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Paramount Home Video presents
"We'll find a way through this...but I won't leave anyone behind, not if I can help it. I can't try to save humanity without holding on to what makes me human."
DVD ReviewLet me preface this review by stating, unequivocally, that I am not a Trekkie. While I have enjoyed some of the Stark Trek movies (the even numbered ones, of course) and have been known to occasionally watch the syndicated reruns of the various television series, Gene Roddenberry's creation never captures my imagination the way other science-fiction universes do. Thus, Star Trek: Enterprise—The Complete Third Season is not an emotionally charged experience for me, but merely a nice way to fill an evening.
The premise of a prequel series chronicling the Starfleet's NX-01 Enterprise takes a new twist in this season, going into a realm that no other Trek show entered before. In the age of 24, creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga decided to span a single story arc across an entire season. At the conclusion of season two, Earth is attacked by a probe. Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his Enterprise crew are assigned the task of finding who is responsible and stopping them from destroying the whole Earth. In the season premiere, The Xindi, Archer, Vulcan Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), and Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) discover the coordinates of the Xindi's home planet in the dangerous, unfamiliar Delphic Expanse. Chief Engineer Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), whose sister was killed in the Xindi attack on Earth, tries to keep the ship together as they suffer various space distortions in Anomaly. Pirates, putting the whole crew in a desperate situation as they struggle to save Earth, steal their fuel and weapon supplies.
The foundation for the story is entertaining, though it's difficult to ever truly believe that our beloved planet is truly in danger (after all, how could there ever be a Captain Kirk if the Xindi succeed?). As Archer and his crew encounter new worlds and species, episodes provide both fantastic action and intelligent social commentary. In fact, the whole story arc about the Xindi has more than a few echoes of 9/11 about it. Chosen Realm, in which alien religious zealots are brought on board the ship, is a suspenseful allegory about the current Israeli-Palestinian struggle. One of the season's best episodes, Similitude, tackles the subject of human cloning, when Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), is forced to make a clone of Trip in order to save his life after a life-threatening injury. North Star finds Archer, Tucker, and T'Pol on a planet where humans abducted from Earth in the 1800s have conquered their captors, the Skags, and now treat in a manner similar to African slaves. The episode has some funny moments, such as when Tucker tries to ride a horse, and delivers a solid message of tolerance. While these issues are not handled in a profound manner, after all each story is confined to a 42-minute runtime, the writing and direction treat the subject matter with relevance and let the characters mature as they wrestle with the consequences of intergalactic exploration.
However, not every installment of this season achieves as much success as those choice episodes. Time travel is employed on multiple occasions, such as in Carpenter Street when Archer and T'Pol need to stop a 2004 Detroit citizen (Leland ORser) from helping the Xindi build a weapon on Earth. It sounds like a great story, but the time travel component is unnecessary for the larger story arc. It would be nice if the writers focused purely on the events in the Delphic Expanse, because jumping through time raises far too many paradoxes and questions (such as, why don't the Xindi use their superior guns to hijack nuclear weapons and destroy Earth that way?). Rajiin is little more than an excuse to have a curvaceous guest star, Nikita Ager (playing the title role), offer some sensual moments. Granted, her probing of the human crew is incorporated into the larger Xindi plotline, but it all seems to be an excuse to heighten up the erotic tendencies of Trek—especially when Rajiin and T'Pol are alone together. There's also an unsuccessful, by my estimations, attempt at putting T'Pol and Trip into a relationship. The Vulcan-human dynamic never feels compelling, with both actors failing to convince me that the neuro-therapy (initiated to help Trip sleep after losing his sister) forges any emotional connection.
The acting is largely compelling, though nothing exceptional. Scott Bakula fits the role of Captain Archer nicely, especially as Archer becomes more and more relentless in his pursuit of the Xindi. When he breaks all the rules, such as becoming a pirate in Damage, the character's moral struggles add to the drama. I also find Linda Park's role as Ensign Hoshi Soto to be one of the show's greatest strengths. She adds a truly interesting element to the crew, being a strong patriot and intelligent member of the ship. Another excellent episode, Exile, finds Soto being torn between getting vital information on the Xindi at the expense of becoming a monstrous alien's slave. However, I am not completely sold on John Billingsley's Dr. Phlox. He passes through most of the season as an idle observer, only getting a major role in Doctor's Orders when the rest of the crew is comatose, and doesn't make much of an impression. Nor am I fond of Jolene Blalock's T'Pol. Blalock is probably the most attractive cast member of any Trek show, but her acting is lacking. Her portrayal of a Vulcan struggling with emotion is ultimately unconvincing.
