“It’s been a long time getting from there to here.” 35 years to be exact. Enterprise is the fourth spin-off from the original 1960’s hopeful series. Rick Berman decided to set this series about 100 years before the days of Kirk and Spock. Enterprise has certainly taken a ton of heat since its debuted just 4 years ago. While much of the whining by the “get a life” fans can be delegated to the “Nitpicker’s Guides,” much of it is well deserved.
The most egregious infraction is the liberty the show has taken with established timeline of Star Trek. At times it does appear Berman has decided to insult the very fans that have made the program so enduring. The writers try too hard to make Enterprise the underdog in every fight. It sure seems like everybody else has shields and better weapons. Makes you wonder how Earth became the dominant member of the Federation. With that said, I have found this to be the most entertaining Star Trek since Picard and his crew flew their Enterprise in The Next Generation. The characters, with the notable exception of Hoshi, are the most compelling in many years. Finally there is a trinity of characters reminiscent of the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy relationships. Great effort has been made to create this chemistry with Archer, Trip, and T’Pol, the newest Vulcan. I particularly liked the nice touch of having the three often dine together while discussing the business of exploring space.
Episodes like “Shuttlepod One” demonstrate the return to episodes that play out as character studies. Remember the show that started it all had effects only slightly better than campy Lost In Space, another show salvaged by great characters. I am drawn by the idea of tension between humans, who have a genetic desire to explore, and the Vulcans, who do not considers humans ready for the intergalactic community. No doubt that Enterprise had incredible potential. I believe the show was just getting its space legs when UPN pulled the plug. Who needs thought provoking social commentary when you can air “Who Wants To Be America’s Next Super-Model”?
The Earth is finally ready to send its first starship to explore the vast Galaxy. This first Starship Enterprise is smaller than the ships we’ve become used to. There are no shields or photon torpedoes. The transporter has only been cleared for inanimate objects. Not that this stands in the way of its occasional “emergency” use. The crew is composed of Captain Jonathan Archer (Bakula), First Officer and Vulcan High Command liaison, T’Pol (Blalock), Chief Engineer Charles (Trip) Tucker (Trinneer), Tactical Officer Malcolm Reed (Keating), Denobulan Dr. Phlox (Billingsly), Pilot Travis Mayweather (Montgomery) and Linguist/Communications Officer Hoshi Sato (Park).
With no Prime Directive to stand in their way (did it ever stop anyone before?) this crew has Carte Blanche to discover the wonders of the cosmos. Most of this season finds the crew battling new enemy The Suliban. (Can anyone say Taliban?) A Temporal Cold War is also introduced that places the crew in the middle of factions from the future.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is pretty comparable to the previous Star Trek entries on DVD. Sadly, there is not a lot of separation. Ambient sounds tend to mix mostly in the mains, while dialogue flourishes well defined in the center. There seem to be more explosions on this show, and they do at times push your subs to make their presence heard.
For the first time on any Trek series set you’ll find commentaries. Most are the Okuda text messages, but you will find Rick Berman and Brannon Braga doing an audio commentary. These guys are about as exciting to listen to as watching grass grow. Strictly sleepy time here.
Another first for Star Trek series DVD’s is the letterbox presentations found here. Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 – Perfect for 16×9 screens. I must say I was extremely pleased with the video. Our local UPN affiliate must not be broadcasting up to spec. The original broadcasts were always too dark and grainy. These transfers eliminate most of those annoying broadcast defects to deliver a stunning image. Darkness still dominates the overall look and feel of the show, but now these darks contain detail and excellent levels of shadow. Colors are quite vivid. Explosions provide a veritable brilliance fest against the dark star fields. Contrast was never better.
First things first. I applaud Paramount’s attempt at clever packaging, but it seems these sets get more cumbersome with each new set. This time we have the standard book form placed inside a clear plastic sleeve. This sleeve is in turn housed in a metallic looking plastic case that does not fit in well with your other titles on the shelf.
Another first is a few deleted scenes you’ll find scattered on the discs. Most are not completed with f/x and are for the most part unenlightening. Still, it was a nice touch.
Disc Seven (not of nine, sorry) contains the bulk of the extras featured…
- “Creating Enterprise” is a short promo basically introducing you to the world of Enterprise.
- “Oh Captain” profiles Scott Bakula and his portrayal of Captain Archer.
- “Cast Impressions: Season One” is another very nice touch. You’ll see each of the cast members talk about their thoughts on Enterprise and its maiden voyages.
- “Star Trek Time Travel: The Temporal Wars Beyond” This short feature examines that Star Trek staple: time travel.
- “Enterprise Secrets” This one’s too short to offer anything more than what a warp core really is. I still don’t know.
- “Admiral Forest Takes Center Stage” It was nice of the writers to create homage moments to the original cast and crew. Who will ever forget DeForest Kelley and the lovable Dr. McCoy. Of course, this feature isn’t about our beloved Bones, but his namesake on Enterprise and long time Trek guest star Vaughn Armstrong.
- The last wonderful new treasure is 10 minutes of “Enterprise Outtakes” For anyone who remembers the old blooper reels that made the convention rounds in the 1970’s and 80’s you’ll get the new and improved 21st century version.
- Another “Borg Invasion” Vegas promo rounds out an impressive array of new toys to play with.
Ironically the first season of Enterprise arrives days before the final episode of the show is scheduled to air. Next fall will mark the first time since 1987 that there will be no new Star Trek on the air. Repeats of the previous shows seem irrelevant now that all of them are available uncut and commercial free on DVD. An 11th Trek film is in the early draft stages but will feature no one from any of the established Trek shows. The film will likely tell the story of the Romulan War, hinted at in the original Trek episode Balance of Terror. Word is Paramount plans to give Star Trek at least 5 and maybe as many as 10 years of rest. Will we ever have the opportunity to “boldly go where no one has gone before” again? “I’ve got faith”.