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Thursday, June 19, 2014

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

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
StarTrekTNG_S5Set in the 24th century, the exploits of the U.S.S. Enterprise continue with Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Season Five.  Featuring some of the most memorable episodes of the series, the season includes Paul Winfield’s guest appearance as Dathon and Ashley Judd’s debut performance in beloved episode, “Darmok.” The set also includes the jaw-dropping opening scene portraying the destruction of the Enterprise in “Cause and Effect,” and “The Inner Light,” the critically acclaimed episode that garnered the series its first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

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Show (5 out of 5 stars) 

By season five, Star Trek: The Next Generation was on a roll and even  with the passing of creator Gene Roddenberry during the season, the show was still running on a high note.   The cast all had their roles down cold and the writers had perfected writing intelligent stories that combined action and comedy along with thinly veiled commentaries on what was happening in society at the time. Re-watching this season I was struck by how Deanna Troi centric it was and that’s not a bad thing in my book.  This season we see her in command of the Enterprise during a disaster, suffer from a mental assault, play a huge role assisting Worf connect with his reunited son, and a lot more.  It’s almost as if the writers suddenly discovered her range and decided to start giving her a lot more to do than just tell the Captain that someone is hiding something.
The season picks up where the last on left off with “Redemption Part II” (you can read my review of the single set here) and went straight from the Klingon warrior culture to an episode that focused on linguistics between Picard and an alien in “Darmok” which also starred the late great Paul Winfield.  The show’s dynamic veered wildly with each episode which made the show a lot of fun. It could go from a comedic episode like “Cost of Living” that’s focused on Lwaxana Troi’s arranged marriage to “Ethics” an episode where Word contemplates assisted suicide when he is paralyzed in an accident.  There’s also other allegorical episodes like “The Outcast” that deal with sexual orientation inequality that comments on what was (and still is) happening in our own time. It gets a little preachy at times, but the show wears its heart on its sleeve and you can’t fault the positive messages its trying to deliver.
This is one of my favorite seasons of the show and it contains many of my favorite episodes like “The Inner Light,” an episode that should have earned many awards including an acting award for Patrick Stewart’s incredible performance, the return of Spock in “Unification I and II (review here),” “Cause and Effect” where the show opens with the destruction of the Enterprise and all of the crew, “I, Borg,” where we get to see a new side of the Borg, and I also enjoyed seeing the classic disaster episode appropriately titled “Disaster.”  I enjoyed the entire season and there was only a couple of episodes that didn’t meet the high standards of the rest of this season like  “Time’s Arrow Part 1″ which as far as I can remember is the weakest season finale of the show’s run.  I also think that “Violations” had a good premise but it wasn’t executed well despite the good acting from all involved.  Even the episodes that weren’t as strong as the rest were still very good and have much to offer.  This is one of the best seasons of the show and here’s the list of the great episodes that’s included in this set:
1. Redemption Part II - At the close of last season, Worf resigned his Starfleet commission to join the Klingon Council army as civil war divided his people.  Despite his sympathy for Worf, Picard refused to involve the U.S.S. Enterprise in the internal Klingon struggle.  Yet fearing that the Romulans are secretly supporting the subversive Duras family in hopes of destroying the Klingon alliance with the Federation, Picard convinces the head of Starfleet to initiate a blockade against the Romulan Empire.  He immediately assigns his crew members to posts on Starfleet ships and dispatches the fleet to the Romulan-Klingon border, where they hope to prevent the flow of supplies and equipment from the Romulans to the Duras family.  As dissension spreads in the Klingon Home World, Worf is kidnapped by unknown Klingon assailants.  Meanwhile, the Duras sisters, Lursa and B’Etor, continue to meet with a mysterious woman, a Romulan commander named Sela who bears more than a slight resemblance to the late Starfleet officer Tasha Yar.  The group discusses their plans to gain control of the Empire, but are upset to learn of the pending intervention of the Federation fleet.
2. Darmok - The U.S.S. Enterprise receives a signal from “The Children of Tama,” an alien race that has no history of violence, but whose language has been deemed “incomprehensible” to humans. Hovering above an uninhabited planet, Picard and the crew hope to establish relations with the Tamarians.  But while he and Dathon, the Tamarian captain, make several attempts to communicate over their viewscreens, neither can understand the other. Suddenly Dathon turns to him, armed with two daggers, and both captains dematerialize and are transported to the surface of the planet below.  On the planet’s surface, Dathon continues to offer Picard one of his daggers, but Picard refuses on the grounds that this could be an act of war.  As the two captains struggle to communicate they will soon face an invisible foe.
3. Ensign Ro - After a terrorist attack on a Federation colony on Solarion IV, the U.S.S. Enterprise crew receives a message from a man claiming to represent the Bajora — a race which has been fighting to regain its home planet after being chased off by the Cardassians.  The man takes responsibility for the terrorist attack.  Immediately, Picard confers with Starfleet Admiral Kennelly to discuss the Bajoran terrorist attack.  The admiral orders Picard to find Orta, the militant leader of the Bajora, and offer him Federation amnesty, in return for negotiating peace with the Cardassians.  To Picard’s surprise, Kennelly also orders the arrival of a new officer — Ensign Ro Laren — to assist Picard in his delicate mission.  The crew warily welcomes Ro, a strong-willed Bajoran whom Kennelly released from prison to help with the crisis.  With Ro’s help, Picard meets with Keeve, a member of the Bajoran resistance movement, who reveals Orta’s whereabouts to the captain. But before the crew can meet with the rebel leader, they discover that Ro has mysteriously disappeared.
