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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five Blu-Ray ReviewBlu-ray Paramount TV Reviews
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: CBS
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, French 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Dutch, Other
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 19 Hr. 42 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: Multi-disc with slipcover
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 11/19/2013
- MSRP: $129.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
“Earth was once a violent planet, too. At times, the chaos threatened the very fabric of life, but, like you, we evolved; we found better ways to handle our conflicts. But I think no one can deny that the seed of violence remains within each of us. We must recognize that. Because that violence is capable of consuming each of us…”
Star Trek: The Next Generation is the most successful of the now five Star Trek series, and for good reason. It was serious minded, exciting, and bolstered by wonderful visual effects for a Television show (thanks to ILM’s terrific stock effects and other talented folk) and an earnest dedication to the evolved sensibilities of our possible future created by Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. The cast ranged from superb actors to moderately skilled, but each added a flavor and distinctness that are every bit an integral element in the fabric of the show. Patrick Stewart stars as the English accented, French born Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Jonathan Frakes as the handsome first officer, William T Riker, Brent Spiner as a unique and beloved android Commander Data, LeVar Burton, with his special visor as a mechanically gifted Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Marina Sirtis as a half-betazoid, half human ship counselor Deanna Troi, Michael Dorn as the interesting and impressive Chief of Security Worf (the lone Klingon aboard), Beverly Crusher portrayed by Gates McFadden, and joining the cast as a spoil and dramatic stir, Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro Laren.
The crew, captained by Jean-Luc Picard, explores space in the Enterprise D, a Galaxy Class starship, housing over 1000 crew and their families. They encounter evolved beings, mysterious anomalies, aggressive and amenable species and other assorted magnificent wonders out in the great unknown. The stories from the seven seasons for which this show ran feature impressive, intelligent and exciting tales that deliver allegorical thought-provokers and good old fashion science fiction fun. It is a show that has grown and prospered from the success of what the original series (in syndication and in feature films) provided. The Next Generation was different from the days of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in tone, technology and tenor – but fundamentally born of the same spirit of exploration, tolerance, social stories and intellect.
A mature, sure-footed and accomplished science fiction television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fifth season is most poised. It was, however, marked by the sadness of the passing of the Great Bird, Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry, who died early into the season’s airing. Despite that cloud, the fifth year of the syndicated smash would be noted for several magnificent episodes (“Cause and Effect”, “The Inner Light”), and for the introduction of a new species and crew member, the Bajoran Ensign Ro (her planet referred to as Bajora instead of Bajor as it would be known on the spinoff, Deep Space Nine). Conceived as a way to ruffle the feathers of the familiar and conflict free crew, her introduction was superbly handled thanks the excellent Michelle Forbes cast in the role (following her excellent guest appearance in the fourth seasons “Half-a-Life”), and the balancing act played by the writers in bringing in a brash but not bratty character and easing her into the shows storylines rather than focusing on her too much too, soon.
Too often new characters added to smooth running television shows become the focal point, perhaps the result of a second wind for writers who’ve found a fresh person for whom to write, or of producers attempting to shake things up on their show for the sake of ratings or quality. Since Star Trek: The Next Generation had experienced no great lull in quality and had seen its ratings stride higher than ever, becoming a Top 10 show (if it had been on a network), the choice to bring in Forbes had been for creative reasons, thus no need or proclivity to centralize the show around her introduction. Very wise.
Overall, this fifth season is decidedly even, with considerable consistency in the quality of the storytelling. That in the 26 episodes there are fewer revelatory stand outs as found in the peak of season three is of small matter when included are magnificent hours of television such as “Darmok”, “Redemption Part II”, “Cause and Effect”, the extraordinary “The Inner Light”, and the landmark “Unification” Parts I and II, which features Leonard Nimoy reprising his Spock character. The visual effects continued to improve with evermore computer generated imagery (notably the visual representation of the addictive game in “The Game”, and the life destroying Chrystalline Entity – which sees a beautiful and faithful upgrade in this set), yet even the traditional effects appear grander and more accomplished, including the ship graveyard in “Unification Part I” and the dusty wasteland left in the wake of the Entity in “Silicon Avatar.”
