Judge Patrick Bromley is naming his next child Lwaxana.
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: 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), 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.
"Seize the time. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now
will never come again."
What many consider to be the best season of Star Trek: The Next Generation makes its high-def debut with yet another incredible Blu-ray release of the long-running Star Trek franchise, courtesy of the people at Paramount.
Facts of the Case
Here are the 26 episodes that make up Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five:
• "Redemption Part II"
• "Ensign Ro"
• "Silicon Avatar"
• "The Game"
• "Unification Part I"
• "Unification Part II"
• "A Matter of Time"
• "New Ground"
• "Hero Worship"
• "The Masterpiece Society"
• "Power Play"
• "The Outcast"
• "Cause and Effect"
• "The First Duty"
• "Cost of Living"
• "The Perfect Mate"
• "Imaginary Friend"
• "I Borg"
• "The Next Phase"
• "The Inner Light"
• "Time's Arrow Part I"
I have a confession to make. I have not seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Watching this box set of Season Five was my first viewing of many—if not most—of the episodes. I haven't seen most or all of Seasons Six or Seven, either, meaning I am unqualified to say whether or not Season Five is the finest hour for TNG. I can say that if the next two seasons improve on what is offered here, I am in for some pretty amazing television.
Here's how good Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five is: it can bring back Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher, long considered one of the most reviled characters in Star Trek history (completely unfairly, I would argue), and make the audience happy to see him. It can bring on Leonard Nimoy's Spock for a brilliant two-parter ("Unification," both parts of which are available as a separate stand-alone Blu-ray release for those not willing to shell out for the entire season) and make it feel like more than a desperate ratings stunt. Instead, the two-parter helps tie The Next Generation to Star Trek: The Original Series in the best possible way, closing the Trek universe without making it feel closed off or small. Season Five introduces a new recurring character—Michelle Forbes' Ensign Ro Laren, a Bajoran with a chip on her shoulder and a troubled past—and it doesn't feel like a Cousin Arthur situation. So many shows bring new characters on and it feels like a nuisance or a distraction. We just want to get back to the cast we know and love. But Ensign Ro brings a new dynamic to the bridge of Enterprise, forcing characters to bounce off of her in new ways and showing sides of their personalities we don't often get to see. She raises the game. I'd actually suggest she should have been used more in the season, but perhaps that would have diminished the impact. Maybe she's used just right.
The driving force behind Season Five is the collaboration between writer/producers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, which really came into its own here. The Next Generation has always been a show that emphasized philosophy and discussion over two-fisted action, which is part of why it has been reassessed as the "nerdy" or "square" Star Trek in recent years. But for thoughtful science fiction fans, the moral dilemmas the Enterprise crew faces in Season Five are as compelling as any space battle. Braga, who is often accused of destroying the Star Trek legacy with future series (including the much-maligned Star Trek: Enterprise, a show I also really like), deserves credit for his contributions to scripts that truly honor the ideals set forth by creator Gene Roddenberry. I know he's a polarizing figure in the world of Star Trek fans, but he should be recognized for his excellent collaborations with Moore (who would of course go on to reboot Battlestar Galactica, arguable the most popular and beloved sci-fi series of the 2000s). Their work helps keep The Next Generation not just vibrant (and relevant, with a number of clever issue-themed episodes sprinkled through the season), but actually improving as it goes along.
Just the presence of the "Unification" two-parter and "The Inner Light" make Season Five classic Star Trek worth owning. But there are other fantastic episodes here that deserve to be mentioned among the series' highlights, including "Cause and Effect" (the Groundhog Day of TNG), "I Borg" and "Conundrum." Not every episode can be a home run, so there's the occasional "Imaginary Friend" or "New Ground," a mostly fine episode that is hampered a little by its focus on Worf. I like Worf as much as anyone, but he's a limited character in terms of range—a flaw that's often exacerbated when he's given center stage. That's a petty complaint, of course, because Worf is a valuable part of the ensemble I like more than any of the other Trek shows (this could still change with time, of course, as I'm only part way through the remaining three series). Next Generation has such a solid bench of characters that I love, and Season Five does a mostly good job of not just devoting each episode to an individual character the way it has in the past. Yes, there are the Riker-centric episodes and the Picard-centric episodes (which I will never complain about), but the majority of the season does a good job of balancing the ensemble and showing their strength as a group.
Paramount continues to stun with their high def transfers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, making it the only way anyone will want to watch the show once they've seen how good it looks. All 26 episodes are presented in their original full frame television aspect ratio in 1080p HD and look totally stunning. If you have been collecting the Blu-ray releases of the series to his point, there should be no surprises—Paramount's remastering makes the show look brand new, with bold colors, solid detail and none of the fuzziness we've lived with in 20 years of syndication. It's incredible. Another lossless 7.1 audio track is included and it's once again outstanding, giving The Next Generation the most exciting and robust audio presentation ever offered. Dialogue is handled well, the score gets a good showcase, the action beats are powerful and the sounds of the ship have never been more immersive or effective. Paramount is making it impossible to avoid upgrading your DVD sets of the series with the care and effort they put into these Blu-ray sets. They're just so good.
All of the bonus features from the original Season Five DVD release have been carried over to the Blu-ray version, including the commentaries, episode promos (which can be played with every episode and demonstrate just how good the HD transfers look in comparison to their fuzzy standard def counterparts) and featurettes: "Mission Overview Year Five," a look back at the season as a whole; "Departmental Briefing Year Five: Production," more of the same; a piece on the shows visual effects, another on the guest stars, a tribute to original Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who died while Season Five was originally airing; "Memorable Missions," which examines a few of the season's standout episodes and "Alien Speak," which looks at the fictional languages of some of the show's alien races. A gag reel and several new deleted scenes have also been included, all presented in 1080p HD.
New to this set are four new commentaries (one from Family Guy creator and devoted Star Trek geek Seth McFarlane) and a couple of longer featurettes, including an hour-plus discussion on the music Star Trek: The Next Generation with a roundtable of composers and musicians. The best feature—as has been the case on all of the Trek series Blu-rays—is a two-part retrospective documentary, "Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Cast and crew discuss not just the specifics of the season, but The Next Generation as a whole, from executing Gene Roddenberry's vision to his death during production, from the use of the Prime Directive to the more hard-science aspects of the series. All of the discussion is really terrific, and made me want to rematch the entire season as soon as it was over.
The remarkable quality of Star Trek: The Next Generation is the best possible tribute to the legacy of Gene Roddenberry, whose vision lives on in every thoughtful script, every complex character and every utopian principal upheld by these 26 episodes. It's hard to imagine science fiction television or Star Trek getting much better than this.
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