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STAR TREK:  THE NEXT GENERATION
Season Three

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brett Spiner, Gates McFadden Wil Wheaton
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  Four Featurettes
Length:  1181 Minutes
Release Date:  July 2, 2002
NOTE:  Complete episode listing is available at the end of this review.

“Mr. Worf, dispatch a subspace message to Admiral Hanson:

WE HAVE ENGAGED THE BORG.”

Shows ****

In year one, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced us to the new Enterprise and her crew.  In year two, we followed them through bigger and better adventures.

Year three was no holds barred and no looking back.

After two years of successfully following a legend, The Next Generation became one.  It was Season Three that guaranteed that the new Star Trek would never be forgotten.  Some say it was the season where the new even surpassed the old.  However you want to place it, it was definitely a year of confidence and fearlessness on the parts of the producers, directors, writers and actors.  It was a year where the series would boldly go where no television program had gone before.

It was a year where old friends returned, like Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, and even older friends made appearances, like the wonderful Mark Lenard as the Vulcan Ambassador Sarek.  Even old enemies made their mark, from the Romulans to the Klingons, to the Enterprise’s newest nemesis Q (John De Lancie).  Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) made a return appearance.  Dead, you say?  Never say die in the world of Star Trek.

It was a year of some of the first really important and most popular episodes.  And finally, it was a year that left fans on the edge of their seats for one of the best television cliffhangers since who shot J.R. Ewing.

There was something for everyone in season three, including a wide variety of showcases for characters we knew well and loved by now, and for the most part, these episodes were better than ever.  “A Matter of Perspective” had Commander William Riker (Frakes) on trial for his life after a mission goes horribly wrong…the eventual piecing together of the puzzle owed something to Rashomon.  Frakes also contributed heavily to the Data (Spiner) oriented story “The Offspring”, serving as director of this most moving of Trek episodes.

Dr. Crusher earned the spotlight in “Transfigurations”, a show that introduced us to the development of a wondrous new race right before our eyes.  Lt. Geordi La Forge (Burton) saves the day with the help of a holodeck replica in “Booby Trap”.  Klingon Lt. Worf (Dorn) attempts to clear his father’s good name on pain of death in “Sins of the Father”.  Counselor Deanna Troi (Sirtis) is reunited with her flamboyant mother (Majel Barrett) again in “Menage a Troi”.  Young Wesley Crusher (Wheaton) earns a promotion to full ensign along the way.  And so on.

As with any season, some episodes are better than others, but few seasons of any series had compiled three episodes as good as ones included here.  The aforementioned Mark Lenard returns in the title role of “Sarek”, a heartfelt episode that examines the sad effects of old age, even upon a renowned diplomat and intellect such as Spock’s father.  This episode also boasts one of Patrick Stewart’s finest performances as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in a climactic moment you’ll never forget.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise” was one of the boldest episodes in the young series’ history…a consistent fan favorite to this day, it was a show where the Enterprise, the Federation, and the entire course of future history as we know it changed in a nanosecond.  It was an episode that proclaimed the truth that great sacrifices aren’t always recognized, and that it’s not the recognition that makes them great.  This also was one of the finest moments of the year for the intriguing Guinan, played by Whoopi Goldberg.

But every great moment in season three was merely a stepping stone to “The Best of Both Worlds”.  A year earlier, the powerful enemy Q made Picard and company aware of an almost unstoppable threat that was still worlds away:  the Borg.  Since that day, the Enterprise crew knew that one day the Federation would have to engage that enemy, and on the last episode of the third year, that day came.

The Borg were the most formidable foe to come out of Star Trek lore:  a collective intelligence that combined both mechanical and biological technologies into an army of relentless cybernetic organisms based on “adapting” every world and civilization into itself.  The Borg continually grew stronger, smarter and more massive in numbers.  When the Enterprise confronts them one to one, she’s seriously overmatched.  The cards are turned even more when Picard himself becomes assimilated, and Trekkies were left to hang on Riker’s last words for the entire off season:  “Mr. Worf…fire.”

With each new season, The Next Generation convinced me and my friends more and more that it was capable of running with the torch lit by the original series some twenty years earlier.  By the end of the third season, it had surpassed the original in many ways…the writing was consistently better, the crew was more balanced, more real, and more confident, and most important of all…the promise of a season four meant that TNG would officially last longer than the original series.

Season Three is what you’ve been waiting for, fellow fans.  Enjoy.

Video ***1/2

Overall, this season is by far the best offering in this department from Paramount.  From the opening episode “Evolution” with its bright blues and reds set against the blackness of space, it’s clear what kind of video offering to expect from year three.  Images are sharper and clearer and colors are generally rendered better overall.  One or two drastically dark sequences here and there show a bit of grain and slightly less definition, but these are the only real complaints.  Overall, a terrific job.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 audio mixes continue to impress…the Enterprise has never sounded so good as with a subwoofer at her disposal.  Dynamic range continues to be strong, and slightly more bold uses of the rear stages, however infrequent, are definitely welcome.  An occasional but distinctive pop every now and again keep this from highest possible rating, but overall, still an exemplary effort.

Features ***

Four good featurettes, each about 15 minutes or so, detail season three with cast and crew interviews both past and present.  The Mission Overview talks about some of the year’s big changes and moments, while Selected Crew Analysis gets us close to the characters and their shining moments.  Rounding out are featurettes on production and Memorable Missions.

Summary:

Star Trek: The Next Generation proved in its third season that the worlds Gene Roddenberry created would neither ever burn out nor fade away.  Slicker, bolder, and more refined than ever before, this was the year where the series stopped looking back to its predecessor and began to re-write the legends in its own way.  This is a season every Trekkie will want to add to his or her shelf.

COMPLETE SEASON THREE EPISODE LOG:

Evolution

A Matter of Perspective

The Ensigns of Command Yesterday's Enterprise
The Survivors The Offspring
Who Watches the Watchers? Sins of the Father
The Bonding Allegiance
Booby Trap Captain's Holiday
The Enemy Tin Man
The Price Hollow Pursuits
The Vengeance Factor The Most Toys
The Defector Sarek
The Hunted Menage a Troi
The High Ground Transfiguration
Deja Q The Best of Both Worlds, Part I