Judge Eric Profancik can think of nicer things to say about Captain Janeway's hairstyles than about this series.
Our reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (published May 3rd, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Three (published October 19th, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Four (published November 2nd, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2013), and Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Two (Blu-ray) (published September 2nd, 2013) are also available.
"It's just as important as your 'Reed Alert'!"
After watching all 26 episodes of this second season of Enterprise—still blasphemously billed sans "Star Trek," though the DVDs magically carry the full title—I am finally ready and able to admit that this show is without a doubt the worst in the franchise. It is such an awful, mediocre hodgepodge that it isn't even worthy of being in the Trek franchise; for while viewing each episode, I never feel like I'm in the Trek universe. Oh, there's a ship called Enterprise, an organization called Starfleet, warp drive, phase cannons, photonic torpedoes, and other indelible marks of the famous franchise, but it clearly lacks the heart, the vision, and the wonder of the universe created by Gene Roddenberry.
I've said it before and it bears repeating: Rick Berman and Brannon Braga destroyed Star Trek.
Facts of the Case
Boldly going where every other show in the franchise has been, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) leads the prototype warp five starship, Enterprise, further away from Earth than any other human has been. These adventures are contained in the following stories:
• "Shockwave Part II"
In my review of the first season of Enterprise (link provided on the right), I spent a great deal of time finding fault with the series' lack of continuity in the Trek universe. While I don't want to go into great detail again, it bears repeating that this series holds absolutely no respect for continuity. It ignores both massive and minor details of things to come with nary a care in the world, flaunting its disrespect like an adolescent teenager. I could write a doctoral dissertation on this subject alone, as there are so many inconsistencies in every single episode. (Granted, it would be a lousy dissertation and wouldn't earn me a degree, but I could write it!) And standing on the sidelines are Berman and Braga (B&B), the masterminds of this evil. Two men who refuse to believe they didn't adhere to continuity. But they didn't, and the show is replete with examples. Allow me to compare two episodes to highlight the vile nature of writing by B&B:
In the second episode of the season (which was actually filmed first), "Carbon Creek," the history of Earth's relationship with Vulcan is changed at the drop of a hat. The entirety of First Contact is tossed to the wind as T'Pol tells Archer and Tucker about her great-grandmother's crash landing on Earth hundreds of years before the events with Zefram Cochrane. The episode continues to tear apart the fabric of Trek continuity, and it furthers the transfiguration of the Vulcans. These are not Spock's Vulcans; they are some hideous monstrosity dreamed up by B&B. And, yes, B&B wrote "Carbon Creek." But what about the Deep Space 9 episode "Little Green Men"? Didn't that change history by having Quark, Rom, and Nog be the aliens who landed in Roswell, New Mexico? No, this isn't the same thing. While "Carbon Creek" randomly changes the continuity of Trek history and the relationship between two key species, "Little Green Men" offers an alternative explanation for one event in human history, with that explanation changing nothing in the timeline.
In the fourth episode of the season, "Dead Stop," continuity is embraced and expanded. The events from episode three directly flow into episode four. Things are not suddenly fixed, and events evolve; it's almost a mini story arc. More important, tiny details from the Trek universe are interwoven into the story, showing how the writers know all the episodes (unlike Braga, who brags of never having viewed The Original Series) and work to make things make sense. This episode, written by Michael Susman and Phyllis Strong, isn't perfect (the gelatin scene, anyone?), but it proves that interesting stories can be written that embrace the history of the franchise.
