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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: The Next Generation—The Complete Fourth Season (1990-1991)

"Jean-Luc! It's so good to see you again. How about a big hug?"
- Q (John de Lancie)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: November 05, 2002

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Levar Burton, Brent Spiner
Other Stars: Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn, Whoopie Goldberg, Mirina Sirtis
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence)
Run Time: Approx. 1200 min.
Release Date: September 03, 2002
UPC: 097360813340
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+A- B

DVD Review

Season Three of Star Trek: The Next Generation may be remembered as the best by many fans, but for me, Season 4 is when the series really came into its own. With more than 100 episodes in the can, and the show's ratings increasing at warp speed, earning it a spot as the number one syndicated show in the U.S., the writers seemed to have finally found the right formula, managing to produce a string of the most consistent episodes in the series run. If the third season featured some of TNG's standout best, season four includes many of its highly commendable efforts—not necessarily the ones that the fans pick in popularity polls, true, but, from show to show, no season is more reliably entertaining than the fourth.

Some big events occur. The aftermath of Season Three's electrifying cliffhanger is dealt with wonderfully (a feat that seemed impossible as expectations built during the long summer hiatus), and Picard's experience with the Borg will resonate throughout the rest of the series. Worf, too, finally gets a continuing story arc, as events surrounding his dishonor in the previous season's episode Sins of the Father continue to plague him. There's conspiracy brewing with the Romulans (the series' untapped resource as far as villains go) and the reappearance of an old friend in an unexpected form. And thrown in are some of the best one-shot character shows, with Beverly Crusher saving the (rapidly contracting) universe in Remember Me and Data meeting dear old dad in Brothers.

My only complaint can really be applied to any season of TNG or, truthfully, to any Trek series, save Deep Space 9: the show lacks continuity. Sure, there are a few continuing plot threads (like Worf's mentioned above), but those storylines only matter in the episodes where they are featured. At any other time, you'd have no idea that Worf was having any problems at all. Far too many shows end with a "temporal reset" that negates the hour we just watched, and many others might as well, as the events will never again be mentioned. The consequence of this lack of continuity (which, by the way, was an intentional choice of executive producer Rick Berman) is that the characters seem to be in stasis. I've always said that you'd be hard-pressed to guess which season an episode came from based on how the characters act (unless you cheat and look at their uniforms, which underwent several changes over the course of the series). Riker in Season Three is Riker in Season Seven. On the one hand, I like the consistency; on the other, I wonder what dramatic possibilities are being wasted. Still, I find myself drawn in to every episode, so I can't complain much. I've simply been spoiled by the rich, season-long arcs of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Babylon 5.

This set includes all 26 episodes of Season Four on seven DVDs.

Disc One:

Episode 1: The Best of Both Worlds: Part II
Stardate: 44001.4

"I will continue, aboard this ship, to speak for the Borg. While they continue, without further diversion, to Sector 001, where they will force your unconditional surrender." - Locutus of Borg (Patrick Stewart)

As I'm sure you remember, we ended last season with poor Picard assimilated by the Borg and Riker the acting captain of the Enterprise. Truthfully, with the Borg established as an unbeatable enemy, the writers had basically painted themselves into a corner at the end of Season Three, but they somehow manage to pull it off (this is by far the best season opener of the series). Great moments include Picard being assimilated as a single tear rolls down his cheek and the shattered remains of the Federation fleet after an encounter with the Borg cube (I think they blew their special effects budget for the next few episodes with these shots). Packed with drama, tension, and surprises, this is TNG at its best... except for a slightly lame conclusion that seems to take away a bit from the awesome menace of the Borg (this degradation will continue in later seasons, though, so maybe I shouldn't complain just yet).

I'll say one thing; this season premiere is never Borging. I mean, boring. 4.5 comm badges out of 5.




Episode 2: Family
Stardate: 44012.3

"They took everything I was! They used me to kill... and to destroy. And I couldn't stop them! I should've been able to stop them. I tried so hard!" - Picard

This is certainly the most unique episode of TNG, if only because it is the only one in which no scenes take place on the bridge. Picard is still dealing with the events of The Best of Both Worlds as he and the crew visit Earth while the Enterprise is undergoing a refit. He visits his childhood home, a winery in France (please explain the Scots accent... please?), where his lifelong rivalry with his jealous older brother once again rears its ugly head. Meanwhile, on the ship, Worf and Wes are dealing with their own family issues. The Klingon is ashamed to see his parents after his dishonor last season in Sins of the Father, and Wesley contemplates viewing a recording his father left for him just before he died. This one is a little slow-going at times, but it highlights the kind of character moments we rarely get to appreciate on this series. Picard even cries, but in a manly, British way. Because he's British. I don't care what his name is or what his accent sounds like. British.