The show continued to show its strength of allegory, with treatments of the reunification of East and West Germany, intolerance towards gays, the morality (and toll) of vengeance, gaming addiction, parenting troubled children, rape, and the ethics of assisted suicide. Heavy subjects indeed, but through the prism of science fiction, and with the outside perspective of a future time, place, and issue, these issues could be examined with great perspective and reflection. Sometimes more heavy handed than necessary, or not as deeply examined as we would have liked to see (“The Outcast” and “The Game” spring to mind as episodes that begin the examination, but are too thin given the possibilities of their subjects), The Next Generation should be applauded for not losing sight of the power and importance of shining a mirror to humanity in between the technobabble and phaser fights.
The highlights of season five are:
Redemption Part II
The Klingon Civil War, begun over the divided loyalties of the Klingon High Council between the true successor to the throne, Gowron, and the deceitful challenger, Duras, is in full swing. Worf has chosen to step away from Starfleet to join his brother’s ship and help defend Gowron, the rightful heir to become leader.
Part II of “Redemption” brings serious Worf related storylines, as the political machinations of the Duras family – instigated by the mischievous Lursa and B’Etor – and with the conniving hand of the Romulans as revealed at the end of Part I, play out against eth backdrop of the Klingon Civil War.
The two-part “Redemption” is a marvelous example of how the evolved sensibilities of humanity in the 23rd century could be tested and fraught with conflict and pressures that threaten that progressed state. Michael Dorn’s portrayal of Worf is something that became stronger and more impressive over time and he absolutely steals the show in this exciting hour and a half. He is surrounded by fine performances by others, many of whom are also adorned with the Klingon façade. Robert O’Reilly as Gowron in particular continues to stand out as a smaller framed Klingon but a warrior with wit and grit.
No other non-human species has been more explored than the Klingons in the history of Star Trek, and with good reason. The warrior race is immensely interesting, bound by honor and duty, the fighting-oriented race becomes ever more complex the more time we spend with them. “Redemption Part II”, added an intriguing Romulan element that would continue in the two-part “Unification”, and a strong start to season five.
The meeting of the federation and a species for whom communication (and by extension, relations) have been near impossible, becomes an unusual standoff as Captain Picard and Dathon, the captain of the Children of Tama species vessel, are beamed to a planet’s surface with nothing more than daggers. Commanding the enterprise, Riker patiently attempts diplomatic avenues with the fellow orbiting ship, but with an undecipherable language and a dangerous life form on the surface stalking the two captains, Riker must take more direct action as time runs out.
Rather than a chest-beating contest where two captains dual for dominance or respect, Darmok superbly dissects the majesty of learning about foreign peoples and cultures despite incredible odds. The Children of Tama’s language is based on abstract descriptions of folklore stories, and knowledge of people, places, times, and events is critical to determining what is being said. A fantastic premise against which Captain Picard and Captain Dathon, played by Paul Winfield (Terrell of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), perform superbly. Scenes between Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield are entertaining as two seasoned captains (and veteran actors) turn an uneasy lack of understanding (and trust) into mutual respect and partnership as they face off against a strange magnetic, near invisible creature.
Unification Parts I & II
Ambassador Spock, spotted on the Romulan home world, is feared to have defected. Captain Picard is tasked with determining Spock’s intentions. A visit with Sarek, Spock’s estranged and dying father, yields little answers. With no other recourse, and the possibility of Spock divulging a lifetime of secrets to a longtime foe of the Federation, Picard must travel to Romulus and track down the legendary former member of the USS Enterprise. Securing passage on a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey, Picard and Lt. Commander Data make their way to find Spock, donning Romulan facial prosthetics as subterfuge, they must avoid detection for fear of death, and solve the mystery of Spock’s disappearance.
The second of three Star Trek: The Original Series actors to appear in The Next Generation, following DeForest Kelley’s appearance in the Pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”, and preceding James Doohan’s entertaining re-materialization in Season Six’ “Relics”, Leonard Nimoy’s guest starring role on the successor Star Trek series was much anticipated. Appearing less than a month before the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the two-part episode and the final Star Trek film featuring the full Original Series cast shared interesting thematic similarities; the potential for a thawing of tense relations between species and the courage and trust exhibited by once skeptical members of the United Federation of Planets (and those of the associated species).
The strength and longevity of “Unification” comes largely from the maturity of the storytelling and the potency of its core idea. Drawing from the reunification of the German Democratic Republic (East) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West) that began, rather peacefully, at the end of the 1980’s, and was symbolized by the fall (the tearing down piece by piece by jubilant and dedicated protestors) of the Berlin Wall, this two-part episode wades into compelling political territory. An examination of two cousin species (like the kindred lives of the East and West Germans), and the politics, propaganda, and cultural separation that had erected barriers between them, is an absorbing subject ripe for exploration. This is most effectively raised in the discussions on Romulus between Spock and the members of the underground movement he has come to foster, and between Spock and Picard and Data as they discuss the opportunity Spock is bravely exploring.
