Just what was Star Trek: Enterprise supposed to be? The show's second season includes at least one of every possibility. There's an episode ("First Flight") that suggests what the original vision of creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga might have been like: an Earth-set drama in the pioneering daredevil vein of The Right Stuff (as broadcast, the show was titled solely Enterprise—the title a potential pun on a seond-wave space program—through the end of this second season). There are episodes that indirectly recall "The Original Series": "Carbon Creek"'s superficial resemblance to "City on the Edge of Forever," T'Pol going into "Amok Time"-style heat in "Bounty," and appearances by Romulans ("Minefield"), Andorians ("Cease Fire"), Tholians ("Future Tense") and Klingons ("Marauders," the Star Trek VI-referencing "Judgement," "Bounty," and "The Expanse"). And then, in opposition to '60s nostalgia (2260s, that is), there's a wild-card episode bringing in Next Generation's signature baddies The Borg ("Regeneration") and the future-bound Temporal Cold War story, which actively pulls Enterprise toward the 31st century (the clever cliffhanger-resolver "Shockwave, Part II" and "Future Tense").
Then there are the episodes that let Enterprise be Enterprise—which ironically looks a lot like the previous fifteen years of weekly Star Trek (not counting multiple overlapping seasons that saw two Trek shows at once). More on those anon. A big part of what distinguishes each show is its cast, and Enterprise has a solid one, anchored by Scott Bakula with his corny but endearing turn as hot-under-the-collar Captain Jonathan Archer. He has a dangerously impulsive friend in Chief Engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker (Connor Trinneer) and a downlow supporter in Vulcan science officer Subcommander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), who's there with the permission/at the behest of the Vulcan High Command. T'Pol mostly picks up the mantle of original Trek's Spock, The Next Generation's Data, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Odo, and Star Trek: Voyager's two-fer of The Doctor and Seven of Nine, as the less-than-human character nobly inching towards humanity. In a similar vein, John Billingsley—as Denobulan Dr. Phlox—recalls the winning acting chops of the likes of René Auberjonois and Robert Picardo. Dominic Keating brings a unique brand of militaristic brio to tactical Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, Linda Park does her best with the blandly written communications officer Ensign Hoshi Sato, and nice guy Anthony Montgomery blends into the bulkheads as nice-guy navigator Ensign Travis Mayweather.
Season Two of Enterprise put a lot of fans to sleep in 2002, but out of that context of "franchise fatigue," these twenty-six episodes (twenty-six!) are entertaining, well-executed Trek. Outstanding production values, particularly in the realm of the show's standing sets and impressive weekly special effects, go some way to selling the adventure. And while some stories definitely feel recycled (Seven Samurai pastiche "Marauders"), or like time-killers between stories that advance the show's overall narrative, some show a willingness to break the mold. "Carbon Creek" and "First Flight" both employ flashback structures uncommon to Trek: in the former, T'Pol tells Archer and Trip a story of an ancestor making first contact with humans; in the latter, Archer tells T'Pol the story of his old frenemy A.G. Robinson (smartly cast guest star Keith Carradine). "A Night in Sickbay," taking something of a cue from The Next Generation's "Data's Day," uses a compressed-time narrative to illuminate characters—in this case, Archer and Phlox—and the workings of (one corner of) the ship.
Amid shows reminding us of the NX-01's newbie status (plenty of first-contact stories), Enterprise also logs a couple of memorable hours in the franchise's tradition of science-fiction allegory. "Stigma" creates an AIDS allegory by exploring the Vulcan High Command's discriminatory, phobic shaming of diseased mind-melders, including T'Pol; a racist patient refuses treatment from Phlox in "The Breach"; and Trip reacts poorly, by Prime Directive standards, to what appears to him to be uncomfortably like slavery in "Cogenitor." Season Two also holds an eleventh-hour game changer in the season finale "The Expanse," alluding to 9-11 by giving NX-01 a mission to protect Earth from intergalactic terrorists. Stepping up the show's motivational game boded well for a re-energized Season Three.
CBS Home Video delivers Star Trek: Enterprise—Season Two in an impressive overall Blu-ray package that improves picture quality over DVD, retains all previous DVD features, and adds fantastic new hi-def extras. Now, Enterprise, despite being younger, doesn't look as good as Next Generation does on its recent Blu-ray sets. The image is noticeably softer for Enterprise, and the effects remain in distractingly shimmery, upconverted standard definition. That said, and despite a certain lingering inconsistency of image, fans can take solace in the fact that Season Two gets a bump up in picture quality from Season One. These episodes are better resolved, with a bit more detail, though colors, contrast, and black level still tend toward the dull. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes pick up the slack with its definitive presentation of the source material. Shipboard ambience helps the surround mixes to earn their keep, and whooshing warp and space battles never fail to ratchet up the sonic excitement. Music consistently sounds full-bodied, and LFE roars and rumbles convincingly whenever called upon.
