Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: Enterprise - Season One

The first season of the show that continues to divide fans debuts in high definition, bolstered by insightful new interviews.

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Star Trek: Enterprise - Season One arrives on Blu-ray, a six-disc set housed in a standard case with slipcover (just like the Next Generation Blu-rays so far), carrying a fair amount of baggage. To date, Enterprise is the final Trek television series. After seven seasons each of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, the prequel series ended up lasting a disappointing four. The show’s cancellation in 2005 got roped in with the 2002 box office bomb Star Trek: Nemesis, creating the perception that the franchise had finally petered out. Of course, a few years later J.J. Abrams’ reboot film jolted Trek back into relevance but the lingering impression is that Enterprise effectively killed it as a television property.

Now it’s high time for a re-evaluation and, as clearly evidenced by the terrific new special features, the show’s creators are willing to provide refreshingly honest reflections. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, both Trek veterans with work in the franchise stretching back to TNG, sit for a brand new, hour-long conversation that includes candid discussion of the disappointing response to the show. Enterprise goes back to pre-Original Series times, depicting the then-groundbreaking warp 5-capable starship Enterprise NX-01. Berman and Braga talk about the challenges of retrofitting the series to make sense within the context of the greater Trek timeline. Both men seem at least a little bitter (understandably so) about the lukewarm critical and commercial reaction with which their efforts were greeted.

Enterprise two (167x250).jpgThe other new supplemental showpiece is “To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise,” a three-part retrospective that runs a total of about 90 minutes. The first part, “Countdown,” explores the conception of the series, expanding on some of the topics discussed in Berman and Braga’s conversation. “Boarding the NX-01”moves into casting and general production topics. “First Flight” is perhaps the most revelatory segment, serving as an insider’s analysis of what worked and what didn’t throughout season one. It’s compelling to hear the show’s creative team speaking frankly and honestly, acknowledging flaws and admitting that not every episode boasts great (or even good) storytelling.

So what about the show? The main thing that works is the cast. Scott Bakula is completely likeable as the reflective, thoughtful, but not particularly stern Captain Jonathan Archer. Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer, kind of a poor man’s Brad Pitt) is Archer’s chief engineer and also a close friend. Bakula and Trinneer display great chemistry, even when the scripts saddle them with too much golly-gee earnestness. My personal favorite is T’Pol (Jolene Blalock), the Vulcan science officer who slowly revises her generally low opinion of human behavior, subtly adapting her own emotionless logic along the way. Plus Blalock is exceedingly easy on the eyes. I also love John Billingsley’s portrayal of Dr. Phlox, the Enterprises’ s Denobulan philosophical medical officer. I just wish they had done a more seamless job with his rather artificial-looking makeup.

Somewhat less defined are the remaining primary cast members. We know that Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) is very dedicated to his work as tactical officer. We also find out that he loves pineapple, a particular tidbit of trivial information that proves very difficult to extract (in Reed’s birthday episode, “Silent Enemy”). Communications officer Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) is a little too petulant to be likeable, though it’s fun to see her getting a handle on translating all the new bizarre alien languages the crew encounters for the first time. Helmsman Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) is ultimately an overgrown Boy Scout, full of wide-eyed wonder. Frankly, he gets a little irritating over the course of the season.

Enterprise TPol (350x234).jpg

While there are certainly many departures from Trek tradition (not the least of which being the oft-criticized theme song borrowed from, of all things, Patch Adams), most of the season one episodes are standalones, without a great deal of connection. The Temporal Cold War storyline that carried through season four is introduced here, but appearances by the Suliban (a name derived from the Taliban, but I can’t hear it without thinking of Octomom Nadia Suleman) are relatively few. What I do like is the prickly relationship between humans and Vulcans. Enterprise begins less than 100 years after humans first met Vulcans (see Star Trek: First Contact) and both species are far from trusting of each other.

While episodes like the goofy “Acquisition” (in which Ferengi ransack the Enterprise while most of the crew is unconscious) stick out as weak and uninspired, most of the episodes here are at least watchable. The best ones help develop the new cast of characters, with “Dear Doctor” offering a thoughtful look at Dr. Phlox and his perception of humans. “Breaking the Ice” is another highlight, as T’Pol struggles with a decision that tests her commitment to the Enterprise. “Vox Sola” is a combination of hokey and admirable elements, with a humdrum “alien of the week” story offset by meaningful character development involving both Dr. Phlox and Hoshi (who begins to overcome her insecurities by cracking a particularly tricky new language).

Enterprise fight (350x234).jpg

As for the transfer, I admit I was concerned during the pilot episode. “Broken Bow” gets things off to a shaky visual start, with a noisy, grainy image (shot on 35mm; Enterprise shifted to digital video for its fourth season). It actually makes the episode look ten years old than it is. But luckily the rest of the season isn’t bad at all, with greater clarity and consistency in all the post-pilot episodes. Enterprise wasn’t given the full restoration treatment that has wowed viewers of the Next Generation Blu-ray seasons. The upscaling of the special effects for this 1080p presentation has left some inherent problems. There’s a little shimmer and less detail than we expect by today’s standards, but aside from “Broken Bow” the episodes look pretty solid without being knockouts.

(Note: the images seen here are publicity stills, not representative of the Blu-ray transfer.)

Enterprise ground (167x250).jpgAudio is consistent throughout, with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that offers some very gently immersive surround effects. It’s mostly ambiance, the hissing and humming of the ship itself, that we hear in the rear channels. Outer space scenes feature some subtle directional effects as spacecraft fly around. Dialogue is always intelligible, but fairly regularly it sounds a tad overdriven. The intermittent harshness is rarely a real distraction. Music and effects are well balanced and the overall result is a mostly positive listening experience.

Besides the new supplements mentioned above, there are also new commentary tracks for four episodes: “Broken Bow,” “Silent Enemy,” “Shadows of P’Jem,” and “Shuttlepod One.” A few archival pieces have been dug up and are also exclusive to this release, the most substantial of which being the “On the Set” featurette that details the making of “Vox Sola.” As with the Next Generation Blu-ray seasons, all the previous DVD features were wisely ported over to this set. While it’s generally negative reputation precedes it, Star Trek: Enterprise - Season One is an uneven but entertaining start to an important show in the Trek canon.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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