This could be the last we see of the Star Trek franchise (although realistically it is too lucrative to discard permanently). Enterprise was the latest Star Trek reincarnation, with a solid cast (headed up by Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula) and a reasonably adventurous budget, but after a slow, disappointing start there was simply nothing that could be done to save this show. It's not as if they did not try to keep the legacy alive - the third year was tremendous, with a dominant story arc across the whole season - but it was simply too late to fix the damage done to ratings by the first two runs. So now we are faced with the fourth and final series of voyages of potentially the last Star Trek incarnation.
In the grand scheme of things, nothing much significant happened in Enterprise during its first two years. A few character developments and a couple of changes to the ship, but nothing really in comparison with the third season which, if you haven't seen it already, is worth watching before you pick this up. During this season they relied on the old ploy of putting the Earth under threat to bring the flagging show back to life and, you know what, it actually worked. Every episode had a sense of desperation and importance associated with a mission that the crew of the Enterprise simply could not afford to fail to accomplish.
The season climaxed with a massive cliff-hanger: whilst they had apparently abated the threat to the Earth, they lost the Captain in the meantime and also - somehow - ended up transported back in time to the end of World War 2. Season 4 picks up with a two-parter set in 1944, although things are not quite as they seem: America has been overwhelmed by the Nazis and the US resistance - largely comprised of Mafioso - is on the brink of collapse. Wondering how everything could have gone so terribly wrong, Archer (and the rest of the Enterprise crew) find themselves in the middle of a decisive strike in the Temporal Wars. Temporal Agents from many different species have been sent back to take part in this offensive and it is up to Archer to return history to the way it was before.
One more disaster prevented and Enterprise - Captain intact - return to Starfleet to be lauded as heroes and, after a brief but eventful stint on Earth, they are back on mission. This season on Enterprise is not exactly short of important storylines: Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians and Tellarites - they are all uneasy with one another and a united Federation seems impossible (although for fans, inevitable). Xenophobia is rife, reflecting the racism that used to (and still does) plague us, but Archer is determined to prevent war and keep relations strong. To this end he has to go on a great adventure to help the Vulcans get to the bottom of a major terrorist attack (involving plenty of mind melds), intervenes between the Andorians and the Tellarites after a massive dispute and finds the Klingons increasingly antagonistic on numerous occasions.
We also get further alternate reality trouble as a very different Archer plots to steal a familiar star-ship in a mirror universe (where everybody has much better dress sense, despite the nod to the Original Star Trek costumes). Almost the entire season is comprised of two or three-part stories (with numerous guest stars popping up like Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis - from the Next Generation, WWE Wrestler Big Show, Joanna Cassidy - from Blade Runner, Brian Thompson - from X-Files and Peter Weller - from Robocop, to name but a few).
Clearly the best of the many multi-part stories involve the Eugenics Wars. Started many years earlier, with the rise of Khan (who went on to be one of the best Trek enemies in the strongest Trek movie), we now see a familiar face return (in an earlier incarnation) to lead his superior Augment children as they plot to conquer new worlds. This, partnered with the brief foray into Klingon Augment experiments (and a nod to the birth of the Borg) marks easily the best of any of the Enterprise storylines (although it does owe a great deal to Wrath of Khan).
In fact it is just a shame that they did not use this for the season finale because Enterprise provides possibly the single worst final series finale I have ever come across. Horribly splicing old Next Generation footage with ageing Next Generation actors and an Enterprise story told as a history lesson, we simply get the worst of both worlds and it is a terribly contrived way of linking the show with its future incarnation (and it also features a pretty pointless death for one of the lead characters). Star Trek Enterprise was a slow starter (although it is only because of shows like Lost and the superior Battlestar Galactica that we have come to expect first seasons to be so damn good) but on the strength of its fantastic third season and its solid fourth outing, it should have probably been kept alive. Unfortunately, as it stands, this is a disappointing way to round it off with a climax that is almost worth not watching because of the bitter taste it leaves in your mouth. Lucky that the rest of the season is packed with adventures to keep any fan satiated.