Star Trek: Enterprise Season One Review



Although it seems as though the idea of the prequel has only become common currency in the last twenty years or so, its use as a dramatic device goes back to the earliest records of human storytelling we have. The fact that the audience knows the ultimate fate of the characters they are watching, intrinsically linked with the notion of Predestination, was one of the cornerstones of early mythology, the Ancient Greeks regularly using it in their plays as one of the fundamental cores of Tragedy, the idea that no matter what we do we are inextricably linked to our eventual fate and, indeed, by our very actions are causing that fate to occur. Throughout the ages subsequent storytellers, especially playwrights, have found this one of the richest seams of drama there could be – Shakespeare delighted in it, whether it be the Prologue telling the audience Romeo and Juliet must die, or teasing Macbeth with a cryptic prediction of his own downfall - right up to the present day: the whole basis of American Beauty, for example, is based around the fact that practically the first thing the audience learns is that the lead character is going to die in exactly one year. Of course it only works if it’s done well – if your characters aren’t sufficiently interesting then no one really cares how they end up (I may lose some readers but a recently ended prequel trilogy suffers from this: if it wasn’t for the fact we knew he was going to turn into the Coolest Villain Ever, would we really have cared what happened?)

But does Predestination work if the end is not tragic? If we know the ending is happy and bright, does that lessen the impact of the journey, and indeed make it null and void? This was the question that was posed by the debut of Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek series to enter production but the first to boldly go backwards and not forwards in time. Leaving aside the continuity aspects for a moment, would a series in which we knew we would see the Federation form and enter a cold war with the Klingons (well, that’s what we thought at the time) have enough appeal to warrant watching a potential seven seasons? Could that journey be made sufficiently interesting? Or is it a concept that would ultimately only appeal to an ever-decreasing audience of hardcore fans?

The decision to forward the franchise with Enterprise was certainly an intriguing one. Voyager, no matter how much its ardent fans may protest, was rubbish, season after season of bland, uninteresting tales populated by a bland, uninteresting crew. It squandered the initial promise it showed in its superb premiere Caretaker (which I still think, despite what followed, is the most rounded and satisfying of all the Trek pilots), constantly taking the easy route and never being brave enough to try and do something genuinely new. Each previous incarnation of Trek had somehow pushed the boundary or expanded its universe’s horizons, but Voyager just coasted along, content with its own mediocrity and reliance on technobabble.

The franchise definitely needed something new. Arguably what it really needed was a complete break, a few years away from the small screen to try and regroup and decide whether there was a future in the future any more. Of course, money and UPN dictated otherwise (not that the producers were complaining) and so instead we got Enterprise. It was not, in the end, that much of a surprise – the idea of a prequel series goes back to the 1980s when Trek film producer Harve Bennett pitched the idea of a film based around Starfleet Academy, a sort of Beverly Hills 90210 with aliens – and, as Voyager had shown, a different direction was definitely needed. There was no way the current production team, who, unsurprisingly after fourteen years of continuous production, could have mustered up much enthusiasm or energy for yet another series set in the twenty-fourth century, so the idea of going back in time was sensible, a slightly different design challenge and maybe a chance to tell a different kind of story. This would be a series with more realistic characters, characters whose reactions to events would mirror what ours would be if in the same situations. Unlike Picard et al, these people would get wound up if things went wrong, they wouldn’t all be perfect examples of the human race, they would reflect more closely how it would be if the average Joe from today found himself on a space ship. They would have nerves, phobias, prejudices and so on. In addition, all the Star Trek conventions that have become part of the integral background to the show would be eliminated – there would be no Federation to refer diplomatic problems to, there would be no cavalry to call on if things got hairy with an alien race, and there would definitely be no rules about non-interference with alien cultures. Every alien encounter this crew experienced, every challenge they faced, they would have to find solutions to on the spot, surviving by the skin of their teeth rather than two hundred years of past experience. For the first time in many years, they really would be going boldly where no man had gone before. In short, the makers wanted to capture that frontiersman spirit that The Original Series (TOS) had in spades, and which has been ingrained in American culture ever since Christopher Columbus first set sail in 1492. A real back-to-basics voyage to the stars.



