The mirror universe version of Judge Patrick Bromley writes for the website DVD Adjudication.
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), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Four (published November 2nd, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2013), Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Two (Blu-ray) (published September 2nd, 2013), and Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Three (Blu-ray) (published January 7th, 2014) are also available.
It's been a long road, getting from there to here.
The most controversial of the Star Trek series comes to an early end after just four seasons—one more than Star Trek: The Original Series but three fewer than every incarnation of the franchise. Does it go out on top or was it really time to call it quits?
Facts of the Case
The 22 episodes that make up the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise include…
• "Storm Front, Part I"
• "Storm Front Part II"
• "Cold Station 12"
• "The Augments"
• "The Forge"
• "Observer Effect"
• "Babel One"
• "The Aenar"
• "In a Mirror, Darkly Part I"
• "In a Mirror, Darkly Part II"
• "Terra Prime"
• "These are the Voyages?"
So it comes to this. After a rocky start and a steady improvement that found Star Trek: Enterprise discovering its legs in Season Three to deliver a fantastic season of sci-fi adventure, the show was canceled during its fourth season and forced to wrap things up rather quickly. While other Star Trek shows of the era all made it to seven seasons, Enterprise—always the most hotly debated and least-loved of the franchise (though it feels like many fans are finally coming around on it)—had its time cut short.
While Season Four is, as far as I'm concerned, a step down from the season that preceded it, there is a lot of great Star Trek to be found—it could be argued that this season is the Trekkiest of all the seasons of Enterprise. Season Four offers Star Trek fans much more of what they want out of a "prequel" series, tying the mythology of this show into that of the original series and to all of Trek as a whole. With Rick Berman and Brannon Braga stepping back from calling the shots, new show runner and lifelong Star Trek fan Manny Coto (the unsung hero of Enterprise, who was also largely responsible for the great Xindi arc of Season Three) set out to make the Enterprise he always wanted to see.
Rather than telling one huge season-long arc as the series had attempted (successfully) with Season Three, the fourth seasons splits the stories up into mini-arcs of three or four episodes, nearly all of which directly tie in to the larger Star Trek mythology and try to course correct some of the choices made by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga that rubbed so many fans wrong. Why do the Vulcans of Enterprise behave so differently than the Vulcans we're used to? There's a story arc devoted to it. Why do the Klingons look different on Enterprise than on the original series (and more like later-era Star Trek) even though it takes place before it? There's a story arc devoted to it. There's another arc devoted to the Eugenics War and another that brings TNG's Brent Spiner back to play Data's creator. There's a two-parter that takes place in the Mirror Universe. There's an Orion slave girl.
Then there is the finale, which ties Enterprise not into the Original Series but into Star Trek: The Next Generation by following Riker and Troi as they watch a holographic recording of the ship's final mission and the formation of the Federation. Even among Enterprise fans, "These Are the Voyages?" is considered a miscalculation. At the time it was shot, Bakula was angry—and Brannon Braga has since capitulated and agreed—that the show didn't end with its own cast of characters. This was the last episode of Enterprise, not some TNG spin-off. The show should have received its due closure instead of bending over backwards to tie into the franchise as a whole. It's a problem that would come up again and again during the tenure of Enterprise, but never more pronounced nor damaging than it is here. The show goes out on a bum note.
The Temporal Cold War is resolved as indifferently as it had always been dealt with; while a great idea on paper, it was a non-starter that somehow managed to span all four seasons despite never being that compelling in practice. The two-parter that kicks off Season Four brings closure to last season's frustrating cliffhanger and closes out the Cold War storyline, almost as though was determined to close out everything that had come before and start fresh. By "start fresh," I of course mean "make Season Four more of an honest prequel." Previous seasons of Enterprise were much more their own thing entities this one is, but that's not such a bad thing.
Some of the mini-arcs are much more successful than others. The Vulcan story, while interesting in how deeply it delves into the politics and history of the race, never quite becomes compelling enough to justify how much time it all takes. Brent Spiner's return is the best part about the episodes focused on the Augments. Much better is the plot about a stirring war between the Tellarites and Andorians, mostly because it brings back Jefferey Combs as Shran, one of my favorite characters on all of Enterprise. Unfortunately with all of this table setting, the regular cast of the show gets the short shrift. Trip recedes into the background for the first half of the season, and while there's a lot of conversation between him and T'Pol about their relationship, there's no feeling to any of it. That changes as the season moves forward, but Enterprise sometimes gets caught up in mythology and loses focus on what makes any Star Trek great—the characters. Perhaps it's for this reason that I'm not as big a fan of the "prequel" elements of the show, going all the way back to Season One. I'm interested in a show that tells the story of Starfleet's early days and the wild west of space, but less so in one that exists just to tie things up in a bow and achieve a bunch of table setting for what would come later.
