When the seventh season rolled around, everyone knew that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was coming to the end of its television run. As a fan of the show, I was sad to see it go, even though I knew that the crew of the Enterprise was heading for the movie screen. However, to be perfectly honest, I never thought that getting a movie every few years was as satisfying as having twenty-six episodes being broadcast into my living room each and every season. As for the seventh season itself, the cast and production team took full advantage of the series swan song to push the envelope and produced some of the showís richest episodes, which offered some great sci-fi, as well as exploring the characters and the depth of their relationships. Completing the release of all seven seasons in less than a year, Paramount Home Entertainment has made all twenty-six episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SEVEN available on DVD in a seven disc boxed set for an approximate retail price of $149.98.
Disc one contains the episodes Descent, Part II, Liaisons, Interface and Gambit, Part I. In Descent, Part II, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Chief Engineer LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) find themselves prisoners of the evil android Lore, who has also subjugated a group of Borg drones and his own brother Data (Brent Spiner). Liaisons finds Picard marooned on barren planet with a beautiful woman, while the Enterprise plays host to an unusual alien diplomat. Interface has LaForge experimenting with some new technology, which allows him to remotely control a probe, in an attempt to rescue a ship from a decaying orbit. Strangely enough, interfacing with the probe puts LaForge in contact with his mother, who went missing in another sector of space and is believed dead. Gambit, Part I finds the crew of the Enterprise investigating the supposed death of Captain Picard in a bar fight.
Disc two contains the episodes Gambit, Part II, Phantasms, Dark Page and Attached. Gambit, Part II concludes the story with Picard and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) posing as mercenaries to investigate a potentially dangerous artifact. In Phantasms, Dataís dream program first gives rise to nightmares, and then to a series of waking dreams that may endanger the rest of the crew. Dark Page finds Counselor Troiís visiting mother Lwaxana (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) falling into a coma, thus forcing Deanna to use her telepathic abilities to discover the cause of her motherís strange malady. Attached explores the hidden feeling of Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), when the two are linked by an alien device, which allows them to read each otherís mind.
Disc three contains the episodes Force of Nature, Inheritance, Parallels and The Pegasus. Force of Nature brings the Enterprise crew into a confrontation with two alien scientists that claim that warp speed travel is unraveling the fabric of space. Inheritance introduces Data to a woman claiming to be his "mother," or at the very least, the ex-wife of his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. One of the series very best episodes, Parallels finds Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) discovering the true meaning of the road not taken when he begins randomly shifting between alternate versions of reality. The Pegasus is another standout episode that brings Riker face to face with his first commander, and places him on a secret mission that drives a wedge between him and Picard.
Disc four contains the episodes Homeward, Sub Rosa, Lower Decks and Thine Own Self. Homeward provides Worf with a bitter reunion with his adopted human brother, who violates the Prime Directive in order to same a primitive race from certain destruction. Sub Rosa finds Dr. Crusher saying goodbye to her recently departed grandmother and hello to a handsome ghostly apparition, who would seem to be a family legacy. Lower Decks turns its focus away from the series main characters, and onto a group of junior officers, one of whom is selected for a dangerous assignment. In Thine Own Self, Data endangers a pre-industrialized culture, after his memory wiped clean while retrieving a dangerous radioactive cargo from their planet.
Disc five contains the episodes Masks, Eye of the Beholder, Genesis and Journey's End. In Masks, an alien archive begins remaking the Enterprise in the image of its home world. Eye of the Beholder finds Troi investigating the cause an Enterprise crewmemberís suicide, which turns out to be something completely unexpected and potentially hazardous to the empathic Counselor. In Genesis, Picard and Data return to the Enterprise to discover the ship disabled and the rest of the crew de-evolving into lower life forms. In Journey's End, a visiting Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) begins to question his choice of a Starfleet career, while Captain Picard is being forced to uproot a Native American tribe that colonized a world that now falls under Cardassian jurisdiction.
Disc six contains the episodes Firstborn, Bloodlines, Emergence and Preemptive Strike. Firstborn finds Worf and his son Alexander facing a potential threat from old family enemies, and a shocking secret from the Klingon warrior who brings them the information. In Bloodlines, a bitter Ferengi adversary tries to take revenge on Picard by killing a son the Captain never knew he had. Emergence leaves the crew of the Enterprise perplexed, when the shipís computer system begins exhibiting signs that it is becoming sentient. Preemptive Strike marks the return Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes), who is given an undercover assignment by Picard to infiltrate a group of Federation dissidents, known as the Maquis.
