Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Fourth Season

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Oct 18, 2005
  • Format: DVD
  • Bookmark and Share

Director

Various

Release Date(s)

2004-2005 (November 1, 2005)

Studio(s)

Paramount

Technical Specifications

924 mins (22 episodes at 42 mins each), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, 6 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), custom plastic shell packaging with inner disc holder, audio commentary with writer Michael Sussman and Tim Gaskill (on In a Mirror, Darkly - Parts I & II - the podcast commentary), audio commentary with writers Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Judith Reeves-Stevens and Tim Gaskill (on Terra Prime - the podcast commentary), text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (on The Forge, In a Mirror, Darkly - Part II and These Are the Voyages), 3 deleted scenes (from Storm Front, The Aenar and In a Mirror, Darkly - Part II - 16x9, DD 2.0), outtakes reel (2 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), 6 behind-the-scenes featurettes (all 4x3, DD 2.0) including Enterprise Moments: Season Four (16 mins), Inside the Mirror Episodes (16 mins), Enterprise Secrets (6 mins), Visual Effects Magic (13 mins), That’s a Wrap! (7 mins) and Links to the Legacy (4 mins), production photo gallery, Borg Invasion promo trailer, 1 NX-01 File Easter egg featurette, 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 the U.S. Best Buy/Musicland Group-exclusive bonus disc) includes 2 additional featurettes: Enterprise Goes to the Dogs and Westmore’s Aliens: Creating Dr. Phlox and Beyond.

Review

Program Rating (Season Four/Series Finale): A/F

It really has been a long road gettin’ from there to here, hasn’t it?  If you’ve read my reviews of Enterprise’s first, second and third seasons on DVD, you’ll know that I’ve said a lot of stuff like, “Yeah, this show isn’t perfect... but just hang in there, because it’s going to get better.”  And I was right, wasn’t it?  It did get better in Season Three.  Well, guess what? Season Four is where Star Trek: Enterprise got a lot better.  At long last, this show finally hit its stride.

After struggling to guide the series through three difficult seasons, producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga had finally managed to stabilize the show’s plunging ratings with Season Three’s 24-episode Xindi arc.  The duo then made perhaps their smartest decision in years: They turned the show-running duties over to a recent addition to the writing staff... Manny Coto.  Berman and Braga would still run the production, but Coto was left in charge of the writing room.  It would be up to him to guide the story arcs – the dramatic course Enterprise would set for its fourth final season.  Coto not only brought to the table a fan’s love for (and knowledge of) Star Trek, but also a wealth of ideas as to how to finally start bridging the gap between Enterprise and The Original Series of Kirk and Spock.  Coto quickly went after (and successfully recruited) pair of new additions to the show’s writing staff: accomplished Trek novelists Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens.  Together with Coto, and established series writers Mike Sussman and Andre Bormanis, they would help to craft Enterprise’s most compelling and entertaining season by far.  The season’s best episodes were simply outstanding.  At last, there was genuine energy and enthusiasm to the storytelling!  Real risks were taken.  The guest actors were of a higher caliber.  And even the weaker episodes – generally the stand-alone stories – worked toward the broader purpose of tying Enterprise more closely to The Original Series.

Unfortunately, what most of the cast and crew already knew was that no matter how good the series became in Season Four, it would likely be Enterprise’s final year.  UPN was eager to target a new demographic (younger women)... and Star Trek no longer fit in their game plan.  Concerned with declining viewership and the lackluster performance of the previous Trek feature films, Paramount decided it was best for the franchise simply to go away for a while.  So at the end of Season Three, a decision was made at the top levels of the studio: Barring a sudden surge in the ratings, Enterprise would get just one more year to allow the series to approach the 100 episodes mark (a magic number needed to sweeten syndication deals) and that was it.  All the cast and crew could do was give the season their all... and hope for a miracle.

