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Featured TV on DVD Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Seven

December 26th, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Seven - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray

Star Trek: The Next Generation's Blu-ray run ended this month. I already mentioned the Blu-ray as a possible holiday gift, but since I've reviewed every other season of this series, I thought it would be strange not to do a full featured review as well. Season seven is widely regarded as the worst season since season two, but it is as bad as that? Or are there still enough solid episodes that fans will want to complete their collection?

The Show

The season starts out with the second half of Descent, which is the Data / Lore story. It is one of the better two-part episodes in the show's seven-year run. Liaisons involves three ambassadors who are trying to learn about other races and do it in strange ways. It is a relatively good episode with an interesting alien idea, but it is only relatively good and not up to what we had come to expect from the previous seasons. Interface involves Geordi's family and an experimental new technology. I like Geordi as a character, but this is not a very well written episode. Gambit starts with the crew of the Enterprise undercover, sort of, looking for Picard, but they are in a bad part of the galaxy, so they can't say who he is or why they are looking for him. They learn he was killed. They continue to search for the people who did it and eventually Riker gets on the ship of the people who killed Picard... only to find Picard among their crew.

Disc two starts with Phantasms, which begins with Data having a nightmare. He continues to have them and only Counselor Troi can help. Worse still, the Enterprise has a new warp core, but things are not going well with its installation and Data's nightmares are getting in the way. This is one of the better episodes of the season, but it would be below average for most of the previous seasons. Dark Page is a Lwaxana Troi episode and these episodes were usually among the low points of the season. Here, it is only a little below average. This is partially because the rest of the season is weaker, but also because there's a little more dramatic heft to the episode. On a side note, Kirsten Dunst has a guest appearance in this episode. Attached has Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher beam down to a planet to negotiate entrance into the Federation for the Kes. However, another group of people on that planet, the Prytt, intercept the transporter beam and capture them. The episode has good political intrigue and deals with the possible Picard / Crusher romance that was hinted at several times throughout the show's run, but never really went anywhere. Force of Nature is a message episode trying to deal with the dangers of pollution. Sadly, it is a poorly written episode and comes off as preachy and not effectve.

Inheritance is an average episode. It involves a planet that is experiencing a natural disaster, but more importantly, there is a human living on this planet who claims to be Data's mother, so to speak. She was married to Dr. Noonien Soong, Data's creator. Data gets to know her and begins to suspect something is wrong. This is one of the better episodes for this season, but would only be average for seasons 3 through 6. On the other hand, Parallels is excellent. It is one of the best episodes in the series' seven-year run. It begins with Worf returning from a bat'leth tournament and gets a nasty surprise... a surprise birthday party. At the party, he notices subtle things changing, like the flavor of the cake, Picard attending, etc. These are all very minor changes, but as the episode goes on, the changes become more substantial. This episode has an an excellent mystery with a solid Sci-fi base to it. The Pegasus involves Riker's past. His former captain, now Admiral, comes to the Enterprise in order to fix a mistake the pair made in the past. It is not quite as good as Parallels, but it is close. Homeward, on the other hand, is a weak episode. It is a "Prime Directive" episode and these are usually terrible. The Prime Directive is supposed to be there to prevent the Federation from interfering with internal affairs or exploiting less developed species. However, it is too often used as an excuse to allow people to die by natural causes, like in this episode. Sub Rosa is just bad. It focuses on Dr. Beverly Crusher, which is good, but it is ghost story, which just doesn't fit in with the series.

Lower Decks is an unusual episode, as it focuses almost exclusively on four lower-ranked members of the Enterprise who are all up for promotions. It is great to see characters that would normally just be in the background get a chance to shine. Thine Own Self involves Data being sent on a mission to retrieve a crashed probe before the local primitive people get to it, as it is radioactive and quite dangerous. However, his shuttle crashes and in the process he loses his memory. So instead safely removing the probe, he walks into the nearest village with the probe. The villagers help him and he tries to remember who he is, while the radioactive material in the probe begins to make the people there sick. Masks is an episode with a strange premise, one that would have likely never been made had this not been the last season of the show's run. It's a high-concept story that doesn't quite gel. Eye of the Beholder begins with a suicide aboard the Enterprise and Counselor Troi is part of the team investigating why he did it. I really like Counselor Troi as a character, but the writers rarely knew what to do with her and even when she did get a chance to be the lead, the character was poorly written. This is the case here. Genesis is a Barclay episode. While Data and Jean-Luc Picard are off the ship, Barclay is treated by Dr. Crusher, but the treatment goes viral and begins causing the crew to devolve. The science isn't very good, but the action is.

