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

July 21st, 2012

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation was the hotly anticipated return of the Star Trek franchise to TV. The Original Series began in 1966 and the movie franchise began in 1979. The Voyage Home was a huge hit, which set the stage for the franchise's return to live action television. The Next Generation lasted for seven seasons, so clearly it found an audience. But did it get off to a strong start? And is the leap to high definition worth the price?

The Show

The answer to the first question is no. As I mentioned in my review of The Next Level, Star Trek: The Next Generation gets off to a slow start. Like it is with many shows, the pilot is one of the worst episodes. The creators have to introduce too many new characters, too many relationships, too many ideas. The writers don't know what to do with the characters, the actors are still working out their characters as well. The episode does give a good introduction to the series and offers a glimpse of some of the highlights ahead. The Naked Now is not one such highlight. It is a remake / sequel to The Naked Time from the original series, but it just isn't as well done. It was there simply to link the old and the new, without bringing enough new. It's arguably weaker than the pilot. Code of Honor is arguably the worst episode of season one and possibly the worst episode from the entire series. (I don't count Shades of Gray as an episode. It's a poor excuse for a clip show.)

The Last Outpost introduces the Ferengi. ... Thank goodness the Ferengi evolved from how they are depicted here. It is a step up from the previous episode, while Armin Shimerman is a welcome addition to any episode, but it is still weaker than average for the season. Oh thank god. Where No One Has Gone Before is the fifth episode of the series (sixth if you count the pilot as two episodes) and it is the first one that is actually good. Stanley Kamel has a guest appearance as an arrogant propulsion expert sent to the U.S.S. Enterprise to improve their warp engine. Meanwhile, his assistant, The Traveler (Eric Menyuk), takes a special interest in Wesley. That was a short winning streak. Lonely Among Us is a mediocre episode about warring species, the Anticans and the Selay, both of whom want to enter the Federation. Meanwhile, an entity is attacking members of the crew and damaging the ship. Justice is a heavy-handed episode that tries to say something about justice, but fails. Not the worst episode from the first season, but worst on disc two. The Battle is the return of the Ferengi, and it is much better than their first appearance. It deals with some battle from Jean-Luc Picard's past, and revenge.

Q returns in Hide and Q and messes with the crew by offering William Riker the powers of the Q. It's better than the pilot, but not by a lot. About average for season one. Haven introduces us to Counselor Deanna Troi's mom, Lwaxana Troi. ... Moving on. (Majel Barrett was so much better in the original series.) The Big Goodbye is a malfunctioning holodeck episode, which is usually a bad sign, as that plot device quickly became a cliché. However, it is actually well-done in this episode. Some might call this the best episode of season one. It is certainly a contender and likely in the top five. The Enterprise returns to the home planet of Lieutenant Commander Data in Datalore and we meet his evil twin, Lore. I know, evil twins are a stupid cliché, but Lore turned out to be a very good character. Angel One is a heavy-handed political episode, and just like Justice, it is one of the worst episodes of the season.

11001001 is one of the best episodes of the season. It involves aliens doing alien things and the crew of the Enterprise trying to solve the mystery. No political allegory, just a good sci-fi mystery, with a good guest appearance by Carolyn McCormick, who plays a computer simulated woman whom Riker falls in love with. Too Short a Season is about an old diplomat who is needed for one last negotiation. He takes a reverse aging drug in order to complete his mission, but it has side effects. It's a good premise, but the execution is weak. In When the Bough Breaks technologically advanced aliens kidnap all of the children on the Enterprise. Good. There's shouldn't be kids on the Enterprise. It's a below average episode, even for season one. Home Soil is one of the better episodes of the season. It's about a group of terraformers who start to encounter serious problems and the Enterprise has to help figure out what's going on. The setup and the pay off are good, it deals with subjects that are both scientific and philosophical. In Coming of Age, Wesley has to take his Starfleet entrance exam. Meanwhile, an old colleague of Picard, Admiral Gregory Quinn, brings news of a potential threat to the Federation. It's about average for the season. The second story is more setup than payoff, so it is hard to judge it in that regard.

