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Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four Blu-Ray ReviewBlu-ray TV Reviews Paramount
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: CBS
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD, Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Other
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 19 Hrs 40 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: 6-Disc
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 07/30/2013
- MSRP: $129.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
“You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy: "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today...”
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), returning as the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher, is Gates McFadden with Wil Wheaton as her son, Wesley.
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.
The Next Generation may have experienced its finest year with its third season, but the 26 episodes that comprise season four come very close indeed to matching the series’ brightest year with a plethora of strong episodes marked by high quality writing and powerful moments. What is especially unique about the fourth season, which saw the cast and crew at their most confident in their roles, is the deeply personal nature of many of the stories. Following the exciting conclusion to the Borg abduction of Captain Picard in “The Best of Both World’s Part II”, the series turns decidedly inwards with the fascinating episode “Family”. This concentration on the personal lives and relationships of the crew produces perhaps the most intimate of The Next Generation’s run. Stories like “Brothers”, “Reunion” and “Final Mission” largely relegate the science fiction to the B-story and focus on matters of family, lost loves and parting friends. Episodes like “The Loss”, “Half a Life” and “In Theory” find exceptional drama in matters of the fragility of life and the preciousness of legacy and love.
Season Four is also sometimes referred to as the sequel season, revisiting a number of characters and threads from the shows previous seasons, including The Traveler (Season One’s “Where No One Has Gone Before”), Ambassador K'Ehleyr (Season Two’s “The Emissary”), Lore (Season One’s “Datalore”), and the sister of fallen crew member Tasha Yar (Season One’s “Skin of Evil”).
There are a number of standout episodes, detailed below, and precious few that don’t quite live up to the high standards of this fourth season. Though the disappointments are relatively few, they include, “Suddenly Human”, the early season episode dealing with matters of parental guardianship and clashing cultures, “Night Terrors”, dealing with a rash of bizarre behavior among the Enterprises crew following the discovery of the Starship Brattain, missing for several weeks, and “The Loss” which sees Troi lose her empathic abilities and struggle with that disability thrust upon her.
The Best of Both World’s Part Two
The resolution to the third season’s extraordinary cliff-hanger may not quite live up the excitement ignited when the words “to be continued” appeared at the close of Part I, but it remains thoroughly entertaining and compelling television. Perhaps as an foretoken of the season that would follow, the story is turned inward, focusing on the crews attempts to free the rescued Captain from his Borg collective connection, and as such it all feels a little smaller. Patrick Stewart confirms himself an enormous asset to the cast delivering the acting prowess, and the action sequences that sees the Enterprise save the day once again seemed to more than satisfied the millions of fans who eagerly waited for the summer to end and the show to return to see how this two-part episode would end. Read my full review of the two-part episode.
A dilithium chamber explosion aboard the Enterprise gives rise to suspicion of a Klingon exchange officer. An investigation led by Admiral Norah Satie (Jean Simmons) and her aid, Sabin Genestra (Bruce French) into the Klingon officer’s conduct reveals a treachery – but one unrelated to the explosion. With the central mystery of the explosion’s cause unanswered, the Admiral begins a relentless search for co-conspirators, embroiling a lowly med tech and eventually Captain Jean-Luc Picard into the web of conspiracy, threatening to destroy Picard’s career.
Originally designed as a cost-saving ‘bottle episode’ (and possibly another clip-show), this superb episode is the second this season to have been directed by Jonathan Frakes (the first being “Reunion”) and his third at this point in the show following the previous seasons “The Offspring”. Here, Frakes demonstrates a superb understanding of his actors and their characters, allowing the script and the performances to deliver a dramatically rich and thought-provoking experience, and letting the tension and drama of the investigation to ratchet up with each new allegation in search of a fact.
The Courtroom has proven fertile ground for Star Trek throughout each series. Season Two’s “Measure of a Man” – debating the freedom of Data as an android in the federation – is widely considered to be among the best episodes that the franchise has ever produced, and episodes like Deep Space Nine’s first season “Duet” and Voyager’s third season episode “Distant Origin” have each stood out in their respective shows as complex social and moral questions are examined and scrutinized. The abstract nature of the science fiction paradigm has always allowed Star Trek to tackle difficult issues or dissect moments or elements of our history that are not our finest. Here, the communist witch hunt of the controversial Senator Joseph McCarthy (through the House Un American Activities Committee) in the 1950’s and his pursuit of communists under the guise of ‘protecting America’ serves as the principle source for examining how the casting of aspersion and the hunt for conspiracy can feed itself if allowed, and rarely ends where it may have originally intended. It is a masterfully written episode, superbly directed and performed, that excels in its quietest moments.
