August 8, 2005

DVD Review: Star Trek: Enterprise Season 2

I have been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I can remember, but I wasn't around when the original series aired and only caught it in reruns, many years later. So, when it was announced that there would be a series set before the original series, I was there. The first season was pretty good, nothing outstanding, but it introduced us to the new crew and stories such as the Temporal Cold War. It is the events of that cold war that lead us into the lackluster second season.

This season, is not terribly good, there is a lot of a "been there done that" kind of feel to it. There are a bunch of stories that seem so familiar, the only difference is the faces. The real problem is that there are a few standouts, and there quality stands in stark contrast to the persistent mediocrity that surrounds it.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThere is a pair of episodes, right at the beginning of the season, which stand out in my mind. They play like one continuous story, despite being very different episodes. The first is called "Minefield." It is a rather tense story when the Enterprise enters a minefield, which blows up a good section of the saucer. This leads to a confrontation with a new, unseen, foe, the Romulans. This is all while Reed is outside trying to detach a mine that had attached itself to the hull. This is followed up by "Dead Stop." This follows up on the damage suffered in the prior episode, they find an automated repair station, but at what price? This pairing was excellent at building some consistency and getting into some of the characters.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOther notable episodes include "Carbon Creek," where T'Pol tells a story about a trio of Vulcans who land on Earth in the 1950's. There is "The Catwalk," where the entire crew is forced to take refuge in one of the warp nacelles, this created an interesting personality clash episode. "Stigma" introduces us to the mind meld, it's effects, and how the practice is frowned upon, in a story that has shades of the AIDs problem.

There are two other episodes that have an impact on Trek lore. One is "Regeneration" which brings the Borg into the Enterprise fold, and is a direct sequel to the events of Star Trek: First Contact. Borg are found frozen in the Arctic, but soon enough, they wake up, make some new friends and take off with the Enterprise in pursuit. This episode opens up some potential continuity holes, but it is also interesting to see how this meeting sets up future encounters. The other episode is the season finale, "The Expanse." This episode completely changes the direction of the show and sets up the entire third season. It brings in the real world tale of terrorism into the fictional Trek-verse. It opens with a probe firing a beam that kills millions. It turns out to be a pre-emptive strike from an as yet unknown alien race, this sends Archer and crew into unexplored and unpredictable space.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWatching this season for the second time, and at an accelerated pace exposed a few things to me. One being how mediocre it is, but second how split the characters are in terms of them being interesting and worthy of investing our time with. I find Scott Bakula, as Captain Archer, to be rather dull and lifeless. He is a little too vanilla to pull of a strong captain. When he is trying to be intimidating, it is just that, trying, he isn't an imposing persona. There are also problems with how he is written, for example "A Night in Sickbay" where he is upset over his sick dog, and apparently loses all his ability to negotiate or focus on the big picture. On the opposite side of that is Conner Trinneer as Trip, he seems a much more fully realized character, his delivery and mannerisms just make him come across as a real person rather than an actor playing a part. There also things to enjoy about both Peter Billingsley as Dr. Phlox and Jolene Blalock as T'Pol. Both of them are fascinating in how opposite their characters are, each building up little tics and mannerisms. The rest of the cast is generally a little plain, never standing out to much.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOverall, if you hadn't guessed, I think this is a rather mediocre season with some notable episodes, but hardly the classic Trek that I would like it to be. That said, this is still a decent set.

Video. The video looks fantastic, blacks are deep, colors are bright, plus all of the shades of gray that are required for a starship! It is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, which is it's original aspect ratio. This looks much better than I remember from when I saw it broadcast. Very happy with the transfer.

Audio. Audio is in 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital for each of the 26 episodes, and it sounds good too. Nice use of the surrounds for the engine noise and various explosions and rumblings.

Extras. There is a decent selection of extras throughout.
-Commentaries. "Dead Stop" and "Regeneration" have audio commentary from writers Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong, in each case giving some insight into the genesis of the tales. Episodes "Stigma" and "First Flight" have text commentaries which are full of interesting anecdotes.
-Moments: Season 2. A near 20 minute collection of behind the scenes and highlights from the season, it is nicely put together and well worth watching.
-Profile: Jolene Blalock. A near 15 minute look at Jolene and her performance as the Vulcan T'Pol.
-Levar Burton: Star Trek Director. A brief piece on Levar's involvement with the Trek universe from the other side of the camera.
- There are also some behind th e scenes glimpses, and a humorous collection of outtakes. Not to mention a photo gallery.

Bottomline. The Trek completist will want this set, where the casual fan would be advised to leave it behind, perhaps rent it, and wait for Season 4 to come. There are some good episodes to be aware of, and some nice acting pieces.

Mildly Recommended.

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