PARAMOUNT HOME ENT.
Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Diana Muldaur, Brent Spiner, Whoopi Goldberg
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Runtime: 1177 min.
Release Date: 12/3/2002
• “Mission Overview” Featurette
• “Special Crew Profile: Lt. Commander Data” Featurette
• “Departmental Briefing: Production” Featurette
• “Bold New Directions” Featurette
• “Dan Curry Profile” Featurette
• Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD Trailer
• Star Trek: Nemesis Trailer
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Six (1993)
Despite the split I provided in my synopsis, the two parts of “Birthright” aren’t nearly that balanced. Part I splits pretty evenly between the Worf and Data storylines, but Part II deals exclusively with the Klingon’s side. This makes “Birthright” drag. While Worf’s time in the prison colony offers some intriguing notions, it also feels a bit like a soap opera, and it doesn’t expand the character very much despite the intense focus on him. I wanted to know more about Data’s growth, but this area seems truncated so we can watch Worf’s issues. The show offers a moderately interesting piece, but it moves too slowly and explores the characters too blandly to keep my interest.
As I alluded earlier, “Birthright” features the one actor who I believe played more different parts in the Trek universe. In addition to his performance as Shrek here, James Cromwell showed up as Nayrok in Season Three’s “The Hunted”, Zefram Cochrane in ssd Star Trek: First Contact, and Minister Hanok in an episode of Deep Space Nine. That gives him four separate roles, which I believe puts him at the head of this exclusive little list.
At the open of Starship Mine, the Enterprise docks for some routine maintenance that requires all life forms to evacuate the ship before a baryon sweep passes through it; that beam will kill anything it contacts. The crew must attend a reception with the insufferable Commander Hutchinson (David Spielberg), which affords Data an opportunity to develop his nascent small talk skills. To escape the tedium of the party, Picard slips back to the Enterprise to retrieve his riding saddle, but he discovers some suspicious activities. These strand the captain on the ship along with the baddies, which leaves him as the sole person who can subvert their actions.
The best way to describe “Mine” is as Die Hard on a starship. Not only does the episode place Picard firmly in the John McClane role, but also it liberally “borrows” some of the conventions from that classic. Not that I regard this homage as a bad thing, for while “Mine” lacks originality, it compensates with some good action and something quite atypical for the normally chatty Next Generation. Frankly, it’s simply a lot of fun to watch Picard improvise and kick some butt. Add to that the humor of Data’s endless small talk with Hutchinson and “Starship Mine” offers a very entertaining program.
Picard gets some action in Lessons. At the start, he finds that the Stellar Cartography department is using most of the ship’s resources. He meets the new head of Stellar Sciences, Lt. Commander Daren (Wendy Hughes), a feisty babe. Picard obviously becomes smitten with her, and the two start a romance. This causes some complications for the pair, as they become concerned that their relationship will negatively affect their work.
“Lessons” offers a “shoe drop” episode. We know that the other shoe will drop at some point and something will interfere with this budding relationship, the only question becomes what will occur. “Lessons” moves somewhat slowly and it doesn’t explore the subject terribly well. However, it provides a little more insight into Picard’s character and features a fairly satisfying emotional conclusion, so it works decently.
Picard again confronts the path not taken in The Chase. During a routine analysis mission, his former Starfleet archaeology teacher, Professor Galen (Norman Lloyd), stops by the Enterprise. The pair once enjoyed a very close relationship, and Galen wants Picard to accompany him on an expedition of potential importance. Picard declines the offer since it would require him to leave the Enterprise, and this clearly upsets Galen. When the Professor splits, the Enterprise soon encounters him again when his shuttle comes under attack. This kills Galen, and Picard becomes intrigued with the mystery behind his work, so the crew explores this topic. This means that they ignore their responsibility to attend a conference, and some of his subordinates question Picard’s decision.
When “The Chase” started, I feared it would offer another simple exploration of Picard’s life and his choices. While I actually enjoy those kinds of episodes, we just touched on that theme with “Lessons”, and we saw it elsewhere in Season Six, so another show on that topic would feel like overkill. Although “Chase” includes a little of that, mostly it provides an intriguing and stimulating mystery that seems nicely compelling. The program lags a little at times, but it features a number of cool twists and turns and comes across as a good entry.
