Set in the 22nd century, a hundred years before James T. Kirk helmed the famous starship of the same name, Enterprise takes place in an era when interstellar travel is still in its infancy. Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) has assembled a crew of brave explorers to chart the galaxy on a revolutionary spacecraft: Enterprise NX-01. As the first human beings to venture into deep space, these pioneers will experience the wonder and mystery of the final frontier as they seek out new life and new civilizations.
Under intense scrutiny, the debut season of Enterprise earned a passing grade from critics and Star Trek fans alike. Voyager ended its seven-season run just four months earlier, and fans were skeptical when Enterprise premiered (on Sept. 26, 2001, on UPN) with a theme song ("Where My Heart Will Take Me," composed by Diane Warren and performed by Russell Watson) that defied Trek's revered theme-music tradition. This and other early reservations were dispelled when "Broken Bow" got the series off to a satisfying start, beginning in the year 2151 and establishing a pre-Federation focus on humanity's delicate relationship with the Vulcans, the controversial launch of the NX-01 Enterprise on an exploratory mission, and the potentially devastating consequences of the mysterious Temporal Cold War involving a time-traveling splinter group of the Suliban, a nomadic alien race. While establishing a testy relationship between Enterprise Capt. Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his smart-and-sexy Vulcan Sub-Commander, T'Pol (Jolene Blalock, in a short-banged wig and form-fitting "catsuit" that were later redesigned), the series introduced engineer "Trip" Tucker (Connor Trineer), whose surprise development in "Unexpected" made him a fan favorite; communications officer Hoshi Sato (Linda Park); helmsman Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery); weapons expert Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), and chief surgeon Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), a well-mannered Denobulan recruit from Earth's Interspecies Medical Exchange.
As a "prequel' series that predates the original Star Trek by 150 years, Enterprise built upon established Trek lore with episodes involving Vulcans ("Breaking the Ice"), Klingons ("Sleeping Dogs"), the blue-skinned Andorians ("The Andorian Incident," "Shadows of P'Jem"), and the Ferengi ("Acquisition") while offering stand-alone episodes (notably "Dear Doctor," "Fortunate Son," and "Shuttlepod One") that further acquainted fans with the Enterprise regulars. Early Trek technology is also introduced (including "phase pistols" and the rarely used, still-risky transporter), and the series drew strength from what many felt would be its primary weakness: unwritten history and the initial indecisiveness of Archer's bold foray into the unknown. Ending with a dazzling "Shock Wave" cliffhanger that leaves Archer stranded in a decimated Temporal Cold War future, Enterprise set a strong foundation for the events of season 2.
The bonus features included on the Enterprise: Season One DVDs are almost worth the price of the set, if only to see nearly nine minutes of hilarious outtakes, maintaining a beloved tradition of Star Trek bloopers. The sight (and sound) of Jolene Blalock laughing out of character is pure gold, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that Blalock is just as smart as she is sexy, as proven by her astute observations (along with the rest of the Enterprise cast) in the "Cast Impressions" featurette. It's the usual complimentary fluff included with all Trek sets, but it's obviously sincere, confirming fans' conviction that Enterprise should have lasted beyond four seasons with this close-knit ensemble. Series creators Brannon Braga and Rick Berman deliver a typically dry commentary on "Broken Bow," setting the record straight on debate over the show's "not retro enough" production design (as Braga notes, "you can never please everyone") while defining their concept of "The Right Stuff of Star Trek." As always, Mike Okuda's text commentaries offer a wealth of Trek trivia and detail from Trek's historical canon.
Fans will love the "Enterprise Secrets" revealing low-tech solutions to lighting the warp core and dispensing "replicator" beverages, along with an entertaining profile of Vaughan "Admiral Forrest" Armstrong, who holds the record for Trek guest appearances. The other featurettes are perfunctory, but "Creating Enterprise" provides valuable first-season perspective, and the "Time Travel" feature offers a handy reference for the many time-travel episodes from every Trek series. As usual, Easter eggs (three of them, titled "NX-01 Files") are hidden on the special-features menu, offering short interview clips culled from the primary featurettes. The deleted scenes demonstrate how non-essential material can be sacrificed, and because they don't include post-production sound or visual effects, fans can see and hear the actual soundstage atmosphere of Enterprise's principal photography. --Jeff Shannon
With Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) trapped in the 31st century, season 2 of Enterprise opens with a rousing resolution to season 1's cliffhanger finale. The first four episodes instantly became fan favorites: "Shockwave, Part II" advances the Suliban's role in the Temporal Cold War; "Carbon Creek" reveals the real first contact (albeit a secret one) between humans and Vulcans in Pennsylvania in 1957, allowing Jolene Blalock to play T'Pol's "second foremother" in a Sputnik-era scenario; in "Minefield," Reed (Dominick Keating) is nearly killed by an explosive device attached to Enterprise's hull; the damage is repaired in "Dead Stop," featuring award-winning digital modeling effects as the disabled Enterprise encounters a mysterious automated space station. Season 2 also emphasizes Archer's ongoing friction with the Vulcan High Command, exacerbated when T'Pol's career is threatened (in "Stigma") by her involuntary involvement with ostracized mind-melders. Connections to the original Star Trek (series and films) continue with episodes involving Tellarites, Tholians, Klingons, Andorians, and even a brief appearance by a Tribble (one of many occasions for humor in Dr. Phlox's sickbay, the setting of many of the season's finest dialogue-driven scenes). Early warp-drive history is also explored in "First Flight," a Right Stuff-like episode guest-starring Keith Carradine as Archer's friend and rival in breaking the Warp 2 barrier.
