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: The Next Level (Blu-ray) (published January 29th, 2012), 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 Seven (published February 10th, 2003), and Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Jean-Luc Picard Collection (published August 23rd, 2004) are also available.
"Q, what is going on?"
If you know nothing else about me, you know that I am a devoted fan of Star Trek. There's a lot that I will tolerate from this franchise that I would abhor in other venues. After hundreds and hundreds of hours of watching, I can cut it some slack and forgive most of its sins. With the recent release of Nemesis, I stumbled across this from Glenn Kenny in Premiere magazine: "The Star Trek movies really come up short if you insist on seeing them as movie per se; so much of one's reaction to them is tied into whatever affection/devotion one has for/to the television series that spawned them."
We're not talking about the movies, but obviously his sentiments easily transcend to the series themselves.
In my world of entertainment, Star Trek is my primary passion, my foremost hobby, my favorite pastime. I have watched every episode of every show, seen every movie numerous times, read the books, listened to the CDs, gone to conventions, and more. I have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into the franchise and I'm not ready to give up on it. In the end, I'm still having fun.
TNG will always be held in the highest regard for me because it is the first Trek that I grew up with. Yes, I was already in my late teens when "Encounter at Farpoint" premiered, but it's still "my" Trek. I wasn't born for the original, so while I love that show, it isn't as close to me as some of its spin-offs.
I don't see any reason to give up on Trek. It may occasionally falter, as all things tend to do, but there's still strength and vitality buried deep in its lore.
Though I may see Trek through rose-colored glasses, I'm not completely impartial and blind to its strengths and weaknesses. Surprisingly, I do have a slight modicum of objectivity left.
Facts of the Case
The quality of the seasons over the seven year run of TNG follows the shape of everyone's favorite bell curve: the first season was quite dreadful; season two showed distinct improvement but still had quite a few dogs; seasons three, four, and five exhibited many outstanding episodes highlighting the peak of writing; season six began a downward slide in quality; and season seven felt incomplete in tying up loose ends yielding a less-than-satisfying conclusion to the series.
And here we are, looking back at season six. The end was clearly in sight and a bit of sadness began to seep in knowing that there were a distinct number of new episodes left. Unfortunately, the episodes just weren't as consistently good as you'd come to expect over the past few years. But, you didn't care. It was Trek. You just enjoyed the ride while it lasted.
Then something odd happened: Deep Space 9 (DS9). The second spin-off premiered, giving the venerable TNG a little bit of competition. Actually, there wasn't any real competition, as DS9 could never muster the same fervent following like Picard and his crew. But it was there, perhaps stealing a bit of the creativity and energy leading to the lackluster batch of episodes during this sixth season.
To me, one of the glaring problems during these latter years of TNG was its fixation on Data and Worf. Personally, I find the occasional Klingon episode interesting, but I've never really cared all that much about Worf's culture to want to learn as much as they cared to show. It's a big universe, so let's spread it around a bit, and not take the easy route with one race. And, speaking of effortless, how many episodes unnecessarily focused on our android friend? Much to the joy of the Spiner-fems of the world, Data's popularity led to his being the focus of more episodes with each passing week. Again, he is an interesting character, but we need to continue to mix it up to keep it fresh and exciting for the fans.
Let's take a quick look at this motley group of 26 episodes and see what's really lurking beneath all that makeup. As I've done in my other reviews of the TNG sets, I've compiled the individual episode scores to determine the story score in the Scales of Justice.
"Time's Arrow, Part II"
"Realm of Fear"
"Man of the People"
"A Fistful of Datas"
"The Quality of Life"
"Chain of Command, Part I"
"Chain of Command, Part II"
"Ship in a Bottle"
"Face of the Enemy"
"Birthright, Part I"
"Birthright, Part II"
"Frame of Mind"
"Descent, Part I"
As much as everyone loves the Borg (myself most definitely included), isn't it sad that the writers ran out of ideas for an exciting season-ending episode? Just because the cliffhanger worked stupendously at the end of year three, did they also have to do it again in year four and again in year five and again in year six? Further, the Borg already laid claim to the end of season three and Data already laid claim to the end of year five, so why couldn't they come up with something brand new for this year instead of just lumping the two together? Oh, I forgot! The writers were stuck in a rut this year. They took the easy way out by using the win-win characters.
