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Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' S7 DVD: Warping Out on Trektacular Note

Product Details

[Editor's Note: Unreal TV has also reviewed of the feature-film style Blu-ray release of the TNG series finale "All Good Things." "Evergreen" reviews of BD sets of TNG and "Enterprise" seasons will run throughout 2015.]

The recent CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray release of the seventh and final season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" nicely rounds out the BD releases of the mother of all "Trek" spinoffs in time for the holidays. One can only hope that CBS adds "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" to the complete BD collections of the Original Series, TNG, and"Enterprise." Make it so, network execs!

The first thing that requires mentioning is that the picture and sound quality of this set seems to surpass even the excellent presentation of both in the recently reviewed S6 BD set. The sound effects and music are particularly exceptional.

The following clip (with some spoilers), courtesy of CBS and YouTube, of the trailer for this BD release awesomely offers a sense of every spectacular element of S7 and includes many season highlights in a couple of minutes.

S7 starts strong with the conclusion to the S6 cliffhanger "Descent," which ends with android science officer Data teaming up with evil brother Lore and the even more evil Borg in a nefarious scheme. This twist on the "evil twin" theme is highly entertaining.

Another two-parter "Gambit" commences a few weeks into S7; this one begins with the Enterprise crew discovering fairly early in a search for a missing Captain Picard that credible evidence exists that said commander is dead; in true "Trek" spirit, first officer Lt. Commander William T. (Thomas not Tiberius) Riker doubting that his leader and friend is no longer living leads to his going undercover.

This covert work involves Riker and an fellow Enterprise crew member joining a motley crew searching for the components of an ancient weapon of mass destruction. This adventure requiring both that Riker and his colleague pretend to be adversaries and that this dynamic duo engage in hostile activity against the Enterprise is very entertaining. It is equally nice that the resolution of the alien threat is very peaceful and lacks any hint that the Enterprise will devote its superior firepower toward achieving a just end.

This episode additionally ends on the same sitcom style note as a handful of others in the season. Said hilarity involves Riker trying to pull one over on a colleague only to find himself the loser in the exchange.

A desire to keep this review to a manageable length requires briefly mentioning that notable mid-season episodes include one in which the Enterprise learns of a theory that traveling at the extra-super-velocity known as warp speed is having serious adverse effects; another episode is reminiscent of the then uber-popular novels of horror writer Anne Rice in that it focuses on a ghost-like creature with a long history of involvement with the women in the family of Enterprise Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher.

S7 then presents a series of Freudian episodes before ending its run with the series finale titled "All Good Things." As mentioned in the Editor's Note in this review, Unreal TV is separately reviewing the feature-film style BD release of that episode.

The last batch of episodes begins with the aptly titled "Journey's End." This one has soon-to-graduate Starfleet Academy cadet (and Crusher son) Wesley (played by Wil Wheaton) being uncharacteristically sullen and rude on returning to the Enterprise for a visit.

In this case, the rebellion in which Wesley engages greatly hampers the efforts of the Enterprise and the United Federation of Planets that it serves to relocate a group of American Indians living on a planet that is being ceded to the Cardassians (who play a central role in the then new "Deep Space Nine" series.)

Tying in the history of forceful relocation of Indians and a larger-scale issue related to the concept of the sins of the fathers makes this one particularly relevant to 20th (and 21st) century American culture.

Current off-the-rails former child star Brian Bonsall makes his final appearance as the reluctant warrior son Alexander of Klingon officer Worf in "Firstborn," which is the episode after "Journey's." This one has the efforts of Worf to start his son on the path to the Klingon version of manhood coincide with an apparent plot against Worf.

This offering nicely ties into DS9 by directly relating back to the third DS9 episode, which involves a pair of Klingon sisters who can be considered the Patty and Selma of the "Trek" universe. "Firstborn" further has a fun "phoned-in" cameo by a DS9 regular and adds a truly surprising twist to the resolution.

"Bloodlines" puts Picard and his newly discovered son in the spotlight. They meet as a result of a revenge plot against Picard. Once again, the parent-child conflict relates to the elder having difficulty accepting the desire of the younger to not meet expectations.

"Emergence" is just as Freudian as the episodes that immediately precede it, but the Enterprise itself is the willful child in this one. A series of mysterious mishaps, which include hurtling off at high speeds, coincides with the appearance of characters who represent various systems on the ship.

The final episode before "Things" involves the parent-child aspects of the relationship between Picard and Bajoran officer Ro Laren, whose experience growing up rough under Cardassian occupation provides her with enough issues for several years worth of therapy. The first scene in which Ro shows intense disappointment regarding apparent rejection of her by Picard says it all.

The larger conflict in this one involves the efforts of the Federation to curtail the raids of the rogue organization known as the Marquis, which continues attacking Cardassian ships despite a Federation treaty prohibiting such activity. The stakes include maintaining the truly delicate peace with the Cardassians.

Ro's ethnicity and her troubled past lead her to going on her own covert mission to infiltrate a Marquis group. Her personal beliefs and her growing alliance with that band combine to present an increasingly possibility that she will betray Starfleet in favor of her new friends. Her relationship with "daddy" Picard is one of the few things that are keeping her from going over to the dark side.

The typical (but hardly standard) plethora of S7 BD extras include a nice retrospective on the series, a hilarious gag reel, and the episode promos that kept Trekkers and Trekkies eagerly anticipating the latest adventure related to the "continuing mission" of the Enterprise.

The best way to wrap up these thoughts regarding this end to the "Trek" series that paves the way for those that follow is that it is one of the few programs that combines wide appeal scifi, insightful social commentary, cerebral plots, intriguing and/or likable characters, and good humor. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding TNG is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.