Star Trek: Enterprise - Season 4 (AU - DVD R4)
Brett Anderson reviews the fourth and final series of the ill-fated Trek show
Enterprise seems to be an entry into the memorable Star Trek franchise that had fans divided down the middle. Some thought it was good clean fun the way the series should be. Others were disappointed that it wasn’t really living up to its name as a prequel. There is some truth to that, although I have only seen bits and pieces of the first three seasons myself, it seemed that there was very little going on the preluded events of the original series. It seems people lost interest as this fourth season was also the last due to poor ratings. A crying shame it is too, as the writers seemed to have finally picked up what fans wanted from this show and really blew us away with a season that did everything a Trek prequel should do. Rather than giving a general overview of the season, here is a mini-review of each episode in this magnificent season of television.
Storm Front is a two-part episode which seals the cliff-hanger from season three. Having seen the last ten or so episodes of the previous season on television, I was eager to see this as the fourth season was direct-to-DVD in Australia. The Enterprise has returned home after saving Earth from an evil invasion, only to discover that they have arrived in the wrong time period. Someone has sent them back to World War II. Stranger still, in this time-frame, the United-States is being occupied by Nazis thanks to some help from some aliens from the future. Enterprise now has to set the timeline right and find a way home. This was the turning point of the show. The Temporal Cold War plot that has existed from the pilot ends here so that the show could go in different directions. The double episode is very exciting though, offering an interesting time-travel plot, some brilliant special effects (including a breath-taking shot of Enterprise flying over 1940s New York), and best of all, air-tight closure. Although very entertaining, they are worth missing if you are not up-to-date with the Temporal War plot.
Home is one of the few stand-alone episodes in the season. The rest are generally two or three-parters. The crew has returned home to discover that the Xindi invasion has left the people on Earth a little edgy. We also learn of a sister ship to the Enterprise which will be launched soon. This is a reasonable stand-alone which sets up for the rest of the season magnificently. Although not all that much happens, it’s still worth watching as the crew members of the new Starfleet vessel become quite important later on.
Next is the first of several three-part episodes. Borderland is opened with some super-strong human teenagers massacring a Klingon ship. These genetically enhanced teens are the work of Arik Soong, the (great?) grandfather of the man who crated Data in Next Generation. Better still, he is played by Data actor Brent Spiner in a special guest role. Soong is in prison for his genetic experiments and has to be temporarily released so that he may help Archer track his creations, named ‘Augments’. A fun episode that benefits greatly by having a Trek legend in a guest role. There is also fun for fans of Dune and Angel as Alec Newman also features as Malik, the Augments’ leader. Fine performances by all guests and a good plot make this a winner.
Cold Station 12 continues on after the Augments bust Soong out of the Enterprise brig and head to a federation stasis station to re-obtain Soong's original Augment embryos by whatever means necessary. Again fine performances by terrific guest stars light this episode up. We also start to see a more sensitive side to some villains and a more brutal side of others which create perfect tension to carry out the final act.
The Augments ends this little story. Malik (Alec Newman) has cast Soong out and is now working on his own. He claims he is willing to go to any extreme to ensure the survival of himself, his fellow Augments and the newly acquired embryos. Beneath these plots of genetic experiments is a subtext of teenage rebellion and parental duty which is quite moving at times, but still this is a tense and exciting finale to these trilogy of episodes and of course gives hints to the creation of Data.
Following the Augment plot comes another three-part episode beginning with The Forge, which starts with the bombing of the Earth embassy on Vulcan, killing a high-ranking Starfleet official. All the evidence points to a Vulcan sect whose beliefs differ from those of the Vulcan council, although something of the investigation feels a little off, leading Archer and T’Pol into a harsh desert called the Forge to find leaders of this sect and discover the truth. Although the terrorism subtext is a bit obvious, this opens a very interesting story. A primary complaint would be that it gets a tad over-spiritual later in the show.
Awakening continues the story with Archer and T’Pol finally catching up with the sect, which is now being hunted by the Vulcan government. These Vulcans believe that Archer carries the soul of an ancient leader who knows the true path of Vulcan logic which many believe to now be lost. The group lead Archer on a quest to find an ancient artefact which could completely change the Vulcan religious way. Not much more to say, it is a continuation which is no better or worse than the previous entry. Again, it is a little over-spiritual.
