Paramount // 1987 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // August 23rd, 2004
A set focusing on the captain? Make it so, number one!
So you're a Trek fan, but you're not willing (or able) to lay out $700 or so to purchase the entire run of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD. Well, Paramount has heard your cries, and has issued a two-disc collection of seven selected ST:TNG episodes under the title The Jean-Luc Picard Collection. The episodes, as the title may have suggested to you, all center on the enigmatic captain of the Enterprise, as portrayed by veteran English actor Patrick Stewart (Jeffrey, X-Men). The collection is clearly targeted at the casual Trek fan, since the hard-core Trekkers probably already own these episodes on disc. But for these casual fans, The Jean-Luc Picard Collection serves as a good introduction to the show, and to some of its better-written episodes.
The package contains seven Picard-centric episodes, plus a 1995 documentary on astronomy entitled "From Here to Infinity: The Ultimate Voyage," hosted and narrated by Stewart.
* "The Big Goodbye" (Season 1, Episode 12)
The show's first of a series of "Dixon Hill" episodes, in which Picard uses the ship's holodeck to recreate the adventures of Hill, his favorite film-noir-ish detective hero. This time, though, the holodeck malfunctions, and the captain (along with Dr. Crusher [Gates McFadden] and the ship's historian) is stuck in an accurate simulation of WW2-era San Francisco -- and the safety protocols are (as usual) not working, making the bullets really hurt...
* "Sarek" (Season 3, Episode 23)
While the legendary Federation ambassador (and father of Mr. Spock) Sarek (Mark Lenard) is traveling aboard the Enterprise, Picard learns that Sarek is dying from the rough Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's Disease -- an illness that causes Sarek to completely lose control of his emotions. Picard chooses to assist Sarek by undergoing a risky psychic procedure; one that will link the two forever.
* "Family" (Season 4, Episode 2)
In the aftermath of the Borg near-invasion of Earth (where Picard was used as an unwilling tool by the enemy, seen in the two-part episode "The Best of Both Worlds"), the Enterprise and its crew visit home. Picard reunites with his semi-estranged brother Robert and his family, who help him come to grips with his Borg experience. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) learns about his late dad, Worf's adoptive parents continue to embarrass him with their pride and joy, and everyone gets a little R&R.
* "The Drumhead" (Season 4, Episode 21)
A mysterious explosion on board the ship is believed to be an act of attempted sabotage. Starfleet sends a distinguished admiral, Norah Satie (Jean Simmons, Spartacus, The Thorn Birds), to head the official investigation. Satie turns it into a witch hunt, eventually accusing even Picard himself of selling out to the Romulans.
* "Darmok" (Season 5, Episode 2)
The Enterprise meets up with an alien race that communicates via metaphor. Needless to say, nobody can understand a word they're saying. The captain of the alien ship (Paul Warfield, Sounder, Star Trek II) arranges for Picard and himself to face off against a dangerous beast in the hopes that shared danger will bring them together. Featuring a brief (but always appreciated) appearance by comely young Ensign Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd).
* "The Inner Light" (Season 5, Episode 25)
The Enterprise encounters an unidentified alien probe, which zaps a beam into Picard's head. The beam causes him to experience an entire life in his mind over the course of half an hour -- the probe apparently was some kind of time capsule/historical record. In his mind, Picard, as the humble craftsman Kamin, learns about the planet Kataan and its ultimate demise, and raises a family in what little time the planet has left. Probably the best episode of the show's entire run.
* "Tapestry" (Season 6, Episode 15)
Picard lies dying after some kind of attack or accident, which has caused irreparable damage to his artificial heart. Who should appear but everyone's favorite meddling superbeing -- Q (John DeLancie, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle). Q gives Picard the chance to go back in time and relive his time at Starfleet Academy -- and Jean-Luc decides to address some decisions and actions he later regretted, including the bar fight that caused him to need an artificial heart. He learns that, as Sartre once argued, one's self is determined by one's actions, and changing one's actions ex post facto has consequences.
On the whole, the choice of episodes is solid -- "Darmok" and "The Inner Light" are fan favorites (and were shoo-ins for any collection like this), "Sarek" and "Family" are well-written and powerful, and "Tapestry" gives us an insight into how Picard's personality formed. But personally, I've never been a big fan of the Dixon Hill shows; "Big Goodbye" (and any Hill episode) has little to do with the Star Trek universe or Picard himself, and it makes no real sense to include this particular episode in a Picard-specific collection. Likewise, "Drumhead," although a decent tale, is more a reflection on McCarthyism and prejudice than an episode about Picard. It's interesting to note that the European version of this release has a different set of episodes (albeit one that also has some questionable inclusions) -- perhaps this particular set "tested well" in Paramount's marketing studies?
The final hour on Disc Two is filled by "From Here to Infinity: The Ultimate Voyage," a 1995 documentary on general astronomical topics. It's a well-done documentary that's still generally accurate from a science perspective, despite its age. Consider it a solid overview of some "hot topics" in astronomy and cosmology, with some planetary science thrown in -- good for older children or adults who aren't familiar with astronomy, but not for people looking for in-depth discussions of the topics covered. (It's like a mini-Cosmos, in a way.)
No new bells or whistles from Paramount with this set -- the episodes are presented exactly the way they were in the full-season collections: a decent full screen picture with quality 5.1 Dolby Surround sound. (The original television stereo mix is also provided.) The Enterprise computer-themed menus are functional but a tiny bit quirky in their presentation (instead of "play," you select the "engage" option, for example.) The keep case packaging has a short episode summary for each of the seven episodes, a timeline of Picard's Starfleet career, and his "personnel information" data. Again -- if you're a hard-core fan you already know all this trivia (well, maybe you didn't know that Mama Picard's maiden name was Yvette Gessard); this collection is meant for the casual fan or the Trek newcomer.
No extras (other than the astronomy documentary, if you count that as an extra) are provided -- no commentary, no nothing. Boo. Stewart did several pieces for the Paramount seasonal DVD releases; would it have hurt to put one or two of them on this collection?
The Jean-Luc Picard Collection is a decent set for the less-devoted Star Trek: TNG fan. You certainly get plenty of Picard, and the documentary is a nice bonus. But the Trekkers of the world will already own all these shows -- and the documentary isn't worth the full price of the set. If, however, you're just looking for a good and relatively inexpensive introduction to the show, this is your best (and currently your only) option.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Ryan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site