Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season Studio: Paramount Year: 2003 - 2004 Rated: NR Length: 17 hours, 6 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Anamorphically Enhanced Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1 English Subtitles Closed Captioned Special Features: Featurettes, Audio / Text Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Photo Gallery Suggested Retail Price: $129.99 USD Release Date: September 27, 2005 The third season of Enterprise was a “make or break” season for me. I’d sat and watched most of the episodes of the previous two seasons when they aired - and while I saw promise, the show rarely delivered. The cliffhanger at the end of season two caught my attention. 7 million people on Earth are killed in a prelude to an all-out attack on Earth, by an alien species previously unknown. I thought, certainly, the events in the cliffhanger would open up some interesting and gritty storylines for season three. Enterprise finally began to deliver. That’s not to say the show was perfect. There were a few minor diversions along the way. Overall, however, season three provided solid entertainment. It took a couple of episodes, Xindi, Anomaly, for Enterprise to get its footing, only to be nearly derailed with episode three, Extinction. In this episode, Archer, Reed and Hoshi contract a virus that mutates them into a primal lifeform. Perhaps Berman and Braga forgot that they had done this episode at least twice before, on The Next Generation and Voyager. Just when things were getting fresh and new... There is a quick recovery with the middle-of-the-road episode, Rajiin, in which a mysterious refugee aboard Enterprise has hidden motives for coming aboard - she is gathering intelligence for the Xindi. Impulse is a nod to zombie films, when Enterprise responds to a Vulcan vessel in distress. It seems that the Vulcans have been - altered - in this region of space, and T’Pol begins to become affected, as well. Exile is another been-there, done-that, followed up by a good, action oriented episode - The Shipment. In this episode, Enterprise tracks materials that will be used to build the next weapon launched against Earth. Twilight is a so-so alternate-future type episode, with only an ancillary relationship to the meta-story. North Star is also a stand-alone episode - a Western. While it has certainly been done in Trek before, there are some nice elements to this story. Similitude finds Dr, Phlox cloning Commander Tucker in order to harvest transplantable tissue to save the commander’s life. This becomes very much a Tuvix-like episode, referencing an episode from Voyager in which Tuvok and Neelix become combined into one being - one which must die to save the other. This episode is handled better than the Voyager episode, but I still found it too familiar. Carpenter Street is an okay action, time-travel episode that sends Archer and T’Pol back to 20th century Earth to stop the Xindi Reptilians from creating a bio-weapon. Kind of a silly, tired plot when you think about it, but there’s enough action to keep you entertained. Chosen Realm harkens back to Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. In it, religious zealots take over Enterprise, seeking to use the ship in their fight against others of their own race who have a different religious belief. This episode is better than Battlefield, but still uses a sledge hammer to drive its point home. Proving Ground sees the return of the Andorian commander Shran. But is Shran really there to help? Strategem finds Archer trying to manipulate information out of Degra, the Xindi creator of the weapon used against Earth. Harbinger begins to explore the reasons why the Delphic Expanse is so dangerous. Doctor’s Orders is another misstep. In it, Phlox must navigate the Enterprise through a dangerous region of space, while the entire crew is sedated - due to some effect the region will have on the human brain. Again, Berman and Braga seem to have forgotten that this was done on Voyager. There is nothing new, here. Only John Billingsley’s performance makes this interesting. Hatchery finds Archer playing mother to a bunch of Xindi eggs. Stupid. The final seven episodes are essentially the continuing story of the search for the Xindi weapon. It’s an excellent run to the finale, with good storytelling and solid action. Damage stands out as perhaps the best episode of the season, when Archer must go against everything he believes in, in his desperation to save Earth. It is a compelling episode with excellent performances. The final hour, Zero Hour, is a solid finale, right up to the cliffhanger. The show takes such a severe left turn in the final minutes that, instead of being shocking (which is likely what the writers were looking for), it ends like a “shaggy dog story.” After the last third of the season provided so much entertainment, and a fair amount of original storytelling, the last five minutes of the finale washed it away with a very tired image - one which has been visited countless times in the Trek universe. It was an about-face which really turned me off to the show - in a very literal sense. I never tuned in again. It’s too bad, too - since I hear that season four was the best of Enterprise. I will give season four a chance when it is released on DVD. It is the only season of any Star Trek show that I have yet to watch. Given the fan reaction to the season, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be worth my time. Viewscreen On As with the previous seasons, the anamorphically enhanced image is decently detailed and exhibits excellent contrast. Black levels are strong, with good shadow detail. Whites are bright and restrained, retaining detail in the brightest highlights. There are a few, very rare and mild, instances