Judge Eric Profancik returns home (for now) after boldly going where no man had gone before.
Our reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (published May 3rd, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Two (published August 24th, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Three (published October 19th, 2005), and Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2013) are also available.
Augments and Tholians and Gorn, oh my!
Fans of Star Trek will declare, without fail, that Season Four of Enterprise was the best. I do not disagree. How can you, when the show finally hit its stride by embracing its heritage? Yes, Enterprise at long last told stories that fit into its history, filled in the blanks, and expanded its universe. And why did that happen? It happened because the evil Berman and Braga "handed over" day-to-day control of the franchise to Manny Coto. Coto, an immense fan of the franchise—especially of the original Star Trek ("TOS"), infused this latest series with an energy and vitality long missing. Fans, cast, and crew all rejoiced in the newfound glory of the show.
But it was all a moot point, for Enterprise was doomed long before Coto was officially given the reins. Only because of economics did the show make it to a fourth year—so there would be the all-important 100 episodes of programming available for television syndication. The new powers-that-be at Paramount no longer cared about the jewel of the franchise, for they decided their key television demographic was women. And we all know women don't watch Star Trek; it's the domain of those geeky young men with disposable income that nobody covets.
Before suffering the humiliation of cancellation, there was joy in the land of Trek as a result of the grand upsurge in quality episodes, in spite of the drastic budget slashing done by Paramount. Sadly, it was all for naught. Things happened almost the exact same way forty years ago—so we can only hope for a second reincarnation that's half as wonderful as the first.
Facts of the Case
In this final season of Enterprise, with Earth and Starfleet safe from annihilation from the Xindi, it's time for Captain Jonathan Archer and his crew to return to their exploration roots. They once again set out to explore the vastness of outer space, going further than any other humans have dared go. These twenty-two episodes detail the final voyages of the warp five Earth vessel Enterprise (NX-01):
• "Storm Front"
"Captain Archer, you've just saved Earth from the Xindi. What are you
going to do now?"
And so ended Season Three, on a staggeringly insipid note. I hated the stupidity of Berman and Braga, who constantly scuttled in and tossed out the lamest ideas for the show. They forced the crew of the Enterprise to go back in time…but why? They didn't know. Par for the course, they had this "great idea" for a cliffhanger, but no ideas for how to solve it. Fortunately, Manny Coto was up to the task.
Coto was a godsend for the show. His unbridled enthusiasm and love of the franchise restored faith to everyone involved and associated with Enterprise. He embraced the roots of the show, and knew that Enterprise had thus far failed to deliver what fans wanted: answers. They wanted this prequel series to fill in the gaps leading up to Kirk's time. Because Berman and Braga hated TOS, they disregarded it—as evidenced by the glaring lack of continuity from one show to the next. Berman and Braga didn't care, but Coto did. Thank goodness. His first order of business was to fix all the mistakes created by Berman and Braga. Next, he wanted to create the necessary bridge from Enterprise to TOS. And lastly, he wanted to have fun.
Did he accomplish everything? Absolutely!
How? By adhering to the franchise's history, Coto and the inspired team of writers created a string of mini-story arcs throughout the season (as a nod to the success of the year long Xindi arc). Allow me to quickly highlight the key arcs and stories, other important episodes, what they did right and wrong, and how it helped the cancelled show.
• The Augment Trilogy: "Borderland," "Cold Station
12," and "The Augments"
• The Vulcan Trilogy: "The Forge,"
"Awakening," and "Kir'Shara"
• The Federation Trilogy: "Babel One,"
"United," and "The Aenar"
• The Smooth and Chunky Duo: "Affliction" and
Those are the main story arcs, but there are still many other episodes of note. In actuality, almost every episode in this season is important in some fashion, whether it explains some continuity problem or fills in a gap to Kirk's time.
"Daedalus" is a lousy show that succumbs to borrowing from the franchise ("The Next Phase" with a touch of "Realm of Fear"), but it does flesh out the story of the creation of the transporter, and why most people are quite wary of wanting to use it.
