By the time the sixth season rolled around STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION already had three very solid seasons of mature and entertaining science fiction under its belt. In the sixth season, the show continued to push the characters into new directions with even more intriguing stories that mixed engaging science fiction with occasional social commentary. The episodes that comprised season six were by and large of a superior nature, with even fewer instances than ever before, in which the writers were unable to hit a home run. Personally, I liked just about everything I saw in the sixth season, and even count a few of this year's episodes amongst my personal favorites. Paramount Home Entertainment continues blasting the discs out the door like photon torpedoes, and has made all twenty-six episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SIX available on DVD in a seven disc boxed set for an approximate retail price of $149.98.
Disc one contains the episodes Time's Arrow, Part II, Realm of Fear, Man of the People and Relics. Time's Arrow, Part II finds the Enterprise’s command staff trapped in 19th Century San Francisco, as they search for Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and a group of aliens that have been feeing on the life energy of humans from Earth’s past. Realm of Fear marks another appearance of reoccurring character Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), whose fear of the ship’s transporters lead the crew to a startling discovery. In Man of the People, the crew sees an unexpected side of Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), after an alien mediator takes an unhealthy interest in her. Relics has the crew of the Enterprise responding to an ancient distress call, where they discover Starfleet’s most inventive engineer, Captain Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), who managed to keep himself alive for eighty years by jury-rigging a transporter system.
Disc two contains the episodes Schisms, True-Q, Rascals and A Fistful Of Datas. In Schisms, crewmembers begin having similar nightmares after encountering a subspace anomaly created by a modification to the ship's sensors. True-Q marks the return of the omnipotent Q (John de Lancie), who pays a call on the Enterprise in search of a member of his own race. In Rascals, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) find themselves literally reliving their childhoods after a transporter mishap. A Fistful Of Datas is certainly one of the more interesting season six episodes, one that finds Counselor Troi, Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) and Worf’s son Alexander (Brian Bonsall) trapped in the midst of a malfunctioning western style holodeck adventure, in which all the characters begin turning into iterations of Lieutenant Commander Data.
Disc three contains the episodes The Quality of Life, Chain of Command, Part I, Chain of Command, Part II and Ship in a Bottle. The Quality of Life finds Data becoming the advocate for a group of machines that he believes have become sentient. In Chain of Command, Part I, Captain Picard is relieved of his command of the Enterprise, so he can participate in an undercover mission deep in Cardassian space. Chain of Command, Part II finds Picard captured and undergoing torture by a Cardassian interrogator, who is determine to break the proud Starfleet officer. Ship in a Bottle marks the return of sentient holodeck character Professor Moriarity (Daniel Davis), who threatens the Enterprise yet again, unless a way can be found for him to leave the confines of the holodeck.
Disc four contains the episodes Aquiel, Face of the Enemy, Tapestry and Birthright, Part I. Aquiel finds Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) becoming enamored with a beautiful young officer, who is the prime suspect in a murder investigation that takes place on a relay station near Klingon space. In Face of the Enemy, Counselor Troi awakens on a Romulan vessel to find that she has be surgically altered to look like a Romulan and forced to masquerade as a Tal Shiar intelligence officer. Tapestry marks a rather notable appearance of the omnipotent Q, who offers Picard a chance to relive a mistake from his Starfleet Academy days which necessitated that his heart be replaced with a mechanical substitute. In Birthright, Part I, Worf investigates a report that his Klingon father is still alive and is being held in a Romulan prison camp.
Disc five contains the episodes Birthright, Part II, Starship Mine, Lessons and The Chase. Birthright, Part II continues with Worf making a discovery about the Romulan prison camp and his inspiring a group of young Klingons to reclaim their own birthright. Starship Mine finds Picard the sole member of the crew left on board the Enterprise during a maintenance operation, thus forcing him to deal with a group of terrorists, who are taking advantage of the starship’s vacancy. In Lessons, Picard becomes romantically involved with a new Enterprise crewmember, but is then forced to reevaluate that relationship when it begins to interfere with his command decisions. The Chase involves an archeological discovery of galactic proportions that has Picard vying with Cardassians Romulans and Klingons for the secret that has been coded into the DNA of select life forms across the quadrant.
