Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete Series Blu Ray
Starring Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer
Created by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
A review by Billy Seguire
Enterprise is undoubtedly the Star Trek series that departs the most from Gene Roddenberry’s original utopian vision. Taking us back to a time predating The Original Series, the crew of the NX-01 is a distillation of humanity that is still decidedly unrefined. This antithesis of everything that had come before occasionally feels completely foreign to the ideals of Star Trek, but it’s a break from tradition I actually find quite fascinating. I know Enterprise gets a lot of flak from fans. Is some of that unwarranted? I wanted to give it its fair shake, and while I enjoyed many individual elements, I’m still not totally convinced this box set is entirely worth the hefty investment for somebody still on the fence.
Considering the context of Enterprise is important to its appreciation. The first Star Trek series to run on an actual network rather than syndication, the close ties to UPN during the development process made a lot of creative decisions in Enterprise feel smaller in scale. With a premiere date only two weeks following the events of 9/11, the series ended up not only exploring the origins of Starfleet as a military organization, but served as a reflection of George W. Bush and the burgeoning Iraq war era of American politics. The series featured a red-blooded, meat eating, emotionally volatile crew who represented the everyman pushing back against a wider universe he barely understood. For better or worse, Enterprise became the most human and “of its time” Star Trek yet. Unfortunately, it seems like the studio completely disagreed with this approach, as some of the best takes that would highlight these strong elements ended up on the cutting room floor, but episodes that fully explored this angle (few and far between as they were) prove that there was definitely potential in this premise.
The role of Captain in a Star Trek series is important, and while Scott Bakula is certainly untraditional when compared to other series leads, his character of Jonathan Archer brings that warm human element to the cold final frontier. His leadership is instantly recognisable. He’s likeable, supportive, genuine, and feels like the sort of man who you’d want to look up to as an ideal. Honestly, the fact that he has such a different managerial style than previous Captains is refreshing. Also smart was having Jolene Blalock as T’Pol acting as Archer’s second in command. The tense relationship between humans and vulcans, especially in this era, is fun to play around with and one of the decisions I support strongly, although some episodes do make use of Blalock’s sexuality more egregiously than others. While some of the secondary characters can unfortunately blend into the background of one-dimensional storytelling in most episodes (and I would argue that this series is also far less diverse than any of the previous series) the actors do what they can with the material they’re given.
One of the biggest issues with Enterprise is simply that those calling the shots got too excited to make the show do everything it could all at once. In Broken Bow alone, we have humanity making first contact with Klingons, launching their first starship, using the first phasers, and using the teleporter on a crewman for the first time. Imagine some of these moments as finales rather than being wasted and the pilot and you could imagine a much stronger series focussed on discovery and difficulties of life in space without the safety nets these technologies afforded them. Instead, we see Enterprise continually get it all out of the way to just do the same sort of stories any of the other series could have done.
Without utilizing the prequel concept to its fullest, what we’re left with a series that fails to fully embrace its own concepts. Ideas like the “temporal cold war” may look good on paper, but they alienate those fresh viewers you might lure in on the promise of a Star Trek series without all the baggage of series that have come before. They add interesting elements, but is interesting enough when you’re ignoring the core premise? If Enterprise were to be redone as a straight prequel series, “in the mud” as intended, I think it would have had a lot more to offer. Each season seemed to understand this more and more, becoming more grounded and serialised as it grew and broke the shackles that tied it to previous series, but it was too little too late. It’s probably this reason that I’m still upset about the finale, a “valentine” to Berman’s tenure on Star Trek as a whole with Commander Riker playing around on the holodeck. Yeah… this isn’t The Next Generation. Can we maybe have a finale for this series?
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a reason to shell out to experience Enterprise on Blu Ray over DVD. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by some of the absolute gorgeous remastered transfers I’ve been watching from other series lately, but it seems like Enterprise just wasn’t shot in a way that feels as fulfilling in HD when compared to, say, The Next Generation. There’s no stunning detail that I noticed or appreciated that couldn’t be seen in any other medium on which the series is available. It came just a few years too early to really take advantage of high-definition technology, and a few years too early to still be using that beautifully grained film I eat up. Not that it looks bad, but that early-millennium aesthetic is just bland to my eyes.
I will say that a few of the special features included on this set are pretty enlightening as to why this series feels so off compared to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager. Some appear to be carried over from earlier DVD releases, but a few are actually brand new hours-long conversations that contain pure, natural conversation between cast and crew. These In Conversation features offer some of the most intriguing insight into the series I’ve come across yet. Berman and Braga seem, in retrospect at least, to understand where this series sits in fan’s minds and take time to discuss the struggles that came from actually developing this show and trying to make it feel different from the three series that came before.
It also highlights some of the major issues of this time period of television that I’m just not a fan of. The producers refer to different women of the series as “the beautiful ingenue” or “chick” in a way that bristles me just enough to think that Enterprise might be the series that feels the most catered towards straight white men. Luckily, In Conversation with the First Crew acted as a counterpoint to that for me, as the cast comes off as a real close-knit family. Some are more outgoing than others, but they’re clearly comfortable and protective with each other in the intimate conversation. Especially Scott Bakula, who seems like such a genuinely grounded and responsible guy, actively calling out that sort of behaviour when he saw it in the conversation and standing up for his fellow cast members. It was this feature that made me respect Captain Archer a lot more than I already did.
Check It Out. Unless you identify as a dedicated fan of Enterprise already, this set just isn’t going to be something you absolutely need. I was only partially familiar with the series when I checked out this box set for review, and although I have a more favourable opinion of the series now than most, I don’t think I’d end up buying it for myself. While the new special features are in-depth and interesting, there are only a handful that are actually new to this set, scattered across multiple discs. I liked Enterprise as a series, but it’s just hard to justify buying this set outright over just streaming the top rated episodes on Netflix.
The Blu Ray box set of Star Trek Enterprise is available February 14, 2017.