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Star Trek The Next Generation

Star Trek The Next Generation on DVD

Season One

Season Two

Season Three

Season Four

Season Five

Season Six

Season Seven

By Jim Bray

The DVD release of arguably the best of the Star Trek TV series is a cause for celebration among Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you're one of those people to whom the label "geek" is more acceptable than "geik").

After all, Paramount did such an incredible job on the original series DVD set that the Next Generation, being newer and with its use of far more modern techniques, should be even better.

And rather than the generic-looking cases of the original series, Paramount has promised a real collectors box set for each season.

For what more could a self respecting fan ask? Well, anamorphic perhaps, but that's too much to expect from a made for TV program that existed before the move to HDTV began. We'll probably have to wait for the DVD's of Enterprise for that…

But TNG, with its great looking special effects and production values, should be a peach.

That's how I felt when the boxed set arrived and I dropped everything to open it and slide it into my reference home theater, all thoughts of any other work being done that day disappearing in a flash similar to the one the Enterprise makes when it engages its warp engines.

And a handsome set it is, indeed with a total of seven discs snuggled into the box. But this is also where my first second thought came. The discs are mounted into an accordion-like arrangement where you have to take all seven discs out to get at any of them, and folding it back up inspires memories of returning a road map to its original state of foldedness.

Just as bad, the whole shebang plops down into the box itself rather than sliding in or out. This makes it difficult to get them out.

But a box is still a box and has nothing to do with the quality of the discs themselves - and in the grand scheme of things that's pretty nitpicky. Or does it foreshadow other problems?

In this case it foreshadows an inattention to detail right across the package. And we noticed it almost immediately upon firing up the first episode "Encounter at Farpoint," the show's intriguing pilot episode.

That's because the video quality is well, disappointing. We gave various episodes of the season the full treatment, from a couple of low end 27 inch TV's of indeterminate age, through a digital 36" 4x3 television and up to our state-of-the-art 57 inch widescreen HDTV-ready set on which the original series looked so spectacular.

No such spectacle here, unfortunately. Besides an overall softness to the image, as opposed to the razor sharp picture of the Original Series, the Next Generation's picture is too dark and grainy (in places) and - worst of all - it displays digitization and artifacts that really threaten your enjoyment. Edges that should be sharp exhibit that "stairstep" look that's common with badly digitized pictures. And where on the Original Series you could make out every pore on the actors' faces, the Next Generation comes close to that kind of video experience only occasionally - and only on the cheapest, most generic TV's in the test.

The flaws were most noticeable on our big 16x9 TV, and not because we had to watch it stretched to fill the rectangular screen. When we ran it at 4x3 on the same TV the same problems were there. The series looked better on the 36 inch digital set, and best on the old "mainstream" TV's, but the flaws were still easily evidenced.

It's a shame. This should have been a marvelous video experience, a boxed set to last Star Trek fans a lifetime. But this release isn't.

Paramount proved with the Original Series that it can do a truly marvelous job. It took those thirty-five-year-old films and gave them spectacular new life, including a credible job of remixing the old mono soundtrack into Dolby Digital 5.1.

To see if others agreed with me I checked out a few DVD-related Web sites and except for one of them I seem to be alone in my observations. So be it.

This series does benefit from good sound. It has been remixed from its Dolby Pro Logic roots into Dolby Digital 5.1 and the overall quality is very good, though a tad compressed. The sound effects are first rate (I love the "whoosh" of the Enterprise zipping by the camera) and the music swirls and sweeps majestically.

There's even a good set of extras on disc 7, an overview of the series' genesis and its first season, featuring cast and crew members including the late Gene Roddenberry himself. There are sections on the development of the series, the casting, the effects, and more. It's interesting stuff and I hope they'll do the same thing (or something just as good) with the remaining seasons' boxed sets.

But I really can't get around that picture. Egad! As mentioned at length above, this should be a boxed set for the ages - and from the packaging it appears that's probably how Paramount envisioned it. But whether it was rushed into production or given to people who didn't give a damn the result is a major disappointment.

Let's hope consumers tell Paramount how they feel; perhaps it isn't too late to help ensure that the rest of the seasons will be the tour de force they should be.

As for the show itself, it was wonderful when they decided to give Star Trek a second chance and on the whole they did a marvelous job of recreating the series. Patrick Stewart is easily the franchise's best captain, and the supporting cast is well rounded and is given plenty to do over the course of the series. And there are some nice moments during the first season that fans will enjoy; for example in "Angel One", when Geordi gets his first chance to sit in the center seat, and in Encounter at Farpoint when Potsie (er, Riker - sure glad he grew the beard for subsequent seasons) first meets Picard his reception leads him to a certain amount of angst about the kind of captain he'd just signed up to serve with.

The first season is uneven as producers, cast, and writers were feeling their way, but it's very enjoyable overall and it was great to sit down and revisit them in chronological order again after so many years.

