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Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Three Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Paramount TV Reviews
Jan 12 2014 05:46 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: CBS
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Dutch, Other
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 17 Hr. 5 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: Multi-disc with slipcover
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 01/07/2014
- MSRP: $129.99
The Production Rating: 4/5
“Six weeks. We've been in this Expanse for six weeks. What data have we gathered? What pieces of the puzzle have we started to put together? Not a single one. We don't have the luxury of being safe or cautious anymore. And if the only lead we can find comes from a freighter captain of questionable character, then that's good enough for me. Understood?”
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.
Following the compelling set-up concluding season two (“The Expanse”), with the launch of Enterprise into the Delphic Expanse to pursue the perpetrators of a devastating attack on earth, Season Three kicks the series into high gear. Searching for the Xindi, whose first stage assault led to the death of 7 million people, Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise must stop this new enemy from launching the second – and final – stage assault that will lead to the complete destruction of planet earth. They must brave the bizarre Expanse, where the laws of physics aren’t always consistent; where spacial anomalies wreak havoc on unprotected ships, and where time is running out on their mission to save earth.
The season premiere, “The Xindi”, quickly builds upon the new mission of the NX-01 crew (and the new direction of the series), establishing the bizarre physics and dangerous anomalies that mark the Delphic Expanse. Pursuing the creators of the weapon that wrought such a heavy death toll, Captain Archer is of a singular mind. Nothing can get in the way of their charge. The future of earth depends upon the success of their mission and finding and destroying the new, larger weapon under construction by the Xindi, (a race with five distinct species; Insectoids, Primates, Aquatics, Arborials and Reptilians) is all that matters.
The first seven episodes of the season are light on their feet, briskly paced and primarily dedicated to the finding the Xindi and learning more about them. They roll with an easy fluidity and at breakneck pace. Each episodes is filled with satisfying pursuits, partnered with b-stories that would ordinarily be the primary plotting for the episode (such as “Rajiin” with the alien collecting biometric data on the crew and “Exile”, where an alien species telepathically contacts Hoshi). Besides the interesting mix of maintaining the season’s narrative arc with more traditional Star Trek story concepts, Season Three is notable for its boldness. The first two season of Enterprise were marked by a lack of risk taking, but the third season takes a number of chances that pay off. Archer makes questionable ethics choices on a few occasions giving dramatic edge to the normally morally grounded humans featured throughout Trek’s incarnations (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine broke more of this ground though). And the challenges faced by the crew, including religious zealots that detonate a suicide bomber on board to coerce Archer, make for more daring Trek than Enterprise was able to deliver in its first two seasons. Clearly this season was inspired by the compelling story arcs explored by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and although Enterprise doesn’t quite achieve the dramatic crescendo’s of DS9, it must be celebrated for at least stretching toward those stars.
The third season of Enterprise is exactly what this show was meant to be. Darker in tone and bolder in adventure, the serialized storyline gives the show both energy and purpose. And the cast all rise to the challenge. Scott Bakula, prone to bouts of broad performance in earlier seasons, finds grit and gumption grappling with thwarting the destruction of earth balanced against the rooted inclination to find peaceful, diplomatic solutions. It speaks to the essence of Roddenberry’s vision; a future where even in the face of certain destruction or inevitable war, those charged with our protection will seek (and display) the better angels of our souls – but we do see Archer stroke and even cross that line, and the cost to him emotionally, and that makes the drama satisfying. Jolene Blalock is given storylines that allow her to stretch the parameters of her Vulcan character – and she does a fine job with the task. John Billingsly’s Dr. Phlox is uniformly excellent. Each scene is enhanced by his presence and his turn as the focus of the episode “Doctor’s Orders”, which finds him the lone person managing Enterprise when the crew must be placed in comas to survive a four-day stretch through a dangerous section of the Expanse, is marvelous. Linda Parks’ Hoshi is given a couple of chances to shine, early in the season (“Exile”) and again in the finale few episodes when she’s abducted (and tortured) by the Reptilians. Connor Trinneer is a likeable actor and his Trip an endearing character. He handles both light-hearted and dramatically deep material with equal skill, with one scene in particular – as he discusses a fallen crew member while recalling the loss of his sister – wrenching the heart. Dominic Keating’s Malcolm Reed, the ship’s tactical officer, is given considerable screen time though his character doesn’t get much chance to grow through the season. And Anthony Montgomery’s Travis Mayweather, Enterprise’s helmsman, is given short-shrift when the season balances out. Montomery is a fine actor and he gives Mayweather an earnestness that’s surprising given how little we get to see him do besides stare intently at his control panel has he navigates the ship – or the shuttle – through treacherous space.
