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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season ThreeBlu-ray TV Reviews Paramount
May 19 2013 05:16 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: CBS
- Video Resolution: 1080P/MPEG-2
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD, Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Other
- Run Time: 19 Hr. 41 Min.
- Package Includes:
- Case Type: Multi-disc with slipcover
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 04/30/2013
- MSRP: $129.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5Star 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.
Of all the seasons of all the Star Trek shows on television, The Next Generation’s third season stands very high. With the tumult of the writer’s strike which affected season two firmly behind the production, the show ushered in a few changes both onscreen and behind the scenes. Perhaps the most notable change was Gates McFadden’s welcome return as Beverly Crusher, the ship’s doctor. Diana Muldaur’s no-fuss Dr. Pulaski was a fine character, but her arrival as replacement for Dr. Crusher at the start of season two never sat comfortably with fans. Other changes included the crew being (thankfully) afforded new uniforms; gone were the form fitting, lower neck-lined one-piece design with which the series began, and in was a sharper looking, two-piece uniform with a more formal collar and, by all accounts, a more comfortable fit for the cast. Behind the scenes, a slew of new writers came aboard with an eagerness and creativity that helped infuse the storytelling and tone of the series in positive ways.
Highlights from this third season are myriad, and in addition to those called out below, episodes such as “The Defector”, “Allegiance” and “Sarek” (featuring the wonderful Mark Lenard) are notable.
Ensigns of Command
Data must convince settlers on a planet within the Sheliac territory – a hardline species intolerant of humans and other inferior species – that they must give up the land they worked and died to build. Gosheven (an un-credited Grainger Hines), the leader of the 15,000 strong settlers, does not believe the threat and while Picard and crew seek to stall the impending arrival of the Sheliac who will eliminate anyone remaining, Data alone seeks to negotiate a difficult path to convincing a skeptical people that they must leave. The treasure of this episode, besides the wonderful performances by the principals involved, is the gentle exploration of Data as an individual. An examination of leaderships, contrasting Data’s progression through persuasion techniques, and Gosheven’s stubborn but effective style, highlights how best this show looked at who we are as a species, and how we act in the face of what we do not understand.
A Matter of Perspective
The credo of exploring strange new worlds and civilizations and boldly going where no-one has gone before fortunately included this terrific mystery episode where Riker is accused of Murder. Featuring complex visual effects for its time, the holodeck recreation of events, as told by various witnesses, is a brilliantly conceived idea allowing for subtle and unsubtle changes in performance and character as the witnesses differ on what actually happened at the Botanica Four Research space station. Derived appreciatively from Kurosawa’s Rashomon, complex intergalactic relations and exciting explorations cede to a tight and absorbing mystery where the fate of Riker’s future and freedom hang in the balance.
One of the single greatest episodes of Star Trek of any the series, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” finds the crew of the Enterprise encountering a rift in space out of which the Enterprise C, a ship thought lost years before, emerges, somehow creating an alternate timeline version of the U.S.S Enterprise and her crew. In this version of reality, the federation is amidst a losing war with the Klingon’s, a war that began with an incident involving the Enterprise C and her crew who have somehow travelled to their future. From a story by Eric Stillwell and Trent Ganino, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is a visual treat of an episode. In the alternate timeline, Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) was never killed and serves as Tactical Office, Worf was never assigned to the ship and there are other differences that none seem to notice except Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). She must convince Picard that drastic and unprecedented actions are needed to try and right the timeline wrong that only the El-Aurian from Ten Forward can feel.
The marvels of this episode are numerous. A somber tone, a vital science-fiction conceit, and a riveting storyline converge with terrific production values, great casting, and emotional punch in the closing moments. The return of Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar would be exciting enough in the canon of Star Trek, but the mix of history, alternate timelines, and the echoes of the ‘right’ reality that gives rise to the heroic actions of Picard and his crew, make this episode a step above even the elevated quality of this third season. The darkness of war and its toll, the changing of history by the actions of her participants, and the place of each of us in the threads of time are wonderfully explored in 45 minutes of highly-entertaining television.
Sins of the Father
Of the series many superb episodes that explored the Klingon race – a species that holds an uneasy alliance with the federation – “Sins of the Father” proved to be an excellent showcase for Michael Dorn (Worf) and the increasing nuances of the warrior race. First Officer Commander Riker steps aside as part in an exchange program allowing Kurn, first officer aboard a Klingon Bird of Prey, to act as First Officer of the Federation’s flagship. Once aboard the Enterprise, Kurn reveals himself to be Lieutenant Worf’s half-brother and persuades Worf to defend their father’s honor. Their father, now deceased, is accused of having betrayed the Klingons at the massacre at Khitomer. The accuser is Duras, a dishonorable Klingon with considerable power and reach within the Klingon Empire.
The political machinations that unveil themselves throughout this episode are deeply intriguing and would have ramifications later in the series. The Klingons in The Next Generation were developed as a complicated ally for the federation – far more than the single-minded aggressors from the original series – and were a staple of every season. Worf’s character was not intended to be as prominent, but Dorn’s portrayal so unique (and Denise Crosby’s departure after just 13 episodes so abrupt) that the stars aligned just so, and the legendary sole Klingon member of Starfleet was given ground to grow. With Sins of the Father, seeds were expertly sewn for enemies of friends and friends of enemies that it is hard to understate the importance of this episode on the remainder of the series.