“Unification Parts I & II” succeed as quality Star Trek and entertaining television in general. More subdued and dramatic compared to other two-part episodes, which until this point had been the Pilot and the season three and four finales, it finds energy in its drama. The B-plot of Commander Riker taking the Enterprise on the hunt for related clues to Spock’s appearance on Romulus is lighter in tone, serving as a nice balance. The conclusion may not be wholly satisfying in and of itself, but the experience of Spock, Picard and Data sharing scenes is historic.
Cause and Effect
The Enterprise, destroyed by a collision with another starship, finds itself and her crew trapped in a loop of time, repeating the survey of Typhon Expanse. As several crew members become increasingly aware of the time loop, through déjà vu, they must find a way to break the pattern without knowing what or how they have become locked in the loop.
“Cause and Effect” is immensely entertaining science fiction. Brannon Braga wrote the teleplay, with Jonathan Frakes directing, and it has proven to be one of the most popular of the entire seven season run. Incorporation of the poker game played by the senior staff into the main plot is something special here, and although the conceit is a marvelous draw of curiosity, it is the dialogue between Work, Riker, Data and Dr. Crusher at the card table that equally elevates the joy of this outing. Performances are all strong and the direction by Jonathan Frakes, who with every directorial effort more capably demonstrated his grasp of Trek and the actors portraying the crew, positively shines behind the camera. Frakes adroitly treats the brilliant material, approaching the repeated scenes with a firm understanding of how to keep the same material fresh as the crew begins to understand the loop they are stuck within. It’s a real pleasure to watch this episode unfold.
Excellence in almost every facet of television production graces this episode. Watching and re-watching this episode is easy, and the cameo appearance by Cheers actor Kelsey Grammer (the third in Star Trek following Bebe Neuwirth and Kirstie Alley), is icing on the cake.
The Next Phase
The Enterprise has arrived at the wreckage of a Romulan ship to render aid. Tragedy strikes when Lt. Commander La Forge and Ensign Ro are killed in a transporter accident. The two rematerialize aboard the enterprise but quickly realize than none of the crew can see or hear them. Ro believes they are dead and in the afterlife, La Forge believes something else is at play. As the crew mourns the death of their colleagues, Data tries to track down the source of strange readings that have popped up throughout the ship.
What a great showcase episode for relative newcomer Ensign Ro. Intended as a bottle show, a contained episode that would help balance the budgets compared to more expensive episodes in the season, “The Next Phase” became one of the more costly, thanks in no small way to the time-consuming visual effects work depicting La Forge and Ro passing through walls and objects, even engaging in an ethereal phaser battle with another unexpected ‘victim’ of Ro and La Forge’s fate.
“The Next Phase” isn’t the strongest TNG episode, by far, but certainly one of the more fun episodes and a personal favorite since its airing. Another likeable element of this episode is the focus on Geordi La Forge that doesn’t revolve around his being unlucky in love.
The Inner Light
Perhaps the most beloved of the 178 episodes, The Inner Light is the intimate story of Captain Picard, struck by an alien probe and debilitated, who wakes up having lived a different life, with a wife, in his home, in a drought-impacted village, on a strange world. Back on the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher attends to the fallen Captain on the floor of the bridge as he is connected to the alien artifact. Unable to disconnect the beam affected him; Picard lives out the years of this other life.
There is a haunting quality to this episode which continues to resonate with audiences. A simple story lovingly shot and very well acted by Patrick Stewart and the guest actors, and complimented with composer Jay Chattaway’s sweet and dramatic score, including the memorable theme played by Picard on the flute, The Inner Light is a triumph of superb science-fiction storytelling. The Next Generation achieved a great balance of drama, action and science (not always convincingly, but…) and this episode, aired between the concept-heavy The Next Phase and the first part of the time travel adventure Times Arrow, became a silent gem emanating a bitter-sweet science fiction conceit nestled amidst character-centric storytelling. A real favorite!