But just how committed were the creators to this total reset button? At times during the first season you do wonder as a lot of the changes feel more cosmetic rather than a proper fundamental shift, like leaving off the Star Trek prefix on the title (although all the packaging of this DVD set insists the prefix does belong there, one can only assume to provide uniformity with the latter seasons sets). Changing the style of the opening sequence does not a new series make: showing mankind’s progression to the stars is fitting, but even here the end shot of the ship warping off reminds us what we are watching while the decision to have a title song rather than an orchestral number works well enough (although the actual song’s lyrics, while matching the theme of the show, are deeply banal) but isn’t exactly revolutionary. Past the opening titles, the show’s stated intention to start the show at a level closer to our present day than the era of Picard & co only gets a half-hearted treatment. The Universal Translator is already up and running and works remarkably well most of the time, with Hoshi, the communications officer, only experiencing difficulty with it a couple of times the entire season (as though the writers suddenly remember things weren’t meant to be this easy). The transporter, too, which we are told in the pilot has only just been passed “for biomatter” is used twice within the first ten episodes to get people out of trouble – the use in the pilot is fitting enough but its subsequent employment in "The Andorian Incident" feels like too much too soon, and its use is suggested at least once more during the season, by which time the risk seems almost to have been forgotten – hardly the first steps on a long journey, more like picking up half way through. The ship also comes equipped with “protein resequencers” (replicators) and phase pistols, which seem as good as latter-day phasers to me, while it’s only five episodes before we, through Trip, encounter a holodeck, a concept around which an entire episode is built later on in the run. Renaming things isn’t enough – “polarising the hull plating” doesn’t make them shields any the less – and if the only actual evolution of such things during the series was to rename stuff, that’s not an especially thrilling prospect.

Similarly, there seems at times an almost wilful desire by the creators to subvert the premise of the series by having the crew encounter things they really shouldn’t, examples including Nausicaans and three episodes based around the ship heading for and then arriving at Risa (okay, the TOS crew may just never have mentioned them, but surely TNG-era references like this should be avoided wherever possible - this is meant to be a new start, after all.) The most anachronistic episode is one called “Acquisition” in which the ship is invaded by four Ferengi, which any fan will tell you is at least two centuries too early. This episode showcases another questionable decision made by the makers, namely bringing in actors who have appeared in Trek in the past to play new parts. A first season is a crucial time for a show, in which it has to establish its own identity, and bringing back familiar faces, no matter how good they are, can only serve as a distraction from this. People such as Vaughn Armstrong and Jeffrey Combs (both of whom appear in two different roles during the season) are bad enough – although their make-up is different, both are distinctive enough (especially Combs’ voice) to be recognisable – but bringing back regulars Ethan Philips and Rene Auberjonois is just wrong – Auberjonois, in particular, is instantly recognisable. “Acquisition” again wins bonus points in this regard – not only does it have Philips and Combs putting on the lobes, but also Clint “Balok” Howard, although admittedly the fact he was a child in TOS’ “The Corbomite Manoeuvre” excuses his presence somewhat. The episode is admittedly an enjoyable one, but its very existence presents all that is most questionable about some of the decisions made during the first year.

One thing that the show does get absolutely right is its look. Before starting work, it must have seemed an almost impossible job for the designers to strike a balance between making the ship look vaguely as though it could eventually beget Kirk’s ship and the advances in technology the real world has made in the past forty years. Some of the things envisaged as impossibly futuristic in the Sixties now seem almost quaint, the most obvious example being the communicator. Trying to make Enterprise look both futuristic to us while old-fashioned to Captain Kirk must have felt like a temporal paradox even Brannon Braga couldn’t worm his way out of but in the end Dan Curry and his team get it almost exactly right, striking a sensible balance between nods to the past (or, in this case, the future) and not looking totally ridiculous to a twenty-first century audience. Admittedly, there’s no way you can believe the Enterprise seen here is an earlier model to that captained by Kirk (both externally and internally its look is far more complex and sophisticated, reflecting the different scale of budget the two series had), but details such as the TOS-style communicator and T’Pol’s Spock-like viewing screen on the bridge help fill the gaps. The engine room has the most impressive design in this regard – an acceptable look for us but easy to believe it would subsequently develop into the room Scotty worked from (relatively speaking), but even something as simple as the first transporter looks spot on (which makes its relative overuse all the more regrettable). The uniforms have the same colour-coding as the Kirk era, but also emphasise a different design ethic: whereas TOS revelled in its bright, primary colour look for both its costumes and sets Enterprise opts for a dour, greyish palate, the crew's standardised dark blue uniforms and the ship’s dull interiors reflecting the intention to make it feel more like a deep-sea submarine than a space-age vessel (see also the more narrow corridors and lower ceilings).



