Featured TV on DVD Review: Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Three
Star Trek: Enterprise ran for four seasons, which means the series is already halfway done its Blu-ray run. On the seventh of January, the film's third season hits Blu-ray. If you look at various sites that rate episodes, you will find 80% of the bottom twenty episodes of this show's run are from the first two seasons, while 80% of the top twenty episodes are from the third and fourth seasons. That's quite a turnaround. But is it enough? Or is being better than the first two seasons just damning it with faint praise?
The second season ended with The Expanse, in which an alien probe attacks Earth killing seven million people. The weapon was launched by the Xindi, who live in the Delphic Expanse. The Enterprise is retrofitted with more powerful weapons, and given a crew of Military Assault Command Operations. It is their mission, their year-long mission, to find the Xindi homeworld and make sure another attack from them never happens. At the beginning of the season, they've made almost no progress, which causes Captain Archer to lash out at his crew. They know the Xindi attacked Earth because the Xindi believe in 400 years the Federation will destroy their homeworld. However, at the end of the first episode, The Xindi, the crew of the Enterprise get the co-ordinates to the Xindi homeworld, only to find out the planet was destroyed more than a century in the past. This is actually one of the best episodes in the series so far. It creates tension better than most and it sets up a really good mystery. It's not all good. There is a T'Pol / Trip Tucker subplot that is not engaging that unfortunately continues throughout the season. In Anomaly, there are anomalies that leave the Enterprise vulnerable to an attack from the Osaarians. They have been stuck in the Delphic Expanse and have turned to piracy to survive, they've even attacked the Xindi. The Enterprise is able to track down the Osaarian and thanks to Hoshi, they are able to download everything the Osaarians had on the Xindi, which should give the crew of the Enterprise an advantage. Extinction takes an idea similar to the one in The Inner Light, from season five of TNG. However, while the idea is similar, the execution here is really bad. Rajiin has some good points and some bad points. I like how Trip and Reed trade "exotic spices" (including black pepper and paprika) to an alien at a bazaar. (It's a small point, but it emphasizes how new space travel is for our species.) However, the main plot is too close to Our Mrs. Reynolds from Firefly. There are too many clichés and it comes across as the writers trying to make Star Trek sexy. This almost never works.
Disc two begins with Impulse. The Enterprise comes across a Vulcan ship, the Seleya, adrift in an asteroid belt. When the crew of the Enterprise investigate, they find crazy Vulcans. It turns out the Trellium-D needed to protect the ships against the anomalies in the Expanse has a very dangerous effect on Vulcans. It cranks their emotions up really high and long enough exposure can turn them crazy. It is one of the better attempts at horror in Star Trek. Exile is a Hoshi-centric episode. She is contacted by a telepathic alien who wants her to come to him. He claims to have psychometry, the ability to read objects, which would be a great help to learn more about the Xindi. However, given the crew's luck this season, you know there's more to it than this. It's a solid episode and certainly better than 90% of the first two seasons. The Shipment has Archer, Trip, and Reed infiltrating a Xindi outpost where the Xindi are manufacturing an important component of their latest super weapon. Here's the twist. The Xindi in charge of manufacturing wasn't aware it was being made into a weapon and is horrified at the prospect. Again, it is a solid episode and better than 90% of the first two seasons. Twilight begins with the Earth being destroyed. When we next see Archer, he's older and confused as to where he is. It seems many years in the past, before the Earth was destroyed, as the result of an anomaly, Archer developed anterograde amnesia. For the past 12 years has been unable to create new memories. It's one of the best episodes of the season thus far, even if you recognize a few elements that feel borrowed from superior sources.
North Star is set in an alien world that is an exact duplicate for the old west. It's one of the weakest episodes from the season, as too many elements feel borrowed. This isn't the first time Star Trek has used a planet that is a duplicate of Earth, only from a time period in the past. Similitude is a good episode and deals with medical ethics, something this show hasn't always done well. Carpenter Street takes place in 2004. A time anomaly allows the Xindi to travel to Detroit and they plan to destroy humanity with a biological weapon. Archer gets help from Temporal Agent Daniels to stop it. It's time travel and it is not well done. There are huge plot holes that are distracting. Chosen Realm is one of the worst episodes of the season. It's about a holy war and it is ham-fisted in its execution.
