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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: The Next Generation—The Complete First Season (1987)

Dr. McCoy: Well, it's a new ship, but she's got the right name. You remember that.
Data: I will, Sir.
Dr. McCoy: You treat her like a lady, and she'll always bring you home.

- DeForest Kelley, Brent Spiner

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: March 25, 2002

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner
Other Stars: Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Mirina Sirtis, Gates McFadden
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence)
Run Time: Approx. 1200 min.
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 097361569246
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The original Star Trek went off the air in the late 1960s, but nearly 20 years after the show had been canceled, it was more popular than ever, thanks to reruns that ran round the clock and a successful series of films. Paramount, the owner of the franchise, decided it was time to bring Trek back to TV, and Gene Roddenberry, the creator, was more than happy to comply. He had a few rules first, though: The show would have to be syndicated, so he could produce it without network interference. And it was going to be set a generation after the original (as the classic Trek actors were too old and too expensive).

The new series, referred to as TNG by acronym fans, premiered in 1987 to mixed audience response. For the first two seasons, it was clearly a show struggling to find a voice, and the spirit of the progenitor looms large over some of the episodes. Many elements are clearly carried over, from an entirely recycled plot in episode 3, to the villain Q, an updated version of Kirk's nemesis, Trelene. But even during these first seasons, with their uneven mix of campiness and preachiness, cheap sets and stiff actors, the show is still, first and foremost, a picture of what humanity may someday be, a race without greed, want, war, or hatred, but one able to live in peace not only with each other, but with other civilizations around the galaxy. Gene Roddenberry's dream was always humanity at its best, and TNG continues that tradition.

Part of the reason the original series was so successful was the unforgettable cast of characters and the great chemistry between the actors that brought them to life. And while in the early shows, TNG is still searching for the right balance between character and plot, there is still a wonderful cast to build off of. Patrick Stewart, a commanding Shakespearean actor, was brought on to play Captain Picard, a man every bit the coolheaded negotiator that Kirk was the brash hothead (heck, Picard surrenders no less than three times in the first season alone!). He is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the show, and he manages to give even the sloppiest exposition of technobabble an air of dignity. Jonathan Frakes plays 1st Officer William Riker, and he's more the Kirk of the show, a ladies' man who is eager to rush into battle to protect his captain, and the actor never gets too serious with the role. Brent Spiner plays Data, the android longing to be more human, and reveals himself to be a gifted comedian, both in terms of comic timing and physical gags. Levar Burton plays blind engineer Geordi LaForge, who sees through a special visor, and somehow, he manages to emote even under that bulky facial apparatus. There's Michael Dorn as Worf, the Klingon warrior raised by humans, who manages to develop some dimensions for a character from a race that, up to this point, had had none.

There are great roles for women on TNG too. Denise Crosby, originally cast as the telepathic ship's counselor, plays instead Security Chief Natasha Yar, and makes an impression despite being criminally ignored in terms of storylines for much of the first season, as a woman of strength, not just eye candy. Likewise, Dr. Beverly Crusher, played by former Muppeteer Gates McFadden, is a good role model, the fiery ship's doctor who isn't afraid to stand up to the Captain if need be (the doctor's son, Wesley, is played by Wil Wheaton from Stand By Me, and little genius Wes is always saving the day, which means most of the fans hate him). Marina Sirtis, meanwhile, does play the ship's counselor, Deanna Troi, and although a good actress, she is reduced through much of the first season to doing nothing but "sensing" the intentions of various aliens and beings that visit the ship. Luckily, in later seasons, the writers learned how to handle her as a well-rounded character. Here, though, her talents are largely wasted.

TNG eventually lasted seven seasons and, to date, has produced three feature films with a fourth on the way. Through not every episode is a shining example of good sci-fi, the series remains enjoyable throughout, thanks largely to the cast and the overall vision of one man, who strived to show humanity what it might hope to be.

This boxed set contains all 26 episodes of season one on seven DVDs.

Disc One:

Episode 1&2: Encounter at Farpoint
Stardate: 41153.7

"Yes, this Farpoint Station will make an excellent test." - Q (John de Lancie)

The pilot for TNG is something of a mixed bag. The Enterprise crew is introduced, including the (at this point) unbelievably annoying Deanna Troi (STOP SENSING THINGS!), and the ship is ordered to contact the mysterious Farpoint Station, reportedly one of the finest outposts in the galaxy. On the way, they have their first of many encounters with the omnipotent super-being Q, who proceeds to put the crew on trials for all of the past crimes of humanity, with their handling of the Farpoint Station mission acting as a test. The Q scenes are quite entertaining (it's clear why he became a favorite reoccurring guest star), as are the images of mid-21st Century human civilization during the "trial," but the Farpoint mission itself is rather anti-climactic and dull. This episode, which featured special effects from ILM, shows off the ability of the Enterprise to separate the saucer section. This ability was promptly forgotten for most of the series, as it was so expensive to shoot.

Q judges this one to deserve 2.5 out of 5 comm badges.

Episode 3: The Naked Now
Stardate: 41209.2

"You mean I'm drunk? I feel strange, but also good!" - Wesley

In a throwback to the original series episode The Naked Time, the entire crew becomes infected by a strange alien virus that makes them all act as if intoxicated (this is a problem, as intoxicated Starfleet officers have been known to get rather randy, blowing out airlocks and such). As the crew becomes more and more ineffective, the ship is orbiting a star that may explode at any second, and Wesley, even more annoying when drunk, has locked off engineering and comandeered control of the ship from the bridge. Undoubtedly TNG at its fruitiest, this is a fun episode if you can overlook the camp. Memorable moments: Wesley decreeing that "a dessert course will now be served before and after every meal," Yar discovering just how "functional" an android can be, and Picard and Beverly sharing a tender moment (is that an "unzip" I just heard?). Watch for some great physical comedy from Brent Spiner as the "drunken" Data. Keep an eye on the screen as Data researches the virus on the computer. A picture flashes by of a parrot with Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's head (his nickname was "The Great Bird of the Galaxy"). Wesley saves the day count: 1.

I must be drunk for awarding this one 3 comm badges.

Episode 4: Code of Honor
Stardate: 41235.25

"How sad for you." - Lt. Yar

Enterprise and Co. travel to a less-developed world in order to procure an anti-virus that will save an ailing Federation world. On this backwards planet, the men are in power, but can hold no property, and one of them decides to kidnap Lt. Yar and take her for his new wife (did he think he'd get the Enterprise?). But his current bride isn't too keen on a young blonde harlot moving in on her man, and she challenges Yar to a duel to the death. All the while, millions are in danger on the sick planet, and the outcome of this fight will determine if the Enterprise crew can get the medicine to them in time. Aside from a few interesting moments with Yar, who is by far the most underused and underdeveloped character in the first season, this one is pretty much a dud. The alien culture (the Legonians) seems right out of the "offensive stereotypes" chapter in the book of TV history, an all-black planet where everyone wears multi-colored robes and talks funny.

A dishonorable 1.5 comm badges.

Disc Two:

Episode 5: The Last Outpost
Stardate: 41386.4

"It's true! You work with your females. Arm them. Force them to wear clothing. Sickening." - Ferengi (Armin Shimerman)

The Enterprise makes first contact with the Ferengi, but the meeting is disrupted when both ships are disabled by an unknown force, and each blames the other. It seems that they have stumbled across a security outpost from a dead civilization, and to save the lives of their respective crews, representatives from the Federation and the Ferengi must beam down to face an inquisition from the mysterious Portal. These early episodes tried to set the Ferengi up as the chief villains of the series, on par with the Klingons or Romulans, but it is already clear that the whiny, sniveling cowards make pretty ineffective adversaries. Still, this isn't a bad episode overall, and we do get, I believe, our first speech comparing some less-enlightened species to humanity in the 20th century, and the characters can be really self-righteous about how far they've come.