Ultimately, though, all comparison of the series’ relationship to the other Treks and how they all interlock is extraneous – what matters most is whether the characters and stories themselves are up to scratch. As Voyager learnt the hard way, you can look as good as you like, but if you don’t have the characters it is an ultimately worthless exercise. Fortunately Enterprise is blessed with a stronger cast than its immediate predecessor, and one that ensures that even the duller episodes aren’t completely without merit. The casting of Scott Bakula as Captain Archer was a bit of a coup, an excellent choice for a leading man and one worthy to take command of an Enterprise. No one will need reminding of how good he was in Quantum Leap, so he was already a proven commodity when he was cast, and he continues to shine here. He has an authority about the bridge that befits the first interstellar explorer, combining the right mixture of gravitas and humour that was essential to the role. He can be tough when he needs to be, facing down the latest alien menace, but he’s also an approachable captain, his door always open to troubled crewmembers, a man utterly removed from the aloofness that has affected, in one form or another, all the Captains from the modern era of Star Trek. (His dog Porthos is a useful shortcut to showing this is a more down to earth man, and is a nice touch, although speaking as someone who used to have a beagle, let me just say it is a breed entirely unsuited to the confining nature of space travel – in reality, Archer would come back to his quarters every night to find everything in a mess and anything that could be chewed to destruction).

A Captain is only as good, though, as the men who serve under him, and it becomes immediately apparent that his relationship with his two immediate cohorts, Vulcan Science Officer T’Pol and Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker, is designed specifically to emulate that of TOS' triumvirate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy, even down to Trip having a southern accent. Connor Trinneer has enough charming screen presence to excuse the fact that Trip has little to no actual character about him this first season, acting mainly as a younger foil for Archer, even reacting in the same way to the various situations they find themselves (most notably, in their attitude towards the Vulcans). He has an easy-going personality but we learn little about what makes him tick, other than women and his engines. Jolene Blalock as Vulcan T’Pol, meanwhile, has arguably the greatest burden of Trek history resting on her shoulders, even more so than Bakula. As a Vulcan Science Officer, she suffers inevitable comparisons with Leonard Nimoy, but she holds herself well and manages to walk the fine line between playing a convincing Vulcan and descending into parody. Despite repeated assertions throughout the season that she is as emotionless as the rest of her race, her attitudes and actions often say otherwise, her most common attributes being annoyance at the illogical decisions of her fellow crewmembers and, shockingly, a dry sense of humour. Because of this, it’s no surprise when, in the late season episode “Fusion”, she is tempted to the “dark side” of emotionality by another Vulcan who has rejected the ways of his forefathers and embraced a less logical lifestyle. Blalock’s performance, in which she drops the reserved cautiousness of her character, is at times pleasingly nuanced, and even though one suspects her occasional dropping of the expressionless mask at key points is a little bit indulgent, its forgivable given the arc the character is travelling in her journey to appreciate her human companions more, and helps give the character a lightness she would otherwise not have had. (The portrayal of the Vulcans in general in the series has been questioned, but their belligerent and patronising attitude towards humans seems entirely correct - they don't want these ape-like creatures messing everything up).

