As a television series, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was on more than solid ground by season three. Season four confirmed that the series had found its definitive voice and allowed the writers greater flexibility to explore the characters. With no signs of age in sight, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION eased into season five with a great number of superior episodes that were able to excite longtime fans of the show and push the characters into new and interesting areas. Season five also allowed STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION to pay homage to the original series, with a two-part story that featured a very special guest star. Continuing to move the series out the door at warp speed, Paramount Home Entertainment has made all twenty-six episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON FIVE available on DVD in a seven disc boxed set for an approximate retail price of $149.98.
Disc one contains the episodes Redemption Part II, Darmok, Ensign Ro, and Silicon Avatar. Redemption Part II is another top-notch episode that resolves the season four cliffhanger, in which Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) resigns his Starfleet commission to fight in a Klingon civil war. Although the Federation will not interfere with what they consider a Klingon internal affair, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) suspects that the Romulan Empire has already intervened in an attempt to shift the balance of power in the alpha quadrant. Darmok is an interesting episode in which Captain Picard is kidnapped by the captain of an alien vessel, whose language defies translation. Ensign Ro brings a new crewmember (and reoccurring character) to the Starship Enterprise. Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) is a disgraced and court-martialed junior officer who is given a second chance in Starfleet, since she has had some association with a wanted terrorist leader. Silicon Avatar finds android officer Lieutenant Commander. Data (Brent Spiner) facing a scientist’s prejudice for his brother Lore, who was responsible for a crystalline space entity killing all of the colonists on the world where Data and Lore were both created.
Disc two contains the episodes Disaster, The Game, Unification Part I and Unification Part II. Disaster is another standout season five episode, in which the Enterprise is crippled after colliding with a space anomaly- this leaves much of the crew isolated in various portions of the heavily damaged Starship, while on the bridge, an ill-prepared Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) finds herself in command. In The Game, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) returns from shore leave in possession of a highly addictive game that begins to take control of the crew, which leaves the visiting Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) as the only person able to save his former shipmates. The original generation meets the next generation in Unification Part I, which tells of a possible defection by Vulcan Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to the Romulan Empire. Unification Part II uncovers Spock’s mission to Romulus as a bit of cowboy diplomacy to reunite the Vulcans with their Romulan cousins, but Captain Picard begins to suspect that Spock may be on a fool’s errand.
Disc three contains the episodes A Matter of Time, New Ground, Hero Worship and Violations. A Matter of Time finds Picard and crew on a historic mission, or at least that is what they are lead to believe, when a scientist from the future arrives to witness their latest exploits. In New Ground, the Enterprise is scheduled to participate in an experiment involving a new form of Warp propulsion, while at the same time, Worf’s visiting mother informs the Klingon officer that his son will be living with him on board the Enterprise from now on. In Hero Worship, the Enterprise crew rescues a young boy, who was the only survivor of an ill-fated spacecraft; as a way of coping with his grief, the boy begins emulating the emotionless android Data. Violations finds the Enterprise transporting a group of telepathic aliens, who become the prime suspects in the unexplained attacks that leave a number of crewmembers comatose.
Disc four contains the episodes The Masterpiece Society, Conundrum, Power Play and Ethics. The Masterpiece Society involves the Enterprise crew in an attempt to save a group of genetically engineered colonists from an approaching space body. Conundrum finds the entire crew of the Enterprise suffering from amnesia and about to go into a battle with an ill matched enemy that they don’t remember. In Power Play Data, Troi and Cheif O'Brien (Colm Meaney) come under alien influence and then attempt to take control of the Enterprise. Ethics finds Worf paralyzed after a spinal cord injury and asking Riker for his assistance to commit ritual suicide.
Disc five contains the episodes The Outcast, Cause and Effect, The First Duty, and Cost of Living. In The Outcast, Riker falls in love with the member of an androgynous society, where male/female relationships have become taboo. Cause and Effect is another standout season five episode in which the Enterprise is destroy during the first few minutes of the show, only to have the process repeat time and again, with minor variations. The First Duty has Captain Picard visiting Starfleet Academy on Earth, where Wesley Crusher and members of his fighter squadron have been involved in an accident that killed one of their fellow cadets. Cost of Living finds Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) paying another visit to the Enterprise, where she takes Worf’s son Alexander (Brian Bonsall) under her wing.