An interesting note on the evolution of the business of TV. Each of the original series' episodes runs about 52 minutes, where the Next Generation shows are about 45.5 minutes. And you just thought there were more commercials now….

The Episodes:
Disc 1: Encounter at Farpoint Parts 1 & 2, The Naked Now, Code of Honor
Disc 2: The Last Outpost, Where No One Has Gone Before, Lonely Among Us, Justice
Disc 3: The Battle, Hide and Q, Haven, The Big Goodbye
Disc 4: DataLore, Angel One, 11001001, Too Short a Season
Disc 5: When the Bough Breaks, Home Soil, Coming of Age, Heart of Glory
Disc 6: The Arsenal of Freedom, Symbiosis, Skin of Evil, We'll Always Have Paris
Disc 7: Conspiracy, The Neutral Zone, Special Features
Star Trek, the Next Generation, from Paramount Home Video
45.5 min per episode, full screen, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn,
Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton

Season Two

Season Two, unfortunately, continues the legacy of substandard video that, while not as noticeable on conventional or low end 4x3 TV's, jumps out at you if you have a higher end and/or 16x9 TV.

Fortunately, the audio is up to snuff.

Season Two saw Gates McFadden's Dr. Beverly Crusher take a new assignment that got her written out of the season in favor of Dr. Kate Pulaski (played by ST -TOS' veteran Diana Muldaur). The move isn't explained in the otherwise excellent supplementary materials that comes on disc 6, which is unfortunate.

Pulaski is kind of a "Bones" McCoy clone; she's crusty but compassionate and has a real fear of the transporter. And that's okay; while I prefer McFadden's Crusher, Pulaski is okay - especially since by now we all know that she's only around for the second season.

The episodes themselves are spotty. Most of them are quite forgettable, with a few excellent exceptions that stand among the series' best - episodes such as "The Measure of a Man" (where Data's future is on trial), "Q Who" (which introduces us to the Borg) and "Peak Performance" (where Riker takes on the Enterprise in a battle simulation interrupted by the Ferengi).

Unfortunately, the season's overall quality level is dragged down by such derivative or silly episodes as "Unnatural Selection" (which basically rehashes the original series' "The Deadly Years"), "Elementary Dear Data" (yet another holodeck episode), "The Royale" (not a bad story, but basically another version of the original series' "A Piece of the Action"), and "Manhunt" (Where Troi's mother sets her matrimonial sights on Picard).

The rest of the episodes vary in quality from "pretty good" to "ho hum." Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, so while I didn't care for some of these episodes you might love them - and that's fine.

The supplementary material on disc 6 is very good, and very interesting (despite not giving us the goods on why Bev was bounced). You get:

Mission Overview (cast/crew discussions on the major changes in Season Two, with Gene Roddenberry;
selected Crew Analysis: a look at the "personal growth" of series regulars, and a peek at new crew members;
Departmental Briefing - Production: a behind-the-scenes look at specific key episodes, including interviews with production staff;
Departmental Briefing – Memorable Missions: second season episode discussions with production crew, including Rick Berman;
Inside Starfleet Archives: an exclusive tour of an extraordinary array of Star Trek sets, props and more.

It's great stuff for Trek fans! We also learn why season two was shorter than the first.

I really hope they didn't do the same remastering job on all seasons that they did with 1 and 2; this Trek deserves a world class archive quality transfer, and this just isn't it. While the picture is very good in some places, especially closeups, there are far too many digital artifacts (especially on effects shots) to make it a really memorable collection.

* Disc 1: The Child; Where Silence Has Lease; Elementary, Dear Data; The Outrageous Okona
* Disc 2: Loud as a Whisper; The Schizoid Man; Unnatural Selection; A Matter of Honor
* Disc 3: The Measure of a Man; The Dauphin; Contagion; The Royale
* Disc 4: Time Squared; The Icarus Factor; Pen Pals; Q Who?
* Disc 5: Samaritan Snare; Up The Long Ladder; Manhunt; The Emissary
* Disc 6: Peak Performance and Shades of Gray. Bonus Features

Episode synopses available here.

Season Three

With Season 3, Star Trek The Next Generation really hit its stride and this season features some of the best Star Trek ever. Paramount also seems to have second guessed its mastering because, while there are still digital artifacts visible, especially in the special effects sequences and when viewed stretched/zoomed on a 16x9 TV, the overall picture quality appears slightly better than with the first two seasons.

And who can argue with quality?

The first inkling of things to come is a new episode interface on each disc. It isn't really better or worse than the previous seasons', but it works fine. One wonders about a lack of consistency across a collectors' set, but this probably isn't a big deal.

Season 3 features the return to the fold of Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, the babe who's also Wesley's mother. As with Season Two's extra material, no substantial explanation is given either for her absence from Season 2 or her return here, but it's nice to have her back. She brings a nice blend of compassion and sexiness to the Enterprise crew.

