| With Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) trapped in the 31st century, season 2 of Enterprise opens with a rousing resolution to season 1's cliffhanger finale. The first four episodes instantly became fan favorites: "Shockwave, Part II" advances the Suliban's role in the Temporal Cold War; "Carbon Creek" reveals the real first contact (albeit a secret one) between humans and Vulcans in Pennsylvania in 1957, allowing Jolene Blalock to play T'Pol's "second foremother" in a Sputnik-era scenario; in "Minefield," Reed (Dominick Keating) is nearly killed by an explosive device attached to Enterprise's hull; the damage is repaired in "Dead Stop," featuring award-winning digital modeling effects as the disabled Enterprise encounters a mysterious automated space station. Season 2 also emphasizes Archer's ongoing friction with the Vulcan High Command, exacerbated when T'Pol's career is threatened (in "Stigma") by her involuntary involvement with ostracized mind-melders. Connections to the original Star Trek (series and films) continue with episodes involving Tellarites, Tholians, Klingons, Andorians, and even a brief appearance by a Tribble (one of many occasions for humor in Dr. Phlox's sickbay, the setting of many of the season's finest dialogue-driven scenes). Early warp-drive history is also explored in "First Flight," a Right Stuff-like episode guest-starring Keith Carradine as Archer's friend and rival in breaking the Warp 2 barrier.
Consisting primarily of stand-alone episodes that integrate ongoing story arcs, season 2 showcases the primary cast with generally good results: Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) visits the "boomer" cargo ship he was raised on in "Horizon"; Hoshi (Linda Park) experiences unsettling transporter symptoms in "Vanishing Point"; and Tucker (Connor Trineer) plays a pivotal role in several episodes, notably "Dawn," "Precious Cargo" and "Cogenitor." And while "Regeneration" provoked controversy among fans for introducing the yet unnamed Borg in an early Starfleet context, it's a fine episode (with echoes of The Thing) that holds up to scrutiny, while others (including "The Crossing," "The Breach" and "Cogenitor") feel somewhat recycled, indicating the challenge of finding new ideas in the Star Trek canon. Overall, however, season 2 is consistently strong, with several episodes directed by cast alumni from previous Trek series, including NextGen's LeVar Burton, and Voyager's Roxanne Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill. They all lead up to a devastating attack on Earth (with seven million casualties, including Trip's younger sister) in "The Expanse," ending the season with high-stakes mystery as Enterprise enters a treacherous region of space in search of the Xindi, an enemy race that factors heavily in season 3.
Abundant bonus features include a generous selection of deleted scenes (non-essential, but interesting to fans); audio commentary (on "Dead Stop" and "Regeneration") by writers Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong, who explain the challenge of writing under constantly shifting production conditions; and text commentary (on "Stigma" and "First Flight"), in which Trek veterans Michael and Denise Okuda demonstrate their encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek fact and fiction. Six Easter eggs, known as "NX-01 Files," are hidden on the Special Features menus; they offer brief glimpses into specific aspects of production, including set recycling and art direction. "Enterprise" secrets are revealed for those who pay meticulous attention to detail; "Inside 'A Night in Sickbay'" offers a behind-the-scenes assessment of that memorable episode; and "LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director" celebrates the actor's smooth transition to directing after his stint on Next Generation. "Enterprise Profile: Jolene Blalock" is a tribute to the sexy actress by her fellow cast members and executive producers Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, including Blalock's assessment of T'Pol's pivotal role as Enterprise's resident Vulcan. Best of all, however, are the hilarious outtakes: They show the cast as a family unit, combining hard work with humor as the second season progresses. --Jeff Shannon