Heart of Glory deals with a battle in the Neutral Zone. The Enterprise rescues two survivors, Klingons. They are looking for a place to be true Klingons, warriors, and they try and recruit Worf to their cause. One of the best episodes of the season. In The Arsenal of Freedom, the crew of the Enterprise investigate a planet where all of the people have disappeared, but they discover planet's automated defense systems are still active, and it learns from the crew's actions. Granted, it is a little heavy-handed, but it is smartly written and has good action. Plus, it gives Lieutenant Geordi LaForge a chance to shine. Heck, even Counselor Troi is important here. I like this one better than most. On the other hand, Symbiosis is heavy-handed and poorly written, although I do like Picard's use of the Prime Directive here. Skin of Evil marks the end of Lieutenant Tasha Yar, which is sad. The episode is average, maybe a little above average, but that's it. She deserved a better send-off, but fortunately the actress was able to return a few times later on. We'll Always Have Paris deals with time fluctuations and a dimensional rift. Plus we see Picard connect with a woman from his past. It's average for the season, but not more.

Conspiracy is arguably the best episode from the entire season. I won't say more to avoid spoilers. In The Neutral Zone, the Enterprise finds an old ship with three people cryogenically frozen. It has been drifting in space for centuries, and the inhabitants have trouble adjusting. Meanwhile, there is activity in the Neutral Zone and the Enterprise is sent to investigate to see if the Romulans are the source. It's above average for the season, but the Romulan storyline is more interesting than the A-plot.

If we use Encounter at Farpoint as our baseline for the season, there are about a dozen episodes that are better than that episode, half a dozen that are weaker, and about half a dozen that are roughly the same. Of the top ten episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation's entire run, none are from the first season. The best episode, Conspiracy isn't even in the top 25%. That said, there are enough episodes that are worth watching that fans of the series will be entertained overall. Just keep in mind that the show got better in season two, and especially season three.

The Extras

Extras on Disc one start with Energized!, which is a 24-minute long featurette looking at upgrading the series into high definition. Fans of the show will want to check this out, and the side-by-side comparison is impressive. There are also episodic promos, as well as archival promos for the original launch of the show. There are no real extras, just episodic promos, on discs two through five. Disc six starts with Stardate Revisited, a three-part, 90-minute long feature on the creation of the show from its inception, to the casting, to the early filming, etc. It ends with a, "To Be Continued..." There are also 8 minutes of outtakes. That's two hours of new extras, while there is also more than an hour of archival extras, that includes a featurette on the origins of the series, a look at some of the characters, a retrospective, etc. That's a really good selection of extras, but I would have liked some audio commentary tracks, or trivia tracks. Something to check out while watching the episodes.

As I mentioned in my review of The Next Level, the audio and video are amazing. The quality of the video is so amazing, that my only concern is that some of the make-up effects look bad as a result. They were able to clean up and improve a lot of the special effects, but problems with prosthetics that were unnoticeable on standard definition video are impossible to fix. The show doesn't look as good as a TV series made today, but that's hardly an insult. The audio is just as good with excellent clarity, active surround sound speakers, directional effects, pans, the subwoofer gets a workout in nearly every episode, etc. It's a 7.1 track, so it does take advantage of the extra speakers, but it is not the most active 7.1 track I've heard.

Finally, we get to the price. The list price is $140. That means to grab the entire series, it will cost nearly $1,000. Ouch. That's beyond, "Ouch." Right now on, it costs $60, so fans will have to set aside just over $400 to grab all seven seasons. That's a lot of money. Is it worth it? For the hardcore fans it will be and the studio knows that.

The Verdict

In some ways it must suck to be a more casual Star Trek fan. There are so many fanatics out there that the merchandise is priced higher that other shows, because the studio knows there are enough people willing to pay. In the case of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One there are only two downsides to the Blu-ray there are no audio commentary tracks and / or trivia tracks, and the price-per-minute is high. That said, it is still worth picking up, but the price might prevent it from being a contender for Pick of the Week.

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