DVD
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 1

Starring: Scott Bakula
Paramount
RRP: 84.99
PHE8621
Certificate: PG
Available 02 May 2005


In the year 2151, following decades of being held back from galactic exploration by the Vulcans, the human race takes its first steps into interstellar space with Captain Jonathan Archer at the helm of the Enterprise NX-01. But Archer's mission is threatened by a mysterious Temporal Cold War involving a time-travelling faction of the Suliban race...

Though personally I would have preferred a series that looked forward into Trek's unexplored future, rather than a prequel that - by its very nature - can seldom surprise me, I can understand the creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga's reasons for wishing to take Enterprise back more than a century before the time of Captain James T Kirk.

Life could seem too easy in the 24th century, even when the Starship Voyager was cut off from the rest of the Federation in the Delta Quadrant. The less advanced technology of Enterprise (a grappler instead of a tractor beam, polarised hull plating instead of shields, and no all-knowing all-seeing computer) offer great potential for dramatic situations. Much is made of the fact that the transporter is still risky and rarely used (but that doesn't stop it from saving the day at the end of pilot episode, Broken Bow). Dr Phlox's (John Billingsley) medical knowledge often seems far in advance of that of his "successor" Dr McCoy, but we can attribute that to the Denobulan's alien education.

The potential downside is that lots of well-loved (and indeed well-loathed) aliens from the franchise's other incarnations cannot play a part. Fortunately, plenty can. The pilot episode, Broken Bow depicts humanity's first contact with the Klingons (no explanation offered for their lumpy heads by the way), while The Andorian Incident does the same with those blue-skinned recurring aliens from Classic Trek (who now sport cool twitching antennae). The writers also manage to wangle a Ferengi episode, Acquisition, using the excuse that continuity is supposedly maintained because the Enterprise crew never learn the species' name (but what about sensor logs and crew reports about their appearance?).

And of course there are the Vulcans. It's a bit of a shame that we have to have a Vulcan main character so soon after Tuvok in Voyager, but following the events of the movie Star Trek: First Contact it would have seemed strange if there was not a strongly felt presence by the pointy-eared ones. In fact, the depiction of the Vulcans in general is rather refreshing. Not yet the cosy colleagues of the Federation, this supposedly logical race proves itself very capable of bigotry (in Fusion) and political corruption (in The Andorian Incident and its sequel Shadows of P'Jem), and has been holding the more impulsive human race back from deep-space exploration for nearly a century.

The fact that this show picks up 88 years after events in the time-travelling First Contact movie means that the 22nd-century setting does not seem totally alien to us. A guest appearance by James Cromwell as a recording of Zefram Cochrane in the pilot episode helps to settle us in.

Following the skin-tight outfits of Seven of Nine in Voyager, Paramount's "sexing up" of Star Trek continues unabated with a similarly form-fitting get-up for the Vulcan T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) and a sexually charged decontamination room scene involving T'Pol and chief engineer "Trip" Tucker (Connor Trinneer) in Broken Bow. This sort of thing undermines the series' credibility, but at least female viewers get to see Trinneer in his skimpy underthings as well, which makes things even. He ends up in his underwear again later on in the season, in Acquisition.

The highlights of this collection are Broken Bow, the pace and production values of which are worthy of a theatrical release, the tense Andorian Incident, its follow-up Shadows of P'Jem, and the character-driven Shuttlepod One.

The unnerving Fight or Flight is also worth watching out for, as is the convincingly alien environment of the Xyrillian ship in Unexpected - in which "Trip" memorably gets pregnant. Breaking the Ice and Dear Doctor are both effective character-driven shows, the latter of which is aided by some poignant narration by John Billingsley. Cold Front picks up the thread of the Temporal Cold War plot arc from Broken Bow and tangles it a bit more, in a stylish manner reminiscent of Deep Space Nine or The X-Files at those series' heights. Unfortunately, this tangled yarn comes undone in the largely incomprehensible season finale, Shockwave.

The quality of the writing, in particular the plotting, takes a nosedive towards the end of the season, when we are faced by duds such as the dull Rogue Planet, the derivative Oasis, the uninspired Fallen Hero, and the tiresome Two Days and Two Nights.

In addition to 24 episodes plus the pilot, this box set contains more than 90 minutes of extra features, including insights into the creation of the show, the making of Shuttlepod One, actor profiles on leading man Scott Bakula and the multi-talented Vaughn Armstrong, as well as deleted scenes from eight episodes. These featurettes aren't particularly revelatory, but it's refreshing to hear Brannon Braga admitting that the series isn't as popular as it might have been. In addition, Broken Bow is accompanied by an audio commentary by Braga and Rick Berman, while this and two other episodes can be viewing with an on-screen text commentary by Denise and Michael Okuda.

The menus are nice, though for some reason the control panel sound effects from the Voyager DVDs are reused here. More authentic Enterprise sounds would have been appreciated.

All round, this isn't a bad season, though tedium does begin to set in towards the end. Still, it could have been much worse - it could have been Season 2.

Richard McGinlay

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£63.74 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
£73.99 (MVC.co.uk)
   
£84.99 (Moviemail-online.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.