Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
The epic sci-fi adventure continues as the latest high-definition collections of the celebrated series, Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray has arrived from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.  This series stars one of the most endearing and beloved ensemble casts in television history, Star Trek: The Next Generation took fans on the remarkable continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton).  Featuring painstaking restorations of the beloved series’ episodes, both sets are also packed with must-see special features that delve into the inception and creation of some of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s most unforgettable moments.  From the season premiere – the epic conclusion of the two-part cliffhanger “The Best Of Both Worlds” – to its thrilling finale “Redemption” Part 1, Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Fourth Season is distinguished as one of the most favored amongst fans.


Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

After the blockbuster finale “The Best of Both Worlds Part 1″ from season three, this fourth season had a lot to live up to and it started off strong with the conclusion of Part 2 and the rescue of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the salvation of the Earth.  What happened next surprised many fans of the show.  Instead of another action packed high stakes episode, the next one called “Family” went a completely different direction and focused on the after effects of the fight with the Borg for the people who survived, especially for Jean-Luc Picard who had been assimilated by them.  Stripped of his humanity and possibly his very soul, Picard returns home to France where he seeks the comfort of his birthplace to recover.  
This idea of showing the repercussions of war in a following episode that was devoted solely to the personal lives of the crew, was something that had never been done before in the Original Series where they pretty much wrapped everything up by the end of the episode.  And that was the only episode to focus on the crewmembers personal lives and their loved ones.  As producer David Livingstone says in the extras, ”You cannot kill the regulars and the audience knows it.  But you can wound them.”  And wound them they did, as several of the characters are forced to go through many trials and tribulations this season.  There are deaths, departures, arrivals, and a lot of personal growth to go around.  For the first time, we got a more in-depth look into the families of Picard, Worf (Michael Dorn), Data (Brent Spiner), and Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby).  
Because of that focus, this season began the show’s serialized story-lines from this point forward which made the show even better.  That combined with more character development than had ever been seen on a “Star Trek” show, really changed the paradigm of the show and should have put it in contention for some Emmy awards.  It’s a shame that the Emmy’s never really gave “Next Generation” a chance other than some technical awards, as the show was just as good if not better than the ones that were winning.  Episodes like “The Best of Both Worlds”, “Family”,  ”The Nth Degree”, and “Q-Pid” just to name a few all were worthy of awards for this season.  Not to mention that this season had some fantastic guest starts like Jean Simmons and David Ogden Stiers who really should have won awards themselves for their episodes.
Of course there were a few shows that could have been better like “Galaxy’s Child” and “Night Terrors”, but overall this was a very strong season and I’m very happy to have “Q-Pid” on Blu-ray finally as it has always been one of my all time favorite TNG episodes.  Scenes like Troi (Marina Sirtis) shooting Data with an arrow or hearing Worf complain that he “is not a merry man!” still make me laugh out loud.  Plus seeing the crew and Vash (Jennifer Hetrick) having a ball re-enacting Robin Hood and his gang and Q (John DeLancie) as the Sheriff of Nottingham is just pure fun.  Another favorite is “The Best of Both Worlds” where Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is forced to step up and fight his former captain who has been assimilated and knows every weakness that Starfleet has.  The second half of that two-parter is the start of this set and is simply awesome! That’s how you start a season!  In case you haven’t figured it out, I pretty much loved this entire season with the exception of the two aforementioned episodes.
Take a look at these cool episodes for the fourth season:
  1. The Best of Both Worlds (Part 2) - At the close of last season, Captain Picard had been captured by the Borg.  As the new season begins, his captors have mutilated him into a half-Borg, half-human called Locutus, and have been manipulating him to gain insight into human behavior to aid their plan to conquer Earth and enslave humanity. They have also accessed Picard’s extensive knowledge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, its crew, and their strategy to defend Earth. Learning of their intentions to assimilate the culture and technology of the Enterprise through Picard/Locutus, Riker realizes he can use his former captain to foil the Borg.  He searches for a way to use Picard/Locutus to access Borg information in the same way the Borg tapped the captain for U.S.S. Enterprise secrets.  As the Borg ship races toward Earth, Data attempts to use Picard/Locutus as a communications link to the enemy.  With time running out, Riker must make an agonizing choice between Data’s desperate attempt to end the Borg advance, or sending the U.S.S. Enterprise on a collision course with the enemy ship to stop them from reaching Earth.