Disc six contains the episodes The Perfect Mate, Imaginary Friend, I, Borg and The Next Phase. The Perfect Mate finds the Enterprise on a diplomatic mission that entails transporting a beautiful metamorph to another world, where she will serve as a peace offering to end a centuries old war. Unfortunately for all concerned, the metamorph falls in love with Picard, who finds it increasingly difficult to resist her. The Imaginary Friend of a young girl on the Enterprise turns out to be not so imaginary, and a genuine threat to everyone onboard the ship. In I, Borg the crew rescues a lone Borg drone, but then have reservations about using him as a weapon against The Borg, in an effort to completely obliterate the Federation’s deadliest foe. The Next Phase finds Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Ensign Ro involved in a transported accident, which leaves them out of phase with the universe and seeking a way to contact their fellow crewmates, who believe them to be dead.
Disc seven contains the episodes The Inner Light and Time's Arrow. The Inner Light is another season five standout, in which Captain Picard is attacked by a mysterious alien probe, then awakens to find himself living another life on a long extinct alien world. Time's Arrow is the season ending cliffhanger that opens with the discovery of Data’s head on Earth, buried amongst artifacts dating from the 19th century. It quickly becomes apparent to Starfleet experts that the android officer was somehow transported into the past, where he was destroyed. Unfortunately, the Enterprise crew soon finds themselves investigating an alien race that has been traveling into Earth’s past, where they have been draining the life force of the humans they encounter there.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made all of the episodes from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON FIVE available on DVD in their proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. I would judge the visual quality of the season five episodes to be on par or just slightly better than those of season four, which was quite demonstrative of the improvements that were afforded the show as its production budgets increased. Film segments without any special effects or other forms of image processing look the best, since all the special effects work and other visuals were completed on analogue video. Effects footage is slightly weaker in appearance and displays a number of analogue video anomalies, but is still cleaner than the work done in earlier seasons. For the most part the image appears reasonably sharp and well define, not at the theatrical presentation level, but certainly quite good for episodic television. Colors are strongly rendered, without any signs of noise or smearing. Blacks appear accurate, although contrast is a little flat, due to the nature of cinematography for television shows. Digital compression artifacts never are a concern, even with four episodes being encoded onto the dual layered discs.
As with the previous sets, all the episodes have been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mixes, which continues to be impressive for television fare. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was a well-recorded show for its day and the television caliber surround has always managed to sound pleasing. The 5.1 channel mixes clean up the sound and give it better defined music and sound effects separations. Utilizing the pre-matrix sound stems results in a sound mix that favors the forward soundstage. However, when the surrounds do come into play they are usually very effective in conveying active sound effects, as well as providing musical fill and engine rumble. Dialogue is crisply rendered and always completely understandable. Fidelity is always very good, with the both music and sound effects being rendered distinctly and without compression. The bass channel is very solid; giving the sound of the Enterprise’s engines a nice sense of depth. English Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVDs, as are English subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus, which utilize an interface reminiscent of the Enterprise’s holodeck and computer system. Through the menus, one has access to individual episodes and scene selection within the episodes, as well as each disc’s set up features. The menu system on disc seven also provides access to season five supplemental materials, which are similar to those found in the previous box sets, but with some mild variation and one very significant addition. Season five of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION marked the passing of Trek creator, executive producer and great bird of the universe Gene Roddenberry, so it should come as no surprise that this set should feature a tribute to the man. A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry runs twenty-nine minutes and features a number of misty-eyed interviews with cast & crewmembers from The Next Generation.
The other programs that comprise Mission Logs: Season Five include Mission Overview, Memorable Missions and Departmental Briefings: Production & Visual Effects. Mission Overview is an eighteen-minute look at the highlights of season five that features recent interviews with members of the cast and crew. Memorable Missions is another eighteen-minute program that allows cast & crewmembers to talk about their favorite season five episodes. Departmental Briefing: Production runs fifteen minutes offers a behind-the-scenes looks at the various aspects of producing the season five episodes. Departmental Briefing: Visual Effects runs seventeen minutes and offers a fascinating look at producing special effects on a television budget. Also included in the DVD box set is a bonus STAR TREK: NEMESIS 3 inch CD-ROM with PC extras and a theatrical trailer for the movie.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON FIVE offers fans another box set of solid, very entertaining episodes. This release looks and sounds great, especially when one considers that the episodes were produced on a television budget. If you are a fan, don't hesitate in picking up this terrific DVD release from Paramount.
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