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Sunday, March 15, 2015

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' S3 BD: Revisiting a Classic in 'The Year of Trek'

Product Details

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated version of an April 2013 review of the Blu-ray release of the third season of  "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is designed to fill the gap between the previously posted review of S2 and upcoming S4 review in the "Year of Trek" series on this site. As an aside, the S3 set is the first BD "TNG" set that I acquired. Seeing what has changed and what has remained constant in two years was great fun.]

Stating that the CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray release, which Trekkers can use their latinum to purchase starting April 30, 2013, of the third season set "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (TNG) is beyond awesome does not begin to convey the incredible spectacularness of this set.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the CBS trailer for the S3 BD release nicely conveys the aforementioned awesomeness.

This indescribably exceptional set creates great confidence that (subsequently reviewed) the Blu-ray release, which is also coming out on April 30, 2013, of the "TNG" third season cliffhanger The Best of Both Worlds" will be just as good.

I am saving this re-edited version of "Worlds" that plays like a feature-length film for my extra-special viewing slot tonight. I will report on this one next week but expect that it will be sponge-cake worthy in that it will warrant digging into the stash of Twinkies that I froze in December.

The quality of the "TNG" third season Blu-ray release has convinced me to break my strict rule against purchasing Blu-ray versions of shows that I own on DVD. Despite having spent roughly $250 on the DVD releases of all seven "TNG" seasons, I plan to buy the Blu-rays of seasons one and two and to collect the remaining four seasons as Paramount releases them on Blu-ray.

(It is worth noting that the "TNG" BD sets have been the only ones to warrant the aforementioned treatment in the two years sine first posting this S3 review.)

Another personal rule is that I typically limit my use of foul language to painfully difficult customer service interactions but genuinely exclaimed "oh my (very bad word) god" when the opening scene of the third season season premiere appeared on my television.

The images of the glowing red planet and the U.S.S. Enterprise at the beginning of "Evolution" were far sharper than those in any other Blu-ray that I have watched. A subsequent scene that really brought out the blue in the eyes of guest star Ken "Dr. Bob Kelso" Jenkins prompted me to conduct the acid test of taking off my glasses. I was amazed that I could see the picture just as clearly with just two (non-visor enhanced) eyes.

Out of respect for the truly great "TNG" cast, I will refrain from identifying which characters do not look so great in hi-def. However, some of them really should have moisturized better and lobbied for a better make-up artist.

I did not notice much difference in the quality of the sound regarding the voices, but the enhancement of special effects and background sounds was incredible. Some of the rumblings as the Enterprise experienced various forms of distress truly evoked chills, which is unheard of for me regarding ANY television series.

I was equally pleased to see the "play all" feature on the Blu-ray release. Having to go through a couple of menus each time that I wanted to watch an episode on the DVD releases was my only gripe regarding that version.

Regarding the episodes themselves, watching them convinced me that "TNG" is what I refer to as a "house painting" series in that it is so good that it is worth starting to watch all over again after finishing the series. (Thus remains true two years later.)

I have watched each "TNG"episode on television at least five times and only finished watching the series on DVD last year but found the few BD episodes that I watched very fresh. Each offering typically includes so much that fully appreciating them requires several viewings.

The themes in "Evolution" included the theme of the right of a mechanical being to live that often related to series regular Data, who was the only android who was serving in Star Fleet, and the extent to which the newly returned (YAAA) Dr. Beverly Crusher was cramping the style of her teen-age son Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher. Reintroducing Crusher Senior truly can be described as the Gates of Heaven.

"Ensigns of Command," which was the second episode of the third season, had the uber-intelligent Data facing the challenge of serving as a diplomat despite his programming and training not preparing him for that role. Similar to his "Star Trek" the original series counter-part Mr. Spock (RIP Mr. Nimoy), Data had to adapt to the fact that humanoids were rarely logical. Data, like Spock, additionally indicated a rare tone of anger.

An ongoing dispute with extraordinarily toxic neighbors made the theme of abuse of the law, and disregard for its spirit, in "Ensigns" very relevant. Enterprise Captain Picard turning that tactic against the alien foe, who looked incredibly menacing in hi-def, was very satisfying.

Further, Picard's line "you're damn right I did" when another character commented that Picard had "hung up" on the alien was one of the funniest lines of the entire series. This episode further included a texting scene roughly 25 years before this technology hit the market.

Aside from "Worlds," the most memorable third season episode brought former Chief Security Officer Tasha Yar, who left "TNG" after a very unpleasant encounter with a genuine tar baby in the first season, back to the series. "Sarek," in which Mark Leonard reprised his role as Spock's father in the original series, is a close third only because it is more of a treat for original series fans that for "TNG" fans.

The Blu-ray release additionally includes a gag reel and new features that largely focus on the series' writers. Fanboy and (then) King of Primetime Animation Seth MacFarlane hosts a surprisingly reverential discussion with four "TNG" writers. The many fascinating reveals included the practice of allowing anyone at all who wrote a full script to submit it to the production staff for consideration for having that story filmed.

A companion feature was a tribute to "TNG" producer and writer, and all-around "Star Trek" god, Michael Piller. The sense of the comments by "TNG" writers and actors was that Piller ran a tight ship but knew what he was doing and was a tough to dislike despite practices that included rejecting scripts merely because he had difficulty providing notes on it. These traits seem to have influenced the characteristics of the Picard character.

I will end on those well-deserved notes of praise and invite fellow Trekkers to email questions or comments regarding any of the awesome "Star Trek" series.

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