Plot: What’s it about?
Star Trek: The Next Generation is my second favorite show of all-time (I don’t think that anything will ever replace The Simpson’s). It came out at a very interesting time in my life with the series spanning from my early high school years into my mid-college years. I remember watching it on Sunday’s with my brother and even now, some three decades later, still find myself going back and re-watching episodes several times a month. I’d say that’s pretty impressive, then again Trek fans are known to be hardcore. The show produced four feature-length films, each with varying degrees of critical and commercial success. The First, Generations, took the crew of the Enterprise-D and we had a sendoff to the crew of the Original Series. The next, First Contact, is widely regarded as the “best” of the bunch and gave us an all out battle with the Borg. The two later installments: Insurrection and Nemesis essentially marked the end of their theatrical run. We find ourselves about two decades into the 21st century and, wouldn’t you know it, we’ve got Star Trek: Picard with Patrick Stewart now enjoying the “retired” life back home on Earth. Did we need this series? No. But it’s oh so satisfying to have it. Here’s what to expect during it’s three year run:
We reunite with retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as he’s enjoying life at his chateau in France. He misses his days on the Enterprise and is looking for some redemption after we see the details of his retirement. Things get interesting when an alien android comes looking for assistance and we see Picard once again answer his call. He’s not alone, however, as his ally Data (Brent Spiner) is along for the ride. There are some plot points that seemed to get me a bit sidetracked, but on the whole it was a very good introduction to the series (not the character, that had been around since 1987).
Of the three seasons, this one is widely considered (by far), the worst of the batch. We see the reintroduction of the Borg and the Federation, but a Borg Queen takes control of the Federation fleet. Click your heels together a few times and we see our old, omnipetent friend, Q (John de Lancie) as he shows up to test Picard one last time (remember, the trial never ended). The challenge? Q resets the timeline where the Confederation runs the universe. Picard, along with Rios (Santiago Cabrera), Raffi (Michelle Hurd), Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Ninja Elnor (Evan Evagora) will have to save the future. Don’t be fooled by some of the names, there are only a handful of good episodes here.
When you’re down, there’s nowhere to go but up. As we enter the final season, we’re in for quite the treat. I don’t think I’m spoiling this for anyone to say that we get the crew of the Enteprise reunited (and it feels so good) for this final season. Yes, they’re back. I won’t praddle on about the plot points here, the less you know – the better. And if a tear doesn’t come to your eye at the end of the last episode, it’s my assessment that you don’t have a soul. Enjoy.
Video: How’s it look?
Given the time that’s passed since Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, there have been some pretty nice advantages in technology. And seeing as how the Blu-ray set looked pretty darn good, I can say that each season of Picard looks absolutely stunning. Similar to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, these episodes are presented in a more “theatrical” aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The AVC HD encoded image looks, well, stunning. Granted, the actors have aged and with the uptick in detail, there’s no amount of makeup that can hide wrinkles or liver spots, but I have to admit that Patrick Stewart looks pretty good for a man his age. As is the case with any Trek TV or movie, we get plenty of shots of space, the interiors of the Enterprise and so forth. And it comes as no surprise that these all look positively stunning. Colors pop (especially on Earth), contrast is strong and I was hard-pressed to really find anything wrong with the way these look. I suppose there’s hope that the series might be released in 4K, but if not (or if not for a while), these will more than certainly suffice.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has several moments to shine in the 30 episodes. Granted, we’ve got the obligatory battles with lasers (whoops, sorry – “photon torpedoes”) and such, but there’s a surprising amount of dialogue included as well. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any Trek fan and we all know that Patrick Stewart’s Picard is capable of some pretty amazing speeches. Surrounds are surprisingly active during a few of the battle scenes. On the whole, it’s consistent with what we would think it would be and, like the hope for a 4K disc, so too does hope remain that if/when that does happen – we’ll be treated to a Dolby Atmos mix. Perhaps, one day.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Story Logs – Each of the episodes feature a short behind-the-scenes featurette that give us some details on the episode, discussions from the cast and crew and so forth.