Kir’Shara closes the door on the story with Archer delivering the new artefact the Vulcans, who are now forced to re-evaluate their ideas of logic and enlightenment. I didn’t want to mention it earlier, but these episodes were clearly meant to clear up some plot-holes that had emerged in the first few seasons when it came to the relations between Vulcan and Humans and shows how the relations between the two species developed from how they are in this show to how they are in future shows. For any fan it should be interesting.
After two three-part stories, we now get another two stand-alones. The first is Daedalus. The man who invented the transporter comes aboard Enterprise to experiment a new type of transporter system. However, we learn that he has several hidden agendas. Not the meatiest of episodes as it is slow and fairly small on scale compared to the previous entries in the season, but the spirited performance from guest star Bill Cobbs and a mysterious plot keep this episode alive.
The next is called Observer Effect and sees two non-corporeal aliens taking the form of Enterprise crew members to observe the reactions of humans to a virus that was left there for two other crew-members to catch. Although this episode does go into some very unexpected directions in the final act, the final result is a tad corny and feels like a bit of a cop-out. Otherwise the characters of the ‘unseen aliens’ and their terrific writing make this an intriguing episode.
We now get another three-parter. Babel One opens with an Andorian ship being destroyed by a Tellorite vessel on the eve of a peace treaty signing between the two races. The Tellorites claim they know nothing about it. Enterprise now must figure out who was really involved if they are going to salvage the possibility of peace between the races.
The story continues in United when the discovery is made that an experimental Romulan ship is causing the attacks. Now with Humans, Vulcans, Tellorites and Andorians all united, they seek out a way to locate the ship and put a stop to its attacks. The battle sequences are very well crafted and the prelude to the Federation signing may give a tingle to some fans. Others will be delighted by the devious performance of X-Files bounty hunter Brian Thompson. All together it’s a solid episode which in small steps furthers the Trek mythology.
The story finale The Aenar sees Archer and series regular Shran (played by Jeffery Combs, who played a villain in Deep Space Nine) venturing into the ice-cold mountains of Andoria to find information of a mysterious breed of Andorians called the Aenar, one of whom may be involved in the Romulan plot. Again as mythology goes, this episode does some good work, hinting to the birth of the Federation. Otherwise it may act as a prelude to another experimental Romulan ship that turned up in the original series. All that aside it still works as an episode in all departments and is set to please any who watch it.
Ever wanted to know why in the original series the Klingons had flat foreheads? Well you’re about to find out! This two-part show opens with Affliction. Enterprise returns to Earth for the launch of its sister ship Columbia. However, when Phlox is kidnapped by Klingons, Enterprise and Columbia combined must venture to the rescue. A fairly important entry for mythology and continuity reasons. Although we don’t find the answers in this first episode, we do find them in the next which makes it reason enough to keep a fan happy, and watch on.
Divergence continues on and finally gives us the answer. Why do Klingons not have bumpy foreheads in the original series? I won’t tell you what it is but it ties in with episodes earlier in this particular season. Weather or not you’ll be satisfied with the answer is up to you, but I was satisfied, and enjoyed this episode very much.
Now we get another stand-alone. The episode Bound is a fairly poor episode as it tells a story told in nearly every sci-fi show ever made. Three beautiful Orian women some aboard Enterprise and seduce the crew with pheromones. It’s tacky, unoriginal and slightly annoying. A shame because the season has been so great up till now.
Remember those episodes in the mirror universe where everyone was evil? Well Enterprise gets its own little entry in the mirror universe. In a Mirror, Darkly Parts one and two tell the story of evil Archer and his evil crew on board the evil Enterprise. The story focuses on this crew finding out about a space-time rip which will allow them to jump into the future in the other universe, and steal the Defiant, a ship which is nearly identical to the original Enterprise. The Defiant disappeared without a trace in the original series (a fact I did not know until watching a featurette on the episodes) Using it, they plan to stage a coup in their Imperium and take the Universe for themselves. Although the last ten minutes of part two were frustrating as hell (especially if you prefer to see the good guys win), but overall it is a solid double episode which gives fans the pleasure of seeing sets, props, costumes and villains from the original series. It’s a shame the show didn’t continue so we could see more of this mirror universe later on.
