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Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season Four
review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 1182 Minutes

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheton, LeVar Burton

 

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $139.95

Features: Mission Logs: Year Four, Selected Crew Analysis, Departmental Briefing: Production, New Life And New Civilizations, Chronicles From The Final Frontier, Collectible Booklet

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (Approx. 8 Chapters per episode), 7-Disc Set

Released: September 3rd, 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.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" is arguably the most successful and most popular series from "Star Trek." Yes, it has the feature films (a new one is due out in December 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 one and season two was the birth of a new series in the franchise, and it was the show mainly getting its feet wet. Season three was finally where the show was coming together as what it was meant to be, and arguably to Trek fans, season four is one of the better seasons, if not the best. Still being a Trek novice, watching a few episodes, I can definently say that out of what I've seen thus far, I really did enjoy what season four brought to shiw. There seemed to me more emotion this time around, and a lot more thematic wise. I think there was a good job balancing the fun, action and emotional points in the season. It's really, really strong and definently very entertaining, as well as enjoyable.

Some of my favorites of this season include "First Contact," "Data's Day," "Loss," the conclusion to season three's cliffhanger ("Best Of Both Worlds, Part II") and the very intriguing "Legacy." The writing as I implied earlier hit everything right here. All the characters were given key moments to shine, and fleshed out further. The performances were in tip-top shape too. Directing was also great too in its content and visually (even Patrick Stewat himself got behind the camera). And speaking of Stewart, his amazing and heavy work as Picard is put the test here, and he does a really strong job like usual. I think he's one of the highlights of the fourth season.

So yes, you get all the great, crazy season four classics here (in alphabetical order): "Best of Both Worlds, Part II," "Brothers," "Clues," "Data's Day," "Devil's Due," "Drumhead," "Family," "Final Mission," "First Contact," "Future Imperfect," "Galaxy's Child," "Half a Life," "Host," "Identity Crisis," "In Theory," "Legacy," ""Loss," "Mind's Eye," "Night Terrors," "Nth Degree," "Qpid," "Redemption, Part 1," "Remember Me," "Reunion," "Suddenly Human" and "Wounded."

 

Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios (as it made for television before widescreen fads on networks and other syndication gimmicks rised up), season four looks the best yet (which makes sense, since it's more recent). Grain looks more natural here with the image so it's not that distracting, and shimmering as well as noise has been thankfully toned down. Color saturation and fleshtones are excellent too, looking quite natural here. The image has a good clear depth to it, if things are slightly murky. There's a sense of realness to the image, but it also keeps that nice surrealness to it. Halo edges are apparent at times, but it's not too bad. Overall, pleasing stuff.

 

There is still some artificial-flavor going on, but like all the other seasons, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" gets the 5.1 Dolby Digital treatment (in English, of course). Surrounds are a bit more soothing here, as the mixing is more ingenuine in the sounds. Be it computer button presses, the action-packed scenes and clear cut dialogue that doesn't interfere (and don't forget the music which also sounds pretty nice across the channels). The subwoofer gets some pretty good action too. Fidelity is rather high and there is strong dynamic range. And if you need them, there are English subtitles and English closed captions. Also a first - English Dolby Surround tracks, just in case you can't experience the 5.1 goodness.

 

Lasting nearly seventeen minutes is Mission Overview: Year Four. Besides your usual clips from episodes, there are a slew of interviews. Michael Piller (writer and executive producer) brings some good insights to the table, as Michael Piller talked about his struggle to write the conclusion to "Best Of Both Worlds," and then how he overcame the stumbling block. Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes and a few other cast members are interviewed. There's a brief bit on the show celebrating it's 100th episode which is pretty nice. Gene Roddenbury, the late creator of"Star Trek," gives some nice words. There are also some behind-the-scenes photos too shown off.

Next up, Selected Crew Analysis, lasts a good seventeen minutes. Old and new interviews with Wil Wheaton, Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes and one more talk about their favorite episodes of the season, their memories and what made them special. Clips from the episodes are included, of course. There's some really interesting stuff said here, and it's interesting to see what made the actors connect to what scenes in what episodes and what with the characters.

Departmental Briefing: Production lasts fifteen seconds under seventeen minutes, and focus on the directing talents of series cast members Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewarts, who lended their talents to steer episodes. All of this is quite fascinating, and is probably the best feature on this season set. It's interesting to hear the two talk how they overcame their inhibitions of directing, how much they enjoyed the experience and what they exactly did in directing episodes. It's great how fond they are of all of this, and I have respect for the two. Judging from the episodes they directed, they must be great directors (and sometimes it helps when an actor turns behind the camera, and knows more of what an actor on-set should do).

Besides those two, David Livingson also talks about his directing experiences on the show as a director. And that's just the first half of the feature. The next portion focuses on the make-up for the show, and that is pretty nifty stuff in how they accomplish the process. Brent Spiner talks of the make-up too, among a few others.

New Life And New Civilizations is a bit shorter, running a few seconds under fourteen minutes. This focuses more on the behind-the-scenes work of the show, which is nice to see (and it's chock filled with behind-the-scenes footage). David Livingston talks about the dimensions of shooting, but there's stuff with location shooting, how certain things are written, graphics work for the show, model making and much more. Associate producer Peter Lauritson also lends his thoughts, as well as Wil Wheaton. More technical, but intriguing stuff here (complete with additional interviews with the production team, on-the-set photographs and clips from episodes).

Chronicles From The Final Frontier lasts a solid eighteen minutes. Writers Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Taylor and Michael Pillar are interviewed. This is a cool featurette, as it focuses on some important behind the scenes people: those who write the words, craft the scenes and make the show what it is. It's interesting to note that Brannon and Jeri weren't die-hard freaks of the show, and that Gene Roddenbury encourage Braga not to watch it so there could be a freshness to the series. Pretty interesting insights to be found here overall... I really liked how this feature focused on the writers. Clips from the show and still photos are here in this full frame featurette as well.

Oh yes, you'll also get your standard booklet insert and nifty "Trek"-themed menus. The extras are on disc seven (as usual), and they're all in full frame.

 

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" fans, this is your ticket. With excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes once again (plus English Dolby Surround tracks), good transfers and nice extras... oh, and very cool episodes. If you're a fan or need a fix of classic "Trek," you can't go wrong here.