Star Trek’s intention of portraying a positive view of humanity is never as emblematic as this compassionate, intriguing and emotionally rich episode that tells the story of Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener) an angry, sensitive and unstable empath, debilitated by the thousands of minds aboard the enterprise that he is unable to shut out. Elbrun had been a patient of Troi’s due to his unusually strong telepathic ability making him mentally unstable, but his unique skills are needed to make contact with a living space craft and convince it to move away from a star about to go supernova. When a Romulan warbird makes an appearance the situation is complicated and Elbrun’s actions give Picard great cause of concern.
“Tin Man” is both the story of discovery – a living craft called Gomtuu (but nicknamed Tin man) – and the story of demons and disabilities that can haunt and anchor any one of us. The fascinating skill of The Next Generation to make powerful human drama out of clever science fiction stories, like The Original Series before it, provides for both entertaining and nourishing television. Tin Man represents that mix of meaningful and escapist entertainment to a T as the Enterprise, under Picard’s leadership veracities, puts herself on the line to protect perhaps the last representative of a fascinating species.
For all of the seriousness and earnestness of The Next Generation, and its bias toward diplomacy and understanding versus hostile aliens and fisticuffs, when the show chose to go lighter, as it does with this charming episode, it frequently produced a winner. In Hollow Pursuits, the shy and clumsy Lt. Barclay, portrayed endearingly by Dwight Shultz, contends with an addiction to the holodeck, a place where versions of the men and women he serves with and under are reproduced – albeit tweaked to conform to his setting and needs – so that he can serve as the hero of his own story.
The charm of this episode is how we the audience sympathize and empathize with poor Barclay. A rather sad figure and awkward social introvert, Barclay would grow over the seasons in both confidence and ability, but “Hollow Pursuits” is perhaps his most feeling appearance on the show. It has been said that Barclay is a satirical version of the Star Trek audience, a group of dedicated fans who obsess of over characters that are not real (and minutia details that could drive most insane). Whether that is true or not, Barclay’s appearance in a Next Generation episode was always a promise of good things and “Hollow Pursuits”, filled with playful performances from the holodeck version of the crew we love, is a very good thing indeed.
The Best of Both Worlds Part One.
Recently released as part of a special release edited together with Part Two, The Best of Both Worlds is simply put, the best cliff-hanger in Trek history. Check out my full review of The Best of Both Worlds.
Season Three is a must own collection of episodes; a mature and rewarding season featuring no distinct lows. Certainly there were moments that fell short of the demanding quality. “Menage a Troi” and “The Enemy” coming to mind, but these are still decent episodes that happened to come along in a season of giants.
The EpisodesDisc One
The Ensigns of Command
Who Watches The Watchers?
The Vengeance Factor
The High Ground
A Matter of Perspective
Sins of the Father
The Most Toys
Ménage à Troi
The Best of Both Worlds, Part I
Video Rating: 4.5/5 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
As with the first season, CBS-Digital handles the conversion work and produces superb results. A slight drop in quality from season two’s work as quickly forgotten as once again, planets are updated entirely (using notes from Michael Okuda with the intent of ‘bringing into focus the original matte images’), the shots of the Enterprise are crisp and lovely and other visual effects moments, such as the debris field in “The Best of Both Worlds” are full of detail never before enjoyed. Another superior effort from CBS Digital and a new high-bar set for future Trek in high definition.
Audio Rating: 4/5Season Three continues the audio strength with bold 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 Transporters, the hum of the ship, the beeping bridge, the many explosions and alien weapons fire are exceedingly good.
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 made available with the Blu-ray releases of The Next Generation continue to impress me. Besides porting over the extras released with the DVDs several years ago, new special features have been created which add to the deeper understanding or appreciation of what this series has given us. The addition of new audio commentaries is perhaps the true treasure here plus the inclusion of the gag reel.
It should be noted that the separate release of “The Best of Both Worlds” (Parts one and two), edited together as a single ‘movie’ contains special features exclusive to that release.
Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Three (SD)
Audio Commentary with Ron Moore on “The Bonding” – NEW!
5 Episodic Promos (SD)
Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew Analysis Year Three (SD)
5 Episodic Promos (SD)
Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Three: Memorable Missions (SD)
Audio commentary with Ron Moore and Ira Steven Behr on “Yesterday’s Enterprise – NEW!
5 Episodic Promos (SD)
Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Three: Production (SD)
Audio Commentary with Rene Echevarria and Jonathan Frakes on “The Offspring” –NEW!
Audio Commentary with Ron Moore on “Sins of the Father” – NEW!
4 Episodic Promos (SD)
Gag Reel (HD) – NEW!
5 Episodic Promos (SD)
Star Trek The Next Generation: Inside The Writer’s Room (HD) – NEW!
Resistance is Futile: Assimilating The Next Generation (HD) – NEW!
A Tribute to Michael Pillar (HD) – NEW!
2 Episodic Promos (SD)