Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete First Season

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 31, 2005
  • Format: DVD
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Director

Various

Release Date(s)

2001-2002 (May 3, 2005)

Studio(s)

Paramount

Technical Specifications

1,143 mins (24 episodes at 44 mins each, plus 87-min pilot episode), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, 7 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), custom plastic shell packaging with inner disc holder, audio commentary by series creators Brannon Braga and Rick Berman (on Broken Bow), text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (on Broken Bow, The Andorian Incident and Vox Sola), 16 deleted scenes (from Broken Bow, Fight or Flight, Unexpected, Sleeping Dogs, Shuttlepod One, Oasis, Fallen Hero, Two Days and Two Nights and Shockwave, Part I - 16x9, DD 2.0), outtakes reel (9 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), 7 behind-the-scenes featurettes (all 4x3, DD 2.0) including Creating Enterprise (12 mins), O Captain! My Captain! A Profile of Scott Bakula (10 mins), Cast Impressions: Season One (12 mins), Inside Shuttlepod One (8 mins), Star Trek Time Travel: Temporal Cold Wars and Beyond (8 mins), Enterprise Secrets (2 mins) and Admiral Forrest Takes Center Stage (5 mins), Borg Invasion promo trailer, 3 NX-01 File Easter egg featurettes, booklet insert, animated program-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, episode/scene access (8 chapters per episode - 16 for Broken Bow), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Editor’s Note: U.K. release (and U.S. Best Buy/Musicland Group-exclusive bonus disc) includes the Celebrating Star Trek: A Look at Star Trek Conventions and Fans featurette (12 mins.)

Review

The year is 2151... nearly 100 years before the time of Kirk and Spock.  The Federation has not yet come into existence.  Starfleet is still a new organization.  Humans have been travelling faster-than-light for decades since Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight, but they’re now about to launch the Enterprise (NX-01)... the first starship powered by a Warp 5 engine, enabling Humans to reach much father into deep space than ever before.  Although the Enterprise is designed for exploration, Earth’s Vulcan “allies” are uneasy, believing Humanity to be too emotional and therefore not ready to join the interstellar community.  On the other hand, Enterprise’s newly-appointed captain, Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), believes the Vulcans have already held Humans back for too long.  Archer resents the fact that his father, who designed the Warp 5 engine, died before he got to see it in operation – something he blames on Vulcan interference.

Archer and his crew, including his best friend and chief engineer, Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), are impatient to begin their mission.  They finally get their chance when a Klingon courier accidently crashes in a cornfield in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.  The Vulcans intend to return the critically injured Klingon to his people, but Archer suggests to Starfleet that he and his crew take the warrior home aboard the Enterprise instead.  Against the Vulcans’ judgment, Starfleet agrees and the Enterprise quickly gets under way.  But the Vulcans use their influence to saddle Archer with an “observer” from the Vulcan High Command... a young woman of uncertain loyalties named T’Pol (Jolene Blalock).  Making matters worse, there are other, more sinister forces at work – forces intent on ensuring the failure of Archer’s mission at any cost.

In my opinion, Star Trek: Enterprise... or simply Enterprise as it was known during its first two seasons... is the best concept for a Star Trek series since The Next Generation.  By setting a Trek show nearly a century before the time of The Original Series, we’d finally get the chance to see how the universe we’ve become so familiar with over the years first evolved.  This is the “right stuff” era of Trek history.  Humans haven’t figured everything out yet, having only just recovered from a devastating world war.  They’re new to deep space exploration and the situations it presents.  They’re often overcome by their emotions.  Their technology is still fairly primitive.  They make mistakes, occasionally getting their noses bloodied as a result.  In short, they’re much more like Humans of today than the likes of Kirk, Picard or Janeway.  As a result, these people are more interesting and accessible.  You can relate to these characters, and the casting is perfect across the board.  The potential of Enterprise was exciting indeed.