In Frame of Mind, Riker takes the lead role in a play of that name. He also receives an assignment to venture to Tilonus IV, a planet experiencing a state of anarchy. A Federation research team got stuck there when the government collapsed, and Riker will go undercover on his own to retrieve them. However, on the way he starts to suffer from hallucinations and seems to turn into the character from “Frame of Mind”, which leads him to question his own sanity.
Trek often delves into this kind of reality vs. fantasy show, but “Frame” seems better than most. It really gets pretty trippy at times, as all the various layers of truth and fiction intertwine. Overall, “Frame” appears involving and it provides a cool mystery.
Dr. Crusher becomes the focus of Suspicions. It starts with a bombshell, as she declares that her career as a doctor is over. We then get a telling of how she came to that point. Crusher sponsors a conference of scientists to hear the radical ideas of Dr. Reyga (Peter Slutsker), a Ferengi whose theories receive little acceptance from others. This brings only a small crew of scientists onto the Enterprise for the discussion and demonstration. The latter goes awry and ends in a death, which later leads to the demise of Reyga himself. This appears to be suicide, but Crusher suspects murder, and she puts her career on the line to examine this possibility.
Next Generation rarely used Crusher to great advantage, and she didn’t get a lot of episodes that concentrate on her. That makes “Suspicions” something unusual, but it doesn’t become anything particularly noteworthy. The show explores the mystery in a reasonably interesting manner and seems generally watchable, but it doesn’t turn into a special or distinguished program.
After his experiences in “Birthright”, Worf begins to question his spiritual core in Rightful Heir. To enhance these values, he goes off on a voyage to a sacred Klingon site, where he becomes frustrated because he doesn’t experience the insights or visions he expects. However, with greater effort, eventually revered Klingon ancestor Kahless (Kevin Conway) appears, and not just as an apparition – he actually makes his physical return, and he declares his intention to take over the leadership of the Klingon empire. Unsurpisingly, current Klingon ruler Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) opposes this, and various authorities attempt to gauge the truth of Kahless’ endeavor.
Trek likes to provide this sort of show in which an apparent miracle occurs, though we saw more of them via the original series than with Next Generation. The plot feels fairly predictable, if just because we know that things won’t end up like they seem. Still, “Birthright” provides a reasonably solid exploration of some aspects of Klingon culture, and it moves toward its conclusion at a good pace and with some interesting insights, so it offers a pretty positive piece.
For a look at an alternative past, we move to Second Chances. Eight years ago, Riker participated in a scientific exploration at Nervala IV, a planet whose distortion field only allows for beaming to the surface once every eight years. They go back to retrieve some data from the last journey but they meet an inhabitant – Will Riker! It seems that some sort of funky transporter malfunction left the world with two Rikers, which leads to some unusual conflicts, especially since the Lt. Riker of the past never took the path toward career that made Commander Riker who he is now. This turns into a particular concern since the love affair between Riker and Troi effectively ended not long after the Nervala adventure, but Lt. Riker never went that way, so he goes after her.
The gimmick of a duplicate Enterprise member goes all the way back to the original series’ Enemy Within, the fourth episode from that show’s first season. “Chances” also explores the frequent Next Generation theme of the road not taken, though that topic usually addresses Picard; Riker always came across as the less introspective character who spent less time with such potential regrets. It gets into both of these areas quite well, mainly because the doppel-Riker isn’t just a clone or a fraud – he’s the real thing. This makes the program intriguing, especially as we watch the sparks fly between the pair of Rikers. “Chances” offers a very entertaining and insightful show.
Trek loves its time-based stories, and Timescape follows that path. On board a shuttle, Picard, Data, La Forge and Troi return from a seminar, and they start to encounter some weird pauses and accelerations in time. They find a mess of temporal disturbances that cause these effects, and when they get back to the Enterprise, they discover that the ship became trapped in one of these and remains immobile. The Romulans also showed up and caused trouble, but they got stuck as well. The four returning crewmembers need to figure out a solution for these problems.
