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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > TV > Star Trek Enterprise - The Complete Fourth Season

Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four


Video: B     Sound: B     Extras: C     Episodes: A-



Star Trek: Enterprise and the original Star Trek series have more in common than most disenfranchised Trekkies would care to admit.


They are the only two “Trek” series not to run 100 episodes plus.  They are the only two “Trek” series not to run seven seasons.  They were both granted a mercy season thanks to heavy fan support, then both systematically canceled.


There’s a poetic symmetry to these shows, especially since Enterprise is purportedly a prequel to the original series — purportedly because, to watch the first three seasons of “Enterprise,” you wouldn’t know it.


In the first 75 percent of the series, creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga took a sledgehammer to the careful haphazardness of the Star Trek mythos.  Nonsensical “Temporal Cold Wars” and alien species bent on the utter annihilation of humanity destroyed chunks of Earth along with millions of humans, and production design that betrayed the retro-chic of Kirk’s era all doomed Enterprise to cancellation after season three.


But then something extraordinary happened: “Trek” devotee Manny Coto was brought in at the third season and began to turn things around, so much so that the poor suckers who stuck with the show for three years demanded Paramount renew Enterprise for another season.


And, amazingly, the studio did.


What came in the fourth season was a delivery on what so many had hoped for the show: an actual tying into the original series.


After cleaning up the time-travel nonsense left in the wake of Berman and Braga in the first two episodes of the season, Coto went to work, bringing Trekkies episodes that dealt with the Tholians, Vulcan lore, the Mirror Universe, an explanation of why Klingons in the original series look so different in later incarnations, the inventor of the transporter, a revisiting of the Eugenics Wars lore that gave birth to Khan, and more plot points dealing with the eventual birth of the Federation than you could shake a tricorder at.


The result was a season that was so incredibly fun to watch that you can’t help but feel repulsion that this is all there would be.  Episodes like “In a Mirror, Darkly” parts one and two, the three-part arcs dealing with the Klingons and the Eugenics Wars/Augments, respectively, and the penultimate two-episode arc dealing with a sect of humans’ xenophobia relating to the role aliens are playing in their world in the run-up to the construction of the Federation play like above average “Trek” films and almost single handedly redeem the show’s past seasons’ indiscretions.


But then something awful happened: Berman and Braga had to stick their hands in the “Trek” pie one last time.  You see, the culmination of Enterprise is also the culmination of Star Trek, at least for the time being.  So the architects of the show’s success — and downfall — over the past decade or so couldn’t just stand by and watch the thing they poisoned with overexposure and media saturation die a dignified death.


The series finale, “These Are the Voyages…,” is a cheap episode in its own right and even worse as a finale.  The episode ties into a later-series episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in which Counselor Troi attempts to help Commander Riker solve a crisis of duty by suggesting he look for answers on a Holodeck recreation of the original Enterprise’s final mission.  The result is an episode that feels so contrived; it would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.  Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, stepping back into their Next Generation roles, obviously look aged, and if you stacked them up against their appearance in the episode “These Are the Voyages…” is supposed to tie into, surely this will be glaring.  But not only that, the episode is just, well, lame.  When stacked against the rest of season four’s episodes, the series finale looks like a bad joke.


Unfortunately, it’s not, and this is the last impression anyone will have of Star Trek for probably many years.


Rather than dwell on that, though, forego it and simply revel in the best that season four has to offer, from it’s numerous franchise-bridging episodes and moments to the wonderful acting of the cast, Scott Bakula especially and Brent Spiner and Peter Weller in their guest appearances in particular.  Credit, too, the gusto everyone obviously put into the series, despite knowing that this would likely be their final hurrah.


For anyone who missed the end of the “Trek” franchise with Season Four of Enterprise, shame on you.  It was a hell of a season of television.  But, luckily, the season arrives on in a DVD set that presents the episodes in a wonderful package.


Visually, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 high-definition-shot presentation of the episodes gives this season of the show a better look and feel than any television incarnation of Star Trek ever.  This could be because there is no film being overly digitized, but this is great.  There is a lot of dark space, and it’s rarely muddy.  The space shots are crisp, as well, and the colors, where the exist — especially in the Mirror Universe episodes where the USS Defiant’s bridge was lovingly recreated — pop off the screen.


On the audio side, there is a fair amount of action and it’s represented beautifully in its Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  Explosions are loud and full, and the rumbling of the ships and technology is immersive.  But there is also a fair amount of talking in this season, another commonality with the original series, and that is always clean and clear.


Extras-wise, there are six behind-the-scenes featurettes, three deleted scenes, a trailer for the Borg Invasion ride at the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, three commentaries (on the episodes “In a Mirror, Darkly,” parts one and two, and “Terra Prime”), and three text commentaries on the episodes “The Forge,” “In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II,” and “These Are the Voyages…  Overall, these extras leave much to be desired.  The commentaries, while informative, sound awfully flat, probably because they were ported from podcast commentaries.  Additionally, the featurettes never dig too deep below the surface of things, leaving you feeling cheated at times and mildly entertained at others.  It’s safe to say that this isn’t a set that many will pick up for the extra content.


That said, though, it’s one that should be explored simply because the episodes, on balance, are so damned good.  Enterprise Season Four is the best season of any “Trek” series since the end of Deep Space Nine, and one of the big reasons for this is that Berman and Braga were almost totally absent from it.  If Season Four of Enterprise is an indication of where “Trek” can go when out from under the Killer B’s thumb, then they should have that collective creative thumb amputated.


Certainly, many people missed this season of Enterprise — it was canceled, after all.  But it’s one that should be seen, regardless if you’re a hardcore Trekkie or simply a fan of good TV.



-   Dante A. Ciampaglia


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