Case Number 26594

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: SEASON FIVE (BLU-RAY)

Paramount // 1991 // 1182 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // November 19th, 2013

The Charge

"Seize the time. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again."
-- Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), "The Inner Light"

Opening Statement

What many consider to be the best season of Star Trek: The Next Generation makes its high-def debut with yet another incredible Blu-ray release of the long-running Star Trek franchise, courtesy of the people at Paramount.

Facts of the Case

Here are the 26 episodes that make up Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five:

* "Redemption Part II"
Pickup up where the Season Four finale left off, the crew of the Enterprise finds themselves drawn into a Klingon civil war during the installation of a new leader of the Klingon High Council. Members of the crew are assigned command of individual ships to create a blockade between the Klingon and Romulan border, while Worf (Michael Dorn, Shade) is recruited to serve alongside the Klingons. A Romulan looking just like deceased crew member Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby, Pet Sematary) reveals herself and threatens to attack the Enterprise if they don't remove themselves.

* "Darmok"
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, Lifeforce) is stranded on a hostile planet and must learn to communicate with an alien (Paul Winfield, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) who speaks only in confusing metaphors.

* "Ensign Ro"
Over Picard's objections, Bajoran Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes, Kalifornia) is assigned to the Enterprise to help locate a Bajoran terrorist. Not everything is as it seems.

* "Silicon Avatar"
The Crystalline Entity destroys the surface of a planet and kills some of the colonists, leaving the Enterprise crew to determine how to deal with it. Biologist Kila Marr (Ellen Geer, Harold and Maude) teams with Data (Brent Spiner, Independence Day) despite her mistrust of him to devise a method of communicating with the Entity, discovering that the android has a direct link to her own dead son.

* "Disaster"
When the ship has an accident, the entire Enterprise is left without power and the crew is trapped across the ship. Picard is stuck in an elevator with three young children he was leading on a field trip, while Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis, Death Wish 3) is left in charge of the bridge. Worf must assist in the birth of Chief O'Brien's (Colm Meany, Intermission) baby.

* "The Game"
Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton, Stand By Me) returns to the Enterprise just as the crew becomes obsessed with a new game that takes over their minds. Wesley must team with Ensign Robin Leflor (Ashley Judd, Heat) to stop the spread before it's too late.

* "Unification Part I"
Picard and Data are tasked with infiltrating the Romulan home world to locate Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek), who is believed to have defected from the Federation. The episode marks the last appearance of Mark Lenard as Spock's father, Sarek.

* "Unification Part II"
Picard and Data locate Spock, who reveals that he is attempting a reunification between Romulans and Vulcans as part of a small faction of peace-seeking Romulans. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes, North and South) continues to track down the stolen ship T'Pau, leading to the return of the Romulan Sela (Denise Crosby), Tasha Yar's daughter.

* "A Matter of Time"
A time traveling historian (Matt Frewer, The Stand) boards the Enterprise claiming to be from the 26th century but will not reveal any information about the future, even when millions of lives are at stake on Penthara Four.

* "New Ground"
Worf's human mother requests that he spend time with his son Alexander (Brian Bonsall, Family Ties), but parenting turns out to be more than he bargained for.

* "Hero Worship"
The crew rescues a frightened young boy who immediately begins to bond with Data to the point of emulating the android in hopes of suppressing his emotions.

* "Violations"
The Enterprise hosts a delegation of telepathic historians, one of whom forces his way into the mind of Counselor Troi and puts her in a coma. As the crew investigates what happened, similar fates await Commander Riker and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden, Dirty).

* "The Masterpiece Society"
The crew must test the Prime Directive when asked to assist a colony of genetically engineered "perfect" people who refuse to leave their home despite being threatened by a rapidly approaching fragment of neutron star. As the crew devises a way to deflect the star without evacuating the colony, Troi finds herself drawn to their leader, Aaron Conor (John Snyder, Tough Guys Don't Dance).

* "Conundrum"
The crew has their memories wiped by aliens and are manipulated into joining a war, with Worf in command of the ship and Data working as the bartender in Ten Forward. Ro Laren and Riker believe they are romantically linked.

* "Power Play"
A shuttle carrying Troi, Riker and Data crashes on the surface of a moon, and the resulting rescue mission leads to Data, Troi and Chief Engineer O'Brien becoming possessed by alien entities looking to seize control of Enterprise.

