Search This Blog

Saturday, January 24, 2015

'Star Trek: Enterprise' BD S2: Zefram Cochrane, Borg, and Xindi Oh My

Product Details
This review of the CBS Home Entertainment 6-disc 26-episode Blu-ray (BD) of the 2002-03 "Trek" franchise series "Star Trek: Enterprise" is the last entry in the Year of Trek series on Unreal TV. A New Year's Day post on "Enterprise" S1 BD kicked things off, and a review of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" S5 BD will round it off (hopefully) in December 2015.

Before discussing these episodes, it is worth noting that the clearly high production values in "Enterprise" make buying it in BD a no-brainer. The benefits go well beyond the ability to see every blemish and makeup line on the actors to getting exceptionally clear images of the sets and the action sequences. Some of these effects are as good as those in theatrical films. Further, it is clear that the series is a labor of love by EVERYONE behind the camera.

"Enterprise" is an awesome series that is set roughly halfway between the 200-year gap regarding the 21st century events of the theatrical film "Star Trek: First Contact" and the 23rd century adventures of Kirk and the gang in the original "Trek" series from the 1960s. This version of the titular spaceship, which has the pre-USS designation of NX-01, is the first Warp 5 ship that governing entity Starfleet sets out to explore well beyond earth.

The following clip, courtesy of CBS and YouTube, of the trailer for the S2 BD release amazingly provides spoiler-free glimpses of most of the season highlights. It also offers a look at the exceptional picture quality and exceptional special features.

The "Enterprise" S2 season premiere follows the pattern of other "Trek" series (and similar qualify sci-fi shows such as the "Stargate" franchise) in both resolving the compelling S1 season-ending cliffhanger and taking the entire episode to do so. This differs from many shows that wrap up a cliffhanger artificially quickly in the pre-opening credits sequence only to go onto an entirely different story in the first act.

The season premiere opens with Enterprise captain Jonathan (Admiral Johnny) Archer (played by "Quantum Leap" star Scott Bakula) stranded under circumstances that make returning to his ship seemingly impossible. Meanwhile, his colleagues are contending with the related invasion of the highly elusive Suliban on the craft. The literal fate of the universe hanging in the balance significantly contributes to the fun that culminates in a satisfying climax (no pun intended).

This continuity is representative of the plots in the other episodes. Hostile encounters with Trek faves the warrior race the Klingons often play a role in subsequent episodes, other alien species also reappear, and the crew naturally discusses their prior adventures in the same manner that the rest of us discuss past projects with our colleagues. This narrative technique is a nice contrast to many sitcoms that become live-action cartoons in which a character is in full-body cast at the end of one episode only to be perfectly healthy the next week or in which a destroyed room is none the worse for wear in the next offering.

The second episode of "Enterprise" S2 is the first one of this group that largely depicts a story that an officer is telling. This one has highly logical (and largely humorless) science officer T'Pol (who is a successful mix of Spock from the OS and the alluring Seven of Nine from "Star Trek: Voyager") telling Archer and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III the previously unknown to humans story of stranded Vulcans living in a small American town in the 1950s. This one is more notable for what it contributes to the lore of T'Pol than for the yarn that she shares.

The second episode that has an officer sharing a tale of the past has Archer telling T'Pol about his rivalry with a fellow Starfleet officer to pilot an early warp ship. This one provides a depiction of an interesting analogy to the '60s era U.S. space program, fills in some important gaps in "Trek" lore, and offers insight into the development of Archer into the man who he is during the present from the perspective of "Enterprise."

The Archer aspect of the story is very similar to an episode in the Unreal TV reviewed S6 BD set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." That offering has omnipotent mischief-maker Q bring Captain (Ensign?) Picard of that series back to the early days of his career to provide a second chance to make a decision that affects his life even more than he knows at the time of making it.

The "Enterprise" S2 episode "Vanishing Point" is even more reminiscent of TNG in that it has anxiety-prone communications officer Hoshi, who has neuroses comparable to those of engineer Reg Barclay on TNG, struggling to prove to her sympathetic but highly skeptical crew mates that using the (then-new) transporter technology adversely affected her. A similar TNG episode revolves around the certainty of Barclay that strange creatures are inhabiting the (then highly developed) transporter system. The nods to the OS include a cameo by a Gremlin-like tribble.

Similarly, stranding Tucker (played by "Stargate: Atlantis" regular Connor Trinneer) with an initially hostile alien with whom he cannot communicate is a relatively common theme in TNG and other "Trek" series. It is akin to trapping two sitcom enemies in an elevator or locked room.

The "Enterprise" S2 episode "Future Tense" is the first of two to greatly add to the Zefram Cochrane lore from "First Contact." This one revolves around efforts to learn more about a mysterious small craft that seems to be of earth origin. This episode is notable as well for the uber-uber-awesome line "its bigger on the inside than on the outside," which is a terrific franchise-crossing nod to "Doctor Who." (An S3 "Enterprise" episode continues the "Who" love by having a female character becoming a companion to a quirky alien.)

The second episode that refers to Cochrane in a meaningful manner is "Regeneration." This one relates to the Enterprise crew getting involved with the consequences of discovering members of the very powerful and evil cyborgs known as the resistance defeating Borg on earth. Cochrane comes into the picture in the form of Archer discussing the efforts of that pioneer to convince the people of the 21st century of the existence of time-traveling evil cyborgs.

S2 ends with an uneven cliffhanger that fans know leads to a season-long story arc. (Unreal TV will run a review of "Enterprise" S3 BD in early February 2015.) The opening sequence depicts a well-presented devastating alien attack on earth that prompts Starfleet to recall Enterprise to earth. The events during the first 3/4 of this episode lead to Enterprise traveling to what Archer refers to the Bermuda Triangle of space in an effort to prevent an even more catastrophic attack.

The plot of this episode and the third-season adventures that stem from it are creative and well worth watching. The fact that Enterprise makes it back to earth remarkably quickly and (other than the Suliban and the Klingons briefly rearing their figuratively and literally ugly heads) without any difficulties is very hard to swallow. Our heroes had to dodge a literal minefield, take refuge during a massive week-long storm, barely escape from aliens who did not want them traveling in their space, etc to get between earth and their location in the second season alone. Believing that their return voyage was smooth sailing is very difficult.

It is also worth mentioning that CBS does its usual excellent job regarding the special features for this S2 release. The three-part documentary "Uncharted Territory" discusses the S2 plot developments and related topics. Trekkers and Trekkies also get a reunion panel with series creator Brannon Braga and the seven (not of nine) regular cast members.

The end result of all this is that "Enterprise" S2 provides great adventures and awesome additions to "Trek" lore; it also is the "Trek" series that best relates to our current level of technology. Increasingly common private flights into space exploring of relatively deep space seem feasible in a manner that prompts franchise crossing by shouting "to infinity and beyond."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Enterprise" or any other "Trek" series is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.