The extras are pretty well the same as on the other seasons' discs, but relating to this particular season of course. And that means there's plenty of good stuff to sink a Trekkie's teeth into, including cast/crew interviews, favorite episodes etc. etc. As usual, it's "must see" stuff. Here's the list of what you get:

  •    Mission Overview — Year Three: discusses the major changes that occurred in Season Three, with both old and new cast interviews.
  •    Selected Crew Analysis — Year Three: an in-depth look at the growth of the continuing characters as well as a closer look at returning crewmember, Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden).
  •    Departmental Briefing — Year Three Production: offers a behind-the-scenes look at particular episodes from the production crew’s point of view.
  •     Departmental Briefing Year Three Memorable Missions: includes specific anecdotes about episodes and events that occurred during the third season.

But it's the episodes that are the most important, and as mentioned this is probably the best crop of the bunch. From episodes such as "Who Watches the Watchers," which looks in depth at the Prime Directive and its implications, "Deja Q" (where the omnipotent pest is stripped of his powers and tries to live as a normal human), "The Most Toys" (where Data is captured by a collector of unique objects) to "The Best of Both Worlds, Part One (in this reviewer's opinion the best Star Trek adventure ever, bar none), we have intelligent and fun Star Trek at its best.

Here's a rundown of Season Three's Voyages:

  • Disc 1:  In “Evolution,” the U.S.S. Enterprise fights for survival when a mysterious force attacks the ship’s life support system. “The Ensigns of Command” finds Data racing against time to save a human colony that’s been marked for death by aliens, while “The Survivors” follows the crew as they travel to Rana IV, a remote colony where just two of its 11,000 inhabitants have miraculously survived a devastating attack. In “Who Watches The Watchers?” the members of a primitive culture, mistakenly believing Captain Picard to be a god, seize Troi and prepare to sacrifice her to him.
  • Disc 2: In “The Bonding,” when the ship’s archeologist is killed on a mission led by Worf, the Klingons feel responsible for the son she left behind, while “Booby Trap” finds the Enterprise caught in a booby trap that converts the ships energy into lethal levels of radiation. “The Enemy” finds Geordi stranded on a storm-ravaged planet, as the crew’s attempts to rescue him are hindered by an aggressive Romulan warship, and “The Price” follows Counselor Troi as she is swept off her feet by a dashing delegate who uses unethical methods to conduct his business on board the U.S.S. Enterprise.
  • Disc 3: In “The Vengeance Factor,” the crew’s attempts to mediate a violent dispute between warring clans is sabotaged by a mysterious assassin, while “The Defector” finds a Romulan defector leading the crew into a showdown that could erupt into a full-scale war. In “The Hunted,” the Enterprise is bombarded by a soldier who turns into a violent killer as the result of government mind control, while “The High Ground” follows Doctor Crusher’s abduction by a radical terrorist group, as the crew is thrust into an explosive civil war on Rutia Four.
  • Disc 4: In “Deja Q,” the crew is surprised by the appearance of their mischievous nemesis, Q, while “A Matter Of Perspective” finds Riker suspected of murdering a respected scientist who had accused the Enterprise officer of seducing his wife. In “Yesterday’s Enterprise,”the course of history is altered when a time rift brings a starship Enterprise from the past into the present with a crew that includes Tasha Yar, while “The Offspring” finds Data becoming a father when he creates an android using a transfer of his own neural programming.
  • Disc 5: In “Sins of The Father,” when his long-lost brother appears on the Enterprise, Wont is thrust into a life-or-death battle for his family’s honor. “Allegiance” finds Captain Picard kidnapped and replaced by an evil imposter, without the crew’s knowledge, while “Captain’s Holiday" finds Picard entangled in the search for a missing weapon from the future. In “Tin Man,” the crew is thrust into a deadly showdown with the Romulans over a newly discovered life-form in a remote star system.
  • Disc 6: In “Hollow Pursuits,” the crew struggles to help a young engineer whose obsession with the fantasy world Holodeck is endangering the ship, while “The Most Toys” finds Data left for dead when his shuttle craft explodes during a dangerous mission. In “Sarek,” the Enterprise is plagued by an outbreak of violence when a renowned Vulcan ambassador visits, and “Ménage a Troi” finds the Enterprise thrown into chaos when Counsellor Troi and her mother are kidnapped by the Ferengi.
  • Disc 7: “Transfigurations” follows the Enterprise as they rescue a mysterious humanoid whose remarkable powers affect the entire crew, while “The Best of Both Worlds Part 1” finds the evil Borg capturing Captain Picard in an attempt to conquer the human race.

The biggest downside to Season Three is that we now have to wait for Season Four's release to get "The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two!"

Season Four

It's hard to trash any season that starts with the conclusion to "The Best of Both Worlds," arguably one of (if not THE) best Star Trek episodes from any series or movie. Yet when Season Four first aired it seemed to be the weakest to that date, with a few exceptions. Perhaps because Season Three was so good it was a hard act to follow, but Season Four seemed to be descending into a pit of self indulgence and rehashes.

