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Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Two Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 1 Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

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Posted September 09 2013 - 07:42 PM

Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Two Blu-ray Review

Star Trek: Enterprise returned for a second season among slowly deteriorating ratings and some disenchantment from fans. Spending early episodes in familiar ideas, such as an alternate ‘first contact’ story between humans and Vulans told by T’Pol in the episode “Carbon Creek”, and a run in with unseen Romulans in “Minefield”, appeared to be a strategic mistake when it first aired and still seems ill-timed today. But the season also features some rough and tumble episodes, a little smart science, and a cast of actors that continued to iron out the wrinkles of their characters, producing an overall solid season. Featuring a wonderful set of special features and very good audio and video quality, Season Two is worth revisiting.


Cover Art


Studio: Paramount

Distributed By: CBS

Video Resolution and Encode: 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: 18 Hr. 32 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

6-Disc Single Case with Slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 08/20/2013

MSRP: $129.99




The Production Rating: 3.5/5

“I can't wait to get in there, Captain - find the people who did this. And tell me we won't be tiptoeing around. None of that non-interference crap T'Pol's always shoving down our throats”

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 Two

3.5/5



Generally speaking, the stories explored in the 26 episodes of season two continue the scope and scale of the first season, featuring the nagging Suliban antagonists, though less frequently, run-ins with Klingons, Andorians, Vulcans, and various one-off species. The writers and producers of the sophomore season also chose to leaf through the pages of Star Trek canon, scouring for popular species old and new for any chance at generating interest from weary Star Trek fans who might not have given Enterprise much of a chance. The efforts yield mixed results. In the episode “Minefield”, the enterprise is damaged by a cloaked mine in territory that ends up belonging to the Romulans and although the episode doesn’t fly in the face of established Star Trek continuity – where Captain Kirk and crew are the first to actually see a Romulan in the episode “Balance of Terror” – the episode loses dramatic edge as a result of skirting around that continuity. In the episode “Cease Fire” the Enterprise crew encounters the Tholians, a highly xenophobic species notable for their appearance in The Original Series episode “The Tholian Web”. In keeping with canon, we don’t see the Tholians but their superior technology proves challenging for the Enterprise. And in the episode “Regeneration”, the crew tackles the Borg who were the leftovers from the destroyed ship in the Next Generation film, Star Trek: First Contact. Timeline-wise it can be explained how the Borg appeared a couple of centuries before Picard and crew first encounter them, but it smacks of exploitation – especially considering Star Trek: Voyager had already tried to adopt that species for their own dramatic gains (Deep Space Nine wisely avoided the species altogether).

The Second season of Enterprise made a valiant effort to strike a bolder tone dramatically. In some regards, the season hit some of the right notes both creatively and in performances. Scott Bakula is a likeable actor, up to the physical challenge of captaining the first Starship in earth’s history, though he tends toward acting to fill in the spaces of the scene, feeling around the tone of a scene in ways reminiscent of mid-20th century actors. Tonally it approaches the performance of William Shatner – a far cry from the modest, stage-trained and restrained performance of Patrick Stewart as the Enterprise-D captain. Even knee-deep into the second season, that kind of portrayal still takes some getting used to. But in episodes like “Bounty” and “Cogenitor”, Bakula shows grit and moxie, and an edge that serves him well (particularly in the final scene of “Cogenitor as he dresses down his friend and Engineer, Tripp).

Each of the actors that make up the main cast gets at least one episode dedicated to them. And in each case shines. Besides those episodes focusing on the main actors in the ensemble, Scott Bakula, Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock, those focusing on the characters of Dr. Phlox (“The Breach”), Ensign Mayweather (“Horizon”) and Ensign Sato (“Vanishing Point”) are solid – perhaps not great, but the performances of the actors shouldering the episode are demonstrative of fine actors inhabiting likable roles. The complaint being however that more time was not dedicated to singling and fleshing these characters out even more.

Overall, Enterprise Season Two is entertaining and the character growth, though minor, is entirely welcome. In fact, it is the development of the relationship between Captain Archer and T’pol, the Vulcan science officer, that is the most pleasing. The standoffish nature of T’Pol, generally a Vulcan trait, remains intact though the writer’s afford the science officer a few vulnerabilities and more than a few moments to defer and show respect to her captain. It shows evolution into a pairing – that becomes a solid trio when Tripp, the southern engineer is factored in, that displays intriguing camaraderie.

