Plot: What’s it about?
I’d remarked in my review of the fourth season, that the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation were among the show’s best. I stand behind that. Well that and it’s pretty much universally (pardon the pun) agreed that those three seasons really were the series’ best. The show was a worldwide success was approaching the monumental 100 episode mark. Still, the writing contented to improve, the characters were very familiar with their roles (both on and off screen) and the show contented to deliver week after week. The fifth season starts with a bang as we’re treated to the second part of Redemption (the season ending cliffhanger from Season Four). These two part season finale/season openers worked well for the show and at the end of the fifth season the crew of the Enterprise meets Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in a marriage that will unite the Original Series with that of the Next Generation. This happens again, of course, in Star Trek: Generations.
Though individual choices vary from season to season, I have to say that the fifth season contains a few of my personal favorites. Yes, not many out there are fans of the Wesley Crusher (Will Wheaton) character, but I always liked him. In “The Game” he and Ensign Lefler (a then unknown Ashley Judd) try to figure out the addictive nature of an addictive game before it destroys the ship. Probably one of the most universally-acclaimed episodes is “The Inner Light” in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is struck by a beam of electricity and lives an entire life in the blink of an eye. It’s a stage for Stewart’s amazing acting abilities as well as a great episode. Another of my favorites is “Cause and Effect” in which the Enteprise brings Deja Vu to a new level as they literally relive the same day, over and over, only to end with the ship blowing up. Truthfully there’s something for everyone in this season and it’s probably the last truly great season of the show (not that the sixth and seventh seasons were bad by any means). And, let’s face it, if you own the first four are you really going to stop now?
Video: How’s it look?
I’m still stunned at how good some of these episodes look. This fifth season aired when I was a Freshman in college and I can still remember watching them on my little 19″ TV in my dorm room. Truthfully they never looked as good then as they do now. Paramount’s commitment to the Star Trek franchise and The Next Generation in particular is a tip of the hat to the show’s fans. The restoration is simply beautiful exposing new levels of detail and color and the new special effects, though discrete, do give the episodes a more modern look and feel. There’s really nothing new I can say here that didn’t apply to the first three seasons – they’ve done a fine job with these and I eagerly anticipate the final seasons to round out my collection. Of note, as in previous seasons two episodes feature some segments that aren’t in full HD. Those episodes are “Power Play” and “The First Duty.”
Audio: How’s it sound?
Modern day science-fiction shows sound just as good as feature films, but 20+ years ago this wasn’t the case. Although each episode has been given a new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack simply sounds amazing. Vocals are strong and well-centered with the constant hum of the Enterprise heard in nearly every scene. I’m sounding like a broken record here, but these really do exhibit a richness and depth that literally wasn’t possible when these aired. The LFE are active, phasers sound like they’re in the same room as you and Jerry Goldsmith’s score simply resonates. What more can a Trekkie ask for?
Supplements: What are the extras?
For those that have the original TNG seasons on standard DVD, some of these features will look the same (and dated), but there are some other, newer supplements to make note of, so let’s take a look at the features that season five has to offer.
- Audio Commentaries – Four episodes contain and audio commentary and if memory serves, these were also present on the standard DVD sets. Those that were most appealing to me were “Cause and Effect” and “The Inner Light.” We get a bevy of participants for these four episodes, but I have to say that “The Inner Light” was the one that seemed the most genuine and sincere. Morgan Gendel and Mike & Denise Okuda are the participants and with the original writer on board, we get more of a sense of what the episode was trying to say. It’s a great listen to one of the series’ most talked-about episodes.
- Deleted Scenes – Seven episodes have a deleted scene or two and while these are interesting to watch, none really offer that much information as to why they were cut or any value added if they were in the final cut of the show.
- Archival Mission Logs
- Mission Overview: Year Five – Is literally that. It’s an 18 minute look at the season, with some of the highlights of the show and features the appearance of Ambassador Spock in the season-ending “Unification” as well as a few of the other key episodes of the season.
Departmental Briefing Year Five: Production – A few of the season’s episodes are spotlighted here with particular emphasis on “The Inner Light”, though “Ethics”, “Cause and Effect” and “The First Duty” are all explored as well.
Departmental Briefing Year Five: Visual Effects – Though it now seems totally dated, we get a look at the then cutting-egdge special effects for the show. We get to see how the holodeck “worked”, the show’s title credits as well as some other assorted effects.
Memorable Missions – This is somewhat of a highlight reel from some of the season’s more notable episodes: “The Game,” “Hero Worship,” “The First Duty,” “The Perfect Mate,” and “Disaster” are all covered.
A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry – Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, died in 1991 and though this supplement is vintage, it does give us a good look at the show’s creator.
Intergalactic Guest Stars – The cast and crew reflect on some of the show’s guest stars and notable in the fifth season alone were Ashley Judd and Kelsey Grammer.
Alien Speak – I’ve often wondered if the actors have ever dropped a line while speaking in an alien language? At any rate, this segment gives us a look at some of the languages features like Vulcan, Klingon and Borg.