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Star Trek: Enterprise — Season One (Blu-ray Review)

22 Mar, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 3/26/13
$130 six-BD set
Not rated.
Stars Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer, Dominic Keating, John Billingsley, Linda Park, Anthony Montgomery.

When “Star Trek: Voyager” came to an end in 2001, the “Star Trek” franchise was at a bit of a crossroads. A “Star Trek” series had been on the air continuously since 1987, starting with “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which changed the landscape of televised sci-fi. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” followed in 1993, and was successful in its own right despite the increased competition sparked by its predecessor. “Star Trek” was so strong by the mid-1990s that “Voyager” was chosen as the flagship series for the new UPN network in 1995.

While “Voyager” had its following, most saw it as a step down from the other two shows, and the ratings began to decline. Still, the network wanted another “Star Trek” show to fill the void, and so was born “Enterprise,” a prequel to the original series set 100 years before the days of James T. Kirk.

Despite the intriguing premise, the payoff wasn’t quite what fans were hoping for, and when the show couldn’t stop the erosion of the audience, it was canceled after four seasons.

That’s not to say it was a bad show. It just got off to a shaky start from which it never quite recovered. And this Blu-ray set is not going to change anyone’s minds on the subject. The new bonus materials created for the set thoroughly analyze everything that went right with the show, and everything that went wrong.

In a fascinating three-part documentary about the creation of the series and its first season, co-creator Brannon Braga is surprisingly contrite about the show’s flaws. He and franchise executive producer Rick Berman (who joins Braga in a candid hour-long interview elsewhere on the set) had thought it best to leave “Star Trek” off the air for a few years after “Voyager,” to avoid the risk of franchise fatigue.

When the network insisted on a new show, they thought it would be interested to do a prequel, and Braga wanted to spend the whole season on Earth, building up to the launch of the ship. But the network wanted something set further in the future than the 24th century stomping grounds of the previous shows, with all the familiar trimmings of previous “Trek” shows such as transporters and weird aliens intact.

Braga incorporated an idea he had for another series involving a cold war between rival nations to control time travel, and used it to satisfy the network’s futuristic demands while still allowing for characters who were much closer to the people of the 21st century.

The elements just didn’t mesh, and Berman and Braga make no bones about the fact that the network wasn’t used to giving producers as free a rein as they had on “Star Trek,” and many executives just didn’t understand the show (and at one point suggested turning the starship’s mess hall into more of a club so they could feature a hot new musical act each week).

Braga himself admits to a great deal of blame as the head writer, in that he was burned out from working on “Trek” for so many years and many of the scripts got away from him, and it’s amusing to see him rattle off a list of episodes he considers to be just terrible. He also takes the blame for the heavily criticized theme song, saying the concept was better than the execution.

To be fair, the show started off very well with a good pilot before getting bogged down in some high-concept early episodes. The show improved toward the back end of the first season when the characters were fleshed out a bit. Most fans, however, didn’t consider the series to start to realize its potential as a prequel until the fourth season, by which time it was too late. Berman and Braga are fully aware of this, and I suspect their huge presence in the extras is an attempt to try to get the fans to understand their perspective on things, after years of taking criticism on the Internet.

These are extras that no “Star Trek” fan will want to miss, and when I say “Star Trek” fan, I don’t mean those who jumped onboard with J.J. Abram’s messy 2009 reboot. It should be noted, though, that according to the time travel rules established by the plot of that movie, “Enterprise” would be the only “Trek” show that’s still canon in the new timeline. (And trivia buffs will note that the first season of “Enterprise” includes a guest appearance by Robert Pine, father of Chris Pine, who plays the new Kirk).

A big complaint fans have about "Enterprise" is that it seems to contradict information established on the other shows, in particularly with what was presented on "The Original Series." This was never really a concern for me. First of all, "TOS" often contradicted itself in ways far more severe than any infractions "Enterprise" might be guilty of. And second, sometimes it's fun to re-examine the other shows based on what we learn here.

In addition to all 26 episodes from season one, and the great new bonus material (including several new commentary tracks), the Blu-ray includes all the extras from the old DVD, including featurettes previously released as retail exclusives. However, while “Enterprise” was created in HD, the image quality still has a processed, grainy look to it, and anyone expecting the picture to be as crisp as the remastered “Next Generation” Blu-rays may be slightly disappointed. But for fans, the new extras will more than make up for it.

About the Author: John Latchem

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