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Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Diana Muldaur, Brent Spiner, Whoopi Goldberg

Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround

Runtime: 1183 min.
Price: $139.99
Release Date: 11/5/2002

• “Mission Overview” Featurette
• “Selected Crew Analysis” Featurette
• “Departmental Briefing: Production” Featurette
• “Departmental Briefing: Visual Effects” Featurette
• “Memorable Missions” Featurette
• “A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry” Featurette
• Booklet


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Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Five (1992)

Disc 6

To help end a long war between the planets of Krios and Valt Minor, the Enterprise transports Kriosian Ambassador Briam (Tim O’Connor) to an important conference in The Perfect Mate. Along the way, they encounter a Ferengi ship that will soon explode, so the Enterprise brings the two-man crew on-board the ship. We quickly learn that they plotted this course and have an ulterior motive on the Enterprise. Due to Ferengi misbehavior, the prize Kriosian cargo emerges before its appointed time at the conference. An empathic babe named Kamala (Famke Janssen) is supposed to be a gift to the leader of Valt. The presence of this hot and horny honey causes a ruckus on the Enterprise, especially when she takes a heavy interest in Picard. While not as weak as the prior two episodes, Season Five continues to limp towards its conclusion with “The Perfect Mate”. The show doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it offers another predictable plot that doesn’t pay off particularly well. It seems rather ordinary and fails to provide anything terribly engaging.

Young Clara (Noley Thornton) is the daughter of Ensign Sutter (Jeff Allin). She maintains an Imaginary Friend named Isabella. During a mission to explore a nebula, a mysterious ball of light invades the ship and zooms through Clara’s head. As a result, it then takes the form of a real version of Isabella (Shay Astar). Unfortunately, this physical edition of the little girl seems more than a little malicious, and Isabella uses Clara to disobey orders so she can gain access to the ship. Some parts of the Enterprise start to malfunction for no apparent reason, so the crew attempt to discern the cause.

Of course, we know why the ship starts to run into problems, so this means “Friend” offers another plot in which we’re way ahead of the characters. It features a creative twist via the physical representation of the Isabella character, but it doesn’t really go much of anywhere, and the predictable nature of the show harms it. “Friend” marks an improvement over the last few episodes, but it remains subpar Trek.

Next we find Season Five’s sole return visit from the Federation’s most deadly enemies. In I, Borg, the Enterprise receives a signal from a moon in an obscure star cluster. When an away team beams down to investigate, they find a crashed Borg vessel with one survivor. Dr. Crusher convinces Picard to bring it on board the ship for repairs. This starts a number of philosophical discussions, particularly when Picard wants La Forge to find a way to spread a virus through Third of Five (Jonathan Del Arco). Crusher and La Forge attempt to test and work with the Borg, who starts to develop an identity and adopts the name Hugh. The timer starts to tick when the Enterprise detects the impending arrival of a Borg scout ship, so the crew need to figure out how to deal with this moderately humanized example of that species.

It lacks the action usually found in a Borg episode, and it gets a little sappy at times, but “I, Borg” offers a fairly solid program. The development of Hugh provides an intriguing element, and the plot displays some neat twists and turns. While not one of the show’s great episodes, “I, Borg” represents a solid piece of work.

A Romulan ship in distress arrives at the start of The Next Phase. An away team beams aboard to lend assistance, but when La Forge and Ro Laren head back to the ship, they vanish during transportation. Once the potential disaster becomes averted, we see Ro and La Forge as they walk the Enterprise halls unnoticed by the others; they seem to exist in some sort of alternate dimension where they can only detect each other. Ro feels convinced they died and are now ghosts, but Geordi feels otherwise and tries to solve the problem while he also helps make sure the Romulans don’t sabotage the Enterprise.

Though it periodically reminded me a little too much of Ghost, “The Next Phase” offers a pretty entertaining program. It mixes intrigue and comedy nicely and seems like a reasonably clever and engaging show. Usually episodes that favor Geordi come across as simpy, but “Phase” veers off that course to a pleasant degree.