The first order of business for Season Four was to resolve the odd little temporal paradox left by Berman and Braga from the third season’s cliffhanger finale.  Coto himself tackled the difficult dilemma with the season’s first 2-part mini-arc, Storm Front and Storm Front, Part II.  While it was heavily plot driven and a bit awkward, featuring Archer lost in an alternate New York City circa 1944 during an attempted Nazi invasion of America (and his crew’s attempt to uncover how he’d come to be there), the improvement in writing quality – particularly the characters’ dialogue – was obvious immediately.  By the time the arc was over, the convoluted Temporal Cold War storyline had thankfully been resolved, and the crew was finally able to return safely to the Earth as they remembered it.  Well... almost as they remembered it.

The season’s third episode, Home, wasn’t quite the homecoming the crew might have expected.  Archer had to deal with his guilt over the moral compromises he was forced to make in the Expanse.  Phlox encountered a disturbing new trend back on Earth – rising prejudice against non-Humans.  And when T’Pol invited Trip to return home with her to Vulcan, her former fiancé resurfaced with a difficult proposition that could save her mother’s career... but derail her new relationship with Trip.  The episode marked both the first appearance of T’Pol’s mother, T’Les (played by Joanna Cassidy, who sci-fi fans might remember from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner), and also our first real exploration of the planet Vulcan in years.

The effort to start building ties to The Original Series began with a vengeance in the season’s first 3-episode arc, a follow-up to the classic episode Space Seed.  In Borderland, Cold Station 12 and The Augments, we learned that a handful of genetic supermen left over from the Eugenics Wars have not only survived, but hijacked a Klingon ship.  Hiding out in Orion space, they’ve hatched a plan to start a conflict between Earth and the Klingons, and also to retrieve and revive the frozen embryos of thousands of their fellow “augments,” kept on ice at a remote space station.  The arc featured a pair of great guest performances, including The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner as Dr. Arik Soong (a misguided scientist and an ancestor of the man who would eventually create Data) and Alec Newman as the augments’ leader, Malik (Newman previously starred as Paul Atreides in the Frank Herbert’s Dune miniseries).  The Orions, by the way, are a race of green-skinned slaves and slavers that first appeared in the classic episode The Cage – this is the first time we’d seen them since The Original Series.

The season’s second 3-episode arc found Archer and company struggling to prevent not only a Vulcan Civil War, but also a larger conflict between the Vulcans and Andorians.  The Forge, Awakening and Kir’Shara featured the return of a trio of popular guest characters from previous seasons (Gary Graham’s Soval, Jeffrey Combs’ Shran and Vaughn Armstrong’s Admiral Forrest), and gave Coto and the Reeves-Stevens the chance to really explore Vulcan history, culture and custom more closely than ever before.  The episodes also helped to explain (and set right) something that many fans had complained about on Enterprise, which was that the Vulcans of Archer’s era seemed more devious and emotional than they were in later periods.  Additional ties to Trek history were made in the appearance of Surak, the telling of the story of the Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination) and the discovery that much of the turmoil was being instigated by Romulan operatives in secret as part of a plot to conquer their Vulcan brethren.

A pair of stand-alone episodes followed next.  In the first, Daedalus, we met Emory Erickson... the man who invented transporter technology and who was also a former mentor of Archer.  Meanwhile, Observer Effect found the crew of the Enterprise being studied by a pair of non-corporeal beings (Organians, as seen in the classic TOS episode Errand of Mercy).

Setting up the inter-species alliance that would one day become the Federation of Star Trek history was the idea behind the season’s final 3-part arc, depicted in the episodes Babel One, United and The Aenar.  The Romulan Empire was spreading its wings once more, using unmarked, remotely-controlled marauders to attack Andorian, Tellarite, Vulcan and Human ships in an effort to provoke an all-out war between them.  Archer and Shran struggled to prevent the interstellar conflict, while attempting to convince the differing races to work together to uncover their real enemy.  Not only did this storyline nicely set-up the war Trek fans know must eventually happen between Earth and the Romulans (as mentioned in the TOS episode Balance of Terror), we also got the chance to explore Andorian society for the first time on-screen.