* "Ethics"
Worf is injured and paralyzed, making him feel useless and ultimately suicidal. Dr. Crusher must investigate a highly experimental and dangerous surgery to bring him back to health.

* "The Outcast"
The Enterprise crew assists a race of gender-less aliens in locating a lost shuttle; Riker and one of the aliens, Soren (Melinda Culea, Wagons East), begin to fall in love, defying the rules of her people.

* "Cause and Effect"
The Enterprise is stuck in a time loop that culminates with the ship crashing and exploding, killing everyone onboard.

* "The First Duty"
An injured Wesley Crusher (returning Wil Wheaton) is torn between his allegiance to Starfleet and protecting his friends when an accident during flight training injures him and kills another cadet.

* "Cost of Living"
Counselor Troi's mother Lwaxana (Majel Barrett, Westworld) returns to the Enterprise to marry a man she was paired with through computer matchmaking; Worf continues to struggle with raising his son Alexander, complicated by advice the boy receives by Lwaxana.

* "The Perfect Mate"
The crew discovers a woman (Famke Janssen, Eulogy) onboard with the power to appear as anything men want her to be; she is smuggled on by the Ferengi as a gift for Chancellor Alrick. Picard must attempt to resist her charms.

* "Imaginary Friend"
A young girl on board Enterprise creates an imaginary friend who comes to life and threatens the well-being of the entire ship.

* "I Borg"
The crew rescues a Borg survivor, so Picard comes up with a plan to upload the man with a virus that will infect the entire Borg and kill them off. Dr. Crusher disagrees with Picard's plan as the captain is eventually forced to reconsider his feelings towards those assimilated into the Borg.

* "The Next Phase"
After a beaming mishap, Ro Laren and Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton, Roots) are believed to be dead, but they are still onboard Enterprise unable to be seen or heard by any of the crew. They must try and warn Enterprise of an approaching Romulan ship that is also invisible and undetectable.

* "The Inner Light"
Picard is hit with an energy beam and experiences an entire alternate lifetime -- a wife, family, old age -- in just 25 minutes. Patrick Stewart's real-life son Daniel plays his son in the episode.

* "Time's Arrow Part I"
The Enterprise is called to Earth to investigate new evidence of alien involvement on the planet 500 years earlier. One of the artifacts discovered is the severed head of Data, who is pulled back in time to the 19th century where he interacts with both Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost) and Mark Twain.

The Evidence

I have a confession to make. I have not seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Watching this box set of Season Five was my first viewing of many -- if not most -- of the episodes. I haven't seen most or all of Seasons Six or Seven, either, meaning I am unqualified to say whether or not Season Five is the finest hour for TNG. I can say that if the next two seasons improve on what is offered here, I am in for some pretty amazing television.

Here's how good Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five is: it can bring back Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher, long considered one of the most reviled characters in Star Trek history (completely unfairly, I would argue), and make the audience happy to see him. It can bring on Leonard Nimoy's Spock for a brilliant two-parter ("Unification," both parts of which are available as a separate stand-alone Blu-ray release for those not willing to shell out for the entire season) and make it feel like more than a desperate ratings stunt. Instead, the two-parter helps tie The Next Generation to Star Trek: The Original Series in the best possible way, closing the Trek universe without making it feel closed off or small. Season Five introduces a new recurring character -- Michelle Forbes' Ensign Ro Laren, a Bajoran with a chip on her shoulder and a troubled past -- and it doesn't feel like a Cousin Arthur situation. So many shows bring new characters on and it feels like a nuisance or a distraction. We just want to get back to the cast we know and love. But Ensign Ro brings a new dynamic to the bridge of Enterprise, forcing characters to bounce off of her in new ways and showing sides of their personalities we don't often get to see. She raises the game. I'd actually suggest she should have been used more in the season, but perhaps that would have diminished the impact. Maybe she's used just right.

