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Case Number 02600

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Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Seven

Paramount // 1994 // 1215 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // February 10th, 2003

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

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: Season Six (Blu-ray) (published June 25th, 2014), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Chain of Command (Blu-ray) (published July 15th, 2014), 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: The Jean-Luc Picard Collection (published August 23rd, 2004) are also available.

The Charge

Seven years ago I said we'd be watching you, and we have been…It's time to put an end to your trek through the stars.—Q (John DeLancie), "All Good Things"

Opening Statement

By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation headed into the home stretch with its seventh and final season, it had redefined the Star Trek universe. With far more screen hours logged than Captain Kirk and the classic crew, Picard's Enterprise had clearly provided the defining version of Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi creation. From today's perspective, with the franchise clearly adrift and spiraling out of control, the final season of TNG is particularly instructive. To this day it encapsulates everything that Star Trek can be at its best and everything about it that we find so maddening at its worst.

Facts of the Case

This massive box set includes all 26 final episodes of this most influential of all Treks, in the order in which they aired. (Sharp-eyed readers will note that I only have 24 episodes listed; this is because "Gambit, Parts I and II" and "All Good Things" originally aired as multi-episode stories.)

"Descent, Part II"
The season-spanning cliffhanger finally runs out of gas in this wrap-up to the Season 6 finale. Data joins forces with his brother Lore and the newly-individualized Borg to create a cybernetic fascist society just dripping with heavy-handed allusions to Earth's history. As a nice touch, we get a return visit from Hugh, from the Season 4 episode "I, Borg."
The Good: The entire ensemble cast used in various facets of a cooperative mission. Dr. Crusher even gets to strut her stuff in the captain's chair.
The Bad: Lore is supposed to be a master manipulator on the level of Hitler, or maybe even Satan, but comes across as an electronic Bill Clinton, spewing transparently false empathy as his only motivational tool.
The Ugly: More technobabble than you can shake a phase inducer at. Typical Trek use of Starfleet hardware to do stuff that it was never designed to do.
The Grade: C-

"Liaisons"
Ambassadors from yet another forehead-of-the-week alien race come aboard the Big E to explore various facets of humanity. One of them also secretly kidnaps Picard and takes him to a cheesy alien planet set.
The Good: A fairly light episode, often veering into comic relief territory.
The Bad: The alien ambassadors tend to wear clothes that reveal that yes, in the Star Trek universe, most people do indeed keep their genitals in the same place we do.
The Perfect: One of the greatest Worf lines of all time: "You are an insulting pompous fool, and if you were not an ambassador I would disembowel you right here!"
The Grade: B-

"Interface"
Season 7's parade of long-lost family members begins with a look at the LaForge family. Geordi's mother, a Starfleet captain, is missing. Geordi thinks he sees her while using a virtual reality probe to explore a wrecked starship trapped on the surface of a planet.
The Good: Counselor Troi is put to good use for a change. Geordi's communications with his father give us a sense of what off-duty real life is like in the 24th Century.
The Bad: This episode opened the floodgates for an entire season of family reunions.
The Cool: It is nice to see Geordi get an episode and some character development once in a while.
The Grade: B

"Gambit, Parts I and II"
Our story begins as a murder mystery—Captain Picard has been killed in a bar fight, and Commander Riker and the rest of the crew want answers. Soon everyone is embroiled in a plot involving ancient Vulcan artifacts, and Picard and Riker battle each other to become the top dog on a pirate ship.
The Good: A dense, complicated plot that makes excellent use of the whole ensemble. Data gets to show his stuff as a commander, and has a touching moment with Worf that actually works.
The Bad: The bad guys are, as usual, graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
The Cameo: Former L.A. Laker great James Worthy as a surly Klingon merchant captain.
The Grade: A-

"Phantasms"
Data is having nightmares, and Picard is trying once again to avoid the annual Starfleet banquet. A young engineering ensign has a crush on Geordi. It turns out that a strange alien intelligence is trying to communicate with Data through his dreams.
The Good: Lots of imagery stolen from Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" video.
The Bad: Data uses a cheesy holodeck sequence with Sigmund Freud to explore his subconscious.
The Ugly: If I had a piece of technology as prone to malfunctions and being controlled by aliens as Mr. Data, I would not let him anywhere near my ship, let alone in a position of responsibility.
The Grade: B

