Release Date(s)2003-2004 (January 7, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A+
Following in the wake of the series’ change of direction, established in the finale of Season Two, the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise finds the crew of the NX-01 searching the Delphic Expanse for signs of the mysterious Xindi, who are bent on destroying the Earth. None of the other strange species they meet seem interested in helping them and some are downright hostile. But clues as to the nature and location of the Xindi begin to emerge. Meanwhile, the stress of the mission is taking a toll on the crew. Archer has become more hawkish. T’Pol is having difficulty suppressing her emotions. And Trip is allowing his grief over the death of his sister to turn into rage. Despite it all, the Enterprise soldiers on, throughout the season’s continuing story arc, knowing that the fate of their planet hangs in the balance.
Season Three features a surprisingly high number of strong episodes. Impulse, in which the Enterprise encounters a derelict Vulcan ship that was reported lost in the Expanse, turns into a edgy throwback to classic zombie films. In one of my favorites, Similitude, Trip is nearly killed in an accident, so Archer orders Phlox to create a clone from which brain tissue can be harvested to save Trip’s life. Unfortunately, the clone doesn’t just look like Trip... it shares all his memories too. Similitude’s moral dilemma is classic Trek at its finest, presented in an episode that manages to be both powerful and moving. Proving Ground features the return of a fan favorite character, Shran (played by Jeffrey Combs). There are a few clunkers in the season, notably Extinction, Exile and Carpenter Street. But starting with Hatchery, the season builds to a strong finish with a long run of good episodes. In Azati Prime the crew finally arrives at the Xindi weapon’s secret location and Archer launches a suicide mission to destroy it. But the Enterprise is discovered and suffers a devastating attack, the consequences of which are the subject of the next episode, Damage. And E² presents a fascinating “what if” scenario, as the crew encounters a duplicate Enterprise manned by their own descendents. The season’s final three entries, The Council, Countdown, and Zero Hour, bring the Xindi arc to a thrilling climax... and introduce another cliff-hanger ending (with a twist that you’ll never see coming).
CBS’s Blu-ray release is a 6-disc set that includes all 24 episodes plus bonus content. The A/V quality here is good – on par with either Season One or Two. The live action footage was still shot on 35mm film at this point in the show and was scanned in HD, while the visual effects rendering was upgraded to 720p for this season (upconverted for BD obviously). As before, the image is a little bit soft occasionally, with blacks that aren’t quite as deep nor colors quite as vibrant as you might expect. For me, the visual effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The imagery is far more compelling given the ongoing war arc, but they do occasionally reveal the limitations of what was state-of-the-art at the time. But all this needs to be kept in perspective – if the A/V quality isn’t quite up to current standards, the Blu-rays are still greatly improved over the DVDs and broadcast masters. Sound continues to be presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with mixes that are still a nice match with the visuals and compare well to those on the other Trek series on Blu-ray.
Once again, CBS has thoughtfully carried over all of the previous bonus content from the Season Three DVD release, including: audio commentary with assistant director Mike DeMeritt (on North Star), audio commentary with writer/executive producer Manny Coto (on Similitude), text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (on The Xindi, Impulse and Countdown), 6 deleted scenes (from Similitude, Chosen Realm and E²), an outtakes reel, a production photo gallery, 3 NX-01 File Easter egg featurettes (on Phlox’s potential “endowment,” Sussman commenting briefly on E², and Robert Blackman on the development of the crew’s flight suit-like uniform), 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Xindi Saga Begins, Enterprise Moments: Season Three, Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer, and A Day in the Life of a Director: Roxann Dawson) and yes… both Best Buy-exclusive (in the States) featurettes (Shooting Behind the Camera: Marvin Rush and Enterprise Secrets).
Of course, you’ve come to expect new material on these Trek Blu-rays and CBS – and especially VAM producers Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett – have delivered in spades. Impulse features new audio commentary with David Livingston and David A. Goodman. Twilight features an audio commentary with Mike Sussman and Tim Gaskill that was actually created as a “podcast” commentary in 2008, but wasn’t on the DVDs. North Star has a new commentary with Goodman and Chris Black. Similitude has new commentary with Manny Coto and actor Connor Trinneer. The Forgotten features new commentary with Goodman, Black and Trinneer. And Countdown features new commentary with Black and André Bormanis. Having listened to them all, I think Twilight, Countdown and particularly Similitude are the winners here. Goodman’s tracks are interesting in their own way, but I have to say – for a writer, he seems surprisingly uninterested in talking about the actual writing or the episode he’s doing commentary on. Thankfully, Coto, Sussman, Bormanis, Black, and Trinneer talk in depth about the story and characters, and it’s great listening to them.
Interesting side note: Fans of the show will know that Season Four features a terrific penultimate episode called Terra Prime. Trinneer reveals something fascinating about what was going on in his real life during the shooting of the episode’s powerful final scene. I don’t want to spoil it – just listen to his Similitude commentary. Trust me, it will add to your appreciation of that scene.
Still not done! You also get an all-new HD featurette called Temporal Cold War: Declassified, in which Brannon Braga and other writers and producers on the show talk about what the Temporal Cold War subplot was all about, where it might have gone and who the mysterious ”Future Guy” might have turned out to be. Better still, there’s an excellent HD documentary called In a Time of War, that goes into great depth on the production of the season and its various continuing storylines. For the first time, actress Jolene Blalock appears in the interview component, as well as writer Manny Coto (who would go on to be the show runner on Season Four). The doc is in three parts – Part One: Call to Arms, Part Two: Front Lines, and Part Three: Final Conflict. Each runs about 30 minutes, which means the complete documentary experience for the season is over two hours, not including the commentaries and legacy extras. Once again, I have to give major props to Roger, Robert and everyone at CBS for all their hard work on this bonus content. As I’ve said in my reviews of the Seasons One and Two Blu-rays, if you’re a fan of this show… this documentary material is a treasure.
I’m truly pleased to see that Star Trek: Enterprise is finally getting its due on Blu-ray Disc. There is truly no better way to experience the show than this, and the bonus content is replete with insights that reveal the “hows” and “whys” of this series. What excites me most, however, what’s yet to come: Season Four – which is already set for Blu-ray Disc release on 4/1/14 – is truly the best that Star Trek: Enterprise has to offer. The series finally acts like the prequel to The Original Series it promised to be (and should have been right from the start). And boy, does it ever go out with a bang. If you’re a Trek fan… do not miss it.
- Bill Hunt