Demons sees all races that are currently peaceful uniting to discuss the possibility of a treaty between them (a treaty that will probably lead to the founding of the Federation). However, a terrorist sect known as Terra Prime, who believes non-aliens have no business on Earth, take two Enterprise crew hostage for leverage in an evil plot. There is a lot to like about this episode, which features a special guest Appearance by Robocop himself, Peter Weller. More below.
Part-two, called Terra Prime, sees the evil sect hi-jack a giant weapon and claim they’ll use it on Starfleet Command if all aliens don’t leave Earth system. An intense episode that has a bombardment of magnificent performances. Peter Weller is obviously a fan and loves being part of it, and the emotional arcs towards the end of the episode are absolutely heartbreaking. Connor Trineer gives a totally moving performance in the final scenes. There is also more build-up to the birth of the Federation. A great episode which has some very important modern subtext and plays as a perfect lead-in to the shows finale. In fact, if the final episode is the ‘Franchise Finale’ as I’ll talk about in a moment, this could very much be the sole ‘Enterprise finale’.
As I said, word on the web is that this final episode entitled These are the Voyages… was not meant only as a finale to the Enterprise series, but as a finale to the Star Trek franchise all together, as there may never be another show if the ratings for this one are any indication (though there is another film being released in 2007 apparently).
The episode plays out like a lost episode of The Next Generation in the sense that it is set on the Enterprise-D and features the character of Commander Riker visiting the holodeck on the advice of Councillor Troi (Jonathon Frakes and Marina Sirtis in Special Guest roles). Riker has a dilemma which ties into the Pegasus episode of TNG and has been advised to take part in the final mission of the NX-01 crew holoprogram. Troi believes that he will find the answers he needs in that program. The final mission sees Archer helping Shran rescue his lost daughter before going on to sign the Federation Charter.
Many fans (and cast members I hear) hated the final episode for some reason. But considering this may have to be the final curtain on the television franchise, I think it’s absolutely brilliant! It is well acted and has a very emotional feel, as well as plays an important part in the mythology of the franchise. It is also a thrill seeing old characters and sets again. Despite the negativity surrounding this episode, I love it and would not be sorry it was the last one they did! The final ‘These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise’ montage, which features segments from the original, TNG and Enterprise is also a very moving finale. Great job!
To cover a few general things, the cast of this show just got more and more comfortable with their roles. Hats off to Jolene Blalock (T’Pol) and Connor Trineer (Trip) for their excellent performances in this season. Linda Park (Hoshi) shows drastic improvement and greater range as she has in the past. Everyone else always seemed comfortable in their roles so this season shows us the persistence of their fine performances. The season also benefits from amazing effects and ingenious writing on the key episodes. It’s great to see that no-one gave up even though everyone knew cancellation was imminent.
There you have it. Only one poor episode in there and even that one isn’t all that bad. Overall an outstanding season to a show which surely would have only gotten better should it have continued. Fingers crossed in the next few years the producers will try again and get another series out so that Star Trek may continue again. Look around for news on a new film in 2007.
Each episode is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is right up there with the First Contact special edition in terms of clarity. There are some minor issues such as film artefacts, but that for some reason hardly seems to bother me with television DVDs (probably because I don’t have digital TV). Otherwise, you can enjoy deep and rich colouring with no sign of edge enhancements and a grain clear screen so those wonderful sets and special effects shot can be seen in all their glory!
The disc features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It’s always fun to see television with full surround sound. Since the first releases of Trek on DVD the sound usage has just been getting better and better. This means that this whole season is much more fun with its wonderful surround sound. Everything from fly-bys to ambience to weapons fire is enhanced and very exciting. The sub plays its part in the action as well as the shows lovely theme song. It’s not all surround activity though, the sound is all clear with no sync problems, if there was any problem it would be now and then the music is a little loud during the action scenes and only faintly drowns out dialogue. Otherwise, it’s exquisite.
Kicking off the extras are audio commentaries for three episodes. Those episodes being In a mirror, darkly parts one and two as well as Terra Prime. Star Trek writer Mike Sussman and startrek.com Editor Tm Gaskill talk on all three shows about the production, the writing process as well as many little pieces of interesting info for Trekkies. Note: I hear now that these were once podcasts that were edited into DVD in the form of these audio commentaries,
The Special Edition like of Trek films seems to have had an impact with their text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda. The Forge, In a Mirror, Darkly Part Two, and These are the Voyages… all get text commentaries which have all sorts of info such as historical data, shooting anecdotes, quotes on further reading and references to all the plot points that had to do with building on the mythology of the show. Not too bad if you are re-watching the episode.