"Dark Page"
Counselor Troi gets her Season 7 Family Circus episode, as the grating Lwaxana shows up to make us all miserable one last time. The elder Troi is teaching a completely telepathic race how to communicate with Federation types. The mental exertion breaks down certain defenses, and Deanna must enter her mother's mind to uncover a deep, dark secret from the past.
The Good: A character-building episode with lots of close-ups of Marina Sirtis. I had forgotten how stunning she is, and how good an actor she is to boot.
The Bad: Lwaxana Troi. Does that not say it all?
The Cameo: Kirsten Dunst as the root of Lwaxana's troubles.
The Grade: C

"Attached"
Crusher and Picard wind up prisoners of one faction in a planetary conflict. To keep them under control, they are given neural implants that have the side effect of letting them hear each other's thoughts. The rest of the plot takes a back seat as we learn about Jean-Luc's long-concealed feelings for his old friend Beverly. Directed by Jonathan Frakes.
The Good: A well-done, subtle, mature hint of romance between Picard and Crusher. Fans had been wanting this for a long time.
The Bad: Not a major complaint, but the two go through some pretty cheesy obstacles during their escape, including a rip-off of the Fire Swamp from The Princess Bride.
The Perfect: Outstanding performance from Patrick Stewart, especially as he explains that he never discussed his feelings before because Beverly was married to his best friend.
The Grade: A-

"Force of Nature"
Alien terrorists are disabling warp-driven ships. It turns out that warp drives may be damaging the very fabric of space in the area of their homeworld. Yes, this is the crappy episode that gave us the dreaded Warp 5 speed limit.
The Good: A few funny moments with Data and his cat, Spot.
The Bad: Pretty much the rest of the episode.
The Ugly: Trek-style pseudo-Greenpeace moralizing at its worst. Star Trek always suffers when self-righteous writers allow preaching to overshadow good storytelling.
The Grade: F

"Inheritance"
The core of a planet is cooling at an alarming rate, and it is up to Data and Geordi to come up with a technobabble solution to put it right. This week's entry in the parade of long-lost relatives introduces us to Data's "mother," who may or may not be what she seems.
The Good: Brent Spiner gets to make a brief appearance without makeup as the holographic image of his "father," Dr. Soong.
The Bad: Pretty much the rest of the episode.
The Ugly: Another lame plot contrived to give us lots of mushy, "heartwarming" scenes and boring non-dilemmas.
The Grade: D+

"Parallels"
Worf gets to be the focus of an episode that concerns neither his family nor Klingon politics. He arrives on board the Enterprise after winning a bat'leth tournament. Or did he? As his surroundings and memories change around him, Worf realizes that he is shifting among several different realities. His shuttlecraft has passed into an alternate universe where Picard is dead, Riker is in command, and Worf is married to Deanna Troi. (See? Alternate universes do have their perks.)
The Good: A great performance from Michael Dorn. Hints of a romance between Worf and Troi in the real universe. The alternate-universe Deanna in an absolutely smashing outfit.
The Bad: Well, not much, actually.
The Quote: "Several contestants were maimed, but I was triumphant."
The Grade: A-

"The Pegasus"
Admiral Pressman, Commander Riker's old captain, shows up to take the Enterprise on a secret mission. They must find the Pegasus, Pressman's old ship, and recover her dark secrets before the Romulans can get their hands on her. What they find puts galactic peace and Riker's honor in the balance.
The Good: Tension between Riker and Picard. Riker choosing honor over loyalty to his former CO.
The Bad: "Captain Picard Day" reminds us that the producers refused to let go of the insane idea that there were children aboard the Enterprise.
The Director: LeVar Burton does an excellent job behind the camera as well as in front of it.
The Grade: A

"Homeward"
Worf gets to be the focus of yet another ring in the family circus. His human foster brother Nikolai Roshenko (Paul Sorvino!) violates the Prime Directive and tricks the Enterprise crew into helping him straighten it out.
The Good: The contrast between by-the-book Worf and seat-of-his-pants Nikolai provides some nice tension between the two brothers.
The Bad: Picard's usual melodramatic pontificating about the Prime Directive
The Ugly: Excessive use of the holodeck as a plot device, 15 yard penalty, repeat second down.
The Grade: C+