Indeed, all of the cast do their part to keep the series watchable, and an argument could be that the ensemble, while not as diverse in character as Deep Space Nine’s, is as good overall as The Next Generation’s - okay, there’s no Picard or Data or even Worf among this lot, but affectionate familiarity with the crew of the NCC-1701-D mustn’t allow us to forget that individuals such as Riker, Dr Crusher and Geordi la Forge were not especially thrilling to watch (casting no aspersions on Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden or LeVar Burton, all fine actors saddled with mediocre parts). Even this crew’s less-well developed members are played by capable actors, most notably Anthony Montgomery’s Travis Mayweather, a young enthusiastic ensign in the Harry Kim mould, who Montgomery infuses with an infectious joie de vivre light years ahead of Garrett Wang’s dull delivery. The least successful casting is probably Dominic Keating as Malcolm Reed – the weapons technician is noted as a rather staid, quiet character in the show (in one episode Archer even says “We don’t really know that much about [him]”) who even his family don’t seem especially interested in and who Keating, except on rare occasions, doesn’t really do much with. Worse, his one chance at a grandstanding performance, in the overrated episode “Shuttlepod One” is completely blown, his crass overplaying of the last few scenes spoiling any tension the situation has and coming close to derailing the entire episode. Meanwhile, one should feel most sorry for John Billingsley. His character, Dr Phlox, seems a virtual afterthought by the makers, who seem to have given him nothing more than a name and a jolly outlook on life (as the actor himself says, he was given no background or guidance at the beginning of shooting other than his brief appearance in the pilot) but who Billingsley still manages to play with gusto at all times. At no point does Phlox ever approach a real character, even in the context of the series (even his one key episode, “Dear Doctor”, ends up short-changing him, leaving the big moral issue to be decided by Archer) but the actor’s playing of him makes up for a lot, coming across as a less annoying version of Neelix. To round off the actors, Linda Park takes good advantage in the early episodes of her character’s initial nervousness of the travails of space exploration, but is all but forgotten later on, becoming little more than a walking Universal Translator (she even comments at one point “On Earth I learnt 38 languages but now all I do is push a button and the computer does all the work.”) It’s notable that Enterprise only has seven leads compared with Deep Space Nine’s eight (or nine, following Worf’s arrival) and Voyager’s nine, a sensible decision that ensures each gets more screen time and is less short changed. All get at least one episode focusing on them, although this is to various degrees of success: it’s notable that stories about characters outside the Archer-T’Pol-Trip triumvirate feel a lot more forced than those about them (compare, say, the T’Pol subplot of “Shadows of P’Jem” with Mayweather’s in “Favourite Son”) suggesting that, once again, this is not as much an ensemble show as it would like, rather fitting for a show that seeks to emulate TOS. Overall, though, the cast are a smart crew who are consistently entertaining to watch and who are able, when necessary, to rise above mediocre material.



And at times they have to. Enterprise manages to raise Trek’s game regarding individual episodes that it has sunk into over the past few years, but there are still plenty of recognisable Braga-era traits to be found. There are a few episodes which are resolved in technobabble, and a few that are resolved too neatly in the last few minutes (watch out for “Fight or Flight”, only the second episode of the entire series, in which everything suddenly starts working just at the moment of crisis, for an example). But there are other episodes in which the captain is faced with difficult decisions, that don’t paint sides as easily black and white as they could be, and endings that aren’t always as clear cut as they could be. Should Archer condemn a sentient species to a genetic death just because it is the natural order of things? Should he help a group of persecuted terrorists whose only form of protest is in violent attacks? The portrayal of the Suliban as a three-dimensional race who aren’t all in the evil Cabal, is a pleasing example of this, although the episode “Detained” pushes this too much, being a little too obvious and on the nose for its own good (almost as though the writers are yelling at the viewers “Hey, look what we’re doing here!”) but generally there is more in these episodes than you might expect. Although I would question a couple of the Captain’s decisions (especially in the episode “Dear Doctor”) the very fact they provoke discussion makes a nice change.

Off-setting this, though, are a couple of problems. First of all, the dialogue is too often staid and functional, rather than that spoken by real flesh-and-blood people. There is precious little wit to be found here (with the notable exception of a scene in “Breaking the Ice” in which the crew answer questions from the school children, perhaps the most natural moment in the entire season), while characters have that old Trek tendency to launch into a long story about their past that helps illustrate a moral for the benefit of another character. The effort to make the crew more like us today rather than the TNG-era vision of perfection is mainly found in the way they say things like “butt” and make offensive remarks to the Vulcans to their faces. There is also, notoriously, the decision to sex it all up, crassly chasing that all-important 16-25 male demographic with all the subtly of a photon torpedo hitting a warp nacelle. T’Pol suffers the same indignity that Seven of Nine did and is forced into a ridiculous form-fitting catsuit which is completely at odds with the wardrobe we’ve seen every other Vulcan ever wearing (for which we should be thankful: the thought of seeing that woman who resurrected Spock in Star Trek 3 in similar garb is not a happy one). She also suffers the odd indignity - there’s a scene in “Shadows of P’Jem” that I really hope was meant to be deeply ironic (although somehow I doubt it) in which Archer and T’Pol are tied together and, in the course of trying to wriggle free, end up in several compromising positions. (Surprisingly, given the many nods to TOS, Archer comes across as being rather a sexless Captain – despite quasi-romances in “Civilisation” and “Two Days and Two Nights” he gives the impression of having loftier goals on his mind, leaving Trip and Malcolm to be the principal skirt-chasers of the group). In “Shuttlepod One”, we are even told, through Malcolm (in a scene alluded to above) that the Vulcan has a nice bum, and are treated to a dream sequence in which T’Pol comes on to him (it’s meant to be a bit of fun, but still, if it wasn’t about sex I doubt it would be there – how many non-sexual slapstick sequences appear in any of the episodes? I count precisely none).The worst offenders in this regard are those scenes set in the Decon Chamber, there for little other than to watch characters rubbing their scantily-clad bodies with gel – a point made clear in the pilot episode, which features several lovingly lingering close-ups of T’Pol doing just that. Although luckily this sexing up isn’t prominent in a lot of episodes, it sticks out like a sore thumb (no pun intended) when it is, which is a shame. If the efforts didn’t come across as so blatant (and almost desperate), bringing a bit of real passion into the largely sterile world of Trek would be a good thing but unfortunately the blunt manner of how it is done here has a cynicism which is tiresome rather than sensual.