Open your Portal and cram in 3 comm badges.

Episode 6: Where No One Has Gone Before
Stardate: 41263.1

"If we stay here much longer, we may lose the ability to distinguish between thoughts and reality." - Picard

A Starfleet warp specialist boards the ship with his odd alien assistant, on orders to modify the Enterprise warp engines and make them more efficient. However, the man's companion, the Traveler, is actually the one doing the work, and he accidentally sends the ship millions of light years across the galaxy, to the Great Barrier, where time, thought, and reality become one. It's up to Picard to figure out just how to recreate the experiment before the ship is totally transformed into a crazy house of hallucinations. This is actually a pretty good episode, with nice character moments for the main crew, as we see their various inner thoughts manifest, and the Traveler is interesting enough to warrant another visit later on. Even if he does tell Picard to encourage Wesley, because he understands warp engines like Mozart understood music. Right. Wesley saves the day count: 2.

Your dreams become reality! A 3.5 comm badge episode.

Episode 7: Lonely Among Us
Stardate: 41249.3

"It's elementary, my dear Riker." - Data

While transporting rival races to a peace summit, the Enterprise travels through an energy cloud, and the ship begins to malfunction. It seems they have accidentally taken aboard a mysterious entity that exists as a form of energy that can inhabit computer systems or even people's bodies. The being makes every attempt to get home, eventually melding with Picard and beaming him out into space! The main problem with this one is that it is just so predictable, as it is never in question what is controlling the ship, or that they will be able to bring the captain back. However, there is some amusement from those warring alien species, as they attempt to kill and eat each other (and, at one point, Riker). Their makeup is really interesting as well, big snake-heads vs. big dog-heads.

Float around in space until you pick up 2.5 comm badges.

Episode 8: Justice
Stardate: 41255.6

"I'm with Starfleet. We don't lie!" - Wesley

The worst episode of season one. The away team beams down on shore leave to what appears to be the Planet of Horny Morons, where everyone dresses in togas and boinks like rabbits. It turns out that this is an ultra-strict society, where people are executed for transgressions equivalent to walking on the grass, which Wesley does. Sadly, Picard doesn't let them go through with it, but at the same time, he can't simply beam him up, as it would involve violating the Prime Directive. Sigh. The Prime Directive becomes a very big thing this season, so get used to it. The episodes that really have problems seem to be the ones where they try to recreate a whole society on an away mission, resulting in, more often than not, a lot of bad sets and stupid costumes. Also, get used to Picard preaching a lot about how superior the Federation is to the underdeveloped societies they encounter. Watch for Beverly's rather subdued concern for her doomed son. She even wrings her hands a few times. Trivia: the "luxurious" planet of the Edo was filmed at an old water reclamation plant.

A pitiful half comm badge.

Disc Three:

Episode 9: The Battle
Stardate: 41723.9

We freely give you back your derelict warship and now you accuse us of crime, Riker? I can bear no more insults." - Kazago (Doug Warhit)

This is a fairly good episode that offers some hints at Picard's past. The Enterprise meets a group of Ferengi who have salvaged an old starship, The Stargazer, which was destroyed while Picard was serving on her. Unbeknownst to Picard, the unknown enemy that attacked the ship all those years ago was Ferengi, and they have booby-trapped the ship as an act of revenge. Aside from being an intriguing story of revenge and mind control, there are some great scenes here, with Picard tortured by nightmares and hallucinating that he is on the bridge of his old ship, surrounded by dead comrades. Wesley saves the day count: 3.

A mind altering 5 comm badges.

Episode 10: Hide and Q
Stardate: 41590.5

Q: Let us pray for understanding and compassion.
Picard: Let us do no such damn thing!

