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
"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
The Good: The entire ensemble cast used in various
facets of a cooperative mission. Dr. Crusher even gets to strut her stuff in the
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-
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
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-
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.
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
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.
Bad: The bad guys are, as usual, graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper
The Cameo: Former L.A. Laker great James Worthy as a
surly Klingon merchant captain.
The Grade: A-
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.
Bad: Data uses a cheesy holodeck sequence with Sigmund Freud to explore his
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.
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
The Bad: Lwaxana Troi. Does that not say it all?
Kirsten Dunst as the root of Lwaxana's troubles.
The Grade: C
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
The Good: A well-done, subtle, mature hint of romance between
Picard and Crusher. Fans had been wanting this for a long time.
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.
Perfect: Outstanding performance from Patrick Stewart, especially as he explains
that he never discussed his feelings before because Beverly was married to his
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.
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
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.
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
The Grade: D+
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
The Bad: Well, not much, actually.
The Quote: "Several
contestants were maimed, but I was triumphant."
The Grade: A-
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.
"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
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
The Bad: Picard's usual melodramatic pontificating about the
The Ugly: Excessive use of the holodeck as a plot device,
15 yard penalty, repeat second down.
The Grade: C+
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.
Well…lots of close-ups of the lovely Gates McFadden cannot be all bad, I
The Bad: Another technobabble anaphasic something or another
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
The Grade: B- if it is Halloween and you have nothing else to
watch, otherwise C-
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
The Bad: Seven whole seasons and they only bothered to do
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.
"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
The Good: A great chance to get away from the
Enterprise and show an alien culture as real people and complete
The Bad: Did I mention that Data's susceptibility to
everything that comes down the pike gets old after a while?
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
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.
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.
Fans will appreciate one last appearance by Dwight Schultz as Reg Barclay.
The Grade: C
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
The Bad: Like him or not, it is tough to swallow him as some sort of
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.
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
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.
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?
The Grade: D-
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
The Bad: Not much else in this episode is.
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
The Grade: D
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.
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.
Verdict: A perfect sendoff for a remarkable television series, and one of the
best episodes of their entire run.
The Grade: A
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
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
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?