It has aged better, however, and even some of the episodes we had deemed the weakest are enjoyable again after so many years. Family, for example, rubbed me the wrong way when it was first broadcast, for its "warm and fuzzy" storyline, but I enjoyed watching it this time arouund and actually found parts of it quite moving.

As with the other seasons, Number Four is presented in its original TV aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This means, of course, that the DVD's haven't been "enhanced for 16X9 televisions," so owners of widescreen TV's will have to stretch and/or zoom it to fit their rectangular screen. Since it's the original aspect ratio, this is acceptable.

Paramount has continued to pick up the picture quality, too, which after the first two seasons is very welcome. The sharpness is sometimes erratic, especially in effects scenes, but most of the time the picture looks very good. Some shimmering and some jagged edges raised their ugly heads once in a while, and some halo effects were visible at times. On the whole, however, the series is much improved from the first seasons. I wonder if Paramount will re-release those "older" DVD's so people who found them substandard can have another go at it...

Audio, as with the other seasons, is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and they've done a nice job of it. The surround is especially welcome, because it helps put you right into the environment of the episode, and it's well used for the most part, presenting effects (such as planetary enviroments) but not beating you over the head with them.

Season Four also continues the tradition of including extras on the last disc of the set. For the most part, they consist of relatively short documentaries led off by "Mission Overview," which offers a pretty general (but interesting nonetheless) look at the season. It includes interviews, clips, shots from the set. As with the other seasons' versions, you mostly get general comments about the season, with extra focus on a few particular episodes.

"Selected Crew Analysis" is about 17 minutes long and includes comments from actors Stewart, Wheaton, Frakes, and Sirtis. Here, we get a decent look at how the performers felt about this season - and of particular interest is the relationship between Stewart and Wheaton (sometimes known rather unfairly as "Weasely Crusher."

"Departmental Briefing: Production" gives us insight from from director Michael Livingston, makeup designer Michael Westmore, guest stars Mark and Brian (Los Angeles DJs who had a short-lived TV series of their own around the same time this season was aired), Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes.

Instead of the previous seasons' “Memorable Missions," we're given two new featurettes: "New Life and New Civilizations," which focuses on sets, locations, and specifial effects, and "Chronicles from the Final Frontier," in which various cast and crew reminisce about working on the series. It's pretty interesting stuff for Trekkers/Trekkies.

The extras are pretty standard stuff, but that's okay; they're worthwhile additions to the series and full of good Star Trek Lore (no pun intended, Mr. Data).

The boxed set is the same as the others, except for graphics, so it also features a poorly-designed package that makes getting at the discs a real pain. Oh well...

Episode Synopses (also available here), courtesy Paramount:

Disc 1:
The Best of Both Worlds, Part II - The Borg absorb Picard's knowledge, decimate a Starfleet armada and continue on to Earth, where they intend to assimilate humanity. Riker realizes the only hope is to use Picard's knowledge of the Borg against them the same way they use him against the Enterprise.
Family - While the U.S.S. Enterprise undergoes repair, many crew members reunite with their families.
Brothers - When Data's creator summons him home to be fitted with a computer chip that will give him emotion, their reunion is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Data's evil brother, Lore.
Suddenly Human - Picard must decide whether to return a human boy to his birth parents or send him back to the alien father who appears to have abused him.

Disc 2:
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.
Legacy - A rescue mission leads the crew to the home planet of their late comrade, Tasha Yar, where they encounter her mysterious sister.
Reunion - When Picard is chosen to mediate a power struggle between the potential successors to the Klingon Empire, Worf is reunited with his former mate and their son.
Future Imperfect - After an Away Team Mission goes awry, Riker awakens in Sickbay to find that 16 years have passed and he is about to negotiate a treaty with the Romulans.

Disc 3:
Final Mission - After being invited to accompany Captain Picard on a final mission before entering Starfleet Academy, Wesley finds himself struggling to keep the captain alive.
The Loss - While the U.S.S. Enterprise struggles to contend with a mysterious life form, Troi inexplicably loses her empathetic powers.
Data's Day - While the U.S.S. Enterprise heads toward a secret rendezvous, a friend's upcoming wedding compounds Data's confusion about the nuances of human feelings.
The Wounded - Picard and the crew must stop a renegade Federation starship which is making unprovoked attacks on a former enemy's ships.

Disc 4:
Devil's Due - Picard fights to save a terrorized planet from a powerful woman who claims to be the Devil.
Clues - Picard and the crew are shocked to discover that Data is lying to them.
First Contact - Commander Riker is critically injured and stranded on a developing planet during a first contact mission.
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.

Disc 5:
Night Terrors - Trapped in a rift in space, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are plagued by unexplained hallucinations and increasing panic that threaten to destroy them.
Identity Crisis - Dr. Crusher races against time to fight a parasite that threatens to transform Geordi into an alien creature.
The Nth Degree - A crew member is endowed with super human intelligence by an alien probe and threatens the fate of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Qpid - Picard's reunion with an old flame is complicated when the mischievous Q intercedes to encourage the romance.

