STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina
Sirtis, Brett Spiner, Gates McFadden Wil Wheaton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: Five Featurettes
Length: 1182 Minutes
Release Date: September 3, 2002
NOTE: Complete episode listing is available at the end of this review.
has appeared…he wants to do something ‘nice’ for me.”
alert the crew.”
all accounts, Season Four of Star Trek:
The Next Generation was particularly important to creator Gene
Roddenberry. By going into a fourth
year, the new series would officially eclipse the original in terms of
longevity, but he sensed something even bigger. The show had been good up to then, but he predicted that with
extra dedication from his writers, cast and crew, the fourth season would make
the series a landmark all its own.
was right. Season Four was no holds
barred in terms of its writers’ imaginations and its cast’s willingness to
take their characters to the next level. It
was a year that saw some of the best science fiction ever scripted for
television or any other medium. It
was also a year we got closer to the crew of the Enterprise than ever before.
We saw their strengths and weaknesses, their bravery and their fear…and
we loved them all the more for all of it.
the first time, the writers and producers decided to make Star Trek aware
of its own history…in other words, there was a sense of continuation in some
of the stories. Lt. Worf’s (Dorn)
dishonor from Season Three was addressed twice in year four. Lt. Geordi La Forge (Burton) once had an interesting holodeck
encounter with the designer of the Enterprise’s engines Leah Brahms; in this
season, he got to meet the real thing. Even
dearly departed Tasha Yar still held a presence in the show when we visited for
the first time the horrible place where she grew up, and even met her sister
no strand of change was as strong as the assimilation and eventual rescue of
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) by the unstoppable Borg.
His story is picked up in the first episode, “The Best of Both Worlds
Part II”, an amazing piece of work that at long last resolved the cliffhanger
from Season Three. And in the
subsequent episode, “Family”, Picard heartbreakingly reveals just how
horrible and altering the experience was for him.
family became a theme for the entire season…in that same episode, we got our
first glimpse of Worf’s adoptive human parents, and via the holodeck, our
first look at Wesley Crusher’s (Wheaton) father, who had died before the
stories of the series even began.
return of an old friend brings another family dimension to Worf’s life in
“Reunion”, and he fights to restore his family’s wronged name in the
finale, “Redemption Part I”. Lt.
Commander Data (Spiner) is even brought back together with his father-creator
and his twin brother Lore (both also played by Spiner in a tour-de-force tri
facto performance) in “Brothers”.
in prior years, we spent a great deal of time with the characters both as a
group and individually. Data gets
another turn to shine in “Data’s Day”, which reminded me of the classic
“Dear Dad” episodes from M*A*S*H. Geordi
gets a couple of heroic turns in both “Galaxy’s Child” and “Identity
Crisis”. Counselor Deanna Troi (Sirtis)
finds herself facing her worst fears in “The Loss”, while Commander William
Riker (Frakes) finds his world turned upside down in “Future Imperfect”.
Dr. Beverly Crusher finds herself in a startling paradox in “Remember
Me”, and her son, Wesley, has a big goodbye in “Final Mission”.
writing in the fourth season is absolutely extraordinary, especially in the
early going. One senses the
creative juices not only flowing, but boiling over.
I challenge anyone to so much as blink during “Best of Both Worlds Part
II”, “Family”, “Brothers”, “Remember Me”, or “Future
Imperfect”. There was no fear in
approaching difficult scenarios such as the constancy of reality, old family
wounds, or functioning amidst great personal crises.
writers, producers and directors did extraordinary work…but it remains the
amazing ensemble cast that made the series work and gave the creators so much
wealth to work with. Patrick
Stewart cemented his reputation as an actor in earlier years, but season four
also saw him bronze it. His turn in
“Family” was an apex, but hardly the last one.
But credit also goes to every man and woman who comprised the crew of the
Enterprise. They were as real to us
as anyone we knew, and their heroics were something to cherish because they
didn’t come about from an absence of fears or weaknesses, but in spite of
only real low point of the year for me was “First Contact”, an episode
making the mistake of staying mostly away from the Enterprise and her crew and
leaving us instead with a group of aliens we didn’t care much about.
For others, much has been said about the departure of Wil Wheaton as
Wesley…for some reason, he was a point of contention amongst Trekkies.
I always liked him, myself…he was closest to my age when the series
first aired, and sort of an easy figure for me to identify with. His departure was honorable, and frankly, has come full
circle with his appearance in the upcoming Star Trek film Nemesis.
Gene Roddenberry turned out to be right, as always. Season Four insured that The Next Generation would be
able to grow from merely popular to classic.
Its confidence in its characters and willingness to give them and their
stories a proper sense of continuing context paved the way for the future…and
better things were still to come.
transfers of these shows continue to be good, but for some reason, I felt the
overall quality of the fourth season was a bit of a step down from Season Three.
Some of the more middle episodes didn’t bode as well as the bookending
ones, showing a little more grain and a touch less color consistency.
These aren’t distracting marks, to be sure…only worth noting.
But as always, I think the fans will be pleased with the effort.
5.1 remixes continue to be good, with the Enterprise engines humming through the
subwoofer and the space action opening up the front and rear stages nicely.
Not every episode calls for a bang-up mix, but the ones that do are well
serviced, and make the experience of watching the shows again all the more
set includes five featurettes, all on the seventh disc, and each about 15
minutes or so in length. “Mission
Overview” touches on some of the year’s highlights, including Q’s (John De
Lancie) return in a whimsical episode, the cliffhanger, and the filming of the
100th episode. “Selected
Crew Analysis” deals mostly with the departure of Wil Wheaton, with fresh
interviews with both him and Patrick Stewart on the subject.
“Departmental Briefing” looks at both Stewart’s and Frakes’ turns
in the director’s chair, as well as a look at some of the year’s best in
makeup. “New Life and New
Civilizations” chronicles some of the special effects and production designs,
while “Chronicles of the Final Frontier” looks at some of the season’s
best episodes through the eyes of the writers.
A nice package for Trekkies.
COMPLETE SEASON FOUR EPISODE LOG:
|The Best of Both Worlds Part II||Clues|
|Suddenly Human||Night Terrors|
|Remember Me||Identity Crisis|
|Legacy||The Nth Degree|
|Future Imperfect||The Drumhead|
|Final Mission||Half a Life|
|The Loss||The Host|
|Data's Day||The Mind's Eye|
|The Wounded||In Theory|
|Devil's Due||Redemption Part I|