Such a moving episode. Even Wesley emoted! 4 comm badges.




Episode 3: Brothers
Stardate: 44085.7

"Often-Wrong's got a broken heart, can't even tell his boys apart." - Lore

Data's evil twin brother Lore (Brent Spiner in the double role, full of malicious glee) starred in perhaps the best episode of Season One, Datalore, and now he finally has returned from an extended vacation in the vacuum of space. Data takes control of the Enterprise and flies to an unknown planet after his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong (also Brent Spiner, delivering a great performance under mounds of fakey makeup), activates a long-dormant homing system. It seems he has finally perfected an emotion chip for the android; the chip will fulfill Data's lifelong dream of becoming more human. Unbeknownst to Soong, however, the homing also activated Lore, and he appears on the planet a bit ticked off that Daddy lavishes all of his attentions on the "second born." Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise must try to regain control of the ship so they can transport a sick boy to a starbase for treatment. The Data story is great; the parts about the little boy are not. You see, he's sick because of something his brother did to him. This offers Crusher an opportunity to deliver an anvil-licious speech about how "brothers forgive." Because Lore and Data... oh, wait, I forgot. The viewers aren't stupid.

Like Data? Like Lore? See this one Soong. Ow, sorry. 4.5 comm badges.




Episode 4: Suddenly Human
Stardate: 44143.7

Data: I fail to understand why this is amusing.
Riker: Access your databanks under humor, subheading slapstick.
Data: Comedy stressing farce and horseplay. Ah. This no doubt is a variation on 'pie in the face.'
Riker: Now do you see what's funny?
Data: No, sir, but I will take your word for it. This is very amusing.

The first dud of the season. Hey, they couldn't all be good, right? The ship intercepts a distress call from a dormant vessel and finds aboard a group of aliens in stasis... and one human male. It seems the boy is the lone survivor of an attack on a Federation colony, and he's the grandson of some important Starfleet admiral. But he's been raised his whole life to be part of this alien culture. What if he doesn't want to rejoin the human race? What first looks like it's going to be a preachy episode about child abuse turns instead into a preachy episode about adoption. And the "child" (who looks at least five years older than his supposed age of 14) is ultra-annoying, particularly when he's performing a "death whine" to honor his fallen comrades. In fact, the grating howl prompts Picard to snap, "Why do you make that noise?" I would've just told him to shut up. That's probably why I'm not captain.

I'm with Picard. Why does he make that sound? And how can we make him stop? 2 comm badges.




Disc Two:

Episode 5: Remember Me
Stardate: 44161.2

"Funny, I don't remember ever requiring a crew before." - Picard

I'm of the opinion that TNG tends to sorely underutilize its strong women, particularly Beverly Crusher, who only gets about one episode a season in which she is the main focus. When the episodes are this good, maybe one is all you need. Wesley is experimenting with a new warp technology when something goes wrong and his mother, watching from the sidelines in engineering, suddenly disappears. As the crew tries to figure out where she went, Beverly goes about her day—as far as she knows, she's still on the ship. But strange things begin to happen. Crew members disappear at an exponential rate, and only the doctor has any memory of them. She's left to wonder if she's losing her mind (luckily, McFadden gives good crazy). Some great scenes in this one, including Bev's snarky conversations with the computer and a talk she has on the bridge with Picard, who believes that the two of them are the normal crew compliment of a galaxy-class starship. This is one of those episodes that goes unnoticed next to the big guns like Brothers and The Best of Both Worlds, but for my money, it's the best of the season (even if Wesley does save the day).

What episode is this again? I forgot. No, wait, I remember. And it's a good one. 5 comm badges (and don't you forget it!).




