Star Trek - the Next Generation, Season 6 on Blu-ray
Season six picks up where five (and four and three) left off: with the conclusion to the previous season's cliffhanger episode. In this case, It's "Time's Arrow," which is an adventure where a headless and dead Data and the crew hang out with Mark Twain to solve a time travel conundrum.
It isn't my favorite TNG, but it's pretty good. And while Season Six isn't the best (that still falls to Season three), it's still chock full of good episodes. My favorite is "Relics," which brings James Doohan back to Trek life as Montomery Scott, formerly chief engineer and miracle worker on earlier Enterprises.
Here, he's discovered suspended in a transporter beam after the ship on which he was traveling crashed onto a Dyson sphere while he's on his way to his retirement home. There are some great moments, and some nice homages to the original series - yet they don't beat you over the head with it. A great episode, indeed.
There's a lot of Picard and Riker-related stuff here, too, including the two parter "Chain of Command," where Jean Luc is sent on a secret mission that turns out to be a trap, leaving him a prisoner of the Cardassians, in this case represented by David Warner of "Time after Time," "Time Bandits," and "Titanic" (did he ever appear in a movie that didn't start with "T?") fame.
As for Riker, Jonathan Frakes gets a chance to play with himself on screen - as Commander Riker and his timeline-challenged self Lt. Riker. There's also an episode in which he's taken prison - I guess it was his turn - and the resulting tale is a real mindbender and an acting tour de force for Frakes.
Data gets his due, of course, and "A Fistful of Datas" is actually more interesting than its derivative title might seem. It's another holodeck episode (Moriarty also reappears in another), this time a program created by Worf's kid Alexander that puts them in the old west with Worf as sheriff and Alexander as his deputy. Troi comes along for the ride as eye candy - but it's Brent Spiner who steals the episode, which isn't unusual.
"Birthright" see the Enterprise docked at DS9 but most of the episode follows Worf as he sallies forth on yet another attempt to deal with his family, honor, and Klingons, this time in an attempt to free some prisoners of war taken years earlier.
The season ends with another two parter-opening cliffhanger, "Descent," which is decent, though not one of the best Borg episodes (clearly, it's tough to top "The Best of Both Worlds" from seasons 3/4).
Here's a listing of the episodes:
Time's Arrow, Part II
You read it right. Yet another Q episode. This one's okay - a woman who displays "Q tendencies" comes on board, prompting Q (John De Lancie, of course!) to show up to investigate and possibly recruit - but it was probably time they put the Continuum out to pasture. Not that they did…
Okay, this isn't ST TNG at its absolute finest, but it's still a darn fine season and I really enjoyed sitting back and catching up on these old friends. It was also great to watch them on Blu-ray, because I've also been catching the odd episode on high definition TV and the difference between that and the 1080p disc is spectacular. That's because the Blu-ray (in "old TV's 1.33:1 aspect ratio) looks absolutely superb. The picture is rich and colorful and deep - heck, you can see actors' complexions trying to peek out from under their makeup and costumes, sets and props look very detailed; and that doesn't even mention the special effects shots, which are fantastic. And no commercials!
Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and it's also very nice. I love the crackling "whoosh" the Enterprise makes when it passes by the viewer during the opening credits, and during the shots that take place on the ship, there's a low thrumming noise like you might expect to hear nearly subliminally if you're on such a vessel. And of course the other sound effects, the music and the dialogue come through cleanly and crisply.
Naturally, you also get a decent set of extras, including commentary and delete scenes for some episodes. I particularly enjoyed the commentary on "Relics," possibly because it was also my favorite episode from the season. You can also precede each episode by watching the "next time" preview that accompanies each, which is a great way to remind yourself what's up before diving right in.
Other extras include "Beyond the Five Year Mission - the Evolution of Star Trek the Next Generation," a high def feature whose title is pretty self-explanatory, "archival mission logs" and even an okay gag reel.
This was the series' second last season and I really enjoyed kicking back with it again, even though it isn't my favorite year for TNG. And you know what? Revisiting these episodes after a few years (I last saw them together when I reviewed the DVD's several years ago) was refreshing and I came away from the season liking it more than I had remembered it from years past.
Six down, one to go!
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.