The Best of Star Trek
The Next Generation
Studio: Paramount/CBS DVD
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 3 hrs 1 Minute
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish & Portuguese Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish and Portuguese
Review Date: May 3, 2009
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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, 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. It featured a rich cast of characters which included a strong first officer, a Klingon security officer, an android commander, an empathic counselor and a gifted ship’s doctor with her even more gifted son. 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 Jean-Luc Picard, Jonathan Frakes as the handsome first officer, William T Riker, Brent Spiner is unique and beloved as the android Commander Data, LeVar Burton, with his special visor is solid as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Marina Sirtis mostly good as the half-betazoid, half human ships counselor Deanna Troi, Michael Dorn interesting and impressive as Worf, the lone Klingon aboard, Gates McFadden limited and under-written as the ship’s doctor Beverly Crusher and Wil Wheaton as the often irritating Wesley.
The crew, captained by Jean-Luc Picard explore the galaxy in the Enterprise D, a galaxy class starship housing over 1000 crew and their families encountering evolved beings, mysterious anomalies, aggressive and amenable species and other assorted magnificent wonders out there. 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.
1: The Best of Both Worlds (Part I) – The show that did something fantastic with a hived, unstoppable cybernetic foe (the Borg) that were briefly introduced in an earlier episode (‘Q Who”). This season three finale was, in many ways, the equivalent of the balding Enterprise captain giving the “engage” command before the show warped into the stratosphere. That may be a bit extreme, but this intensely exciting episode was almost motion picture quality in its concept and execution. Picard, abducted and transformed by the Borg unwittingly leads the Borg’s cube in an assault against the federation, leaving a wake of starship carnage and threatening the very existence of humanity.
2: The Best of Both Worlds (Part II) – The Season three cliff-hanger, before the time of the internet, left audiences with their jaws on the floor and in the dark as to what would happen. The season four opener doesn’t quite live up the excitement ignited when the words “to be continued” appeared on screen just as Riker gives the order to fire upon the Borg cube and his former Captain, but it remains a solid episode. The story is really turned more inward and thus, feels a little smaller – but Patrick Stewart delivers the acting goods and the action certainly satisfied the millions of fans who eagerly waited over the summer to see how this two-parter would end (and longer for us who were across the pond).
3: Yesterday’s Enterprise - The timeline is distrupted and altered when the Enterprise C enters into the present of the Enterprise D. The time distortion finds the crew of the Enterprise under Captain Picard in a brutal age old war with the Klingon Empire. Time travel and alternate timelines are nothing new to the Star Trek universe, but is handled particularly well with this delicious ‘What if” storyline and a darker tone than the show usually enjoys.
4: The Measure of a Man – I am delighted that this episode, from the ‘better than it is given credit for’ second season has been included in this very subjective ‘best of’ collection. It is an acting tour de force and a dramatic triumph from beginning to end. This is what Star Trek does best; examining complex social and moral dilemmas in the framework of science fiction. The nature of existence, sentience and rights are thrust under the microscope of a court proceeding when Commander Data resigns from Starfleet to protest being ordered to be taken apart. Fascinating dialogue imbue the episode with a grandness not often felt on television. Some of the very best Star Trek episodes have focused on complex issues played out through terrific dialogue and acting to match. The Next Generation accomplished such a feat several times, including via the courtroom setting again in season four’s ‘The Drumhead’, Deep Space Nine produced a fine example in its first season with ‘Duet’ and even the much maligned Star Trek: Voyager reached such a level with its season three episode ‘Distant Origin’.
Mainly as a result of its source material, the image quality for Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD has never been that great (it was shot on film before being transferred to video to accommodate the effects). As an owner of the complete series on DVD, I can tell you that the four episodes selected here are exactly the same (each disc in the season sets comes with four episodes each as well) and are no different in quality. The colors on the show are uniformly more muted than you would expect and the effects shots definitely show their age now. But all is not dire. The image is clean, flesh tones reasonable (even Data’s pale skin) and details in some scenes better than you might expect. Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is rather robust. The ambient sounds of the bridge humming and beeping is produced throughout the speakers, well in the surrounds, and the sounds of the Enterprise warping has always sounded good. Dialogue is without issue in the center channel, if a little less dynamic in earlier seasons. The bass is quite active and overall I am impressed with how this now 20+ year old show sounds.
No extras - just previews of Star Trek: The Original Series Season One on Blu-Ray, Star Trek The Original Motion Pictures and Charmed.
As I wondered in my review of The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series review, I am not entirely sure who this collection of four episodes is intended for. Casual fans? New Fans? Completists? I am not convinced this serves any of those potential target audiences very well at all, but if there are any out there who are curious enough to dip their toes into the world of humans with evolved sensibilities in the 24th century and the new crew of the starship Enterprise, then this collection of four episodes represent some of the finest the show produced out of the 178 overall through seven seasons.