The only bad Q episode. The wily being returns to the Enterprise with another "test." This time, he makes a wager with Picard. He tests Riker, tempting him by granting him all the power of the Q. While it seems like a strong premise, the episode fails in its execution, as the script winds up downright schizophrenic, with Riker going back and forth from reluctant to power hungry, with no concern for narrative. The "planet" this time is even more ludicrously fake-looking than usual, and Q's created adversaries (ape creatures in French army uniforms) verge on ridiculous. Still, worth a viewing for Q's presence, as he's always amusing, and for a scene where both Wesley and Worf (my two least favorite characters) get stabbed to death. One question: where was Troi during all of this?

A power-hungry 2.5 comm badges for this one.

Episode 11: Haven
Stardate: 41294.5

"Could you please continue the petty bickering? I find it most intriguing." - Data

This amusing episode marks the first of many appearances of Deanna's mother Lwaxana Troi, played by Gene Roddenberry's wife Majel (Nurse Chapel from the original series AND voice of the Enterprise's computer). Lwaxana is a fun character, and Barret stomps all over the scene with it. Troi receives an unexpected visit from her mother when she arrives along with the Miller family who, in Troi's childhood, had promised their children to marry. But the boy, Wyatt, isn't interested in Troi; he's been dreaming his entire life of a mysterious blonde woman. The wedding is interrupted by a visit from a ship carrying the last members of a dying civilization, who seek the planet Haven, said to have healing powers. Truth be told, the conclusion, where the wedding ties into the appearance of the visitors, is profoundly stupid, but the show is very entertaining anyway, mostly because of Lwaxana. She has great chemistry with Picard, demanding that he find her attractive, and the whole business of the traditional Betazoid wedding ceremony (all nude) is very amusing. Watch for some really bad exposition from Data, where he explains all about the dying civilization at a briefing, even though everyone (except the audience) already knows about it.

3.5 comm badges make for a lovely wedding present.

Episode 12: The Big Goodbye
Stardate: 41997.7

"I need your help, Mr. Hill. Someone is trying to kill me." - Jessica Bradley (Carolyn Allport)

The first of the episodes to take place mostly on the Holodeck, and the introduction of Picard's favorite literary hero, hard-boiled detective Dixon Hill. Picard, feeling stressed about a diplomatic duty he has to perform, takes advantage of some down time to relax on the Holodeck with a program based on a 1940s detective. He brings along Beverly, Data, and another crew member, and at first, everyone has a wonderful time interacting with the amazingly complex recreation of a city right out of film noir. But when an alien ship scans the Enterprise, the safety programs on the Holodeck are damaged, and suddenly, the fake bullets can do real damage, and Picard and crew are trapped! More often than not, the Holodeck episodes are among the most entertaining, as they allow the actors to have a bit of fun with their roles, and this one is no exception. Keep an eye out for Data, doing his best Cagney impression. And Beverly... well, as Picard says, she "wears it well." Wesley saves the day count: 4.

Here's looking at 4 comm badges.

Disc Four:

Episode 13: Datalore
Stardate: 41242.4

Riker: Does it appear to have all of your parts?
Geordi: Will we know how to turn it on?

Another very strong first season entry, and the next to introduce a recurring character. While investigating the planet where Data was discovered, the crew finds an exact replica of everyone's favorite android, albeit a dissembled one. They put him together and turn him on, and he still works, which says something for the durability of androids, I guess. He calls himself Lore, and says he was built after Data, and was the more "perfect" version. But his story doesn't seem to check out, and he has some rather menacing character traits, as he feels the emotions and greed that Data cannot. When a secret in Data and Lore's past hints at the reason for the destruction of the colony, Data attempts to stop his brother before he can destroy the Enterprise as well! Lore is a great character, and Brent Spiner does a wonderful job with the duel role, especially the scenes where Lore is impersonating Data. We also learn that Data can't use contractions, even though, it appears, he does when he feels like it. Hmm. Wesley saves the day count: 5.