Though it doesn’t invent anything particularly new, “Timescape” offers another engaging look at time/space hijinks. As I mentioned a little earlier, the various series always delighted in this kind of material, and they usually did well with the complexities. “Timespace” fails to become anything terribly noteworthy, but it seems like a solid episode nonetheless.
Finally, we come to the start of the final Next Generation season-spanning cliffhanger, Descent, Part I. This brings back the Borg for the first time since Season Five’s “I, Borg”. Actually, these two programs connect in other ways, as “Descent” conjures the memories of Borg soldier Hugh from the earlier show. The Enterprise intercepts a distress call from a base, and when they arrive, they find the Borg attacked it. However, these Borg seem different, as they don’t care about assimilation and they display other unusual behaviors. In addition, in the midst of the away team’s defense, Data gets mad, which manifests his first documented emotion. The Enterprise goes on patrol to try to deal with the rogue Borg while Data attempts to come to terms with his burgeoning feelings. Eventually, the two streams merge, as one manipulative captured Borg feeds Data’s desire to re-experience emotions.
At least over the series’ first six years, Next Generation didn’t botch Borg-related programs, and “Descent, Part I” offers yet another good one. It sets up the issues well, gives us just enough information to keep us interested, and ends with a very intriguing cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the second part (and since they DVDs will arrive in a few days, I won’t really need to wait).
When I wrote my synopsis for Season Five, I noted that Seasons Three and Four seemed like the best of Next Generation and the fifth year marked a moderate decline from those peaks. I won’t say that Season Six continues that drop in quality, as I didn’t feel the episodes came across as worse than those from the prior year. Season Six mostly stayed on a par with Season Five, as the two years provided fairly similar quality work.
One notable change in Season Six stemmed from the greater emphasis on La Forge and Troi this year. Both fairly underutilized in the past, they both seemed much more prominent than normal this year. Frankly, this probably occurred because the writers started to run out of plots that dealt with some of the others, so they needed to branch out and feature Geordi and Deanna. I didn’t regard this as a negative. Though I can’t say I’m especially fond of either character, I felt pleased to see them finally get a little more screen time.
Of course, Picard still dominated, which was appropriate; the captain should always remain the ultimate focus of a Trek series. As with other recent seasons, Worf got a lot of screen time as well; obviously the writers loved to explore Klingon traits and traditions. Riker, Data and Crusher also received their own moments, but for the first two, these seemed to happen less frequently than normal. As for the doctor, she never received a lot of attention, so her failure to grab the spotlight frequently in Season Six seemed like no surprise.
Speaking of her, Season Six marked a notable departure from the prior five: we saw no appearances of her son, Cadet Wesley Crusher. And a great cry of joy arose from the multitude of Wesley-hating Trek fans! (I don’t count myself as someone who really loathes Wesley, but I definitely didn’t miss him this year; his episodes almost always were among the series’ worst.)
In its sixth year, Star Trek: The Next Generation maintained a generally high level of quality. The show fell short of the best material seen in its two top seasons, but it continued to prosper this term. Season Six offered a lot of entertainment and proved that some kick remained in the series.
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 DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Season Five demonstrated some modest improvements in picture quality when compared to previous years, and Season Six largely maintained those gains.
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. These elements generally tightened as the season progressed, however, and it appeared that the episodes in the second half of the year looked better defined. Shimmering and jagged edges showed up periodically but less frequently than in the past. Edge enhancement created some minor concerns, but those instances also decreased from prior seasons.
Unlike some of the earlier years, Season Six demonstrated few print flaws. Mostly I noticed a few speckles on rare occasions, 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.
Probably the year’s worst visuals came along with its first episode, “Time’s Arrow”. However, those concerns didn’t stem from the transfer. For its period scenes, “Arrow” adopted a bright, fuzzy white look that gave it a soft, hazy appearance. Initially I feared more of the season would look like it, but the quality improved as soon as we left the 19th century. Overall, the visuals for Season Six provided a satisfying affair when compared to older programs.
While picture steadily improved over the years, Season Six demonstrated Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that appeared similar to that heard during the first five 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.
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. When compared to many of the earlier
years, I noticed slightly increased usage of the surrounds, and some split
surround material became more apparent. 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 Six.