  2. Family - After taking the U.S.S. Enterprise to an Earth-orbiting spacedock for repairs, Picard, still recovering from the injuries he suffered at the hands of the Borg, returns for the first time in twenty years to the 19th century French village where he grew up.  He is greeted warmly by his sister-in-law and nephew, both of whom he has never met. However, his meeting with his older brother Robert, who feels that Picard is arrogant, is filled with animosity and he seizes the opportunity to torment him, telling him he has changed from the unflappable achiever he once was.  The argument leads to a brawl that eventually leaves the sibling rivals laughing and covered in mud. They share a tender moment as Picard reveals the guilt he feels over his inability to fight the Borg after they kidnapped him.
  3. Brothers – During a mission, Data begins to inexplicably malfunction, slipping into a trance-like state and altering the ship’s course.  He then severs the life support system on the Bridge, forcing the evacuation of the command crew, and leaving himself alone on the Bridge.  He thwarts the crew’s numerous efforts to regain control of the ship by speaking to the computer in Picard’s voice and taking control of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  He arrives on a planet, and is greeted by Dr. Noonien Soong, the ancient doctor who created him.  A confused Data asks Soong how he arrived on the doctor’s planet.  Soong explains that Data was summoned through a homing device, and ignores Data’s anxious request to contact the U.S.S. Enterprise. Suddenly, a figure enters the room.  It is Data’s sinister brother, Lore, whom Data had defeated during a fight aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise two years earlier.  An apologetic Soong explains that if he had known Lore was still functional, he would have worked to correct the programming that caused him to be evil.  However, his recent efforts have been to create a chip that will allow Data to feel emotion.  Soong then explains that he is dying, and that this will be his final project.
  4. Suddenly Human - Responding to a distress call from a stricken Talarian vessel, an Away Team from the U.S.S. Enterprise discovers that the ship is manned by five teenagers — one of whom is human.  While treating them, Dr. Crusher finds that the young human shows signs of severe abuse.  The boy, called Jono, will not communicate with anyone among the crew, and responds to Picard only upon learning that he is a captain.  The boy requests that Picard return him to Endar, the Talarian father who raised him.  Fearing for the boy’s safety, Picard refuses.  Starfleet reveals that Jono is actually Jeremiah Rossa, an orphaned human member of a Federation outpost presumed dead in a battle ten years before.
  5. Remember Me - When Wesley’s experiment with a warp field goes awry, Dr. Crusher is unknowingly catapulted into a universe created by her own mind.  Beverly’s bewilderment turns to concern when members of the crew, including her entire medical staff, begin to disappear. Neither their relatives, other crew members, or the ship’s computer remember their ever having existed.  Picard, Riker, and the crew are supportive and helpful, but since none of them remember the missing people, or feel like anything is wrong, Beverly wonders if she is suffering from delusions.
  6. Reunion - K’Ehleyr, a half-human, half-Klingon ambassador, requests permission to come aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise to speak with Picard. Worf is noticeably agitated when the woman, his former mate, materializes accompanied by a young Klingon boy.  K’Ehleyr tells Worf that the boy, Alexander, is their son.  The Ambassador then informs Picard that she has come because K’Mpec, the dying Klingon leader, wishes to speak with him.  Picard boards the Klingon ship, and K’Mpec requests his help in arbitrating the power struggle between his two potential successors.  One of the contestants has been secretly poisoning him, and Picard must determine who is the murderer and prevent him from assuming K’Mpec’s post.  K’Mpec tells Picard that one of the contestants is Duras, whose deceit caused Worf’s discommendation from the Klingon High Council.  Meanwhile, K’Mpec has died, and the rivals for the leadership of the High Council, Duras and Gowron, join Picard at his wake.  There, Duras urges Picard to complete the rite of succession but Picard stalls for time by subjecting Duras and Gowron to an ancient ritual where they must prove their worthiness.