Disc six contains the episodes Frame of Mind, Suspicions, Rightful Heir and Second Chances. Frame of Mind finds Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) awakening in a mental hospital where he is being treated for delusions that he is a Starfleet officer serving on board the Enterprise. In Suspicions, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) may be facing the end of her Starfleet career, when she invites a group of scientists on board the Enterprise, and an experiment they conduct goes horribly wrong. In Rightful Heir, Worf embraces the spiritual aspects of his Klingon heritage, which brings him face to face with Kahless, the first Klingon emperor, who died centuries ago. Second Chances returns Commander Riker to a planet on which he began a mission seven years earlier. However, upon arrival his arrival at this abandoned Federation outpost, he is shocked to discover that a transporter mishap seven years earlier created a duplicate Will Riker, who has been living there all that time.
Disc seven contains the episodes Timescape and Descent, Part I. In Timescape, Picard, Data, Troi and LaForge are returning to the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft, when they discover the Starship frozen in time and in the midst of a battle with a Romulan Warbird. Descent, Part I marks another encounter with The Borg, which has a completely unexpected effect on Data- generating a surprising emotional response in the emotionless android.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made all of the episodes from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SIX available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. In terms of image quality, the show pretty much reached its pinnacle around season four, with season five and six boasting only the mildest of improvements. The picture looks quite good on DVD, exceeding broadcast by a considerable margin, but still looking very much like an episodic television production. Film segments without any form of visual effects or other processing are the cleanest, crispest portions of every episode. Effects footage has some limitations, but still manages to look rather good. Colors are strongly rendered, without noise or smearing. Blacks are deep and solid, while contrast is flattened to accommodate the necessities of television production. Digital compression artifacts never are a true concern, even when four episodes are encoded onto the dual layered discs.
As with the previous seasons, all of the episodes contained in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SIX have been upgraded from the original surround stems to Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. I think that as the seasons progressed, the sound design of the show improved, although it did remain within the limitations of what could be reproduced on via the broadcast medium. The surround channels are a bit more active than they were in the initial seasons, but sounds are primarily ambient in nature, with the sound of the Enterprise’s engines being the key surround sound element in a majority of the episodes. There is also a bit more musical fill finding its way to the rear channel, but the surrounds still don’t have the enveloping quality of a theatrical mix. The forward soundstage is lively than the rear, with good stereo imaging and sound effect placement. Dialogue is very clean and always completely understandable. The bass channel adds a great deal of depth to the rumblings of the ship’s engines, which helps put the viewer in the midst of the action. 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 computer systems. 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 the supplemental materials for season six, which remain quite similar to those found in the previous box sets. In Mission Logs: Season Six we find Mission Overview, Bold New Directions and Departmental Briefings: Production & Profile Dan Curry. Mission Overview is a seventeen-minute look at the highlights of season six, during which several members of the production team point to this year as the most creative of all seven seasons. The program also features recent interviews with members of the cast and crew, plus vintage interviews with certain guest cast members.
Bold New Directions is a seventeen-minute program that looks at the production team taking the show in new directions, as well as cast & crewmembers breaking out into new directions of their own. Departmental Briefing: Production is a fifteen-minute look at various aspects of producing the season six episodes and some of the difficulties involved. Departmental Briefing: Profile Dan Curry is a nineteen-minute program that focuses on the work of visual effects supervisor. Also included amongst the supplements is Special Crew Profile: Data. This eighteen-minute program looks at the development of the character over the seven seasons, as well as the contributions of actor Brent Spiner to the show. Closing out the supplements is a theatrical trailer for STAR TREK: NEMESIS and a video trailer for the upcoming DVD release of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE in 2003 (woo-hoo!!!).
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SIX offers fans another excellent collection of episodes from the television series. The DVD box set looks and sounds great, so picking up this release is a no brainer for fans or anyone looking for the perfect gift for a STAR TREK fan.
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