Despite the near-certainty of cancellation, ratings in the cellar and nothing left to lose, the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise
was unanimously hailed as the best. After ending season 3 with a mind-boggling cliffhanger, series creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga handed show-runner duties to executive producer Manny Coto, who rejuvenated the flagging franchise by bridging the gap between Enterprise
and the future developments of Star Trek: The Original Series
. By recruiting lifelong Trek
experts Mike Sussman and the husband-and-wife team of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens to his writing staff, Coto ensured that political events in the Enterprise
timeline would lead to a "coalition of planets," thus forming the Federation cornerstone of Star Trek
's future. But first, Coto had to find a way to extract Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) and his battle-worn crew from an alternate timeline--the result of the continuing Temporal Cold War--in which the Nazis have invaded U.S. soil in 1944. In the normal Enterprise
timeline, political upheavals have left relations between Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, and Humans in a state of near-disastrous chaos.
Into this blazing cauldron of action-adventure, Coto and staff introduced story arcs that connected to Star Trek's future, including a three-episode arc ("Borderland," "Cold Station 12," and "The Augments") in which Dr. Arik Soong (played by Next Generation alumnus Brent Spiner) and his superhuman "Augments" chart a tragic course that would lead, in future generations, to the creation of Spiner's cybernetic NextGen character, Data. "The Forge," "Awakening," and "Kir'Shara" returned T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) to her native Vulcan, where encounters with the legendary philosopher Surak, and zealous sect called the Syrannites, lead to pivotal history with the Vulcan High Command. In subsequent episodes, Phlox (John Billingsley) would discover the reason why some Klingons lack "cranial ridges" (thus solving a vexing Star Trek mystery), and "In a Mirror, Darkly" marked and eventful return to the "Mirror Universe" from the original series episode "Mirror, Mirror," for what Coto aptly describes (in the bonus featurette) as a two-part "romp," complete with a "Mirror Universe" title sequence, the reappearance of the U.S.S. Defiant from the original series episode "The Tholian Web," and a glorious recreation of a "Constitution Class" starship bridge that gave long-time Trekkies a breathtaking rush of nostalgia.
In the closing episodes, the formation of the Federation is threatened by a radical xenophobe (Peter Weller) whose isolationist tactics lead Trip (Connor Trinneer) and T'Pol to a future of interspecies parenthood, and while the series-ending "These Are The Voyages..." is considered a disappointment by some, it provided a suitable Next Generation tribute to Star Trek's past, present, and future. Considering the daunting challenge of tying up loose ends while looking forward in a way that demanding fans could appreciate, it's fair to say that Enterprise reached a satisfying conclusion that its cast and crew can be proud of.
It's only fitting that Season 4's bonus features have a bittersweet quality, celebrating the Star Trek franchise while acknowledging its uncertain future. For the first time on any Star Trek series, closure was imposed prematurely, and "That's a Wrap" (a video from the Enterprise wrap party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood) has the privileged feel of an emotional family reunion. (Unfortunately, Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer were unable to attend.) "Inside the 'Mirror' Episodes" offers a closer look at those enjoyably nostalgic episodes ("we put the 'Ho' back in Hoshi" jokes Mike Sussman about Linda Park's "empress" persona), and in "Links to the Legacy," Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens explain how they brought Enterprise closer to its original Star Trek heritage. "Visual Effects Magic" charts the astonishing advancements in digital effects since the comparatively crude effects of Next Generation, and "Enterprise Secrets" reveals an affectionate assembly of behind-the-scenes personnel on the final day of shooting. There's one final Easter egg (NX-01 File #10) about the ultimately futile "Save Enterprise" fan protest against series cancellation (with appreciative comments by Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer), and as always, the informative audio and text commentaries are fan-essential features loaded with detailed trivia and anecdotal history. --Jeff Shannon