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review by Zach B.
Running Time: 999 Minutes
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Diana Muldaur, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby
Retail Price: $139.95
Features: Mission Overview: Year Two, Selected Crew Analysis, Inside Starfleet Archives, Production, Memorable Missions, Collectible Booklet
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Stereo, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (Approx. 8 Chapters per episode), 6-Disc Set
Released: May 7th, 2002
It's only been fifteen years since "Star Trek: The Next Generation" debuted in syndication and after airing for seven seasons, it still carries a loyal fanbase. But let's be honest here, "Star Trek" will always forever be part of popular culture and every different series that bears the "Star Trek" name will always have a loyal fanbase. "Star Trek" is just something that many people recognize (and is stereotyped with science fiction lovers and nerds) and just really enjoy. Even if you're not a fan, surely you've heard of the captains, the technology and other more "mainstream" things the franchise brings (Phasers, Klingons, etc.)
Too bad for me is that I've never been a giant "Star Trek" fan. I've never really gotten into this moneymaking franchise that has spawned theatrical films and different series. I've seen parts of episodes here and there, but that's about it. However, with the release of this first season, it was my chance to get into it. While "Star Trek" is still not my thing, after viewing some episodes I have to say I'm more of a fan that I originally was. So after season one, it was time to go into season two and start my road to get further into the series.
Season one I suppose was a test. Since it was going into syndication, was only the first season and was somewhat experimental, it had a limited budget, cheesy effects and some holes within it all. That's okay and that's to be expected. But this being the second season, it has a bigger budget... but those effects, I'm sorry, like in season one, I still laughed at some here. But here is where the show really did start to grow. Some people have said that is where the show finally came into its own and it was all good from here on out. I disagree. It's an improvement, but it still has things to work out within the story and the characters in my opinion. It was starting to evolve. I mean, it's hard for a show to make a giant evolution in its whole second year. Others say that it really started to flesh out and grow into its skin third or fourth, so I await those episodes and will judge then. Otherwise, it's a pretty good season. Characters are developed more, emotions are more explored and there's a lot to enjoy. There are some standout episodes here in my opinion, such as "Q Who?," "Royale" and "Measure of a Man."
I guess the show succeeds the way it does is because the writing is there and gives the fans what it wants. It has interesting science fiction plotlines, deals with space and has a good deal of tension and character development. While I wouldn't know, people tell me that the first season of the show is one of the more "weaker" seasons. Let's be honest here... not every show is incredibly strong the first season. Take many sitcoms for example. But that's the point of episodic television... characters need time to grow and develop. Just like story arcs. The second season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" does ax some characters from the first season, give you some new ones and really begins to start and feel its way around. While we got the set ups and some development from the first season, in the second season you can tell that the tone is starting to get set up for what's to come in the future. If you like science fiction and like paying attention, not to mention pretty strong writing, then "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is for you. But let's be honest here: there are people who simply won't get into the show, won't like it or won't understand it. But the show has been off for a bit, so all the fans have been sorted out, but I'm sure each day it finds new fans. If you're coming in from season one, like I did, and liked what you saw there, then you're sure to enjoy season two a bit more.
Arguably, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is the most successful and most popular series from "Star Trek." Yes, it has the feature films (a new one is due out in fall 2002), the merchandising and everything else with it. But perhaps why this series is the most popular with fans is that the late creator of "Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry, did help greatly to create this show. "The Next Generation" branches off into new areas of the "Star Trek" universe with new technology and characters, but keeps the spirit of the original show. Perhaps that's why it works.
Season two is truly an improvement over season one, and I enjoyed it more than the first season, but I still have ways to go before I experience the "full" Next Generation experience. So yeah, all 22 episodes are here complete and uncut. 22 you say? Why yes! Don't you remember the infamous writers strike of 1988? Anyway, you get (all in alphabetical order now): "The Child," "Contagion," "Dauphin," "Elementary Dear Data," "Emissary," "Icarus Factor," "Loud as a Whisper," "Manhunt," "Matter of Honor," "Measure of a Man," "Outrageous Okona," "Peak Performance," "Pen Pals," "Q Who?," "Royale," "Samaritan Snare," "Schizoid Man," "Shades of Gray," "Time Squared," "Unnatural Selection," "Up the Long Ladder" and "Where Silence Has Lease." Enjoy!
Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios (for television viewing of course), season two looks slightly better than the first season transfer wise. Of course, it's a bit more new... but not by much. Little flaws on the prints of the shows like dirt are there, and like the first season, grain is small but can be seen. Colors are bit more bold and more saturated this time around, giving a more natural and better look to things. Shimmering and noise are also pretty noticeable, mostly on the exterior ship scenes. Overall, no major complaints.
Like last time, we get English stereo tracks and new 5.1 mixes for all the episodes. The English stereo tracks are somewhat flat and standard, but the more rich experience lies within the English 5.1 remixes. Compared to last season, it's more of the same and that's a good thing, seeing how impressed I was last time. Yes, some sound effects are still a bit artificial, but it's part of the territory. Surround effects are quite good. Basically, they come in form of the spaceship scenes and action scenes. I really enjoyed the mixes on hearing those. Subwoofer use is also still rather strong. These fine surround effects that really bring you in to the stories and action. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, while there is a good balance between that, sound effects and music. The opening theme still sounds pretty lovely. High fidelity is present too. Still very nice. Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions.
Like the first set, this is not jammed pack, but for new and old Trek fans, the stuff here should please. Again, it's a mix of new and old footage on the featurettes (as indicated now on the specific dates of most of the interviews). First off, let me set the record that this is a six disc set and not seven due to the whole 22 episode scenario. Now with that settled, you get another nifty collectible booklet that's pretty fun. On the DVD itself, we first have Mission Overview: Year Two. Lasting about fifteen minutes, it features interviews with executive producer Rick Berman, Gene Roddenberry, Diana Muldaur and others. This is really nice and starts to show that the show was starting to develop with everyone inolved in the production be it the actors, the writers and all. Since the first season went over well, there was more of a budget this time and expansions. There's stuff about Muldaur being the new doctor and Whoopi Goldberg. It's a really nice watch that isn't promo at all, but has heart and soul in it. Clips from season two episodes and behind-the-scenes footage is featured as well.
Next up is Selected Crew Analysis. The focus here is on the actors, as Stewart talks about the quick bonding. LeVar Burton gets input here too, as well as Roddenberry and Frakes among others. It explores the characters, their changes and what was to come, not to mention some skepticism. Also having behind-the-scenes footage and show clips, it runs about fourteen minutes and is a good watch.
Inside Starfleet Archives features Penny Juday, the "Star Trek Coordinator." Working in the backlot at Paramount studios, she basically stores every single piece of information dealing with "Star Trek" be it production art, blueprints, props and more. She does a lot of stuff in the world of "Star Trek" and even plugs the next film feature, "Nemesis." She shows us all the "records": boxes of costumes, props and assorted stuff from the television series and movies. This is incredibly interesting and insane at the same time, and I'd love to have a job like this for something I'm really into (too bad I'm not a "Star Trek" geek or I'd be jealous!). This goes on for a little over seventeen and a half minutes.
Production has interviews with co-Executive Producer Maurice Hurely, associate producer Peter Lauritson and quite a few others on making season two. Also featuring clips, it introduces us to the Borg, expansions and little tidbits on new creations and what was done for the second season's production. If you're into the artistic preparation and want to know about some ideals on the creation, this is for you. This also lasts about seventeen and a half minutes. Finally, Memorable Missions, lasting sixteen and a half minutes and obviously featuring season two clips, has the cast and crew reflecting on their favorite moments from this particular season. It's pretty fun as well.
For the second time out, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" delivers the goods on DVD. Once again featuring a superb presentation for a television series and offering very good extras for all sorts of fans, this, like the last set and most likely future sets to come, is worth owning if you're a fan or makes a great gift if you know a fan. Again, I really like and respect Paramount's releasing schedule with the series and having new sets appearing every few weeks. This is very pleasing, and other studios should take notice. Also, perhaps Paramount could add more supplements... but given the time frame they work with, what's given here is more than one could ask for.