I cannot use contractions, but I can give this episode 4.5 comm badges.

Episode 14: Angel One
Stardate: 41636.9

"For a man, you can be very clever, Commander Riker." - Beata (Karen Montgomery)

This is another one that tries to show a whole civilization and winds up looking like something shot on a bunch of cheap sets with illogical costumes. The Enterprise searches for survivors from a downed vessel, whom they believe to have crashed on Angel One, where a society of women rule, with men as their servants. Troi acts as ambassador, while Riker does his best to get into the female leader's pants. Meanwhile, the survivors are found, but they have reasons for wanting to stay on Angel One, even if that means they must live as fugitives and face death. The problems that plague a lot of first season episodes are on display here in full force. For one thing, the "metaphor" of the story is too obvious and on the nose (the idea of a planet ruled by women being just as backwards as one ruled by men), and again, Picard does a lot of speechifying about the Prime Directive, which basically stops him from interfering and saving the lives of the shipwrecked men. As far as I'm concerned, even talking to a less-developed civilization is a form of interference, and a violation of the Prime Directive right there, but I guess that's why I'm not a Starfleet captain.

Riker does his best to score but only manages 1 lousy comm badge.

Episode 15: 11001001
Stardate: 41365.9

"What's a knockout like you doing in a computer-generated gin joint like this ?"- Riker

The Enterprise, while docked at a starbase for a supposedly routine computer upgrade, is hijacked by the Bynars, an odd group of aliens whose species has become interdependent with computers, and whose home star has gone nova, rendering the computers there inoperative. They store the contents of their race's memory in the Enterprise and race back home, hoping that Picard and Riker, distracted by an upgraded Holodeck program, won't interfere. This is one of my favorites in the first season. The storyline is unique, there's a good bit of mystery throughout, and the Bynars are such cute little guys. Also, Riker proves just how lame he is when he falls in love with the "perfect" woman, except she's a hologram, which seems key. Picard still gives a speech at the end, but it's only a little one.

11001001 comm badges. Oops, I mean 4.5.

Episode 16: Too Short a Season
Stardate: 41309.5

Data: Their phasers are set on kill.
Picard: Thank you, Mr. Data, I have heard the sound before.

Aged Admiral Mark Jameson is taken on board the Enterprise, and the ship races towards the planet Mordan IV, where a hostage situation has developed. It seems that Jameson, a decorated negotiator, had dealt with the planet's governor, Karnas, years before, and was requested to return. The Admiral, who had contracted a disease that crippled his body and confined him to a wheelchair, suddenly starts to regain his strength. It seems he procured an anti-aging drug from an alien civilization, but in his haste to grow strong enough in time to face Karnas, he took the entire two-year dose at once. The drugs begin to work rapidly, and his organs can't keep up. Meanwhile, a dark secret in his past threatens the lives of the hostages and everyone on board the Enterprise. The hostage plot is glossed over for the most part, by the youth drug is more interesting anyway, and there is some great acting from Jameson (caked under the worst old age makeup ever) as he tries to explain to his wife why he is getting younger while she remains old.

3.5 comm badges, ya' whippersnapper!

Discs Five through Seven continue here.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer on these discs is a bit problematic, but that is mostly because of the source material. While TNG was shot on film, due to budget limitations, the special effects were finished on video (as doing them in 35mm would have been way too expensive). The result is a show that, at times, has many of the flaws inherent in video master. That is, blacks are fairly solid but lack contrast, meaning if it is dark on the screen, it just looks dark, with detail a bit hard to make out. Another big detriment is some visible shimmer or aliasing on scenes with special effects (though it isn't a consistent problem). On the plus side, live-action sequences look nice and smooth, with fairly saturated colors. Although there are occasionally some slight lines, for the most part the source material appears very clean. Despite these small complaints, the show looks far better than I have seen it look in years (and at least there isn't that stupid TNN black bar on the bottom of the screen!).

