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Despite lower ratings and budgetary cutbacks (as evident in several ship-bound episodes with minimal casting), season 3 was equally strong as a showcase for the Enterprise regulars, with plenty of fan speculation rising from the sexy and soothing Vulcan "neuro-pressure" sessions between the insomniac Tucker (Connor Trinneer, better than ever) and T'Pol, whose hidden addiction to a toxic compound allows Jolene Blalock to mine the volatile depths of her character (who now sports a more appealing hairstyle and wardrobe). Meanwhile, security chief Reed (Dominick Keating) engages in heated competition with Major Hayes (reliable guest Steven Culp, from the first season of Desperate Housewives), the leader of NX-01's Military Assault Command Operation (or MACO), which Reed views with territorial suspicion. And while Enterprise still fumbled to develop the characters of Hoshi (Linda Park) and Travis (Anthony Montgomery), John Billingsley continued to bring clutch-player excellence to his role as Dr. Phlox in several highlight episodes including "Doctor's Orders" and "Similitude," the latter featuring equally strong work by Trinneer in an ethically complex (and fan-favorite) examination of the cloning--a typical example of Star Trek at its best.
The alternate timeline of "Twilight" also honors the classic Trek tradition, while "Harbinger" reveals the existence of the trans-dimensional Sphere Builders, whose moon-sized creations affect Enterprise throughout its season-long mission. Finally, the crucial appearances of blue-skinned Andorian Shran (Jeffrey Combs) bring both suspense and comic relief to the season's grim proceedings, adding depth and tentative alliance to Enterprise's pre-Federation politics--a crucial element that assumes greater importance with the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of "Zero Hour" and the surprises in store for season 4, which will bring Enterprise ever closer to the original Star Trek timeline.
Gathered on disc 7, the season 3 bonus features for Enterprise are consistent with features on seasons 1 and 2: Identical in presentation but different in content. The "Xindi Saga" featurette summarizes the creative and practical decisions that resulted in the season-long story arc; "Enterprise Profile" acknowledges the popularity of "Trip" Tucker and Connor Trinneer's successful effort to transcend the character's "hayseed" image; and "A Day in the Life of a Director" finds Roxann Dawson (aka B'Elanna Torres from Voyager) well in control as she helms the episode "Exile." As with previous DVD sets, three more "NX-01" files are hidden as "Easter eggs" on the Special Features menus, and they include further appreciations of the Enterprise writers, the work of costume designer Robert Blackman, and John Billingsley's hilarious anecdote about Phlox's prodigious sexual endowment(s). The outtakes are amusing but all too brief, perhaps owing to the higher stakes (and lower ratings) of a dramatically serious season. --Jeff Shannon