Following the devastating emotional and physical toll of his capture and use by the Borg to inflict considerable damage upon the Federation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard retreats to his family’s vineyard in France where his older brother Robert lives in the shadow of the 23rd century technology with his wife and young son live. Picard is at a crossroads and must face the emotional scars that remain from his abduction by the Borg.
“Family” is a surprising episode. A sharp turn from the exciting Borg double episode, the distinct shift in pace and tone is a bit of a revelation. The deep scars Picard would have felt having been so violated from his abduction experience are seen fully here as we witness his unique road to recovery. It is a testament to the writers of the series that an entire episode was dedicated to his healing and to other relationships (Worf and his visiting human parents, Beverly and Wesley Crusher and the holographic message of Jack, Wesley’s late father). There is no science-fiction storyline here, no malevolent or benevolent species, no spacial anomaly, and no mysterious quandary upon which the skills of the enterprise crew must be brought to bear. Nothing but the familial relationships of several crew and how they shape and inform the characters we enjoy.
A shame that the series did not visit again the vineyard and Picard’s family (save for a sad mention in the TNG crews first big screen adventure, Generations) as the guest appearances by Jeremy Kemp as Picard’s miserly older brother, Samantha Egger as his wife, and David Tristin Birkin as their son René, are all very good. Add to that the excellent performances by fine Yiddish theater actors Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown as Worf’s parents Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, and what results is a modest episode in terms of scope but one rich with sublime details about many of the characters we love, and performances that further distinguish The Next Generation as a cut above.
A striking episode for its shady Klingon political shenanigans – as the Duras family solidifies their stature as the most serious threat to both the Klingon Empire and their relationship with the Federation – “Reunion” is a surprisingly thrilling hour of television. What began in “Sins of the Father” a year before – and would end in the “Redemption” two-parter – is heightened here by several revelations and the introduction of Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) as the big-eyed likely successor to the Klingon seat of power.
Shadowy and brooding Klingon sets augment an already intriguing episode as K’mpec, the leader of the Klingon Empire, reveals to Picard that he has been murdered – through slow poisoning – by one of the two challengers that will soon arrive to fight to succeed the dying leader. K’mpec has chosen Picard to serve in the role of arbiter, a highly unusual selection for a Federation officer to fill, as K’mpec has no faith in the trustworthiness of the Klingon High Council. Picard must arbitrate according to the laws and traditions of the Klingon’s all while working to uncover who has acted without honor in their murder of K’mpec.
Besides the murder mystery element, “Reunion” features the return of Ambassador K’Ehleyr played by Suzie Plakson and the reveal that Worf is father to her young child. Worf’s discommendation prohibits him from taking the oath with her and claiming her son, but when Duras treachery crosses the line, Worf wastes no time in dispatching justice. Directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes, “Reunion” is a superb example of high drama and tension born of conversations rather than visual effects driven warp core breaches and phaser fights. That The Next Generation continued to dedicate A-stories to the Klingon race is a testament to the presence and performance of Michael Dorn as the lone Klingon serving with the Federation; that and the faith and persistence of writers like Ron Moore who pushed Rick Berman to see beyond Roddenberry’s original intention that Worf merely be a background player.
A day in the life of Data, the only member of the U.S.S Enterprise’s crew to be awake for a full 24 hours aboard the starship, reveals the android lieutenants struggles with the intricacies of human relationships as he mediates and navigates the tense hours before his friends Miles O’Brien and Keiko are due to be married.
In “Data’s Day”, Data plays straight man against the on-again, off-again wedding between two ship-mates, unknowingly feeding the chaos with his miscalculations of human nature. He is wholly innocent in the proceedings and yet his evenhandedness both feeds and calms the chaos by turns. It’s a wonderful exploration of this character and commanding enough that even the B-story featuring a Romulan undercover spy and a brief excursion into the Neutral Zone plays second fiddle.