The success of the over-riding story arcs is mixed too. The idea of a Temporal Cold War is one I have no problem with, even though it does sound as though it comes from fan fiction rather than the proper thing. However, its use in Enterprise specifically is deeply questionable. The biggest problem, and one that many fans picked up on the moment the pilot had finished, was the question: Is this thing just a giant reset button? As soon as the show’s basic premise was announced, Trek historians got cross, demanding to know how the creators were going to make this idea remotely feasible given there had never been the slightest indication before now in any of the other series that this ship, and this crew, had existed – as far as they were concerned, the first Enterprise was the one Kirk commanded, and her first commander was Robert April (although even that was never confirmed in the television canon). The Temporal Cold War, it was suggested, was a possible way out of this problem - wasn’t there a chance that the last episode of the series would completely wipe out Archer and co from the pages of history, making it as though they had never existed? Even though I doubt this was ever a serious proposition for Berman & Braga, they could have considered that the fans may have thought this – the implication being, why should anyone watch a series that was ultimately going to amount to nothing? The other problem is that, cool name aside, the War is rather underwhelming in its execution. The Suliban’s attack in the pilot is effective, but after that the effects of the Temporal Cold War are next to none in the show. Where are the cool time paradoxes, where are the tangible effects of the timeline being meddled with? Instead we see some shadowy guy giving instructions from the future and Daniels giving Archer a pretty light show in his cabin. The cliffhanger at the end of the season isn’t a thriller either – we all know Archer is going to get back and resolve things, so there is little tension, while seeing a devastated future is not nearly as effective as seeing a devastated present. It would, of course, be wrong to have the arc affecting the series more than it does, and it’s to the writers’ credit that they don’t resort to it more often than they do (really only one episode between the pilot and season finale) but when they do come to it again, surely something a bit more exciting could have been concocted around it?

The other arc, namely the gradual expansion of human influence in the galaxy, is touched on only lightly throughout this premiere season, and is a lot more successful. Given what we know of how the series developed over the next three years, it’s just as well not everything was based around what was the initial raison d’etre of the entire show, to show the foundations being laid for all the other Treks, but the couple of minor nods to it we get in these episodes are enough to make one regret that the genesis of the Federation wasn’t explored further. The two mentions we get of the need for a Prime Directive are very ham-fisted (even the actors manage to stress the words, just in case any in the audience miss their significance – watch out for Blalock’s “directive” dialogue) but the slowly spreading reputation of the Enterprise’s voyages amongst the other species in the sector is nicely done, referencing past episodes a lot more often than has been done in the past. There is the feeling that Archer’s decisions are as significant as we are told they are, and it’s a shame that things weren’t allowed to continue like this for a lot longer than they subsequently were. For once, the traditional Trek ethos of each episode being its own specific unit suits the series premise, each week a different encounter with new beings, each week a new chance to enhance or sully the Earth’s reputation among the stars. In this regard, the series succeeds in being primarily about exploration, no mean feat considering the quadrant they are flying through has already been thoroughly mapped in the earlier incarnations of Trek. This gradual enhancing of the crew’s knowledge of the cosmos, and their place in it, works well and is a real strength to the show.

