If there’s one thing that makes the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation stand out, it’s the lack of the “alien of the week” syndrome. The season opens with the conclusion of the season four finale which involves the politics within the Klingon empire. In Unification Part I and Unification Part II, Leonard Nimoy returns to the Star Trek universe as Spock, the character he created in the original series and carried through six movies. In these two episodes, Spock is trying to broker a peace with the Romulan empire. This also brings back Denise Crosby as the Romulan Sela.
This was also a sad season for Star Trek fans, as it marks the season which saw the passing of Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original Star Trek series and executive producer of The Next Generation series.
However, this season has very few weak points. The weakest episode is The Game (which also happens to be an episode involving the return of Wesley Crusher to the Enterprise.). This is more than offset by all of the terrific stories and well-written scripts in other episodes. The actors are all in tune with their characters, and their performances reflect the familiarity.
Season 5 sees the addition of Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro, a recurring role which was supposed to lead to her playing the Bajoran role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but things didn’t quite work out and Nana Visitor ended up creating her own Bajoran role on the show. Still, Forbes creates an intriguing recurring character throughout this season. As a side note, Forbes can now be seen on the Fox-TV show 24.
The opening menu to each disk looks like you’re entering the holodeck. The graphics are very nice and gets the viewer into the feel of the Star Trek universe right off the bat.
Disc 1 contains the episodes Redemption Part II, Darmok, Ensign Ro and Silicon Avatar.
Disc 2 contains the episodes Disaster, The Game, Unification Part I and Unification Part II.
Disc 3 contains the episodes A Matter of Time, New Ground, Hero Worship, and Violations.
Disc 4 contains the episodes The Masterpiece Society, Conundrum, Power Play, and Ethics.
Disc 5 contains the episodes The Outcast, Cause and Effect, The First Duty, and Cost of Living.
Disc 6 contains the episodes The Perfect Mate, Imaginary Friend, I, Borg, and The Next Phase.
Disc 7 contains the episodes The Inner Light and Time’s Arrow Part I and the Bonus Materials.
Each season’s bonus material contains something familiar and something new. The Mission Overview talks about this season in its entirety, but also picks up on some of the more notable episodes of the season. There is a lot of information and interviews about Unification I & II. It is seen as a landmark episode as it brings Leonard Nimoy to the set and gives the crew a sense of validation. There are interviews with executive producer Michael Piller, David Livingston (Producer), Mike Okuda (Scenic Artist Supervisor), Jeri Taylor (Supervising Producer & Writer), Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby, Brent Spiner.
Piller also talks about Darmok and the creation of a language just for that episode. Patrick Stewart talks about Inner Light being the most interesting acting challenge in his Star Trek experience.
The episode I, Borg is talked about in reference to taking the Borg race in a different direction. Jeri Taylor talks about kicking the idea around and it evolved into this episode. Jonathan Del Arco who portrays “Hugh” is interviewed in February of 2002 talking about his experience. It is interesting to see how he relates this episode and his performance to our current climate. Piller talks about how this episode is showing different sides to the characters and having them contend with prejudice.
Departmental Briefing: Production talks again about The Inner Light – Patrick Stewart’s son Daniel is in that episode. Peter Lauritson who directed the episode and is a supervising producer talks about working with Patrick Stewart’s son and dealing with depicting a planet that is increasingly getting hotter. Stewart and make-up supervisor Michael Westmore talk about the makeup required for this episode.
Brannon Braga is then brought on to talk about Cause and Effect as one of the most popular episodes he has ever written. Though it has a similar theme, it came out two years before the film Groundhog Day. Frakes directed this episode and he talks about the difficulty directing it having to show the same scene five times in five different ways.
Ronald Moore talks about The First Duty and seeing Starfleet Academy for the first time. Piller talks about the arguments between the staff about the moral and ethical dilemma in the story. Music composer Jay Chattaway talks about developing the musical accompaniment for The Inner Light.
In Departmental Briefing: Visual Effects Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato (who won an Oscar for his work in Titanic) talks about developing effects for videotape versus film. There is upwards of 80 visual effects shots in each episode. The effects staff covers items right from the beginning of the series and talks about the use of paintings and models, as well as innovating their own effects with things like oatmeal and aluminum foil.
In Memorable Missions various members of the cast and crew talk about certain episodes of this season. One nice touch here is having Robert Duncan McNeill talk about the character he portrays in The First Duty. Later on, he goes on to portray a similar character, Tom Paris, in Star Trek: Voyager.
Finally there is A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry. This piece is about a half hour long. The footage is largely taken from the dedication ceremony of the Gene Roddenberry building on the Paramount lot. The cast of the original Star Trek series as well as The Next Generation is present. DeForest Kelley was still alive as well.
There is footage from a 1988 interview with Roddenberry as well. He talks about being welcome at M.I.T. and NASA and other places like that – what an honor it is to him that these people have the respect for him that they do. Later on, Majel Barrett Roddenberry talks about the NASA October 22, 1992 Columbia launch – Gene’s ashes were riding along. The man received a lot of credit from NASA for keeping interest and support in the space program.
The best tributes come primarily from the people who work with him and knew him on a regular basis. Patrick Stewart talks about the relationship with Gene. Jonathan Frakes talks about his “fun” input into the show and the optimism Roddenberry had for the future. Executive Producer Rick Berman talks about working with him for five years on Star Trek before he passed away. Whoopi Goldberg talks about his diverse casting. John de Lancie talks about first encounter when he didn’t know who he was. Marina Sirtis talks about feeling like he wanted her for the part – was on her side – during auditions. She becomes very emotional while talking about him and his death during the interview. Wil Wheaton talks about wanting to hang out with Roddenberry – great relationship between the two of them.
At the end is a priceless bit. Patrick Stewart sings “A you’re Adorable” for Gene Roddenberry and dances his way around the Enterprise bridge. This makes the tribute end on a lighter note.
This is another set that is definitely worth the higher price. The bonus materials only add to what was one of the best season of The Next Generation.
To buy the Complete Next Generation Series remastered blu-ray, click on the picture below to be directed to my Amazon Associates account. I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link.