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: As good as the remastered video is, the new 5.1 audio mixes are even better. Dialogue is clean and clear, well positioned in the center channel, and never overpowered by other element in the mix. While the front soundstage carries the brunt of the sound effects and score, the surrounds fill out many scenes quite nicely, with some fancy flyover effects as the Enterprise zooms by and a lot of LFE in the space scenes. There is a lot of directional trickery, and good imaging front the mains to the surrounds. Who'd have thought that a 15-year-old TV show could sound this good?

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 208 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Documentaries
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Paramount has done right by this series all the way through. The extras aren't what I'd call plentiful, but what is here is immensely entertaining and very worthwhile. While episode commentaries would've been nice (maybe on future sets?), I'm quite happy with the four featurettes, together running slightly over an hour, that are included.

First, however, I must comment on the presentation. The packaging is very nice, and certainly seems sturdy enough. The hard cardboard outer box opens like a book, and the gatefold packaging, designed to look like a Starfleet uniform, slips out easily. A booklet is included, with rather mundane character bios, but some pretty pictures. The discs themselves include nifty animated menus that play off the design of the Enterprise computer system, with all the cute little touches you'd expect ("play" becomes "engage," subtitle options are listed under "communications" and so on). My only quibble is the lack of a "play all" option for each disc, but really, if I wasn't sitting down to do a review, I'd probably never watch four episodes in a stretch anyway.

As to the actual features: as I said, there are four featurettes, all of them housed on Disc 7. The first is entitled The Beginning, and it runs a little over 17 minutes. It offers some information on the development of the series, complete with comments from the late Gene Roddenberry—he of the legendary fiery temper—and he talks a bit about his ultimatums to the network about the budget and the tone the series would take. Archive interviews from the cast reveal them all to be enthusiastic, but very unsure of the future of the series.

The second featurette is easily my favorite of the bunch. Entitled Mission Profiles, the 14-minute piece mixes both newly-recorded and archive interviews with the cast as they reveal how they each became involved in the series and offer some comments on their characters. This latter bit is quite amusing, especially when Marina Sirtis makes fun of Troi's Season One hairdo AND the fact that it seemed, in those early episodes, to be the character's sole function to "feel" things (this statement is followed by a hilarious montage of clips from the show, revealing all the different ways the actress was able to deliver cheeseball dialogue like, "I sense... a great sadness. Terrible pain.").

The Making of a Legend runs 15 minutes and covers the technical aspects of putting together a show as complex as TNG before the days of computer animation. There is footage of ILM wizards shooting the excellent Enterprise space effects, as well as a detailed look at the creation of miniatures used in the series premiere. In fact, most of this footage appears to be culled from the making of Encounter at Farpoint, but it's very interesting nevertheless.

The final segment runs about 18 minutes and is entitled Memorable Missions, which is pretty self-explanatory. Various cast and crew members offer up some anecdotes and trivia about their favorite episodes in Season One. There's many a fun factoid here, though I suspect a lot of fans will have heard them all before (luckily, I hadn't). My favorite bit is probably Denise Crosby's reminiscence on her emotional final scene in Skin of Evil, a monumental moment in the series if there ever was one. She reveals that she broke down in tears several times during the filming of her farewell monologue. Don't feel too bad about it, Denise; your fans in the audience were doing the same. Worf, I love him, but he never wore that brown uniform as well as you.

All in all, quite an entertaining package, and I'm sure the quality can only improve with the next six seasons.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Star Trek: The Next Generation is perhaps the first TV show I ever really loved, and I am ecstatic with the work Paramount has put into the DVD debut of the series. This first season is often criticized for being uneven, and perhaps rightly so, or maybe it only seems that way because what followed was so much better. I will say this: I can't imagine skipping this season, as re-watching each episode was a total pleasure (ok, except for Justice). I can't wait until December, when all seven seasons will sit on my shelf, right where my collection of 700 $1 bills used to be.


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