Proving Ground has the return of the Andorians. They are looking to help the humans find the Xindi weapon, because the humans have helped the Andorians in the past. However, like we've seen throughout this season, the crew of the Enterprise are not lucky enough to have an ally that doesn't have ulterior motives. One of the best episodes of the season. Stratagem stars with Archer in a shuttle with Degra, the lead designer of the Xindi superweapon. Its three years in the future, the Earth has been destroyed, but the Insectoid Xindi are waging a war against the other Xindi sub-species. Since this is the second time Earth has been destroyed this season, you know there's shenanigans afoot. In Harbinger there are a number of storylines, include Reed getting upset that the MACOs have taken over the security duties, even though his men have more real world combat experience. Also, the Enterprise finds an unusually large anomaly and inside they find a small pod with one life form inside. They rescue it, but the alien inside is far from happy. Doctor's Orders starts with the Enterprise empty, for the most part. There's only Porthos, the dog, and Phlox, the doctor. Everyone else has been put under. The Enterprise came across a newly formed anomaly and the only way to go through the disturbance is to put the crew under what is basically a medically induced coma for four days. As a Denobulan, he's immune to effects of the anomaly, but less than two days into the trip, he begins to feel the effects of isolation. This is a good episode with a nice twist, but perhaps one that many will see coming.
Hatchery, on the other hand, is just a bad episode. I've mentioned in the past reviews that Captain Archer has made some puzzlingly bad decisions in the past. This episode relies on him acting "crazy" and the audience wondering why. However, it's really hard for him to act crazy when that's what we've come to expect. Azati Prime is where we run into problems. The Xindi storyline reaches its crescendo here, which means there are a ton of spoilers, so much so that it is too hard to talk about the final seven episodes while trying to avoid spoilers. Instead I will point out that of the best 20 or so episodes in the show's entire run, five of them come from this season's final seven episodes.
Overall, season three is a huge improvement from seasons two and three, especially near the end. Almost every character got better this season. For the most part Captain Archer stopped acting like he was insane. There were some episodes where he was supposed to be "pushed past the edge" and forced to do things that are against his moral code. I think this was the writers' attempt at creating a post-9/11 Star Trek, but considering the number of times he acted insane in the first two seasons (pretty much every episode) it was hard to tell. It would have been really nice if the writers made Archer reflect back on previous decisions he made. He acted all high and mighty when the crew of the freight transporter used violence to get information from a captured pilot, for instance. It would have been nice for him to acknowledge that space is a more dangerous place that he imagined back then. I was never drawn into the Trip / T'Pol romance, but at least Trip stopped acting like an idiot. Meanwhile, T'pol stopped acting like an insufferable snob and developed a little humanity, for lack of a better word. I'm not sure I agree with Phlox's medical ethics in Similitude, but it is an improvement over previous episodes. I always like Reed and Hoshi, so they didn't need too much improving compared to the others, but they are more well-developed. Almost every character improved, except Travis Mayweather, who remained a complete blank. The writers never got a handle on what made that character worth caring about.
The Xindi storyline is much stronger than the Temporal Cold War and was able to hold the audience's attention throughout the season. There were nearly no truly bad episodes and for the most part many were good. That said, season three of Enterprise is still much weaker than The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine were, but if the first season of this show was as strong as the third season, it have shown great promise and the series likely would have lasted seven seasons.
Extras include nine audio commentary tracks on seven episodes, some from the old DVDs and some new, as well as text commentaries on two of these episodes. There are also deleted scenes for three episodes. The featurettes are split between the first and the last disc. The first disc also has two featurettes, the first being The Xindi Saga Begins, which looks at the overall storyarc for the season. The second is Enterprise Moments, which looks at some of the best individual episodes. Disc six has a three-part In a Time of War featurette. In total it is nearly 90 minutes long. There is also a 20-minute featurette on the Temporal Cold War. There are also the old extras from the DVD on disc six, starting with a look at Connor Trinneer, who played Trip. Roxann Dawson directed several episodes in this series and there is a behind-the-scenes featurette for a day on the set with her. There is a featurette about cinematographer Marvin V. Rush. Enterprise Secrets is a short featurette on the outdoor lots that have been used throughout the Star Trek franchise. There are six minutes of outtakes and a photo gallery. Finally, there are three more NX-01 Files, which are short featurettes on Phlox's nude scene, how the uniforms were designed, and on the future crew of the Enterprise from E2.
The technical presentation is again better than the previous seasons. There were only a few special effects that looked dodgy, mostly the Insectoid Xindi, but for the most part the film looks really good in high definition. The audio is strong with good activity in the surround sound speakers. Most of these episodes are a decade old, so it is not as strong as it would be if the show were made today, but it is still a very strong upgrade from the DVD releases.
The price remains the same as before with a list price of $130 and a discounted price of $77 on Amazon.com. On the one hand, this is much more expensive than most TV on DVD releases. On the other hand, this is inline with other Star Trek Blu-ray releases.
Star Trek: Enterprise finally showed it had potential during its third season. There are still some really bad episodes and the overall quality it below the average The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine season, but it is showing real potential. The Blu-ray has enough new extras and the technical presentation is strong enough that it is worth the upgrade if you liked the show enough to buy the DVDs when they first came out.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2013-12-27