Paramount // 1989 // 1181 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 15th, 2013
Brilliant picture, sound and storytelling...resistance is futile!
"Mister Worf -- fire!"
You know the drill. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, X-Men), Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes, North and South), Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton, Christy), Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden, The Hunt for Red October), Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn, Duck Dodgers), Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis, Crash), Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spinder, Independence Day) and the other crew members of the enterprise continue their mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where no one has gone before.
This is it, you guys! At long last, the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation has arrived on Blu-ray. If you're a fan of the series, you realize why the release of this particular season is so exciting: this is where the show finally hit its stride, stepped out of the shadow of its predecessor and firmly established itself as a genuinely superb science fiction series. Sure, there were strong episodes in the earlier seasons; the show was a noble endeavor from the very beginning. Even so, there were plenty of growing pains along the way. Fortunately, most of the kinks had finally been worked out by the time the third season rolled around. While the show maintains a fairly high level quality from here on out, season three is often understandably selected as the best of the entire run.
For starters, the chemistry between the cast is terrific. Everyone has fully settled into their respective roles, personalities have become more complex and the show has started becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of episodes that lean heavier on character than on plot (though the plotting is generally better than ever, too). Gates McFadden returns to the cast after departing for the entirety of the second season, and her presence makes a tremendous difference. Though the producers of TNG had tried to do something interesting with Dr. Pulaski, she just never seemed to click with the rest of the ensemble. McFadden's warm, playful relationship with Picard is such a crucial part of the show's dynamic, and having that element back in place is terrific.
Of course, every season of every Star Trek series has its ups and downs, as each television incarnation of the franchise tends to focus more on self-contained episodes than season-long arcs (there is some long-form storytelling at work, but it generally tends to unfold over the course of the entire series at an inconsistent, unhurried pace). However, the hit-to-miss ratio is exceptional this time around, as the writers bring their A-game and deliver a generous supply of classic episodes. Highlights include "Yesterday's Enterprise" (which features the surprising return of a former cast member), "Sins of the Father" (one of the strongest Worf-centric episodes of the entire run), "Deja Q" (which sees the all-powerful title character stripped of his limitless power), "The Offspring" (a remarkably moving episode that finds Data tackling a surprising project) and "Sarek" (which sees the titular Vulcan joining forces with Picard in a dangerous endeavor).
However, the most beloved episode of this season is undoubtedly the finale, "Best of Both Worlds, Part 1." It's a gripping installment that finds the Enterprise facing their most formidable foe to date. The episode's cliffhanger ending is the stuff of legend: a genuinely startling ending that left fans desperate to know what could possibly happen next. Indeed, the episode (and the solid follow-up installment that opened season four) proved so successful that the series attempted to replicate the formula at the conclusions of seasons four, five and six. Alas, the results were inevitably mixed. For my money, "Best of Both Worlds, Part 1" is the finest TV cliffhanger of all time, a consistently superb episode in which the impossibly high stakes feel legitimate.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Three (Blu-ray) has received a terrific hi-def transfer that is arguably a notch or two above the previous releases. Perhaps extra care was taken to make this beloved season look better or perhaps the original elements were in slightly better shape, but the image is quite impressive. While we're still dealing with one of the more plain-looking Trek series on a visual level, detail is strong, depth is impressive and the remastered special effects once again make an enormous difference. The DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio track is even more remarkable, delivering an astonishing audio experience that goes a long way towards adding to the immersiveness of the series. You can hear the ship rumbling beneath the dialogue, action sequences have a lot of kick, the music is robust and rich, dialogue is clear -- it's strong work all around.
Speaking of strong work, the previous two sets delivered some high-quality bonus features and this continues that welcome trend. For starters, all of the previously-released supplements from the DVD set are reprised: some decent older featurettes and promos for each episode. Much more compelling is the new stuff on display. You get five audio commentaries that mix and match a variety of participants including writers Ronald Moore, Rene Ecchevaria and Ira Steven Behr, Trek experts Michael and Denise Okuda, director David Carson and VFX supervisor Dan Curry. Even better, you get a new 70-minute "Inside the Writer's Room" roundtable discussion moderated by Seth McFarlane and featuring a host of folks who wrote for the series. It's an insightful, entertaining piece that is well worth your time. As for McFarlane's presence: say what you will about the man as a writer/director/entertainer, but he's a certified Star Trek junkie who's knowledgeable enough to lead a quality conversation. However, the very best supplement is the 90-minute documentary "Resistance is Futile: Assimilating Star Trek: The Next Generation" (divided into three segments). Featuring participation from all of the crucial cast and crew members, it offers a comprehensive overview of the third season and is every bit as satisfying as the similar documentaries offered by the previous two releases. Finally, there's a gag reel and brief tributes to the late David Rappaport and Michael Piller. Bravo on another tremendous supplemental package.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Three is a great season of television, and I say that without adding any caveats. While there's enough of importance and merit in the first two seasons to warrant starting from the very beginning, there's an argument to be made for jumping aboard with this great season. Highly recommended.
Review content copyright © 2013 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (German)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 1181 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Gag Reel