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 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), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Seven (published February 10th, 2003), and Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Jean-Luc Picard Collection (published August 23rd, 2004) are also available.
Make it so!
Having weathered its first two shaky seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation in Season Three welcomed back Dr. Beverly Crusher and begin to hit its stride in a season replete with solid episodes but only a few clunkers.
Facts of the Case
Presented across seven discs in order of their airing (which is almost identical to the production order), the episodes of Season Three are listed below with brief comments and a quick letter grade. If you desire more extensive summaries (beware of spoilers!), as well as trailers and clips from each episode, look here.
• "The Ensigns of Command"
• "The Survivors"
• "Who Watches the Watchers"
• "The Bonding"
• "Booby Trap"
• "The Enemy"
• "The Price"
• "The Vengeance Factor"
• "The Defector"
• "The Hunted"
• "The High Ground"
• "Deja Q"
• "A Matter of Perspective"
• "Yesterday's Enterprise"
• "The Offspring"
• "Sins of the Father"
• "Captain's Holiday"
• "Tin Man"
• "Hollow Pursuits"
• "The Most Toys"
• "Ménage a Troi"
• "The Best of Both Worlds Part 1"
With Season Three, Star Trek: The Next Generation, cast tinkering was finally completed. Notably, the brief flirtation with Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) was terminated in favor of the return of Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). While many were happy to see the red-headed Doctor return, and both the character and actress are fine (re)additions, the change is not without loss. Star Trek: The Next Generation and in particular Captain Picard have a tendency to become self-righteous and pompous, wielding a heavy moralizing club sufficient to cause severe head trauma in the audience.
To help keep this tendency in check, there must be some character (regular or guest-star) to rattle the Starfleet cage with skepticism, unpredictability, sarcasm, and an independent streak. Some of the best characters (and actors/actresses) from The Next Generation fit this category, such as Q (John Delancie) and K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson), but having a regular fill the role is even better. Dr. Pulaksi seemed to be destined for this sort of role. Sadly, she was never given much of a chance to grow and become a fully integral part of Star Trek: The Next Generation. At least Diana Muldaur was not rudely separated from this show by having Dr. Pulaksi dropped down a turbolift shaft!
On another character note, Season Three allowed Denise Crosby to remedy her decision to hastily depart the series in Season One in "Yesterday's Enterprise." Perhaps chastened by her previous error, or perhaps just with better writers, the "new" Tasha Yar improves upon her uneven performance in Season One. Further, her guest stint on "Yesterday's Enterprise" leads to effective plot twists down the road and one genuine super-sized surprise.
The cast now settled, Star Trek: The Next Generation completed the shakedown cruise of the first two seasons and all the pieces finally clicked into place. Michael Pillar came aboard for Season Three as Executive Producer, inheriting a nearly all new writing staff and a dearth of completed scripts. He controlled the chaos quite well, and apparently liked the experience well enough to stick around past the year he had promised "Great Bird of the Universe" Gene Roddenberry. Indeed, he went on to become co-creator/creative consultant on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and co-creator/executive producer of Star Trek: Voyager. However, as punishment for staying beyond a year, he had to figure out how to resolve the cliffhanger episode "Best of Both Worlds." After all, as he admits, he never expected to stick around, so he figured his "unsolvable problem" was somebody else's problem!
For a series with a legion of fans ready and able to pounce upon the smallest error, I was quite surprised to see such an underwhelming video presentation. Colors are richly saturated and the picture is quite clean, but edge enhancement is pronounced on all of the episodes. The Enterprise and most other ships, as well as starfield backgrounds, wave at you enough to be distracting. As my wife remarked, it is much nicer than on cable TV, but lacking enough to make you wish for an error free presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix adds depth to the front soundstage, but curiously avoids all but limited use of the rear surrounds. I hesitate to praise the technical presentation of Star Trek: The Original Series, but at least during those opening credits the Enterprise whooshes from front to rear. With Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Three, there is not even that modest effort. More directional effects, subwoofer punch, I want a fully immersive Trek sound experience! Sadly, this is not such a mix, and a relative disappointment.
As with previous season box sets, Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Three includes several featurettes. "Mission Overview" (17 minutes) covers the changes and distinctive characteristics of the third season, while "Selected Crew Analysis" (13 minutes) briefly covers the development of the regular characters. "Departmental Briefing—Production" (20 minutes) looks behind the scenes for the production crew's take on making some of the shows a reality, and "Departmental Briefing—Memorable Missions" (13 minutes) is a collection of anecdotes from cast and crew about specific episodes. Not a bad collection of extras, but these featurettes just whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. How about deleted scenes, gag reels, selected episode commentaries, and more input from the guest stars (some of whom are quite notable)? More, Paramount, more!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Bless Majel Roddenberry, she has done so much for the Star Trek franchise over the years, and now carries on after the death of her husband and the Great Bird of the Galaxy, series creator Gene Roddenberry. However, I regret to say that Lwaxana Troi is an annoying, grating character whose episodes are universally some of the worst ever made in the Trek universe. Writing for Lwaxana seems a fool's errand, and Ferengi rarely are used as anything beyond plot devices or so-called comic relief, so you can imagine the galactic disaster when you combine the two in "Ménage a Troi." It's the Trek equivalent of a binary nerve gas. If you have a strong constitution, watch "Ménage a Troi," but don't say I didn't warn you. Personally, I'd rather jump naked into a swimming pool filled with double edged razor blades, or slam my head in a door again, and again, and again.
A fanatic Trekkie or a completist is going to pick this set up regardless, but if you are interested in picking and choosing through the seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Three is a solid contender for space on your shelf. As with any high priced box set ($140 list), bide your time and find the best bargain you can (unless you have that cash just lying around somewhere with nothing else to spend it on!).
The Defendants are released on their own future good behavior, as we have several seasons to go before a final verdict can be reached.
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