"Sub Rosa"
You want relatives? We have Dr. Crusher's dead grandmother for you, along with the "ghost" that has been haunting Beverly's female ancestors since the 17th century.
The Good: Well…lots of close-ups of the lovely Gates McFadden cannot be all bad, I guess…
The Bad: Another technobabble anaphasic something or another lifeform thingy…
The Unsettling: Watching Beverly…"react" to contact with the ghost is either the most erotic or creepiest thing ever to appear on TNG, depending on your point of view.
The Grade: B- if it is Halloween and you have nothing else to watch, otherwise C-

"Lower Decks"
You know all those 1000+ crewmen supposedly on board the Enterprise? We actually get to meet some in one of the best-loved episodes in the entire series. The junior officers worry about their fitness reports, make awkward attempts to suck up to their senior officers, and compare notes on all the best gossip from the bridge. They also compete for the same promotion and get involved in a secret mission that could bring the Federation and the Cardassians to the brink of war.
The Good: Creating real characters in a single episode is quite a feat, and this one pulls it off beautifully.
The Bad: Seven whole seasons and they only bothered to do this once??
The Editing: The parallel poker games between the senior officers and the junior officers are edited together seamlessly, in an homage to Fritz Lang's M. Perfect.
The Grade: A

"Thine Own Self"
Data shows once again why he is the least dependable piece of technology in Starfleet. He beams down to collect some radioactive fragments from a crashed probe and winds up with amnesia. He wanders into a pre-industrial society and exposes everyone to the wonders of radiation sickness. With the help of the local schoolmarm/doctor he discovers a cure, but he villagers turn on him anyway. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Troi is studying for her bridge officer's test, sort of a 24th-century version of the Kobayashi Maru.
The Good: A great chance to get away from the Enterprise and show an alien culture as real people and complete characters.
The Bad: Did I mention that Data's susceptibility to everything that comes down the pike gets old after a while?
The Grade: A-

"Masks"
The Enterprise discovers a rogue comet. Mysterious hieroglyphs begin appearing all over the ship. A long-dead alien culture has hidden their planetary archives in the comet, and a strange transmission takes over the ship's vital systems. The transporters and replicators begin turning the ship into an ancient alien temple. Meanwhile, Data is overcome by a host of alien personalities, and begins acting out an ancient story from the alien culture's mythology. If Picard does not figure out what it all means, the Enterprise could become a stone temple in space forever. (Insert clever "Stone Temple Pilot" joke of your choice here.)
The Good: Excellent acting by Brent Spiner as he portrays the various personalities possessing Data.
The Bad: Did I mention that Data's susceptibility to everything that comes down the pike gets old after a while?
The Bogus: Ridiculously easy solution that once again brings a carefully crafted episode to a totally unsatisfying conclusion.
The Grade: B-

"Eye of the Beholder"
When an engineering crewman commits a bizarre suicide in one of the warp nacelles, Worf and Deanna become involved in an investigation that points to a long-unsolved murder. While they are busy playing CSI, we get some tantalizing hints of a budding romance between the two.
The Good: The clever way that Deanna is forced to relive old events through someone else's eyes.
The Bad: The cheesy love triangle that sets up the murder mystery.
The Ugly: RED ALERT—it was all just a dream sequence. Please push your writers out the nearest airlock.
The Grade: C-

"Genesis"
A medical foul-up activates long-hidden genes in the crew. Everyone begins devolving into primitive lifeforms from their home worlds. Riker turns into a caveman, Lt. Barclay turns into a spider, Deanna turns into some sort of amphibious frog-thing, and Worf turns into a vicious predator. Data and Picard must cure everyone before they all go to the dogs and start eating each other.
The Good: Director Gates McFadden creates a haunted-house feel that offers some genuine scares.
The Bad: No one should be able to cause or remedy this kind of situation this easily.
The Guest: Fans will appreciate one last appearance by Dwight Schultz as Reg Barclay.
The Grade: C

"Journey's End"
A petulant, irritable Cadet Wesley Crusher comes back from the Academy. The Enterprise receives new orders; due to a recent treaty with the Cardassians, certain Federation colonies must be evacuated. Among those is a colony of American Indians who do not care to leave the planet they spent 200 years looking for. One of the Indians befriends Wesley, and encourages him to engage in the traditional ritual known as a "vision quest." What Wesley discovers leads him to quit Starfleet and begin the path to a higher plane of existence.
The Good: A fitting sendoff for Wesley, just when we were all beginning to like him, or at least stop hating him.
The Bad: Like him or not, it is tough to swallow him as some sort of higher entity.
The Touching: A Cardassian Gul who has a heart after all, and in his own way is as sincere as Picard in his desire to avoid war.
The Grade: B+

