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

April 22nd, 2013

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven seasons and while the first two seasons were mixed, season three is widely regarded at the beginning of the classic period. Is this true? Or is it only good when compared to the first two seasons?

The Show

I've got good news and bad news. There were a lot of changes at the beginning of season three, on both sides of the camera. One of the most immediately noticeable, like the return of Dr. Beverly Crusher. Others were behind-the-scenes and took a while to have the full effect. Gene Roddenberry was less hands on during this season and it took a bit for the new creative team to find their footing and there were some early missteps.

These missteps include the season premiere, Evolution. The episode focuses on Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), who is on the Enterprise to complete his life's work and his most important astrophysical experiment. Unfortunately, Wesley created nanobots that evolved intelligence and they get in the way. It's not a terrible episode, but it is only average compared to the first two seasons. In The Ensigns of Command, the Federation received communication from the Sheliak, a species that prefers isolation. One of the planets they own is inhabited by a human colony and they have given the Federation four days to remove the colony, or they will. Since the planet has high levels of radiation, Data is the only crewmember that can survive on the planet. Once he gets there, he finds a thriving colony of 15 thousand people, not the couple dozen they were expecting. Not only that, but since the conditions are so harsh, the colonists are too proud of what they've done and refuse to leave. Only two episodes into the season and we have an episode that is close to great, but not quite. It would be in the top third of either the first or the second season, but impressively, it is below average for season three. That's a good indication regarding how much this show improved this season. The Survivors is even better. There's a good mystery right from the beginning, as the Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Delta Rana star system, but when they get there the surface of the planet has been destroyed, no lifeforms, no artificial structures, there's not even water. They then detect the only thing that survived: a single house in the middle of a patch of vegetation, which was unharmed. The two inhabitants are Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, an elderly couple. The enterprise sends an away team to investigate. Who Watches the Watchers deals with the Prime Directive, which means it is an episode that can divide people. On the one hand, a lot of it is really good with strong drama and a message that should apply to the real world and not just the Star Trek one. On the other hand, they treat the Prime Directive like it is holy law and their interpretation is stupid. The Prime Directive should state that is it improper to interfere with the development of less advanced species, but not at the expense of their lives. If you caused a problem, the Prime Directive shouldn't be used as an excuse not to fix it. The Bonding is possibly the worst episode from this season. It tries to be emotional, but it's just bad.

Disc two starts with Booby Trap, which is a very good episode. It deals with the 1,000-year old aftermath of a war between the Menthars and Promoellians, a war that drove both species to extinction. The crew finds a Promellian battle cruiser, which Jean-Luc Picard is eager to investigate, over the objections of Riker, who thinks the mission is too dangerous. It turns out he's partially correct. There's a booby trap on the old ship, but it affects the Enterprise. (On a side note, I love the "ship in the bottle" discussion at the beginning of the episode. Chief Miles O'Brien is the only one besides Picard who has even heard of them.) Geordi LaForge also has an important subplot involving an attempt to fix the Enterprise that involved Dr. Leah Brahms (Susan Gibney), who gets a second guest appearance next season. The Enemy is also a Geordi LaForge centered episode. He's trapped on a planet with a Romulan commander and the two have to figure a way to survive a powerful storm before rescue can arrive. It is just as good as the previous episode. The Price, on the other hand, is a dud. The science part about the possible stable wormhole is interesting, but the romance Counselor Deanna Troi is involved in is weak. The Vengeance Factor is slightly better, but still one of the weaker episodes of the season. This is a shame, because until the very ending, it was an excellent episode and as a character, Yuta (Lisa Wilcox) deserved a more satisfying resolution. The Defector is arguably the first classic episode of season three. In it, the Enterprise rescues a Romulan defector, Setol (James Sloyan), but Jean-Luc Picard doesn't know if he can trust him. There's lot of intrigue and several great twists and an amazing ending.

Zefram Cochran shows up in The Hunted. He is the leader of a planet, Angosia, that wants to join the Federation. Unfortunately, at the time the Enterprise is there for an inspection, they have an issue with an escaped convict. Picard offers to help, but the prisoner turns out to be a lot to handle. The prisoner has some secrets, as do the Angosians. It has a good mystery and good action. Plus, like much of the best Science Fiction, it deals with real world issues in a way that is removed enough from reality to be looked at with clear eyes. It's a very good episode, but not quite a classic. The High Ground has Dr. Beverly Crusher captured by terrorists while the rest of the Enterprise tries to rescue her. It hits a lot of the same points as the previous episode, but it is not as good. Déjà Q is a classic. Q is stripped of his powers and thrown out of the Q Continuum and before this happened, he choose to be reborn as a human and placed on the Enterprise. A Matter of Perspective has a good idea, but a mixed execution. In it, Riker is accused of murdering a scientist and Picard and the crew of the Enterprise have to figure out what happened before Riker is convicted. Yesterday's Enterprise is another classic. The Enterprise D comes across a rift in the space time continuum and while they are investigating that, the Enterprise C shows up. With that, there are major changes on the ship, including Tasha Yar being alive. Christopher McDonald has a guest role as a character that isn't an ass, which is rare for the actor. It's nice to see him play a good guy. Also, Guinan introduces Worf to prune juice. This is not only one of the best episodes of the season, it is one of the best episodes of the series and of the franchise.