Season Three is filled with good to great episodes, with nary a weak spot to speak of (though some consider episodes like Exile and Extinction to be weak, I find they provide the right amount of breathing room from the main narrative thrust and feature strong performances despite have seen similar ideas explored before). The highlights of the season are as follow:
The Enterprise is disabled by an attacking pirate ship crewed by the Osaarians, a species highly adapted to the unpredictable Delphic Expanse. The pirates, having stolen vital supplies from the Enterprise, disappear – a skillful hit and run operation. Archer and crew must track the ship down to retrieve the supplies taken, but in doing so encounter enormous, mysterious constructed spheres that may hold answers to nature of the Expanse.
“Anomoly”, the second episode of the season, is particularly good in setting up the framework for what Enterprise will contend with throughout the 24 episodes in the Expanse. The seriousness of the mission, with the loss of 7 million lives still reverberating around the crew, permeates the action and through some fine action and intriguing mysteries introduced (the Sphere’s), this episode perhaps more than the season opener firmly grips the viewer, drawing them in to what this season can offer. Fine visual effects work top off the fun.
The enterprise, responding to an automated distress call from the Selaya – the missing Vulcan ship lost nearly a year prior, encounters a bizarre section of the Expanse, where asteroids whip and sway from the anomalies.
We’ve seen episodes throughout Star Trek where key members of the crew are isolated from their ship, contending with unstable ground and the menace of the week, but rarely is it done with this much atmosphere, urgency and homage to an entire sub-genre of movies. “Impulse” is a relatively intense episode serving up affected Vulcans as proxy for Zombies in what plays out like Dawn of the Dead on a crippled Vulcan ship. Superb set designs and visual effects add additional layers to the engaging story that feels like a side-step from the main Xindi narrative thrust but is actually part and parcel of that storyline. As with much of this third season, we aren’t treated too much by way of science fiction musings and we don’t get to contemplate too deeply the human condition, though through slices of action, we do explore microcosms of what it means to come face to face with deadly scenarios and “Impulse”, hurriedly paced, threatening and exciting, is one of the best.
In this examination of one possible future for the crew of the Enterprise, Archer, injured protecting T’Pol from the wave of an anomaly sweeping through the ship, is unable to form long-term memories. It is 12 years into the future, the Earth was destroyed by the Xindi weapon and the remnants of humanity are being hunted down and destroyed by the unrelenting Xindi.
Fine performances are spread nicely throughout this episode that presents an interesting ‘what if’ exploration of what life might be like if the Enterprise were to fail. It’s possible the producers wanted to highlight the dire consequences for humanity should Archer and crew fail, or as one producer suggested, simply wanted to explore the idea of Alzheimer’s (and the failing of memory) as time travelers (as if it were just yesterday, etc.). We are also given an opportunity to understand T’Pol’s commitment to her crew – and her captain in particular. Like a number of episodes this season, “Twilight” is deftly directed by Star Trek Alumni, in this case Robert Duncan McNeill (Star Trek: Voyager). The storytelling is taut, direction tight, and though the ending somewhat ambiguous, the episode sticks with you when the credits roll.
Like an ode to gritty 70’s dramas, Archer and T’Pol are transported back to the early years of the 21st century to track down three Reptilian Xindi who are attempting to destroy humanity in the past by releasing a deadly toxin into the atmosphere.
