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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 9/12/05



Star Trek: Enterprise
The Complete Third Season - 2003-04 (2005) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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Program Rating (Season Three): B

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

Specs and Features

1,008 mins (24 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 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 - 16x9, DD 2.0), outtakes reel (6 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (all 4x3, DD 2.0) including The Xindi Saga Begins (13 mins), Enterprise Moments: Season Three (13 mins), Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer (17 mins) and A Day in the Life of a Director: Roxann Dawson (17 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 2 featurettes: Shooting Behind the Camera: Marvin Rush and Enterprise Secrets.


It's been six weeks since Captain Archer and the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise began searching the Delphic Expanse, and still they're no closer to finding 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 that they've encountered are downright hostile. To make matters worse, they've has been struggling to navigate through regions of space wracked by extreme spatial distortions - anomalies capable of causing significant damage to both the ship and its crew. But clues to the Xindi's whereabouts slowly begin to emerge. They soon learn that the Xindi aren't simply one race... but several different races that evolved together on the same homeworld. Some are evolved from primates, some from insects and amphibians... some even from reptiles. All are extremely dangerous and, for some unknown reason, they've decided that Humans must be destroyed at all costs.

Meanwhile, the stress of the mission is beginning to take a severe toll on the crew. Archer is growing ever more hawkish. T'Pol is having greater difficulty suppressing her emotions. And Trip's allowing his grief over the death of his sister to slowly turn to rage. Tension is high and it's only a matter of time before its reaches a boiling point. Despite it all, the crew of the Enterprise soldiers on, knowing that the fate of their planet hangs in the balance. They mean to find and destroy the Xindi's super-weapon before it can be launched against the Earth... or die in the attempt.

The season's opening episode, The Xindi, establishes good dramatic tension and begins laying the groundwork for the puzzles that Archer and his crew will have to solve. The next few episodes are a bit uninspiring, but move the larger story along adequately. However, things begin to get interesting with Impulse, in which the Enterprise encounters a badly damaged Vulcan ship that was reported lost in the Expanse. Upon attempting a rescue, Archer learns that its crew has gone insane for some unknown reason... and the insanity begins to affect T'Pol as well. A throwback to classic zombie films, the episode is a surprisingly edgy piece of work. In Twilight, we learn what might happen if the Enterprise crew fails in their mission, as we watch an alternate future reality unfold. It's an entertaining and disturbing "what if" scenario that pushes them past the brink of disaster (even if, like the previous year's The Expanse, it's WAY too ambitious to be truly effective dramatically - this would have been a much better 2-parter). In one of my favorites of the season, Similitude, Trip is nearly killed in an accident in Engineering. Knowing that he can't complete his mission without his Chief Engineer, Archer orders Phlox to create a clone from which brain tissue can be harvested to save Trip's life. Unfortunately, this clone doesn't just look like Trip... it shares all his memories too. Similitude's central moral dilemma is a nice touchstone to classic Trek at its finest, and the episode manages to be both powerful and emotionally moving as well. Proving Ground features the return of a fan favorite character... the blue-skinned Andorian Shran (played by Jeffrey Combs), seemingly come to help Archer fight the Xindi in payment of an old debt. In the controversial but moody Harbinger, those tensions among the crew that I mentioned earlier finally do boil over (and yes, for those wondering, the infamous "backside" shot in this episode is presented here in all its original glory).

There are a few clunkers during the season, most notably Extinction, Exile and Carpenter Street. But the action and drama ramps up significantly starting with Hatchery, and the three episodes that follow are arguably the best of the series to this point. In Azati Prime, the crew finally arrives at the secret location where the Xindi's super-weapon is nearing completion, and Archer launches a suicide mission to destroy it. But the Enterprise is discovered and suffers a devastating attack that leaves the ship a helpless, burning wreck. This cliff-hanger ending left fans reeling for several weeks until the season resumed its broadcast run on UPN with Damage, in which the surviving crew struggles to recover from the attack, and Archer is forced to make his most morally questionable choice yet. But the crew may have gained a potential ally among the Xindi in The Forgotten, even as the emotional toll of their situation weighs heavy. presents another fascinating "what if" scenario, as the crew encounters a duplicate Enterprise manned by their own descendents. And the season's final three episodes The Council, Countdown and Zero Hour bring the Xindi arc to a thrilling climax... and throw in yet another cliff-hanger ending (with a twist that you'll never see coming).