Season two featured a number of very good episodes, beginning with the season opener, “Shockwave Part II”, which found Archer trapped in a destroyed future, resolving the situation using his intellect and closing out the episode with some solid visual effects. Other top-notch episodes include:

The Crossing
This episode, which features the Enterprise held captive within a massive alien vessel populated by corporeal beings, features some excellent visual effects (for a television show), and a somewhat novel approach with the formless aliens who are not what they at first appear. We’ve seen possession by alien species in episodes before (the TNG episode “Power Play” springs to mind), but something plays fresh in this outing.

Cogenitor
What at first appears to be a rather predictable (and even frustrating) episode dealing with the human crew imposing their values on an alien species – Tripp in this case – ends up superbly demonstrating the perils of the human crew, fresh explorers in the great unknown, interfering with the unusual and even controversial practices of alien races. Largely predictable in its form, the episode is notable for what it covers – a species with a subjugated third gender – and for its bold closing moments. In fact, the final exchange between Captain Archer and Tripp proves to be one of the season’s best scenes. It packs a surprising punch even if you see it coming.

Singularity
This interesting episode finds T’Pol responsible for saving the Enterprise and her crew as they are rendered erratic, then unconscious by the ships approach to a black hole. An interesting examination of T’Pol’s reaction to humans and find Jolene Blalock once again exploring interesting corners to the Vulcan character.

Stigma
At the request of the studio, all shows at the time (2002) were asked to produce an episode that dealt with the devastating issue of HIV/Aids. Enterprise’s answer to that call was ‘Stigma’, a novel approach to the issue that substitutes HIV/Aids for Pa’nar Syndrome, a degrading illness experienced by some Vulcans following the, at the time, disapproved of act of mind-melding. Besides the allegorical nature of the Vulcan disease for HIV, the triumph of the episode is in how T’Pol chooses to react when her carrying of the disease is discovered by the Vulcan High Command. Having contracted the illness though a forced meld by a Vulcan with whom the Enterprise had encountered the year before, Archer and others plead with T’Pol to let the Vulcan leadership know that she is not part of the outcast minority that embrace the practice of mind-melding, but she rightly refuses on moral grounds and in solidarity with those who have been afflicted in the minority (“If I used that as a defense as a way to keep from being taken off Enterprise, I'd be condoning their prejudice, and in the process indicting every member of the minority. I won't do that”).

I remember this episode seeming clunky and awkward at the time of its first airing, but time has been most kind to this 45 minutes.

The Expanse
“The Expanse”, which cleverly set up the show for its more focused narrative arc in season three, finds the Enterprise sent on a mission into the Delphic Expanse following a devastating attack on earth,where a species called the Xindi have launched a pre-emptive strike against earth after they learn that humans will cause the destruction of their world 400 years in the future. The tone of this episode is deeply serious. Premiering just a couple of years after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, with that horrific day still very much present in the feelings of Americans (and others around the globe), Star Trek does what it can often do so very well, dares to explore a charged issue (how we respond to attacks of that scale).

The finale opens the promise of that exploration, but the death of Tripp’s sister in the attack which left over seven million dead, provides a valuable glimpse into the nature of what the show will attempt to deal with. The crew of the NX-01 are entering a dangerous and mysterious region of space (which also gives license to the writers to expand the types of episodes that are possible), but with a singular purpose, stop the aliens from finishing a weapon capable of destroying earth. What Archer and crew do once there and faced with addressing their new enemy is where the show will begin to shake itself out of its safer comfort zone. The finale of season two was superbly produced, exciting, dramatic, and a statement that the show had a great deal to offer.

Honorable mentions include “First Flight”, “Dead Stop” and “The Breach”.

Season two enjoyed more standout episodes but the season was still marked by more than its fair share of average episodes. The writers, apparently still at the behest of the network, were unable to take many risks with their storytelling and were required to confine themselves to standalone episodes – something that would be rectified in the third season.