4. Silicon Avatar - While surveying land on a Federation colony known as Melona IV, Riker, Data and Dr. Crusher are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a massive, crystal-like structure which begins to descend toward the planet. Riker recognizes the object as the Crystalline Entity, and immediately begins herding the colonists together to search for shelter. The group watches in horror as the entity destroys the countryside with brilliant beams of light. All but two survive to find shelter inside a small cave — but the cave has a limited air supply. Riker tries to contact the U.S.S. Enterprise, but ultimately fails.  Meanwhile, on board the Enterprise, the rest of the crew grow increasingly concerned over the violent disturbances detected near Melona IV.  Just as Beverly insists that the cave be opened to let in more air, Worf appears at the entrance, much to everyone’s relief.  The crew and colonists are transported back to the U.S.S. Enterprise, where they are greeted by scientist Kila Marr, who has spent her life studying the Crystalline Entity. Picard suggests that Data aid Marr in her investigation.  Marr, however, opposes the idea, reminding Picard that Data’s brother Lore lured the Crystalline Entity to the planet Omicron Theta where it ruthlessly killed every living thing.
5. Disaster - During a brief respite from duty, the U.S.S. Enterprise plays host to three young winners of a primary school science contest.  Just as Picard begins to take them on their promised tour of the ship, the craft is struck by a quantum filament that shakes it violently and causes power failures to occur throughout.  Communication between different areas of the ship is cut off and crew members are trapped.  Picard and the kids are caught in the Turbolift; Beverly Crusher and Geordi are stuck in the Cargo Bay where they are threatened by the combination of a radioactive fire and containers of hazardous materials; while Riker, Worf, Data and O’Brien’s pregnant wife Keiko treat the injured in the Ten-Forward.
6. The Game - During a romantic respite on Risa, Riker’s lady friend Etana Jol gives him an interesting present.  She introduces him to an electronic mind game that rewards the player with a pleasurable sensation when he achieves his goal. Eager to share his discovery, Riker passes the game on to Troi when he returns to the U.S.S. Enterprise.  At the same time, the crew happily welcomes Wesley Crusher, who is on vacation from Starfleet Academy, with a surprise party.  Troi introduces Beverly to the game, while Wesley meets a young ensign named Robin Lefler.  He feels an immediate chemistry with the attractive young woman, and Robin is also drawn to Wesley. Beverly asks Picard and La Forge to come to Sickbay, ostensibly to help with Data.  But when they arrive, she, Riker and Troi lie about what happened, claiming that the android just collapsed. Picard leaves Data in the group’s hands, and Riker is able to convince Geordi that Dr. Crusher can take care of Data. He then introduces Geordi to the game.  Afterwards, Wesley goes to meet his mother in her quarters and finds her engrossed in the game.  She invites him to play, and when he refuses, she becomes more insistent.  He and Robin talk about it at dinner, and Robin tells him that the game’s popularity is increasing.  She and Wesley decide to find out what all the fuss is about by hooking the game up to a computer.  After disassembling its parts, they are shocked to discover that the game has chemical affects on the brain that cause the player to become physiologically addicted and interrupts higher reasoning processes.
7. Unification Part I - Captain Picard is disturbed to learn that the legendary Vulcan, Mr. Spock, has gone on an unauthorized mission to the planet Romulus.  He immediately travels to Vulcan to speak with Spock’s father Sarek, a close friend with whom he shared a mind meld the year before. Sarek’s wife, Perrin, informs Picard that her husband is gravely ill, and confides to Picard the details of the strained relationship between Spock and his father.  Despite Sarek’s illness, Picard is able to see him, and the Vulcan tells Picard that his son may be in touch with the Romulan senator Pardek.  He also asks Picard to convey his love to his son.  Disguised as Romulans, Picard and Data transport down to Romulus where they stop at a cafe across from Senator Pardek’s office.  They see Pardek and begin to move toward him when suddenly they are kidnapped by several Romulan soldiers.  Later, however, they are approached by Senator Pardek, who explains that he had them kidnapped for their own protection.  As Picard briefs the Senator on the reasons behind his mission, Spock suddenly appears before him.