  7. Legacy - The crew responds to a distress call from a stricken Federation freighter that is orbiting the planet Turkana IV, birthplace of their late comrade, Tasha Yar.  The freighter explodes, but Data detects an escape pod heading toward the planet.  Picard dispatches an Away Team to rescue the crashed crew members.  Upon reaching the planet’s surface, Riker and his team meet Hayne, leader of the Coalition – one of the planet’s two warring factions.  When Data reveals that a former crewmember was born on Turkana IV, Hayne offers to aid in the search with the help of one of his comrades, Ishara Yar — Tasha’s sister.
  8. Future Imperfect - When Data receives strange energy readings from Alpha Onias III, an uninhabited planet near the Neutral Zone, Picard suspects the Romulans and sends an Away Team led by Riker to investigate.  On Alpha Onias III, communications with the U.S.S. Enterprise break down and the mission is aborted.  Later, Riker awakens in sickbay to a graying Dr. Crusher, who tells him that he is recovering from a retroactive virus he contracted during the mission 16 years ago — a virus that only recently became active and destroyed all of his memory from the moment he was infected.  Riker learns that he has been Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise for nine years and has a son, by a wife who has been dead for two years.  But his most shocking discovery is that he is about to lead negotiations for a peace treaty between the Federation and their long-time adversaries, the Romulans.
  9. Final Mission - Picard summons Wesley Crusher to the Bridge, where he informs the youngster that he has been accepted to Starfleet Academy.  He further honors Wesley by asking him to accompany him on a final mission to help mediate a dispute on Pentarus V.  When the U.S.S. Enterprise is called to investigate another nearby crisis, Picard and Wesley proceed alone, traveling with a representative of the planet, Dirgo, in his dilapidated shuttle.  En route, the shuttle fails, forcing an emergency landing on a desert-like moon.
  10. The Loss - When starship sensors detect a strange pattern of images in the U.S.S. Enterprise’s path, the crew stops to investigate.  Unable to pinpoint the source, they attempt to resume their course, to the shocking realization that they are being pulled by an unknown force — a force they are unable to break away from.  Worried, Picard calls an emergency staff meeting and asks Troi if she senses a life form.  The counselor suddenly realizes that she is unable to sense anything from the force or from anyone else in the room.  Her empathetic powers have failed.  After examining Troi, Dr. Crusher tries to prepare her for the fact that her powers may be lost for good.
  11. Data’s Day - Data is excited about his friend Keiko’s upcoming wedding to Chief O’Brien, where the android will be giving the bride away.  When the bride succumbs to jitters and calls the wedding off, Data applies android logic, and decides that since O’Brien loves Keiko, if calling off the wedding makes her happy it will make O’Brien happy.  Of course, the heartbroken groom’s reaction to Data’s news quickly reflects otherwise.  Data’s confusion is compounded when Geordi assures him that the wedding will proceed as planned.  With this in mind, he attempts to buy a gift for the couple, and encounters Worf, who informs Data that he will have to dance at the wedding.  Data has never danced, so he enlists Dr. Crusher’s help — after learning from her file that she was once a tap dancing champion.  O’Brien asks Data to convince Keiko to go through with the wedding, and Data’s lack of understanding soon upsets her as well.
  12. The Wounded - After a Cardassian warship fires on the U.S.S. Enterprise, the ship’s captain informs Picard that he is acting in retaliation against a Federation starship that has recently destroyed an unarmed Cardassian space station.  This is unusual because there is now a treaty between the Federation and the Cardassians, who were once bitter enemies.  As a goodwill gesture, Picard invites the Cardassian captain aboard to aid in the search for the renegade Federation vessel, despite the objections of some crew members who still mistrust their former enemy. Starfleet informs Picard that the errant Federation ship is the U.S.S. Phoenix, commanded by Captain Benjamin Maxwell.  Picard asks Transporter Chief O’Brien, who once served under Maxwell, for some insight into the man.  O’Brien reveals that the captain’s family was killed by the Cardassian militia before their truce with the Federation, but cannot believe he is seeking vengeance.