Perhaps the greatest success of Season Four is that Manny Coto and the writers were able to pull it off at all. Ratings were down, network support was at an all-time low, budgets were slashed. The incredible confidence of Season Three has dissipated somewhat and the handful of one-off episodes are as bad as anything Enterprise ever put on the air. And, yet, Season Four feels more like a love letter to Star Trek than anything that came before; unlike Braga's decision to chuck canonical continuity and position the show as its own thing, Coto does his best to make this season a true prequel and bring the series back to the roots of the franchise. Had all four seasons of Enterprise taken this approach, I don't think it ever could have worked—every episode would have felt exactly like an episode of a different Star Trek, only slightly different. For one season, though, it's ok. Especially when it's the series' swan song.
All 22 episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Four are collected here, spread out over six discs in their original 1.78:1 widescreen broadcast format. The 1080p transfers offer a slight improvement over past seasons, which have all looked good but not quite this good. Colors pop more, things look sharper, there's less noise and better detail. The lossless 5.1 audio track is as good as it's always been, which is to say that it's very good without being exemplary. Dialogue is clear, the action scenes carry some kick and score is nicely balanced if still somewhat forgettable. Anyone who has been collecting these season-length Blu-ray releases shouldn't find any major surprises with the technical quality of the Season Four set.
Same goes for the supplemental content, which continues to be wonderful and worth the purchase of these sets alone. As usual, the commentaries and "Mission Log" featurettes have been carried over from the original DVD release, which contain behind-the-scenes pieces, interviews and a photo gallery (presented here in HD). A couple of deleted scenes are accessible on the discs containing the corresponding episodes. The real gold on the Season Four set is once again the new documentary commissioned for this release, a four-part piece called "Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise." I have loved these docs on each of the Enterprise Blu-ray sets because they are so candid and comprehensive about how the show came together, the problems it faced and what it did right. With the benefit of hindsight, everyone interviewed (and it really is all of the major participants) is able to put the show in the proper context, aware of its faults but also ready to defend it.
The four parts of "Before Her Time," which run almost two hours when combined, focus on the changes made in the final season and the lead up to the show's cancellation. Everyone knew they were fighting an uphill battle in the fourth season but continued to believe in what they were doing and did their best to put forth the best show they possibly good. Coto's optimism is infectious, too; Braga has always seemed defensive about Enterprise and carries a chip on his shoulder (though it's hard to blame him with the amount of hate the guy gets from fans), but Coto comes from a place of love and reverence. Feelings are not spared in the discussion of the show's terrible final episode, either, which led to the biggest fight Braga ever had with star Scott Bakula (hinted at in previous season retrospectives). It's hard not to watch all four parts of "Before Her Time" and not come away with a greater affection for Enterprise—or, at the very least, a greater respect.
Also included is a 90-minute roundtable discussion with Braga and a team of producers and writers that covers not just the fourth season of Enterprise but the entirety of the series, even branching out into all of Star Trek at times. It's an interesting discussion that features very little repetition of the other featurettes and well worth the time of any Trek fan.
When Star Trek: Enterprise went off the air in 2005, it was first time in nearly 20 years that there wasn't a new Star Trek being broadcast. In the almost 10 years since then, no new Star Trek has made it to TV—and while the JJ Abrams "reboots" are making millions of dollars at the theatrical box office, there isn't likely to be one for some time. Enterprise did its best to come full circle back to the original Star Trek, and if it's the last broadcast version of the show we ever get at least it closed the loop.
While I still probably prefer Season Three to this one, Season Four is still one of the best in Star Trek: Enterprise's short run. Disastrous finale aside, it gets the show back to basics and fully embraces being part of Star Trek. Unlike a lot of people who feel like the series tarnished the memory of the franchise, I'm sad to see my time aboard the Enterprise come to an end. At least I can get back there on Blu-ray.
Not guilty. Goodbye, Enterprise.
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