The latest batch of DVDs from the fiends at Paramount gives us more of the same. If you own any of the previous seasons, you know exactly what to expect here. No surprises, no revelations, no little extras. It's par for the course and the audio and video transfer mimic what you've already seen, which is certainly not a bad thing. The video gives us each full frame episode with excellent, rich colors, accurate flesh tones, solid blacks, and no transfer errors. The 5.1 remix of the episodes continue to satisfy with clean and clear dialogue through the center channel, a decent thrum through the subwoofer, and only minimal use of the surrounds. As always, I still wish the audio could have been just a tad better: more powerful, more defined, more separated. Since the release of season four, I've seen little change in the transfers so you can utilize that as a gauge, if necessary.
Bonus features follow the usual pattern, with only a tiny variation in the mix:
• Mission Overview Year 6 (17.5 minutes): A fairly interesting, though somewhat dry, overview of special events during this season: the resolution of "Time's Arrow," the return of Mr. Scott, the premiere of DS9, the challenges of "Chain of Command," and the appearance of the Borg and Stephen Hawking in "Descent." As always, there really isn't anything that new learned in this feature. Any moderate fan will already know just about everything stated.
• Bold New Directions (17.5 minutes): The feature details the directing debuts of Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton. Not a bad feature but, ignoring the few minutes with Burton, this really isn't the best way to talk about the man who breathes life into Captain Picard. There are many other things I'd rather know about Stewart than how and why he wanted to direct episodic TV. Doesn't he deserve a full crew profile of his own?
• Department Briefing—Production (15 minutes): The production department takes a few minutes to enlighten us about a few tricks of their trade by detailing some of what they did in "Relics" (the Dyson Sphere), showing us some makeup tips, and pointing out some of their "special graphics." After that, you get a quick run through on the season's writing.
• Department Briefing—Profile, Dan Curry (19.5 minutes): There are a lot of people that go into making a series, so it's a bit odd that they've picked the Visual Effects Producer as the first recipient of this special crew profile. Granted, he's an interesting if yet extremely quirky guy who's contributed quite a bit to the franchise, but you still have to say "hmmm?." And, wow, he's got a nice pad. Glad to know that my money is being well spent.
• Special Crew Profile—Lt. Commander Data (18.5 minutes): The loud piercing shriek of the Spiner-fems has given me a migraine. They are in joy over this special segment dedicated exclusively to Brent Spiner and his android persona. It's not a bad bit, but it is incredibly insulting that it took six seasons to get to the exclusive cast profile. But why Data? Why not Picard, the captain of the Enterprise? I believe every major cast member deserved this treatment. This just goes to prove how fixated everyone is with Data.
You are also treated to two trailers: the teaser for Star Trek: Nemesis, which I wish was in Dolby 5.1, and a teaser for the upcoming DS9 DVD sets for 2003. In each case, both trailers are fantastic. The Nemesis teaser has been around for months and is a beautifully crafted trailer that gave the tenth film a riveting and captivating new look for the franchise. Upon seeing the snippet for DS9, I am very excited to revisit this underappreciated spin-off. A great series with fascinating characters and an interesting story arc, it certainly appears that Paramount may do this set better than the lackluster treatment of TNG.
And, again, no outtakes, deleted scenes, jokes, puns, or fun. It's all cut and dry and serious. Lighten up, Paramount! This is your crown jewel, so show it off a little bit more! That tiny snippet of Stewart singing on the season five set, do you remember that? We love that stuff. It's new material like that that we crave and want more of…in all regards.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This time I am not going to pretend to say anything negative. I know from reading the posts in the Jury Room that I could never contrive a sentiment to mirror what many of you truly feel.
Fortunately, TNG is among the favored few of the Trek pantheon, so you are already quite familiar with the series, the sets, and so forth. You don't need me to tell you how to proceed here, for you've already decided if the release is worthy of being a part of your collection. For me, there's no better way to spend my money then on my favorite pastime. I gladly own every set and gleefully recommend that you own it as well. While this season does not have the strongest selection of episodes, there are a few in there that are among the absolute best that Trek has ever made. You know the actors, the characters, the sets, the special effects, and Paramount's attempts at bonus materials. There are no surprises, which is quite apropos, so go forth and live long and prosper.
Paramount is found guilty of continued lackluster treatment of the bonus materials in the premiere franchise. They are sentenced to a year in the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe.
The writers of the sixth season are sentenced to one month of probation and community service for putting forth a mediocre batch of stories during this year.
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Scales of Justice
• Mission Overview Year 6
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