Season three of “Star Trek: Enterprise” is one of the finest seasons of “Star Trek” ever created. When the series first began, it was much like the older series in the franchise (“The Original Series” and “The Next Generation”) in that they were a series of individual adventures, where there tended to be a new challenge or a new alien species to deal with week after week. By the end of the second season, the showrunners knew that some kind of change had to occur. They couldn’t just keep doing what they had been doing, not if they wanted to keep the show fresh and original. What they came up with was just what was needed to take it to the next level.
At the end of season two, you may recall that Earth was attacked by a probe that resulted in the death of seven million people. Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew were given the task of finding those responsible (“The Xindi”) before they can finish the job, which requires them to take Enterprise into an unknown, unstable part of space called “The Expanse.” Instead of wrapping up this story in just a few episodes, the showrunners bravely set forth to take the entire season to tell the story. Sure, there were episodes that ended up having nothing to do with the overall arc, but for the most part, each episode added more and more to the exciting tale that had the Enterprise facing new dangers at every turn as Earth’s only hope for survival.
While it is somewhat hard to talk about individual episodes from an arc without giving too much away, I would like to try and highlight some of the greatest episodes of the season. One of my all-time favorite “Enterprise” episodes, not just of this season, but of the entire series, is called “Stratagem.” The episode begins with Archer and Degra, the designer of the Xindi weapon, in a shuttle as they escape from some Xindi trying to destroy them. According to Archer, Earth has been destroyed, and he and Degra have spent the last three years in prison. Degra has no recollection of this, but for very good reason as we discover as the episode progresses. I don’t want to give too much away here, but it’s a pivotal episode that mixes everything we love about “Star Trek” with “The Sting,” resulting in an episode that twists and turns before coming to an ending that will have your jaw on the floor.
Other great episodes that correlate directly to the arc would have to include the last few, the season finale “Zero Hour” in particular. The build-up in these final episodes is incredible. Just when you think everything is about to be solved in an amiable fashion, more twists and turns occur that prevent such an easy solution from happening. With enough tension to cut with a knife, these are some of the most exciting episodes that the series came up with in its entire four-season run. I know I’m not giving any details at all here, but it’s really much more effective if you get there without knowing one bit of what’s going to happen.
There were also several fantastic episodes that didn’t have much to do with the arc at all. Another one of my favorites from the third season is an episode called “Impulse.” The premise here is basically “zombies on a starship,” featuring Archer and an away team responding to a Vulcan distress signal. They board the ship only to find that the oar the Vulcans were trying to collect from the surrounding asteroid field has caused parts of their brain to break down (more specifically the part that helps them control their emotions), causing them to go crazy. It’s fascinating to see “Star Trek” take on the horror genre like this. The result is thrilling and pulse-pounding, just like any good horror film.
Another really good episode was “Similitude,” which involves the ship’s engineer, Trip (Connor Trinneer), getting seriously injured. This leads Archer to order Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) to create a clone of Trip for spare parts. It may seem like a really random time to bring up the issue of cloning, but the episode presents the questions in an interesting fashion. The crew desperately needs their engineer to help complete their mission to save Earth, but that doesn’t stop the decision of whether or not to sacrifice the living, breathing clone from being a difficult and morally questionable one.
As usual, there were also some that weren’t among the best. In fact, you could say they were downright bad. In season three, such episodes included “Extinction,” an episode that even showrunner Brannon Braga admitted was one of the most embarrassing they’d ever made. It’s a very silly story that has Archer and some of the crew getting transformed into aliens after they visit a planet. Not only does it have nothing to do with the arc, but it also ends up being a pretty dull episode. There’s also the episode “North Star,” which was a random attempt to throw a western into the show. Again, it’s an episode that feels like it has no place with the rest, and once more it’s pretty flat and boring.
Luckily, they don’t detract from how great this season is. This was only the second time that the “Star Trek” franchise had been bold enough to try an arc (the first time being the excellent Dominion War arc on “Deep Space Nine”), but from its great success, it’s a wonder they didn’t try it sooner. Individual adventures are fine, but nothing really grabs an audience’s interest like a story where most of the episodes add up to one thrilling story. It’s one thing to have everything resolved in just an hour, but something quite different to have to wait until the end of the season to see it through. The showrunners and writers are to be commended for recognizing that a change was needed, and even more so for the amazing quality they delivered. Season three of “Star Trek: Enterprise” is an unforgettable experience, showing just how great this misunderstood show could be.
Season three comes to Blu-ray in a 16:9, 1080p High Definition that once again makes the show look better than it ever has. The details and coloring are sharp and crisp, very important elements for a show that is heavily effects-based. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise astounding, allowing for the score, dialogue, and every little sound effect to come through perfectly clear. Just like with season two, you could scarcely ask for better quality than this.
In a Time of War: A fantastic three-part retrospective about the season three arc. Through interviews with cast and crew, we are taken through how the arc came about, including how the showrunners knew that something had to change and how that change was influenced by 9/11. These 90 minutes also include parts of the arc that some cast members weren’t too happy with, actors that became regulars during this season sharing their experiences, and a certain controversial idea that was floating around as to how to end the season. It’s very much worth taking the time to watch as there’s a plethora of fascinating tidbits to be learned here.
Temporal Cold War: Declassified: Another great featurette, this time focusing on the Temporal Cold War that was never completed. Showrunner Brannon Braga and cast discuss where it would have gone had they had enough time to come back to it. Much of these 20 minutes is also devoted to an interview with Matt Winston (Daniels) and his experiences as the temporal agent trying to guide Archer in the right direction. This too is very much worth watching for the great bits of info.
Newly Recorded Commentaries on Select Episodes: Great little commentaries featuring writers, directors, and other members of the production team discussing various aspects of these select episodes.
Archival Mission Logs and Commentaries: As with season two, everything that was on the DVDs has been transferred over to the Blu-rays. This includes several in-depth interviews with cast and crew, outtakes, and images. Definitely worth seeing.
Deleted Scenes from Select Episodes: It’s just what it sounds like. Worth taking a look at to see what didn’t quite make the final cuts.
These outstanding extras only go towards making a great release even better. The new featurettes are particularly worth seeing because of the in-depth interviews with the cast and crew. They’ve even done a little better this time around at getting most of the special features on one disc (Disc Six). There’s still a couple of featurettes separated onto Disc One, but at least you don’t have to load in several to get to them all. I’ve already said it a few times, but I’ll say it once more: season three of “Star Trek: Enterprise” was a fantastic season of a great show. This outstanding release is the definitive version and is a must-own. Anyone who counts themselves as a serious Trekkie would do well to pick this up ASAP.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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