8. Unification Part II - Picard and Data meet Spock on the planet Romulus.  Spock is initially uncooperative when Picard questions him as to the details of his mission.  However, the tension is lifted when Picard shares the unhappy news of Spock’s father’s death and attempts to fulfill his friend’s last request by telling Spock of his father’s love.  Spock then reveals to Picard that the purpose of his mission is to reunify the Romulans and the Vulcans.  The revelation shocks Picard, who does not trust the intentions of the Romulan government.  After learning this, Data transports back to the disguised Klingon ship that brought him and Picard to Romulus and attempts to access the Romulans’ computer system.  Back on the U.S.S. Enterprise, Riker continues to investigate the theft of surplus Vulcan ships and materials.  He makes contact with Amarie, the ex-wife of a smuggler killed when the Enterprise destroyed the unmarked enemy warship that interrupted their investigation.  Meanwhile, Senator Pardek brings Picard and Spock to meet with Neral, the Romulan Proconsul, who claims to support reunification.  However, after Picard and Spock leave, Sela appears in Neral’s office.  Later, Picard tells Spock that he doesn’t trust the fact that Neral has offered his support so quickly, without the support of Romulan traditionalists.  Spock also feels skeptical, but decides it is in the Federation’s best interest to proceed whether the Romulans have an ulterior motive or not.
9. A Matter of Time - The Enterprise makes way toward a planet known as Penthara IV, where a massive asteroid has struck an unpopulated continent.  Fearing that the resulting dust cloud could lead to a devastating nuclear winter like the one that occurred on Earth in the late 21st Century, the crew hopes to find a way to counteract the cloud’s effects.  As they travel toward the planet, a bright flash appears on the Bridge, and a strange man materializes before the crew.  The man reveals that he is a Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, an historian from the late 26th Century Earth, who has traveled from the future to study the Enterprise.  Although the crew is suspicious of Rasmussen, his presence arouses their interest in the future, but Picard insists they refrain from questioning their guest so they don’t end up changing the future. The Enterprise arrives at Penthara IV and the widespread devastation caused by the asteroid hit becomes apparent. While Geordi La Forge and Data work to save the planet, Rasmussen asks the crew to complete lengthy questionnaires, ostensibly for his research.  He also asks to see several pieces of equipment, regarding them as relics of a bygone era.  The crew members are nothing but polite, but privately they begin to lose patience with Rasmussen and his methods.  Troi is especially wary of the man and what his true intentions might be after picking up a vibration that he is trying to confuse them. When the crew’s initial plan to save Penthara IV backfires, Geordi comes up with an alternative solution that will either completely save the planet or kill every living thing on it.
10. New Ground - While the U.S.S. Enterprise heads for Bilana III to participate in the testing of a new propulsion method called the Soliton Wave, Worf receives an unexpected visit from his mother Helena and his son Alexander.  The Klingon’s surprise turns to shock, however, when Alexander informs Worf that he plans to live on the ship with his father.  That night, Worf discusses the situation with Helena.  She reveals that Alexander has been misbehaving and is in desperate need of his father’s guidance.  Reluctantly, Worf agrees to take custody of the child.  But when he discovers that the boy is lying and acting up in school, Worf threatens to send his son to a rigorous Klingon school.  Sensing that there’s more to Alexander’s behavior than meets the eye, Troi helps Worf realize that the boy’s actions may be the result of feeling abandoned by his late mother and his father, who left the child to be raised by his grandparents on Earth.  Worf begins to have second thoughts about sending Alexander to the Klingon school.
11. Hero Worship - The U.S.S. Enterprise makes way to a nearby Starbase that has recently lost contact with the Vico, a research vessel sent to explore the interior of a Black Cluster.  Upon locating the vessel, Picard sends an Away Team to investigate the situation.  Data and Riker are shocked when they discover a little boy trapped in the wreckage of the small ship.  After several unsuccessful attempts, the crew is finally able to rescue and transport the boy back to Sickbay. The youth, Timothy, is immediately drawn to Data.  Meanwhile on the Bridge, Picard and Geordi study the details of the events that led to the vessel’s explosion.  Timothy told the crew that the Vico was attacked by an alien ship.  But preliminary research indicates that Timothy lied about what happened on the ship, as the Vico was not boarded by the aliens as he had reported. Troubled by this revelation, Picard and Troi instruct Data to spend more time with the boy in hopes that he will tell Data what really happened.   As Data and Timothy spend more time together, the boy becomes increasingly intrigued by his new friend and his exceptional mental and physical capacities.  He soon begins acting and talking like Data, simulating some of his android mannerisms.
12. Violations - The Enterprise makes its way toward Kaldra IV carrying a delegation of Ullians, an alien race of telepathic historians who conduct research by probing their subjects’ long-forgotten memories.  The head of the delegation, Tarmin, immediately demonstrates this ability when he helps Keiko resolve a repressed childhood memory.  However, Picard, Dr. Crusher and the rest of the crew are reluctant to let the Ullians examine them, and Tarmin’s son Jev admonishes his father against probing their thoughts without permission.  Troi leaves the meeting with Jev, and later that evening, experiences an unexplained flashback of a romantic interlude between herself and Riker. Suddenly, Riker’s advances become rough, and Troi discovers that Jev has replaced Riker in her memory.  As she struggles against Jev, she falls unconscious.  In Sickbay, Dr. Crusher tries to find an answer to Troi’s sudden comatose state.  In search of an answer, Riker asks Jev about his visit with Troi the previous evening.  Jev is offended when Riker suggests that the Ullians allow Dr. Crusher to examine them for any harmful organisms.  Dr. Crusher asks Geordi to conduct a ship-wide diagnostic for any agents that could have produced these tragedies.  Through further examination, she discovers that ever fallen crew members’ brain tissue show a similar abnormality in an area associated with memory development.  Because of this, she and Picard still suspect the Ullians are somehow responsible for the comas despite the fact that they pass all of her medical tests.
13. The Masterpiece Society - Picard’s efforts to save a genetically engineered society from a natural disaster threaten to destroy it.  The U.S.S. Enterprise moves in to help after detecting a stellar core fragment heading straight for a human colony on what was thought to be a deserted planet.  Picard contacts the colony’s leader, Aaron Conor, with an offer to evacuate his people.  But Conor refuses, telling Picard that evacuation would destroy his genetically engineered society. Instead, he insists on working to find an alternate solution, and reluctantly permits the transport of Riker, Geordi and Troi, the first visitors the colony has ever had, to help.  Conor assigns Hannah Bates, a scientist from the colony, to work with Geordi.  Riker beams back aboard the Enterprise along with Geordi and Hannah, who leaves the colony for the first time to work to save her home.  Back on board the Enterprise, Hannah is clearly fascinated by the ship’s advanced technology.  Meanwhile, Troi soothes a testy Picard, stressing the importance of working to preserve the colony’s way of life despite the captain’s disapproval of genetic engineering.
14. Conundrum - After being scanned by an unidentified alien ship, the entire crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, even Data, sustains complete memory loss.  Strangely, however, while they have forgotten who they are and what they do, they still possess skills that enable them to operate the ship.  All outside communication has been disrupted, but the crew assumes they are in battle due to the remains of a small alien ship located outside.  The crew accesses the ship’s computer, which provides them with the name, photo and rank of all personnel responsible for primary operation of the ship.  Since learning who they are sparks no memories, no one is surprised when an Executive Officer Commander Keiran MacDuff is listed as second-in-command.  Later, Geordi and Data discover information regarding their mission — they have been ordered to cross into Lysian territory and destroy its central command center.  The information suggests that the Lysians are responsible for the crew’s memory loss.  The orders also require the Enterprise to maintain absolute radio silence.  On the Bridge, the crew is uncomfortable with the thought of destroying a small Lysian ship, especially when they discover that the Enterprise is far more powerful than the “enemy” vessel.
15. Power Play - A subspace distress signal that seems to be emanating from a Starfleet ship lures the U.S.S. Enterprise to a seemingly uninhabited moon.  The last recorded Starfleet presence in the area was the disappearance of the U.S.S. Essex two centuries before, but Troi insists she senses life.  A fierce storm makes beaming to the surface impossible, so Riker, Troi and Data attempt to land on the moon in a shuttlecraft.  The craft crashes, Riker breaks his arm and all communication with the Enterprise is lost.  Still, Troi feels something powerful, and she decides it is approaching with a particularly severe-looking storm cloud.  Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, O’Brien volunteers to risk his life and transport through the storm to rescue the others.  As he attempts to beam them off the moon, the cloud envelops them and strange energy rings appear around the group.  O’Brien is successful, and the Away Team returns.  Once back on board however, Data, Troi and O’Brien insist the Enterprise conduct a systematic survey of a polar region of the moon — a notion Riker, Picard and the rest of the crew consider absurd.  When Riker questions their reasons, the three stage a violent revolt and take command of the ship.  By holding crew members hostage, Data, Troi and O’Brien are able to force Picard to listen to their demands and change the direction of the ship.  Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher and Riker determine that he was not affected because his broken arm somehow repelled whatever force inhabited the other three crew members.  Later, the force reveals itself when Troi, the leader of the mutinous trio, identifies herself as Captain Bryce Shumar of the Starship Essex.
16. Ethics - Worf is seriously injured when a support beam breaks and causes a heavy container to fall on him.  He awakens in Sickbay to shocking news — he is paralyzed from the waist down. Dr. Crusher informs her patient that she has sent for a specialist, a neuro-geneticist named Dr. Russell, but stresses to Worf that his chances of gaining full recovery of his legs are minimal at best.  This news crushes Worf’s Klingon pride, and he refuses to allow anyone, including his son Alexander, to see him.   Discussing Worf’s case with Dr. Crusher, Dr. Russell suggests implementing a radical medical technique that is still in the experimental stages.  Dr. Crusher refuses, unwilling to risk Worf’s life when he is in no danger of dying.  Worf, however, believes his life Is already over.  He asks Riker to assist in his ceremonial suicide, citing the belief that no Klingon should live as an object of pity or shame, but Riker is torn.  Later, Dr. Crusher and Dr. Russell visit Worf to discuss his options.  They present him with implants designed to partially restore the feeling in his legs, but Worf refuses, telling them he would rather die than be less than the man he was.  At this point, Dr. Russell tells Worf about the experimental surgery that could fully restore his mobility.  This move angers Dr. Crusher, who believes Dr. Russell is trying to use Worf as a sort of guinea pig to test her unproven technique.
17. The Outcast - While investigating the disappearance of a J’naii shuttlecraft, the crew finds reason to believe the missing ship is stranded in an abnormal pocket called “null space.”  Riker and Soren, a member of the J’naii race, begin preparing to rescue the craft, and the two strike up a friendship.  Their relationship develops quickly as the pair question each other about mating habits, since the J’naii are androgynous and do not identify themselves as either male or female.  Despite this difference, sparks begin to fly between them.  Heading toward the null space in a shuttlecraft, Soren wonders to Riker if a J’naii and a human could be sexually compatible.  She then tells him that this would be illegal in her society, where gender-specific relations are strictly forbidden.  However, after she is injured during the mission, Soren becomes bolder.  She insists on completing the mission, and also insists taking an even greater risk by telling Riker that she is attracted to him.  The following day, Riker and Soren locate the J’naii shuttlecraft and successfully load the injured J’naii onto the ship.  Soren’s colleague Krite thanks Riker for his help and invites Riker to join them for a celebration that evening. As Soren and Riker say a discreet goodbye, Krite notices the sparks between them.  Later that evening, Soren and Riker sneak away from the dinner for a walk in the woods, where, hidden from everyone, they exchange a passionate kiss. Continuing to work together to remove the J’naii shuttlecraft from the null space, Riker and Soren present a purely professional front to the crew.  However, when Riker arrives at Soren’s quarters for a pre-arranged meeting, he is informed that she has been taken into custody as a result of their relationship.
18. Cause and Effect - While playing poker with Riker, Data and Worf, a strange feeling of déjà vu helps Dr. Crusher successfully call Riker’s bluff.  She is then summoned to sickbay to examine a dizzy Geordi, and once again experiences this sensation.  When she goes to bed that evening, she is haunted by strange voices in her quarters.  The ship continues to chart the Typhon Expanse, a previously unexplored region of space, until the distortion field suddenly fluctuates, the main propulsion systems collapse, and the Enterprise is thrown into red alert on a collision course with an older starship.  Riker recommends decompressing the main shuttlebay, but Picard follows Data’s advice and uses the tractor beam to alter the other ship’s trajectory.  Unfortunately, this course fails, the ships collide and the Enterprise explodes and is completely destroyed.   Later, Riker, Data, Worf and Beverly are playing cards again, and both Riker and Beverly realize they know what is coming next.  Beverly is again summoned to Sickbay, where she and Geordi both experience feelings of déjà vu.  When she hears the voices in her room, she immediately goes to Picard and tells him that something strange is going on.  He decides to run a diagnostic.  The next morning, while discussing the results of that diagnostic, the older ship mysteriously appears and the Enterprise is again destroyed.  The card game is in full swing again, but this time, all four players realize they know what cards are coming next.  Beverly anticipates being called to Sickbay, and when Geordi again shows up feeling dizzy, she goes to Picard and repeats their previous exchange. She hears the voices in her room again, but this time Beverly turns on her tape recorder.  The recording is studied, and Data deduces that the strange voices are the voices of the crew.  Beverly and Geordi realize that they are trapped in a causality loop — a time warp that dooms them to endlessly repeat the same fragment of time.
19. The First Duty - While en-route to Starfleet Academy, where Picard is scheduled to deliver the year’s commencement address, the crew learns of a devastating in-flight accident involving Wesley Crusher and his squadron.  While all five ships involved were destroyed, Wesley, his squadron leader and two other crew members managed to transport to safety. However, the fifth team member, Wesley’s good friend Joshua Albert, was killed instantly.  Picard, Dr. Crusher and the rest of the cadets’ parents watch as Admiral Brand, the Academy superintendent, begins an investigation, questioning the four surviving cadets about the fatal flight.  When the admiral finds discrepancies between their testimony and the flight plan they had filed, the squadron’s leader,Nicholas Locarno, steps in.  He reluctantly tells the investigating panel that Albert panicked and lost control during the maneuver and caused the accident.  Albert’s father, a Starfleet officer, is especially devastated by this news.  Because the U.S.S. Enterprise is Wesley’s home, Admiral Brand allows Picard and the crew to begin their own, independent investigation of the accident. Meanwhile, Wesley meets with Locarno and the other squadron members to discuss the earlier inquiry.  The three cadets are clearly upset with their leader for placing blame on Albert when the accident was not really his fault. Locarno tries to convince them that they aren’t lying by omitting crucial details that will explain what really happened, and that they must go along with his plan in order to save their careers. Stressing the importance of working together as a team, he gets his squadron to agree with him.  Later, when the hearing resumes, Wesley is questioned about the surviving data from his flight recorder.  He and his comrades are shocked when the panel produces evidence that clearly contradicts Wesley’s testimony.  However, while he appears to be caught in a lie, Wesley refuses to explain.
20. Cost of Living - After destroying a deadly asteroid in the Pelloris Field, the U.S.S. Enterprise heads toward the Moselina system unaware that a cloud of strange particles have attached themselves to the ship’s hull.  As they travel,Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana transports aboard with an unusual announcement — she is planning to get married on the Enterprise to a man that she has never met.  Troi finds the news disturbing, but Lwaxana laughs at her “motherly” concern.   Troi has been counseling Worf and his son Alexander, who have been clashing over the boy’s responsibilities. Soon, Lwaxana meets Alexander and takes a liking to him.  She persuades him to skip his appointment with Troi and accompany her to the holodeck instead.  There, she takes him for a visit to a colony of artists, poets and free thinkers, and to a mudbath.  Troi and Worf, meanwhile, begin a search for the missing boy that leads them to the holodeck.  An angry Troi asks her mother to stop interfering with Alexander’s upbringing.  The subject changes to Lwaxana’s upcoming wedding, and Troi is shocked to learn that her independent-thinking mother plans to forgo the Betazed custom of getting married in the nude and wear a wedding dress provided by her bridegroom instead.  Meanwhile, minor malfunctions begin to occur aboard the ship, and Geordi and Data discover that mechanical parts of the ship are being transformed into a gelatinous substance. As they report their findings to Picard, Riker and Worf, red alert sounds as more crucial systems begin to fail.   Later, Lwaxana’s intended, Minister Campio, transports aboard along with his pompous Protocol Master. Lwaxana is a bit taken aback by just how stuffy her husband-to-be is, since the compatibility profile that matched them did not alert her to how major their differences are.  She becomes bored with the complicated wedding plans and heads back to the holodeck with Alexander, much to everyone’s dismay.
21. The Perfect Mate - The battle between the Krios and Valt Minor Systems is set to end aboard the neutral ground of the U.S.S. Enterprise in a Ceremony of Reconciliation. The Kriosian Ambassador Briam arrives first with a gift for the Valtese leader Alrik, a fragile and irreplaceable item he asks to have declared off-limits.  While on course to meet Alrik, the Enterprise is summoned to aid a Ferengi shuttle and beams aboard its two passengers. Picard and the crew learn their arrival was no coincidence when one of the Ferengi is caught trying to steal the gift.  After being bumped by the Ferengi, the cocoon-like structure that houses the gift dissolves, revealing an exotic and beautiful woman.   The woman, Kamala, explains that she is an empathic metamorph, a rare creature born with the ability to sense what her mate desires and become what he wants her to be.  From birth, she has been raised to be a gift to Alrik, whom she will imprint herself to as a token of peace.  However, since her seal was broken prematurely, she is in a vulnerable state, sending out powerful sexual signals to every man she comes in contact with.  Briam requests that she be confined to her room until Alrik arrives, but this horrifies Beverly Crusher, who tells Picard that he is helping to transport Kamala into a life of virtual prostitution. She convinces him to talk to the woman and release her from her quarters.   Picard has a difficult time resisting his attraction to Kamala, so he assigns Data, who will be immune to the woman’s charms, to act as her escort.  Data brings Kamala to the bar, where every man in sight is drawn to her.
22. Imaginary Friend - After learning from a young Enterprise resident named Clara that she has an “Invisible friend,” Troi reassures the girl’s father, Daniel Sutter, that the practice is normal.  Since Clara has been moved from starship to starship, Troi explains that her imaginary friend “Isabella” provides her with a constant companion. Meanwhile, the Enterprise investigates a rare nebula that has formed around a neutron star.  As the exploration proceeds, a strange energy source makes its way onto the ship and begins to conduct an exploration of its own.  The being discovers Clara playing in the Arboretum, and immediately materializes into the image of her friend Isabella.  Clara is astonished to see her imaginary friend come to life.  Isabella convinces the girl to take her on a tour of the ship, concentrating on forbidden areas like Engineering, the Bridge and the Ten-Forward.  The crew is shocked to see Clara popping up in such unexpected places, especially when she blames her “companion” Isabella, whom none of the adults can see.  At the same time, Picard and the crew are troubled by mysterious energy strands which have surrounded the ship like a web and are causing it to lose power.  Troi decides Clara should meet some other children, and arranges for her to attend a ceramics class.  The girl immediately hits it off with Worf’s son Alexander, that is, until Isabella arrives and destroys one of Alexander’s creations. Since Alexander can’t see Isabella, he blames Clara. Later, a tearful Clara confronts Isabella, asking why she has been so mean to her.  Isabella coldly replies that when the “others” come, Clara and everyone else on the ship will die.
23. I, Borg - Picard sends an Away Team to investigate the wreckage of a small craft, where they find the only survivor is an adolescent Borg.  The Captain initially shows no sign of wanting to help, however, Dr. Crusher eventually persuades to beam the creature aboard in spite of the fact that his presence on the ship could alert the rest of his race.  Back on board the Enterprise, Beverly disconnects the command center that allows the Borg to communicate with the rest of his race. Troi senses anger in Picard, who was kidnapped by the Borg, but he refuses to discuss his feelings.  However, those feelings become apparent when Beverly discovers that her new patient’s brain implants have been damaged and asks Picard if Geordi can construct new ones.  Picard realizes that if Geordi can tamper with the command structure of this Borg’s brain, he can destroy the entire race through their interconnected network.   Beverly is shocked that Picard would use the creature she is trying to heal to kill.  However, the rest of the crew agrees with the Captain, citing the race’s history of warlike activity against the Federation.  Later, the Borg wakes up confused and disoriented after being disconnected from the collective whole.  In the science lab, Geordi and a reluctant Beverly attempt to communicate with the Borg so that Geordi can learn more about the command pathways in his brain.  As they talk, they find this Borg is harmless and innocent — unlike the other Borg they have met.  They name him Hugh, and Geordi begins having second thoughts about programming the creature to destroy his race.  When he tells this to Guinan, she reacts with fear and anger. Later, Picard and Riker discover that a Borg rescue vessel is headed their way.
24. The Next Phase - Upon receiving a distress signal from a Romulan science ship, Picard surprises some crew members by sending an Away Team to help.  The Romulan officers are also surprised, but are also relieved to be rescued.  During the mission, Geordi discovers that one of the ship’s generators needs replacement, so he and Ro prepare to beam back to the U.S.S. Enterprise to replicate the part.  However, something goes wrong during the transport.  After dematerializing from the Romulan ship, the pair fail to reappear on the Enterprise. After several failed attempts to bring them back, Picard and the crew are forced to accept the fact that their comrades are dead.  Later, Ro mysteriously appears in Sickbay, where Picard and Dr. Crusher are signing her death certificate.  She tries to talk to them to tell them she is alive, but they don’t hear her.  She stands in front of them, but they don’t see her. In fact, Picard actually walks right through her.  Because of this, Ro concludes she must be dead.  Ro eventually runs into Geordi, who has been having the same strange experiences. Although the pair can hear, see and touch each other, they seem to be removed from the rest of the ship. Ro tells Geordi she believes this means that they are dead, and have returned to the ship as spirits. Geordi, however, refuses to accept her explanation and sets about trying to find a solution.
25. The Inner Light - An unsophisticated alien probe assumes a relative position, holding steady with the U.S.S. Enterprise, and releases a nucleonic particle stream that penetrates the ship’s shields. Focusing solely on Picard, the beam knocks him unconscious.  When he wakes up, Picard finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings, being cared for by an attractive woman. The woman, Eline, tells him his name is “Kamin,” and he is her husband of three years.  She also tells him that he has been sick and must be experiencing a memory loss.  Picard soon learns that he lives on the planet Kataan, where he works as a simple iron weaver.  His confusion is compounded when he notices that Eline wears an exact replica of the alien probe as jewelry.  She tells Picard he gave her the necklace as a gift.  On the Enterprise, the crew is unable to revive Picard. Realizing the particle emission that has attached itself to him may control his life, they are afraid to destroy the beam. Only a few moments have passed, but on Kataan, it is already five years later, and Picard is settling into his life.  He comes up with a solution to the drought that is destroying the planet, but his advanced ideas are laughed at by leaders of the primitive society.  However, his life is not without its pleasures.  Picard kisses Eline, an act that causes his pulse to rise back on the Enterprise. Worf insists they must destroy the beam since their Captain is under attack.  They do so, and Picard’s pulse drops dramatically.  On Kataan, where seven more years have passed, he falls to the floor.  Acting quickly, the crew restores the beam.  Back on Kataan, another 12 years have passed, and Picard has two children.  The drought continues to worsen, and Picard’s teenage daughter Meribor, realizes their planet is doomed.  At the same time, Geordi and Data are able to chart the probe’s radiation to Kataan, a planet that was destroyed in a supernova explosion over a thousand years ago.
26. Time’s Arrow, Part I - Picard and the crew are summoned to San Francisco to evaluate a discovery of extra-terrestrial life on Earth that dates back to the late 19th century.  Triolic waves, a rare energy source employed by very few species, have been detected around the city.  The Captain wonders why his crew has been summoned instead of one of Earth’s more qualified scientists.  He is shocked to learn that the U.S.S. Enterprise has been included because Data’s head, old, dusty and dead, was found among the ruins of some 19th-century artifacts.  The crew finds it hard to accept Data’s supposed death, but Data is typically matter-of-fact, explaining that at a future date he will transport back to 19th-century Earth, where his death will occur. Meanwhile, Geordi concludes that the only species that uses triolic rays and is capable of assuming human form on earth exists solely on the planet Devidia II.  The Enterprise immediately sets course.  Upon their arrival, Picard sends an Away Team to investigate, but insists Data stay aboard ship.  Troi senses human lifeforms, but no one is physically present.  The crew concludes that the lifeforms are a fraction of a second out of phase with them.  Since Data is the only hope for manipulating the distortion in timing, he beams down, and immediately sets up a forcefield. He soon disappears inside the field, but communicates with the rest of the Away Team, describing the unusual alien lifeforms he sees.  Suddenly, an explosion occurs, and Data is gone. Lost from Devidia II, he reappears in San Francisco, circa the late 1800s.
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Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

These episodes look beautiful and this remastered transfer contains 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 and 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 nit-picky, but I did notice more electronic noise (especially during “Unification I and II”) 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!
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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!