The Episodes

Disc One
Shockwave, Part II
Carbon Creek
Minefield
Dead Stop

Disc Two:
A Night In Sickbay
Marauders
The Seventh
The Communicator
Singularity

Disc Three:
Vanishing Point
Precious Cargo
The Catwalk
Dawn
Stigma

Disc Four:
Cease Fire
Future Tense
Canamar
The Crossing
Judgment

Disc Five:
Horizon
The Breach
Cogenitor
Regeneration
First Flight

Disc Six:
Bounty
The Expanse



Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

Just like season one, Enterprise on Blu-ray is a joy to see but comes with a few minor issues. The 1080p video brings shows off, in large part, a good amount of detail. Colors are well-balanced with the steel-cold sets benefitting nicely and the various planetary color schemes (mostly in the clay/red hues) also looking good. The image also shows the limitations for some of the visual effects which, for the broadcast run, were rendered in 480p (some are reporting 780p) and simply upconverted. Several stock shots remain the most obvious examples of this. The computer generated imagery effects are more plentiful in the second season with some truly expansive efforts (the launch of the NX prototype ship in the episode “First Flight” is brief but nicely detailed in its design and execution).

A minor improvement over season one, however.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The second season of Enterprise still sounds great. With a healthy English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and an engaged sound design replicated throughout the channels, Enterprise is best watched with the sound turned up. Phaser fire is particularly sharp, the hum of the NX-01 evenly handled, and various aggressive incidents with unfriendly species can produce some of the most dynamic audio experiences of the show.

The scores – which I have my fingers crossed will see a score release from a fine Soundtrack label like La-La Land Records – are of good quality and feature some recognizable names (like Brian Tyler and Trek Alums Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway).



Special Features Rating: 4.5/5

With the wealth of special features ported over from the previous DVD release and a slew of new, fascinating and insightful documentary segments and audio commentaries created just for the HD release on Blu-Ray, CBS is proving that they understand their target audience. Investing in these relatively expensive sets, aside from owning the entertaining shows themselves in formats that show off their fine details, can often be spurred on by the inclusion of retrospectives from cast and crew alike. Season one of Star Trek: Enterprise did a superb job of providing for fans and that has continued with season two. There is some great stuff here, despite the older features still being in standard definition.

Disc One
Audio Commentary by Chris Black and Mike & Denise Okuda on “Carbon Creek”—NEW!
Deleted Scene from “Minefield” (SD)
Audio Commentary by Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong (2005) on “Dead Stop”
In Conversation: The First Crew (HD)—NEW!
Season 2 Promo (SD)

Archival Mission Logs:
- Enterprise Moments: Season Two (SD)
- Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock (SD)

Disc Two:
Deleted Scenes from “A Night In Sickbay” (SD)
Archival Mission Log: Inside A Night In Sickbay (SD)

Disc Three:
Deleted Scene from “Dawn” (SD)
Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda (2005) on “Stigma”
Deleted Scene from “Stigma” (SD)
Stigma – Archival Interviews (SD)
Archival Mission Log: Photo Gallery (SD)

Disc Four:
Deleted Scene from “Cease Fire” (SD)
Archival Mission Logs
Shooting “Future Tense” (SD)
Enterprise Secrets (SD)

Disc Five:
Audio Commentary by John Billingsley and Bonita Friedericy on “Regeneration”—NEW!
Audio Commentary with Chris Black and Mike and Denise Okuda on “First Flight”—NEW!
Audio Commentary by Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong (2005) on “Regeneration”
Text Commentary by Mike & Denise Okuda (2005) on “First Flight”
Archival Mission Logs
- Levar Burton – Star Trek Director (SD)
- Enterprise Outtakes (SD)

Disc Six:
Deleted Scenes from “The Expanse” (SD)
Documentary: “Uncharted Territory”—NEW! (HD)
- Part One: Destination Unknown
- Part Two: First Crew
- Part Three: Course Correction

Archival Mission Logs
- NX-01 File 04
- NX-01 File 05
- NX-01 File 06



Overall Rating: 4/5

The second season of Enterprise followed the general flow established during the first season though the confidence of the cast and writing clearly benefited from the experience of the prior season. The show remained solid in terms of production and crew but the lack of boldness in direction of the series and of the standalone episodes – many of which revisit familiar dramatic ground – continued to hold the series back.

I’ve long felt that Enterprise was a victim of all that came before it. Four series, multiple movies on the big screen, and countless books that further explored the characters of its universe had reached a certain point of saturation. Where Enterprise could have wholly changed the paradigm of its dramatic approach, it chose instead to retreat to standard tropes, placing its characters in many familiar predicaments to give them opportunity to learn and grow from one another. With a few notable exceptions, that’s how the 26 episodes of season two progress. The quality of the production, visual effects, musical scores, and other elements are all top-notch, but the brave story-telling and fascinatingly original ideas should have been more abundant than they were. But season three, based on this season’s finale, held great promise that this could change.


Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss


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