Disc 6:
The Drumhead - A retired Starfleet Admiral begins a witch hunt for a traitor aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise after a visiting Klingon officer admits to spying.
Half A Life - Troi's mother fights to stop her lover from participating in the ritual suicide mandated by his society.
The Host - Dr. Crusher's love is put to the test when she falls for an alien who exists in different "host bodies" in order to survive.
The Mind's Eye - Geordi is kidnapped by Romulan forces and transformed into a killing machine through mind control.

Disc 7:
In Theory - Data experiments with love by pursuing a romantic relationship with a fellow crew member.
Redemption, Part I - As civil war threatens the Klingon Empire, Worf's loyalties are torn between the Federation and his people.
All Special Features

Season Five

Season Five started the upward movement again as far as overall episode quality is concerned. And that, of course, is a good thing.

It was also the year in which Star Trek, its fans, and the world lost Gene Roddenberry, the man behind Trek for so many years. This Season Five boxed set does give us some insight as to the affect of Mr. Roddenberry’s death on the series and its direction -in the supplementary materials that, as usual, are included on the last disc.

The other big news for Season 5 was the reappearance of Spock, in the two part episode “Unification” (a two parter that, for a nice change, didn’t require Trekkies to wait over the summer - or in this case for the release of the next season’s DVD’s - to find out how it ends). Leonard Nimoy reprises his most famous role, as he pokes around the Romulan underground, sowing the seeds for his race and the Romulans to come together again.

There are other good episodes this year, too, and we get some good looks at some of the supporting cast. “The First Duty” shows us Wesley (who’s no longer a series regular since he’s now at Starfleet Academy) wrestling with important issues of loyalty and right and wrong - and in “the Game” he and his “girlfriend” save the crew (and the Federation) from an invasion made possible by the physical addiction of the crew to a strange new game.

"The Inner Light" sees Picard finding himself not the man he thought he was - thanks to some aliens who want him to see their society from the inside, while “The Perfect Mate” kind of rehashes the old “Elaan of Troius” episode from the original series, with Famke Janssen as a female bound for a marriage of convenience who finds Picard a nice interlude. Then there’s “The Outcast,” which is basically a shill for homosexual rights where Potsie (sorry, Riker) has an affair with a member of an androgynous race.

We get another Borg episode, too, though it’s a little warm and fuzzy as they find an adolescent Borg and wrestle with the question of whether to heal him or kill him. The season closes with another cliffhanger, "Time's Arrow, Part I."

Paramount continues to keep the picture quality up after initially fumbling the ball for the first two seasons. The picture quality is quite sharp, though as usual you see some artifacts on some of the effects shots, especially ones in space. It’s not too bad, though; the colors are bright and rich, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

The episodes are presented in their original 4x3 broadcast aspect ratio, which means owners of 16x9 TV’s will have to stretch and/or zoom the picture to fill the screen, but this is better than artificially cropping the picture to make a faux widescreen. Since the original source was 4x3, Paramount is wise to preserve that aspect ratio the same way we prefer anamorphic widescreen when it’s appropriate.

Audio, as with the other seasons, has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and, as usual, it sounds fine.

Each season also gives us a series of extras on the final disc, and as mentioned above this one’s no exception.

The Tribute to Gene Roddenberry is about 26-minutes long, a quite emotional look at the Great Bird of the Galaxy, as he has been called. Contributing their memories of the boss are Roddenberry's widow Majel Barrett, plus Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, Whoopi Goldberg, Herman Zimmerman, John de Lancie and researcher Guy Vardaman.

There’s also some footage from a Paramount 25th anniversary bash for Roddenberry as well as some footage of the man himself. This is probably the best of all the extras on these sets.

The rest of the extras are more standard for the series. Mission Overview and Memorable Missions includes interviews with the major names, mostly shot during the making of the latest Trek movie, Nemesis. Mission Overview focuses mostly on the death of Roddenberry and the return of Spock, while Memorable Missions includes some behind-the-scenes highlights of episodes such as "Power Play," "First Duty" and "Disaster."

The other two "Departmental Briefing" featurettes give glimpses into the show's ever-improving special effects and the challenges involved in keeping your scripts fresh after five years

Season Five also includes the special bonus “Star Trek Nemesis” 3-inch CD-ROM movie promotion. You get some screensavers and desktop wallpapers, plus the film's theatrical trailer.

You also get an 8-page collectible booklet.

On the whole, Season Five sees the gang back on track (or is it Trek?), and that’s great.

Episode Guide (from Star

Disc 1:
Redemption II - Believing the Romulans are behind a Klingon civil war, Picard involves Starfleet in the conflict.
Darmok - Picard is forced into a dangerous encounter with the captain of an alien starship.
Ensign Ro - The Enterprise crew becomes an unwitting pawn in a deadly conspiracy masterminded by a Starfleet admiral.
Silicon Avatar - The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise risks all in an attempt to communicate with a destructive force known as the Crystalline Entity before a visiting scientist can destroy it.