Disc 7

A mysterious probe approaches the Enterprise at the start of The Inner Light. It sends a beam inside the ship that apparently only affects Picard. He passes out, and when he awakes, he finds himself on a strange planet in the hands of a woman who refers to him as “Kamin”. Her name’s Eline (Margot Rose), and she’s supposedly his wife. Picard/Kamin roams that landscape as he tries to discover where he resides and how he can get back to the Enterprise, even as the years seemingly pass. Meanwhile back on the ranch, we see that Picard remains unconscious, and the crew try to figure out how to disconnect him from the probe and bring him back to reality.

When we see episodes that deal with Picard and an alternate reality, they usually find him in a domestic situation that forces him to examine the life he could have lived. “Light” offers a watchable but somewhat bland example of that genre. I do enjoy this kind of “alternate reality” material, and this show seems different from the others as it displays many years of Picard’s second life. Unfortunately, the probe’s purpose becomes obvious too early, which renders the show a little toothless. Overall, “Light” appears decent but unspectacular.

The DVD’s producers offer a creative touch with the menu for “Light”. Instead of the usual Enterprise hum, on this page we hear some music that plays a significant role in the episode. I liked this clever use of audio.

With Time’s Arrow, Part I, we encounter our third straight season-ending cliffhanger. Starfleet recalls the Enterprise to Earth because they discovered 500-year-old evidence of alien visitation there. The presence of the Enterprise becomes necessary due to one of the artifacts they discover: Data’s head! While the crew tries to deal with their knowledge of Data’s ultimate demise, they head toward an alien planet that may relate to the activities. There they find a species in a different temporal space, and Data is the only one who can adjust to enter their place. When he does this, he briefly observes them before something causes him to head back to 19th century San Francisco, the same location and time where his noggin landed. There Data attempts to find the aliens he followed back from the future, while the Enterprise tries to figure out what happened and what they can do about it.

The Next Generation never got into time travel to the extent of the original series, which makes “Time’s Arrow” an entertaining departure. Actually, it offers more than that, as it creates an intriguing piece that nicely mixes tension, drama and comedy. It’ll be fun to see how the saga concludes when Season Six arrives in another month or so.

With two seasons left to go, I can’t say with any certainty that Seasons Three and Four will mark the best of The Next Generation, but I did think that Season Five demonstrated a decline from those peaks. Whether that will continue in Seasons Six and Seven remains to be seen. Not that Season Five offered a bad experience, and it certainly seemed superior to Seasons One and Two. It simply didn’t compare with the consistent highs of Seasons Three and Four.

Whereas those two years tended to provide episodes that focused on particular characters, the same seemed less true for Season Five. It maintained a more general thrust. Whereas Season Four really belonged to Worf and his quest to regain honor for his besmirched family name, Season Five featured no such overall demeanor, and it felt like fewer of the episodes dug into the personalities of the Enterprise crew. Of course, each prime actor still got his or her time to shine, but these moments occurred less frequently. In fact, it felt like the departed Wesley Crusher received better exposition than virtually any of the regular crewmembers. Notably, Season Five also offered the first year in which Q made no appearance.

Although Season Five of Star Trek: The Next Generation showed a decline in overall quality from the prior two years, it still managed to give us a lot of entertaining material. Perhaps the year included fewer generally memorable shows, but it also avoided too many clunkers. I wouldn’t endorse Season Five over Seasons Three and Four, but I nonetheless enjoyed it.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Star Trek: The Next Generation appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall I felt these episodes looked a lot like those in prior seasons, though they showed some moderate improvements over the earlier years.

As usual, sharpness came across as somewhat erratic. Most of the time, the picture looked fairly distinct and detailed, but that varied during many occasions. Not surprisingly, wide shots seemed the most problematic, but even close-ups remained inconsistent and could appear moderately soft. Shimmering and jagged edges showed up periodically but less frequently than in the past. Edge enhancement created some minor concerns, and those also decreased from prior seasons.

