Judge Patrick Bromley has enjoyed a wee bit too much Romulan ale.
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), and Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2013) are also available.
"I can't save humanity without holding on to the things that make me human."—Captain Jonathan Archer
The least-loved series in the Star Trek franchise has its second go-around. Is it an improvement over the first season? Or just more of the same? Will people who revisit the series on these new Blu-rays finally come around on the show?
Facts of the Case
Here are the 26 episodes that make up Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Two:
• "Shockwave, Part II" Picking up right where Season One left off, "Shockwave" finds Captain Archer (Scott Bakula, Necessary Roughness) still trapped in the distant future as a crew of Suliban take over the Enterprise.
• "Carbon Creek"
• "Dead Stop"
• "A Night in Sickbay"
• "The Seventh"
• "The Communicator"
• "Vanishing Point"
• "The Catwalk"
• "Cease Fire"
• "Future Tense"
• "The Crossing"
• "The Breach"
• "First Flight"
• "The Expanse"
Will Star Trek: Enterprise ever get the love it deserves?
I know it's not ever going to be the best show in that nearly 50-year old franchise. It might even be the "worst" of the five series, depending on who you ask. But does it being the worst automatically make it bad? Just because it's not as good as Star Trek: The Original Series or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, must it automatically be written of? Is the worst episode of Enterprise really all that much different than a bad episode of Star Trek: Voyager?
Season Two of the series features an episode that has infuriated fans since it first debuted and is a big part of the reason that Enterprise has earned its reputation for being a mess: "Carbon Creek," which retcons the mythology of the entire series by suggesting that Vulcans made contact with Earth as early as the 1950s. It's a miscalculation on the writers' part, and demonstrates one of the key challenges they had such a hard time cracking with Enterprise—how do you honor the 35-year-old traditions of the show while still trying to give the fans something new? Sometimes by trying to offer "something new," the show shot itself in the foot.
There are other questionable episodes, too, like "Regeneration," which brings back The Borg for little other reason than because they were very popular on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or "A Night in Sickbay," which attempts to suggest romantic tension between Captain Archer and T'Pol. Forget that such a thing has never existed between the two characters; the big problem is that both are presented as such professionals that such a thing never would exist. That's too bad, because it's a really good episode otherwise—one of my favorites in the series thus far, mostly because it focuses so much on Archer's character (Bakula is a terrific captain) and his relationship with his dog.
If I have a problem with Season Two (which isn't to say I have only one), it's that it's still as uneven as the first season. The actors have settled into their roles more comfortably and have an easier rapport with one another, and the most interesting characters (Archer, T'Pol and Trip) continue to be the most interesting characters and get the most development. Having learned some lessons during Season One, though, I would have hoped certain issues would be addressed—what to do with Travis and Yoshi, for example, who continue to be around just to round out the crew, not because they are ever given anything interesting to do (not for lack of trying, though, as Season Two gets its requisite "Travis episode"). Plus, the characters are more often than not facing external crises in the second season. There are not episodes like "Shuttlepod One," where crewmembers personalities were in conflict with one another (sort of) or "Dear Doctor," in which crewmembers faced internal conflicts. The issues that the crew faces in Season Two seem, well, easier by comparison.
But all of this sounds like a lot of complaining about the show, and that's not totally fair because I really like Enterprise. Yes, the ensemble isn't as strong as the one on, say, The Next Generation, but it does have a handful of great characters. The dynamic between Archer, T'Pol and Trip is clearly modeled on the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship, and while I wouldn't argue it ever reaches those heights, it is still a fitting tribute. Several of the stories in Season Two feel like retreads of familiar Star Trek stories, but it's hard to hold that against the show too much when there had already been 25 seasons on the air. Though it sometimes blew up in their faces, credit where it is due for at least attempting to distinguish themselves. There is still a sense of discovery about the show (which is why it's all the more frustrating when they repeat old stories and conflicts), and the "newness" of many of the tropes we've come to expect keep the show feeling fresh. They don't use transporters all that much, instead relying on shuttles to get around. Relations with the Vulcans are still tense. Jeffrey Combs' Andorian character comes back from Season One; in fact, there are ripples of the first season that continue to impact the events of Season Two, which hints at the serialized structure towards which the show is heading.