Overall, then, it’s a funny old thing, then, this first season of Enterprise. It’s not in the same league as TNG and even DS9, but it’s easy to see that the writers are trying to do something new with the franchise. It’s just that, after fourteen years, they’ve become so stuck in a rut they don’t really know how to get out of it. The premise of the show reflects how they must have felt, trying to reverse time and get back to basics, but it ultimately proves much harder to forget what’s gone before than expected. Its strengths are a good cast, nice design and good intentions, but its weaknesses are primarily still the scripting. There are indications that, slowly, the rut is being broken out of, but that it would take time. There are plenty of flaws, and a lot of the episodes feel like rehashes of past instalments, but somehow it gets by. There’s enough in this first season to merit continuing the journey, and if anything perhaps Enterprise suffers most from having joined the party too late in the day. It’s not great, but it’s better than one might expect, and it turns out that seeing the birth of the Federation is a tantalising prospect after all. This is a season of cautious optimism, the hope of both the characters and the writers to expand beyond what they’ve already done and develop something really new and exciting. A shame it didn’t happen, but, as the Temporal Cold War illustrates, knowledge of the future should never affect enjoyment of the present. Entertaining.




The Disks
The season is presented on seven dual-layered single-sided disks. The disks are housed in a complex case which is similar in construction to how the other Trek series have been issued. An outer hard plastic case detaches to reveal the disk holder within, covered in a protective sleeve of plastic. The holder itself is made of a strong plastic and opens up like a book, each disk on a new page. As such, the disks are not as immediately accessible as a simple fold-up case, but the whole construction is sturdy and built to last, and is rather stylish. The set also comes with a small flyer for Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (“Beam up the showgirls, Scotty,” is its principal tagline apparently) and a nicely put together twelve page booklet about the season, with a guide to which episodes are on which disk and a synopsis for each, as well as a general introduction.

The disks themselves also have the names of the episodes they hold on them, together with the stardate. Each disk besides the last holds four episodes, the last having the remaining two and all the extras bar the deleted scenes and the commentaries (obviously). The menus open with a short CGI shot of the Enterprise leaving space dock, and are designed to look like one of the computer displays from the show, complete with appropriate noises. The main menus list the four episodes, with each episode having its own submenu, consisting of Launch, Communications (audio options), Chapter Log, and, if there are any, deleted scenes. All episodes and extras are subtitled with the exception of the audio commentary and the Borg Invasion trailer.

Video
Being the first Star Trek series to be filmed in the DVD-era, the video quality is considerably better than some of the other series transfers. However, there is a layer of grain over most of the lighter scenes which doesn't spoil the viewing experience but is there if you look for it. The image is also surprisingly soft at times, an unexpected problem given how it was filmed.

Audio
Very nice. The surround sound is used a lot and to good effect, and both the dialogue and music is clear and resonant. An excellent audio track.


Extras

Commentary on Broken Bow
Interesting and informative commentary on the pilot episode from creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. They are aware of the criticisms levelled at the show and take time to explain their decisions, as well as going through the creative process that went into making the show, and also comment on the specifics of filming this episode. Good.

Text Commentaries
Mike and Denise Okuda, the living, breathing Star Trek encyclopaedias, provide text commentaries on three episodes. Anyone who already has a Trek DVD will be familiar with these, and these have the usual mix of trivia, commentary and the occasional blooper that crops up. For diehard Trekkers these are usually much more relevant than the verbal commentaries, and these are up to the same standard, and are well worth a read.

Deleted Scenes
Eight episodes come with this option. The way the missing bits are presented are to show in full the scenes in which they have been excised from. The broadcast part of these scenes are shown in black and white, turning to colour only when the bits cut out are shown, which works well. These scenes have the same picture quality as the episodes themselves, which makes one wonder whether they could have been branched in if the viewer so wishes, although almost without exception the omissions make the scenes in question stronger.

Creating Enterprise
“The Right Stuff of Star Trek” is how Rick Berman describes the series in this short featurette. Concentrating almost entirely on the development of the look of the series, in particular the sets, we hear nothing about the thought that went into creating the characters, which would seem to be a basic tenet of something with this title. Average.



O Captain! My Captain! A Profile of Scott Bakula
Not so much a profile of Scott Bakula as a hymn of praise, these nine minutes are made up almost entirely of his fellow cast members saying what a wonderful human being he is. Which is lovely but a bit of a shame as Bakula’s had an interesting, fun career and it would have been nice to have had a brief retrospective of him (anyone remember his starring role in the ill-fated The Invaders remake?). The other couple of minutes consist of mainly Bakula and Blalock talking about the character of Archer, which is more interesting.