"Observer Effect" is an episode that feels a bit out of place in this franchise. It borrows from the franchise yet again ("Scientific Method"), but it redeems itself by bringing back the Organians, who haven't been seen since "Errand of Mercy" (or is it "won't be seen until 'Errand of Mercy'"?).
The two "In a Mirror, Darkly" stories are fan favorites. I like them, too, because everyone is having fun. These episodes have absolutely no relevance to the rest of Enterprise, allowing it to do everything it couldn't do—namely in the guise of Tholians and a Gorn. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment here are the new opening credits and opening theme song. Gone is that wretched soft rock ballad, replaced by a dark and ominous orchestral score. It's the music we've wanted to hear for four years! (Maybe you thought I was going to talk about the lovely midriff-revealing jumpsuits worn by T'Pol and Sato—or maybe her black thong?) I do have a problem with this show, and it's the flipside of what makes it so enjoyable: the lack of relevance. You devoted two episodes of your final, shortened season to a story that means nothing? I like the freedom it gave you to explore facets of the prequel universe that you couldn't before, because of the restraints of continuity; yet I'm disturbed that it had no bearing on Jonathan Archer and the crew of the Enterprise. Even when other stories did the same thing ("Cause and Effect," "Parallels," and the various mirror universe stories on Deep Space 9), the story ended with some effect on our crew.
Fans consider "Demons" and "Terra Prime" to be the true "final" episodes for Enterprise. They are strong stories, with a great guest appearance by Peter Weller (Robocop). The concept of intolerance and prejudice being alive in the Trek universe is refreshing. The big tease of T'Pol and Tucker having a kid was not refreshing.
This brings us to the official, final episode of the series, "These Are the Voyages…" In a word, this show is "reviled" by fans. Instead of being a "Valentine" to fans, it's an insult. Once again, blame squarely rests on Berman and Braga, who jumped in over Coto and forced this lousy story on everyone. Watching it for a second time, it wasn't so bad; not quite as insulting as alien Nazis, but a close second. The germ of the idea is interesting—doing a flashback with Riker and Troi from The Next Generation (TNG) detailing the final voyage of Enterprise—but it falls flat. This is supposed to be Enterprise's swansong; TNG already had theirs in "All Good Things" and their four movies. We should not be mixing casts this late in the game. Archer, Tucker, Reed, Sato, T'Pol, Mayweather, Phlox, and Porthos deserved their own episode to say goodbye. It was a noble idea to make a grand goodbye for the franchise as a whole, but it resulted in a big mistake; one that will not be forgiven anytime soon. Connor Trinneer (Tucker), at a recent convention, summed it all up: "[W]e were all, as a cast, disappointed. We felt a little bit hurt by the fact that we weren't allowed to be the ones to end our show. We put in a lot of work, so to have that sort of ripped from you at the very end…If they'd been able to have it make sense to me, I would have been fine with it. It's one thing to get cancelled; it's another thing to do someone else's show for your finale."
On the whole, Season Four is an excellent, compelling season of television. It has a few clunkers, but there's plenty of danger, action, drama, and comedy to keep you interested. The quality of the series under the direction of Coto is the finest, and it is a shame that the bean counters at Paramount failed to realize that Enterprise truly had found its stride. Ratings may have been lagging, but there is always demand for a Star Trek show. Enterprise struggled but finally earned its right to a full seven year run. Its early demise is as short-sighted a decision as they come. All this talk about a brief respite, giving the franchise time to refresh and rejuvenate, is silly. What needed to happen happened: the removal of Berman and Braga, and the entrance of Manny Coto. Get rid of the idiots, and let a talented individual take over.
This last release offers a few subtle tweaks on what you have come to expect from a Trek release. This six-disc set is packaged in the same sturdy clamshell case as seen with the previous three releases; unfortunately, the loss of one disc (all other seasons are seven discs) wasn't compensated on the inside of the clamshell, so your discs can flop around a bit. Still, I really do like it. The menu theme this time around is a Vulcan fleet, and it gets boring after some time. If you can show us several styles of Vulcan vessels, why not have a different one for each disc? More importantly, if you can change the opening credits for "In a Mirror, Darkly," why couldn't you change the DVD menu for these episodes? You did it for the Borg episodes on TNG and Voyager.