Disc 2:
Disaster - Troi holds the lives of the crew in her hands when she is forced to act as captain after the Enterprise is seriously damaged by a rare, natural phenomenon.
The Game - The fate of the Federation is in Wesley Crusher's hands when he returns to the Enterprise to find the rest of the crew addicted to a dangerous new game.
Unification, Part I - Picard and Data travel to Romulus to investigate an unauthorized mission undertaken by the Federation's legendary Mr. Spock
Unification, Part II - Picard learns Spock's mission to Romulus involves a plan to reunify its people with the Vulcans.

Disc 3:
A Matter of Time - The U.S.S. Enterprise plays host to a mysterious visitor who claims to be from the future.
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.
Hero Worship - A troubled young boy starts to emulate Data.
Violations - Troi, Riker and Dr. Crusher fall into unexplained comas while the Enterprise plays host to an alien race.

Disc 4:
The Masterpiece Society - Picard's efforts to save a genetically engineered society from a natural disaster threaten to destroy it.
Conundrum - While suffering an unexplained case of amnesia, the crew finds themselves fighting a war they do not remember or understand.
Power Play - Picard is shocked when Troi, Data and Chief O'Brien engineer an unexplained overthrow of the Bridge.
Ethics - The crew is torn when an injured Worf, paralyzed after an accident, opts to follow Klingon custom and commit suicide.

Disc 5:
The Outcast - Riker's romance with a member of an androgynous race causes conflict and complications for all concerned.
Cause and Effect -Trapped in a time warp that forces the crew to endlessly repeat the same experiences, the U.S.S. Enterprise is doomed to destruction.
The First Duty - Wesley Crusher, involved in a cover-up of a devastating accident at Starfleet Academy, learns a painful lesson in honesty.
Cost of Living - Troi's freewheeling mother Lwaxana upsets Deanna and Worf when she introduces Worf's son to her rather hedonistic lifestyle.

Disc 6:
The Perfect Mate - Picard falls in love with a beautiful woman who is to be given as a peace offering to end a centuries-long war.
Imaginary Friend - A little girl's imaginary friend becomes a frightening reality for the crew when she threatens to destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise.
I, Borg - Picard and the crew suffer from conflicting emotions when the U.S.S. Enterprise rescues a critically injured Borg.
The Next Phase - Geordi and Ro are pronounced dead after a transporting maneuver from a distressed Romulan ship goes awry.

Disc 7:
The Inner Light - after a mysterious accident, Picard wakes up living the life of another person on a faraway planet.
Time's Arrow, Part 1 - After Data learns of his own death in late 19th-century San Francisco, a freak accident transports him back to that period.
Supplementary Materials

Season Six

Season six was one of the best, with several good episodes including the delightful homage "Relics," a tip of the hat to the original series that featured James Doohan reprising his role as Enterprise Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott.

Scotty is a man out of his own time, thanks to a dandy bit of engineering worthy of a miracle worker, and he finds himself out of usefulness as well. It's a nice "Scotty" episode and there are some nice homages to the original series sprinkled through it.

The season starts off with the conclusion to "Time's Arrow, " season five's time traveling cliffhanger, and the year also gives us more Q, as well as a look at Picard's rowdy past.

Then there's the dark but fascinating "Chain of Command," a two parter where Picard is reassigned and ordered to head a commando mission into Cardassiann space while the Enterprise is handed over to Captain Jellicoe, much to the chagrin of its crew. This episode looks at torture, politics, handling change...

"A Fistful of Datas" could have been just another malfunctioning holodeck episode, but instead is a funny, entertaining yarn that gives Brent Spiner a nice opportunity to show off his thespian skills.

This was also the year that featured the debut of Deep Space Nine, spawning crossover episode"Birthright", and more directorial outings by cast members - along with a cameo by famed mind Stephen Hawking in "Descent."

Alas, Paramount appears to have slid backwards with its technical quality for Season Six. The picture (4x3 "Narrowscreen" - the original TV aspect ratio) is softer this time, not as bad as the first season, but close - though there seem to be fewer artifacts. Audio, which is Dolby Digital 5.1, is very good, though we also noticed some places (generally exterior shots of ships), where it was excessively bassy. Paramount is still sloppy with its chapter stops, too, which means you can't just click "forward" to jump through the opening credits without risking missing the first minutes of the episode that follows.

The extras are very good, though. As with the other seasons, you get a "Mission Overview" that includes cast and crew memories about Year Six, focusing on some of the more memorable episodes from the season (at least in the opinions of those interviewed!). This time there's also some focus on the Deep Space Nine launch, which ties in nicely with the DVD trailer for the DS9 series that's also on the final disc of season six.

