In the year 2151, following decades of being held back
from galactic exploration by the Vulcans, the human race takes
its first steps into interstellar space with Captain Jonathan
Archer at the helm of the Enterprise NX-01. But Archer's
mission is threatened by a mysterious Temporal Cold War involving
a time-travelling faction of the Suliban race...
personally I would have preferred a series that looked forward
into Trek's unexplored future, rather than a prequel
that - by its very nature - can seldom surprise me, I can
understand the creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga's reasons
for wishing to take Enterprise back more than a century
before the time of Captain James T Kirk.
could seem too easy in the 24th century, even when the Starship
Voyager was cut off from the rest of the Federation
in the Delta Quadrant. The less advanced technology of Enterprise
(a grappler instead of a tractor beam, polarised hull plating
instead of shields, and no all-knowing all-seeing computer)
offer great potential for dramatic situations. Much is made
of the fact that the transporter is still risky and rarely
used (but that doesn't stop it from saving the day at the
end of pilot episode, Broken Bow). Dr Phlox's (John
Billingsley) medical knowledge often seems far in advance
of that of his "successor" Dr McCoy, but we can attribute
that to the Denobulan's alien education.
potential downside is that lots of well-loved (and indeed
well-loathed) aliens from the franchise's other incarnations
cannot play a part. Fortunately, plenty can. The pilot episode,
Broken Bow depicts humanity's first contact with the
Klingons (no explanation offered for their lumpy heads by
the way), while The Andorian Incident does the same
with those blue-skinned recurring aliens from Classic Trek
(who now sport cool twitching antennae). The writers also
manage to wangle a Ferengi episode, Acquisition, using
the excuse that continuity is supposedly maintained because
the Enterprise crew never learn the species' name (but
what about sensor logs and crew reports about their appearance?).
of course there are the Vulcans. It's a bit of a shame that
we have to have a Vulcan main character so soon after Tuvok
in Voyager, but following the events of the movie Star
Trek: First Contact it would have seemed strange if there
was not a strongly felt presence by the pointy-eared ones.
In fact, the depiction of the Vulcans in general is rather
refreshing. Not yet the cosy colleagues of the Federation,
this supposedly logical race proves itself very capable of
bigotry (in Fusion) and political corruption (in
The Andorian Incident and its sequel Shadows of P'Jem),
and has been holding the more impulsive human race back from
deep-space exploration for nearly a century.
fact that this show picks up 88 years after events in the
time-travelling First Contact movie means that the
22nd-century setting does not seem totally alien to us. A
guest appearance by James Cromwell as a recording of Zefram
Cochrane in the pilot episode helps to settle us in.
the skin-tight outfits of Seven of Nine in Voyager,
Paramount's "sexing up" of Star Trek continues unabated
with a similarly form-fitting get-up for the Vulcan T'Pol
(Jolene Blalock) and a sexually charged decontamination room
scene involving T'Pol and chief engineer "Trip" Tucker (Connor
Trinneer) in Broken Bow. This sort of thing undermines
the series' credibility, but at least female viewers get to
see Trinneer in his skimpy underthings as well, which makes
things even. He ends up in his underwear again later on in
the season, in Acquisition.
The highlights of this collection are Broken Bow, the
pace and production values of which are worthy of a theatrical
release, the tense Andorian Incident, its follow-up
Shadows of P'Jem, and the character-driven Shuttlepod
unnerving Fight or Flight is also worth watching out
for, as is the convincingly alien environment of the Xyrillian
ship in Unexpected - in which "Trip" memorably gets
pregnant. Breaking the Ice and Dear Doctor are
both effective character-driven shows, the latter of which
is aided by some poignant narration by John Billingsley. Cold
Front picks up the thread of the Temporal Cold War plot
arc from Broken Bow and tangles it a bit more, in a
stylish manner reminiscent of Deep Space Nine or
The X-Files at those series' heights. Unfortunately, this
tangled yarn comes undone in the largely incomprehensible
season finale, Shockwave.
The quality of the writing, in particular the plotting, takes
a nosedive towards the end of the season, when we are faced
by duds such as the dull Rogue Planet, the derivative
Oasis, the uninspired Fallen Hero, and the tiresome
Two Days and Two Nights.
In addition to 24 episodes plus the pilot, this box set contains
more than 90 minutes of extra features, including insights
into the creation of the show, the making of Shuttlepod
One, actor profiles on leading man Scott Bakula and the
multi-talented Vaughn Armstrong, as well as deleted scenes
from eight episodes. These featurettes aren't particularly
revelatory, but it's refreshing to hear Brannon Braga admitting
that the series isn't as popular as it might have been. In
addition, Broken Bow is accompanied by an audio commentary
by Braga and Rick Berman, while this and two other episodes
can be viewing with an on-screen text commentary by Denise
and Michael Okuda.
menus are nice, though for some reason the control panel sound
effects from the Voyager DVDs are reused here. More
authentic Enterprise sounds would have been appreciated.
round, this isn't a bad season, though tedium does begin to
set in towards the end. Still, it could have been much worse
- it could have been Season 2.
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