"Firstborn"
Worf gets to be the focus of an episode that features both his family and Klingon politics. The ever-annoying Alexander refuses to take part in the Rite of Ascension that will mark the beginning of his life as a Klingon warrior. K'mtar, a mysterious family advisor, shows up to help Worf set the boy straight—but K'mtar might have his own motives, and might not be who he seems to be.
The Good: Season 7 would not have been complete without at least one good episode dealing with Klingon culture.
The Bad: Brian Bonsall as Alexander.
The Ugly: If time travel were really that easy, would not everyone do it? All the time?
The Grade: B

"Bloodlines"
Ferengi DaiMon Bok from the Season 1 episode "The Battle" comes back once again to try to wreak vengeance on Picard for killing Bok's son in a battle so many years ago. He plans to do this by killing Picard's long-lost son, Jason Vigo. (No, you did not miss anything—Picard is just as surprised at this revelation as we are.) The problem is, Jason is not actually Picard's son, but Bok re-sequenced his DNA to make it seem like Picard had a son, and then kill him in order to make Picard suffer. If this makes sense to anyone, please let me know.
The Good: At least this is the last of the Season 7 family circus episodes.
The Bad: Everything. The script, the story, the concept.
The Ugly: Of all the story arcs to revisit in the final season they chose DaiMon Bok's grudge? Inexcusable.
The Grade: D-

"Emergence"
An alien entity hijacks the Enterprise and attempts to build an artificial intelligence. It communicates to the crew through surreal holodeck imagery.
The Good: The holodeck imagery is quite interesting.
The Bad: Not much else in this episode is.
The Ugly: The holodeck ranks second only to Mr. Data as the most easily exploited piece of technology on the ship; at least this is the last one in a long line of holodeck-driven stories.
The Grade: D

"Preemptive Strike"
Michelle Forbes returns as Lt. Ro Laren, just in time to undertake a dangerous undercover mission. Starfleet is worried that the Maquis resistance against the Cardassians threatens the delicate peace; Ro, as a Bajoran, is assigned to infiltrate the Maquis and sabotage their operations. Once there, she begins to question which side she is really on. Is Picard's faith in her misplaced?
The Good: Excellent performances from Forbes and Stewart, and great soul-wrenching dilemmas all around.
The Bad: Ro joins the Maquis in a cheesy sequence straight out of the Mos Eisley cantina, but we can forgive that.
The Director: Patrick Stewart brings his emotional sensibilities and artistry to one of the best episodes of the whole season, possibly the whole series.
The Grade: A

"All Good Things"
How do you end a monumental series after seven years? By going back to the beginning and pretending like you had a conscious story arc all along. John DeLancie takes his bow as the all-powerful alien Q. Picard is shifting back and forth through time, and Q is there as his personal ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future all rolled into one. Picard stands trial before Q once again, just as he did seven years earlier during "Encounter at Farpoint." He and his crew face one final test; will they inadvertently destroy humanity before it even begins, or will they cooperate across different time periods to come up with a unique solution?
The Good: Great performances by the whole cast, in all time periods. Their older selves in particular are a joy to watch.
The Bad: Nothing.
The Verdict: A perfect sendoff for a remarkable television series, and one of the best episodes of their entire run.
The Grade: A

The Evidence

There is a lot about the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation that makes no sense to me. It is hard to believe that the writers and producers of such a monumental show could assemble a final season that is so maddeningly uneven and seemingly haphazard in its construction. Nowhere outside of the finale is there even a hint that this is anything more than just another day at the offices of Picard and Co., with the crew punching the clock and putting in their time. For such a ballyhooed final season, there is a remarkable lack of any sense of finality.

Paramount has taken a lot of well-deserved criticism of late for their mishandling of their golden franchise. They are finally rectifying their treatment of the original crew's films with solid special editions. Unfortunately, the attention paid to this DVD release of TNG's final season is somewhat lacking. This is especially pronounced in the video presentation. Do not get me wrong—the picture quality is adequate, and certainly a cut above broadcast or cable television, but it falls short of the high standards to which the rabid legions of Star Trek fans are going to hold it. Color fidelity is good, including the telltale reds and blacks. However, the picture is quite soft most of the time compared to most major DVD releases. It also tends to be a bit dark. Some episodes, notably "Liaisons," show a far higher level of grain/noise than I would have expected; this is especially pronounced in the darker scenes where Picard is held captive in a wrecked alien freighter. Exterior space shots such as Enterprise flybys tended to show a lot of aliasing, and the pinpoints of light from stars or starship windows tended to flicker and sparkle noticeably.

