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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Four Blu-ray Review

STTNG_S4_blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

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The Series

[Rating:5/5]

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Two decades after Gene Roddenberry’s original 1960s space saga hit the airwaves briefly before going off the air and creating a cult following that would eventually lead to a syndicated empire of re-runs, conventions and motion picture franchises, the series was reborn with Star Trek: The Next Generation. While I can’t claim to be old enough to have grown up with the original Star Trek’s initial run, I was certainly familiar with it from re-runs and did watch it, so I was excited for its return. The Next Generation was indeed Star Trek for my generation; a weekly journey into the 24th century set decades after Captain James Tiberius Kirk and crew boldly went where “no man” had gone before.

A comparison of the new crew of the newly designed Enterprise may be as futile as a showdown with the Borg, but that hasn’t stopped Trekkies from getting into heated debates over the years. While The Next Generation crew are an entity to themselves, there are certainly some similarities in keeping with the Star Trek mythos. Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) maintains some of the ladies’ man swagger that belonged to Captain Kirk in the original series. Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) can be seen as the cool, calculating logician who steps into the role of Mr. Spock. It is Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) however, that gives the series its real break from the past, offering up a new take on the Starfleet captain. Rather than a brash, shoot from the hip cowboy like Kirk, Picard is a stern, philosophical renaissance man, equally comfortable sipping a cup of Earl Grey and reading the classics as he is brokering the peace on a strange new world or doling out orders in the heat of battle.

The fourth season of The Next Generation would be the first season of the syndicated series to start with a full-time, stable working staff of writers. Season one struggled through production hiccups that many new shows do, but TNG in particular, due to its heavy reliance on visual effects. Season two would be interrupted by a writers’ strike, and season three had Rick Berman join halfway through the season. Taking a sharp turn to focus more on character development and the interactions between the crew of the Enterprise, rather than simply offering up one alien adventure after another, the season would kick off with the hotly anticipated second half conclusion to the cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds”. From there, the season brings us numerous and wonderful episodes, such as the controversial “The Host”, which introduces us to the species known as the Trill (who would go on to become more prominent in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and vaguely touches on same-sex relationships long before it was even in vogue, so to speak. It is also the season in which Data’s (Brent Spiner) evil twin returns, Q (John de Lancie) gets up to his old tricks in “Qpid”, Will Wheaton (“Wesley Crusher”) makes his exit from the series, and Worf (Michael Dorn) learns he has a son. It’s a season that marked a turning point for the better in The Next Generation series, and one that would lead the way to a long-running, and fine model for the franchise on the whole.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

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The Next Generation gets back on track in Season Four with a stunning presentation on Blu-ray after what was a disappointing second season video-wise. I have yet to see season three, as the studio never sent copies of seasons two or three this way. Season one looked amazing, season two, not so great, but it had less to do with the transfer than it did with the variations in production techniques. This season’s transfer has two minor glitches. The episode “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” contains 3 seconds of up-scaled SD footage beginning at 20:30, where the original 35mm footage could not be located and the episode “The Drumhead” contains 2 seconds of up-scaled SD footage beginning at 07:05, where the original 35mm footage could not be located. This blips are barely noticeable, and the rest of the transfer looks splendid given the age of the series. The newly restored visual effects are detailed, the overall image is film-like with a fine layer of grain that only jumps on the rare occasion in some darker sequences where blacks also wash out just a little bit sometimes as well. For the most part, however, the black levels remain quite inky, just look at the background of the Enterprise against the stars. The colors of the uniforms pop nicely and flesh tones are spot on.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

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This one comes with a newly remastered and remixed English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack in addition to original stereo English Dolby Digital 2.0 and multiple foreign language dubs also in Dolby Digital 2.0. While the 7.1 mix does add a nice bit of spaciousness and atmosphere and also manages to take away a bit of the slight boxyness in the dialogue from the stereo track, there is still a slight bit of crackle in the dialogue to be heard. Also, while the low end is greatly extended, it sounds a little out of balance with the rest of the mix, booming a bit too much during the active sequences. The high frequencies are also just a bit harsh. For the most part, however, it is an enjoyable alternative to for those looking to fill out their sound system rather than stick with the authentic experience.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

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This set, like previous sets, is packed with many ported-over video extras and a few select episode commentaries. Disc 6 in the set does contain the all-new high definition documentaries, In Conversation: The Star Trek Art Department and Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation. These are both rather self-explanatory, but the latter is a multi-part feature combining interviews with the cast, a gag reel, and deleted scenes.

The supplements:

Disc 1:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Audio Commentary:
    • “Brothers” with Rob Bowman and Mike & Denise Okuna
  • Additional Data:
    • Mission Overview Year Four (1.33:1; SD; 00:16:41)

Disc 2:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Audio Commentary:
    • “Reunion” with Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Mike & Denise Okuna
  • Additional Data:
    • Selected Crew Analysis Year Four (1.33:1; SD; 00:17:04)

Disc 3:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Additional Data:
    • New Life and New Civilizations (1.33:1; SD; 00:13:45)

Disc 4:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Additional Data:
    • Chronicles from the Final Frontier (1.33:1; SD; 00:18:12)

Disc 5:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Additional Data:
    • Departmental Briefing: Production (1.33:1; SD; 00:16:46)
    • Select Historical Data (1.33:1; SD; 00:10:25)
    • Inside the Star Trek Archives (1.33:1; SD; 00:11:14)

Disc 6:

  • Episodic Promos (SD)
  • Additional Data:
    • In Conversation: The Star Trek Art Department (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 01:07:29)
    • Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Part 1: Homecoming (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:29:05)
      • Part 2: Posterity (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:27:45)
      • Gag Reel (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:34)
      • Deleted Scenes (1080p/24):
        • The Best of Both Worlds, Part I
        • Family
        • Final Mission
        • The Wounded
        • Galaxy’s Child
        • Qpid
        • The Host

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Four, a pivotal season in the Star Trek franchise, is an enjoyable, well written season with 26 episodes of high quality science fiction. The Blu-ray release is top notch, with a beautiful visual restoration and high quality audio.

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