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Paramount Home Video presents
Star Trek: Enterprise—The Complete Second Season (2002-2003)

"Straight and steady, Mr. Mayweather. Let's see what's in there."
- Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: August 07, 2005

Stars: Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park, Connor Trinneer
Other Stars: Keith Allan, Vaughn Armstrong, Jeffrey Combs, Keith Carradine, J. Paul Boehmer, Larry Cedar, Bruce Davison, Francis Guinan, Matthew Kaminsky, Keone Young, Padma Lakshmi, Scott Burkholder, Gregg Henry, Melinda Page Hamilton, Suzie Plakson, Mark Rolston, Joseph Will, J.G. Hertzler, Nicole Forester, Henry Stram, Andreas Katsulas, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jordan Lund, Daniel Riordan
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence, some language and shameless sensuality)
Run Time: 18h:31m:00s
Release Date: July 26, 2005
UPC: 097360569742
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B-A-B+ A-

DVD Review

After George Lucas made the idea of a prequel fashionable, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga set out to infuse a fresh sensibility into Paramount's long running and successful "wagon train to the stars." Set over a century before the original series, Enterprise promised a fresh new concept that revealed the origins of the Trek universe, from warp drive to transporters to the reason why Klingon foreheads weren't bumpy during the reign of Kirk. Sadly, Season One strengthened fans' fears about the ultimately fizzling franchise: Enterprise seemed to be nothing more than a continuation of the "alien of the week" formula, peppered with semi-interesting tales of exploration that only remotely touched on the genesis of the universe we have grown to love.

Indeed, the adventures of the friendly Captain Archer and his green, eager crew did not seem too distant from the exploits of Picard, Janeway and even Sisko. These stories could easily be transplanted into any of the aforementioned series with little trouble; where was the sense of uncertainty—the kind of pioneering ignorance that promised to make this show worthwhile? Where are the mistakes, the fears, and the spirit that could elevate Trek to the next level? Granted, some of these elements do creep into the fabric of the show, but sadly, Season Two manages to repeat the mistakes of prior episodes. A few anomalies, some forced TNG villains, strange aliens, and a strong morality play or two makes for some above average television viewing, but by no means up to the standard that is Trek.

Season Two opens with Shockwave, Part II, the resolution to the inaugural cliffhanger. Captain Archer and time traveler Daniels are stuck in the 31st century, where a once utopian Earth has been laid to waste. Archer's absence from the past triggered the catastrophe, and the duo must find a way back to the past to defeat the Suliban, whose bitter combat in the Temporal Cold War has brought Enterprise to the brink of destruction. The war continues in Future Tense, which features the spine tingling return of the Tholians (a nice touch). Sadly, this continuing storyline is somewhat laborious in its exposition, and I can't help but wonder what other, more relevant back story could be developed. Temporal combat could have been a fine concept for an entirely new Trek show.

Admirably, the writers have attempted to avoid the "reset" button this season—a device that fans continuously whine about. Events from previous episodes are carried over into later installments, rewarding the faithful viewer. The damage Enterprise incurs in a Romulan Minefield is the subject of the intriguing Dead Stop, where the goodwill of a mysterious automated repair facility proves too good to be true. This episode also features some fantastic VFX, as do many others; this is simply a great looking show. Later, the conflict between the Vulcans and Andorians is revisited in Cease Fire, a fine action adventure (starring the always welcome Jeffrey Combs as Shran) that tests Archer's diplomatic skills. Vulcan animosity toward humans is another strong theme throughout.

The majority of the season is devoted to syndication-friendly standalone episodes. The quality varies, as usual. Most of the cast members get some character development in at least one episode this time around: Hoshi's fear of being the outsider is exacerbated by a transporter accident in the well-acted Vanishing Point; Trip, the strongest character on the show, gets a couple hours stranded with strange aliens in Dawn and Precious Cargo; The oft neglected Mayweather revisits his cargo-laden family life in Horizon; T'Pol sees some strong, emotional development in The Seventh, among others; Archer's early days on the NX project are recounted, including his bitter rivalry with A.G. Robinson (the talented Keith Carradine) in First Flight.

Other themes seem quite familiar: Combat reigns in the Seven Samurai homage Marauders (where the bandits are Klingons); Spatial anomalies cause quite a bit of havoc in the original series-tinged Singularity, The Catwalk (where the crew must take shelter from a storm in the ship's warp nacelle—a nifty new set), and the rather strong The Crossing, detailing Starfleet's first encounter with non-corporal life forms, which attempt to use the bodies of the Enterprise crew as hosts. There is also plenty of sexual energy here, including another decontamination rub down in A Night in Sickbay, and T'Pol's obligatory Pon Farr wet tank top run in Bounty (not that I'm complaining, but as a writer, I'd feel bad putting Jolene Blalock through this).

And there are a couple "what were they thinking?" episodes. Regeneration resurrects that old bane, the Borg. Yes, the Borg. Encountering humans before the original series. Before you cry continuity foul, the premise is quite clever: remember that Borg sphere Picard blew up in First Contact? Well, somehow large chunks of debris with live drones crashed and froze over on one of Earth's polar ice caps, only to be found by unsuspecting scientists a few decades later. Akin to The Thing, the drones take control, somehow launch a ship, and begin terrorizing the sector. Guess who has to stop them? While this is a well-directed episode featuring a splendid, rousing score by Brian Tyler (he also did the Con Air-esque Canamar this season), the Borg simply don't belong in this show. Paired with the underwhelming bottle show A Night in Sickbay ("A" story: the Captain's dog is sick, and Dr. Phlox's grooming habits are revealed...need I say more?), good ideas seem scarce.

