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Featured TV on DVD Review: Star Trek: Enterprise: Season One

March 25th, 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Star Trek, as a franchise, began nearly 50 years ago and it has maintained a healthy fan base ever since. Star Trek: Enterprise started in 2001 and had quite a lot of pre-release buzz. It was to look at the very early days of humans exploring the galaxy and taking their place in pre-Federation times. The pilot, Broken Bow was seen by more than 12.6 million people. However, the average viewership for season one was just under 6 million and by the time the series was canceled after the fourth season, the show's ratings had fallen to under half of that. It obviously didn't live up to the hype, but now that the show's been off the air for nearly a decade and the hype is not an issue, is it worth going back and rediscovering the show?

The Show

Star Trek: The Next Generation lasted for seven seasons, but it got off to a slow start. The pilot, Encounter at Farpoint, was one of the weakest in the first season, and bottom 25% for the entire run, while the best episode, Conspiracy, isn't in the top 25% for the show's entire run. Season two showed some signs of improving and includes the first truly classic episodes like Elementary, Dear Data, The Measure of a Man, and Q Who? Unfortunately, it was also less consistent than the first season and there were some truly awful episodes as well. Fortunately, Season Three is where the show really found its mark and when the series was announced for Blu-ray, it was this season I really wanted to see again. Some of the episodes I was most excited to see again include Yesterday's Enterprise, Déjà Q, and of course the season finale cliffhanger, The Best of Both Worlds: Part 1, all of which are classics not only for the series, but for the franchise.

Some of you might be wondering why I'm talking about Star Trek: The Next Generation when this review is supposed to be about Star Trek: Enterprise? The reason is simple. I don't want to talk about Enterprise. It's so bad.

I mentioned previously, the pilot Star Trek: The Next Generation is a mess, which is common for most TV shows. The writers have to introduce too many characters and too many relationships between these characters, many of which will be underwritten as a result. The actors are not sure how to play these characters either, at least not as well as they will be once they learn more about them. With Enterprise, the pilot is one of the better episodes of the series, or at the very least, it is no worse than average. This is a really bad sign. The pilot set up some potential, but almost none of it paid off. The biggest thing it set up was the Temporal Cold War, which was dropped after two seasons, because it was clear it was going nowhere.

As for the characters, again, some had potential. I did like Linda Park as Hoshi Sato. She's the communication officer and since this takes place before the invention of the Universal Translator, her job is very important. Also, she doesn't want to be there. She's afraid of flying in space, which at least gives her character a little more... well... character. She only takes this job because Captain Archer is a friend of hers and he requested her personally because of her linguistic skills. Her adjusting to space could have been the best part of the first season and overall this character had the most potential, but unfortunately, it was mostly wasted. Even her linguistic skills were not put to good use as often as they should have been. I also liked Malcolm Reed, who also has the right mix of skills and insecurities and that gives him both opportunities to shine and to be over-his-head. The writers tended to put his character to better use than they did with Hoshi.

On the other hand, Travis Mayweather is a complete blank. ... He's been in space. That's the only thing you learn about him throughout most of the show's run. Likewise, Phlox is an alien, so he does alien things, but that's all we learn about him. Also, he might be the worst Sci-fi doctor this side of Zoidberg. Trip Tucker was little more than a redneck in space. Given his success with the ladies, I think he was supposed to be this show's Captain Kirk, but it doesn't work. Further down the list of characters, we find the two leads: Captain Archer and T'Pol. Captain Archer is either an idiot or insane. He's also a bigot with an irrational hatred of Vulcans. I'm convinced that the person who came up with T'Pol and wrote all of the Vulcans on Enterprise had never seen an episode of Star Trek in their life. The Vulcans here are not rational and logical, they emotional, arrogant, etc. (I know, I know, later they tried to explain these differences, but that came too late for the show.)

