Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 4

Starring: Scott Bakula
RRP: 84.99
Certificate: 12
Available 31 October 2005

Captain Archer and the crew of the starship
Enterprise have little time to recover from their ordeals in the Delphic Expanse before they are forced to contend with Nazis in 20th-century America, augmented humans created during the Eugenics Wars, a civil war on Vulcan, genetically altered Klingons and anti-alien bigotry on Earth...

Reprieved from cancellation following the third season, the makers of Enterprise were acutely aware that the fourth year could well be the show's last. Therefore, they pulled out all the stops to bring us a season that is not only exciting - following the year-long Xindi arc of the previous season, this one comprises an innovative combination of standalone episodes and two- and three-part serials - but also ties up loose threads from either end of the Star Trek franchise.

The opening two-parter, Storm Front, rounds off not only the cliffhanger ending to the previous season, but also Archer's dealings with Daniels (Matt Winston), Silik (John Fleck) and the whole Temporal Cold War. The three-part Borderland/Cold Station 12/The Augments brings together Brent Spiner as an ancestor of Data's creator, Dr Soong, and genetically engineered humans from the Eugenics Wars that also spawned Kahn from the Original Series episode Space Seed. The Forge/Awakening/Kir'Shara offers a virtual checklist of Vulcan continuity references, including Surak (TOS's The Savage Curtain), T'Pau (TOS's Amok Time), the Forge (first mentioned in Deep Space Nine's Change of Heart and subsequently depicted in a number of Trek novels) and sehlats (TOS's Journey to Babel). Journey is further prefaced by the establishment of a Coalition of Planets involving the Andorians, Tellarites (who learn to work together in Babel One/United/The Aenar), humans, Vulcans and Coridans (referred to in Demons, though it is debatable whether the alien ambassador who mentions Coridan is actually a Coridan himself). Affliction/Divergence makes a lot of fanboys like me very happy by explaining how the smooth-headed Klingons of TOS came about. Both Borderland and Bound feature the green-skinned Orions, while the two-part In a Mirror, Darkly brings together elements from TOS's Mirror, Mirror and The Tholian Web. And that's not all: there are also some Organians (TOS's Errand of Mercy), a Gorn (TOS's Arena) and a precursor of Section 31 (DS9) in there for good measure!

Much of the credit for this elaborate, yet remarkably not off-putting, continuity must go to co-producer/writer Michael Sussman, himself a huge fan of The Original Series, and co-producers/writers Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens, the authors or co-authors of numerous Trek novels.

The highlight of the season is undoubtedly the Mirror Universe two-parter. My enjoyment of the preceding episodes was ever so slightly marred by my eagerness to get to this story. In a Mirror, Darkly is set entirely within the Mirror Universe, so it can be viewed out of broadcast order - therefore I recommend that you can dive straight in! As well as showing us the Mirror counterparts of all the familiar characters - the most eyebrow-raising of all being the bed-hopping Hoshi (Linda Park) - this story also features the painstaking re-creation of a 1960s starship, the Defiant. Production designer Herman Zimmerman, aided enormously by prior research carried out by scenic artist Doug Drexler during the making of DS9's Trials and Tribble-ations, not only convinces us that we are aboard an Original Series vessel, but does so without making the Defiant seem less advanced than the ships of the 22nd century. The futuristic illusion is aided by the smooth, uncluttered lines and more spacious nature of Matt Jeffries' original design.

My second favourite story is the Vulcan three-parter. I was surprised that a serial set on the planet of the logical, pointy-eared people could be so gripping and entertaining. You may feel that Vulcan High Command boss V'Las (Robert Foxworth) is overly emotional, but the story's conclusion sets that aspect to rights.

Affliction/Divergence is no slouch either in the edge-of-seat storytelling department, especially during the "Star Trek does Speed" sequence in which the starships Columbia and Enterprise attempt a personnel exchange at high-warp velocity.

The three-part Augment story is also very exciting, being only slightly marred by the rather pat ending. We get the idea that Soong is an ancestor of the man who created Data, without having it spelt for us.

In fact, the only two episodes of this season that could be described as weak are Daedalus and the series finale, These are the Voyages... Daedalus's Dr Emory Erickson (Bill Cobbs) is too similar to Dr Richard Daystrom in the TOS episode The Ultimate Computer. Both men are once-great scientists struggling to eclipse their earlier achievements - with lethal results.

It's a real shame that the final episode is such a stinker. It's not all bad, but the regulars, particularly Trip (Connor Trinneer) and T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), seem out of character. When did Trip become so prone to panic? The involvement of Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) from The Next Generation could also have been handled better. The tie-in to the episode The Pegasus is of questionable relevance and could be confusing to viewers who might not remember the story all that well. There's the added irony of the fact that the NX-01 crew are supposed be a decade older (this episode is set in 2161) while Frakes and Sirtis are pretending to a decade younger. Why not instead show Riker and Troi post-Nemesis, on a new mission aboard the USS Titan?

The preceding two-parter, Demons/Terra Prime, is a far more satisfying conclusion to the saga.

Though the show was cancelled before it could reach the hitherto taken-for-granted run of seven seasons, Star Trek: Enterprise did at least survive longer than The Original Series, which managed only three. And the fourth season links in so well with TOS that the two shows could almost be lumped together and re-branded as one, seven-season, 178-episode franchise. Is this a Paramount marketing ploy in the making?

At just 22 episodes long, this season is even shorter than Season 3. However, there is the added viewing pleasure of informative text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda for The Forge, In a Mirror, Darkly - Part II and These are the Voyages... In a Mirror, Darkly is unusually blessed in the commentary department, as both episodes are accompanied by audio commentaries by Michael Sussman and startrek.com editorial director Tim Gaskill. Meanwhile, Terra Prime can be viewed with a commentary by Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens and Tim Gaskill.

The final disc contains an hour and a half of extra features, including a look Inside the Mirror Episodes; an examination of the many links with earlier (or, in terms of chronology, later) Star Trek series; a spotlight on Porthos, the Captain's dog; and the development of Michael Westmore's make-up design for Dr Phlox (John Billingsley). This season's photo gallery contains a generous selection of images from In a Mirror, Darkly.

Despite its relative brevity, the sheer quality of this season makes it easily the best one in Enterprise's run, and a strong contender for the finest season of Star Trek ever.

Richard McGinlay

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