Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 2 Blu-ray review August 15, 2013by Matt Wright , Filed under: DVD/Blu-ray,ENT,Review , trackback
Conventional Trekker wisdom says that Enterprise didn’t get good until Season 3, but as I looked over Season 2′s episodes I was a little bit surprised to see how many episodes I looked forward to revisiting. There are some very good episodes nestled throughout Season 2, though the less said about “Precious Cargo”, the better. As Scott Bakula says in the cast reunion feature on the set, about half-way through season 2 things changed for the better. I’m inclined to agree. Read on for the full review of Enterprise Season 2 on Blu-ray!
“Carbon Creek” is an enjoyable (if a bit dry) story about Vulcans who had to live on Earth in the year 1957 for some months while they await a rescue. This may or may not be a bit of a tall tale that T’Pol tells Trip and Archer to entertain them during dinner.
“Minefield” shows off what could be done with a mix of well executed practical sets and props and CGI effects. We learn a bit more about the conservative Reed and get a not quite canon violating appearance of 22nd century Romulans.
“The Catwalk” is a unique episode where the crew is stuck inside a warp nacelle for eight days riding out an unexpected and deadly cosmic storm with annoyingly perky alien visitors in tow. It’s interesting to see the crew really have to rough it due to the tribulations of space phenomena. There’s no fancy 24th century shield modulation technobabble to get them out of this one. The letdown is the “B plot” where Enterprise is yet again boarded and people try to steal it/destroy it/take valuable tech from it/etc.
“Stigma” is a pretty good try at an HIV/AIDS metaphor with the effects of a seemingly botched mind meld as the stand-in. We also get a look into Dr. Phlox’s personal life when his wife visits. Denobulans are rather uninhibited people, and their mating and living arrangements tend to be communal (and polyamorous), causing some discomfort with the crew, for Trip especially as he is pursued by Dr. Phlox’s wife Feezal.
In “Cease Fire” we see humans in the role of mediators between Vulcans and Andorians, a hint of what’s to come with the founding of the Coalition of Planets a few years later, and eventually, the UFP. We also get the return of alien guest actor Suzie Plakson (best known for the role of K’Ehleyr on TNG), this time as the Andorian warrior Tarah.
“Future Tense” is one of the best episodes from the “temporal cold war” themed episodes, and one of the best of the second season in general. The Enterprise finds a small craft, that seems to be from the future, with a dead neo-human (he’s mostly human, but his DNA shows traces of past ancestry with Vulcans and Terrellians) pilot on board. The Suliban and the mysterious Tholians sure want to get their hands on it. There are some very interesting peculiarities with the future ship such as it being larger on the inside than out, and weird local time fluctuations occur around it, none of it explainable for our crew and their 22nd century knowledge, making it weirder and more anxiety producing given that two other alien powers want it for their own research and won’t take no for answer.
“Cogenitor” is another try by Trek writers to address concepts of gender and sexual orientation and the rights of an individual. It generally succeeds in the context of the Trek-universe, but of course still falls short of any real open discussion of actual human gender issues. Kudos to the writing staff for avoiding another “humans know the correct/more ethical way of living, and so having seen the error of their ways the alien race of the week changes their culture overnight” plot that so many TNG and VOY episodes fell into.
“Regeneration”, while flawed in many ways, it is still a lot of fun, it has some thrilling scenes, including a clear homage to The Thing, and answers the question about what, if anything, was left behind when the Borg interfered with first contact in 2063 (Star Trek: First Contact).
In one of the better episodes of the season, “First Flight” flashes back to Archer as a hotshot test pilot in breaking the warp 2 barrier as part of the NX Project’s ultimate goal of a stable warp 5 engine. We get more insight into Archer’s past, the first substantial details since the pilot episode. The whole episode is an homage to The Right Stuff, as such, there are many Easter eggs to both real NASA history and Trek history in the 602 Club where the test pilots go to relax.
Lastly, the season cliffhanger sets up the huge tonal shift for Season 3, with the 9/11 allegory of the Xindi weapon that cuts a swath of destruction across the Earth’s surface in “The Expanse.”
Audio and Video Quality
The audio is once again generally excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes. It helps that Enterprise is the most modern of the TV series and so was produced with surround sound in mind.
On to the video, as with Season 1 this can end up a bit of a mixed bag, however Season 2 definitely looks better overall. The live action elements generally look great, pretty similar to Season 1 in that regard. The best part is that in most cases the CGI in Season 2 is much improved.
While it seems the VFX is generally not rendered at HD resolution (720p) yet, anything new for this season looks quite a bit better than Season 1. It does look like that perhaps some scenes were rendered at 720p (for example see the Narendra III vista from ”Judgement” at the bottom of this article), but it’s not certain, the VFX house was under tremendous time and budgetary pressures so they rendered whatever they could as high resolution as feasible for 2002 but if they were facing an overly long rendering time and/or VFX budget crunch it might be dropped to 480p.
By the time we get to “The Expanse”, things look very good. Since “The Expanse” was the end of Season 2 and the lead-in for Season 3 (which as far as we know Season 3+ was fully rendered at 720p), it was also likely rendered at 720p. Either way the new stuff looks great and is far less obviously low resolution, the flipside to this is that when stock shots from Season 1 are reused it becomes pretty obvious (mostly stock shots of the Enterprise in flight).
As with Season 1, all DVD bonus content is ported over, this includes deleted scenes, commentaries and featurettes.
New audio commentaries – “Carbon Creek” with writer Chris Black and Mike & Denise Okuda.
“Regeneration” with John Billingsley and Bonita Friedericy (Dr. Rooney from the arctic expedition).
“First Flight” with writer Chris Black and Mike & Denise Okuda.
On disc 1 is the easily the best special feature on the set: ”In Conversation: The First Crew.” Filmed in back in April, the cast reunion goes for an hour and half, lots of topics are covered. Brannon Braga hosts the piece. He realizes that he’s never sat down the whole cast before. He’s quite self deprecating about things, he apologizes again for “These Are the Voyages…” and tries to get feedback from his cast on what they liked and disliked like about Enterprise. He points out that he really wanted to make sure the entire cast would come to the filming of the reunion. Jolene Blalock is well known to be a rather shy person off camera, so it was important she came. John Billingsley is quite boisterous and it seems he knows quite a bit about Trek, there are lots of jokes about Connor Trinneer’s blue underwear. Brannon Braga brings up his comment about Netflix that he made in London and how the fans immediately jumped on the idea, that they want to see more, the cast all agree that they’d be interested in doing more Enterprise if it ever came to be. When things turn to more serious topics, it becomes very clear that Scott Bakula, being the industry veteran, really was looked up to by the, mostly younger, mostly new to Hollywood, cast. He set the tone on the stage and was a very gracious professional who made to sure to acknowledge and include everyone on the cast and crew all the way from his fellow actors on down the line to the craft services people. While “the boys” of the show tend to dominate the discussion, there are nice moments with all the cast members. Connor Trinneer it seems had a prior engagement so about half-way through the reunion Jeffery Combs (Shran) busts in on the reunion and sits in for the last portion.
On disc 6 is another excellent three part documentary, which we’ve come to expect from the Blu-ray production team of Roger Lay Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett.
The documentary covering Season 2 is called “Uncharted Territory” (broken into three 30-minute sections - Part 1: Destination Unknown, Part 2: First Crew, Part 3: Course Correction)
This covers the exhaustion of getting season 1 done and trying to get a handle on going right into a second season. Brannon Braga is again very candid about his exhaustion and how he felt that he was a show runner without the support he needed, he was missing the talented people he had come to trust and rely on while working on previous Trek shows, especially Ron D. Moore. We hear a bit more from Rick Berman about how the entire Paramount management was restructured during Season 2. In came brand new people who didn’t understand how the franchise worked, and so they started giving copious notes to the Star Trek production office. Star Trek was used to being left alone to do their work (something Gene Roddenberry was able to achieve by going the syndication route with TNG), however since they were now responsible to a network (UPN), they got notes from all levels of the TV production food chain (Paramount execs, UPN management, etc). We hear from writers/producers Chris Black, Mike Sussman, André Bormanis, and David A. Goodman. They talk about their love/hate relationship with the Internet and instant fan feedback. A “unique” piece of feed back is recounted, a fan mailed the contents of his trash can in a box to the production offices with a note that said “this is what you’re doing to Star Trek.” In a rarity, Roger Lay Jr. even got an executive in for an interview, John Wentworth, an executive who supported Trek throughout the TNG-ENT run, he is still with CBS Television as an executive vice president of communications, he held a similar title at UPN at the time of Enterprise.
More Season 2 Images