Consisting primarily of stand-alone episodes that integrate ongoing story arcs, season 2 showcases the primary cast with generally good results: Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) visits the "boomer" cargo ship he was raised on in "Horizon"; Hoshi (Linda Park) experiences unsettling transporter symptoms in "Vanishing Point"; and Tucker (Connor Trineer) plays a pivotal role in several episodes, notably "Dawn," "Precious Cargo" and "Cogenitor." And while "Regeneration" provoked controversy among fans for introducing the yet unnamed Borg in an early Starfleet context, it's a fine episode (with echoes of The Thing) that holds up to scrutiny, while others (including "The Crossing," "The Breach" and "Cogenitor") feel somewhat recycled, indicating the challenge of finding new ideas in the Star Trek canon. Overall, however, season 2 is consistently strong, with several episodes directed by cast alumni from previous Trek series, including NextGen's LeVar Burton, and Voyager's Roxanne Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill. They all lead up to a devastating attack on Earth (with seven million casualties, including Trip's younger sister) in "The Expanse," ending the season with high-stakes mystery as Enterprise enters a treacherous region of space in search of the Xindi, an enemy race that factors heavily in season 3.
Abundant bonus features include a generous selection of deleted scenes (non-essential, but interesting to fans); audio commentary (on "Dead Stop" and "Regeneration") by writers Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong, who explain the challenge of writing under constantly shifting production conditions; and text commentary (on "Stigma" and "First Flight"), in which Trek veterans Michael and Denise Okuda demonstrate their encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek fact and fiction. Six Easter eggs, known as "NX-01 Files," are hidden on the Special Features menus; they offer brief glimpses into specific aspects of production, including set recycling and art direction. "Enterprise" secrets are revealed for those who pay meticulous attention to detail; "Inside 'A Night in Sickbay'" offers a behind-the-scenes assessment of that memorable episode; and "LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director" celebrates the actor's smooth transition to directing after his stint on Next Generation. "Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock" is a tribute to the sexy actress by her fellow cast members and executive producers Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, including Blalock's assessment of T'Pol's pivotal role as Enterprise's resident Vulcan. Best of all, however, are the hilarious outtakes: They show the cast as a family unit, combining hard work with humor as the second season progresses. --Jeff Shannon
Described by series cocreator Brannon Braga as "a single episode that lasts 24 hours," the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise is arguably the best in the show's four-season run. With the epic "Xindi saga" as the season's primary story arc, the series found its tonal focus in the unpredictable space of the Delphic Expanse, where alien encounters and matter-warping spatial anomalies forced Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) to make extreme decisions that tested his ethical boundaries. Realizing the need for a fresh viewpoint, Braga and cocreator Rick Berman hired Manny Coto, a TV veteran who conceived or wrote several of the season's finest episodes (not forgetting Mike Sussman and other members of the series' first-rate writing staff). Coto's involvement was instrumental in shaping the Xindi saga, which began (with season 2's cliffhanger) when Earth was attacked by a Xindi probe--a massive weapon which Archer must now destroy. This vital mission dominates season 3, deriving its potent drama from an impressive variety of characters and subplots focused on the five-species Xindi council, which finds its voice of reason in Primate member Degra (season regular Randy Oglesby) and rancor in the Reptilian Commander (Scott MacDonald), pivotal characters whose fates will be tragically intertwined.
Despite lower ratings and budgetary cutbacks (as evident in several ship-bound episodes with minimal casting), season 3 was equally strong as a showcase for the Enterprise regulars, with plenty of fan speculation rising from the sexy and soothing Vulcan "neuro-pressure" sessions between the insomniac Tucker (Connor Trinneer, better than ever) and T'Pol, whose hidden addiction to a toxic compound allows Jolene Blalock to mine the volatile depths of her character (who now sports a more appealing hairstyle and wardrobe). Meanwhile, security chief Reed (Dominick Keating) engages in heated competition with Major Hayes (reliable guest Steven Culp, from the first season of Desperate Housewives), the leader of NX-01's Military Assault Command Operation (or MACO), which Reed views with territorial suspicion. And while Enterprise still fumbled to develop the characters of Hoshi (Linda Park) and Travis (Anthony Montgomery), John Billingsley continued to bring clutch-player excellence to his role as Dr. Phlox in several highlight episodes including "Doctor's Orders" and "Similitude," the latter featuring equally strong work by Trinneer in an ethically complex (and fan-favorite) examination of the cloning--a typical example of Star Trek at its best.
