Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Second Season

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jul 13, 2005
  • Format: DVD
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Director

Various

Release Date(s)

2002-2003 (July 26, 2005)

Studio(s)

Paramount

Technical Specifications

1,111 mins (26 episodes at 42 mins each), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, 7 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), custom plastic shell packaging with inner disc holder, audio commentary by Michael Sussman & Phyllis Strong (on Dead Stop and Regeneration ), text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (on Stigma and First Flight), 8 deleted scenes (from Minefield, A Night in Sickbay, Dawn, Stigma, Cease Fire and The Expanse - 16x9, DD 2.0), outtakes reel (11 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (all 4x3, DD 2.0) including Enterprise Moments: Season Two (19 mins), Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock (14 mins), LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director (7 mins), Enterprise Secrets (5 mins) and Inside A Night in Sickbay (11 mins), production photo gallery, Borg Invasion promo trailer, 3 NX-01 File Easter egg featurettes, booklet insert, animated program-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, episode/scene access (8 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Editor’s Note: U.K. release (and U.S. Best Buy/Musicland Group-exclusive bonus disc) includes the Shooting Future Tense featurette (17 mins.)

Review

The first year of the Earth starship Enterprise’s deep space mission has not gone smoothly.  Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew have certainly made interesting scientific discoveries and found a handful of allies among the alien races they’ve encountered during their travels, but they’ve made a number of powerful and dangerous enemies as well.  Archer has almost single-handedly pissed off half the Klingon Empire, and the crew of the NX-01 has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the long-simmering conflict between the Andorians and Vulcans.  More ominously, sinister forces from the future are attempting to disrupt the Enterprise’s mission as part of an elaborate Temporal Cold War.  They’ve framed Archer and his crew for the destruction of a peaceful colony on a remote outpost, causing Starfleet to consider cancelling the Enterprise’s mission altogether – a move which could spell the end of Starfleet’s program of exploration and irrevocably alter the future.  What’s worse, Archer finds himself trapped in that bleak future with little immediate hope of returning to his own time.

Picking up where the rather lackluster first season left off, Enterprise’s second year could have taken the series in a number of directions, any of which would have been an improvement.  It certainly opened well. Wrapping up the previous season’s cliffhanger finale, Shockwave, Part II resolved the question as to whether Enterprise’s mission would continue, and returned Archer safely to his crew.  Its action-intense storyline was a welcome change from the previous year’s largely aimless wandering (even despite a rather odd speech by the Captain, comparing humanity to newborn gazelles).  This was soon followed by pair of great back-to-back episodes that gave fans reason to believe the show was beginning to find its legs. Minefield, written by former X-Files scribe John Shiban, was the series’ darkest and most ominous turn yet, leaving the NX-01 badly damaged after an encounter with a mysterious alien race (Romulans, unknown to the crew).  This story carried over into Dead Stop, in which the crew miraculously finds an automated repair station that can fix their ship... but at a higher price than they can imagine.  This too was a dramatically taut, even somewhat creepy, high-concept episode.  Unfortunately, the trend wasn’t to last. Just as the season seemed to be building nice momentum... it was quickly killed by a dreadfully ill-timed comedic episode, A Night in Sickbay.

The basic concept of A Night in Sickbay was to explore the fallibility of the Captain, and play at a little light buddy humor between Archer and Phlox.  It’s a good idea in and of itself, and at any other point in the series, it might have worked.  The problem is that the episode made Archer look so petty, and so negligent in his duties to his ship and crew, that the character was actually damaged in the eyes of many fans... just as he was finally starting to look like a real starship captain.  The irresponsibly of bringing his dog on a sensitive diplomatic mission aside, Archer then refuses to take responsibility for his (and his dog’s) actions (his dog pees on a sacred tree – no, I’m not kidding, it’s that silly), resulting in the species being offended.  Unfortunately, Archer needs the help of this species to replace a damaged part that’s critical to keeping his ship running.  Making matters worse, it turns out that his dog picked up a bug during their visit to the planet and has become seriously ill.  So Archer spends an entire night in Sickbay worrying more about his dog than his ship, stubbornly refusing to apologize and then experiencing decidedly uncomfortable sexual tension with his Vulcan first officer (uncomfortable for the audience, and presumably T’Pol as well).  The episode is just a disaster of epic proportions for the character of Archer... and ultimately for the season.  Following this debacle, the second season delivered a painfully long stretch of more of the same directionless storytelling the first season offered – mostly recycled Trek plots involving encounters with various aliens and spatial phenomena of the week (although there was at least a decent Vulcan/Andorian follow-up and a workable AIDS allegory involving T’Pol and mind-melding).  The low point (if it’s possible to reach a lower point than A Night in Sickbay) had to be Precious Cargo, in which Trip runs around in his underwear with an alien princess on a jungle planet.

The shame of it is, there were also a few truly great episodes late in the season.  In Cogenitor, Archer finally realizes that maybe he hasn’t been setting such a great example for his crew, when Trip’s well-intentioned actions (“I did exactly what you’d do, Cap’n...”) lead to the worst possible outcome during a first contact mission.  Regeneration is a good episode involving Starfleet’s first encounter with the Borg (a clever follow-up to the film First Contact by writer Mike Sussman) that was unfortunately extremely controversial with fans precisely because it involved the Borg.  When most fans were desperately hoping for the show to offer more links to The Original Series, here was yet another Next Generation connection that seemed to many to be an outright violation of continuity (the series had already shown the Ferengi, and for an unpleasant time it seemed as if Q and Quinan couldn’t be far behind).  The best episode of the second season, however, was outstanding.  First Flight showed Archer’s days as a test pilot for the NX program, trying to put his father’s warp engine to work, and the beginnings of his long friendship with Trip.  It featured an appropriately Right Stuff feel, along with an outstanding guest appearance by actor Keith Carradine (as a rival pilot competing with Archer to be the first to break the Warp 2 barrier).  Once again, however, the good of First Flight was undermined by the awful Bounty, which (despite the appearance of the TOS-era Tellarites) has T’Pol entering a false Pon Farr because of an accidental exposure to a microbe.  With Berman and Braga steering this series, you just KNEW there was going to be a Pon Farr episode sooner or later, and here it was, complete with T’Pol running around in her underwear and making sexual advances on Phlox and various other male crewmen.  Funny how many episodes of this series involve characters running around in their underwear, isn’t it?  Ugh.

As with the first season of this series on DVD, Paramount has delivered all 26 episodes of the second season in very good looking anamorphic widescreen video.  Once again, the experience of watching this show in widescreen is fantastic (it makes me really eager for seasons three and four, I can tell you).  As before, there’s a little bit of softness and very light film grain occasionally, but both add to the character of the image.  Color and contrast are excellent.  You’ll see a bit of digital compression artifacting here and there, but it’s not distracting even on a very large display.  Once again, this season’s episodes are presented as originally broadcast with their sans-“Star Trek” opening title sequence and the original mix of the theme song, both of which were later changed.  The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.  It’s still not as impressive as the 5.1 mixes on other Trek DVDs, with most of the action biased to the front half of the soundstage, and only occasional panning and atmospheric use of the rear channels.  But the dialogue is clear at all times and it’s well mixed with the music and effects.  Note that Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio is also included, as are English subtitles (and Closed Captioning). (MORE...)


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