Anyone who watched the prior five Next Generation DVDs will know what
to expect of its extras. All of these consist of moderately brief
documentaries, and they reside on DVD Seven.
Although most prior Mission Overview segments took general looks at
those seasons, this one follows a similar piece found with Season Five as it
focuses on a few different episodes. During this 17-minute and 54-second
program, we get show clips, stills from the set, and a mix of new and
archival interviews with actors Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Whoopi
Goldberg, LeVar Burton and James Doohan, scenic artist supervisor Mike
Okuda, executive producers Michael Piller and Rick Berman, senior
illustrator Rick Sternbach, Professor Stephen Hawking, and producer David
In “Mission Overview”, we hear about the plot complexities of “Time’s Arrow”, the interaction with an original series legend in “Relics”, the creation of Deep Space Nine and its intersection with Next Generation, Stewart’s work with David Warner on “Chain of Command” and some other aspects of that show, and the guest cameo in “Descent”. The notes about DS9 seem most interesting, but they might be most appropriate on the DVD set for that series. The other comments offer some generally informative notes but as with prior “Overview” featurettes, they don’t get into much detail.
For a look at two Trek actors who moved behind the camera, we go to Bold New Directions. The 17-minute and 55-second program includes comments from actor/directors
Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton, actors Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Brent Spiner, writer Brannon Braga, producer David Livingston, and visual effects supervisor Dan Curry. The program concentrates wholly on Stewart’s “Fistful of Datas” and on Burton’s “Second Chances”. That means we actually find some decent depth in this program, as we learn a lot of elements behind the production of those programs. As usual, Sirtis proves to be a very entertaining interview subject, but all the others contribute positive notes as well in this nice little piece.
Departmental Briefing: Production gives us a good take on a number of behind the scenes issues. During the 15-minute and 32-second piece, we hear from supervising producer Peter Lauritson, actors James Cromwell and Jonathan Frakes, actor/director Jonathan Frakes, makeup designer Michael Westmore, writer Ronald D. Moore, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, and scenic artist supervisor Mike Okuda. They cover the re-creation of the original Enterprise bridge for “Relics”, the make-up for Shrek and some other characters, writing issues behind some shows, and a few other topics. As with “Mission Overview”, the program concentrates mainly on a few different episodes. It moves through the programs briskly and seems generally useful. Moore’s notes add the most to our knowledge, especially when he describes the frustration behind the creation of “Frame of Mind”.
The awkwardly titled Departmental Briefing: Profile Dan Curry offers a glimpse of his work on Next Generation. The 19-minute and 55-second program takes to his home, which he also uses as his studio. Visual effects producer Curry walks us through the place and shows us many props and other materials used on Next Generation. He elaborates on their appearances, development and history in this informative program.
In the spot usually filled by “Memorable Missions” we find a Special Crew Profile: Lt. Commander Data. The 18-minute and 59-second featurette includes comments from actors Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, and Marina Sirtis, research consultant and Data photo double Guy Vardaman, producer David Livingston, executive producer Rick Berman, and writer Ronald D. Moore. It covers Spiner’s initial reaction to the part, various points in Data’s growth, and other reflections on the character. Overall, “Data” gives us a fair overview of the role and the actor behind the part.
Unusually, Season Six provides a couple of ads. We get two trailers. One ad promotes Star Trek: Nemesis, the theatrical film that hit screens a week and a half after the release of these DVDs. In addition, we find a trailer for the upcoming DVD debut of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
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 quick summary of the year, a brief discussion of the Romulans, and it also shows all 26 episodes listed in alphabetical order. The extras for Season Six offer some decent information about the series and match up with what we found on prior sets.
Season Six of Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us another solid year of entertainment. The show didn’t quite equal the highs seen in the series’ best times, but the programs remained consistently intriguing and thoughtful, and at least we didn’t find any of the clunkers that marred Seasons One and Two. Picture quality remained erratic but the visuals generally looked pretty solid, and audio seemed terrific as in the past. Extras stayed unspectacular, but they added some nice material to the package. I feel like a broken record when I offer my recommendations for the series, but Season Six offered another positive set that should make Trek fans happy.
Back to the review of Disc 1-4