STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael
Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brett Spiner, Wil Wheaton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: Four Featurettes
Length: 1183 Minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2002
NOTE: Complete episode listing is available at the end of this review.
the bitter end, Captain?”
see nothing so bitter about that.”
two days after my 18th birthday (September 28, 1987, to be exact),
the world was treated to the beginning of the television resurrection of Star
Trek. Called The Next
Generation, the show went forward some 76 years from its predecessor, but
seemingly even further than that in terms of its look and special effects.
It brought together a whole new cast and crew with some surprises, and it
came into existence with the unenviable task of trying to live up to a legend.
years later, when TNG finally completed its TV run, one can only conclude
that it not only lived up to the original, but surpassed it in many ways.
It spent more than twice as long on the air, it developed a more ensemble
crew where emphasis was never focused on just three main characters but on
everyone, and the stories and science had all been improved.
Some of the best TNG episodes, in my opinion, rank amongst science
fiction’s greatest offerings.
Trek: The Next Generation – Season One is a wonderfully packaged and produced 7 disc box set
that takes us back to the first year. All
26 episodes are included in broadcast order.
These were the shows that established the new cast and characters, the
new and more advanced ST world, and most
importantly, laid down a promise for the future…a promise that was fulfilled
arguably better than even the most die hard Trekkie could have hoped for.
I still remember the two hour, two part pilot
“Encounter at Farpoint” like it was yesterday…not only the details of the
episode, but the countless hours spent with friends in the following week
discussing, analyzing, and critiquing the new show. We all felt there was some indication the program could be
good, but of course, we left the jury respectfully out on whether or not TNG would come to full fruition on its own.
Some of our thoughts: surprise that the captain was a bit older and balder,
although we all agreed that Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard made a
formidable leader. The inclusion of
a Klingon on the Enterprise was an even bigger shock
(remember, this was before Star
Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country explaining the integration of the traditional
enemy into the Federation), but we liked Michael Dorn’s Worf and felt that his
presence offered a lot of dramatic possibilities.
And the new Galaxy Class version of the Enterprise offered a surprise or two of its own…it
didn’t take long before we were praising the saucer separation sequence as a
terrific innovation. The ship was
designed for a thirty year run, so families were on board as well, and that
meant children…something our intrepid captain was amusingly uncomfortable
Other aspects were not so surprising.
The original show dared to put women in position of power, so it was nice
to see Gates McFadden playing chief medical officer Beverly Crusher (her lines
weren’t as memorable as DeForest Kelly’s Dr. McCoy, but she was definitely
more agreeable to the eyes), Denise Crosby as chief of security Tasha Yar, and
the alluring Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi, whose ability to sense
strong emotions would come in handy more than once.
There was no Vulcan this time around, but we were
pleased to see the introduction of an android character, Data (played by Brett
Spiner), whose desire to be human seemed fraught with story options.
Also included was a handicapped character, Geordi La Forge (LeVar
Burton), but in typical Star Trek fashion,
even though he was blind, he was equipped with a visor that allowed him to see
more than normal sight ever could. And
of course, the presence of children on the starship meant at least one main
one…the astute Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), son of Beverly, whose
intelligence would eventually impress the impenetrable Picard.
Interestingly enough, none of us were impressed with
Jonathan Frakes as First Officer Will Riker…initially.
His character developed over the years (and most of us think he really
found it when he grew his beard), but out of the gate, he seemed a little too
rigid. Frakes of course would later
prove to be a formidable director and an invaluable asset to both cast and
crew…first impressions don’t always mean everything.
From the two part pilot “Encounter at Farpoint”,
the new Trek showed promise, but like
many burgeoning television shows, it took a few turns before everything started
to gel for real. Remembering the
episodes as they first aired, “The Naked Now” was a little disappointing as
an undisguised take on one of the original series’ most popular entries,
“The Naked Time”. The next
episode, “Code of Honor”, had to be one of the most embarrassing ones in the
history of Star Trek.
But as the cast became more confident, as the
scripts got better, and as the overall vision for what the show could be
improved, TNG began to flex some serious
muscle. “Where No One Has Gone
Before” was an instant classic to me and my friends, and the shows continued
not only to improve, but to expound upon Star Trek’s original
themes. “Justice” put the Enterprise crew against the prime directive when the boy
Wesley breaks a trivial law on a strange planet and faces a death penalty.