Unfortunately, while the series’ concept was first rate, creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga failed almost completely to fully embrace the idea of Enterprise as a prequel to The Original Series.  Nothing we saw and few of the stories in the first season had any real connection to Kirk’s time.  When the Klingons appeared in the two-hour pilot, they were the bumpy-headed brutes of Picard’s time... not the smarmy, goateed villains we knew from classic TOS episodes like Day of the Dove.  The Andorians appeared twice during the first season, but where were the Tellerites, the Orion Slavers, the Tholians?  Instead, we got an appearance by the Next Generation-era Ferengi, and were introduced to races like the Suliban that we’d never heard of in Trek lore before.  Rather than delivering to fans the fresh and exciting adventure (that harkened back to The Original Series) they’d promised, Enterprise’s creators instead fell back upon the same old funny-looking alien/spatial anomaly of the week formula we’d seen for years.  At a time when tense, arc-driven shows like 24 and Alias were garnering the attention of massive TV audiences, Enterprise left many longtime Trek fans feeling let down and even mislead.  As a result, while Enterprise started with an impressive 13 million viewers in its first season, by its third year it was lucky to draw 3 million each week.

Still, when Enterprise worked during its first season, it worked well indeed.  While it rarely lived up to its promise, Season One did result in a number of stand-out episodes, including The Andorian Incident, Breaking the Ice, Dear Doctor, Shadows of P’Jem, Shuttlepod One and Fallen Hero.  And to the delight of those hardy viewers who stuck with the series through its first two seasons, the series got much, much better in its third year... and truly great in its fourth and (sadly) last season.  The “if onlys” abound.

One of the exciting things about Paramount’s new DVD release of this series, is that Enterprise was the first Trek show to be filmed in a widescreen format in anticipation of eventual high-definition TV broadcasts.  This means that all 26 episodes of the first season are presented on disc in fully-enhanced anamorphic widescreen video.  This show looks fantastic in widescreen, let me tell you.  The effects and visual design really benefit from viewing these episodes on a good anamorphic-capable display.  There’s a bit of a softness to the image and you’ll notice light film grain occasionally, but these are the result of creative decisions rather than quality issues.  Color is exceptional and contrast is generally solid as well.  Really the only minor issue is a bit of digital compression artifacting (visible for example on the cornfield in the pilot episode), but it’s something you’re really only going to notice on a very large display.  I’m viewing these episodes on a 100-inch projection screen, and the image holds up very well even at that size.  I should also note here that the episodes are presented as originally broadcast with their sans-”Star Trek” opening title sequence and the original mix of the somewhat controversial theme song, both of which were changed for later seasons.

The series’ audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but it’s not quite as impressive as the 5.1 mixes on other Trek DVDs have been.  Most of the action is very biased to the front half of the soundstage, with only subtle panning and light, atmospheric use of the surround channels.  Still, the episodes sound very good, with clear dialogue and well mixed music and effects.  If it isn’t the most immersive audio presentation, it still serves the video well.  Note that Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio is also included, as are English subtitles (and Closed Captioning).

I must say, it’s the extras where these DVDs really impressed me.  For years, I’ve been saying here at The Bits that Star Trek TV series on DVD ought to include deleted scenes, outtakes and audio commentaries – the kinds of extras that have become staples on other TV DVD presentations.  Thankfully, Enterprise on DVD delivers all this and more.

Let’s start with the episode discs.  Disc One features the show’s pilot episode with optional audio commentary by creators Berman and Braga.  It’s a very interesting track for a number of reasons.  First, the pair gets to explain the origins and ideas behind the development of many different aspects of the show.  They tell you what they’d hoped to accomplish, and how they feel about the way things turned out.  You’ll learn, for example, how the character of Archer was originally meant to be a sort of young Han Solo-type, and how pleased the producers were to get Scott Bakula to fill the role.  You’ll learn that Trip Tucker is Berman’s all-time favorite Trek character, and that Berman and Braga had always meant for Enterprise to be a more character-driven series.  Interestingly, the pair also talks about a number of things that many Trek fans didn’t react well to – things that the producers are still “very proud of,” but which ultimately “probably weren’t everyone’s cup of tea.”  And yes, they do talk about the infamous “decon” scene.  All of this makes for a fascinating listen, particularly given the fact that Enterprise has just been cancelled after only four seasons (this commentary was recorded just a few months ago, prior to the axe falling but while the writing was clearly on the wall).  Three of the season’s episodes (Broken Bow, The Andorian Incident and Vox Sola) also feature text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, long time Trek staffers and co-authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. (MORE...)


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