In addition to the fact that the season-long arc gave Enterprise the badly-needed momentum and direction it had been lacking, one of the most fascinating aspects of the year was a handful of rather striking character developments. Gone was the hesitant, naive Captain we'd been saddled with for most of the two previous seasons. In his place, the Jonathan Archer of year three became a hard-assed, resolute and determined warrior, who was willing to bend or break the rules whenever necessary and make significant moral and ethical compromises to save his planet. T'Pol, who it had been hinted in previous seasons had a taste for exploring Human emotions, made a pair of choices that shocked fans. First, she impulsively initiated a sexual encounter with Trip, after weeks of intimate Vulcan "neuropressure" sessions intended to help him deal more effectively with his pent up grief and anger. Then it was revealed that she'd been deliberately self-injecting a dangerous substance (trellium-D) that allowed her to unchain her emotions - a substance which left her with permanent damage to her emotional control. The romantic connection of T'Pol and Trip was interesting, but surprising, given the sometimes troubling tendency in prior seasons - and even once more this season - to suggest that the Captain might have a thing for her (predictably, Jolene Blalock's femininity was all too often used by the producers to "sex up the show" in the first three years). On top of all this, the darker, edgier tone of the Xindi arc was a decided contrast from previous seasons. And finally, there were at last real consequences to be paid by Enterprise's crew for their actions. Some would not survive the mission, and none would be left unscathed. Call it what you will, Enterprise: Season Three was always interesting... and it was a helluva fun ride.

Paramount's included all 24 episodes of the third season in anamorphic widescreen video on disc, and each and every one of them looks great. With its intensified focus on drama and action, the experience of seeing this season in widescreen in particular is really a thrill. The show's cinematic photography and effects really grab your attention on the big wide, if you know what I mean (and the bigger and wider the screen the better). There's still a bit of softness and very light film grain occasionally, but that's certainly appropriate. Color, contrast and image detail are nearly always outstanding, with only the occasional hint of artifacting or edginess. The audio is again presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The surround track is much more atmospheric than immersive - this is not a highly directional sound field. But dialogue, music and effects are clear and generally well layered in the mix. All in all, it's a nice presentation. Note that Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio is also included, as are English subtitles (and Closed Captioning).

As was the case with the previous seasons on DVD, Season Three delivers another good batch of supplements, including featurettes, deleted scenes (once again presented in anamorphic widescreen), outtakes and more. These start on Disc One with another text commentary by the Okudas on the episode The Xindi (additional text commentaries can be found on Disc Two's Impulse and Disc Six's Countdown). Disc Three offers deleted scenes on the episodes Similitude and Chosen Realm. Disc Three also includes both of the set's audio commentary tracks. The first features assistant director Mike DeMeritt talking about filming on the Universal Studios backlot for the episode North Star. It's a surprisingly good track and it's interesting to gain the perspective of a typically unsung crew member on this show. Also welcome and entertaining is co-executive producer Manny Coto (formerly of Odyssey 5) commenting about Similitude, which is the first script he wrote upon joining the writing staff in the middle of the season. He talks about how proud he is of the script and the final episode. He addresses the moral issues, and the contributions of both director Levar Burton (who also played Geordi on The Next Generation) and actor Connor Trinneer. Coto also notes that one of his goals with the episode was to take the developing romance between Trip and T'Pol (which seemed to have been originally devised mostly as an effort at titillation by Berman and Braga) and finally give it some real depth and poignancy. As he says in the commentary, the events of Similitude "created some interesting character dimension in later episodes, because T'Pol now knows that Trip is in love with her...." The characters' feelings for one another are revealed more fully a few episodes later, in Harbinger, and continue to play out through the rest of the season (indeed, Coto's exploration of this relationship would factor significantly throughout the remainder of the series).