“The Big Goodbye” was sheer Trek fun, as Picard, Data and Dr. Crusher end up trapped
in a holodeck simulation of a film noir world.
And “Hide and Q” proved that the strange entity Q (John de Lancie)
from the pilot episode would continue to be an entertaining and formidable foe
for Picard and crew.
By the season’s finale, “Conspiracy” and
“The Neutral Zone”, we had no doubt of the assured success of the new
series. Everything had fallen into
place perfectly; the stories were becoming smarter and craftier, and most
importantly, we loved the new crew of the Enterprise.
Then, as now with this DVD
series, I can’t wait for Season Two.
As mentioned, though, one aspect that really made The Next Generation special was the attention
it gave each crew member. Each one
became the focal point in different episodes:
“Datalore” gave Data the spotlight (and Spiner the chance to play
dual roles), “Haven” focused on Counselor Troi and her pre-arranged
marriage, “Coming of Age” showed something of Wesley Crusher’s mettle,
“Angel One” was Riker’s turn to shine (and to wear a costume you have to
see to believe), “Skin of Evil” offered Tasha’s sweet and sad farewell,
and so on. The element of team
chemistry and excellent ensemble acting was always present, but the show had
enough faith in each character to let them lead as well as support.
But what really made all of Star Trek so special to its fans was its unerring sense
of optimism for the future, and The Next
Generation kept that spirit alive from the first episode on.
We live in a world of wars, terrors, upheavals, disease and more…Gene
Roddenberry certainly knew that, but his show presented a vision where mankind
not only survived it all, but emerged on the other end of it better, smarter,
more tolerant, more open, and with an infinitely brighter future.
This was the man who dared put a Russian on board the Enterprise the
first time around, and included a Klingon the second time.
We watch the people of the Federation and see ourselves as we would like
to be…and more importantly, we watch and believe that we are in fact capable of being that.
That is the legacy of the original Star Trek, and even more so, the legacy of The Next Generation, which gave us glorious
hope for our human race right from the start.
It’s a vision of the future that might not be so far-fetched…it’s
simply up to us to “make it so”.
almost hard to believe these shows are as old as they are…Paramount has done a
very nice job in preserving these modern classics for Trekkies on DVD.
One can see actual improvements over the chronological course of the
episodes: if there’s an
occasional bit of grain or softness in earlier ones, they are replaced by
stronger, more integral images later. The space scenes all look clean and crisp, with bright images
and good detail. All in all, a
clean and quality offering.
happy to report that the 5.1 remixes are quite special…you can listen to the
original stereo tracks if you prefer, but you probably won’t.
The subwoofer keeps the machinery of the Enterprise alive and
vibrant from episode to episode, and front to rear stage crossovers mimic the
swooshing of the ship in warp to perfection.
Dialogue is always clean and clear, making good use of the full front
stage for effect. Dynamic range is
even a bit more formidable than you might expect…a terrific effort!
On Disc Seven, there are four featurettes, each about fifteen minutes long. The first, “The Beginning”, briefly chronicles the resurrection of the new Star Trek, and even features some classic interview clips with the late Gene Roddenberry. “Selected Crew Analysis” brings us close to each of the main cast members, who talk about their roles, working with the others, and the pressures of following the success of one of television’s most memorable shows. “Making of a Legend” talks with some of the production crew, who discuss the art design, special effects, and even the music. Finally, “Memorable Missions” ” is a nice trip down memory lane with some of the cast members, who each recall some of their fondest (and not-so-fond) memories of first season episodes. All featurettes combine older and newer interview footage with cast members. I enjoyed all four, and I think most Trekkies will, too.
Also included is an attractive booklet filled with
background information on the main characters.
Roddenberry’s vision was preserved and furthered in Star Trek: The Next
Generation, one of television’s great success stories.
It stepped into the shoes of a bona fide classic and not only filled
them, but carved their own niche into science fiction history as a result.
This Season One box set is a well presented DVD collection that Trekkies
are sure to love…it definitely whets the appetite for the even better seasons
yet to come.
SEASON ONE EPISODE LOG:
at Farpoint (2 hours)
Short a Season
the Bough Breaks
No One Has Gone Before
Arsenal of Freedom
Always Have Paris