Though not generally like by most Enterprise fans, “Carpenter Street” is a very well-made change of pace episode, appearing mid-season. Guest star Leland Orser turns in a fine portrayal as Loomis, a sleazy human of the era willing to commit heinous acts for a few bucks. This episode is distinct among all four seasons of Enterprise for its style and approach. A number of close-proximity shots use hand-held cameras in longer than usual takes, particularly the introducing scene of Loomis as he enters his apartment, and slinks around the clutter and garbage of his home. Director Michael Vejar keeps things simple and, despite the grittier feel, finds time to inject a little levity from time to time. Efficient and engaging, “Carpenter Street” is a better episode than most give it credit for.
When the Trip, the ships chief engineer, is critically injured, Captain Archer orders the creation of a fast-growing clone to harvest the ‘parts’ needed to save Trip’s life. The clone, which will live and die over a few short weeks, has Trip’s memories and, after grappling with his purpose, struggles to embrace his fate.
Despite the convenience of Dr. Phlox’ option for saving Trip’s life, “Similitude” develops into compelling moral drama. Excellent performances from all the actors playing the different stages of Trip’s life, especially Connor Trinneer himself playing a variation of his own character, give this episode good grounding. Shane Sweet as 17 year old Trip, Adam Taylor Gordon as the 8 year old, and Maximillian Kesmodel as the 4 year old, create compelling and astute for their ages versions of the chief engineer that help complicate how we feel about the fate of this clone. He’s positioned as the means to an end. The mission to save billions of lives reliant upon Trip’s survival, it is positioned as the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one, but that doesn’t make it any easier to morally resolve.
Enterprise Writer/Producer Manny Coto cut his writing teeth on Enterprise with this episode that primarily an episode dealing with the moral implications of cloning. The ethics of creating clones, what they should be told, how they should be treated, and how much of their wants and desires should be accounted for all step forward for examination. “Similitude” is surprisingly effective and perhaps the most pure of all of this season’s sci-fi concepts to be probed.
Having discovered the location of the Xindi weapon on a heavily fortified planet of the Aquatic Xindi species, Archer’s only course of action is to pilot a stolen Xindi shuttle and crash it into the weapon, destroying it at the cost of his life. But things don’t go quite to plan.
Written by show creators and runners Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, along with Manny Coto, “Azati Prime” is an action episode all the way. Having set the stage throughout the first three quarters of the season, this episode serves as the fuse lighting for the frenetic 7-episode countdown to the finale. This is a major turning point in the story arc, seeing Archer come face to face with his enemy and petition his case for humanities innocence and positing his theory for what’s really going on (the intent of the mysterious Sphere Builders). As with much of the season the pacing of this episode is very quick, and it contains a fine balance between action, diplomacy, tension and movement along the narrative thrust. The nature of the Sphere Builders and their presentation here highlights just how influenced Enterprise was by the Dominion from Deep Space Nine. The Sphere Builders play like The Founders (DS9’s powerful changelings), with the sub-species of the Xindi acting like the layered species that serve the Founders (the Vorta clones and the genetically bred Jem’Hadarr). Those inspirations aside, the more complicated Xindi and the Sphere Builders pulling their strings still prove a fascinating foe.
Having successfully forged an alliance of sorts with three of the five Xindi species, Archer and a small crew travel aboard Degra’s ship (a member of the Primate species of Xindi) in pursuit of the launched Xindi weapon. Meanwhile T’Pol and Trip must make their way to Sphere 41 and attempt to destroy it, fulfilling a promise Archer made to the Aquatic species, in an attempt to disrupt the network of spheres and the plans of the mysterious trans-dimensional beings trying to convert normal space to their liking.
The third season finale, while slightly less explosive compared to the previous episode, “Countdown”, is notable for its energy and the wicked twist at the very end that no-one saw coming. Two streams of action unfold onscreen as Archer readies the away mission to destroy the Xindi weapon from the inside, and Enterprise must make its way through a deadly spacial anomaly/transformed space to find and attack one of the keystone Spheres. Watching Bakula portray Archer committed to destroying the weapon despite the affect it will have on a fragile Hoshi – who must decode critical information despite her need to recover from the effects of the reptilian torture – provides compelling moments. Having made the tough calls time after time, Bakula shows off the reluctance of his orders in his eyes, but his voice never betrays his directions. The final three episodes of the season play like a single movie, each driven by a down-to-the-wire urgency and loaded with highly entertaining space battles, phaser and fist fights, and visual effects galore. The closing moments of the episode are a perfect example of reeling an audience in and twisting them around with something wholly unexpected. A perfect close to a fine season!