- Video Commentary – The episode “Rememberance” is featured, though we have to bear in mind that this came out at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s a “distanced” commentary, but nevertheless engaging (get it?).
- Deleted Scenes – Four episodes have deleted scenes included: “Remberance”, “Broken Pieces”, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part I” and “En In Arcadia Ego, Part II.”
- Star Trek Short Treks: Children of Mars – A, you guessed it, short, that follows the children who were affected by the tragedy on Mars. This also features an optional audio commentary.
- Make it So – A look at what it took to get this. made, to have it have its own identity as well as “getting the band back together” with Patrick Stewart reprising his iconic role.
- Aliens Alive: The xBs – A look at how the “ex-Borg” was made as we see them pop up here and there.
- Picard Props – We see some new weapons, stuffed animals (yes, really), various trinkets and of course – wine bottles.
- Set Me Up – We get a look at several of the set pieces used in the show.
- The Motley Crew – A look at some of the new faces that appear in this show are profiled.
- Gag Reel – More of the same.
- The USS Stargazer – The featurette takes a deep dive into the creation of the USS Stargazer from conception to build out and features exclusive timelapse photography alongside Production Designer Dave Blass, who brought the original TNG art department onboard, including the famed Star Trek graphic artist Michael Okuda, and design artists Doug Drexler and John Eaves to recreate the latest USS Stargazer.
- The Chateau – Led by Production Designer Dave Blass and Prop Master Jeff Lombardi, the featurette explores the transition of Picard’s chateau following its redesign and conversion to the Dataverse in season one.The Trial is Over – The intimate, behind-the-scenes look connects fans with John de Lancie who reprises his role as Q, playing a significant part in the season two story arc.
- Rebuilding the Borg Queen – The featurette showcases actress Annie Wersching as she discusses stepping into the role of the Borg Queen. After 25 years, the iconic character returns through advanced design and production techniques, which are further discussed by Designer Neville Page, Prosthetics Master Vincent Van Dyke and Make-Up Department Head James MacKinnon.
- Picard Props – Property Master Jeff Lombardi takes fans on a tour that showcases the various props created for this season.
- Picard Passages – Alongside cast and crew, fans will follow the heroes from STAR TREK: PICARD through time and space as they encounter old and new friends, as well as challenges, in the latest season.
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes
- The Gang’s All Here – Essentially they go through the cast as they recount their roles, what it’s like to “be back” and so on.
- The Making of “The Last Generation” – This documentary features some production, writing and performances that went into the entire final season. We get some information on the visual effects and an audition tape from Ed Speelers (who plays Jack Crusher).
- Audio Commentaries – There are several in this season that feature commentaries: “The Next Generation”, “Seventeen Seconds”, “No Win Scenario”, “The Bounty”, “Surrender” and “The Last Generation.”
- Deleted Scenes – Like the audio commentaries, several episodes have some deleted scenes included: “The Bounty”, “Dominion”, “Surrender” and “The Last Generation.”
- Gag Reel – Oh I think we all know what this is.
- Rebuilding the Enterprise-D – Pretty much that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that if you get emotional looking at the crew of the Enterprise-D, imagine how they felt. It’s pretty cool.
- Villainous Vadic – Amanda Plummer is interviewed and various producers and creatives, about bringing Vadic to life. We also learn that her late father (Christopher Plummer), who played General Chang in Star Trek VI, had not been seen by her.
- Picard: The Final Season Q&A – Pretty much that. Actors and crew Alex Kurtzman, Terry Matalas, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, and Jonathan Frakes all help answer questions. This is on YouTube as well.
The Bottom Line
Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its small screen run in 1994 and, as of this writing, the last ST: TNG-based film was 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. The point being, if you’ve waited this long to see Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise take up where they left off (sort of), then the wait is over. Is it a replacement for the show? I think not. But it’s nice to see that the magic is still there and for true fans of Star Trek in general or, more the point, fans of TNG – this one is for you.