  13. Devil’s Due - The U.S.S. Enterprise receives an emergency transmission from a science station on the planet Ventax II.  The Ventaxians are in a panic, convinced a mythic figure called Ardra has returned to fulfill a thousand-year-old contract.  According to legend, she promised the citizens of the once war-torn planet a thousand years of peace and prosperity in exchange for their enslavement at the end of that time.  When Picard takes Worf,Data and Troi to the planet to help Jared, the Ventaxian leader, Ardra suddenly appears before them.  Ardra tells Jared she has come to collect on the bargain, and expresses an immediate attraction to Picard.  The Captain refuses to be intimidated by her, even when she demonstrates her ability to cause tremors, disappear and frighten Worf by changing form to become the Klingon devil.  He points out to the crew that the U.S.S. Enterprise has the ability to recreate all of Ardra’s tricks, and dispatches Data to review the ancient scrolls that constitute the Ventaxians contract with Ardra. Data soon reports that not only is the contract valid, but that it gives Ardra title to anything orbiting the planet, including the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew.
  14. Clues - En route to investigate a mysterious planet, the U.S.S. Enterprise passes through a wormhole in space which knocks everyone but Data unconscious.  As the crew begins to revive, Data tells Picard that they were out for 30 seconds, and when Riker remarks that the ship’s instruments indicate an entire day’s travel, Picard blames the discrepancy on the wormhole.  Data talks Riker and Picard out of going back to investigate the planet, sending a probe instead.  When the probe reaches the planet, its reading conflicts with the crew’s original assessment. Data blames this on the wormhole as well.  However, when a botany experiment Beverly is conducting exhibits a full day’s growth, she brings her findings to Picard’s attention, forcing him to consider the fact that Data may be lying.
  15. First Contact - During a mission on a strange planet, Riker is wounded and stranded in a hospital without his communicator.  While he is unconscious, his Malcorian doctors discover evidence that proves he is not of their race. When he comes to, Riker refers to himself by a Malcorian name and passes off his physical differences as deformities.  His doctors, however, believe he is an alien, and decide to keep his presence a secret to avoid a panic among their people.
  16. Galaxy’s Child - When Captain Picard asks Geordi to escort a visitor, Dr. Leah Brahms, aboard the Enterprise, Geordi is thrilled.  He confides to Guinan that Leah, the woman who designed the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s engine, is the woman of his dreams.  During a crisis, he recreated a Holodeck image of Dr. Brahms to help him and felt a strong rapport with her.  But when the real Leah finally transports aboard, he is crushed to discover that she is cold, cerebral and humorless.  She puts him through his paces, icily examining and criticizing the adjustments he has made to the engine she helped design.   Meanwhile, Picard and the crew discover a large energy source floating in space.  When they approach the creature to learn its origin, it suddenly latches onto the starship, bombarding the ship with deadly radiation.  In defense, Picard fires the ship’s phasers to release the U.S.S. Enterprise from the alien’s clutches.  Picard is saddened when the phaser assault kills the lifeform, but he is intrigued when Data detects another energy reading within it.  To everyone’s surprise, Data explains that they have discovered a “baby” struggling to escape its dead mother’s womb.
  17. Night Terrors - The U.S.S. Enterprise locates the U.S.S. Brattain, a science vessel which has been adrift for several days, only to discover that the entire crew, with the exception of the ship’s Betazoid counselor, is dead.  Troi tries to communicate with the survivor, but can deduce no information that unsheathes the mystery that took place onboard the frigate.  After performing autopsies on the crew members, Dr. Crusher concludes that the 34 men and women killed each other.  As Troi is being tormented by strange nightmares, Geordi finds that while there is nothing wrong with the Brattain‘s engines, he is unable to activate them.  While Geordi tries to rig the Brattain to the U.S.S. Enterprise to be towed, members of the crew begin exhibiting signs of increased irritability and paranoia.
  18. Identity Crisis - Geordi’s friend and former shipmate, Susanna Leijten, informs him that the two of them are the only crew members remaining from an Away Team that once investigated the mysterious disappearance of several people on the planet Tarchannen III.  The last of their former colleagues has stolen a shuttlecraft to head back to the planet, and Susanna enlists the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s aid to find out what is happening.  The starship follows the shuttlecraft to the planet discovering two additional shuttlecrafts on the surface, but no life signs.  After Geordi finds two torn Starfleet uniforms, Susanna tells him she senses the presence of the others and heads off into the darkness.  When Geordi tries to stop her, she begins thrashing like a wild animal.  Dr. Crusher finds that Susanna’s blood chemistry has been altered, and Geordi notices that her hands shake uncontrollably. Susanna realizes that whatever happened to the other Away Team members is happening to her and could soon happen to Geordi.
  19. The Nth Degree - When the U.S.S. Enterprise sets out to repair the Argus Array, a telescope that has stopped relaying data for two months, the crew discovers an alien probe near the telescope.  Geordi takes Barclay, a notoriously shy crew member, to investigate.  As they near the probe, it emits an energy surge that knocks Barclay unconscious, and he and Geordi are transported to Sickbay.  Meanwhile, the probe begins to follow the starship, emitting a dangerously high energy level.  When the crew is unable to evade it, Barclay amazes everyone by taking charge of the situation and eliminating the probe, saving the ship from destruction.  Turning back to the task of repairing the telescope, Geordi estimates the job will take three weeks.  But Barclay, whose confidence and intelligence are continuing to grow, claims he can complete the job in two days.  Geordi’s pride in Barclay turns to concern, however, when he discovers his crewmate in the Holodeck arguing scientific theory with a simulated Einstein.  Geordi insists to Barclay that the encounter with the probe must have precipitated the change and drags him to Sickbay, where Beverly Crusher’s examination reveals an astounding change in Barclay’s brain tissue that has rendered him the most advanced human being who ever lived.
  20. Qpid - When the U.S.S. Enterprise hosts an archaeology symposium, Picard rekindles a romance with Vash, an archaeologist he met earlier while on vacation on Risa.  The obvious passion between the two is strained, however, when Vash learns that Picard has never mentioned her to his friends, and he discovers that she plans to make a secret excursion to a planet that is closed to outsiders.  The nearly omnipotent and mischievous Q secretly witnesses a heated argument between the two.  After Vash leaves, he appears to a shocked Picard and tries to elicit a confession of love from the stoic Captain.  Picard refuses, and Q responds by transforming the Captain into Robin Hood and sending him to Sherwood Forest, where he is joined by his senior staff, who are now merry men.  Q dons the disguise of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and tells Picard that Vash, who is now Maid Marian, will be beheaded the following day — challenging Picard to risk the lives of his crew to rescue a woman he claims he does not care about.
  21. The Drumhead - When an explosion rips through the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s warp engine, a visiting Klingon officer is suspected of causing the disaster by providing the Romulans with schematics of the engine.  An investigation begins, and Admiral Norah Satie, renowned for exposing an alien conspiracy against Starfleet, comes out of retirement to help.  Based on evidence compiled by Worf, Satie quickly extracts a confession from the Klingon, J’Ddan, regarding his participation in smuggling diagrams off the ship, but he denies responsibility for the explosion.  Satie’s Betazoid aid Sabin confirms that J’Ddan is telling the truth, which implies to Satie that there is a co-conspirator aboard the ship.  While questioning crew members who had contact with J’Ddan in search for his co-conspirator, Sabin uses his Betazoid powers to detect that one crewman, Simon Tarses, is lying.  He concludes that Tarses is one of the saboteurs. Satie insists that Picard restrict Tarses’ activities aboard the ship, but the captain refuses to do so without more substantial evidence that he was actually involved.  Angered by Picard’s reluctance to aid in her search, Satie summons the captain to be interrogated as a possible traitor in a hearing observed by the Starfleet admiral.
  22. Half A Life - While a passenger aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Troi’s overly-amorous mother Lwaxana becomes infatuated with Dr. Timicin of the planet Kaelon II.  The rather reserved Timicin, a leading scientist who has enlisted the Federation’s aid in saving his planet, is equally smitten with Lwaxana, and the two begin spending time together.  Timicin has boarded the Starship Enterprise to test an experiment that he hopes will revitalize the dying sun of Kaelon II. The U.S.S. Enterprise assists him by transporting him to a similar sun in a remote region of the galaxy where the scientist can test his theories.  With the help of the crew, Timicin fires photon torpedoes into the surrogate sun in an effort to elevate and stabilize the temperature.  At first, the experiment seems successful, but the sun’s temperature continues to rise to dangerous levels, forcing the starship to evacuate the region and return to Kaelon II.  Later, when even the charming Lwaxana is unable to comfort the defeated Timicin, he confides to her that he is returning home to die.
  23. The Host - Beverly Crusher becomes romantically involved with a Trill ambassador who is being escorted by the U.S.S. Enterprise to mediate a dispute in the Peliar system.  As the starship approaches its destination, Riker volunteers to shuttle the ambassador, Odan, to Peliar to meet with representatives of the planet’s Alpha and Beta moons, which have armed for war against each other.  Shortly after Riker and Odan depart, a ship opens fire on them, critically injuring Odan and forcing their return to the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Back on board, Beverly’s examination of Odan indicates that a parasite is invading his body.  As she prepares to remove it, she is shocked when Odan stops her, revealing that he is the parasite, and his body is merely a host.  The parasite, not the body, is what must be saved.  While Beverly struggles to accept the fact that the handsome man she fell in love with is actually a small purplish lump of tissue, the Enterprise contacts the Trill for a new host body for Odan. Unfortunately, the situation in the Peliar system cannot wait and requires Odan’s immediate attention.  With this in mind, Riker volunteers his body to serve as temporary host to Odan so he can complete his mission.
  24. The Mind’s Eye - En route to a vacation and seminar on Risa, Geordi La Forge is kidnapped by the Romulans and subjected to days of brainwashing.  While a double is sent to replace him at the conference, Geordi is forced to endure a painful series of mind-altering experiences designed to put him under complete Romulan control. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise is assigned to escort Klingon Ambassador Kell to the Kriosian system, where one of the Klingon colonies is fighting for independence.  The governor of Krios, Vagh, charges that the Federation is secretly aiding the rebels. Though Picard denies the accusation, Vagh produces weapons seized from the rebels which appear to be Federation issue.  When Geordi returns he has no recollection of his ordeal, having been planted with false memories of a relaxing vacation on Risa.
  25. In Theory - Ensign Jenna D’Sora, “on the rebound” after breaking up with her boyfriend, suddenly begins relating to her friend Data as something more than a friend.  After the young woman kisses him passionately on the lips, the confused android asks his friends for advice on what to do, and decides to pursue the relationship.   Since he has no real emotions or feelings, Data creates a special program to guide him through the intricacies of love. However, as his relationship with Jenna progresses, he discovers that in romance, the logical course is not always the most appropriate.  With this in mind, he picks a fight with Jenna, later explaining that he did it because his study of interpersonal dynamics suggested that conflict often strengthens the bond between two people.  When Jenna points out that there is something artificial about his behavior, he concurs, reminding her that all of his behavior is based on a program and is therefore artificial.
  26. Redemption (Part 1) - The U.S.S. Enterprise travels to the Klingon Empire, where Picard is to attend the installation of Gowron, the new Leader of the High Council.  En route, the starship is intercepted by a Klingon ship bearing Gowron, who informs Picard that the Duras family is amassing a rebel faction and plotting civil war against the Empire.  Duras, the slain challenger for leadership of the High Council, was responsible for Worf’s discommendation and was also found guilty of conspiring with the Romulans.  Based on the discommendation, Gowron asks Picard to ban the Duras family from the Council, but Picard insists that such action is beyond his jurisdiction.  Worf later asks Gowron to restore his family name, but Gowron refuses, claiming it would create further dissension among Council members.  Arriving at the Empire, Worf requests a leave of absence and travels to a Klingon ship on which his brother Kurn serves as captain.  Kurn informs Worf that he has created his own alliance that will defy Gowron and the Duras family.  Worf, however, insists that Kurn remain loyal to the Klingon leadership, devising a plan to back Gowron in exchange for restoration of their family honor.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

After seeing the amazing work that Paramount did for Star Trek: The Original Series and the first season of The Next Generation, I was excited to see how this season would look.  Their fantastic track record continues as these episodes look beautiful and added a ton of fine detail that I had never seen before now.  This 1080p (1:33.1) transfer looks fantastic and although it has a few minor issues like some heavy grain and an occasional flicker on the edges, it still look better than it has any right to.  Let me just say that all of the effects look pristine and gorgeous off the bat.  The care that Paramount took to reproduce the original effects with these new ones is very impressive with one exception as the upgraded CGI alien vessels in “Galaxy’s Child” look just as bad as it did originally.  Other than that episode, I loved the new  effects!  The live action footage has also been sharpened quite a bit and is very noticeable during close-ups where you can see every wrinkle and line on the actors’ faces and every texture of their uniform.  Colors are a lot more vibrant and defined now too and the black levels are suitably deep and dark as well. Of course, with all of this extra detail on display you will notice a lot more flaws than you used to but that’s ok with me as I loved the new enhanced visuals provided by this set.  I hate to be nitpicky, but I did notice more electronic noise than I did during the first season for some reason.  It’s not distracting enough to affect my viewing pleasure, but it is noticeable however slight.  In any case, this transfer is reason enough for fans to upgrade for this Blu-ray set!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

This season set offers a winning DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that sounds incredible.  This lossless mix brings the show to life in a way that I didn’t think was possible.  Just hearing the show’s main title makes son cheer every times he hears it along with the whoosh of the Enterprise-D flying around the room.  Now when it comes on for every episode, he jumps up and dances/marches to the beat.  Every channel is used to its full potential and I can’t get over how much more immersive the show feels with this new mix.  The LFE channel is a constant presence along with the ships engine’s rumble, the front channels deliver crystal clear dialogue, and the rear channels offers some excellent directional effects as well as the show’s crisp music.  As someone who religiously watched this show, I still can’t get over how much ambiance and life this mix offers. Between this lossless mix and the new visual effects, it’s almost like watching a brand new show! Just wait until you hear the Enterprise go to warp now!

Extras (5 out of 5 stars) 

As if the amazing video and audio quality weren’t enough of a reason to buy this set, these extras provide an additional incentive.  The set offers s0me excellent content from the previous DVD release as well as new material that is new to this Blu-ray set including commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes, and a lot more spread across every disc.  Every episode also has an option to view the original Episode Promos for those that are nostalgic for the old previews.  Here’s all of the extras available on this set and where you can find them:
Disc One:
  • Audio Commentary for “Brothers” - Director Rob Bowman and scenic designers Mike and Denise Okuda.
  • Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Four – This is a pretty good overview of the fourth season as we learn about how the landmark two-parter of the “Best of Both Worlds” changed things, how the focus of this season was to do more character centric episodes like “Family” for Picard and the developing of other characters like Data, O’Brien, Crusher, and more.  We also see that the cast loved the “Q-Pid” episode (the Robin Hood one) as much as we liked watching it, and we also get a look at the show’s 100 episode celebration with the cast and creator Gene Roddenberry.
Disc Two:
  • Audio Commentary for “Reunion” - Writers Ron Moore, Brannon Braga and Mike and Denise Okuda.
  • Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew Analysis Year Four – In this extra, we learn more about Wil Wheaton’s departure from the show which sent Wesley to Starfleet Academy.  Both Wheaton and Patrick Stewart talk about their character’s relationship and how they were pleased with how “Final Mission” turned out.  We also get some good info on Marina Sirtis and her character Deanna Troi as well as a welcome bit on the irrepressible Vash.
Disc Three:
  • Archival Mission Log: New Life and New Civilizations - A short extra that details the efforts that went into location shooting for the show where we learn where a few episodes were filmed in Los Angeles.  We also see how matte painting helped make current locations look futuristic as well as including some cool footage of how they did the destroyed starships in the “Best of Both Worlds.”
Disc Four:
  • Archival Mission Logs: Chronicles from the Final Frontier - Almost twenty minutes long, this extra focuses on the writing staff for the show which underwent a lot of changes from the previous seasons.  A lot of the writers left the show but the new ones added like Jeri Taylor, Brannon Braga, and more made this season the first one that had a stable writing staff throughout the season.  Their decision to focus more on the characters really changed the feel of the show and set it apart even more from the Original Series.  We also hear about the open door policy that allowed anyone to pitch a show or script, a practice that has never been done since.  What’s even more amazing is that some of the scripts and writers were brought on the show!  I really wish I had tried back then.  We also hear about Denise Crosby’s quest to return to the show by pitching a concept that was eventually accepted and implemented and how they decided to serialize the show which in my opinion only made the show stronger.
Disc Five:
  • Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Four: Production - We know that a lot of the cast members eventually started directing episodes of the show and in this extra, we get to hear from some of them including Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart.  Star Trek shows has really been a launchpad for stars to become directors and most of them continue on in that capacity in other shows or movies in the case of Frakes.  Stewart jokes around about how much more work Frakes did directing than him but his “In Theory” episode is excellent.  We also get a quick look at some of the special makeup during the season.
  • Archival Mission Log: Select Historical Data - I don’t know why they focused an extra on the worst CGI effect of this season, but perhaps it’s because it was their first one.  If you’d like to see how they designed the aliens in”Galaxy’s Child” then check this out.  What was more interesting was their talk about how the CGI effects went from there.
  • Archival Mission Log: Inside the Star Trek Archives - A brief talk about the episode “First Contact” and how the show tried to hide Gates McFadden’s pregnancy by putting her in big coats and filming her behind chairs.  We also learn about the show’s Emmy Award wins and nominations, and Patrick Stewart lets us know how his holodeck alter ego Dixon Hill came about from his own love of pulp detective novels.  We also hear about Vash’s departure with Q from the episode “Q-Pid.”
Disc Six:
  • In Conversation: The Star Trek Art Department - Wow.  I was not expecting this at all.  This is over an hour long conversation in Doug Drexler’s living room with just about every artist that worked on the show.  Those included are: Special Makeup Effects Artist Doug Drexler (who moved from makeup to special effects), Production Designer Herman Zimmerman, Scenic Art Supervisor Mike Okuda, Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Curry, Technical Consultant Rick Sternbach, and Scenic Artist Denise Okuda.  They talk about their various departments and job functions as well as their personal friendships and how Zimmerman was the ideal boss who would collaborate and listen to anyone.  They also talk about how the visual effects changed over the years from physical models to CGI as well as just how much work went into creating props and the set.  A good chunk of this discussion is unfortunately focused on “Deep Space Nine”, which is great for DS9 fans, but since this is on a “Next Generation” set, I would have preferred to keep the discussion on that.  It’s still interesting, and it’s obvious that this group are more proud of their work in DS9 anyway.  This extra is a great addition to the set and it’s nice to hear from people we wouldn’t normally hear from on these kind of extras.  This discussion is often funny and I think fans of the various “Star Trek” shows will enjoy it.
  • Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 1: Homecoming - For my money, the this and the following featurettes are the best extras on the set as they cover a lot of ground and I also like that it’s a retrospective documentary where we can hear the actors candid responses after a long gap of time has passed which I think gives their answers a more thoughtful and honest quality.  We hear about how the cast felt that the show was on it’s way with this season, particularly after the huge success of “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 Nd 2 which put the show on a whole other level.  We also hear about the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the show as well as tales of how the show found its stability in the writer’s room and even more.
  • Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 2: Posterity - In this extra we hear about Brent Spiner’s triple performance of Dr. Noonian Soong, Data, and Lore, how Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis kept the Riker and Troi relationship always simmering in the background onscreen and off (they would deliberately sit next to each other during script readthroughs), how Worf as character was allowed to change and develop this season, some talk with Gates McFadden about how she was proud that the show hinted at homosexuality, how the Cardassians got their signature look, and I especially liked the end where Patrick Stewart tells us a story of how pissed he gets when reporters try to badmouth the show as if he’s too good for it, when he is actually very proud of it.  It’s a great moment and it’s a great way to end this featurette.
  • Gag Reel - Some fun scenes of the cast messing up their lines and having fun.
  • Deleted Scenes - We get several deleted scenes from the following episodes: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”, “Family”,  ”Brothers”, ”Final Mission”, “The Wounded”, “Galaxy’s Child”, “Q-Pid”, and “The Host”.

Summary (5 out of 5 stars) 

If you’ve seen the awesome Blu-ray sets for the Original Series or the previous Next Gen sets, then you know just how awesome this set is.  This show has never looked or sounded better and I can’t recommend it enough.  The show’s remastered video and audio are incredible and are well worth the cost of the set alone, but if you still need convincing, take a look at the extra features which should easily convince you.  This is one of the stronger seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and it really set the tone and structure for the rest of the show’s run with its serialized character driven story-lines.  This set is a must buy!

Order your copy today!


No comments:

Post a Comment