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review by Zach B.
Running Time: 1183 Minutes
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheton, LeVar Burton
Retail Price: $139.95
Features: A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry, Mission Overview, Memorable Missions, Production, Visual Effects, Collectible Booklet, "Star Trek: Nemesis" CD-ROM (While Supplies Last)
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (8 Chapters per episode), 7-Disc Set
Released: November 5th, 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.
When a show enters its fifth season, it's usually quite the landmark. Even if "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was syndicated in the first place, the end of season five usually means syndication for other shows. Still, five seasons is truly a long time in the television world. Yet season five was momentous, perhaps even bitter sweet for "Star Trek: The Next Generation." There are some beloved episodes here ("Unification," anyone?) but more on the bitter side, creator and "Star Trek" overseer Gene Roddenbury died about halfway through this season. It doesn't seem to affect quality or anything, but it was definitely a major loss for the show and sci-fi fans alike.
Highlights? Naturally, the semi-crossover that was "Unification." I can see why people like the episode, and while it has its moments, often times the idea of Spock and the plot in the two-parter aren't as interesting or thoughtful as you'd expect. I definitely liked the episodes "I, Borg," "Ethics" and the intriguing "Power Play." "Matter Of Time" and the first part of the fifth season's cliffhanger, "Time's Arrow," are also cool watches. Still, some episodes - like in other seasons - don't work so well and come off a bit droll. Nonetheless, this is still a really strong season. I actually may like it the best of what I've seen so far.
So in this boxed set, you get all the season five episodes (listed here in alphabetical order): "Cause and Effect," "Conundrum," "Cost of Living," "Darmok," "Disaster," "Ensign Ro," "Ethics," "First Duty," "Game," "Hero Worship," "I Borg," "Imaginary Friend," "Inner Light," "Masterpiece Society," "Matter of Time," "New Ground," "Next Phase," "Outcast," "Perfect Mate," "Power Play," "Redemption (Part II)," "Silicon Avatar," "Time's Arrow (Part I)," "Unification (Part I)," "Unification (Part II)" and "Violations."
Still in their full screen aspect ratios (1.33:1, of course), these seasons keep just looking cleaner and cleaner and sharper and sharper. Grain isn't as much of a problem as it was in the past season and fits right in, while fleshtones look the most natural out of the first five seasons. All of it just looks very flesh. Shadow levels and detail are excellent, while color saturation looks pretty seamless - no bleeding and certainly it does not look underwhelming. The image also pops right out. Noise and halo edges are still here, but it isn't as much as in past seasons. After seeing this season, I'm looking forward to how great six and seven will be!
The fifth season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" gets the full English 5.1 Dolby Digital overhaul. The mixing feels cleaner than past seasons actually, with good subwoofer use and strong dynamics that help light up the channels. Yes, there still are some rather artificial sounds going on throughout the episodes - but they feel more integrated than past seasons. Surrounds when it comes to the ship and the more action-like scenes, just like in the past four seasons, do get you more into the episodes. Fidelity is nice too. Overall, I think these episodes are actually more low key than the episodes in the past seasons, but they are equally as effective. Also included are English Dolby Surround tracks, English subtitles and English closed captions.
You get your usual kinda supplements here, but perhaps due to how important season five was with the show being established, unique episodes and Roddenberry's death... these might be the best featurettes yet. What I think is the strongest and truly the most important featurette here is A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry. This is an excellent lookback at a pretty simple man who's often treated like some kind of Lord due to his contribution to the world of science-fiction. Still, there's no denying the impact he made due to the popularity of the "Star Trek" franchise. Still photos and all kinds of different footage are presented here. Research consultant Guy Vardaman, his widow Majel Barrett, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Whoopi Goldberg, Wil Wheaton, Herman Zimmerman, Jonathan de Lancie and even Roddenberry himself talk about the life and work of Roddenberry. They all look back at him quite fondly as he was there for all those who talk. He seemed to be a really lovely and intelligent guy, and you can tell all these people who worked and knew him liked him - and miss him - fondly. Some really nice and interesting stuff is said, and like usual, mix of old and new interviews are included. There's no denying that this is the best "Next Generation" featurette on the sets thus far. Do not miss it.
Mission Overview is your usual look back at some key episodes from the season, with a nice focus on "Unification" as there is discussion on the big appearence of Leonard Nimoy, and how the show had nothing against the original series but wanted to be established on its own terms. It's really interesting. Of course, there's also some stuff on Roddenberry's death, which seems fitting. This is a lot of interesting stuff, as executive producer Michael Pillar, Patrick Stewart, Denise Crosby, writer/producer Jeri Taylor, producer David Livingston, Brent Spiner, special effects supervisor Mike Okuda as well as a few others. This lasts eighteen minutes and five seconds.
I guess Memorable Missions is sorta similar (like usual), but focuses on everyone's favorite episodes and the like. "The Game," "Hero Worship," "Disaster," "Power Play" and "First Duty" get some notice here, and it's interested to hear some behind the scenes stories (like visual effects guy Dan Curry's painting that made it into the show or the milk chocolate spit bucket for Marina Sirtis). Interviews with Sirtis, Curry, Mike Okuda, Robert Duncan McNeil, David Livingston, music composer Jay Chattaway and more are here. Again, the stories featured are pretty fun and fans should enjoy the trivia. This all lasts eighteen minutes and thirteen seconds.
Under Departmental Briefing, we have Production which mainly focuses on the episodes "The First Duty" and "Power Play," not to mention episodes like "The Inner Light" and "Cause and Effect." Writers and producers of the show are inteviewed here, as well as Jonathan Frakes, and music composer Jay Chattaway again. There's some interesting stuff on the episodes themselves as far as ideals, but more is on how elements were accomplished. This lasts fifteen minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
The other featurette in this second, Visual Effects, gives an idea how some of the neat/cheesy/whatever-you-want-to-think visuals are created. Amazingly enough, it's not all computers and models. Visual effectrs supervisor Robert Legato, executive producer Peter Lauritson, Oduka, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry and some more. You get tons of clips from the episodes (effects based stuff from those, of course!). I don't want to spoil some of these "wizards'" methods, but I will tell you that you get to hear about how some more technical stuff was accomplished and how challenging it could be. Nice stuff, all lasting two seconds under eighteen minutes.
As for the little stuff, the Collectible Booklet is a bit different than usual as it contains a Gene Roddenberry bio, and I believe for the first pressing only, a "Star Trek: Nemesis" promotional CD-ROM is included (it's the mini kind, a la a Nintendo GameCube disc). The CD-ROM has the film's trailer and computer stuff like screen savers to enjoy.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" fans know they're headed for the home stretch, since after this, there are only two more seasons to go. The 5.1 mixes are pretty stellar like usual, the transfers are good and the extras are certainly fitting. Season five certainly highlights a lot of excellent "Trek" as it is a strong season, so do enjoy.