For the ongoing DVD releases, Paramount has remixed the sound elements into a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It has good clarity and dynamic range, but is quite limited in its use of the surround channels. There is the occasional bit of ambient engine thrumming, or an occasional starship flyby that uses directional effects, but these uses are infrequent and nothing to write home about. There are some notable exceptions, such as the clink of dishes behind the viewer in the Ten-Forward scenes in "Inheritance," but these are all too rare.

One area where Paramount has definitely improved upon the DVD release of the original Star Trek series is extra features. Of course, the original series discs had no extra features, so improvement is a relative term. As with all of the preceding season of The Next Generation, this set holds an extensive collection of retrospective featurettes:

Mission Overview: Year Seven (approx. 14 minutes): In this season wrap-up, we learn that 1994 was a chaotic time for everyone concerned. Trek honcho Rick Berman relates that the Star Trek offices were working on TNG's Season 7, Deep Space Nine's Season 2, pre-production work on Star Trek: Generations, and initial development of Star Trek: Voyager. Writer Brannon Braga assures us that the "Family Circus" theme was not intentional, but he seems unduly pleased with how it turned out. LeVar Burton reminisces about working with Ben Vereen in "Interface," Jeri Taylor talks about episodes designed to provide the setup for Voyager, and much more.

A Captain's Tribute (approx. 16 minutes): Patrick Stewart's dignified presence and leadership helped set the tone for seven seasons; it seems only fitting that he give a final benediction to his cast mates. Stewart, as always, is full of grace and class as he shares fond memories of the actors who helped make The Next Generation so memorable.

Department Briefing: Production (approx. 15 minutes): Gates McFadden reflects on directing "Genesis," probably the most makeup-intensive episode ever. Jeri Taylor discusses her push for stronger female characters throughout the final season. We discover that Nick Sagan, who wrote the Picard/Crusher episode "Attached," is the son of Carl Sagan. Not only that, but young Nick's recorded voice was sent into space aboard one of NASA's Voyager probes in the 1970s, bearing a greeting from the children of Earth.

Star Fleet Memories and Moments (approx. 30 minutes): Almost everyone involved in Star Trek: The Next Generation gets an opportunity to reflect on their seven-year mission and share all manner of behind-the-scenes stories, personal anecdotes, and the like.

The Making of "All Good Things" (approx. 18 minutes): Exactly what one would expect from a featurette with that title. This is quite a good look at the creative process as writers, producers, and stars try to find a way to send the crew off in a fitting manner.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD Preview (approx. 5 minutes): More than just a commercial, this teaser for the DS9 season box sets gives a fair amount of character background and explanation of the series. I know I am intrigued enough to give them a look. All 176 hours of DS9 will be released in 2003, beginning with Season 1 in February.

This is an extensive and impressive collection of information on not just the final season, but the whole series. More than just promotional fluff, these are in-depth featurettes that allow the participants to explain their emotions and motivations, and the choices they made in their contribution to Star Trek: The Next Generation whether on-camera or behind the scenes. If the tone gets a bit self-congratulatory at times, who can blame them?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While the extra content as provided is very informative, it leaves some room for improvement. A commentary track or two would have been a wonderful addition to this release. In particular, "All Good Things" should have been worthy of a commentary. It would also have been invaluable to have the actors-turned-directors such as Frakes, Stewart, Burton, and McFadden give us their thoughts on the episodes they directed.

Closing Statement

An uneven curtain call that mirrors the uneven run of the series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Seven is of course a must-have for everyone who considers himself even a moderately serious fan of Gene Roddenberry's universe. Anyone who is frustrated about the current plight of the franchise need look no further for the seeds of your discomfort; anyone who loves the franchise need look no further for a reminder of its greatness.

The Verdict

If even Q found them not guilty and let them go about their business, who am I to disagree?

We stand adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 90
Extras: 75
Acting: 84
Story: 80
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 1215 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Science Fiction
• Star Trek
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Mission Overview: Year Seven
• A Captain's Tribute
• Departmental Briefing, Year Seven: Production
• The Making of "All Good Things"
• Starfleet Moments and Memories
• Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD Preview








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