Judge David Ryan only drinks Earl Grey tea because he's a nerdy, obsessive fan of everyone's favorite captain of the Enterprise.
Our reviews of The Best Of Star Trek: The Next Generation (published May 12th, 2009), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One (Blu-ray) (published July 24th, 2012), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Two (Blu-ray) (published December 17th, 2012), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Three (Blu-ray) (published May 15th, 2013), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Four (Blu-ray) (published July 30th, 2013), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five (Blu-ray) (published November 19th, 2013), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Redemption (Blu-ray) (published July 30th, 2013), Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Level (Blu-ray) (published January 29th, 2012), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification (Blu-ray) (published November 19th, 2013), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One (published April 24th, 2002), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Two (published May 23rd, 2002), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Three (published July 18th, 2002), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Four (published September 16th, 2002), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Five (published February 4th, 2003), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Six (published December 16th, 2002), and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Seven (published February 10th, 2003) are also available.
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)
• "Sarek" (Season 3, Episode 23)
• "Family" (Season 4, Episode 2)
• "The Drumhead" (Season 4, Episode 21)
• "Darmok" (Season 5, Episode 2)
• "The Inner Light" (Season 5, Episode 25)
• "Tapestry" (Season 6, Episode 15)
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.
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