However, these shortcomings are overwhelmed by the magnificent production values. The production design is every bit as impressive as the feature length films and the special effects are not far behind. When the story turns its focus fully toward the Xindi conflict near the season's end, the scope is epic. The various Xindi species are torn, with the Reptilians and Insectoids seeking to destroy Earth, the Xindi Humanoids and Arboreals attempting to stop them, and the Aquatics remaining neutral. The Aquatics are entirely CGI and look very impressive, as do the battles in Countdown and the season finale, Zero Hour. In traditional Trek fashion, the season ends with a cliffhanger. Perhaps if I was a Trekkie, I'd be dying four season four's release to find out what happens next. As things are, I just wish they had resolved the story arc entirely.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer looks awfully sharp, though the live-action footage continues to be somewhat soft in comparison to the CGI shots. Nonetheless, colors are strong, depth is excellent, and detail is commendable.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is consistent from episode to episode, meaning that the set is fairly front heavy. Rear channel activity is active in major fight scenes, but the audio fails to utilize sound separation and directionality to its advantage. While dialogue is always audible and the overall mix is pleasant, it still leaves something to be desired.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 192 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Start Trek: The Original Series—The Complete Third Season DVD, MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season DVD, The 4400: The Complete First Season DVD, Borg Invasion
6 Deleted Scenes
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Manny Coto, Mike DeMerrit, Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda
The Xindi contains a text commentary by Trek veterans Michael and Denise Okuda. Their text commentaries, featured also on Impulse and Countdown, have a minimal amount of information on them. They allude to other series in the Trek universe and largely state obvious facts (such as which species are CGI and which are actors in costume). Audio commentaries are provided on North Star, by assistant director Mike DeMerrit, and Similitude, by episode writer/executive producer Manny Coto. DeMerrit has a pleasant demeanor about him and talks about the ideas behind the episode. It's a rather enjoyable listen, with him getting into the specifics about shooting on the Universal back lot and all of the potential problems they had to deal with. Coto also delivers a fine commentary, explaining the difficulty of writing a Vulcan neuro-therapy scene and the constant struggle to guard secrets from Internet websites before the show's airdate.
In addition to the commentaries, some episodes also contain deleted scenes. Similitude features three (02m:27s), Chosen Realm has one (01m:07s), and E^2 contains two more (04m:40s). None of the six would add anything to their episodes and were wisely dropped in order to meet time constraints. The scenes are shown in 1.78:1 widescreen and feature, it seems, unfinished audio containing a noticeable hiss.
On disc 7, things are kicked off with the featurette The Xindi Saga Begins (13m:08s). Creators Berman and Braga talk about the network's desire to change the show's formula and how they created the storyline from looking back to Star Trek IV and Star Trek: First Contact. The cast and members of the writing staff go into their personal thoughts about the season, but it is nothing special. A second featurette, Enterprise Moments: Season 3 (12m:54s), is a publicity fluff piece. The cast and others talk about the episodes and what they mean to them, with some brief footage of behind-the-scenes planning, but the comments are largely superficial.
Following that is the documentary Enterprise Profile: Connor Trinneer (17m:12s), chronicling Trinneer's character of Trip Tucker. Trinneer explains the progression of his character throughout the series and his approach to playing him. I was touched by his genuine respect for the fans and the show itself. Next up is A Day in the Life of a Director: Roxann Dawson (17m:24s). This is the highlight of the supplemental material, giving a vivid look into the director's role on the show. Dawson is very welcoming and enthusiastic as the cameras get unfettered access to the set and her work on Exile. Her interview bits and the footage of her directing make for a fascinating extra.
Rounding out the special features is a reel of Outtakes (06m:11s), which are mainly unfunny. There's also a photo gallery of publicity stills from the set and four trailers, for Start Trek: The Original Series—The Complete Third Season DVD, MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season DVD, The 4400: The Complete First Season DVD, and Borg Invasion, that finish off the whole package.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsStar Trek: Enterprise—The Complete Third Season is a well-crafted sci-fi yarn, but for those who aren't devoted to Rodenberry's creation it will not likely inspire a tremendous stir. The picture and sound are quite engaging, with some very nice special features rounding out the package. All fans of Star Trek will want to add this to their collection.
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