The alternate timeline of "Twilight" also honors the classic Trek tradition, while "Harbinger" reveals the existence of the trans-dimensional Sphere Builders, whose moon-sized creations affect Enterprise throughout its season-long mission. Finally, the crucial appearances of blue-skinned Andorian Shran (Jeffrey Combs) bring both suspense and comic relief to the season's grim proceedings, adding depth and tentative alliance to Enterprise's pre-Federation politics--a crucial element that assumes greater importance with the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of "Zero Hour" and the surprises in store for season 4, which will bring Enterprise ever closer to the original Star Trek timeline.
Gathered on disc 7, the season 3 bonus features for Enterprise are consistent with features on seasons 1 and 2: Identical in presentation but different in content. The "Xindi Saga" featurette summarizes the creative and practical decisions that resulted in the season-long story arc; "Enterprise Profile" acknowledges the popularity of "Trip" Tucker and Connor Trinneer's successful effort to transcend the character's "hayseed" image; and "A Day in the Life of a Director" finds Roxann Dawson (aka B'Elanna Torres from Voyager) well in control as she helms the episode "Exile." As with previous DVD sets, three more "NX-01" files are hidden as "Easter eggs" on the Special Features menus, and they include further appreciations of the Enterprise writers, the work of costume designer Robert Blackman, and John Billingsley's hilarious anecdote about Phlox's prodigious sexual endowment(s). The outtakes are amusing but all too brief, perhaps owing to the higher stakes (and lower ratings) of a dramatically serious season. --Jeff Shannon
Despite the near-certainty of cancellation, ratings in the cellar and nothing left to lose, the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise was unanimously hailed as the best. After ending season 3 with a mind-boggling cliffhanger, series creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga handed show-runner duties to executive producer Manny Coto, who rejuvenated the flagging franchise by bridging the gap between Enterprise and the future developments of Star Trek: The Original Series. By recruiting lifelong Trek experts Mike Sussman and the husband-and-wife team of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens to his writing staff, Coto ensured that political events in the Enterprise timeline would lead to a "coalition of planets," thus forming the Federation cornerstone of Star Trek's future. But first, Coto had to find a way to extract Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) and his battle-worn crew from an alternate timeline--the result of the continuing Temporal Cold War--in which the Nazis have invaded U.S. soil in 1944. In the normal Enterprise timeline, political upheavals have left relations between Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, and Humans in a state of near-disastrous chaos.
Into this blazing cauldron of action-adventure, Coto and staff introduced story arcs that connected to Star Trek's future, including a three-episode arc ("Borderland," "Cold Station 12," and "The Augments") in which Dr. Arik Soong (played by Next Generation alumnus Brent Spiner) and his superhuman "Augments" chart a tragic course that would lead, in future generations, to the creation of Spiner's cybernetic NextGen character, Data. "The Forge," "Awakening," and "Kir'Shara" returned T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) to her native Vulcan, where encounters with the legendary philosopher Surak, and zealous sect called the Syrannites, lead to pivotal history with the Vulcan High Command. In subsequent episodes, Phlox (John Billingsley) would discover the reason why some Klingons lack "cranial ridges" (thus solving a vexing Star Trek mystery), and "In a Mirror, Darkly" marked and eventful return to the "Mirror Universe" from the original series episode "Mirror, Mirror," for what Coto aptly describes (in the bonus featurette) as a two-part "romp," complete with a "Mirror Universe" title sequence, the reappearance of the U.S.S. Defiant from the original series episode "The Tholian Web," and a glorious recreation of a "Constitution Class" starship bridge that gave long-time Trekkies a breathtaking rush of nostalgia.
In the closing episodes, the formation of the Federation is threatened by a radical xenophobe (Peter Weller) whose isolationist tactics lead Trip (Connor Trinneer) and T'Pol to a future of interspecies parenthood, and while the series-ending "These Are The Voyages..." is considered a disappointment by some, it provided a suitable Next Generation tribute to Star Trek's past, present, and future. Considering the daunting challenge of tying up loose ends while looking forward in a way that demanding fans could appreciate, it's fair to say that Enterprise reached a satisfying conclusion that its cast and crew can be proud of.
It's only fitting that Season 4's bonus features have a bittersweet quality, celebrating the Star Trek franchise while acknowledging its uncertain future. For the first time on any Star Trek series, closure was imposed prematurely, and "That's a Wrap" (a video from the Enterprise wrap party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood) has the privileged feel of an emotional family reunion. (Unfortunately, Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer were unable to attend.) "Inside the 'Mirror' Episodes" offers a closer look at those enjoyably nostalgic episodes ("we put the 'Ho' back in Hoshi" jokes Mike Sussman about Linda Park's "empress" persona), and in "Links to the Legacy," Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens explain how they brought Enterprise closer to its original Star Trek heritage. "Visual Effects Magic" charts the astonishing advancements in digital effects since the comparatively crude effects of Next Generation, and "Enterprise Secrets" reveals an affectionate assembly of behind-the-scenes personnel on the final day of shooting. There's one final Easter egg (NX-01 File #10) about the ultimately futile "Save Enterprise" fan protest against series cancellation (with appreciative comments by Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer), and as always, the informative audio and text commentaries are fan-essential features loaded with detailed trivia and anecdotal history. --Jeff Shannon