Episode 6: Legacy
Stardate: 44215.2

"Cowardice is a term I have never heard applied to Tasha." - Data

The Enterprise receives a distress call from a freighter, but it blows up before they can save the crew. They track an escape pod to a nearby planet, Turkana 4, the birthplace of Tasha Yar (it seems every season has a few Tasha references, just so we don't forget she existed). There, they encounter Tasha's sister, Ishara Yar. Or do they? It seems the planet is a very violent place, trapped in the throes of civil war, and Picard doesn't know if he can trust the woman, who might be a member of a terrorist group. Ignore the fact that Ishara's existence is a bit of a retcon (Tasha never mentioned having a sister), and answer this: since when is the crew of the Enterprise so stupid? They practically welcome Ishara with open arms, assuming she's just like her sister, with disastrous consequences. Not even Worf is all that suspicious. Still, if you don't think too hard, this is an entertaining episode—the terrorist stuff is all very "Sarah Conner"—and it offers a nice glimpse into the life of Tasha (yet more proof that they killed off her character too soon).

I think all of the writers watched Terminator before they broke the idea for this story. Linda Hamilton much? 3 comm badges.




Episode 7: Reunion
Stardate: 44246.3

"Not even a bite on the cheek for old times' sake?" - K'Ehleyr

The Enterprise encounters a Klingon ship transporting a familiar face—Worf's old flame K'Ehleyr (Susie Plakson), last seen in Season Two. She beams over with a little surprise for Worf... his son! Worf is still uptight about his dishonor, and has no desire to share it with a child, but K'Ehleyr couldn't care less about Klingon stuffiness. She's there to inform Starfleet of a brewing civil war within the Klingon government. The leader of the council, K'Mpec, has been poisoned, and he trusts Picard with arbitrating the selection of his replacement. Conspiracy abounds as the opposing factions, led by Gowron and Duras (the man responsible for Worf's dishonor) board the Enterprise, and Worf and Picard find themselves caught in the middle after K'Ehleyr is murdered. There's drama, emotion, and a vengeful battle between Worf and the man he believes murdered his mate. Meanwhile, Picard must decide who to choose as successor, or risk starting a galactic conflict. I've neglected to mention Worf's little boy, Alexander. Luckily he's only got a few scenes this time around, but he's already the most irritating character ever created on television, period. Why they decided to cast a wimpy white kid to play a Klingon under globs of dark makeup is beyond me. The Klingon drama more than makes up for him, though, and it's nice to see at least one continuous storyline on this show that's able to produce some real suspense and pathos.

I can't believe I'm praising the episode that introduces the hell child Alexander to the series. 4 comm badges.




Episode 8: Future Imperfect
Stardate: 44286.5

"I said shut up! As in 'Close your mouth and stop talking.'" - Riker

This episode has a decent script and a great premise, but somehow it just doesn't connect in the end. Riker wakes up in sickbay to discover that he's captain of the Enterprise, that Picard is an admiral, and that he's lost the memory of the last 15 years of his life. He's suspicious from the start, particularly when a Romulan visits the ship, asking for sensitive information about the Federation. Sure, Picard seems to be negotiating a treaty between the Romulans and the Federation, but is it all a big ruse? The "futuristic" redress of the Enterprise is half-hearted (the only difference in the uniforms is the addition of a goofy sash and a different comm badge), and the script manages to inject the typical Trek cheesiness by giving Riker a son whom he remembers nothing about. As the kids always are on this show, this one is annoying and not a great actor, and his presence brings the entire episode down a notch (for obvious reasons, once you know the trick ending).

Yeah, "imperfect" is the word I would've chosen, too. Still, not too bad. 3.5 comm badges.




Disc Three:

Episode 9: Final Mission
Stardate: 44307.3

Picard: What are you doing in such a filthy uniform?
Wesley: You don't look so ship-shape yourself, sir.

After about a million episodes focusing on his entrance exams, Wesley is finally accepted into Starfleet Academy. Picard asks him to go along on a final mission, to settle a dispute between two miners' guilds. Before they reach the planet, their shuttle malfunctions and crashes, leaving the two wounded and stranded. As they search the planet for signs of civilization, Picard is gravely injured, and Wesley stays with him rather than going for help. As they wait for the Enterprise to rescue them, the two share many a heartfelt talk about Wesley's father, about his time spent on the Enterprise, and about the man he'll become. It's all very touching (sometimes, tearful!), and a nice sendoff for Wesley's character (though he does pop up frequently as a guest star). Wheaton, despite playing one of the most hated characters in Trek history, isn't a bad actor at all, and he and Stewart make for a fine duo. And Wesley leaves, just when he was becoming likeable.

There, you got your wish. Wesley has left the building. But did you have to make Wil Wheaton cry? 3.5 comm badges.




