Set in the 22nd century, a hundred years before James T. Kirk helmed the famous starship of the same name, Enterprise takes place in an era when interstellar travel is still in its infancy. Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) has assembled a crew of brave explorers to chart the galaxy on a revolutionary spacecraft: Enterprise NX-01. As the first human beings to venture into deep space, these pioneers will experience the wonder and mystery of the final frontier as they seek out new life and new civilizations.
The general consensus among most fans of 'Star Trek: Enterprise' is that Season Three (which featured a season-long arc focusing on the Xindi) is the best of the lot, but for my money, Season 4 represents the finest this series has to offer. Ironically, what makes Season Four work has to do with both the fact that the budget for the series was cut as well as the fact that almost everyone involved knew that this was almost certainly the last season for the show.
Because of budget cutbacks, 'Enterprise' could no longer spend money on elaborate new sets unless they could be used in more than one of Season Four's 22 episodes. Therefore, the season consists of a number of 'mini-arc' shows that last two or three episodes each. This resulted in not only 'Enterprise' maintaining the quality of prior seasons, but also allowed for more interesting stories, as tales could be told over a number of episodes instead of just one.
Showrunning duties were turned over to Manny Coto in Season Four, as prior showrunners Brannon Braga and Rick Berman had less of a day-to-day association with the series (although they returned to write the controversial series finale). Coto provided a much-needed new perspective for 'Enterprise', which included bringing 'Star Trek' novelists Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens onto the writing team and making much of the final season's focus on tying 'Enterprise' to the original Star Trek series.
Before the fun part of Season Four begins, Season Three's cliffhanger needed to be resolved, so things don't get off to a great start in the two-parter 'Storm Front'. It was a pretty crazy idea to send the crew back in time to an alternate Earth where aliens have teamed up with the Nazis, and – sure enough – there doesn't seem to be much of a point to the first two episodes of Season Four, other than using them to resolve the silly premise and get the crew reset and ready to go exploring again in the 22nd century.
After a higher quality episode entitled 'Home', during which much of the crew deals with the aftermath of both the Xindi conflict and the temporal cold war (which, thankfully, is finally put to rest), things really start to get good when special guest star Brent Spiner shows up in a three-part storyline playing Dr. Arik Soong, who is the great-grandfather of Dr. Noonien Soong, the scientist who would create Star Trek: The Next Generation's Data.
Season Four also gives fans episodes dealing with the Vulcans, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Orions (and their scantily clad slave girls). Even Peter Weller shows up for a two-parter late in the season (actually the last story arc before the finale) playing the leader of a terrorist group who is not-all-that-dissimilar in evilness to the character he would go on to play in Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Then, of course, there's the series finale, which has angered most die-hard fans due to the fact that it's actually more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode than it is an episode of 'Enterprise'. Personally, I kind of enjoy the way the final episode – which guest stars TNG alumni Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis – ties all of the different 'Star Trek' television series into a nice little bow. I think in retrospect (with the knowledge that this finale really was the last 'Star Trek' fans would see on television…at least up to the time of this review) the finale works a little better now than it did back in 2005.
It's pretty obvious that 'Star Trek: Enterprise' was growing in quality by leaps and bounds in its final two seasons, and while it was a shame to see the show get cancelled, it's also nice that it got to end it when all involved were doing their best work and the series was at a creative high. Additionally, so many casual 'Trek' fans had tuned out by this point in 'Enterprise's run that many will be seeing these episodes for the first time now on Blu-ray. I can't think of a better way to watch these shows for the first time.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 4' warps onto Blu-ray in packaging that is designed the same way as the prior three seasons. The six 50GB dual-layer discs are housed inside a keepcase, with discs placed on each side of the inside cover, plus two plastic hubs which hold a disc on each side. The keepcase contains no inserts. The reverse side of the slick (seen from inside the keepcase) contains a list of the episodes and special features of each of the discs. A slightly embossed slipcover matching the artwork of the slick slides overtop the set.
Upon loading each disc, viewers will be asked to choose a language – as is the case with all 'Star Trek' Blu-ray releases. Disc one of this release is front-loaded with trailers for Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Star Trek: Unification, Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 3, and Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 2. There are no front-loaded trailers on the other five discs. The Blu-ray menu matches the design that has been used for the prior three seasons.
Although Brannon Braga has stated (and does again on new extras on this set) that he hated the fact that 'Enterprise' made the switch from shooting on film to shooting in HD, it turns out that this was the best thing for Blu-ray, as Season Four is by far the best looking of the bunch. What the episodes lose in terms of their film-like appearance, they gain in terms of sharpness and detail. While this does result in some sets looking a little cheesier than they might on film, as well as some effects shots appearing less 'seamless', the 'pop' that this presentation has over the other three seasons is worth the trade-off.
There's a whole new level of enjoyment to these HD-shot episodes that just wasn't evident on the prior sets. Fans can pick up on little details and images on the various computers and monitors, the fabric of the uniforms actually show up on-screen, and the facial features of both human and alien alike are much more defined. Even black levels, which were a moderate problem on prior sets are much better rendered in these HD episodes. Granted, had Paramount totally remastered each show, those three prior seasons would have looked a lot better on Blu-ray, but since that didn't happen, this season is far and away the best in terms of video quality.
While the audio quality doesn't take the huge leap in improvement that the video quality does, it's on par with the prior three season sets – which is to say, it's pretty solid throughout. Once again, the primary tracks here are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and while they're not quite as immersive as many tracks you'll find on today's television series, they do a nice job of providing crisp, clear dialogue, distinct sounds when needed, and occasional low-end use as well as some directionality during action or special effects sequences. Balance is solid throughout, and there are no noticeable problems with dropout, glitches, or the like.
In addition to the lossless English track, other audio options consist of German 5.1 Dolby Digital, and both French and Japanese 2.0 Surround. Subtitles are once again provided in English SDH, French, German, Japanese, and Dutch.
Of the four seasons released to date, it's my opinion that Season Four of 'Star Trek: Enterprise' is the best of the lot. This season contains some of the most interesting storylines of any of the four years the show was on the air, and if one adds to that the increased video quality of the presentation (thanks to all the episodes being shot in HD), you have a set of discs that should belong in any sci-fi fan's collection. I've enjoyed watching all the seasons of 'Enterprise' on Blu-ray, but this one in particular gets my highest recommendation.