Disc seven contains the series finale All Good Things, which ran originally as a two-hour movie and in later syndication as a two-part episode. All Good Things ended the series on an incredibly high note. Not only was this episode entertaining drama, it was great science fiction. Taking the series full circle, All Good Things finds Picard standing before omnipotent Q (John de Lancie) yet again; with the fate of humanity hanging on the outcome of this seven-year long trail. The plot of All Good Things follows Picard as he becomes displaced in time; randomly shifting back and forth between three separate time periods. At any given moment, Picard may finds himself seven years in the past; when he took command of the Enterprise, or back in the present, or even twenty-five years into the future, at a time when he and his crew have all gone their separate ways. While standing before Q Picard learns the reason for his shifting through time, as well as the news that he will be personally responsible for extermination of the human race.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made all of the episodes from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SEVEN available on DVD in their proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Again, Paramountís DVD presentation greatly outshines the look of broadcast, although there are certain production limitations inherent to these episodes that cannot overcome, without redoing all of the postproduction work at the high definition level. On the positive side, filmed sequences appear cleaner and crisper than they do during any syndicated rerun. On the negative side, special effects work that was completed on video does show some anomalies of its analog NTSC origins.
Still, I find the video presentations to be exceedingly pleasing, especially since season seven show had the highest production values, which translated into a very good-looking television show. Colors tend to be strongly rendered with solid, stable hues and minimal noise or fuzziness. Blacks appear highly accurate, whites are clean and shadow detail is good for a television production. Contrast is a tad flat, but that is because of a lighting design necessitated by the broadcast television realm. Digital compression artifacts never become a concern, even when four forty-six minute episodes are encoded onto the dual layered discs.
As with the previous sets, all the episodes releases here have been upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mixes, and as such, continue to be impressive for television fare. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was a well recorded and mixed television show for its time, which is evidenced by the quality of these 5.1 channel tracks. Transcribing the pre-matrixed surround stems to the discrete format provides stronger channel separation and an even better sound than what was present on the Laserdisc release of the show. Originating as a television mix, the episodes tend to be front heavy, but the surround channels are effectively deployed for, engine rumble, occasional active effects and musical fill for each episodeís orchestral score. Dialogue is always crisply rendered and features excellent intelligibility. The bass channel is impressively solid for television fare and offers a nice deep rumble for the shipís engines. English Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVDs, as are English subtitles.
Full motion video, 3-D animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus, which utilize an interface reminiscent of a Starfleet computer system. Through the menus, one has access to individual episodes and scene selection within the episodes, as well as each discís set up features. The menu system on disc seven also provides access to season sevenís supplemental materials, which offer fairly similar content to what is found in the previous box sets. In Mission Logs: Year Seven we find Mission Overview, A Captain's Tribute, Departmental Briefings: Production, Starfleet Moments And Memories and The Making Of All Good Things.
Mission Overview is a fourteen minute look at the chaotic final season of the show, the segue to motion pictures, starting up a new Star Trek franchise, as well as the emotional final episode. A Captain's Tribute is a sixteen-minute program that allows actor Patrick Stewart to reflect back on the cast and crew of the show and share his fondness and respect for everyone he worked with. Departmental Briefings: Production details the difficulties involved with some of the more challenging episodes, including one featuring first time director Gates McFadden. Starfleet Moments And Memories is a thirty-minute program that offers cast and crewmembers a fond look back on the past seven years, as well as the continuing sense of family that grew out this Star Trek franchise and playful atmosphere that developed on the set of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. The Making Of All Good Things provides a seventeen-minute look at the production of the series final episode, including the challenges of depicting the cast at different ages. Closing out the supplements is a video trailer for the upcoming DVD release of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE in 2003 (I know I can't wait!!!).
Having reviewed all seven seasons of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION on DVD, I want to say bravo Paramount for a job very well done, as well as sticking to an accelerated release schedule, which gave me more than a daily dose of a television series that I love. The season seven box set looks and sounds great for a television show produced in direct syndication, and certainly provides a presentation that greatly exceeds the original broadcasts. Not only that, but also this box set offers some of the series very finest moments, making it something every fan will want to snatch up instantly.
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