Commentary by Mike Sussman and Tim Gaskill on "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part I" (2005)
    Episode Commentary by James L. Conway, Mike Sussman and Mike & Denise Okuda on "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part I" – NEW!
    Episode Commentary by Mike Sussman and Tim Gaskill on "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II" (2005)
    Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda on "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II" (2005)
    Episode Commentary by Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating on "Demons"– NEW!
    Deleted Scene from "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II" (SD)
    Archival Mission Logs
    Inside the Mirror Episodes (SD)

    Disc Six:
    Episode Commentary by Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating on "Terra Prime"– NEW!
    Episode Commentary by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Tim Gaskill "Terra Prime" (2005)
    Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda "These Are The Voyages" (2005)
    Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise (HD) – NEW!
    • Part One: New Voices
    • Part Two: Memorable Voyages
    • Part Three: Final Approach
    • Part Four: End of an Era
    In Conversation – Writing Star Trek: Enterprise (HD) – NEW!
    Archival Mission Logs: (SD)
    Visual Effects Magic
    Links to the Legacy
    Enterprise Secrets
    That's a Wrap!
    Enterprise Goes to the Dogs
    Westmore's Aliens: Creating Dr. Phlox and Beyond
    Outtakes
    Photo Gallery
    NX-01 File 10

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Since Star Trek: Enterprise wrapped up with this fourth season, there has been a void on television. I won’t argue that time away wasn't necessary to allow for some needed regeneration, but with Star Trek having been on the air since 1987, Star Trek’s absence from the airwaves is deeply noticed.

    A few years have passed since the show aired and, though the show was entertaining enough when originally aired, admittedly something always felt amiss. Time and perspective are, however, powerful influences, and thus, watching Enterprise again reveals how much fun the show is, and just how earnestly this prequel series to the time of Captain Kirk sought to connect our near future with the wonders of the 23rd century explored so marvelously in the earlier Star Trek shows.

    Flaws and missteps aside, there is a great deal to embrace in Enterprise, and with the show completing its release in high definition on Blu-ray, there is no reason not to give it another look and find a fine, fun, and occasionally flawed series that genuinely gave its all to entertain us.

    Reviewed by: Neil Middlemiss
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    6 Comments

    Great review, and one that made me look forward to getting this release. One correction, though:  you twice list Vaughn Armstrong's character as Admiral Maxwell, when in fact his name was Admiral Forrest (named after DeForest Kelley).  Other than that, great job!

    Thanks so much for your review. I haven't seen this show in a while and I appreciate your taking the time to elaborate on what you see as the highlights. Reminded me of some great episodes that I am looking forward to watching on blu-ray asap.

    Great review, and one that made me look forward to getting this release. One correction, though:  you twice list Vaughn Armstrong's character as Admiral Maxwell, when in fact his name was Admiral Forrest (named after DeForest Kelley).  Other than that, great job!

     

    Thanks - Maxwell is of course the character's first name...I have adjusted accordingly!

    Thanks for this review Neil.

     

    I'd like to second your commendations for the four-part documentary. There are some interesting and candid moments that may surprise some fans.

     

    Also, your thoughts regarding the budget are correct. The only way Enterprise got a fourth season was by consenting to some serious budget cuts - including switching to HD cameras rather than film, and accepting lower per-episode patterns. The multi-episode arcs ironically were the only way the production could spend any more on their sets or anything else - since it allowed them to amortize the cost over two or three shows rather than one. Gone were the days of TNG where you'd go to a different planet every week.

     

    In the end, I believe that Paramount was simply done with the Rick Berman era of Star Trek. He had a great run - four series and four movies.  625 episodes. That's a LOT of Star Trek.  By 2005, and really by 2004, I believe they felt that it was time to let the franchise rest and then let some new leadership take over in a few years.

     

    I agree with one of the participants in the documentary, and it may be Brannon Braga, who said that Star Trek really works best as a television series. It's a format designed to look at a particular issue each week without necessarily getting into an epic confrontation each time. I don't know when we'll see such a thing again, but maybe it could happen in another ten years. I had hoped something could be done with the surviving writers from the original series, but it's clear now that too much time has passed for that.  (And when you see them jumping into the fan movies, it's frankly a bit dispiriting.)

     

    Enterprise marked the end of the Rick Berman era, and this final season marked the end of Enterprise. I agree with Manny Coto (and the cast and crew of the series) that the story of this series really ends with "Terra Prime".  That final episode is a real oddity - I think it was Berman and Braga trying to find a way to tie up the whole era of TNG by going back to that well, but it just comes across as detour from where the focus should have been here. TNG had its own wrap-up in its own finale, as did each of the other Berman series before Enterprise.

     

    The real open question now is whether CBS wishes to continue with the remaining two Berman series on Blu-ray. I don't think it's a done deal by any means. They could very easily just finish off TNG and let it go. We'll know one way or the other next year.

     

    Again, thanks very much for a thoughtful and incisive review.

    Great review Neil. I missed Enterprise on TV and "discovered" it on Blu-ray. I enjoyed the first three seasons and am looking forward to the final one.

    I blasted through a lot of Season 4 this weekend (I have eight episodes left). I've been very surprised by these episodes and stories; I missed most of them in their original run. There's a real weight to what's going on, the stories are epic in scale and it looks like no expense was spared...even though we all know better.

     

    (The less said about "Storm Front" the better. Blech.)

     

    "Home" is a nice little quiet episode which allows the crew to reflect on season 3 and where they're going in the future. It reminded me of "Family" or "You are Cordially Invited..." in that regard.

     

    The Augment Arc is...nice. Acceptable. Alright. I definitely don't think it's great, though Spiner vs. Bakula is a treat to watch.

     

    The Vulcan Reformation Arc is the highlight of the early part of the season for me. It has just about everything: action, philosophy, location shooting, great guest stars, something that affects the entire franchise going forward. The only piece I didn't like was Robert Foxworth's Vulcan. He was too...emotional for my taste.

     

    "Daedelus" is more engaging than "Observer Effect" only because something happens in the story. "Observer Effect" is a great study in how to use existing cast and sets to generate an entire episode.

     

    I'm cold (no pun intended) on the next arc, the holographic ship. Again, it's fine, but seemed to run far too long and meandered in the middle. Seeing Andoria was a treat and Jeffrey Combs is always a plus.

     

    I just got through "Affliction" last night and so far, so good.