There are a total of three deleted scenes spread over different discs. As per usual, they are worth a look once to see what was cut and then soon forgotten.
First option on the final disc is a series of featurettes. First is ‘Memorable Moments: Season Four’. This features interviews with key cast and crew on vital episodes of the season such as the cliff-hanger, Brent Spiner as a guest star, the Vulcan arc, the Human arc and Peter Weller, and the finale. There is also the final sentimental moment where the cast talk about the end of the show. It’s great to see them talk about the several tie-ins to what we know will happen later in this tight and effective featurette.
Second is an ‘Inside the Mirror Episodes’ featurette. This mainly focuses on chronology and how all the elements from the Original series fit into the story of the Mirror universe such as the Defiant, the uniforms, the Gorn and sets without hurting the continuity of the series. There is also plenty of talk about how the episode was conceived and how when building this episode, ideas for others budded from it. It’s an interesting featurette if only a little too long, especially considering it only focuses on two episodes.
Following that is a slightly shorter featurette on the final episode called ‘Enterprise Secrets’. Second Assistant Director David Totti interviews a few extras from the final scenes and then goes on to point out all the cameos in crowd scene which closed the show. Only worth watching if you actually know each of the crew members.
Next up is a featurette on the visual effects called ‘Visual Effects Magic’ which looks at some of the more challenging visuals from the season such as the mentioned shot of Enterprise over New York as well as Hitler visiting the USA. It goes on to also look at the Insectoid animation from season three. There is also a section motion capture animation for season four, namely for the Tholian. It finishes with a talk about ship fly-bys and the earth invasion. It’s good, but a tad repetitive.
‘That’s a Wrap’ is a featurette with interviews and footage from the wrap party from the show. Whenever a show ends, the cast always seem to say the same things like ‘we’re like a family’ and ‘it’s a shame we’ll never have this again’. This has all that and more. It’s still worth a look though.
The next featurette is a ‘Links to a Legacy’ feature which interviews writer couple Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stephens discussing some of the episode ideas they threw around such as Klingon foreheads and Section 31 from Deep Space Nine. It’s short and moderately interesting.
As is standard on Trek DVDs, there is a ‘Michael Westmore's Aliens’ feature which mainly looks at the makeup for Dr Phlox. It’s shorter than other featurettes I have seen of this variety so it makes for an interesting feature.
The final featurette ‘Enterprise Goes to the Dogs’ is a featurette on Porthos, the Captains dog. It’s pretty cute and features interviews with key players about the dog. It’s a tad overlong but it should give you a smile.
There is a small collection of outtakes which are fun to see, but why only two minutes? I love gag-reels and I think it sucks when they only run for a short time. These guys could learn from Seinfeld, The Mummy Returns or Friends gag-reels.
Look out for an Easter egg which this time around is about the ‘Save Star Trek’ campaign which took place after the announcement of the show cancellation. It interviews fans who appealed to save the show as well as Connor Trineer and Scott Bakula on their appreciation to the fans. After this brilliant season it is a shame the show was still cancelled.
Closing the deal is a set of trailers for other Star Trek DVDs, the Las Vegas Attraction and a photo gallery. A huge range of featurettes and other extras make this a pretty meaty package. Although there are still some questions I would like to ask the writers of the final episode, most things I wanted to know about the final season were answered here.
As Bender says, ‘another classic science-fiction show cancelled before its time’. This is a brilliant season of television which only showed that this series could have gone on to shine in a fifth season if the network allowed it. With the exception of one fairly average episode every show here is exciting and enjoyable and really does a brilliant job of filling in a few gaps in the Star Trek Universe. It also offers terrific closure of not just this series, but the entire franchise. The series is complimented further with a very good audio and video transfer and a slew of extras which make this a very high quality package.
Review by Brett Anderson
Recommended for mature audiences.
Release Date: 2nd November 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: English (Dolby 5.1)
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Trailers, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, Gallery, Easter Egg.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
Cast: Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, John Billingsley, Connor Trineer, Dominic Keating, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park.
Length: 902 minutes
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