Other than a couple more quick deleted scenes on Disc Six's , the remainder of the set's extras are found on Disc Seven. As always, the best of this material is yet another great compilation of outtakes from the season. Blalock elicits laughter from Trinneer and the crew during the filming of one the neuropressure scenes ("That is the crappiest line!"), John Billingsly calls for a group hug in a difficult moment, Scott Bakula mimics the Croc Hunter after trying to cut through a door with his phase pistol... there's a lot of funny stuff here. The backbone of the disc is a set of 4 more behind-the-scenes featurettes. The first is The Xindi Saga Begins, in which Berman and Braga talk about the genesis of the season-long arc concept, and how the Xindi storyline developed. Parallels are drawn to 9/11 naturally, and we learn that the idea was motivated originally by the studio's desire for the series to be "revamped" (in light of plummeting ratings, although ratings are not specifically mentioned as such). In Enterprise Moments: Season Three, various members of the cast and crew discuss the year's major developments. Writers Coto, Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong all appear here. Coto talks more about Similitude, while Sussman discusses Twilight, which he calls a sort-of "hypothetical future love story" between Archer and T'Pol. Conversely, Strong speaks fondly of Damage and discusses the motivations for T'Pol's addiction to trellium-D ("Here was a chance to say T'Pol was interested in emotion. She was exposed the trellium... what if she could use that? What if she really wanted to experience emotion, partly because she wants to get close to Trip but doesn't know how?"). The piece also takes you behind the scenes on the fight scene between Reed and Hayes in Harbinger. Moving on, Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer highlights the work of Trinneer, who talks about Trip's character growth and development over the course of the series. Interestingly (and thankfully), it was Trinneer who helped steer the character away from being the hayseed he appeared as all too often in the show's first two seasons. Berman and Braga also pay Trinneer some nice complements as an actor. Finally, A Day in the Life of a Director: Roxann Dawson is a good piece that shows you a little of what it's like to direct the production of a typical episode of the series (Dawson should be familiar to Voyager fans - she played B'Elanna Torres on that show). Unfortunately, the episode in question is Exile... not one of Season Three's better entries.

Disc Seven's remaining extras include a gallery of publicity and production photos, and the apparently obligatory promotional trailer for the Borg Invasion attraction in Las Vegas. Actually interesting, however, are a trio of hidden NX-01 File Easter eggs (you'll find them by navigating around the special features menu pages). There are brief interview segments with Billingsly talking about Phlox's potential "endowment" and Sussman commenting briefly on , as well as a good piece with Robert Blackman on the development of the crew's flightsuit-like uniforms. Note that all of the extras on Disc Seven are presented in 4x3 video, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Each of the discs features nicely animated CG footage of Xindi warships escorting their Earth-destroying weapon, which transitions to one of the ships 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 some notes on the episodes and features.

My biggest problem with Season Three on DVD is that while the extras are good, there's a little less of everything this time around. You get 2 fewer episodes, 1 less behind-the-scenes featurette, 2 fewer deleted scenes, 5 fewer minutes of outtakes, etc. Given the fact that there are only 24 episodes, but still 7 discs in the set, one would think that Paramount would have taken advantage of the extra space on Disc Seven to include a little more. No such luck. In fact, a pair of featurettes that would clearly have fit on the disc have been saved for yet another Best Buy/Media Play/Musicland-exclusive bonus disc instead (for the record, they are Shooting Behind the Camera: Marvin Rush and Enterprise Secrets). This, of course, conclusively proves that the material is being withheld deliberately for the retailer exclusive and not for reasons of disc space - something I find EXTREMELY grating. Hell, the studio could at least have recorded a couple more audio commentary tracks for this season (I would love to have heard Phyllis Strong talking more about Damage, for example, or Mike Sussman on Twilight). They could also have dropped the bank-busting retail price for the set a little. No luck on either score, I'm afraid, and that's disappointing. FYI, you're also "treated" to irritating promo spots for other sci-fi TV DVD releases from Paramount when you put Disc One in your player. Nothing like paying $130 to have to watch commercials.

But if the supplements aren't quite as pleasing here as they were on the first two season sets, there's no denying that Enterprise's third year is a marked improvement dramatically. Sure, some die-hard Trekkers in the audience were still left wondering who the heck these Xindi creatures were anyway (and why had no other starship crews had heard of them in later eras?), but hey... better was better. While it wasn't perfect, and it still wasn't much like your daddy's Trek, the third season of Enterprise was at long last engaging... even downright gripping. The changes were such that the show stopped hemorrhaging viewers, at least enough for Paramount to green-light one more season (to sweeten up future syndication deals). And what do you know? Berman and Braga finally decided to call it Star Trek - awfully nice to see, even despite the suddenly more annoying mix of the opening theme song.

Arguably the best thing to come out of Season Three was the addition of Coto to the show's writing staff. And when it became clear that the guy was energized and brought a lot of great ideas to the table, Berman and Braga made the wise (and two years overdue) decision to step back creatively. Coto was tapped to be the new show-runner, in charge of the writing room. As a result, Enterprise was finally about to embrace its premise (and live up to its promise) as a prequel to The Original Series. It was FINALLY going to feel like Star Trek.

So long Delphic Expanse - we hardly knew ya! It's back to Earth for the start of Season Four and a little Federation building with the Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites (oh my)...

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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