Remember how the Klingons of Kirk’s time all had smooth foreheads, while those of later centuries (and even those seen on Enterprise) had bony skull ridges?  Well... that discrepancy was finally explained in the episodes Affliction and Divergence, in which we also saw the early dealings (and learned the origins) of the mysterious shadow organization, Section 31.

In the season’s final stand-alone episode, Bound, Archer and his crew had another brush with the Orion Syndicate on their way home from the Klingon crisis.  The Orions plotted to capture the Enterprise and sell its crew into slavery.  A trio of sultry green women were sent aboard to seduce the men of the Enterprise into submission... but the surprising bond between Trip and T’Pol played a key role in foiling their plan.  This episode finally resolved the romantic relationship between Trip and T’Pol, which had been an ongoing subplot throughout the season (and the previous season as well).  It also revealed a surprising fact about the Orions.

Coto and company weren’t yet finished having fun with Enterprise’s connections to The Original Series – not by a long shot.  In a pair of devilishly fun episodes written by Mike Sussman, we got to see what Archer and his crew were up to... in the hostile alternate universe of the classic episode Mirror, Mirror.  Sussman’s In a Mirror, Darkly and In a Mirror, Darkly – Part II is best thought of as Enterprise unleashed... or maybe unhinged is the better word.  The story followed up on another classic episode as well, The Tholian Web, in which the Constitution-class starship U.S.S. Defiant disappeared from Kirk’s time.  Turns out, it reappeared in Archer’s time, only in the “mirror” universe!  There, a war-mongering Archer and his crew stumble upon the more advanced starship... and Archer decides to use it in a bid to take over the Terran Empire.  These episodes were packed with TOS references, including appearances by both the Gorn and the Tholians.  We also got to see our Enterprise characters’ counterparts in TOS-era Starfleet uniforms, and operating on a meticulous recreation of a very familiar looking Bridge.  Really getting into the spirit of things, the producers even altered the series’ opening and closing credit sequences for these episodes, giving them a darker, more ominous tone.  The In a Mirror, Darkly saga was a Trekkers’ delight from start to finish.

Winding down the season back in the regular universe, the series final 2-part arc – Demons and Terra Prime – is simply outstanding.  Conceived by Coto and the Reeves-Stevens, both episodes have a classic Trek feel and subject matter.  It’s entirely appropriate, I think, that the final obstacle standing between Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and other races joining to form a partnership of equals... a coalition that will one day become the Federation... should be Humanity’s own prejudice.  Peter Weller (of RoboCop and Buckaroo Banzai fame) guest stars as John Frederick Paxton, the idealistic but misguided leader of a growing faction of xenophobic Humans who have come to believe – in light of the disastrous attack on Earth by the Xindi – that maybe Starfleet should never have gotten involved in interstellar affairs in the first place.  Their group, Terra Prime, sees Archer and the crew of the Enterprise as the principal instigators of Humanity’s demise... and Trip and T’Pol’s inter-species relationship as symbolic of their worst fears realized.  The way in which Paxton and Terra Prime take advantage of Archer and his crew, of Starfleet’s aspirations and of Trip and T’Pol’s relationship is heartbreaking.  In my opinion, Demons and Terra Prime represent Enterprise at its very best.  All of the cast is involved in the action – even Travis and Hoshi have important things to do for a change.  We finally see long unexplored locations in the Trek universe by visiting the Moon and Mars.  Weller chews up the scenery as Paxton, bringing a welcome measure of gravitas to his role.  And in the final scene of the story (which was originally to have been the last moment of the series), we see Trip and T’Pol united by their grief and their feelings for one another, with a Vulcan IDIC pendant clutched in their entwined fingers.  It’s one of the most poignant endings of a Star Trek episode in years – symbolic of everything the franchise has come to stand for.

If only the series had ended there.  If only... (MORE...)


Important Information

Bits Latest Tweets

Jahnke's Latest Tweets

Adam Jahnke

A Columbo/Rockford Files crossover episode would have been the greatest event in television history.

by Adam Jahnke