Unlike some of the earlier years, Season Five demonstrated few print flaws. Mostly I noticed a few periodic speckles, but that was about it. The streaks, marks and other issues that marred the earlier years disappeared, and the shows generally came across as clean.

Colors appeared somewhat erratic. At times, the colors looked nicely rich and distinct, but they also came across as dull and murky for parts of the shows, and some red light was somewhat runny. In general, the hues were acceptable but unspectacular.

Similar elements marked the black levels, which seemed reasonably deep much of the time, but they also could be a bit muddy on occasion. Shadow detail tended to be somewhat murky. Shots could come across as heavy and flat at times, though the images stayed fairly solid.

Interestingly, I felt that picture quality improved noticeably with the two parts of “Unification” and the rest of the season usually maintained that stronger level of visual material. I can only speculate that this may have occurred due to the desire for better production values to accompany Leonard Nimoy’s guest appearance. Let’s us remember that “Unification” clearly acted as a tie-in to the then-upcoming theatrical release of Star Trek VI, so perhaps the producers wanted to make sure they impressed the home viewers new to The Next Generation. Whatever the case may be, Season Five displayed a small but nice upgrade in visual quality.

While picture steadily improved over the years, Season Five demonstrated Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that appeared similar to that heard during the first four years. I regarded that as a good thing, since those earlier episodes offered solid audio. These shows were originally mastered with Dolby Surround mixes, and the new 5.1 mixes helped broaden those nicely. The soundfields of the various shows seemed pretty engaging. The forward spectrum dominated, and it offered fine stereo imaging for the music as well as a strong sense of atmosphere. The front speakers provided a clear and vivid environment, and various elements like ships and phaser fire panned cleanly across the channels. Planet environments often came across nicely, as they offered lively and engaging audio. The storm heard during “Power Play” showed especially nice involvement.

For the most part, the surrounds offered general support of the front speakers. The surrounds mostly gave us a good sense of environment, and they also added musical support. Although the rear activity during Season Four seemed a little subdued, Season Five made things a bit livelier; I noticed slightly increased usage of the surrounds. In any case, the 5.1 remixes didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they opened up the tracks nicely.

Audio quality seemed quite good for its age. Throughout the shows, the lines remained distinct and natural, and I heard no significant problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was nicely vivid and bright, as the quality of the music remained consistently clear and bold. Effects showed good clarity and accuracy, and they displayed very few signs of distortion. All elements provided fairly solid nice bass response, as low-end seemed deep and rich throughout the shows. All in all, I was very pleased with the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Season Five.

Though the content of Season Five’s supplements doesn’t really differ from that seen on prior sets, the package expands prior boundaries somewhat and offers the most extended batch of programs yet seen. All of these consist of moderately brief documentaries, and they reside on DVD Seven. Actually, Season Five includes programs that run longer than those in the past, but the content remains similar.

Although prior Mission Overview segments took general looks at those seasons, this one focuses on four different episodes. During this 18-minute and five-second program, we get show clips, stills from the set, and new interviews with actors Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby, Brent Spiner, and Jonathan Del Arco, scenic artist supervisor Mike Okuda, supervising producer/writer Jeri Taylor, executive producer Michael Piller, and producer David Livingston.

In “Mission Overview”, we hear about “Unification” and what it was like to work with Leonard Nimoy, “Darmok” and its language, Stewart’s acting challenges on “The Inner Light”, and the philosophical nature of “I, Borg”. The remarks tend to stay superficial; the participants tell us what fun it was to have Spock on the set but they rarely go beyond that. As with past “Mission Overview” pieces, this one seems moderately entertaining but it lacks much substance.

