Star Trek TNG goes out with a bang on Blu-ray
By Jim Bray
All good things must come to an end eventually. So it was with Star Trek: the Next Generation, which wrapped up in the mid-1990's with its seventh season and a closing episode that wrapped things up nicely.
And now that final season has been released on Blu-ray, in as pristine and watchable (and listenable) condition as has ever been seen. If you've watched the first six seasons' Blu-rays, the quality won't surprise you, because Paramount has done a fine job on the series, including a nice remastering and a great rebuilding of the special effects shots to take advantage of the high definition medium.
TNG had a spotty record beyond its liberal political correctness, though looking back at it 20 years later it doesn't beat you over the head with it as much as I thought I remembered. But this is a very different Trek in many ways than the original series which, despite having many of the same themes and beliefs, was a lot more action/adventure-oriented than the more talky and preachy Next Generation.
But there were still some great yarns spread over the seven years, especially in the third through sixth seasons - and the Seasons Three/Four cliffhanger double episode "The Best of Both Worlds" still stands as one of, if not the, best of any Trek episodes. Seven can't stand up, as a whole, to the best seasons (I still think that was Season Three), but there's still enough here to beguile Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you're thin skinned and insecure), and it all wraps up with a great double episode "All Good Things" that not only ties up the series nicely but even gives us a look at where the characters would go if the series were to continue for another couple of decades.
The episodes here are pretty wide-ranging when it comes to subjects, but there's a family-like theme that runs through it - not that family is a new concept to TNG, of course, but there are several episodes in this season that involve family members we may not have noticed before. I'll give a quick word about some of the more memorable ones.
The year kicks off with part 2 of "Descent" a "decent" one that brings Data's family into focus, via his evil pseudobrother Lore, as well as offering another Borg episode, albeit one that's inferior to TBOBW (what Trek isn't?). There's also an episode that kind of foreshadows James Cameron's Avatar, in which Geordi wears and operates a remote version of himself, though not 10 feet tall and blue. He drives himself to save his mother - another family-themed yarn - though things may not be as they appear and his actions could end his career.
"Gambit" is a two parter on disc one (of six). Riker, searching for the missing Picard, gets abducted by an unhappy band of supposed mercenaries who are trying to find some ancient archaeological items. As it turns out Picard has joined the motley crew, indicating that there's more to this story than first meets the eye.
Troi's insufferable mother is back in "Dark Page." I never liked the character. Too bad Gene Roddenberry's widow, Majel, had to be cast in this role because I always liked her. Anyway, in this episode she ends up in a coma (the best thing about the episode!) and daughter Deanna has to help her - whether mum wants it or not.
"Attached" is a neat episode that gets us inside the heads - and hearts - of Picard and Dr. Beverly, when they find themselves linked mentally after being captured by an alien race. Could this be the start of a beautiful romance? Data finds his mum in "Inheritance. " She's the former wife of his builder, Noonian Soong (Paramount must have had a special on the letter "o" the day Data's family was first written) - or is she? As usual, things aren't all that they seem.
The Pegasus was Riker's old ship and when the Enterprise is sent ostensibly to recover it from where it was discovered in deep space, old' Potsie finds himself on the horns of a major dilemma. And in "Homeward, " we meet Worf's foster brother, who's in the process of treating the Prime Directive the way Obama treats the U.S. Constitution. Will family or duty win?
In "Sub Rosa," Dr. Beverly discovers a very strange and unsettling - but extremely tempting - secret in her family history. Will the usually rational medico give in to more base instincts? And in "Lower Decks," we see the Enterprise through the eyes of some young junior officers as they face some major challenges in their careers.
Did ol' Jean-Luc have a past as randy as Kirk's? In "Bloodlines," Captain Picard meets the son he never knew he had. Maybe sexual skeletons in the closet are a prerequisite to captaining a starship…
The final episode, "All Good Things," opens with Picard shifting through time, from past to future, as a mysterious new threat appears. It's a great cap to the series, with a nice, feel-good final scene that points toward the relationships between Picard and his closest officers beginning to change, if only we had 20 more years to watch it unfold. You can also buy this episode as a standalone.
Season Seven looks great on Blu-ray, as it should considering the seasons that preceded it. The 1080p picture is razor sharp, detail is fantastic and colors are rich and deep. The special effects look marvelous, too, showing details you may have missed before - especially since the DVD set's effects really looked lousy. This is easily the best version yet of the season.
Ditto for the audio, which is offered in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. There's decent use of surround, and some nice low frequency effects stuff - as I've said before when reviewing other seasons, that "thunderclap" when the Enterprise passes during the opening credits is worth the price of admission alone if you crank up your system. If you've only watched TNG on TV, you owe yourself a boo at this lossless soundtrack.
And of course there's abundant extras spread over all seven discs, from a season overview to character studies, deleted scenes, gag reel and, on the final disc, "Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation," which wraps it up nicely.
Season Seven may not be TNG's strongest, but there's plenty to love, including a great conclusion. If you're a Trekkie waiting to finish off your set, it's a definite must have. Well, I guess it would be anyway, but it's nice to see that Paramount has done it justice.
Copyright 2014 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.