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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 7/13/05



Star Trek: Enterprise
The Complete Second Season - 2002-03 (2005) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Second Season

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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Program Rating (Season Two): C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A-

Specs and Features

1,111 mins (26 episodes at 42 mins each), 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 Michael Sussman & Phyllis Strong (on Dead Stop and Regeneration ), text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (on Stigma and First Flight), 8 deleted scenes (from Minefield, A Night in Sickbay, Dawn, Stigma, Cease Fire and The Expanse - 16x9, DD 2.0), outtakes reel (11 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (all 4x3, DD 2.0) including Enterprise Moments: Season Two (19 mins), Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock (14 mins), LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director (7 mins), Enterprise Secrets (5 mins) and Inside A Night in Sickbay (11 mins), production photo gallery, 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), 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 Shooting Future Tense featurette (17 mins.)


The first year of the Earth starship Enterprise's deep space mission has not gone smoothly. Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew have certainly made interesting scientific discoveries and found a handful of allies among the alien races they've encountered during their travels, but they've made a number of powerful and dangerous enemies as well. Archer has almost single-handedly pissed off half the Klingon Empire, and the crew of the NX-01 has stirred up a hornet's nest in the long-simmering conflict between the Andorians and Vulcans. More ominously, sinister forces from the future are attempting to disrupt the Enterprise's mission as part of an elaborate Temporal Cold War. They've framed Archer and his crew for the destruction of a peaceful colony on a remote outpost, causing Starfleet to consider cancelling the Enterprise's mission altogether - a move which could spell the end of Starfleet's program of exploration and irrevocably alter the future. What's worse, Archer finds himself trapped in that bleak future with little immediate hope of returning to his own time.

Picking up where the rather lackluster first season left off, Enterprise's second year could have taken the series in a number of directions, any of which would have been an improvement. It certainly opened well. Wrapping up the previous season's cliffhanger finale, Shockwave, Part II resolved the question as to whether Enterprise's mission would continue, and returned Archer safely to his crew. Its action-intense storyline was a welcome change from the previous year's largely aimless wandering (even despite a rather odd speech by the Captain, comparing humanity to newborn gazelles). This was soon followed by pair of great back-to-back episodes that gave fans reason to believe the show was beginning to find its legs. Minefield, written by former X-Files scribe John Shiban, was the series' darkest and most ominous turn yet, leaving the NX-01 badly damaged after an encounter with a mysterious alien race (Romulans, unknown to the crew). This story carried over into Dead Stop, in which the crew miraculously finds an automated repair station that can fix their ship... but at a higher price than they can imagine. This too was a dramatically taut, even somewhat creepy, high-concept episode. Unfortunately, the trend wasn't to last. Just as the season seemed to be building nice momentum... it was quickly killed by a dreadfully ill-timed comedic episode, A Night in Sickbay.

The basic concept of A Night in Sickbay was to explore the fallibility of the Captain, and play at a little light buddy humor between Archer and Phlox. It's a good idea in and of itself, and at any other point in the series, it might have worked. The problem is that the episode made Archer look so petty, and so negligent in his duties to his ship and crew, that the character was actually damaged in the eyes of many fans... JUST as he was finally starting to look like a real starship captain. The irresponsibly of bringing his dog on a sensitive diplomatic mission aside, Archer then refuses to take responsibility for his (and his dog's) actions (his dog pees on a sacred tree - no, I'm not kidding, it's that silly), resulting in the species being offended. Unfortunately, Archer needs the help of this species to replace a damaged part that's critical to keeping his ship running. Making matters worse, it turns out that his dog picked up a bug during their visit to the planet and has become seriously ill. So Archer spends an entire night in Sickbay worrying more about his dog than his ship, stubbornly refusing to apologize and then experiencing decidedly uncomfortable sexual tension with his Vulcan first officer (uncomfortable for the audience, and presumably T'Pol as well). The episode is just a disaster of epic proportions for the character of Archer... and ultimately for the season. Following this debacle, the second season delivered a painfully long stretch of more of the same directionless storytelling the first season offered - mostly recycled Trek plots involving encounters with various aliens and spatial phenomena of the week (although there was at least a decent Vulcan/Andorian follow-up and a workable AIDS allegory involving T'Pol and mind-melding). The low point (if it's possible to reach a lower point than A Night in Sickbay) had to be Precious Cargo, in which Trip runs around in his underwear with an alien princess on a jungle planet.