Season Two proves that Enterprise was still finding itself. Perhaps the fans, who had been treated to three decades worth of good Star Trek already, just didn't have the patience for that. Perhaps (for sure) they took issue with the liberties Berman and Braga took with the mythology. But there is a good show in Enterprise, and it's one which deserves a reconsideration. At its best, it feels new while still being classic Trek.
The 26 episodes that make up Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Two are spread across six discs, each of which also contains bonus material. The 1080p HD transfers are all solid; while not quite the eye poppers as the ones on the Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-rays (because Enterprise was originally broadcast in HD, so we know what to expect), fans should be very happy with the level of detail, brightness and clarity on display. Sure, the shows can look a little soft and drab at times, but that's only when measured against a really high standard. The lossless audio tracks that accompany each episode are slightly better, doing a nice job balancing the dialogue with the score and setting many of the effects in the surrounding channels, creating a powerful and immersive experience. For a TV show, it's strong stuff.
Where these Enterprise sets really excel—even more than the other HD releases of Star Trek series—is in the bonus content. Because it was the worst received show in the franchise, because it was subject to the most network interference and because it's the only show since The Original Series not to make it to seven seasons, the new bonus materials contained on the Blu-ray sets function almost as a post-mortem on the series. Everyone is candid and blunt in what they think worked and didn't work, and some (particularly creator Brannon Braga) still seem bitter about the whole experience. At the same time, there is an acknowledgment that the show has been reassessed in recent years (and will hopefully continue to be, thanks in large part to the Blu-ray releases and the availability on streaming platforms) and fans are finally coming around to a lot of the things that Enterpise did right. It's a show with more than its share of problems, but let's not throw out the space baby with the space bathwater.
The best extra feature is contained on the first disc: a 90-minute conversation with the entire reunited cast and Brannon Braga (who points out that it was the first time they had all assembled in such a focused way since the original table read for the pilot). It's a great conversation, filled with honesty, humor and thoughtful discussion about what made the show special and, yes, what its problems might have been. It's so good, in fact, that some of the same information gets repeated in the second best bonus feature (and the only other new supplement), contained on the sixth disc: a three-part, 90-minute documentary covering the production and legacy of Season Two. There is a ton of good information here, such as the fact that network executives asked if it was possible to have a different boy band on the ship each week. For those of you who dismissed Enterprise outright and accuse Braga and partner Rick Berman of ruining Star Trek, keep in mind that this is what they were up against. Anyone who watches the documentary should hopefully gain a new appreciation for just how much the show did right considering the obstacles they faced—though it's not just an "us versus them" piece. Participants recognize that some of the creative team was simply burned out on Star Trek after more than a decade bouncing from series to series and were running out of new ideas. It's a fascinating look not just at how Enterprise was made, but at how TV shows work, warts and all.
A few new commentaries have been included: writer Chris Black and Mike and Denise Okuda, designers for the series, talk through "Carbon Creek" and "First Flight," while all of the original commentaries (both text and audio) from the 2005 DVD release have been ported over. Also carried over are the deleted scenes, interviews and archival "Mission Log" featurettes, which cover everything from behind-the-scenes production information to an outtake reel.
By all accounts, Star Trek: Enterprise gets really good in its final two seasons, when the show was finally allowed to adopt the serialized format for which Berman and Braga were pushing all along. There are hints of that in Season Two, but like the first season, it's something of a mixed bag. There are terrific episodes and there are episodes that are very frustrating. Those weak spots are compensated for with the incredible three hours of new interviews, though, which helps put a troubled and underrated show into better perspective. I, for one, can't wait for Season Three.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Bromley; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.