Disc four starts with The Offspring, which is a classic episode as well. Data learns of new computer technology that allows him to make another android like himself, Lal. Data sees this as simply his chance to procreate, but not everyone agrees. Amazing episode with top-notch writing and acting. Also, at 7:35 the greatest event in the history of the Star Trek Franchise occurs. We see the famous Jean-Luc Picard Double-Facepalm. For the first time in High Definition. It's worth the price of the Blu-ray all by itself. Tony Todd has a guest appearance in Sins of the Father, which is yet another classic episode. This one deals with Worf's family, which is a storyline that lasts for years. Allegiance is not a classic, but it is still very good. Picard is kidnapped and replaced by a perfect replica. While captured, he is forced to undergo some kind of scientific experiment involving three other captured aliens. Meanwhile, the perfect Picard is generating suspicion on the Enterprise. Captain's Holiday has Picard involved in a little more action and romance than we normally see him engaged in, which is a plus, but the execution is only mixed. Overall it is good, but not great.

Tin Man is a very good episode, but not a classic episode. It involves a Betazoid with a problem regarding his telepathic abilities. He can't turn them off. As a result, he's bombarded with others' thoughts and has had mental health issues, but he's been invaluable when it comes to first contact. In this episode, he's brought in to communicate with an intelligent spaceship that is found drifting very near a star that is about to go supernova. Hollow Pursuits is the introduction of Barclay. It's not the best episode he was in, but it is still a very good episode. Saul Rubinek stars in The Most Toys. He plays an alien who kidnaps Data in a very clever and ingenious plan. He wants Data... because he wants Data. Data is unique, and he collects unique things. It's as simple as that. No grand schemes or greater desires than mere ownership. I like this episode more than most, but I'm a big fan of Saul Rubinek and he nails this role. He comes across as slimy and cowardly, but also dangerous. The mystery is intelligently written, and the crew of the Enterprise uses intelligence to solve it, not technobabble. On a side note, personally, I think Data lied to Riker in the end. I think Data just saw the logic that if Kivas Fajo wasn't killed, he would kill again. While Data was programmed not to harm anyone, he realized his inaction would result in others being harmed and that was worse than harming one bad guy. This is a lesson Batman needs to learn. Sarek is yet another classic episode. This one involves Sarek (Mark Lenard), Spock's father. Sarek is an Ambassador and he is undertaking one last mission. However, in his old age, his health is deteriorating and this could threaten the mission. Ménage à Troi is a Lwaxana Troi episode, which means it is not good, but it is better than most such episodes. (Next season we get Half a Life, which is the only truly good Lwaxana episode from TNG.) Wesley's B-plot is the highlight of the episode.

The final disc begins with Transfigurations, which has the Enterprise recovering a life pod with a badly injured alien on board. Dr. Beverly Crusher begins to have emotional feelings for her patient. Its below average for the season. The season ends with The Best of Both Worlds: Part 1, which is widely regarded as the best episode of the series. We will have a more detailed review of both parts later this week with the release of Best of Both Worlds Blu-ray.

Star Trek: The Next Generation dramatically improved during season three. Of the 26 episodes on season three, seven are arguably classics, with ten others that are very good. Even the worst episode here, The Bonding, is roughly average compared to the first two seasons. That's impressive.

The Extras

Extras include audio commentary tracks on The Bonding, two on Yesterday's Enterprise, The Offspring, and Sins of the Father. Four of these are new for the Blu-ray. Disc one also has an 18-minute featurette that is an overview of the third season, but this is from the previous DVD release. Disc two has a 14-minute interview featurette with some of the cast. Disc three has a 13-minute featurette on some of the best episodes of the season. Disc four has a 20-minute featurette on the production of the series. Disc five has a five-minute featurette on David Rappaport, who was originally cast as Kivas Fajo, but tragically committed suicide after filming had begun. There is also a nine-minute gag reel. Disc six has Inside the Writers' Room, a 70-minute look at the writing process. Next up is a three-part Resistance is Futile: Assimilating the Next Generation, which is a look at the third season and what changes happened during the season. The three parts run a total of 90 minutes. Finally, there's a 14-minute tribute to Michael Pillar, who passed away in 2005. That's a ton of extras, including most that are new for Blu-ray.

The technical presentation is incredible, as we've come to expect. In fact, I think it looks better this season that the past two seasons. The audio is immersive and powerful when call upon, while the special effects never drown out the digalogue.

Like last time, the only downside is the price. Right now on, the price is just under $80, which is high. In fact, $78 for the list price would be a tad high.

The Verdict

Star Trek: The Next Generation really came into its own during Season Three. There were no real duds in the season, while close to a third of them are rightly considered classics. The Blu-ray is expensive, but it is worth it.

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Filed under: Video Review, Whoopi Goldberg, Majel Barrett, LeVar Burton, James Cromwell, Denise Crosby, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Anne Haney, Christopher McDonald, Gates McFadden, Colm Meaney, Leonard Nimoy, David Rappaport, Saul Rubinek, Dwight Schultz, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, Hallie Todd, Tony Todd, Wil Wheaton, Gene Roddenberry