Cast Impressions: Season One
The seven main stars each share a few first impressions of their time working on the series. As you would expect, everyone tows the party line of how great it is (one of the few enjoyable things about Voyager was wondering when Robert Beltran was going to shoot his mouth off again, although maybe we’ll get a grumpy Blalock come Season Four), this is fine for what it is and doesn’t feel put on by anyone.

Inside Shuttlepod One
A welcome look at the making of one particular episode. As with all these extras, there’s no depth but the surface being skimmed is sufficiently interesting this time around to merit the extra. Personally speaking, I think "Shuttlepod One" the episode is an excellent idea let down by some serious flaws in the script, but it’s not hard to see why this was the episode chosen to focus on, as it seems to have been a favourite of all those concerned with making it.

Star Trek Time Travel: Temporal Cold Wars and Beyond
An enjoyable look at the episodes in all Star Trek series dealing with time travel. After a couple of minutes looking at the Temporal Cold War, the rest of the time consists effectively of a slideshow of the different episodes, which works in a nicely nostalgic way (as well as revealing how many strong episodes have resulted from the theme). If I was a particularly sad fan, with nothing else to do with his time, I would question the inclusion of DS9’s "Far Beyond the Stars" and Voyager’s "Flashback" in the list as neither of them are, technically speaking, time travel shows, but luckily I’m not that anally retentive. An enjoyable extra.

Enterprise Secrets
David G Trotti, a 2nd Assistant Director on the show, takes us behind the scenes to show us how the Warp Core and Replicator really work. A very short extra (less than two minutes) but good fun, with the mischievous Trotti obviously enjoying his chance of appearing in front of the camera. At the end a caption promises “more Enterprise secrets coming soon.” The teases.

Admiral Forrest Takes Center Stage
Dear lord. Never have seen Vaughn Armstrong at a convention I can only presume that the song he treats us to at the beginning of this interview, devoted to what he would like to do with various females from the Trek series (sample line, about Seven of Nine: “You’re my queen bee, I wish you’d come assimilate me”), is his party piece at fan groupings. At least, I hope it is, and not something he’s made up at home late at night on his own. Fortunately, he then calms down and talks about his roles in this first season. He seems a happy, cheerful chap and his charm makes it clear why he was given an extra to himself on the disks (because, let’s be honest, a featurette about Admiral Forrest doesn’t sound the most thrilling of prospects) but let’s hope he never sings that song again.

NX-01 File 1-3
Probably the best extras on the disks, these three shorts each focus on a particular episode or theme of the series. In the first, Jolene Blalock completely won me over with her comparison of the Vulcans with the Catholic Church which shows she put more thought into the episodes than some of the writers evidently did. In the second, Dan Curry, Trek’s veteran visual effects producer, talks about the conception of the Klingon hall from Broken Bow, while the third has Geoffrey Mandel, a graphic artist on the series, discussing some of his favourite designs from the first season. Mandel goes into some detail about why he designed things the way he did, and we could have done with hearing more from him, and indeed from the other two. The irony is that these three so-called files appear to be considered Easter Eggs, as they are not highlighted on the Extras Menu (although they’re hardly difficult to find), but are much better than some of the others – again, if only they weren’t so brief!

Enterprise Outtakes
Nearly nine minutes of blunders, ranging from messed up lines to more messed up lines, with two pratfalls thrown in to break things up. There’s an amusing joke Bakula plays near the end, but aside from that I never find outtakes amusing and this selection hasn’t converted me.

Borg Invasion Trailer
This trailer for part of the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas makes the ride look great fun. This same trailer has popped up on other Trek DVDs in the past – watch out for the punter running from the Borg who is considerably slower than her companions – she’s had it, I tell you, she’s had it.


Overall
It’s not great but it turned out better than it could have been, and the twenty-six episodes here prove diverting enough. The style of the extras will be familiar to anyone with other Trek disks, the majority of the featurettes made up of bland platitudes about how much fun it is to work on the show. That said, there’s a large enough number on this set to allow some straying from the formula, and there are a couple of very enjoyable, if frustratingly brief, examples here. A good package.



Film
6 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
9 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 08:46:08

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