Release Date(s)2001-2002 (May 3, 2005)
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.)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
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...)
Nine of the season’s episodes also include scenes that were filmed but ultimately cut (mostly for time). There are 16 deleted scenes in all from Season One, scattered over the six episode discs. They’re presented separately, accessible from each episode’s menu page (they’re not edited back into the shows themselves). Not only is it cool to have these scenes, but all of them are presented in anamorphic widescreen like the episodes (with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio) – a very nice and frankly unexpected touch. Some are fully finished, while some have no visual effects. All have at least roughly-mixed sound, so you can see (and hear) how the finished scene would have played out. A few of these are “extended” scenes (including a lengthy conversation between Trip and Malcolm from Shuttlepod One) presented in a combination of color and B&W footage – the B&W footage appeared in the final cut of the episode, while the color was trimmed out. There are some very cool character moments contained in these scenes, including a number of moments intended to show or refer to the long-time friendship between Archer and Tucker. You get to see a little more of Hoshi’s unease about space travel from Broken Bow, you see T’Pol and Malcolm teasing Trip about his “condition” in Unexpected (the scene ends with him running out of the room to puke). It’s fun stuff to see.
Disc Seven contains the all of the set’s featurette and behind-the-scenes content (all of it presented in 4x3 video with 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles). By far the most entertaining of the extras on this disc is a 9-minute reel of outtakes. It contains some very funny stuff – Bakula showing up in T’Pol’s quarters with martinis and a cigar, Trinneer trying to say “The Captain and T’Pol...” but blowing the line and then joking that he keeps wanting to say “The Captain & Tennille.” Nearly all of the cast gets in on the fun. Particularly nice is that both Kellie Waymire and Jeffrey Combs appear in light-hearted moments here (Waymire sadly passed away recently and Combs’ character Shran is a major fan favorite).
The featurettes are all generally very good and include interesting behind-the-scenes footage and both new and vintage interview clips with all of the major cast members (and some of the production crew as well). Creating Enterprise opens with an interesting bit of video in which Bakula introduces the crew members (and his fellow cast). It was produced to introduce the show to both fans (at conventions) and advertisers. The piece then features Berman and Braga talking about the origins of the show, the cast talking about who their characters are and what they like about them, and various crew members discussing the show’s look and production design. As you might guess, O Captain! My Captain! A Profile of Scott Bakula focuses on the man in the center seat and the actor who plays him. Both cast and crew talk about how much they look up to Bakula and what classy professional (and apparent jokester) he is. In Cast Impressions: Season One, all of the actors talk about their favorite episodes from the first season. Inside Shuttlepod One is very similar, except that it features reminisces about this specific episode – one of Berman’s all-time favorites. If there’s a weak link on this set, it would have to be Star Trek Time Travel: Temporal Cold Wars and Beyond. It starts out interesting, featuring Berman and Braga talking about their Temporal Cold War concept, but it quickly turns into little more than a video timeline of all the “time travel” stories the Trek franchise has told over the years (too many, IMHO). Particularly interesting (but way too short) is Enterprise Secrets, in which one of the assistant directors shows you how some of the high-tech equipment on the Enterprise REALLY works (it’s decidedly low-tech, as you might imagine). Thankfully, we’re promised that more “secrets” will be revealed on the DVDs for future seasons. The most off-beat of the featurettes, Admiral Forrest Takes Center Stage, features the “iron man” of Trek guest stars, Vaughn Armstrong, talking about the unusual variety of roles he’s played in the franchise over the years. And as there’s always at least one bit of shameless promotion on every Star Trek DVD, here you get a promo trailer for Paramount’s Borg Invasion experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. It’s very quick, so I can forgive its inclusion here.
Just FYI, Disc Seven also features a trio of hidden Easter egg featurettes (called NX-01 Files). They’re Very easy to find and are basically just additional clips of interviews with cast and crew members talking about the show.
All of the discs feature very nicely animated CG footage of the Enterprise launching from Spacedock, which then transitions to the ship’s signature computer display interface, allowing you to select the various episodes and options available. The discs themselves are contained in a slim little sliver-gray outer box that’s shaped like some kind of prop from the show (similar to the TOS DVD sets). This contains a plastic disc tray like the ones the DS9 and Voyager DVDs were released in. You get all this... and an insert booklet too. Nice.
If I had any nits to pick with the bonus material on the Season One DVDs, it’s that I really want more audio commentaries. I’d particularly love to hear some of the cast members talking about episodes, and maybe a few of the show’s other writers commenting on the various shows they’ve written. I know that producer Mike Sussman has recorded commentary for one of his Season Two episodes. Imagine how cool it would be to hear Dominic Keating (Malcolm) talking about Minefield or Anthony Montgomery (Travis) on Horizon (both second season eps). How about Manny Coto with Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock on Similitude, and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens with Blalock and Bakula on The Forge? Bring groups of people in – get the whole cast involved! Hopefully, we’ll get 3 or 4 commentary tracks per season on future sets. One per season just isn’t nearly enough. I’d also love to see more behind-the-scenes footage in future sets – for example, a look at the making of a new episode each season, and the cast and writers talking about how the characters developed from year to year. And definitely more outtakes and deleted scenes. They’re just too good not to continue with them.
One other note... as with previous Trek TV DVD sets, if you purchase The Complete First Season at Best Buy/Media Play/Musicland-affiliated stores, you’ll get an exclusive bonus disc containing the featurette Celebrating Star Trek: A Look at Star Trek Conventions and Fans (if you’re a lucky U.K. Trek fan, you’ll get this in the set, but U.S. fans have to jump through the retail exclusive hoop once more). Just so you all know.
If it had blasted out of the starting gate with real storytelling direction and momentum (and with real connections to the show it was meant to be a prequel of), it’s unlikely that this series would have struggled in the ratings as much as it has. Nevertheless, Star Trek: Enterprise is a much better show than a lot of people have given it credit for. Don’t let my C+ grade for this season (above) mislead you. Yes, its first two seasons are uneven and a bit aimless, but trust me... this show picks up in a big way in seasons three and four, and it’s worth hanging around for. If you’re one of those fans who tuned out of Enterprise early in its run, or if you haven’t seen it at all, I strongly encourage you to give it a fresh look now on DVD. I think you’ll be glad you did. Its anamorphic widescreen video and 5.1 audio make it fun viewing for those who prefer to enjoy their TV science fiction cinema-style. And these are easily the best special features on any Trek series on DVD to date. As a major fan of this show, I’m really very happy with this set. My hats off to the folks at Toolbox Productions and Paramount who put it all together. Please keep the great extras coming!