STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON FOUR
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Patrick Stewart as JEAN-LUC PICARD
Jonathan Frakes as WILLIAM RIKER
LeVar Burton as GEORDI LA FORGE
Michael Dorn as WORF
Gates McFadden as BEVERLY CRUSHER
Marina Sirtis as DEANNA TROI
Brent Spiner as DATA
Wil Wheaton as WESLEY CRUSHER
Created by: Gene Roddenberry
BY KEVIN CARR
Continuing their remastered Blu-ray releases of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Paramount has released the fourth season of the series, as well as the stand-alone season finale cliffhanger “Redemption.”
Following up what was arguably the moment when the then-new franchise hit its stride, the fourth season begins with the resolution to the groundbreaking cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds.” Of course, if you have already bought that standalone Blu-ray, the first episode of the season is a repeat. However, only 44 minutes later, you can dive into the other episodes from the series.
By its fourth season, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” had earned its stripes. It no longer had to suffer week to week in uncertainty. “The Best of Both Worlds” had helped bring back the season-finale cliffhanger, and people had finally taken notice of the new series. This allowed the writing and production team to breathe a bit with the stories they set up.
While secondary characters got their own episodes in the first three seasons of the show, there seemed to be a greater focus on diversifying the storylines. Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton) and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) were the secondary characters that got some solid storylines. In particularly, “The Mind’s Eye,” which pays homage to the “Manchurian Candidate,” gave Geordi some unique moments as he is brainwashed into assassinating a Klingon. For Crusher, she gets one of the best mindbender episodes, “Remember Me,” in which she starts to see the people in her life disappear from reality.
Of course, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner) got some solid episodes as well, but they did hand off their duties more often it seems in this seasons. Highlights of their episodes saw Picard traveling home to France to reconcile with his brother in “Family” and Data meeting his creator Noonien Soong and his evil brother Lore (both also played by Spiner) in “Brothers.”
Part of what was so special about season four of the series was the risks the writers started to take. At the time of release, the film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” was a popular movie, suggesting a Robin Hood crossover in the episode “Qpid.” There were also some greater story arcs that were addressed, including Worf (Michael Dorn) trying to clear his family’s name as well as ties to the deceased Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) showing up in multiple episodes.
Family seems to be the theme of this season, in which the audience gets a look at those related to the main characters, including Tasha Yar’s sister, Worf’s adoptive parents, Picard’s brother and even a surprise look at Wesley Crusher’s (Wil Wheaton) father Jack.
The focus on more intimate storylines in this season drew from the more speculative fiction nature of the series, and the action moments were muted quite a bit. As a fan of the adventure in the series, this was a bit of a let-down, but I forgave it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen the character grown in the supporting cast that we have recently seen in the lead characters.
Like the previous remastered seasons, the look of the series is fantastic. The colors pop now, as opposed to the more muted palette of the episodes on VHS and DVD. Additionally, the special effects have been punched up. However, these new tweaks don’t come across as anachronistic or out-of-place. Rather, they are enhanced versions of what was capable of in the early 1990s. There isn’t the jarring digital effects that can be seen in the “Star Wars” special editions. Instead, they look like proper finished effects with a better budget than what was available (both technology-wise and money-wise) back during the show’s production.
The “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Blu-rays are a bit pricey, but for a fan who wants to relive the show in the best possible way, they are well worth the cost.
The six-disc set includes a multi-part documentary called “The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation” as well as an hour-long “In Conversation” moment with the art department. There are audio commentaries for the episodes “Brothers” and “Reunion,” as well as a gag reel, deleted scenes, “Archival Mission Logs” and episodic promos.