Episodes that showcase particular characters can be win or lose. Those that focus on Data (or Worf or Picard) almost never fail to produce something interesting and “Data’s Day”, with its alternate narrative focus and concentrated view of life aboard the Enterprise through Data’s interactions with others is fascinating from the opening frame to the closing shot. Data has long been a fan favorite and that is largely thanks to Brent Spiner’s portrayal and it is in episodes like this where the uniqueness of his performance is on display. Persuading viewers that behind a simple pale make-up and yellow eyes is an android is harder than it seems, yet Spiner imbues Data with such a believable curiosity and an innocent, perplexed view of the human experience with his subtle evenness of speech tone, twitch of the head, and occasional resigned expression, that we never doubt for a moment that this character is real.
En route to investigate a mystery planet, a wormhole appears and renders the crew unconscious. Data, immune to the effects, informs the awakening crew that they had been unconscious for only 30 seconds, but small clues would seem to indicate they were out cold for considerably longer and that Data must somehow be lying.
Besides a revisit to the fun holographic world of smoky detective Dixon Hill, “Clues” is a fun outing for the TNG crew as they put together the pieces of their unconscious time. Allegorical in its own way of the explorative hunger which captures humanity – who are drawn to solve puzzles and mysteries and see relationship in even the most disparate of events – the episode is a joy to watch come together as much for the persistence of Picard and crew as for Data’s earnest attempts to foil their progress.
“Clues” is filled with fine performances all around, especially from Whoopi Goldberg, whose time in the murky underworld inhabited by Dixon Hill in Picard’s hologram program provides some fine comedic moments, helping to make memorable an episode that’s all about forgetting.
Dr. Beverly Crusher, after welcoming an old friend aboard the Enterprise, finds that those closest to her are slowly disappearing from the ship. The ship has no record of those that have disappeared and the remaining crew has no memory of those who have gone missing either. Beverly races to discover what’s behind the disappearances and how her son’s warp field experiment might be involved before everyone and everything she has ever know disappears.
The Next Generation largely existed on the stories of the week. Besides the ongoing interactions that popped up throughout the series with the likes of the Borg, Q, the Duras family and the Cardassian’s beginning in season four, the show fashioned its legacy on different stories each week that showcased the talents and tenacity of the Enterprise and her crew. In that regard, “Remember Me” is a fun mystery of the week. The novel idea of people slowly disappearing where only one person realizes that they have been wiped from existence plays on both the intrigue of the device and the plight of the one person who must look crazy for remembering for people that for all intents and purposes, never existed.
Dr. Beverly Crusher’s character wasn’t always given the most opportunity to be showcased, but here Gates McFadden takes the chance to shine and runs with it. Ultimately this is a simple idea with a limited setting (and the chance to see the starbase model first seen in Star Trek III), but the absorbing idea, simple visual effects, and determined performances help make this an episode to remember.
Worf’s discommendation from “Sins of the Father”, and the murder of his mate in “Reunion” come to a head in part one of “Redemption”, a bold season ending cliffhanger featuring a deep-dive into the Klingon world as they are drawn into a bloody civil war. With further political machinations from the Duras family – instigated by the mischievous Lursa and B’Etor – and with the conniving hand of the Romulans at play, the concert of the Klingon Civil War seems born of broader territorial desires than merely of who will become the Emperor of the Klingon people. Worf’s resignation as a member of the Enterprise crew to join his brother, Captain Kurn (Tony Todd), in defending the empire, adds another level to the excitement.
With a wicked final shot, “Redemption” is a worthy follow up to the tantalizing season three cliffhanger that saw Picard assimilated by the Borg and Riker forced to try and destroy him. “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 as Worf absolutely steals the show in this season-ender, surrounded by exciting performances by others adorned with the Klingon façade. Robert O’Reilly as Gowron 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”, adding in the Romulan element, proves to be an episode with a sharper edge than would otherwise have been felt and serves as a highly entertaining end to the season.