The driving force behind Season Five is the collaboration between writer/producers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, which really came into its own here. The Next Generation has always been a show that emphasized philosophy and discussion over two-fisted action, which is part of why it has been reassessed as the "nerdy" or "square" Star Trek in recent years. But for thoughtful science fiction fans, the moral dilemmas the Enterprise crew faces in Season Five are as compelling as any space battle. Braga, who is often accused of destroying the Star Trek legacy with future series (including the much-maligned Star Trek: Enterprise, a show I also really like), deserves credit for his contributions to scripts that truly honor the ideals set forth by creator Gene Roddenberry. I know he's a polarizing figure in the world of Star Trek fans, but he should be recognized for his excellent collaborations with Moore (who would of course go on to reboot Battlestar Galactica, arguable the most popular and beloved sci-fi series of the 2000s). Their work helps keep The Next Generation not just vibrant (and relevant, with a number of clever issue-themed episodes sprinkled through the season), but actually improving as it goes along.

Just the presence of the "Unification" two-parter and "The Inner Light" make Season Five classic Star Trek worth owning. But there are other fantastic episodes here that deserve to be mentioned among the series' highlights, including "Cause and Effect" (the Groundhog Day of TNG), "I Borg" and "Conundrum." Not every episode can be a home run, so there's the occasional "Imaginary Friend" or "New Ground," a mostly fine episode that is hampered a little by its focus on Worf. I like Worf as much as anyone, but he's a limited character in terms of range -- a flaw that's often exacerbated when he's given center stage. That's a petty complaint, of course, because Worf is a valuable part of the ensemble I like more than any of the other Trek shows (this could still change with time, of course, as I'm only part way through the remaining three series). Next Generation has such a solid bench of characters that I love, and Season Five does a mostly good job of not just devoting each episode to an individual character the way it has in the past. Yes, there are the Riker-centric episodes and the Picard-centric episodes (which I will never complain about), but the majority of the season does a good job of balancing the ensemble and showing their strength as a group.

Paramount continues to stun with their high def transfers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, making it the only way anyone will want to watch the show once they've seen how good it looks. All 26 episodes are presented in their original full frame television aspect ratio in 1080p HD and look totally stunning. If you have been collecting the Blu-ray releases of the series to his point, there should be no surprises -- Paramount's remastering makes the show look brand new, with bold colors, solid detail and none of the fuzziness we've lived with in 20 years of syndication. It's incredible. Another lossless 7.1 audio track is included and it's once again outstanding, giving The Next Generation the most exciting and robust audio presentation ever offered. Dialogue is handled well, the score gets a good showcase, the action beats are powerful and the sounds of the ship have never been more immersive or effective. Paramount is making it impossible to avoid upgrading your DVD sets of the series with the care and effort they put into these Blu-ray sets. They're just so good.

All of the bonus features from the original Season Five DVD release have been carried over to the Blu-ray version, including the commentaries, episode promos (which can be played with every episode and demonstrate just how good the HD transfers look in comparison to their fuzzy standard def counterparts) and featurettes: "Mission Overview Year Five," a look back at the season as a whole; "Departmental Briefing Year Five: Production," more of the same; a piece on the shows visual effects, another on the guest stars, a tribute to original Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who died while Season Five was originally airing; "Memorable Missions," which examines a few of the season's standout episodes and "Alien Speak," which looks at the fictional languages of some of the show's alien races. A gag reel and several new deleted scenes have also been included, all presented in 1080p HD.

New to this set are four new commentaries (one from Family Guy creator and devoted Star Trek geek Seth McFarlane) and a couple of longer featurettes, including an hour-plus discussion on the music Star Trek: The Next Generation with a roundtable of composers and musicians. The best feature -- as has been the case on all of the Trek series Blu-rays -- is a two-part retrospective documentary, "Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Cast and crew discuss not just the specifics of the season, but The Next Generation as a whole, from executing Gene Roddenberry's vision to his death during production, from the use of the Prime Directive to the more hard-science aspects of the series. All of the discussion is really terrific, and made me want to rematch the entire season as soon as it was over.

Closing Statement

The remarkable quality of Star Trek: The Next Generation is the best possible tribute to the legacy of Gene Roddenberry, whose vision lives on in every thoughtful script, every complex character and every utopian principal upheld by these 26 episodes. It's hard to imagine science fiction television or Star Trek getting much better than this.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 88
Extras: 90
Acting: 93
Story: 96
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* Danish
* Dutch
* Finnish
* French
* German
* Italian
* Japanese
* Norwegian
* Spanish
* Swedish

Running Time: 1182 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Gag Reel
* Promos

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

* Official Site
http://www.startrek.com/

* Memory Alpha: Star Trek Wiki
http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation