Paramount // 2003 // 1025 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 7th, 2014
"I'm about to step over a line -- a line I thought I would never cross. And given the nature of our mission, it probably won't be the last." -- Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), "Damage"
After two seasons spent as the put-upon stepchild of the Star Trek franchise, Enterprise completely reinvents itself for its best season yet.
Here are the 24 episodes that make up Star Trek Enterprise: Season Three:
Picking up six weeks after Season Two ended, the start of Season Three finds the Enteprise crew exploring the Delphic Expanse searching for the Xindi that attacked Earth, resulting in seven million deaths. Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula, Necessary Roughness) and chief engineer Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer, Stargate Atlantis) investigate a mining colony to locate a Xindi being held prisoner. Unable to sleep, Trip begins undergoing special Vulcan pressure therapy with Sub-commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock, Sinners and Saints).
The Delphic Expanse begins causing anomalies that distort the laws of physics, damage the ship and injuring the crew aboard Enterprise. An Osaarian ship attacks, leading Enterprise to discover a sphere that could help lead them to the Xindi.
When a landing party beams down to the surface of a planet recently visited by Xindi, Archer, security chief Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating, Jungle 2 Jungle) and communications officer Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park, Jurassic Park III) are transformed into a race of aliens known as Loque'eque.
After a stop at port, Captain Archer rescues a slave girl who turns out to have her own agenda for boarding Enterprise; the crew figures out how to shield the ship from the anomalies.
An alien living in solitude makes a bargain with the Enterprise crew: he will supply information about the Xindi in exchange for time with Ensign Hoshi.
* "The Shipment"
When the crew learns of a facility that manufactures kemocite, a major component in building the Xindi weapon, they set out to disrupt the shipment.
An alternate future is glimpsed when Archer loses his short-term memory and has to be told about what became of the Xindi conflict from an unexpected caretaker: T'Pol.
* "North Star"
The crew lands on a planet with a culture that mimics the American old west.
When Trip is injured, Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley, Prison Break) creates a clone to provide the organs needed to save him. But the clone has all of Trip's memories -- as well as some insights into his feelings for T'Pol.
* "Carpenter Street"
Archer and T'Pol travel back to 2004 Detroit to learn about a bio weapon being made for the Reptilian race of Xindi. Guest starring Leland Orser (Alien: Resurrection).
* "Chosen Realm"
The Enterprise is taken over by a race of religious zealots who believe the crew has committed blasphemy against the spheres.
* "Proving Ground"
The Enterprise plots to retrieve the Xindi weapon during a test of its power, receiving assistance from Captain Shran (Jeffrey Combs, Would You Rather) and the Andorians.
Archer and the crew stage an elaborate deception to get information from Degra (Randy Oglesby, Independence Day), the Xindi designer of the weapon.
Enterprise rescues a dying transdimensional alien inside an anomaly; Reed and Major Hayes (Steven Culp, Desperate Housewives) continue to fight over who is really in charge; T'Pol experiences jealousy when Trip begins giving pressure treatment to one of the MACO aboard the ship.
* "Doctor's Orders"
To get through a particularly dangerous part of the expanse, Dr. Phlox must put the crew into stasis. Before long, his mind begins playing tricks on him -- or is it just that he is not alone on the ship?
After Archer is sprayed during the discovery of a reptilian Xindi hatchery, he begins exhibiting irrational behavior that could compromise the entire mission.
* "Azati Prime"
Captain Archer plans a suicide mission to destroy the Xindi weapon; Enterpise suffers a crippling attack; T'Pol is no longer able to suppress her emotions.
The crew recovers from the attack as Captain Archer must make a difficult choice to obtain a new warp core; T'Pol reveals the reason for her emotional state.
* "The Forgotten"
Trip is ordered to write a letter to one of the crew members killed in the recent attack; Archer continues to try and convince Degra of what he knows.
The Enterprise crew is visited by their own descendants from an alternate future, who warn of their fate should they become trapped in the wormhole.
* "The Council"
Captain Archer finally gets his chance to speak before the Xindi council, but his efforts may be too late.
The conflict building for the entire season comes to a head as Captain Archer recruits the Aquatics to join in the fight while the Sphere Builders insert themselves.
* "Zero Hour"
Enterprise makes its last stand to stop the Reptilians from firing the weapon.
For two seasons, I have been an Enterprise apologist. The third season made me a die-hard fan.
Season Three is a time of major change. There are small changes, like the fact that its onscreen title in the opening credits is now Star Trek: Enterprise, when it was formerly just Enterprise. The much-hated title song is different, too; it's the same song, only with a faster tempo and a more "upbeat" feel. I like the old version better.
But those aren't the changes that matter. The real changes -- the one that transform Enterprise from a flawed but well-meaning entry in the Star Trek franchise into a terrific science fiction series -- is the shift to a more action-packed, serialized format. Whereas past seasons focused on the traditional "story of the week" structure, Enterprise (perhaps taking a page from later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) uses its entire third season to tell one long story arc, one clearly inspired by the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks. The journey through the Delphic Expanse -- which introduces many new alien species, new metaphysical obstacles and creates changes in familiar characters -- begins as a search for justice, then transforms into an effort to prevent further destruction and eventually morphs into something that's part diplomacy, part space battle. The story continues to build and grow until it seems so massive it might get away from the writers, but it never does. The balls all remain in the air. It's impressive storytelling.
In some ways, the approach takes Enterprise away from being Star Trek. Gone is the sense of exploration and discovery. Gone is the utopian optimism of Gene Roddenberry. This is a darker, angrier take on Star Trek. Everyone takes a bad beating. The ship is nearly destroyed on more than one occasion. Characters are killed. Major moral compromises have to be made. To the show's credit, though, it doesn't lose sight of the dilemma in which the characters find themselves in Season Three. Nothing about the season is gritty for the sake of being gritty; the story earns its darker beats not just by increasing the stakes (all of Earth is in danger), but by using the story to process feelings about September 11, 2001. Star Trek has always been a show that uses parable and allegory to deal with real-world issues, but never this directly and never on so large a scale. Apparently, fan reaction was a bit mixed when the season originally aired back in 2003, with some feeling like the wounds were still too raw, the attacks too recent. That may have been true then. Watching it now on Blu-ray in 2014, it's fascinating to watch the kind of fear, pain and anger we felt as a country played out on genre television.
Clearly, the personnel behind Enterprise had settled in and grown comfortable by Season Three -- they were finally able to take some chances and define the kind of show that it would be (it's ironic, then, that the series would be canceled in the next season). The actors all know their characters inside out, so the third season is able to mix things up a little. Scott Bakula makes Captain Archer into a man in an impossible situation, sometimes angry, sometimes desperate. He's pushed in all kinds of new directions, and Bakula is very good at showing Archer's conflicted decency and dedication to the mission. Jolene Blalock's T'Pol undergoes the biggest changes, from the change in her ranking to the deepening of her relationship with Trip (which the season explores but, to its credit, does not get bogged down by) to her increasingly emotional state. Blalock, whose performance once felt like a stiff, flat imitation of an emotionless Vulcan, does really subtle work this season. What she is asked to do is not easy, but she makes T'Pol into a much richer, more interesting character.
There is still the occasional one-off clunker this season (if I never see "Extinction" again, I'll be just fine), but for the most part even the story-of-the-week shows tie into the larger arc in one way or another. As usual, the Doctor Plox episode ("Doctor's Orders") is a standout. John Billingsley might be the show's MVP. Though Enterprise never quite mastered the art of the cliffhanger -- they try, but most of the episodes just kind of stop -- it's one of the few Star Trek series that lends itself to binge watching. The serialized format, combined with the commercial-free advantages of the Blu-ray format, make Star Trek Enterprise: Season Three totally addictive television.
If you've been collecting Paramount's Blu-ray releases of Enterprise thus far, you should not be surprised by the quality of Season Three. The 24 episodes, spread across six discs, are all presented in their original 1.78:1 broadcast aspect ratio in full 1080p HD, which once again show a good amount of detail and are faithful to the original intentions. Perhaps the only major change is that the special effects look somewhat worse, only because there are so many more of them and the 1080p upgrade is less forgiving of showing the seams. They don't look bad at all (save for the occasional use of wonky CGI), but the sheer amount of effects in the makeup and action-heavy Season Three sometimes betrays the limitations of time and money. The 5.1 DTS-HD surround track is an improvement over past seasons, if only because the emphasis on action and space battles gives it more of a workout than seasons past. Dialogue is always clear, while the action feels more sweeping and robust.
And, of course, there are the bonus features, one area the Star Trek: Enterprise sets have consistently bested even the Blu-ray releases of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The highlight, as usual, is the feature-length retrospective documentary (broken into three parts, but running 90 minutes in total) reflecting back on Season Three. Combining comments from all of the major participants, "In a Time of War" is as insightful and candid as ever, with everyone proving to be thoughtful and honest about what worked and what didn't, the reasons for the changes to the show and the reception it received from both the network and the fans. A second featurette focuses more on series creator Brannon Braga's reflections on the season, with additional comments from two of the minor players. Many Trek fans have issues with Braga and the direction he took the franchise, but he is nothing less than fascinating when talking about the show.
Five new commentaries have been recorded for this set (on "Impulse," "North Star," "Similitude," "The Forgotten" and the penultimate "Countdown") in addition to the commentaries and text commentaries ported over from the original DVD release. The other extras from that release make their way onto the Blu-ray, too, including a handful of deleted scenes and the "Mission Log" featurettes, most of which offer behind-the-scenes glimpses into an aspect of the series.
Seeing Star Trek Enterprise hit its stride in Season Three makes me a little sad, because I know there's only one more season left to go. It's different from all of the other Star Trek that I've seen, while still retaining the attention to character and to ideas that make the franchise so special. Maybe it has aged well, or maybe those that regularly complain that Enterprise sucks weren't watching by the time Season Three aired. I loved this season, and I'm not ashamed to admit I now love Enterprise, too.
Review content copyright © 2014 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 1025 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site
* Facebook Page