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Extras (5 out of 5 stars) 

As usual, Paramount has given us a packed set full of goodies for fans of the show.  Roger Lay Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett are old pros at putting together these extras and it shows.  My only complaint about the extras is the fact that a lot of the times when people being interviewed are describing something, instead of just keeping the camera on the person being interviewed, they decided to try to use footage from the show to re-enact what’s being said.  I have to say that I absolutely hate that and I don’t know why they couldn’t just keep the focus on the person being interviewed.  If the person is talking about walking somewhere I don’t need to see some footage to re-enact that.  These are extras not “Rescue 911!”  Not all of the extras are in high definition as only the deleted scenes, the gag reel, and the very good trio of new documentaries “In Conversation: The Music of Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the two part “Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation.” 
Disc One:
  • Mission Overview Year Five - At a little over seventeen minutes long, this overview focuses primarily on Leonard Nimoy’s guest appearance in the two-part “Unification” episodes as well as a look at several other episodes including: “Darmok,” “The Inner Light,” and “I, Borg.”
Disc Two:
  • Deleted Scene - A deleted scene from the episode “New Ground.” 
  • Departmental Briefing Year Five: Production - A fifteen minute look at some of this season’s best episodes including: “The Inner Light,” “Ethics,” “Cause and Effect,” and “The First Duty.”
Disc Three:
  • Departmental Briefing Year Five: Visual Effects - This is an almost eighteen minute look at the groundbreaking special effects of the time.  We see how they accomplished some of the effects including plasma fire, the holodeck, and the newly revamped title sequence.
Disc Four:
  • Deleted Scenes - Deleted scenes from the following episodes: “Ethics,” “The Outcast,” “The First Duty,” and “The Cost of Living.”
  • Audio Commentaries - We get two commentaries with writer Brannon Braga and Seth McFarlane talking about “Cause and Effect” and writers Ronald D. Moore and Naren Shankar discuss the Wesley Crusher focused “The First Duty,” that’s set at Starfleet Headquarters.
  • Memorable Missions - Eighteen minutes of comments about “The Game,” “Hero Worship,” “The First Duty,” “Power Play,” “The Perfect Mate,” and “Disaster.”  It’s interesting to hear what the writers thought about some of these episodes to hear what they were going for when they wrote them.
Disc Five:
  • Deleted Scene - A deleted scene from “The Perfect Mate.” 
  • Audio Commentary - Writer René Echevarria and Mike and Denise Okuda talk about the return of the Borg and more for the episode “I, Borg.”
  • A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry - This tribute to Gene Roddenberry lasts almost thirty minutes and it’s a great addition to the set. Not only do we get to hear from members from both the classic Star Trek and Next Generation casts, but we also get to see archived footage from when Paramount dedicated a new building to the great man and to celebrate Star Trek’s 25th anniversary.  Make sure you watch it all the way to the end to see Patrick Stewart’s song and dance routine for Roddenberry.
  • Intergalactic Guest Stars - A short look at the series’ awesome guest stars over the series run with comments from the cast and crew.
  • Alien Speak - A quick look at the various alien languages in the show like Vulcan, Borg, and especially Klingon are talked about.  We hear some amusing stories on how the Klingon language had to change when actors like Christopher Plummer didn’t like how the original translation of “To be or not to be” sounded.
Disc Six:
  • Audio Commentary - Writer Morgan Gendel and Mike and Denise Okuda talk about “The Inner Light,” and how popular the episodes has become. 
  • Deleted Scenes - We get five deleted scenes from “The Inner Light.”
  • Gag Reel - An entertaining look at the cast messing up, having fun, and generally fooling around.
  • In Conversation: The Music of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Now this is an extra that I never expected but I’m so glad that it’s here.  Music always get short shrift in the extras but not this time as this discussion between Jeff Bond, author of “The Music of Star Trek,” and composers Dennis McCarthy, Ron Jones, and Jay Chattaway lasts over an hour. They talk about how difficult it was to score for the various Star Trek shows where they weren’t allowed to use percussion or to try to entice any emotion from the viewer through their music.  Their candid discussion is fascinating to listen to. 
  • Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part One: The Needs of the Many - This thirty minute long featurette starts off with Gene Roddenberry sharing his vision of how artists can comment on society through their art.  We also hear from many Star Trek writers including: Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Brannon Braga, Naren Shankar, and Morgan Gendel who talk about the difficulty in writing scenes with conflict within the Star Trek universe because of the framework established by Roddenberry where mankind had evolved into being peaceful and without greed or other flaws. 
  • Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part Two: The Needs of the Few - The second half is devoted to Roddenberry’s death and the aftermath with comments from the cast and crew on what he meant to them as well as a vintage Entertainment Tonight segment on his death.  We also hear from the cast on their thoughts on Michelle Forbes, Wil Wheaton, and Colm Meaney’s appearances on the show as well as a look at how the Enterprise was blown up during “Cause and Effect,” and more.
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Summary (5 out of 5 stars) 

I love this show and this is one of the series’ best so it’s an easy one to recommend.  Not only are these episodes among some of the finest, but this Blu-ray is also first rate with fantastic video and audio quality and some killer extras that really help you get the big picture of how the show came about and why it was so successful.  This set is highly recommended!
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