I'm flying blind into Enterprise: it's the first Star Trek series I've never seen a single episode of until now. I followed the first two seasons of Voyager until dating, college and other hobbies stole my interest...so by the time Enterprise premiered in 2001, my mind was elsewhere. The only vague memories I had of its existence were (a) that guy from Quantum Leap was the captain, (b) it got cancelled after four seasons and (c) a lot of people really, really hated the theme song. Other than that, I was blissfully ignorant of Enterprise as a whole; in fact, I didn't even realize how greatly it differed in tone, scope or even time period compared to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or, of course, the classic 1960s series.
The 1990s was a prolific and popular era for Gene Roddenberry's ambitious franchise. In the middle of the decade's first year, television audiences eagerly awaited the second half of The Next Generation's game-changing cliffhanger, "The Best of Both Worlds". Before the hugely successful TNG had run its course, Deep Space Nine (1993-99) premiered, while Voyager (1995-2001) arrived on the fledgling UPN network two years later; all three enjoyed seven successful seasons, unlike the prematurely cancelled original series (1966-69). Unfortunately, this glut of Star Trek eventually led to "franchise fatigue": not only was the public's interest gradually waning, but many of the production team members jumped from one series to another almost immediately. Roughly two weeks separated the end of Voyager and the beginning of Enterprise; needless to say, much of the creative team was undoubtedly burned out by that point.
Their exhaustion shows during portions of this 25-episode debut season, no matter if you approached Enterprise optimistically back in 2001 or if, like me, you're just late to the party. Let's be honest, though: most Star Trek brands didn't fire on all cylinders during the first year, while creators Brannon Braga and Rick Berman's "prequel" idea for the series only gave it a larger handicap. Not from a creative standpoint, of course: Star Trek basically had nowhere to go but backward at that point, even if it meant alienating many of the franchise's most loyal fans. Set in the mid-22nd century (over 100 years before the original series), it follows captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his young crew aboard the Enterprise NX-01, prior to the formation of The United Federation of Planets and, of course, The Prime Directive.
Though not without its fair share of standout episodes (some of which trump most other early outings in the Trek universe), the bulk of Enterprise's first season is hindered by a lack of consistently captivating scripts. Co-creator Brannon Braga freely admits his mistakes during several of this Blu-Ray collection's engaging bonus features, from battling creative exhaustion to not selecting a writing team more fluent in Star Trek's unique language. Braga and Berman pushed for Enterprise to have a unique identity (perhaps too unique?) within the Trek universe, insisting on stories that couldn't exist within the boundaries of the franchise's older incarnations. A handful of episodes, including Braga's personal favorites "Dear Doctor" and "Shockwave", succeed admirably. The pilot is also one of the best (if not the best) in Trek history, setting the tone perfectly in just under 90 minutes. Others are downright crucified by the co-creator, who dismisses certain episode elements as "terrible", "unnecessary" and "an act of desperation".
Complete List of Season One Episode Summaries (via Wikipedia)
Yet, all things considered, even the least memorable outings in this 25-episode collection aren't much worse than those found in Star Trek's other debut seasons; having recently reviewed the first two installments of TNG on Blu-Ray, I had to sit through my share of stinkers to get to the good stuff. As a collective whole, this is a decent start to a polarizing series, and CBS' admirable commitment of bringing the Star Trek world to Blu-Ray means that, at the very least, all four seasons will see the light of day. But the real draw of this new six-disc collection is the bonus features, which candidly dissect behind-the-scenes challenges faced by the cast and crew. From new commentaries to retrospective interviews and even a few vintage surprises, there's a lot to dig through once the episodes are done...and it just might be persuasive enough to make you reconsider Enterprise as the little series that almost could.
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this first season of Enterprise looks good with a few nagging reservations. Of course, it wasn't redone from the ground up like CBS' monumental restoration effort for The Next Generation: Enterprise was ready for HD right from the start, though obviously there were technical limitations in 2001 that no longer exist. Enterprise is still a fine-looking series for the most part, but anyone used to the massive improvements on the TNG Blu-Rays might be a little disappointed. Image detail and textures occasionally pop and the series' production design has its share of strengths, but there's a general softness to most sequences that you might not be able to ignore.
Another drawback is the native sub-HD resolution of Enterprise's CG effects (think Firefly), which creates a moderate amount of aliasing and softness during many fly-bys and other effects-heavy shots. Too bad CBS didn't use a bit more elbow grease (especially for the asking price), but perhaps it's just a reflection of Enterprise's less-than-stellar reputation. Bottom line: this is still a decent looking series and certainly a few notches above standard definition, but your socks probably aren't going anywhere.
