By the time season 4 rolls around in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe, the show has evolved. In the beginning, it seemed to be driven by the protagonists; the “alien-of-the-week” or “problem-of-the-week” be it medical or technological. In the fourth season, the show focuses mostly on the crew of the Enterprise and the continued growth of their characters. Nowhere is this more evident than in episodes such as Family and Reunion.
It also marks the first time a serialization format is broached in this universe. Prior to this season, each episode had to be self-contained due to syndication constraints. The producers were concerned about episodes being shown out of order and not being able to be understood unless you had seen the episode before.
This season changed the rules in that respect and paved the way for shows like Babylon 5 and the next Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which contained continuous stories rather than self-contained episodes or season-long story arcs.
It is also in the fourth season that Wesley Crusher departs the series (can we hear a collective cheer out there?) In the episode Final Mission. Though he will return for occasional appearances later on, it is the end of his appearing regularly on the bridge of the Enterprise.
And for anyone who thought after Yesterday’s Enterprise that we had seen the last of Tasha Yar, there’s a big surprise coming in this season’s cliffhanger final episode. As the late John Colicos (Kor in Star Trek and Baltar in Battlestar Galactica) once said at a convention I attended: “In science fiction and soap operas, you’re never really dead.”
To get to the end of the season, there must be a beginning. Here it is the conclusion of season three’s cliffhanger The Best of Both Worlds. Picard is taken prisoner by the Borg as they plow through Federation territory intent on assimilating everyone in their path. It is a brilliant episode to start the season with.
Disc One contains the episodes The Best of Both Worlds Part II, Family, Brothers, and Suddenly Human.
Disc Two contains the episodes Remember Me, Legacy, Reunion, and Future Imperfect.
Disc Three contains the episodes Final Mission, The Loss, Data’s Day, and The Wounded.
Disc Four contains the episodes Devil’s Due, Clues, First Contact, and Galaxy’s Child.
Disc Five contains the episodes Night Terrors, Identity Crisis, The Nth Degree, and Qpid.
Disc Six contains the episodes The Drumhead, Half Life, The Host, and The Mind’s Eye.
Disc Seven contains the episodes In Theory and Redemption Part I. Also on this disc is the Special Features.
Again, Paramount has done a terrific job with the Special Features. In the Mission Overview: Mission Logs Year 4 there are interviews with many of the production staff, cast members, and some guest stars. We also see footage of the 100th Episode Celebration with Gene Roddenberry when his health is beginning to fail. There was a lot of time devoted to talk of the episode Qpid and it becomes clear just how much fun the cast had doing this episode.
In the Selected Crew Analysis, Wil Wheaton talks about his character Wesley and his decision to leave the show. He even talks about the fans’ feelings towards his character a bit as well. Marina Sirtis talks about portraying Counselor Troi and why she stayed with the show even though she didn’t get too many episodes centering around her character. Jennifer Hetrick talks about playing the character Vash who is something of a romantic interest for Captain Picard. There is also some discussion of stunt work needed in this season by Jonathan Fraked (who portrays Commander Riker) and Marina Sirtis.
In the Departmental Briefing, the first half talks about the production of the series. Specifically, Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) and Jonathan Frakes talk about their experiences directing various episodes of the series. David Livingston – who has become a regular director of various Star Trek series talks about his move from production to the director’s chair as well.
The second half of this Special Feature talks about the makeup required. Brent Spiner (Data) is shown in the chair as he is transformed into data’s creator, Dr. Soong for the episode Brohters. There is a bit about the makeup and costuming on LeVar Burton as Geordi in Identity Crisis as well as Patrick Stewart in The Best of Both Worlds Part II.
New Life and New Civilizations talks a bit about set design and the occasional use of exterior shots and the problems encountered. It is very interesting to see how the world in the 23rd century is created using 20th century settings, plus paintings, models, etc.
Chronicles from the Final Frontier focuses on the writing in Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are interviews with Ronald Moore, Brannon Braga, and Jeri Taylor. It is very interesting to see Braga talk about the general disdain most Star Trek fans have for him (myself included). It is also fascinating to hear how ideas are thrown around and storylines developed.
These discs are a wonderful addition to the DVD collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Any Star Trek fan would be pleased to have them. With only three more seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation to be released, I am beginning to wonder (and hope) if Paramount will do the same thing with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
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