Departmental Briefing: Production gives us a good take on a number of behind the scenes issues. During the 15-minute and 28-second piece, we hear from supervising producer Peter Lauritson, actor Patrick Stewart, actor/director Jonathan Frakes, makeup designer Michael Westmore, writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, executive producer Michael Piller, and music composer Jay Chattaway. They cover the presence of Stewart’s son as an actor on “The Inner Light” plus insights into that show’s makeup and use of its flute. In addition, we get notes about writing for episodes like “The First Duty” and “Cause and Effect”. As with “Mission Overview”, the program concentrates mainly on a few different episodes. It doesn’t deliver a lot of depth, but it tosses out a smattering of decent notes.

Departmental Briefing: Visual Effects offers a similar show that focuses on the more technical side of things. The 17-minute and 58-second program includes remarks from visual effects supervisors Robert Legato and Dan Curry, supervising producer Peter Lauritson, scenic artist supervisor Mike Okuda, visual effects coordinator Gary Hutzel, and motion control technician Dennis Hoerter. Though we get some information about Season Five episodes, mostly this program examines the series’ visual effects as a whole. That makes it quite entertaining, as we learn how the effects dudes worked to overcome the series’ relatively low budget and high demand for material. They cover some general topics and reveal the nuts and bolts behind quite a few sequences. “Departmental Briefing: Visual Effects” provides the most informative and entertaining of the Season Five featurettes.

After a vacation from the Season Four DVD set, Memorable Missions returns here. In this 18-minute and 13-second program, we get additional notes about six episodes: “The Game”, “Hero Worship”, “The First Duty”, “Power Play”, “The Perfect Mate”, and “Disaster”. We find remarks from actors Marina Sirtis and Robert Duncan McNeill, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, scenic artist supervisor Mike Okuda, producer David Livingston, stunt coordinator Dennis Madalone, music composer Jay Chattaway, and writer Ronald D. Moore. “Memorable Missions” exists largely as a repository for show trivia, and it offers some cool tidbits. Sirtis discusses her aversion to milk chocolate and how that helped her achieve one scene, and she also tells us of her unfortunate desire to do her own stunts. A few other interesting moments appear, but Sirtis’ material makes the show most worthwhile. Though not a deep program, “Memorable Missions” merits a look.

Since the series’ creator died during Season Five, we find A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry. This program lasts 28 minutes and 33 seconds and research consultant Guy Vardaman, executive producer Rick Berman, production designer Herman Zimmerman, visual effects supervisor Robert Legato, actors John de Lancie, Marina Sirtis, Majel Barrett, Wil Wheaton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, and Whoopi Goldberg, scenic artist supervisor Mike Okuda, writer Ronald D. Moore, and supervising producer/writer Jeri Taylor. We also find 1988 interview footage with Roddenberry himself as well as footage from the 1991 dedication of the Gene Roddenberry Building on the Paramount lot.

Unsurprisingly, much of “Tribute” consists of fairly general praise for the man, but some more compelling moments emerge. Sirtis and Barrett provide nice personal recollections, and the shots from the 1991 dedication seem interesting. The piece ends with a most unusual tribute as well. Overall, the program doesn’t shed a lot of light on the life and career of Gene Roddenberry, but it manages to toss out enough useful material to warrant a viewing.

Note: as always with Paramount releases, all of the video extras include English subtitles. It’s a nice touch that too few other studios emulate.

Lastly, inside the DVD’s complicated foldout case, we find a small booklet with a smidgen of information. It includes a brief biography for Gene Roddenberry, and it also shows all 26 Season Five episodes listed in alphabetical order. Though Season Five still doesn’t stuff its discs with extras, these seem like the strongest from the Next Generation sets to date.

While Season Five of Star Trek: The Next Generation seemed less positive than the prior two years, it still managed to offer a lot of good entertainment. A few stinkers intruded on the set, but most of the shows appeared good or better. The DVDs presented visuals that achieved slightly higher quality than in the past, while audio maintained its usual positive standards. The package’s extras resembled those of prior affairs but also improved, as they ran substantially longer than usual. Season Five came across as a little average in regard to its programs, but it nonetheless stood as a good year, and Trek fans should like this DVD set.

Back to the review of Disc 1-5.