Perhaps it's time for Trekkies everywhere to finally apologize to Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. For years, they have been taking the heat for 'ruining' 'Star Trek'. Never mind they both (particularly Berman) had a big hand in the success that came before – they've been vilified for overseeing what most fans felt was the worst 'Star Trek' series, and criticized for not being able to make the changes (or make them quickly enough) to keep 'Enterprise' on the air. Granted, there was a small, loyal fanbase that always supported 'Enterprise' (particularly outside the United States), but for the most part, the series has always been considered the downfall of a once great franchise.
Not long after 'Enterprise's demise, Paramount took the keys away from Berman/Braga and turned them over to J.J. Abrams. His first Star Trek movie was a blast, so much so that loyal Trekkies could ignore how it played fast and loose with the history of what came before. Another nail was hammered into the Berman/Braga coffin, and just when you thought a better crew was now navigating the 'Star Trek' franchise, it all went wrong. Star Trek Into Darkness hit theaters, and while it was certainly loaded with whiz-bang action and entertainment, it proved that J.J. and the Bad Robot team (particularly writers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman) didn't have a clue what Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future was all about.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and it was both with the knowledge of what happened to 'Enterprise' and the bad taste of Star Trek Into Darkness still in my mouth that I tackled this review of 'Enterprise: Season 2' (note: 'Star Trek' doesn't become part of the official title until Season 3, despite the box cover). After enjoying 26 episodes that only get better as the season goes along (the Season 2 cliffhanger is outstanding), I came to the conclusion that the Berman/Braga team was really trying to get it right all along – the rest of us just weren't paying attention. Not to say Season 2 doesn't have its bumps and bruises. The resolution to Season 1's cliffhanger doesn't really entertain in the way one would hope, and there are a handful of boring to downright bad episodes (see: 'Precious Cargo'), but there's still more 'Star Trek' in any 10 minutes of 'Enterprise' than found in either of the two J.J. Abrams feature films.
Some of the noteworthy episodes in Season 2 include 'Carbon Creek', the second show of the season, which is a story about the first Vulcan visit to Earth (which happened long before the events seen in First Contact) and features Jolene Blalock playing T'Pol's great grandmother. Speaking of First Contact, the writers found a way to bring the Borg into the 'Enterprise' universe in the episode 'Regeneration', which is one of the latter episodes of the season. Then there's the episode 'Stigma', which is a not-so-veiled allegory about HIV that Braga himself (heard on the extras of this release) thinks is flat-out the best episode of 'Star Trek' he's ever done.
The season finale to Season 2 finally begins to take the show in the direction Berman/Braga wanted to at the outset – that of a serialized drama instead of a series of standalone episodes. Entitled 'The Expanse', the Season 2 ender introduces us to the Xindi – who will serve as the 'big bads' for the entirety of Season 3. The Xindi storyline is so good and takes the show in such a darker direction (with some real stakes for the main characters) that one can't help but wonder if this story had launched at the end of the first season instead of the second if 'Enterprise' would have really taken off in the ratings. Sadly, by the time Season 2 came to an end, a big chunk of previously loyal 'Star Trek' viewers had already checked out.
It was actually hard to watch Brannon Braga in some of the new bonus materials (detailed below) on this release (Berman didn't participate this time around, although his views can be found on the Season 1 set). While he does voice his opinion that many fans went over-the-top in their hatred of the show, it's also very obvious that he sees the demise of 'Enterprise' as very much a personal failure on his part. He believes this, even though it becomes very obvious that he was working for a studio that didn't give two hoots about the show or its legacy. His passion and love for 'Star Trek' is worn on his sleeve in both 'Enterprise' Blu-ray releases in a way we've never seen before from him. So, on behalf of at least this life-long Trekkie, I apologize, Mr. Braga. You were trying to get it right, and a huge part of me wishes someone that cared about 'Star Trek' the way you do was still in command of the ship.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Enterprise: Season 2' warps onto Blu-ray in packaging similar to the Season 1 Blu-ray release. Six 50GB discs come housed in a keepcase that holds two discs on each inside cover, plus two added hubs that hold a disc on either side. There are no inserts, but the reverse side of the slick (which you can see on the inside of the case) lists the episodes and bonus materials for each disc, just as the Season 1 set did. Once again, there is a slip cover included (slightly embossed, as was the one for the first season) which matches the cover of the slick.
Each disc begins with asking for the viewer to select a language (with English being highlighted as the default). The first disc in the set is front-loaded with trailers for Season 1 of 'Enterprise', Season 4 of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', and trailers for the stand-alone Blu-ray releases of the two-part 'Next Generation' episodes The Best of Both Worlds and Redemption. There are no front-loaded trailers on the other five Blu-rays. The main menu on these discs follow exactly the same design and color scheme of the Season 1 discs, with the only difference being the footage from the episodes that play within the menu design.
Although the video quality seems to be slightly improved over the Season 1 set, overall the look of Season 2 is very much on par with Season 1 and suffers from the same issues.
The slight improvement comes with the upconversion of the special effects. While almost all of the FX in Season 1 were rendered at 480i and upconverted, during Season 2 more and more effects were being rendered in 720p. From the research I've been able to do online, it seems that by the time Season 3 got underway, all new FX were being rendered in 720p, but it's difficult to pinpoint in this season just how many may have been, other than the fact that many visuals don't appear to suffer the same aliasing issues as others do. However, when it comes to the Enterprise ship herself, aliasing is almost always evident, most likely due to the fact that stock footage from Season 1 is being used in a large majority of the ship's appearances in Season 2.
As for the rest of the image, the video quality is pretty much the same as the Season 1 release. During Season 2, 'Enterprise' was still being shot on 35mm film (it would go full HD at the beginning of Season 4), so there's still a slightly grainy and film-like look to the episodes. Once again, most episodes and scenes have a fairly 'soft' look to them, with more or less muted colors and black levels that are not often as strong as one might hope. Things tend to look much better on those rare occasions when the show shoots on location as opposed to sets, but those occasions are few and far between (the second episode, 'Carbon Creek' is a great example of how good 'Enterprise' can look when it's on location and is perhaps the best-looking episode overall on this set).
The bottom line is that if you were okay with the appearance of Season 1 on Blu-ray, you'll be happy with what you get here; and if you disliked the quality of the last release, there's probably not enough of a difference here to satisfy you.
While I was able to detect the slightest of improvements when it comes to video quality, the audio of Season 2 is almost exactly the same as Season 1 – which is to say satisfactory, but by no means outstanding.
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has no issues when it comes to popping, hissing, or other noticeable problems, but it also lacks the kind of immersive quality one would hope to hear. While the rear speakers are almost always active, directionality is rarely apparent. Dialogue is crisp, clean and primarily all up front. As with Season 1, everything appears properly mixed, with explosions and other action noises never drowning out or being excessively louder than the spoken word.
In addition to the DTS-HD track, 5.1 Dolby tracks are available in German and Italian, while 2.0 Dolby tracks can be heard in Spanish, French, and Japanese. Subtitles options consist of English SDH, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. Once again, no Klingon track or subtitles have been provided.
It’s amazing how one's opinion of something can change with the distance of time and a new perspective. Once seen as the downfall of 'Star Trek' on television, 'Enterprise' now serves as a reminder (or an introduction for those only familiar with the J.J. Abrams' movies) of what 'Star Trek' and Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future is all about. No, all the episodes aren't good, and some of the ones that are lack originality – but overall Season 2 of 'Enterprise' is a worthy addition to the 'Star Trek' legacy. Recommended.