Most TV season sets don't offer up much on their Disc Ones, but not so for Enterprise. Here we have audio commentaries including episode co-writer Chris Black and graphic designers/Trek-sperts Mike & Denise Okuda on "Carbon Creek" and co-writers Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong on "Dead Stop" (2005), a "Deleted Scene" for "Minefield" (1:10, HD), a "Season 2 Promo" (:24, SD) and two Archival Mission Logs preserved from the DVD season set: "Enterprise Moments: Season Two" (19:11, SD)—covering "Carbon Creek," "Shockwave, Part II," "Dead Stop," "Vanishing Point," "The Catwalk," "Future Tense," "Bounty," "First Flight," and "The Expanse"—and the self-explanatory "Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock" (14:28, SD).
Disc One also holds the best bonus, the brand-new, high-def feature In Conversation: The First Crew (1:33:49, HD), a cast roundtable hosted by Brannon Braga and reuniting Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer (though he disappears relatively early), John Billingsley, Dominic Keating, Linda Park, and Anthony Montgomery, along with a late-arriving, fan-favorite recurring actor. Braga remains incredibly neurotic, setting a somewhat gloomy tone out of the gate, but in spite of that—or, more likely, because of it—fans will find this utterly fascinating. There are genuine moments of tension and genuine moments of camaraderie in this surprisingly candid retrospective back-and-forth between showrunner and cast.
Disc Two includes "Deleted Scenes" from "A Night in Sickbay" (4:02, SD) and the Archival Mission Log "Inside 'A Night in Sickbay'" (11:17, SD), while Disc Three houses "Deleted Scenes" from "Dawn" (1:34, SD) and "Stigma" (1:15, SD), 2005 Mike & Denise Okuda text commentary on "Stigma," "Archival Interviews" (5:01, SD) of Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, Jolene Blalock, and Scott Bakula on "Stigma" and Archival Mission Log: Photo Gallery (HD).
Disc Four serves up a "Deleted Scene" from "Cease Fire" (:42, SD) and the Archival Mission Logs "Shooting 'Future Tense'" (17:16, SD) and "Enterprise Secrets" (4:50, SD), the latter with first A.D. David Trotti drawing the connection between Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country and Enterprise. Disc Five gathers audio commentaries by actors John Billingsley and Bonita Friedericy for "Regeneration," co-writers Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong for "Regeneration" (2005), and writer Chris Black and the Okudas for "First Flight"; the Okudas also provide text commentary for "First Flight." This disc's Archival Mission Logs include "LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director" (7:01, SD) and "Enterprise Outtakes" (11:12, SD), a gag reel unfortunately not presented in HD.
Disc Six holds DVD extras "Deleted Scenes" from "The Expanse" (5:00, SD); "NX-01 File 04" (3:15, SD), with Bakula recalling set visits, including that of the Next Generation cast; "NX-01 File 05" (3:22, SD) with reflections on Hoshi; and "NX-01 File 06" (1:52, SD), with Anthony Montgomery describing meeting Whoopi Goldberg on the set and his post-Trek existence.
The big news about this final disc is the brand-new, hi-def, three-part Season Two documentary. "Uncharted Territory: Part One—Destination Unknown" (29:54, HD) focuses mostly on the writing staff, with Billingsley representing a cast member's perspective. The episodes "Carbon Creek," "Regeneration," and "Precious Cargo" get special attention, but mostly this first part excavates struggles between studio brass and the producers, with new writers somewhat nervously caught in the middle. "Uncharted Territory: Part Two—The First Crew" (28:58, HD) brings in the rest of the cast to discuss character and their experiences. We learn more about Bakula's proactive approach with the producers and writers, dynamics between the characters and amongst the actors, and Jeffrey Combs' experiences in front of and behind the camera. "Uncharted Territory: Part Three—Course Correction" (29:48, HD) tells us yet more about the escalating conference-room conflict and bad buzz that precipitated the season-finale reset.
Despite the less-than-perfect hi-def transfers, this is one heckuva season set on Blu-ray, with best-yet A/V for Enterprise and tons of behind-the-scenes dish.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer