We have come to Season 3 in the Blu-ray release schedule, this is the season many feel Enterprise became a show worth watching. Season 3 contains the season long arc of the Xindi threat. It also contains some great one-shot stories outside of the main Xindi narrative such as “Twilight” and “Similitude”, and a couple of pretty lame ones too, such as “Extinction” which is called “one of the singularly most embarrassing episodes of Star Trek I’ve been involved with” by Brannon Braga in the documentary on the set. Read on for the full review of this generally excellent season.
Fresh off the injury to Earth in “The Expanse” at the end of Season 2, Season 3 starts off slowly with our crew angry and hurt, but with very little information about the Xindi. The crew is so desperate to find anything about the Xindi they make a bad deal with a shady mining boss to interview a member of the species. The region of space where the Xindi live is known as The Expanse, and it is filled with unstable areas that wreak havoc with Enterprise. Little-by-little pieces of who the Xindi are get filled in. The Xindi are actually a group of five different species, and not all of them are in total agreement with the idea of eradicating another species (humans).
Mid-season the sense of urgency gets heightened. The Andorians drop in and lend a hand (though they have ulterior motives) and help gather data on the next test weapon in a “proving ground” where the Xindi weapon designer Degra is overseeing a next generation test. Degra is nabbed by our heroes and tricked into revealing the location of the production facility for the final version of the weapon.
Time is of the essence, and at every turn Enterprise takes a beating, it’s stopped dead multiple times this season.
One of the “Enterprise is stuck dead” episodes creates the circumstances for one of Trek’s better ethical dilemma episodes: “Similitude”, where Trip is critically injured and needs a synaptic replacement, the only choice they have given their distance from home and their urgent mission is to clone Trip using a technique which makes a clone that lives 15-days. Of course as he “grows up” it becomes much harder for Archer to turn around and sacrifice this new version of Trip dubbed “Sim.”
Eventually Archer convinces Degra that humans are not the enemy, and the last few episodes are a nail biting race against time to get to the weapon and stop it before the Xindi-Reptilians and Xindi-Insectoids, intent on Earth’s destruction, activate it.
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. Season 3’s focus on action and adventure often puts the surround sound to better use than previous seasons.
As to the visual quality, Season 3 looks very much like Season 2, the live action elements generally look good, but there is also an inherent softness to many of the shots, especially when on the bridge. So those hoping for a sharper presentation than Season 1 or 2, you’re out of luck, we’ll have to wait until Season 4 for that it seems.
However, when the lighting is good, outdoor scenes are the best examples, things look pretty detailed. As usual Michael Westmore’s alien makeup designs are amazingly detailed and definitely stand up to the scrutiny of high-definition. The Xindi-Arboreal and Reptilian make-up is incredibly detailed.
Season 3’s CGI appears to be all rendered at 720p (or better), only the periodic reused stock shots of Enterprise at warp from Season 1 are obviously low quality.
That’s not to say that it’s all perfect, the increasing use of CGI for landscapes, factories, and now characters (i.e. Xindi-Aquatics and Xindi-Insectoids) means that the 10-year-old television budget computer graphics looks its age at times. It’s still generally just fine, and can look downright amazing at times.
As with Seasons 1 and 2, all DVD bonus content is ported over, this includes deleted scenes, commentaries and featurettes.
New audio commentaries – “Impulse” with David Livingston and David A. Goodman
“North Star” with David A. Goodman and Chris Black
“Similitude” with Manny Coto and Connor Trinneer
“The Forgotten” with David A. Goodman, Chris Black and Connor Trinneer
“Countdown” with Chris Black and André Bormanis
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 3 is called “In a Time of War” (broken into three 30-minute sections – Part 1: Call to Arms, Part 2: Front Line, Part 3: Final Conflict).
“Call to Arms”
Scott Bakula talks about how the Xindi season arc gave the show a purpose, season 1 and 2 had been floundering about.
Phylis Strong says that Season 3 wasn’t directly influenced by 9/11 (Season 1 was released only a couple of weeks after 9/11), but that the shift in the American psyche couldn’t be ignored. It took about two years until it didn’t feel so fresh as to be a sore spot, so the writing team could address it with a little bit of distance and perspective.
UPN wanted more action, TV shows and movies in general, were getting darker in tone, and they wanted to see Enterprise shift as well.
Mike Sussman wishes it had been the Romulan War for a season long arc, not the newly fabricated Xindi.
David Livingston discusses the franchise feeling stale and how great it was that they brought in huge Trek fan Manny Coto during Season 3 as a co-producer for shot in the arm.
Manny Coto talks about how frazzled Branon Braga was when he came in, he could tell Brannon felt stuck with writers that weren’t working. Brannon Braga says what he needed from the first day of Enterprise was Manny Coto. Manny says he’s a Trek nerd, while Brannon was just a fan of Trek. Braga says that he went through a bunch of writers who just didn’t get Trek – he says in Season 2 he had a writer that had no idea how communicators worked, yet claimed he knew Trek.
We hear from those on the front lines – the actors. This section is very candid.
Jolene Blalock opens this segment discussing how getting Enterprise was huge for her, she was cast as a relatively new actress (she had been a model until the age of 22), she says she grew with show as an actor and as a person.
We hear extensively from John Billingsley and Anthony Montgomery, the actors didn’t know what the length of the Xindi arc would be, but they knew it was going to be a big change for the show. Anthony Montgomery talks about how he would hear from fans about how the first two seasons felt much like Voyager and that they couldn’t really do much to change that as just actors, but they wanted to very much. The actors say that they started to hear rumblings about cancelation during Season 3’s production. Jolene talks about how Rick Berman and Brannon Braga weren’t very accessible.
Connor Trineer talks about being affected by 9/11 and wanting to do something more meaningful than being an actor in that time of need. He says through Tripp’s dealing with his loss of his sister, he as an actor got to work through some of his own feelings about 9/11. John Billingsley says he had a hard time with Archer throwing a captive in the airlock and using it to extract information, which he felt wasn’t fitting with Trek ethics. Season 3 for him walked a fine line veering close to saying that the end results justify the means.
Brannon Braga starts the segment saying that he takes full responsibility for Season 1 and Season 2, and was happy to see Season 3 move forward to where they wanted to go. John Billingsley talks about how making CGI characters was new and cool but of course couldn’t really hold up to the CGI of a big budget movie, which was a little bit of a catch-22 due to the inevitable comparisons between a limited budget TV show and blockbuster movie. Dan Curry and Ron B. Moore discuss how visual effects technology had evolved, using CGI for nearly all effects was new, and doing it on a budget wasn’t always perfect but it was trailblazing to do what they did with a TV budget.
Randy Oglesby (Degra) and Dan Curry talk about dealing with, and interacting with, stand-ins for CGI characters on the set.
Randy Oglesby talks about his character Degra and being happy to be a reoccurring guest actor with a rich backstory and arc from weapons maker to human sympathizer. Oglesby was good friends with Scott MacDonald (the actor who played the lead Xindi-Reptilian, Commander Dolim), and in their their first show together their character’s roles weren’t very defined, so they made an actors decision on the set that the Reptilians and Primates weren’t exactly friendly with each other, and the producers liked it and went with it.
UPN, ever youth focused, wanted to kill off Archer at the end of this season, and have a new younger captain come in for the next season. Rick Berman had to push back on the network to keep him for Season Four.
There is a second shorter documentary (~20 minutes) called “Temporal Cold War: Declassified”
Matt Winston (Daniels) would ask the producers if his character was being honest with Archer, but he also knew there were things being unveiled and as yet un-written, so he mostly left it alone. He’s also happy to be a reoccurring thread throughout the seasons. He also talks about being part of a bigger Trek universe, and fandom, and loving meeting fans.
Brannon Braga says the Temporal Cold War was put in because the studio insisted on a future element, they didn’t like the straight prequel idea.
David Livingston says he doesn’t think the Suliban threat really paid-off, they’re just sort of hanging around as agents of the cold war.
John Fleck (Silik) talks about being Silik, the challenges of his makeup (giant contact lenses!) and costuming, and how he was very happy to be a guest actor on TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT.
Matt Winston, corroborating what we heard from Jolene Blalock in part 2, talks about how he never had a writer available to him, whereas in most productions the head writer is a show runner, so he or she is on set. So any questions about a character or dialogue tweaks/changes it would have to be sent over to the production team and they would have to hold production and wait on set for a response.
Braga brings up that they kicked around the idea that “Future Guy” might have been Archer, manipulating himself from the future.
More Season 3 Images