Next is the Special Crew Profile of Data (Brent Spiner), which gives an interesting but pretty superficial look at the actor and his role, including a quick look at Spiner and his Do Wop TNG backup singer crooning.

"Bold New Directions" looks at the directorial debuts of Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton, while "Departmental Briefing" gives us features on the year's production challenges, and a profile of effects producer Dan Curry takes on us on a tour of his lovely home - which just happens to be chock full of Star Trek and related paraphernalia.

As mentioned, you also get the trailer for the DVD release of "Deep Space Nine," and they've also tied in the theatrical trailer for the 2002 ST TNG movie "Nemesis."

Episode Guide (also available at Star

Disc 1:
Time's Arrow, Part II -The crew tries to prevent Data's death in the 19th century San Francisco.
Realm of Fear - A young engineer must confront his fear of being transported.
Man of the People - A visiting ambassador secretly uses Troi to achieve his aims.
Relics - After 75 years in limbo, Scotty visits the Enterprise.

Disc 2:
Schisms - The crew suffers bizarre consequences after a secret alien visit.
True Q - A gifted intern learns her true heritage and how it relates to the continuum.
Rascals - A transporter accident transforms Picard and three others into children just as Ferengis start making trouble.
A Fistfuls of Datas - A holodeck program traps Worf and his son in a Wild West shootout with a villain with all the skills of Data.

Disc 3:
The Quality of Life - Data risks Picard and Geordi to protect another living machine.
Chain of Command, Part I - After being ordered to lead a dangerous secret mission, Picard is taken hostage by the Cardassians.
Chain of Command, Part II - The Enterprise crew, commanded by a hard nosed new Captain, triesto rescue Picard from the Cardassians.
Ship In A Bottle - A fictional character traps Picard and others in a holodeck simulation.

Disc 4:
Aquiel - Geordi falls under the spell of a mysterious officer accused of murder.
Face Of The Enemy - Counselor Troi becomes part of an elaborate defection scheme.
Tapestry - Picard is killed in a surprise attack, but Q gives him another chance Birthright, Part I - Worf and Data go looking for their fathers.

Disc 5:
Birthright, Part II - Worf show some younger Klingons their heritage, inspiring them to claim their honor.
Starship Mine - With the Enterprise being bombarded with deadly rays, Picard is trapped on board with a band thieves.
Lessons - Torn between love and duty, Picard sends the woman he loves on a dangerous mission.
The Chase - Picard races other alien races to solve an ancient puzzle.

Disc 6:
Frame of Mind - Trapped in an alien mental hospital, Riker think he's going nuts .
Suspicions - Beverly risks her career to prove a Ferengi scientist was murdered.
Rightful Heir - Worf's faith is tested when the greatest Klingon warrior ever returns from the dead.
Second Chances - Riker meets an identical double of himself, and he tries to a start up the old relationship with Troi again.

Disc 7:
Timescape - The Enterprise is frozen in time and Picard must figure out how to rescue his ship before it's destroyed.
Descent, Part 1 - The Borg return, boasting a new individuality -- and test Data's character by helping him feel his first emotion.
Special Features

Season Seven

The series wound up after season seven, but ended not with a whimper but with a pretty decent bang: Season 7 has several good episodes peppered through it and the finale “All Good Things…” was more enjoyable than TNG’s first movie “Generations.”

Naturally, with Deep Space 9 already competing with TNG for syndication time and Voyager undoubtedly at least in the backs of their minds, there’s a certain amount of, if not outright crossover, then “hints” at people and or events from the other series. For example, the episode “Preemptive Strike” features not only the Cardassians (though, to be fair, that particular alien race had appeared in TNG episodes before) who were the main bad guys in DS9, but the Maquis would supply one of Voyager’s main cast members.

We also get to see Troi’s mother yet again, as well as return appearances for Barclay, Data’s brother Lore, Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan, and Ro Laren, who ends up thumbing her nose at the Federation in her episode (coincidentally, the abovementioned “Preemptive Strike”).
There are also some neat ideas, for instance the concept that high-warp travel is damaging space/time, and one episode ("Lower Decks") that focuses not on the regulars but on some secondary crew members who are allowed their own adventure.
And this is the year that the long standing infatuation between Beverly Crusher and Jean Luc Picard is explored (and done well, too, fortunately) - and a couple of episodes that start putting stolid Worf together with Counsellor Troi. But to me, the highlight episode is the final "All Good Things..." which really wraps things up nicely with a look at where the series began and where its characters might go - if Picard hadn’t had the nerve to save humanity and thereby change the timeline. And Q was used intelligently, too.
The DVD for Season 7 features a new interface (not a big deal, but it’s nice to see Paramount spending some bucks on its long-paying customers), and the picture quality (full screen, not 16x9 TV compatible as with the other the seasons) is pretty good overall. I still have some complaints about the effects shots, which still show some disturbing digitizing, but it’s better overall than Season 1, the worst of the lot.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and the quality is up to snuff, with pretty good surround use.