DISCLAIMER: This review's screen captures are from promotional sources and do not represent Blu-Ray's 1080p resolution.
The audio seems a bit more consistent, as this DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio presentation is as dynamic, robust and satisfying as you'd expect from a relatively new series. Obviously there wasn't any major remixing done here, but those expecting a courtesy bump to 7.1 like TNG might be disappointed at the lack of extra effort. But I'm 100% satisfied with what we get here: it represents a faithful translation of the original audio, presented in lossless format and featuring crisp dialogue, strong channel separation and a decent amount of LFE at times. I'd imagine that most long-time Trek fans should agree.
Additional Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 dubs are provided in German, Spanish, Italian, French and Japanese. Optional subtitles are provided in English (SDH), German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. Sadly, no Klingon or Ferengi are included, but what can you do?
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen above, the immersive menu interface is attractive, simple and smooth. Each episode is divided into more than half a dozen chapter stops, though no sub-menus are present. No obvious layer changes were detected during playback and these discs are unlocked for region-free viewing. Similar to TNG, this six-disc collection is housed in a multi-hubbed keepcase with a handsome embossed slipcover and no inserts. A condensed list of episodes and bonus features has been printed on the interior packaging artwork.
Much like The Next Generation
, CBS (specifically, the team of Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett) has pulled out all the stops to assemble a highly entertaining and informative collection of supplements exclusive to this Blu-Ray release. They're divided neatly across all six discs; a basic rundown has already been presented above, but a slightly more detailed description of each one can be seen below.
Several Audio and/or Text Commentaries are included for "Broken Bow", "The Andorian Incident", "Silent Enemy", "Shadows of P'Jem", "Shuttlepod One" and "Vox Sola". These feature key members of the cast and crew including creators Brannon Braga & Rick Berman, actors Connor Trinneer & Dominic Keating, director David Livingston and more. Long-time Trek contributor/consultants Michael and Denise Okuda contribute the text commentaries, as they have for several prior Trek film and TV releases. A handful of these were also featured on the original 2005 DVD release (including two during the pilot, which now includes three total commentaries), but four of them were newly recorded for this Blu-Ray release.
A total of 12 short Archival Mission Logs have also been carried over from the DVD release. Topics include cast interviews, behind-the-scenes glimpses and production trivia, while the last two double as an outtake reel and a look at the Star Trek convention experience. Though these featurettes don't go into a great amount of detail, it's nice that they've been preserved on this collection. Also returning are a few Deleted Scenes during eight episodes including "Broken Bow", "Shuttlepod One" and more.
Of particular note is a new three-part retrospective documentary, "To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise", which features lots of input from creators Braga and Berman, plus key members of the cast and crew. Vintage (and presumably never-before-seen) footage of the original production is glimpsed during this 90-minute piece, divided into "Countdown", "Boarding the NX-01" and "First Flight". Even the most jaded enemies of Enterprise will appreciate this candid, informative and skillfully assembled retrospective.
The plot thickens during "In Conversation", a fascinating hour-long retrospective interview with Braga and Berman. They don't hesitate to shed light on what worked---and more importantly, what didn't work---during the original production, as well as the daily and weekly roadblocks created by studio and network executives. It's not limited to just Enterprise, though, as they also touches on other portions of their Trek careers. Much like portions of "To Boldy Go", this interview is the exact opposite of typical bonus feature fare: the participants are completely honest and don't just resort to mindless back-patting and nostalgic quips. "In Conversation" is definitely one of the finest new supplements on this collection... and, once again, should interest anyone with even a passing interest in the series and/or franchise.
A few vintage (but never-before-seen) extras are led by "On the Set", a behind-the-scenes featurette filmed during the production of "Vox Sola". Produced for TV by Barry Kibrick but never broadcast, this lightweight but informative piece gives a concise account of a typical episode's construction, from the initial writing process through post-production effects. A neat Cast Introduction by Rick Berman takes place during the pilot's production, while separate Network and Syndication Presentations cut together some of the franchise's most memorable moments. Overall, it's a terrific collection of supplements.
Enterprise: Season One is only a ripple compared to the splash of The Next Generation on Blu-Ray, but this six-disc collection should appeal to fans of the show and even those who didn't care for it the first time around. These 25 episodes are of reasonably good quality considering this "reboot" was exploring new territory and facing behind-the-scenes challenges in the process. As for the technical quality, CBS has put more effort into the fantastic bonus features than the A/V presentation, but even Enterprise's least impressive visual elements aren't all that distracting. Overall, it's a pricey collection that will tempt franchise fans who have enjoyed Trek's renewed vitality on Blu-Ray thus far. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.