More important is what you'll find on the transfers. In each case, they are the best looking and sounding transfers for any release of a Trek television show. Even with that reduced budget I mentioned—which helped them transition to HD video—you won't see a reduction in quality. The 1.85:1 anamorphic prints are bolder, richer, sharper, and more vibrant than any other season. Colors are accurate, popping from your screen, and the blackness of space has never seemed so encompassing. Aside from that ever-present shimmer during beauty passes of ships, errors are absent from the discs. Even better than the video is the quality of the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. Without question, this season has the audio track that I have craved since the first TNG set. On top of the usual clean and clear dialogue, the surrounds are extremely active, and the subwoofer pours out the bass. I thought it was a fluke, but it wasn't. I couldn't believe that the surrounds were being so wonderfully utilized, and I was stunned that I could feel the vibration of the bass. It's not top-of-the-line movie sound, but it is spectacular for television. None of the Star Trek shows have ever sounded this good!
For the bonus features, they are again a bit skimpy—as in Season Three—and I also found myself a bit more bored than usual while perusing them.
• Audio Commentary by Mike Sussman and Tim Gaskill on "In a
Mirror, Darkly, Part I and Part II"
• Audio Commentary by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Tim
Gaskill on "Terra Prime"
• Text Commentary by Denise and Michael Okuda on "In a
Mirror, Darkly, Part II" and "These Are the Voyages…"
• Deleted Scenes from "Storm Front, Part I," "The
Aenar," and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"
• Enterprise Moments—Season 4 (15.5 minutes)
• "Inside the Mirror Episodes" (15.5 minutes)
• Enterprise Secrets (5.5 minutes)
• Visual Effects Magic (13 minutes)
• "That's a Wrap" (8.5 minutes)
• Links to the Legacy (4 minutes)
Enterprise Outtakes (2 minutes)
And rounding it all out, as usual, is the photo gallery, the ever-present Borg Invasion Trailer (yes, I will go already!), and only one Easter Egg that I found.
If I ever hear the word "bittersweet" again, it will be too soon.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What I wish could have happened during these four years was to give Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley, Out of Time) more screen time. He was my favorite character, despite his limited appearances. This all came to fruition during the first season episode "Dear Doctor," when he stood against Archer and refused to intercede in the natural development of a species. It showed the awesome potential in his character, yet no one wrote for him. This season, he had more to do than in all the previous seasons combined, but it was still superficial. As the only Denobulan encountered in the Trek franchise, it was a wasted opportunity.
Star Trek: Enterprise had one wild ride. Watching it for four years was a difficult ordeal for even the most ardent Trekkie, and upon its cancellation I wasn't particularly saddened. This year is the first in nearly two decades where I haven't been able to sit down and watch a new episode of Star Trek each week. That does sadden me, especially when I realize that those years fill more than half my life. No wonder I'm such a fan; it's always been there. Was it the right move to cancel the show? I cannot say it was, for Trek fans are a-plenty, and there will always be that desire to be sated. Paramount wants to give us a break; to give the show a break and bring it back stronger one day. Maybe that'll be true—and I hope it is—but I miss my franchise. My constant friend is cancelled, and I'd love to have it back. Enterprise did find its stride under the leadership of Manny Coto, and it had earned the right to stay on for seven years. One can now only wonder at all the things Coto could have done. Would he have been able to bring Shatner back for a Kirk cameo? We will never know.
This final release of a Trek television show is highly recommended. The stories are sharp and engaging, and the transfers are excellent. You may be hesitant after watching the first two seasons, and on the fence after the third, but this fourth season is worth the investment.
Star Trek: Enterprise is hereby found not guilty of self-cancellation.
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Review content copyright © 2005 Eric Profancik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.