Journey's End is both the return and sendoff of Wesley Crusher, as well as a heavy-handed political message. Neither part works. Firstborn is just plain bad in ways that are hard to describe. The story isn't interesting and the twist at the end is stupid, to be blunt. Likewise, Bloodlines doesn't work. Jean-Luc Picard once was the captain of the Stargazer and while in command destroyed a Ferengi vessel. The father of one of those killed vowed revenge and tries to extract revenge by killing Picard's only son. However, Picard didn't even know he had a son. Emergence is another episode that is too high-concept to work. Strange things are happening on the holodeck and these events spill over to the real Enterprise. The Sci-fi mystery is interesting, but the way it plays out in the holodeck is too strange to be a complete success. Preemptive Strike is one of the better episodes of the season. It also features the return of Ensign Ro. She is going on a risky mission where she will have to go undercover in the Marquis. The Marquis are rebel Federation forces who refuse to accept the terms of the recent Federation / Cardassian peace treaty. However, since she was a rebel fighter for the Bajorans against the Cardassians, her loyalties are torn.

The final disc only has All Good Things..., which I'm going to review in full.

Looking at the overall season, there are some undoubtedly bad episodes. Dark Page, Sub Rosa, Force of Nature, Journey's End, and Firstborn are among the worst episodes since the series found its footing in Season Three. On the other hand, Descent: Part 2, Gambit, Parallels, The Pegasus, Lower Decks, All Good Things..., and to a lesser extent, To Thine Own Self and Preemptive Strike are all excellent. This hit to miss ratio is not as good as we've come to expect, but it is still good enough that it is worth picking up.

The Extras

Extras on disc one include deleted scenes on four of the five episodes. There is also a 15-minute long overview of the season. Disc two has deleted scenes on one episode. There is also a 42-minute long interview featurette with some of the directors, producers, cinematographer, etc., as well as five minutes of outtakes. There are also two featurettes that were previously on the DVD release for this season. Disc three has deleted scenes for two episodes, while Parallels has an audio commentary track. There is also a new featurette, Moments and Memories, which is a 30-minute retrospective on season seven. Disc four has deleted scenes for three episodes, plus an audio commentary track for Lower Decks. There is also Special Profiles, a 15-minute featurette from the original DVD release, which is about Q. Disc five has deleted scenes on four episodes, as well as an audio commentary track on Preemptive Strike. New to Blu-ray is an 11-minute tour of the set by Michael and Denise Okuda. Finally, there is a 10-minute featurette on the wardrobe. Disc six has a three-part, 90-minute look at the making of the series. There is also the TV special that was made for the series-finale. Finally there is an 18-minute making of featurette for the series finale from the original DVD.

Like I've said before, the technical presentation is excellent. For a show that was made starting the 1980s, Star Trek: The Next Generation has looked and sounded amazing on Blu-ray and Season Seven is no different. The details, the colors, the contrast have all been improved and the 7.1 surround sound audio track is immersive without being distracting. I can't wait to see how the next two series look in high definition.

The only downside remains the prices, which is high for this type of release ($130 list price and $70 for discount).

The Verdict

There are arguably more bad episodes on Season Seven of Star Trek: The Next Generation than there were were from seasons three through six combined. However, there are still more great episodes on this season than there are bad episodes. Combined with the extras, both new and old, and the technical presentation on the Blu-ray, and the overall value is worth the admittedly hefty price-tag.

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Filed under: Video Review, Majel Barrett, LeVar Burton, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Forbes, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Dwight Schultz, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton