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

July 24th, 2013

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the most successful syndicated shows of all time. It ran for seven seasons and was seen by millions every week. I've had a chance to review all three previous seasons. Season one was mostly mediocre, while season two had better highs, but worse lows. It was season three where the show reached its full potential. Is season four just as good? Is it even better? Or does it slip a little in quality?

The Show

The season starts out with the second half of Best of Both Worlds, which I reviewed here. It is one of the best episodes in the franchise, not just in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The second episode is Family, which has Jean-Luc Picard recovering from the Borg by returning to France to stay with his family. It is during this episode we learn the real reason Picard wanted to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy: to get away from his brother. It is a great episode, but much more of a family drama than a Sci-fi adventure like the rest of the franchise. In Brothers, Data takes over the Enterprise for reasons even he can't explain, but when he arrives at his destination, he finds Dr. Noonien Soong, his creator. Shortly after that, Lore shows up. Dr. Noonien Soong called Data to him because Dr. Noonien is dying and wanted to give Data a chip that will install emotions. He didn't even know Lore was reactivated. However, Data and Lore continue their sibling rivalry. This is a very good episode as well and Brent Spiner's acting is excellent, as usual. Suddenly Human is one of the weaker episodes. It is the only episode on Disc one that I didn't immediately recognize, and for good reason. It is forgettable. The Enterprise find a disabled alien ship, but they are worried it might be a trap. What they find is even more surprising. They find one survivor, a human. However, this human has been raised by these aliens for so long he considers himself one of them and doesn't want to return to his human family. It is a little ham-fisted and tends to gloss over some important details. (The boy's parents were killed and he was kidnapped.) Fortunately, Remember Me is one of the better episodes of the season, and one of the few to focus on Dr. Beverly Crusher. In the episode, people aboard the Enterprise disappear; however, only Dr. Crusher even realizes they are missing. Excellent episode with a great Sci-fi mystery and Gates McFadden gives an amazing performance. I wish she were given stronger scripts.

Disc two starts with Legacy, which takes place on Turkana 4, which is where Tasha Yar grew up. It has been in a state of near constant warfare since their government collapsed years and years ago. The crew meet Ishara Yar (Beth Toussaint), Tasha's sister and there's some talk she might follow in Tasha's footsteps and escape her violent homeworld. Reunion is both really awesome, and really terrible at the same time. It involves the return of K'Ehleyr, which is great, because she and Worf have good chemistry together. It also deals with the Klingons and their politics, which again is a great part of the story. It also introduces Alexander, Worf's son. The character never really clicked for me, and I'm not alone in that regard. Future Imperfect starts at Riker's birthday party. The party is interrupted when they detect signals that might be evidence of a secret Romulan base. Riker, Worf, and Geordi LaForge go to investigate, but there's a problem beaming up and when Riker wakes up, it's 16 years in the future and he's the captain of the Enterprise with absolutely no memory of the years that have passed. It's a good episode, for the most part, but there are one too many twists. Final Mission is the final episode for Wesley Crusher as a regular, but it is merely average. He deserved better. The Loss is really no better. It focuses on Counselor Deanna Troi, who loses her empathic powers and believes she can no longer be ship counselor without them. The writers never really found a way to use Deanna Troi in a consistent manner. It's a shame.

Disc three starts with Data's Day, which actually involves the marriage between Miles O'Brien and Keiko (Rosalind Chao). Data is asked to be an integral part of the ceremony, which gives him an excellent front seat to observe human emotions. And there are a lot of conflicting emotions when it comes to weddings. This is an excellent episode that focuses on Data trying to be more human, which is something that TNG did really well. Plus Miles O'Brien is my favorite of the supporting cast. The Wounded is another really strong episode and introduces the Cardassians. Fans of Deep Space Nine know all about them. Speaking of which, I can't wait till that show comes out on Blu-ray. This episode deals with a potential war between the Federation and the Cardassians, which might be started by a rogue Federation Captain, who thinks the Cardassians are preparing for war. In Devil's Due, the Enterprise comes across a planet that fears the devil has come to reclaim it. At first they assume it is just superstitions, then this devil, Arda, shows up and claims not only the planet, but the Enterprise, which was in orbit at the time. Clues starts with the Enterprise having a bit of downtime between missions. The crew is able to pursue hobbies that their recent busy schedules prevented them from enjoying. This includes Jean-Luc Picard playing Dixon Hill in the holodeck with Guinan. Dixon Hill is a Film Noir detective game on the holodeck, but it is interrupted when a real mystery happens aboard the ship. They are flying past a nebula when they detect an M-class planet, a planet capable of sustaining life. This is very unusual and worth exploring. However, before they can get close to the planet, they encounter a wormhole, which sucks them in and spits them out. It also knocks them unconscious for about 30 seconds, all of them except Data. Here's where the mystery deepens. While Data claims they were unconscious for 30 seconds, the evidence points to them being out for over a day. Why would Data lie? And what really happened to them? First Contact has nothing to do with First Contact, the movie, but looks at what first contact would feel like to an alien race. Riker is leading the investigation of this planet, undercover as an alien, when he is injured and taken to the hospital, the doctors realize he's not one of them. It looks at the political ramifications this event would have on a species that is on the cusp of interstellar flight. Also, it has a fun guest spot by Bebe Neuwirth.