The shame of it is, there were also a few truly great episodes late in the season. In Cogenitor, Archer finally realizes that maybe he hasn't been setting such a great example for his crew, when Trip's well-intentioned actions ("I did exactly what you'd do, Cap'n...") lead to the worst possible outcome during a first contact mission. Regeneration is a good episode involving Starfleet's first encounter with the Borg (a clever follow-up to the film First Contact by writer Mike Sussman) that was unfortunately extremely controversial with fans precisely because it involved the Borg. When most fans were desperately hoping for the show to offer more links to The Original Series, here was yet another Next Generation connection that seemed to many to be an outright violation of continuity (the series had already shown the Ferengi, and for an unpleasant time it seemed as if Q and Quinan couldn't be far behind). The best episode of the second season, however, was outstanding. First Flight showed Archer's days as a test pilot for the NX program, trying to put his farther's warp engine to work, and the beginnings of his long friendship with Trip. It featured an appropriately Right Stuff feel, along with an outstanding guest appearance by actor Keith Carradine (as a rival pilot competing with Archer to be the first to break the Warp 2 barrier). Once again, however, the good of First Flight was undermined by the awful Bounty, which (despite the appearance of the TOS-era Tellarites) has T'Pol entering a false Pon Farr because of an accidental exposure to a mircobe. With Berman and Braga steering this series, you just KNEW there was going to be a Pon Farr episode sooner or later, and here it was, complete with T'Pol running around in her underwear and making sexual advances on Phlox and various other male crewmen. Funny how many episodes of this series involve characters running around in their underwear, isn't it? Ugh.

As with the first season of this series on DVD, Paramount has delivered all 26 episodes of the second season in very good looking anamorphic widescreen video. Once again, the experience of watching this show in widescreen is fantastic (it makes me REALLY eager for seasons three and four, I can tell you). As before, there's a little bit of softness and very light film grain occasionally, but both add to the character of the image. Color and contrast are excellent. You'll see a bit of digital compression artifacting here and there, but it's not distracting even on a very large display. Once again, this season's episodes are presented as originally broadcast with their sans-"Star Trek" opening title sequence and the original mix of the theme song, both of which were later changed. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It's still not as impressive as the 5.1 mixes on other Trek DVDs, with most of the action biased to the front half of the soundstage, and only occasional panning and atmospheric use of the rear channels. But the dialogue is clear at all times and it's well mixed with the music and effects. Note that Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio is also included, as are English subtitles (and Closed Captioning).

Building upon the first season's DVD extras, Season Two delivers another nice batch of supplements, including featurettes, deleted scenes (nicely presented in anamorphic widescreen), outtakes and more. Disc One includes audio commentary with writer/producers Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong on the episode Dead Stop. There are lots of little insights and amusing comments about where various story ideas came from and how they were developed. Sussman and Strong seem to have a lot of history (and fun) working together. It's a nice track. There's also a cute deleted scene from the episode Minefield, in which Phlox attempts to comfort an injured Hoshi by having her identify anatomical parts in Denobulan. Disc Two offers deleted scenes from the episode A Night in Sickbay, including one in which a troubled Archer confides in Trip about his dilemma. It's a shame that it was cut, because it helps you empathize with Archer's character (and his frustrations) a bit more than you do in the final episode. Disc Four contains more deleted scenes from the episodes Dawn, Stigma and Cease Fire - they're all interesting and nice moments, but you can see why they were cut. There's also another good subtitle text commentary with the Okudas on Stigma that includes plenty of trivia for the diehard Trekkers. Disc Six features another commentary with Sussman and Strong on Regeneration, and another Okuda text commentary on First Flight. The Regeneration commentary is the better of the two Sussman and Strong tracks, I think, as there's just so much more to talk about, including the fan controversy over the return of the Borg, the writers' reaction to it, the development of their concept for bringing the race back to Trek in the Enterprise era and much more. Sussman even takes the opportunity to address some of the fans' later questions and concerns about the continuity. It's a great listen. Finally, Disc Seven offers more deleted scenes from the season-ending cliff-hanger, The Expanse, including one in which Archer seeks a little female companionship from an old girlfriend before setting out on his most dangerous mission yet. Again, it's a shame that it was cut, because it really humanizes his character.

Disc Seven also contains all of the set's featurette and behind-the-scenes content (presented in 4x3 video with 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles). The best of this material is another outtakes reel (this one is 11 minutes in length). We see a sweeping janitor passing through the viewscreen to interrupt a serious moment, Archer teasing Travis about the "pictures" he found in the Ensign's quarters, a funny but overplayed scene with T'Pol, Trip and Archer all drunk from Carbon Creek (the scene was ultimately reshot sans intoxication), lots of little line gaffs and physical flubs, etc. My favorite moment is Bakula walking into shot amid a thick cloud of smoke during a tense scene and breaking character to say, "Next year, fire extinguishers all around!"

The featurettes include interesting behind-the-scenes footage, as well as new and vintage interview clips with the cast and production crew. They start with Enterprise Moments: Season Two, which is a rundown of the major story and production highlights from the year - various people comment on the developments or tell interesting stories. Berman and Braga seem a little too proud of their lackluster Temporal Cold War story, Mike Sussman reveals his original concept for Future Tense (which ultimately evolved into the fourth season's 2-part In a Mirror, Darkly), Jolene Blalock tries to be diplomatic about having to play T'Pol in heat in Bounty, Mike Okuda and Bakula provide interesting details about First Flight (you actually get to see some of the futuristic mission patches on the wall of the 602 Club - Man, I'd LOVE to have a set of those), etc. In Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock, the actress talks about how she auditioned for the role of T'Pol, how she's developed over time, and how the character's relationships with Archer and Trip in particular have evolved. Braga talks about how he wanted to make the Vulcans interesting again, and how T'Pol's character was always meant to have a yearning to explore the emotions forbidden by her people. Co-star Connor Trinneer (Trip) notes that Jolene has the hardest job on the show and complements her performance. He also jokes that he almost never gets to see her NOT looking like a Vulcan. LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director is a very nice piece that takes us behind-the-scenes on the episode First Flight, which Burton directed. It's interesting to see this series from the perspective of a longtime Trek alum. In Enterprise Secrets, 1st assistant director David Trotti talks about recreating the Rura Penthe mines (first seen in Star Trek VI) for the episode Judgement. Finally, Inside A Night in Sickbay looks more closely at the creation of the season's second most fan-polarizing episode. It's clear that Berman, Braga and Bakula are quite taken with it. There's also a photo gallery containing some nice production shots and publicity stills, along with that Las Vegas Hilton/Borg Invasion promo spot again. Disc Seven also includes three more NX-01 Files Easter egg featurettes (interview clips with the cast talking more about their experiences on the show).

All of the discs feature very nicely animated CG footage of a flight of Klingon warships (from Marauders, I believe), which then transitions to one of the warships being analyzed by the Enterprise's computer interface (from there you can select the various episodes and options available). As before, the package is contained in a plastic, sliver-gray outer box. Inside this is a plastic tray to hold the discs and an insert booklet with notes on the episodes and features.

As with the Season One DVDs, my only real complaint with the extras here is that I still want more audio commentaries. It would be nice if the DVD production team had been able to bring in more of the actors in groups - particularly the cast members who tend to get short shrift otherwise. Guest players too would be interesting to hear from - Jeffrey Combs (Shran) and Gary Graham (Soval) for example. Fox does this pretty aggressively with their TV discs on shows like 24, and I wish would Paramount would follow their lead a little more. Still, you do get two audio commentaries on this set, which is one more than Season One offered. And both are very good. It's a nitpick, but there you go.

One more note... as with other Trek TV DVD sets, if you purchase The Complete Second Season at Best Buy/Media Play/Musicland-affiliated stores, you'll get an exclusive bonus disc containing the featurette Shooting Future Tense. U.K. Trek fan actually get this in the set normally, but U.S. fans continue to have to jump through the retail exclusive hoop.

When I look back at Enterprise - a series that was sadly cancelled just as it was FINALLY reaching its potential after its fourth year - I can't help coming to conclusion that Season Two was where things really went wrong. You can forgive a show for not firing on all cylinders (or even having a plan) in its first year, but not its second. Even the tried-and-true Borg and another attempt at titillation with a hackneyed Pon Farr episode couldn't keep viewers tuned in - not even diehard Trekkers. As Season Two drew to a close, the ratings were falling steadily and it was finally clear to Berman and Braga that Enterprise wasn't delivering much that fans wanted to see. The series had to change, and quickly. In response, the producers hastily conjured a 9/11-style attack upon Earth by a mysterious race known as the Xindi, and a desperate mission for the Enterprise crew to prevent an even deadlier strike. This was introduced in another season-ending cliffhanger, The Expanse. While it still wasn't was what fans wanted most (which was the true prequel to The Original Series that Berman and Braga had initially pitched), the subsequent, season-long plot arc was at least enough of a kick in the ass to infuse the series with real drama, a genuine edge to the storytelling and badly-needed momentum and direction. Those fans patient enough to have remained with the series through two aimless years were rewarded for their loyalty. Enterprise was about to get a lot better... and it was FINALLY going to be called Star Trek.

The Delphic Expanse awaits. Season Three here we come...

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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