Other episodes of note (and personal favorites) include:
“Identity Crisis” that sees Geordi undergo an unusual physical change (and some terrific visual effects), “First Contact” that ably contemplates how a species early in their development compared to other races in the Federation might act with suspicion and fear when a group of strangers (Riker and team) are discovered, and “The Wounded” which introduces one of the Star Trek universes most compelling species in the Cardassians and provides Chief O’Brien – portrayed by Colm Meaney - with some terrific backstory. Actor Marc Alaimo portrays Gul Macet in this episode that finds a renegade starship captain hunting down Cardassian ships, risking the already tenuous peace treaty that exists between the Federation and Cardassia. Alaimo would be cast as a regular character, Gul Dukat, on the spin-off show, Deep Space Nine, and appear in some of that series’ most compelling story arcs. A terrific character and a species with an enormous part to play in the annals of Star Trek history.
Season Three may well have been a season of giants – exemplary episodes surrounded by just a few that were only very good, but Season Four is a worthy follow-up season despite having slightly fewer giants. This is a more intimate season, greater focus on character than at any time before, and a continually maturing approach to its storytelling (aided by stability in the writing and production crew).
The EpisodesDisc One:
The Best of Both Worlds, Part II
The Nth Degree
Half a Life
The Mind’s Eye
Redemption, 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
At the risk of becoming repetitive in these season set reviews from CBS, this is another outstanding release. The conversion work was not handled by CBS-Digital this go around, but those who took on the task (Modern Video) worked hard to live up to the high-standards seen in seasons one and three (season two, farmed out, was hit and miss). The results are very strong but not uniformly great. The level of detail that you’ll see throughout the 26 episodes are very strong indeed, so strong in fact that some of the early episodes in particular reveal so much detail that the excess of makeup on the actors (Worf and Picard in particular) are really quite noticeable. The update of the CGI is faithful to the original aired versions, with greater texture on the planets and moons standing out. The visual effects that create the ‘birth’ in “Galaxy’s Child” are noticeably different and your appreciation on the results will vary (I both like and dislike what has been done). Colors are strong in almost all cases and only the occasional dip in black levels warrants mentioning. The darker sets of the Klingon ship interiors in particular benefit from this HD retrofit.
Audio Rating: 4/5Season Four is yet another solid audio featuring a bountiful 7.1 DTS-HD track available for each episode. As with previous seasons every element of sound is beautifully created in the sound field. Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme, the Enterprise fly-by, and sound effects ranging from the stress on the Enterprise in trying to escape the 2 dimension-beings eddy (“The Loss”), the changing face of the Devil (Devil’s Due) and the de-cloaking of Romulan Warbirds (Data’s Day”) are all excellent. The joy for a fan like me is the immersive quality of the ship’s hum, punctuated with beeps and other noises from the LCAR displays, and this season like the others creates that immersive quality expertly.
Also included is a DTS-HD 2.0 track that more closely resembles the stereo presentation of its original airing.
Special Features: 4/5The special features produced new (and ported over from the DVD releases) for these HD season set releases are just wonderful. Nothing is wasted here and everything has some value to it (some more than others, particularly fans of gag reels and commentary tracks). The new special features created for this release include audio commentaries for some key episodes, an hour+ long featurette with conversations with key talents from the Star Trek Art Department, including Herman Zimmerman, Mike Okuda, Dan Curry and others. The ‘Relativity’ special feature is broken into two parts, the first discussing the success of the show and the second exploring the relationship dynamics of the characters. The Gag reel of course is pure fun.
It should be noted that the separate release of “Redemption” (Parts one and two), edited together as a single ‘movie’ contains special features exclusive to that release.
- Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Four (SD)
- Audio Commentary with Rob Bowman and Mike & Denise Okuda on “Brothers” – NEW!
- 5 Episodic Promos (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew Analysis Year Four (SD)
- Audio Commentary with Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga and Mike & Denise Okuda on “Reunion” – NEW!
- 5 Episodic Promos (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: New Life and New Civilizations (SD)
- 5 Episodic Promos (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: Chronicles from the Final Frontier (SD)
- 5 Episodic Promos (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Four: Production (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: Select Historical Data (SD)
- Archival Mission Log: Inside the Star Trek Archives (SD)
- 4 Episodic Promos (SD)
- In Conversation: The Star Trek TM Art Department (HD) – NEW!
- RELATIVITY: The Family Saga of Star Trek – The Next Generation (HD) – NEW!
- Part 1: Homecoming
- Part 2: Posterity
- Gag Reel (HD) – NEW!
- Deleted Scenes (HD) – NEW!
- The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II
- Final Mission
- The Wounded
- Galaxy’s Child
- The Host
- 2 Episodic Promos (SD)