of mild artifacting, but they are hardly worth mentioning and will go unnoticed by all but the most scrutinizing viewer. There is every indication that season three was authored to the same standards as the previous seasons. Hailing Frequencies The Dolby Digital 5.1 track delivers an active, open soundstage across the front channels, containing panning dialog and effects and a nice, full range of frequencies. LFE effects are solid when called for, but not quite as punched up as you’d find in a well mixed feature film. Rear effects are, on average, more subdued than other Trek TV DVDs. However, there are some ear-catching effects, on occasion, that stand out. Occasional space battles and ship flybys stand out, while it is the average ambient noise that is subdued in the surrounds. The mix is clean and never allows music or effects to obscure the dialog. While you’ll find more active mixes on feature films on DVD, this is a good mix for TV on DVD. Special Features With the seventh disc containing only the special features (and no episodes), it would have been nice to have seen some more featurettes. There would have been plenty of room for some input by Herman Zimmerman, Dan Curry, Michael Westmore or Michael Okuda. Certainly, the visual effects and makeup in season three warrant some discussion. With two CGI alien species taking center stage, there isn’t a single mention of the efforts undertaken to get them on the screen. It should be noted that disc one of the set contained semi-forced trailers for other Paramount DVDs. I consider this a bug, not a feature. I don’t review advertisements, and I skipped over these as rapidly as possible... so don’t ask me what they were. It is unfortunate for this trend to invade the Star Trek sets, which have remained immune, up until now. Given the price on these sets, it would be nice to have them ad-free. Here is what you will find for special features: Commentaries “The Xindi” - text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. “Impulse” - text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. “North Star” - audio commentary by assistant director Mike Demeritt “Similitude” - audio commentary by writer / executive producer Manny Coto “Countdown” - text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. I haven’t viewed the text commentaries or listened to the audio commentaries. I’ve had some unfortunate season four spoilers revealed to me in previous commentaries on these sets. View / listen to them at your own risk. Generally speaking, most people know what to expect of the text commentaries. I have heard good things about Mike Demeritt’s commentary. Deleted Scenes from the following episodes: “Similitude”, “Chosen Realm”, “E Squared” The Xindi Saga Begins (13:08) Rick Berman and Brannon Braga relate how Paramount pressured them to retool the show, leading them into creating a season long arc about Earth in peril. This allowed the episodes and the characters to become darker, and provided a solid backdrop to explore the characters deeper than before. Included are comments from much of the writing staff, as well as Scott Bakula and John Billingsley. Enterprise Moments: Season 3 (12:54) This is standard fare for the Trek boxed sets... a capsule review of the season, with comments by cast and crew. Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer (17:12) A rather extensive interview with the actor who plays “Trip” Tucker, interspersed with clips from the show and comments from cast and crew. A Day in the Life of a Director: Roxann Dawson (17:24) The cameras turn on Trek actress-turned-director Roxann Dawson, as she directs the episode “Exile.” Dawson takes the time out of a busy shooting day to describe her approach to certain scenes to the audience. We also see Dawson, actors and crew block out and shoot scenes, and we see the finished product. A nice procedural documentary of a day on the set. Outtakes A decent 6 minute reel of bloopers and jokes. Maybe not as good as last season, but nice. Photo Gallery The focus of this gallery seems to be on the many alien characters from season three, with a few regular cast portraits and crew shots thrown in for good measure. Borg Invasion Trailer (:32) NX-01 07: John Billingsley talks about Phlox’s sex life and a nude scene NX-01 08: Costume Designer Robert Blackman talks costumes NX-01 09: Mike Sussman talks about “E (squared)” Final Thoughts Season three was a turning point for the series. After two luke warm seasons, the show finally found its legs. Unfortunately, the complete about-face in the final moments of the season finale stole the thunder from a season which featured some excitement and originality, plunging it into the land of the retread where Berman and Braga have so often gone before. The series was on shaky ground for me - I was just beginning to respect where it was headed. Then, in five minutes, all the respect I had gained for the show was washed away in such a narrative about face that it would be difficult for any viewer to hold respect for it. Finding better things to do with my time upon the show’s original airing of season four, I chose not to tune in. I know of others who had the same reaction. The creators of the show hadn’t yet earned the right to pull a stunt like that. It’s too bad. I’ve since heard good things about the final season. I just couldn’t get past that “jump the shark” moment. At any rate, the third season of Enterprise is served up with fine A/V quality in this boxed set. Special features total a bit over an hour. While what is provided is interesting, there was a lost opportunity to explore the visual effects, makeup, or art direction in a pivotal year for the series. Despite the cliffhanger and the lost opportunity for an effects featurette, Enterprise: Season Three is: Recommended.