The hour and a half or so of supplementary materials on this DVD boxed set also do a nice job of wrapping things up, including a nice, though a tad saccharine, tribute from Patrick Stewart to his on screen colleagues. You also get:

Mission Overview: Year Seven, with cast and crew memories about the season.
Departmental Briefing, featuring behind the scenes peeks at key episodes, including interviews with production crew members. There’s also background information on some of the characters and situations the crew faced. The Making of “All Good Things…” obviously focuses on the final episode (the final frontier, perhaps? I guess not, what with all the movies that have followed) and it’s pretty interesting.

Finally, you get “Starfleet Moments and Memories,” where the cast and crew look back over the series’ run.

Here’s a quick rundown of the episodes, culled from

Disc One:
Descent, Part II - The finale to season six’s finale, we see Picard, Troi and Geordi held prisoner by Data, who has been seduced by the dark side of the force (sorry, wrong series!) and joined his brother Lore in taking over the leadership of the Borg.
Liaisons - While hosting a cultural exchange with some Iyaaran ambassadors, Picard gets stranded on a barren planet with a woman who, not surprisingly considering the history of Star Trek captains, falls desperately in love with him.
Interface - LaForge defies his captain’s commands, risking his life in a seemingly futile attempt to rescue his mother.
Gambit, Part I - After the disappearance of Captain Picard, the crew is told that the he was vaporized by mercenaries.

Disc 2:
Gambit, Part II - Picard and Riker pass themselves off as mercenaries to retrieve a potentially dangerous Vulcan artifact.
Phantasms - Data has his first bad dream, but it turns into a nightmare for the rest of the crew.
Dark Page - Troi has to look into her mother's psyche when a psychic breakdown threatens Lwaxana's life.
Attached - Picard and Dr. Crusher, imprisoned by aliens and joined telepathically, face the feelings they’ve always had for each other.

Disc 3:
Force of Nature - An alien brother and sister desperately try to prove their theory that warp drive is actually destroying the universe.
Inheritance - What started as a routine mission to save a planet brings Data in contact with a woman who says she’s his mother.
Parallels - Worf finds that reality is changing around him, but no one else seems to notice.
The Pegasus - Riker has to make some career-turning decisions when his former commander, now promoted to admiral, orders him to hide from Picard the reasons behind an apparently salvage operation.

Disc 4:
Homeward - Worf's foster brother throws the Prime Directive out the window while trying to save an alien race.
Sub Rosa - Beverly, after her grandmother’s death, falls for a ghost lover.
Lower Decks - Four Enterprise junior officers become involved in a top-secret mission during the promotion evaluation process.
Thine Own Self- Data, having lost his memory, finds himself stuck on a primitive planet whose natives think he’s carrying a deadly plague.

Disc 5:
Masks - An alien archive begins turning the Enterprise into its ancient society, while Data is taken over by different personalities from the civilization.
Eye of the Beholder - Troi, experiencing empathic visions after an officer commits suicide, starts a romantic relationship with Worf.
Genesis - On returning to the Enterprise, Picard and Data discover that the crew has de-evolved into prehistoric versions of themselves.
Journey's End - While relocating a group of North American Indians from their planet, Wesley re-examines his priorities.

Disc 6:
Firstborn - A family friend helps turn Worf's son Alexander into a warrior.
Bloodlines - Picard learns that he has a long lost son whose life is in danger from an old enemy.
Emergence - The crews lives are endangered when the ship develops its own intelligence.
Preemptive Strike - Ro Laren must choose between her loyalty to Picard and her hatred of the Cardassians while infiltrating the Maquis.

Disc 7:
All Good Things… - Picard discovers that he’s traveling between the past, present, and future while Q - who tells him the original trial of the human race never ended - hints that the Captain is responsible for humanity’s destruction.
Supplementary Material.

Star Trek the Next Generation contained some of Star Trek's best and worst episodes regardless of which series. It isn't surprising to find that in a seven year series not every episode would be a Hugo winner, but overall the quality of TNG was higher than most of television.

I've quibbled over some of the episodes, but firmly believe that despite its political correctness and other weakness, TNG is still a marvelous series and full of good role models and some terrific ideas. I've never been happy with the overall picture quality, as mentioned repeatedly in this lengthy diatribe, especially when compared with the excellent image quality of the original series, especially the special effects shots.

Still, Paramount's boxed sets of each TNG season are well worth owning if you're a collector, especially since, as of this writing, there's no word on a better transfer coming down the pipe. Paramount has a habit of re-releasing Star Trek titles over and over again, however, which seems like milking the franchise.

That said, however, if there is a new DVD version coming sometime, one where they've addressed the picture quality problems, that just might be the "ultimate Trek TV set." In the meantime, I guess this is as good as it gets - and if you don't have a widescreen digital TV your video angst will probably be less than those who must stretch and/or zoom the 4x3 picture to fill the 16x9 screen.


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Updated May 13, 2006