Dr. Leah Brahms (Susan Gibney) returns in Galaxy's Child. She, or to be more accurate, a holographic representation of her, helped Geordi LaForge save the Enterprise in Booby Trap. He gets to greet her, but the real Dr. Leah Brahms. I think I like this episode more than most. Night Terrors have the Enterprise investigating a missing Federation vessel, the USS Brittain. When they find it, all aboard the ship are dead, killed by violent acts. There is one survivor, a Betazed, but he's in a catatonic state. Unable to find a reason why the USS Brittain is immobile or why the crew killed each other. Jean-Luc Picard orders the Enterprise to leave, but it too is stuck. Worse still, some of the crew of the Enterprise begin to act paranoid and irritable, just like the crew of the USS Brittain. It's a good episode with a decent Sci-fi mystery to it. Not among the best the season has to offer, but still good. On the other hand, Identity Crisis is kind of weak. It is not a very good script and there's just not enough there to carry the episode. The Nth Degree is a Barclay episode, so you know it is awesome. In this episode, Barclay and Geordi are trying to fix a deepspace array when Barclay is hit by a beam coming from an alien probe. He seems unharmed, but soon shows signs of being much, much smarter and his intelligence grows at an astounding rate. Qpid is a Q episode. It also marks the return of Vash (Jennifer Hetrick). I like both of these characters and it is a fun episode (I particularly like Worf in this episode). That said, it is one of the weakest Q episodes in the show's run. (It is better than all but one of the post-TNG Q episodes.)

Disc five begins with The Drumhead. The Enterprise is hosting a Klingon exchange officer, J'Dan (Henry Woronicz). However, it appears he is a traitor working with the Romulans. It is alleged that he stole information on the warp drive, and then sabotaged it. In order to get to the bottom of this, retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie is brought in. She quickly solves the case, but believes there is a bigger conspiracy at work and soon sets her eyes on Jean-Luc Picard. Up next is Half a Life which is... oh my god... Half a Life is a Lwaxana Troi episode... and it's good. I don't mean it is good, for a Lwaxana Troi episode, which would be a backhanded compliment. It is actually good, when compared to most episodes of The Next Generation. In the episode, Lwaxana Troi falls in love with an alien, Timicin. This is not unusual, as she falls in love a lot. However, this alien species has a ritual where when a person reaches the age of 60, they commit suicide. The Host is not so good. It deals with an interesting subject matter, gender and romance, and introduces a rather unusual alien species, the Trill, but the execution is mixed. Dr. Beverly Crusher falls in love with an alien, only to learn the alien is actually just a symbiont. Worse still, when the symbiont's host body is mortally wounded, it is placed in Riker, but the Riker-symbiont wants to continue the romance. Awkward. Interesting ideas, but a weak script. The disc ends with The Mind's Eye. This episode begins with Geordi LaForge on his way to an Artificial Intelligence conference, but along the way, he is kidnapped and brainwashed by Romulans, who wish to use him to assassinate a Klingon ambassador. It is a good episode, but there's a twist we can't talk about.

In Theory is an interesting episode, as it gives one of the regular castmembers a romantic interest... Data. Jenna D'Sora (Michele Scarabelli) develops a crush on Data and Data sees this as an opportunity to explore this side of humanity more. There's also a more Sci-fi plot and the two clash, which prevents the episode from being a major success. It is still good, but not great. The final epsiode of season four is Redemption, Part 1, which I will not talk about, because it is also being released as two-part Blu-ray, which I will review shortly.

Season four of Star Trek: The Next Generation includes several episodes that are classics, including the season opener and the cliffhanger ending. Clues, Brothers, Remember Me, and many others are excellent. There are no truly bad episodes, while the worst episode, Suddenly Human, still has some merits.

The Extras

Extras include audio commentary tracks on Brothers and Reunion, which is fewer than I would like. Disc one has a 17-minute overview of season four. Disc two has a 17-minute interview featurette with some of the cast about the events of season four, focusing mostly on Wesley Crusher, Counselor Deanna Troi, and Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), who was introduced last season and also makes an appearance this season. Disc three has a 14-minute featurette on filming locations used in the franchise. Chronicles from the Final Frontier is an 18-minute look at the fourth season as an overview. Disc five has a few featurettes, including a 17-minute featurette on the production, including talking about the actors who turned to directing in this series. Select Historical Data is a ten minute look at the production of alien in Galaxy's Child and the Vor'cha Klingon attack cruise, and other ships. Inside the Star Trek Archives has some behind-the-scenes stories about guest spots, hidden pregnancies, LGBT subject matters that were addressed this season, awards the show won, etc. Disc six has another installment of In Conversation, this time with the art department. It is more than an hour long, and there are some great stories told. Up next is the two part Relavitity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Homecoming and Prosperity, and there are a lot of behind-the-scenes stories told by the cast and members of the crew. Combined they are just under an hour, meaning there is two hours of new extras on this set. Finally, there are three and a half minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes from eight episodes.

As always, the technical presentation is phenomenal. The show looks and sounds as good as any TV show currently on TV. In fact, since the show earned Emmys for its sound, it is better than most TV on DVD releases that are released today.

And as always, the only downside is the price. Right now on, the price is $75, which is high for a catalog TV on Blu-ray release. That said, fans of the show are used to these prices.

The Verdict

After two weak seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation hit its stride during season three, while season four is just as strong. There are plenty of extras on the six-disc set and the technical presentation is fantastic. On the other hand, the Blu-ray is expensive. I think it is worth the price, but others might not be so sure.

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Filed under: Video Review, Whoopi Goldberg, Chad Allen, Majel Barrett, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn, Marta DuBois, Jonathan Frakes, Jeremy Kemp, Gates McFadden, Colm Meaney, Bebe Neuwirth, Suzie Plakson, Dwight Schultz, Jean Simmons, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, David Ogden Stiers, Wil Wheaton