While watching the season, I unfortunately found things to dislike in almost every episode. I was quite surprised at how critical I became during my reviewing of this season. The first time around, I tried to embrace and enjoy the show; but now, with the series dead and gone, I've opened my eyes to the horrors in front of me. It's a given that the worst episode of the series is in this season, "A Night in Sickbay." I love Porthos. He's the most adorable, cute dog I've seen on television, but Archer's priorities are seriously misplaced in the episode. He cares more for his dog than his mission? Not to mention some really bad dialogue and a lousy "B" story? (Want to guess who wrote this stinker? Yes, it was B&B.) But it's not necessarily that each story is awful in some way, it's also that they reinforce the "been there, done that" attitude of this series. "The Communicator" was previously known as "A Piece of the Action"; "Dawn" was previously known as "Darmok"; and "Precious Cargo" was previously known as "The Perfect Mate." They may not be exactly the same stories, but they are oh so close. As was far too often the case, Enterprise failed to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Yet with all the muck folded into this season, I was able to find a few episodes that did it mostly right. My favorite of the season is "Dead Stop." Not only did it adhere to the series' and the franchise's continuity, but it told an interesting story with plenty of moments for all the characters to shine. "Minefield" also gets solid marks, but it would have been better had Reed not been such a whiner. "The Catwalk" is also an excellent story that could have been better if it had shied away from someone ending up trying to steal Enterprise. And then in "Singularity," I found great fun in watching all the characters fixate on the minutiae of life. This episode brilliantly creates the genesis of Trek's infamous "red alert" by having it blossom as the "Reed alert." Now if they had only been brave enough to call it that once or twice more…
Funny, even as I'm trying to praise a few episodes, I cannot stop from critiquing its many faults. What a sad state of affairs we have when as rabid a Trekkie as myself finds so much to criticize in his favorite thing.
With all of that said, there is still one massive question left unspoken: Who is Captain Archer? Let's quickly review the captains of the Trek franchise:
• James T. Kirk: Brash, brave womanizer who endlessly beats the
odds. A true hero of the Federation, and a man who helped blazed a trail through
the final frontier.
But who is Jonathan Archer? Over the course of the show's four-year run, Archer is portrayed in many ways, and a solid character profile is never developed. Is he a bold adventurer? A man of action? A diplomat? A negotiator? The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time? Especially during Season Two, Archer's personality is all over the map. In some instances he is a strong and determined leader, willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of his mission. Other times, he couldn't care less about the course of Enterprise. Sometimes he's a rough-and-tumble man, striking fear into his opponents, and at still other times he is solidly unsure of himself, feeling weak and lost in the final frontier. If I tried to define Archer as I did the other four captains, I truly could not come up with a good summation. Archer is a horribly defined character, one who feels out of place in the center chair on Enterprise.
Enterprise will (or could) look good in the center of your DVD collection. Its unique clamshell-like design protecting the seven discs inside is some of the nicest packaging in my collection, even if it is a bit larger than the rest of the Trek DVDs. Also nice is this year's menu interface theme, which is Klingon ships. It does feel somewhat out of place for Enterprise—why Klingons?—but it does look nice. In terms of audiovisual quality, if you've seen one DVD release of Star Trek then you've practically seen them all. With Enterprise being the newest series, it does look sharper, crisper, and cleaner than its predecessors. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image sparkles with realism, and its only downside is the continued minimal shimmering and aliasing you get with every release. Audio is either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0—and I didn't listen to one second of the 2.0 mix—and it's a nice track for Trek, but I felt it was a bit weaker than Season One. I didn't feel wrapped up and in the middle of things as much this season, and I still long for a massive subwoofer attack.
As with all Trek DVDs, they have been stuffed with extras—not necessarily the best of extras, but some effort has been made to rationalize the $100+ price tag for each year. Perhaps overflowing from my rather middling appreciation of the season itself, I found the special features in this set to be some of the weakest released. I was bored by them and felt they all dragged on too long, didn't tell me anything new, and squandered opportunities to show us cool stuff:
• Audio commentary by Michael Susman and Phyllis Strong on "Dead Stop" and "Regeneration": These two commentaries are probably the best extras on the entire set. The two writers discuss the good and bad of each story, and they actually tried to make their commentaries interesting and relevant for the viewer.
• Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda on "Stigma" and "First Flight": I've always felt that text commentaries should be a de facto extra for all television on DVD. That idea stemmed from the normally great Okuda commentaries, but these two are weak and share very little in the tidbit department.
• Deleted scenes for "A Night in Sickbay," "Dawn," "Cease Fire," and "The Expanse": I've clamored for deleted scenes since the first season of The Next Generation, but I'm already bored with the ones provided on Enterprise. They are toss-away scenes that were rightly cut from the episodes.
• Enterprise Moments—Season Two (18.5 minutes): Buried in the rambling, the only interesting tidbit is the admission that the spaceship in "Future Tense" is a slight homage to Doctor Who's TARDIS.
• Enterprise Profiles—Jolene Blalock (14 minutes): Once you acclimate yourself to the constant audio buzz, you realize (or should have already known) that Blalock is the most vocal and honest actor in the group. She's always been overtly critical of the show, and while some of that is obvious, she has been greatly edited to be less anti-Enterprise.
• Levar Burton—Star Trek Director (6.5 minutes): Finding his niche in the realm of Trek directing, Levar "Geordi LaForge" Burton has directed episodes in all the "modern" series. This piece tells us that, but it also lets him be a bit too high on himself.
• Enterprise Secrets (4.5 minutes): While this segment on the first-season DVD was unique, fun, and informative by actually showing us real production secrets, this time the segment rambles on about set design. I am most disappointed with this bonus item.
• Inside "A Night in Sickbay" (11 minutes): How very odd that we are treated to a bonus feature on the worst episode in Enterprise history. Do they not know how much fans hate this episode? All this does is show us that, while everyone took this episode seriously, they created a dud.
Rounding out the extras are outtakes (11 minutes), a photo gallery, the extremely old Borg 4D Trailer, and some Easter Eggs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One topic that forms the foundation of the Star Trek mythology is the fact that The Original Series addressed controversial topics—most notably the Vietnam War. Trek has always embraced that distinction for handling the big issues in a unique, sci-fi way. The trend to address such topics carried forth into all the other incarnations, some more obvious than others. So it is perhaps no surprise that during this season, Star Trek finally addressed the AIDS crisis in the episode "Stigma." I must say first that the episode itself is another in the long line of mediocre stories. Further, the way the story alludes to AIDS lacks any finesse, subtlety, or point. Yes, we shouldn't be afraid of AIDS, nor should we ignore the problem. The episode reminds us of this, but does nothing further. It doesn't tackle the issue; it just uses AIDS as a springboard for a story. The viewer isn't motivated to think more about AIDS or to want to do more about those suffering. "Stigma" fails to make people aware. But you wouldn't know that from the bonus episodes on this set, as "Stigma" is mentioned constantly. From Braga on down, "Stigma" is placed on a pedestal for being such a wonderful episode in talking about AIDS. Again, don't they realize how they missed the mark? Just because you made an episode about AIDS doesn't instantly qualify you as saint of the year. You need to make a good story, present it well, and look at the results. What did you accomplish in "Stigma"? You made an AIDS story.
What a sad season. What a disappointment. No wonder Enterprise only lasted four seasons and practically destroyed the franchise. With continued disdain for the franchise, we watched a series of rehashed plots and stories baked in a boring shell. There's nothing compelling about this prequel series, and we're almost better off not knowing how it all began. With a wishy-washy captain, apathy toward continuity, and little character development, why should the viewer want to watch this show? What little there is to like in this season is overshadowed by the flaws, and, a result, I am not recommending a purchase of this set. But don't turn in your Trekkie card yet. The universe we know and love exists in the other series, and hope can still spring eternal for a return to that wonderful universe many of us would love to live in.
The court hereby finds Star Trek: Enterprise guilty of firing phasers at warp speed. It is sentenced to life imprisonment on Rura Penthe.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Michael Susman and Phyllis Strong on "Dead Stop" and "Regeneration"
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