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The third season of Enterprise on Blu-ray is generally solid though occasional softer shots and the reuse of stock footage from previous seasons (Enterprise fly-by, launch of the shuttle pod) show off the lower resolution of those CGI visual effects. Thankfully, Season Three is filled with newly created visual effects that, for the most part, look good on Blu-ray (especially given the fast-paced timetable for producing a weekly science-fiction show). The color palette of the show remains in the blue-grey realm of the spectrum, driven by the aesthetic of the bridge and other locations aboard ship, but warmer colors come to play off-ship, particularly in the episode “Exile”, with fine production values in the mansion in the mountains, and “Extinction”, based almost entirely on a lush-green planet. As I finished the last episode of the season I was struck by just how many impressive and expansive visual effects were deployed throughout the 24 episodes. Though ten years old and based on a television budget, these effects ably support the story and help expand upon the action of the show. A real visual treat for science fiction fans and they hold up quite well.
Audio Rating: 4/5Enterprise Season Three sounds very good. A slight improvement over the previous season’s healthy English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. A good number of opportunities are taken to continue the explosive action onscreen into the surrounds. Though not as throaty or bombastic as the audio design could have been, this release still provides some engaging audio – with piercing phaser-fire and space battles that, at times, take on a frenzied action pace that gives the channels something solid to consider.
Once again I want to mention the scores. Several are standouts with Dennis McCarthy adopting a flavor inspired by Don Davis’s work on the Matrix films that work very well on the show. Though mixed lower than the Original Series of Star Trek, there is still a good deal of personality in the scores provided by a small group of composers. I hope you’re listening La-La Land Records!
Special Features: 4.5/5Again, the special features available on the previous DVD release has made its way onto the Blu-rays and is joined by some very good additional extras, including brand new commentary tracks, an exploration of the Temporal Cold War, and a three-part special feature on Enterprise at war. CBS has a good reputation for the quality of the special features made available on its Star Trek DVD and Blu-ray releases, and Enterprise: Season Three unquestionably keeps that up.
- Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda on “The Xindi” (2005)
- Archival Mission Logs:
- The Xindi Saga Begins (SD)
- Enterprise Moments: Season Three (SD)
- Episode Commentary by David Livingston and David A. Goodman on “Impulse” – NEW!
- Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda on “Impulse” (2005)
- Episode Commentary by Mike Sussman and Tim Gaskill on “Twilight” (2008)
- Episode Commentary by David A. Goodman and Chris Black on “North Star” – NEW!
- Episode Commentary by Mike DeMeritt on “North Star” (2005)
- Episode Commentary by Manny Coto and Connor Trinneer on “Similitude” – NEW!
- Episode Commentary by Manny Coto on “Similitude” (2005)
- Deleted Scenes from “Similitude” (SD)
- Deleted Scene from “Chosen Realm” (SD)
- Episode Commentary by David A. Goodman, Chris Black and Connor Trinneer on “The Forgotten” – NEW!
- Deleted Scenes from “E2” (SD)
- Episode Commentary by Chris Black and André Bormanis on “Countdown” – NEW!
- Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda on “Countdown” (2005)
- In A Time Of War: (HD) – NEW!
- Part One: Call To Arms
- Part Two: Front Lines
- Part Three: Final Conflict
- Temporal Cold War: Declassified (HD) – NEW!
- Archival Mission Logs:
- Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer (SD)
- A Day In The Life Of A Director: Roxann Dawson (SD)
- Behind The Camera: Marvin Rush (SD)
- Enterprise Secrets (SD)
- Outtakes (SD)
- Photo Gallery (SD)
- NX-01 File 07 (SD)
- NX-01 File 08 (SD)
- NX-01 File 09 (SD)