The adventure begins in the Delphic Expanse, a region of space where the laws of physics don't apply.
ENTERPRISE SEASON 3 - The Best Star Trek Season Ever
As the final incarnation of televised Star Trek, Enterprise came in for a battering. Never before had expectations been so high, and never before had their been such a glut of Star Trek available to the audience, with all four shows airing and a film (Nemesis) flooding the universe. That said, the show underwent major tweaking during its four year run, and whilst there were moments of true brilliance, the shift from the perceived 'pc-itis' of Voyager to a more gritty, emotional and realistic world never did run smoothly. That said, Season 3 of Enterprise can be singled out as the finest season of Star Trek, ever.
How the trouble started - an alien death probe unleashes alien fury on Earth,
Success for Star Trek hasn't always come up front, or fast. The original show wasn't cancelled after three seasons because so many people were watching. But in the ensuing 40 years, each subsequent version has had 7 seasons, except for Enterprise, which had a respectable 4. Success came to all the incarnations of Gene Roddenberry's original vision, some faster than others, but to all. Every Star Trek fan has a favourite show, and they're all right. But what sets Enterprise Season 3 apart is the fact that it tells one story in one season. It's the ultimate 18 hour long Sci Fi movie.
Star Trek - not just a kid's show anymore.
Even though Season 3 is something special, season by season of Enterprise included far more 'arcing' than in any other Star Trek show. The style of storytelling can be seen mirrored in shows like Babylon 5, where story set-ups and pay-offs are literally seasons apart. Of course, the idea of a story going on beyond each episode has been rattling around TV on soapies for decades. But the trick to truly engrossing Sci Fi is to contain singular plots within longer arcs to keep both repeat and irregular viewers happy. Joss Whedon's writing on Buffy and Angel are classic examples of 'monster of the week' and 'monster of the season' blending with 'characters grow over seven years', as opposed to say, The Simpsons, where Bart has remained seven years old for the last two decades. You'll never see 'last time, on...' on the Simpsons (except for when Mr Burns got shot!).
Captain Archer - no Earl Grey tea thanks, too pissed off.
So what's so good about Season 3?
Star Trek: Enterprise's major 'whole show' arc was about a temporal cold war, with our heroes, led by Captain Jonathan Archer, stuck in the middle with little understanding of what the hell was going on, just like us.
The Enterprise is closer to a present day naval vessel, with lower ceilings, the crew still talk about dates the way we talk about dates (2151 here we come!) and they are not afraid to blunder about the galaxy in a decidedly non-Star Trek way. Frankly, it's a breath of fresh air for most toughened Trekkies, but it's also quite confronting for those who like their Trek 'just so', which does explain the ratings dip for an otherwise excellent show, as it's often quite humanistic, but within a specific Trek style, sometimes leading to a dissonance in the result.
Again with the freaky-looking aliens with plans for galaxy-wide domination!
As the first human crew to head out into the galaxy, their momentous interactions with the new life and new species of the galaxy as they boldly go where no man, human or woman had been before made them perfect guinea pigs for future 'factions' to muck about with.
The cool thing about these future factions is that only ever so slowly do we discover who they are and what they're up to. It's only in Season 3 that things become clear, although only at the very end. And with so much fiddling about with the time-line, there's no surprise that it all ends in an alternate time-line of mind-boggling proportions in one of the truly stupendous Star Trek cliffhangers, up there with the very greatest, the Next Generation's Best of Both Worlds (Part 1).
The Enterprise NX- 01 comes in for quite the hammering.
Season 3 begins in fact, at the end of Season 2, with The Expanse.
It starts with a ferocious attack on earth by a bizarre alien Death Star-like weapon that cuts a swathe through the North and South America. With the crew of the Enterprise recalled to earth, they not only have to deal with another imminent attack on their home world, but with the Klingon Duras. Fans of Star Trek will tell you about the House of Duras and it's ongoing interactions with the Federation. Most notably of course, Lursa and B'Etor, who have popped up in TNG, DS9 and Star Trek: Generations. Treacherous and greedy, they're terrific fun as villains, and Enterprise, as the 'prequel' to all of the other Star Treks, is always fun when it shows 'firsts', and to see why the House of Duras has always had it in for Earth is terrific.
But the main story has the Enterprise heading, literally, into new territory. The ship gears up for war, with soldiers (MACO's - Military Assault Command Operations) on board, and an all-new 'all or nothing' approach. The last thing we see in Season 2 is the ship heading into a bizarre fog-like space, in which is said the laws of physics don't apply.
Not another one! Can't we all just get along?
It's not surprising then that Season 3 turns Star Trek on its head. Firstly, of course, the whole season runs as one gigantic movie, admittedly with pit stops into traditional one discrete plot per episode, but a slow arc of character and narrative becomes richer and deeper as we head into one hell of a climax.
Secondly, that arc takes us into behaviour and content that had never been seen on Star Trek before. Horror elements, more obvious and adult sexual attraction and activity and a Captain willing to step over an obvious moral line to a place where no Captain had ever gone before, meant that this was as close to shows like Battlestar Galactica that Star Trek ever got.
Degra, Xindi humanoid scientist, leader of the project to destroy Earth.
Thirdly, the Xindi, the new enemy for the season, are a step into bold territory. Not just one species, but five species, all evolved into sentience on the same planet. Reptilians, Insectoids, Aquatics, Arboreals (tree-dwellers) and Humanoids. They even managed to have a war that wiped out another species (the Avians), and their own planet, before they even heard of humans. And it turns out that our villains aren't even the ultimate villains of the piece. A far cry from the fairly basic construction of the original 'savage side' Klingons or 'Romans of the future', the Romulans.
Vulcans, Humans and Andorians must all work together. That's ST fave Jeffrey Combs as Shran on the right.
It makes for far more complex storytelling, with blacker moments than we'd seen than even the scariest Borg moments from previous Trek episodes or films. Humans are put in tougher situations and are allowed to be more 'human' than ever before. Hell, even the Vulcans turn into junkies, and/or the kind of rabid space-zombies that would give The Borg a run for their money. When you combine this kind of storytelling with the best special effects of any of the TV shows (and quite probably the big screen incarnations) you have a truly engrossing experience. With 40 years of Star Trek history for the devoted fan, you also have an enormous amount of information that the writers are not afraid to play around with. Season 3 was a glorious throw of the dice that used it all, and Season 4, the final Trek season that followed, was practically an enormous, space-borne shark. So many risks, so much fun. If you thought that Seasons 1 and 2 were a bit tame, then you'll be in for a shock.
An insectoid Xindi, one of the five Xindi species with a bull's-eye on Earth.
With an all-inclusive storyline that spills over into the first two episodes of Season 4, Season 3 is a singular experience in Star Trek, and all of Science Fiction, for Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. If you've never made the journey to Enterprise before, it's well worth the trip.
Time-twisting plot-blendering finale anyone? Sure! Everyone loves an alternate-history alien Nazi!
To find out when the next episode is appearing on SCI FI, and when to tune in for Season Three, check out our Star Trek:Enterprise