THE BEST OF STAR TREK
The Next Generation
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Patrick Stewart,
Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis,
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Length: 181 Minutes
Release Date: May 12, 2009
“I am Locutus of Borg…RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”
Well, the problem only compounds…if I wondered how you could possibly narrow down the original series of Star Trek to four best episodes, what do you do with The Next Generation, which ran almost twice as long on the air?
I didn’t get to choose, and maybe that’s for the best. The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a thankless compilation job for somebody who had to know that no matter what he or she did, thousands if not millions of fans would be complaining.
For my own part, if I had to pick two favorite entries from the series seven year run, they would have been the time loop mindbender “Cause and Effect”, or the incredible two hour finale, “All Good Things…”. Neither are here, but there are still four all-time fan favorites offered, and I can’t really make a case against any of their inclusions.
While the original series four episode selection didn’t include the beloved two-part “The Menagerie”, The Next Generation actually kicks off with a two-parter that takes up half of the space allotted for the best-of episodes. But who could argue? “The Best of Both Worlds” was a pivotal moment in the history of Star Trek, much like the first appearance of the Romulans or bringing the Klingons into the Federation.
Many episodes earlier, the crew of the Enterprise got their first glimpse of what would be the most formidable foe they would ever face. They were called the Borg, a bio-mechanical collective sharing one mind and one objective, namely the assimilation of all beings into their society. Worlds had fallen before them, and none had ever been able to resist the erasure of species identity that comes with confronting the Borg.
In “The Best of Both Worlds”, the day Captain Picard (Stewart) and crew always knew would come finally arrives…the Borg were making their move on Federation space. With their lethal, emotionless efficiency and ability to adapt to any kind of weapon used against them, the future of our galaxy seems grim, but never so much as when Picard himself is assimilated. His knowledge of the Enterprise, her crew and her capabilities are all that the Borg need to eliminate the one obstacle between them and total domination of the Federation. Can Picard’s loyal first officer Commander Riker (Frakes) give the order that could mean either the preservation of all we know or total annihilation?
“Yesterday’s Enterprise” is another that fans always cherished. In it, everything we thought we knew about the Enterprise and the Federation changes in the blink of an eye. Instead of peaceful explorers and ambassadors, the Enterprise is a war ship. And Tasha Yar (Crosby), the chief of security who had died in the first season, is back. Only the philosophical Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) senses that there is another destiny for the Enterpise that must somehow be righted. This is an emotional experience that definitely ranks amongst the best of what the show had to offer.
That leaves “The Measure of a Man”, which brought all the intensity of the courtroom drama into the world of Star Trek. When a ranking Federation scientist wants to study the ‘brain’ of android Lt. Commander Data (Spiner) in order to possibly create more like him, he refuses, opting instead to resign his commission. But is Data a sentient, independent being, or as a machine, is he merely property of the Federation? As Captain Picard struggles to make the case for saving Data, Riker is forced to do the unthinkable to save his friend…which is to try and argue AGAINST Data being a living being with rights to his own life and body.
As fans grew more and more warm to The Next Generation over its years, we came to embrace the new Enterprise crew as friends and family, and week after week found ourselves emotionally invested in their adventures and delighted by the drama, humor and techno-babble that made Star Trek a forever classic. I could say four episodes aren’t enough to represent the breadth of this show, but I could also say that these four do mark four of the many apexes of the program’s seven year run.
As the seasons progressed, there was always noticeable improvement in the video quality of the episodes. This is a solid cross section of the series, with clean full frame transfers, decent coloring and images, and better and better looking special effects as the show went along.
I always enjoyed the 5.1 remixes of the audio…the subwoofer always made the engines of the Enterprise sound a little more vibrant, and the rear stages bring more action and ambience into the mixes, whether it be a dogfight in space or the whooshing of warp speed travel.
The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation offers the distinct possibility of both pleasing fans and leaving them yearning for other great episodes from the series. Of course, all seven seasons are out, so if you want more…well, as Picard would say, the sky’s the limit.