Regardless, most of these entries satisfy to an extent, and a few manage to elevate above entertaining mediocrity. Some of the season's best include Carbon Creek, where we learn about the Vulcans' true first contact with humanity in a little Pennsylvania mining town; this is a fun culture clash story between our favorite pointy-eared logicians and unsuspecting 1950s earthlings. Stigma is an AIDS allegory that reveals the controversial history behind the mind meld. Cogenitor is a strong moral tale with a gut wrenching ending. The crew encounters the tri-gendered Vissians, one of which is used only for procreation, and is treated no better than an animal. When Trip finds out these "cogenitors" are just as capable as their fellow Vissians, he teaches one to read, unaware of the consequences. The conflict gleaned from this kind of interstellar ignorance should be a larger theme in Enterprise.

Fans tend to rag too hard on Berman and Braga. Let's give them some credit: they have been instrumental in keeping Trek on the air all these years, and some of their material has been downright superb. However, they are human beings. Working on one franchise for several years tends to sap the creative juices out of anyone; they simply ran out of steam. It's understandable, and I thank them for their contributions. It's time for some new blood, however, the first taste of which comes in later seasons (though B&B are still around).

The writers must have sensed some stagnation, as well. With the stunning season ender The Expanse, a bold new story arc is launched, and the show would never be the same. After mysterious probe sent by the Xindi kills millions on Earth, Archer and his crew learn a more powerful weapon is being prepped—one that promises to obliterate humanity (Death Star, anyone?). It's up to the Enterprise to prevent the impending extinction by traveling into the Bermuda Triangle of space: the Delphic Expanse.

This is the beginning of Enterprise's promised renaissance. It gets better from here.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers are very good, but still don't look quite as clean as I'd like. Live action footage can be somewhat soft and grainy—a noticeable contrast to the crystal clear CGI visual effects. Still, this is a quality image that will satisfy.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio is front heavy. The surrounds are occasionally engaged, but they are mostly utilized for ambient fill. These mixes have some power to them, but they're not demo material. The original 2.0 tracks are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 208 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Borg Invasion 4-D
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong on Dead Stop and Regeneration
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Three Easter Egg featurettes, dubbed "NX-01 Files"
  2. Text Commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda
  3. Outtakes
Extras Review: The packaging is exactly like Season One, right down to the disc tray color. The only distinct feature is the number "2" on the interior slipcase. I'm surprised a color change wasn't made. The menus begin with an animation of three Klingon vessels, and the image transforms into a control panel interface.

Paramount has obliged the Oliver Twists of Trek by providing some more audio commentaries this time around, delivering two with writers/producers Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong on Dead Stop and Regeneration. Their comments are informative and entertaining, especially during Regeneration; the pair spend a good chunk of the running time defending their choice to bring the Borg back, despite some harsh backlash. Michael and Denise Okuda contribute text commentaries on Stigma and First Flight. These are comparable to the info found on previous series DVDs.

You will find deleted scenes on Minefield, A Night in Sickbay, Dawn, Stigma, Cease Fire and The Expanse. Some of these scenes have unfinished visuals and sound mixes, but they're all presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0.

Fluffy featurette time. Enterprise Moments: Season Two (19m:07s) is a look at the season as a whole. Since much of year two is composed of standalone episodes, this piece highlights some of the more notable entries, including Carbon Creek and the season opener, Shockwave, Part II.

Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock (14m:25s) is a lengthy interview with Jolene Blalock on the evolution of T'Pol throughout the season. She is a charismatic and entertaining conversationalist, and she clearly puts quite a bit of thought into her performance; it shows on screen.

LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director (06m:59s) promises to be a neat look at Burton's directorial contributions to the franchise over the years, but ends up focusing solely on First Flight, which LeVar directed. Not a bad featurette, but the piece's title is a bit misleading.

Enterprise Secrets (04m:46s) was one of the more interesting bits on the last set; it was a fun look at the low tech features of the futuristic Enterprise set. This time we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the Rura Penthe set built for the derivative Judgment. We've seen this all in Star Trek VI, so the secrets revealed here are not too shocking.

Inside A Night in Sickbay (11m:14s) tries very hard to paint this comedic bottle show as a highly successful romp like its first season counterpart Shuttlepod One. Cast and crew reflect on this episode's unique tone, and some of the visual effects that were involved.

More outtakes (11m:09s) are included, as well. These are a real treat. Some of the takes go on a bit too long before the "blooper" in question appears, but there are some great technobabble flubs, a prank by a crew member, and more.

A few more items: you will find a trailer for the Borg Invasion 4-D ride in Las Vegas (there is also a coupon enclosed for the attraction), three easter eggs (mini-featurettes, or NX-01 Files, easily found on the Special Features menus), a photo gallery, and a booklet with an episode guide.

Once again, kudos to Paramount for continuing their extra efforts on these sets, but would you mind lowering the retail price?

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Despite its shortcomings, Enterprise is still enjoyable sci-fi television, and Paramount's well assembled set enhances the experience. Season Two is not too different from its predecessor, filled with plenty of standalone adventures and a few limited story arcs. The show looks great and the acting is solid, but the material is still not reaching its potential. And that dreadful opening credits song is still there. Thank Cochran the revamped Season Three is on the way. Hang on to your bulkheads.

 


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