Thursday, June 19, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
ST_TNG_REDEMPTIONThis Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption Blu-Ray is a seamlessly edited, feature-length presentation of the classic two-part episode that served as the season four finale and season five premiere.  Penned by acclaimed sci-fi screenwriter Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), the thrilling episode follows Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) as they fight to end a Klingon civil war.  Along with an extensive audio commentary from Moore and scenic artists/Star Trek consultants Mike and Denise Okuda, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption Blu-Ray includes the exclusive documentary, “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War.”  This newly produced special feature explores the Klingon mythology of Star Trek: The Next Generation and features all-new interviews with writer/producer Moore, who, in addition to“Redemption,” wrote some of the franchise’s most memorable Klingon storylines, and some of the actors who played the most renowned Klingon characters including Michael Dorn (Worf), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron) and Gwynyth Walsh (B’Etor).


Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

In addition to the season long sets being released by Paramount, they’ve been releasing these standalone discs that feature the two-part episodes that combine one season’s last cliffhanger episode with the next season’s premiere to make a mini movie of the two.  Star Trek: Redemption Parts I and II comprise the 100th and 101st episodes of the series, as well as the fourth season finale and the fifth season premiere.  Since much of the fourth season is a continuous storyline, viewers that jump right into this without knowing what happened before might be a little confused when watching this.
Basically, Worf (Michael Dorn) has accepted public shame for his family and their name to save the Klingon Empire from internal strife that runs so deep that the Klingon leadership are all corrupt and involved in a coverup that left Worf’s family blamed for something they didn’t do.  The actual ones responsible for collaborating with the Klingons’ enemy the Romulans was the traitorous House of Duras.  Since the Klingon Council is pretty much owned by The House of Duras, Worf had little choice but to accept the public condemnation to prevent the Empire from being torn apart by the revelations.  By the time this set begins, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has already been chosen chosen as the Klingon Arbiter of Succession (a position that allows him to determine who will be the Leader of the High Council) and the final two challengers for the Klingon throne, Gowron (Robert Reilly) and Duras (Patrick Massett) had been decided. After Duras killed Worf’s mate and was subsequently killed by Worf for the deed, Gowron is the only remaining Klingon left in the race.  
Since Worf has been shouldering his shame for awhile at this point, Picard convinces him to start working to clear his family’s name by taking a leave of absence.  Worf agrees and he seeks out his brother Kurn (Tony Todd) who has his own Bird of Prey and the support of a squadron.  Worf convinces his reluctant brother to support Gowron so that they have a chance to regain their family name.  When the succession ceremony begins, it’s interrupted by the Duras sisters Lursa (Barbara March) and B’Etor (Gwynyth Walsh) who proclaim that their brother had an illegitimate son who had a right to take his slain father’s place.  Another surprise that the House of Duras is hiding is the fact that they are in league with the Romulans.  The Romulans are in cloaked ships near the Klingon border and are being led by Commander Sela, a female Romulan that bears a striking resemblance to the laste Tasha Yar, formerly of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D.  With the battlelines drawn, the Klingon empire teeters on the edge of war with only the crew of the Enterprise in the position to stop it.
Redemption  Parts 1 and 2 serves as a fine example of just how intricate and interesting The Next Generation was as each season passed.  I’ve always loved continuous storylines and the fourth season built up to this moment well as each episode added new layers of political intrigue and adversaries for the Enterprise crew to counter.  Despite Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s opinion that the character of Worf didn’t merit his own story arc, Rick Berman and the show’s writers chose to do it anyway and the show was the better for it.  Michael Dorn took a role that could have easily just been a one note character and made Worf fierce, sarcastic, and a great straight man for comedy.
Patrick Stewart also took advantage of showing a new tougher side of Picard as he is forced to stand up to the Klingons.  The addition of the Duras sisters was a good idea and this was the start of their antagonism towards the Enterprise crew that carried all the way through to Star Trek: Generations where it was finally resolved.  While this cliffhanger wasn’t as good as the two-part “The Best of Both Worlds,” it was still a good one and it was great to see more of the Klingon homeworld and their version of politics.  I enjoyed these edited together although I would have preferred if they were edited as “seamless” as advertised.  Watching the scenes fade out and in where the commercial breaks would have been isn’t really my idea of cinematic editing.  If those had been eliminated then this would have really felt like a mini movie.  Fans who can’t wait to see how it all ends during the season five premiere episode will really like this set.  For myself, I really like the concept of packaging these two part episodes and I plan on picking up “The Best of Both Worlds.”

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.33:1) transfer looks just as good on it’s own as it does on the season sets.  The one thing that I noticed was different than most of the other episodes is the fact that so much of this two-part episodes is in darkened areas thanks to it being set within the Klingon world and environments.  The black levels are suitably dark and it looks a lot different from the previous releases which looked a lot more washed out.  Detail is excellent and the smallest details are easy to see within the image.  Colors also look very good across the board with the Starfleet uniforms looking striking as well as the darker earth tones of the Klingon armor.  Just like the season sets, this looks fantastic and much, much better than the previous television and DVD transfers.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Star Trek: Redemption’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is also very good and a much needed upgrade over previous releases.  This lossless mix is great from the opening title music to the final credits no matter what area you want to focus on.  The dialogue is crystal clear, the music is strong but not overbearing, and there’s plenty of ambience to make it come alive.  The sound effects all sound great and there’s been a lot of effort made to utilize all of your channels.  When you hear the ships fly by, you will feel it as well as the bass will kick in to announce their presence. Again, just like the rest of the season sets, this lossless mix is stellar and a welcome improvement for the show.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 

For basically a two episode set, these extras are pretty good and the new “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” featurette is also in high definition.
  • Audio Commentary - Writer Ronald D. Moore and resident Star Trek experts Mike and Denise Okuda talk about the episode and how it came to be.  A lot of this information is also covered in the following featurette, but this is still an interesting commentary to listen to if you are a fan of the show.
  • Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War – This is a half hour look back about how “Redemption” came to be and why.  After the huge success of the previous  cliffhanger of the “Best of Both Worlds”, they wanted to keep making cliffhangers and so “Redemption” was born.  It’s also mentioned that their cliffhangers influenced other shows to start doing them too once they saw how many people were tuning into to see what happened.  We also hear how Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry felt  that Worf was a secondary character that didn’t need his own story arc and was better left in the background.  We also get to hear about Klingon culture, how their signature weapon the Bat’leth was created, and we also hear from some of the cast including Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, and Robert Reilly,and more talk about their characters.
  • Episodic Promos - The original promos for both episodes in standard definition.
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

These are great standalone episodes that work well when edited together.  If you can’t wait for the season five set to come out to see what happens after the fourth season’s cliffhanger, then you should definitely pick up this set.  These episodes are very well done and this Blu-ray set is also excellent as the video and audio quality are first rate and even though there’s only two episodes on this set, the extras are also very good and do a lot to show how and why these were made.  It’s also nice to have some Star Trek episodes that I can stream off of UltraViolet when I’m in the mood and don’t have my season sets with me.  For the low price of this set, it’s an easy one to recommend!
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