Other episodes of note (and personal favorites) include:
“The Game” where the crew slowly falls under the spell of an addictive game and features some of the best writing for a visiting Wesley Crusher (and the last appearance of a very young Ashley Judd); “Disaster”, the ultimate bottle episode that plays a little like The Poseidon Adventure when the Enterprise is incapacitated and left adrift. The crew, in pockets, must deal with unique challenges, and has Deanna Troi on the bridge burdened with the weight of serious command decisions, and “I, Borg”, featuring wonderful ethical dilemmas and discussions among the Enterprise’s senior staff. Dehumanization of a mortal enemy is not an uncommon practice amongst opposing sides in battles or wars, and so this revisit of the fan favorite Borg species is surprisingly complex. Shattering presumptions and prejudices at their core, even within the evolved sensibilities of Captain Picard, Guinan, and others, is the stuff of great art and for The Next Generation to boldly peel back the curtains on how the crew, and by extension us the audience, view the hive-minded enemy of the Federation, is powerful.
The EpisodesDisc One:
Redemption Part II
Unification Part I
Unification Part II
A Matter of Time
The Masterpiece Society
Cause and Effect
The First Duty
Cost of Living
The Perfect Mate
The Next Phase
The Inner Light
Time’s Arrow Part I
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
As a reminder, transferring this series to high-definition is a mammoth undertaking. The show’s visual effects were shot on film requiring every visual effects element to be re-compositioned (rather than suffer an upconversion from videotape). This requires re-cutting over 25,000 film reels, meticulously rebuilding the episodes and preserving the original episodes in lush detail transferred to high-definition detail
CBS-Digital again handles the conversion efforts and the results are stellar. The season is filled with examples of beautiful and strong colors, rich black levels, fine detail, and reproduced visual effects work that improves without betraying the original work and the continued excellence in providing planets and moons with high quality textures and cloud effects in no small way to updating the feel of the show. The Chrystalline Entity rebuild is perhaps the most accomplished of the visual effects, with superb detail, but other key effects work throughout the season are pleasing (the reflection on the shuttlepod window at the beginning of “Power Play” is a nice touch). The appearance of the new title in Season Five (the series title with the streaming blue background) has never looked better.
Only a few scenes, some of the hostage scenes in Ten Forward from the episode “Power Play” and brief moments in “The First Duty” could not have their original camera negatives found, and so have been upconverted from standard definition.
The conversion work for The Next Generation continues to be the high bar of quality. With just two season’s left to complete and release, fans of Star Trek can begin hoping for Deep Space Nine and even Voyager to follow suit.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5Season Five continues the welcome trend of terrific audio with a delicious 7.1 DTS-HD track available for each episode.
I continue to be impressed with the audio quality with these sets. The hum of the bridge, engineering, and other key spaces aboard the enterprise is cleanly handled in the low end of the spectrum. Separation of audio in the surrounds and across the front channels is well-balanced, and phaser fire, photon torpedo launches, and various sundry sound effects throughout are crisp and high quality.
The Next Generation isn’t known for its unique musical identity (somewhat unfairly), but within this season are several standout scores, most notably Jay Chattaway’s memorable music for “The Inner Light”. One of the special features explores more deeply the music of this series that helps highlight the fine work by the small assembly of composers.
Also included is a DTS-HD 2.0 track that more closely resembles the stereo presentation of its original airing.
Special Features: 5/5Once again, respect for fans and collectors have been paid by CBS. The special features previously produced and available on the former DVD sets have been made available here, along with new and fascinating extras that are almost worth the price themselves. The new features are in High Definition and are noted below (HD). The new audio commentaries are particularly reflective and valuable, as are the Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation in two parts, which provide a wonderful view and perspective on TNG, Gene Roddenberry and his vision, the process of crafting the shows, and a focus on several cast members.
The absolute best special feature however is In Conversation: The Music of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with Jeff Bond (author of The Music of Star Trek) discussing the scores and the industry with composers Ron Jones, Jay Chattaway and Dennis McCarthy. A unique and entirely engaging special feature running an hour and a quarter.
It should be noted that the separate release of “Unification” (Parts I and II), edited together as a single ‘movie’ contains special features exclusive to that release.
- Mission Overview Year Five
- Deleted Scene (HD)
- Departmental Briefing Year Five: Production
- Departmental Briefing Year Five: Visual Effects
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Audio Commentaries: "Cause and Effect" and "The First Duty."
- Memorable Missions
- Deleted Scene (HD)
- Audio Commentary: "I, Borg."
- A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry
- Intergalactic Guest Stars
- Alien Speak
- Audio Commentary: "The Inner Light."
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Gag Reel (HD)
- In Conversation: The Music of Star Trek: The Next Generation(HD)
- Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part One: The Needs of the Many (HD)
- Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part Two: The Needs of the Few (HD)