Not every episode in season one is bad, but almost all of them are. The best episodes have some potential, but are then blown with stupidity. The Andorian Incident could have been a really good episode, except Captain Archer spends most of the episode doing stupid things and ends the episode by giving sensitive information on Vulcan intelligence gathered to the Andorians. So he gives information that compromises one of Earth's only allies to one of their enemies that might lead to a war, because... he's either an idiot or insane. This incident comes up again in Shadows of P'Jem and I applaud the continuity; however, instead of learning lessons, Captain Archer becomes even more convinced he did the right thing, because... he's either an idiot or insane. Dear Doctor could have been a good episode with lots of drama, as it dealt with a medical emergency that could lead to an entire species being wiped out. Phlox comes up with a cure, but convinced Captain Archer not to give it to the aliens, because that would be interfering with evolution. So the pair commit genocide, because... they're either idiots or insane. Star Trek: The Next Generation had a similar story with Pen Pals, but there the crew talked about the Prime Directive and realized compassion overrides the Prime Directive. You can't let a species be wiped out, just because you change the path of their natural development.

Many episodes include famous species from the previous shows, including The Andorian Incident, Fortunate Son, Acquisition, etc., but these are rarely well done. They usually come across as pathetic attempts to bring in hard core Star Trek fans, who were not warming up to the show like so many of the creators had hoped. Getting to see the Ferengi would bring in fans of Deep Space Nine, specifically fans of Quark (Armin Shimerman). It would have worked, had the episode not been bad, even compared to the average Season One episode. After the Ferengi knock out the crew, rob the ship, and prepare to capture a few crew members as slaves, Captain Archer and the rest of the crew outsmart them and turn the tables. After capturing them, Archer lets them go without asking who they are. He doesn't hand them over to the Vulcans for prosecution as pirates and slavers, because... he's either an idiot or insane. In this case Idiot is a lot more likely.

Shuttlepod One is one of the best episodes from the season, perhaps the series. It does what the Star Trek: Enterprise should have focused on: Space is a dangerous place, especially for an inexperienced crew of the first long-distance spaceship. Strange New World could have done the same, except Captain Archer was acting like an idiot again. Instead of studying the planet from space to determine if it was safe, he just lands on the planet with some of the crew and wanders around. It turns out the planet is dangerous. The season does end on a high note with Shockwave: Part 1, but it's a little too late.

The Extras

There are lots of extras on the five-disc set, including audio commentary tracks on four episodes, five if you count the pilot as a two-parter, which actually has two commentary tracks. There are also text-based technical tracks for three episodes and deleted scenes for nine episodes. There are new interviews, a three-part making of featurette, the old promos, and more. There's lots of extras, but given the price-tag, this is expected.

Star Trek: Enterprise debuted in 2001, which is well before the introduction of high definition TV, and you can tell. The special effects were made to look good in standard definition and they don't look that great when converted to high definition. It's not the worst I've seen, but it is no more than average. It is a huge step down from Star Trek: The Next Generation's Blu-ray releases. The audio is better, but it is not great. There's good use of the surround sound speakers for ambient sounds and some directional effects, but it is a 5.1 track, not 7.1 like TNG.

Finally we get to the price. Season one's list price is $120 and even with's discount, it's close to $80. That's too much to ask for.

The Verdict

I've reviewed a lot of Star Trek releases over the years and in my opinion, Star Trek: Enterprise is the worst series and arguably only The Final Frontier and Nemesis are weaker than the average episode on Season One. Granted, I'm less generous than the average critic with regards to this show. Many think Broken Bow is the best pilot for any Star Trek series, but I think that honor goes to Emissary from Deep Space Nine. There are those who like The Andorian Incident, Shadows of P'Jem, and Dear Doctor, but the actions of the characters are too idiotic, or in the case of Dear Doctor, downright evil, for me to enjoy the drama. The technical presentation is only average and a step down from what I was expecting. Finally the price is too high. Unless you are a really big fan of the show, not just the franchise, there's no need to add this one to your collection. Maybe when all four seasons are out on Blu-ray, there will be a box set that has a more reasonable price. (The show does get better.)

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Filed under: Video Review, Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Linda Park, William Shatner, Billy West, Dominic Keating