Plot: What’s it about?
Many view the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation as the best of the series. The cast was now “seasoned”, the ratings were higher, the budgets weren’t a concern and the writing was top notch. Add to that the season began with the second part of the first cliffhanger in “The Best of Both Worlds” in which the Borg had assimilated Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) into one of their own. Ironically enough, the season would end with another cliffhanger in “Redepmtion.” Moreso this season really delved into the personal lives and relationships of not ony the main characters, but some of the more “overlooked” ones as well. Picard and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) share an episode in “Final Mission”, the crew of the Enterprise plays out Robin Hood (literally) in one of my favorite episodes: “Qpid.” And we get some further development into Worf’s character when we meet Alexander (Jon Paul Steuer). Yes, it might be said that family is at the heart of this season and that’s something that’s always been the focus of in the television series. Gene Roddenberry’s vision was a race working together to explore the depths of space, all the while overcoming the petty things that made the human race what it is.
This fourth season is no departure from the previous ones; we get high quality audio and video in addition to a wealth of supplements. Additionally I have to say that this season includes a few of my favorite episodes with the aforementioned “Qpid”, “Suddenly Human” starring Chad Allen as Jono in an episode that my brother and I still quote to this very day as well as “The Drumhead” where every member of the Enterprise is under interrogation. Having watched the first four seasons I realize why the show is so popular and is really has stood the test of time. The writing continued to improve this season (not that it ever needed much improvement) but Ronald D. Moore really took it to the next level here. The crew of the Enterprise felt more like a close knit family than some of the other shows out there, we felt that each and every person had a story and that we knew them more than the paper-thin characters on other shows. No doubt if you’re reading this that you’re a fan of the show. It never really slowed down after this and paved the way for the four feature films that followed after the show’s end in 1994. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The bar was set very high with the first three seasons and the fourth installment is certainly no exception. Though presented in full-frame, the AVC HD image looks positively stunning. If you need a “before” and “after” example, take a look at one of the episodic promos shown prior to the episode. It feels like you’re watching a VHS tape that’s been played about 300 times. 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 three seasons to round out my collection.
Audio: How does it sound?
Just as the video looks top notch so too does the audio in regard to sound. Each episode has been given a new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that breathes new life into the show. 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?
If you own these on standard DVD then you’ll already be familiar with the lion’s share of the supplements as they’re simply ported over from the previous set. But the sixth disc does contain some new material, so why don’t we start there? We begin with “In Conversation: The Star Trek Art Department” as we have a group meeting with several of the figureheads of the show as they discuss their roles in the show, the visual effects and the challenges of making the technology believable. “Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 1: Homecoming” now that’s a mouthful. We get some interviews with the cast and crew as they digest the season and its success from the previous year and the show surpassing the original series run. Truly this was a bona fide Trek and we get the inside scoop here. This is followed by “Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 2: Posterity” as we get some information on some of the intra-personal characters on the show; namely Riker and Troi, Data (in his portrayal of his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong) as well as some insight on Worf and Wesley Crusher. Also included are some deleted scenes from various episodes and a gag reel.
Additionally, we get the existing supplements found on the other five discs. As mentioned, these aren’t new to this set, but still make a worthwhile addition. Included are two audio commentaries on “Brothers” and “Family” with writer Ronald D. Moore, Mike and Denise Okuda to name a few. Each disc also features the “Archival Mission Logs” which focus on selected character development as well as some more technical aspects like set decoration and production design. Everything you want is here, folks. And if you already own the first three seasons are you really going to stop now?