Star Trek Enterprise: Season Four
One of the heights of science fiction is when an author can create a universe of such detail and consistency that the reader is completely drawn in. In film this was done with George Lucas and Star Wars. For television there is absolutely no doubt that the Star Trek universe is the most beloved world wide by a legion of loyal fans. The last original Star Trek television series was Enterprise, a prequel to the classic series of the sixties. In 2005 this series was cancelled leaving fans devoid of this universe for the first time in eighteen years. In its four season run the series had it’s high and low points but the last season showed that the cast and crew wanted to leave on a high note. Sure, there where some episodes that where somewhat lacking but overall this season was one of the best. For those out there that have been living in a cave somewhere Enterprise chronicled the exploits of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) commanding the Enterprise NX-01, Earth’s first warp five exploration star ship. As season four opens Archer and the crew of the Enterprise have saved Earth from certain destruction at the hands of the fiendish Xindi. The Enterprise once again finds itself caught in the temporal cold war, a conflict that not only spans the vastness of space but of time itself. The Enterprise is flung back to 1944 where Archer and his crew must repair a temporal faction that would change the outcome of World War Two and all the history that follows. Not only must the crew fight Nazis but also aliens bent of destroying the main time line. Once this little problem has been resolved the Enterprise finally gets to return to Earth. All is not calm on the human home world. In the middle of a hero’s welcome there is growing tension between Archer and the Vulcan Ambassador Soval (Gary Graham). Further Human-Vulcan tensions are explored by the new inter-species couple Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker III (Connor Trinneer) and Vulcan Sub Commander T’Pol (Jolene Blalock). When T’Pol takes Trip to meet her mother T’Les (Joanna Cassidy) the Commander discovers fighting aliens is easier than becoming part of their family. There is also a growing feeling of xenophobia on Earth resulting from the initial, devastating Xindi attack. A growing group of humans demand all aliens be removed from Earth causing a feeling of hatred to expand on both sides. There is even division within the Vulcan ranks as the Syrrannite attempts to return Vulcan to the original teachings of Surak.
What is different with this closing season of Enterprise is it is presented in a group of inter-locking story arcs. Each set comes across as a mini series or theatrical length film. There are several such arcs in season four:
Temporal Cold War:
Storm Front parts one and two. The Enterprise goes back to WWII to save the time line.
The Genetics Trilogy:
Borderland, Cold Station 12, The Augments . Great-grandfather of Noonien Soong, Commander Data’s creator, Dr. Arik Soong (Brent Spiner) is a doctor of genetics who felt that the Eugenic war would deprive humanity of perfection. This plot filled in many of the blanks about the war and its main villain, Khan.
The Vulcan Trilogy:
The Forge, Awakening, Kir'Shara. This story line helped explain why the Vulcans of this series seemed more politically oriented and emotional. Archer and crew must help restore the logical teachings of Surak to Vulcan.
The Federation Trilogy:
Babel One, United, The Aenar. This part of the season details how Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, and Tellar formed an alliance that would grow to become the basis for the United Federation of Planets.
Affliction, Divergence. This pair of episodes helps explain why the foreheads of Klingons changed drastically between the original series and the Next Generation.
Original Series Homage:
In A Mirror Darkly, parts one and two. In an alternate universe there is the Terran Empire instead of the Federation. These episodes provide some details to the ‘evil Kirk’ episode in the original series and also bring back the classic star ship design and uniforms.
Throughout this last season great efforts where made to help fill in the gaps left by the previous members of the franchise. Series originators, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga turner the reigns over to Manny Coto, a know Star Trek super fan. This was a season geared towards giving the fans something special, to go out on a high and memorable note. Unfortunately, the actual last episode, ‘These are the Voyages…’ was ultimately a cop out. It was little more than and excuse to get a couple or Next Generation stars a little screen time. Over all the mini series approach here works extremely well.
Even though cancellation loomed for most of this season the cast managed to rise above the politics and give some excellent performances. As always Scott Bakula was great as Archer. Ironically, this is his second time in a Sci-Fi series that ended too soon, the other being Quantum Leap. At least here Bakula was given a proper send off. He has grown over the four years of playing Archer. He presents his character as a man who has been forced to make some of the most difficult decisions possible to save his home world. Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock also did well exploring a relationship between two very different people, beings, you know what I mean. There is a natural chemistry between the actors that gives there scenes a little extra. Linda Park, who plays the normally reserved linguist Ensign Hoshi Sato gets a lot more air time this season. She gets to play the action hero and even shows off her inner slut in the Mirror episodes.
Paramount did an excellent job presenting this final voyage of the Star Ship Enterprise to DVD. As with the previous three seasons there is a plastic case surrounding the actual package. Season four saw the series move to high definition television and the changes are very noticeable with this DVD release. The anamorphic 1.78:1 video is the best of the four box sets. The colors are more vibrant and better balanced than ever. The blacks are absolute, the contrast excellent and the color palette true to life. The Dolby 5.1 audio mix booms out over your living room. The space battles are almost theatrical in the way the sub woofer shakes the room. This season has the best channel separation of the bunch. There are a number of extras but to be honest none are really above the standard. The commentary tracks are fairly superficial, not giving enough behind the scenes dish. There is a blooper real that was funny. The special effects featurette had a few good moments but typically was nothing most of us haven’t seen before. The reason to get this box set is for the show and there it demonstrates its value. As the last installment in the Star Trek universe this is a piece of history you will want to enjoy time and time again.