Case Number 16353

THE BEST OF STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

Paramount // 1989 // 381 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // May 12th, 2009

The Charge

"Let's make sure that history never forgets the name Enterprise."
-- Yesterday's Enterprise

"Death is irrelevant. Your archaic cultures are authority-driven. To facilitate our introduction into your societies, it has been decided that a human voice will speak for us in all communications. You have been chosen to be that voice."
-- Best of Both Worlds

"Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well there it sits!"
-- The Measure of a Man

Opening Statement

With the opening of the newest entry in the Star Trek series, Paramount has seen fit to release some of the best episodes of both the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Their choices will, of course, provoke bickering (between the nerds) about whether or not these really are the best choices. I think we can do without the discussion about which ones are really the best ("Q Who?," "Damok" and "The Inner Light"). Really the question is: Is this a worthwhile buy? Hopefully I can answer that question without resorting to a single pun involving phasers, the opening monologue, or anything else Star Trekian.

Facts of the Case

I'm going to assume that if you're interested in buying this disc, then you're familiar with the show and we can skip past a lengthy summary of the history and the characters. There are four episodes on a single disc and they are as follows:

* "The Best of Both Worlds" (Parts 1 and 2): The Borg make their return after being introduced in "Q Who?" and the Federation isn't prepared in the slightest. Starfleet assigns Commander Shelby to the Enterprise and she's bound and determined to steal Riker's (Jonathon Frakes) job and tells him so. Added to that, the Borg decided they want Picard (Patrick Stewart, X-Men) for their very own and grab him. Oh and they also head straight for Earth. Perhaps the best two-parter in the series.

* "Yesterday's Enterprise": Time goes awry when the Enterprise-C pops into the 24th century for a quick visit and completely changes the timeline for the Enterprise-D. The Federation and the Klingons have been at war for twenty-two years, the Enterprise is now a warship and Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) is back from the dead. Or, I guess, she never died in the first place. The Enterprise-D crew must decide what to do with their predecessors or risk history remaining forever changed.

* "The Measure of a Man": Data (Brent Spiner) is ordered to report to a lab, where he'll be dismantled with a very slim possibility that the scientist in charge will be able to put him back together. Data, strangely, says no and the order is taken to court. Is Data Starfleet property or is he a lifeform capable of making his own decisions? The question rests in the capable hands of Riker and Picard.

The Evidence

I've always wondered how companies choose which episodes they consider the best. Is it based on some fan poll, ratings or a dartboard? In this case, they chose fairly well, with all three choices being strong entries in the show.

"The Measure of a Man" is the weakest of the three, relying far too much on heavy handed dramatic devices to up the emotional factor. The JAG officer in charge of the case just happens to be Picard's ex-flame and the same person who prosecuted his court martial when he lost his previous ship? Riker just happens to be the only one who is capable of prosecuting Data and so is forced to try and prove his friend is nothing more than a machine? It's just a bit too much, but where "The Measure of a Man" succeeds is in the performances. There are a lot of little moments where the actors and the script help convey a lot more than the overarching plot. Such as when Riker looks through Data's schematics and smiles as he comes up with the perfect strategy, but his smile drops as he realizes what this means for Data. Or Picard's closing argument as Patrick Stewart thunders in the courtroom. Or the moment of reconciliation between Data and Riker after the trial. It's all the little moments, boosted tenfold by the performances, that help rise this episode above the irritating plot contrivances.

They also included one of the best time travel episodes Star Trek has ever done, which is made even better by the return of Tasha Yar. Her character received short thrift when they killed her off ("death by tar" just doesn't look good in an obituary) and this episode functions as a far better send-off. Plus it's always fun to see them take the old, established universe and turn everything on its ear. It's a straightforward time travel tale (a rarity) that has lots of explosions and great acting. 'Nuff said there.

Finally, they threw "The Best of Both Worlds" on there, which I consider cheating. It's a great two-parter, but it's also a two-parter. I would have preferred two stand alone episodes, say "Q Who?" where the Borg are introduced and "The Inner Light" where Picard rocks out on an alien flute, but now I'm doing what I said I wouldn't be doing and that's pointless nitpicking about what can't be undone. "The Best of Both Worlds" is great if only because it lets most of the characters have a moment to shine. Even Troi, who the writers always seemed to have trouble using, mixes it up. Wesley is also there and they managed to give him lines that don't provoke immediate visceral hatred. Will wonders never cease?

For the casual fan or for the fan who doesn't have enough money to buy a full season, this is a decent deal. Fifteen bucks gets you three of the best episodes. However, it would have been a much better deal if there had been something, anything, in the way of extras. There's not even one of those cast filmographies lifted straight from IMDb on here. Now that the seasons have dropped considerably in price from when they were first introduced (currently forty dollars on Amazon instead of seventy), this isn't as such a hot deal as it would have been and some extras would have sweetened it considerably.

Everything looks sharp at least and it sounds good, at least, on my rather limited set-up.

Closing Statement

If you're a casual fan of the series, this is a good way to get a little jolt of Star Trek for a low price. If you're more than a casual fan, if, for example, you're getting ready to write me an email debating my picks for best episodes or you get into vein-throbbing arguments about whether you're a Trekkie or a Trekker, then you're better off saving your up cash money for the complete series. As if you haven't done so already. Otherwise, set your credit cards on stun and ready your shopping carts for warp speed, because this set is no Kobayashi Maru. Damn it, I knew I couldn't do a Star Trek review without the asinine jokes.

The Verdict

Judge Charles finds The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation not guilty, but sentences himself to the penal colony of Rura Penthe for that atrocious bit of geekery at the end.

Review content copyright © 2009 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 95
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 381 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0092455/combined