Episode 10: The Loss
Stardate: 44356.9

"With all due respect, Captain, you don't know what you're talking about." - Troi

Here we are with Troi's token episode for the year, and the results are decidedly mixed. After an encounter with a strange space anomaly, Troi discovers that she's lost her telepathic abilities—she can no longer sense emotion. And man, when she can't sense feelings, she makes it really easy to sense her own, since she gets all angry and defensive, yelling at Crusher for suggesting that she can live with the loss. Of course, the rest of the crew tries to figure out what happened, whilst Troi deals with the crisis by resigning as ship's counselor. It's nice to see Troi doing something for once, rather than just sitting around on the bridge, but her character is quite unlikable throughout, dealing with stress in most unappealing ways. Plus, there's the trite "It wasn't the magic feather, it was you, Dumbo!" ending.

I sense that the writers didn't have time to do a second draft of this script. 2.5 comm badges.




Episode 11: Data's Day
Stardate: 44390.1

Data: I would be chasing an untamed armathoid without cause.
Crusher: A wild goose chase?

What goes on in an android's typical day? Let's find out, as Data records his observations for a day to send off to artificial intelligence expert Bruce Maddox. Of course, because this is TV, we know it's going to be no ordinary day. This episode does a good job balancing humor and drama, with dueling subplots. In the funny one, Data makes preparation for the wedding of Chief Miles O'Brien to his fiancée Keiko, as he introduced the two (I guess I missed that episode). He's worried about dancing at the wedding, even as Keiko gets cold feet. Meanwhile, a Vulcan ambassador visits the Enterprise and talks with Picard about possible troubles in the Romulan Neutral Zone. What I like about this one is that we see everything from Data's point of view. If he isn't there to witness something, neither are we. Both plots are given their due, and both are resolved satisfactorily. Plus, Data reveals that he truly is a higher being when we see that he prefers the company of cats. Genius indeed, though I would've picked a better name than "Spot."

Isn't every episode Data's day? I mean, I like the character too, but seriously. 4 comm badges.




Episode 12: The Wounded
Stardate: 44429.6

"I will accept the judgment of history." - Picard

Hey! A new villain! TNG introduces the Cardassians, who went on to play a huge role in Deep Space 9 and, to a degree, the set-up of Voyager. The Enterprise is attacked by a Cardassian ship (pretty neat, by the way, if a knockoff of various Klingon designs), despite the treaty between the races (we hear talk of a war between the two, which is news to me). The Cardassian captain claims an outpost was attacked by a Federation vessel. It seems to be the work of Ben Maxwell, an officer whose family died at the hands of a Cardassian crew (O'Brien served with Maxwell as well, making the character's eventual move to DS9, which takes place on an abandoned Cardassian space station, all the more appropriate). Maxwell, however, claims that the aliens are readying their fleet for another war. Picard must decide who is telling the truth. Will he be forced to fire on a Federation ship? The Cardassians make for good villains, and this episode treats then with ambiguity, which is quite nice. It's also unexpected that a Starfleet officer might be so overcome with grief that he'd seek such violent revenge. This one reminds me quite a bit of the Season Three entry The Defector, and I quite liked that episode. This one is almost as good.

Jeez, this season alone, O'Brien has gotten a first name, a wife, and a back story. What's next, the life story of Ensign Red Shirt? 4 comm badges.




Disc Four:

Episode 13: Devil's Due
Stardate: 44474.5

"The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear." - Data

Another clunker, though at least this one manages a few moments of humor. The Enterprise answers a distress call from a research facility on the planet Ventax 2. It seems the citizens are rioting because they believe their world is at an end, and that after 1000 years of peace, the devil has come to claim the souls that were promised by their ancestors to bring about said tranquility. Picard is all ready to dismiss their fears as hogwash when the devil herself appears (though here she's known as Ardra). Picard suspects that she's a fraud, and he manages to finagle a trial that will determine the fate of the planet (and his soul) with Data as the judge. Ardra is an interesting concept for a character, and I like the scenes where she shows off her powers by transforming into the demons of various cultures (though her version of our devil was more dorky than evil). But the pace drags and drags, with the courtroom proceedings creeping by at a snail's pace. And the conclusion isn't much of a surprise, as Picard pretty much explained it within the first five minutes of the show. I also don't like it when Trek characters are quick to label any sort of religion as "ancient myth." They've met Q, why is it so hard to believe in a different sort of all-powerful being?

If she'd really wanted to freak Picard out, Ardra would've turned into Lwaxana Troi. Yikes! 2.5 comm badges.




Episode 14: Clues
Stardate: 44502.7

Picard: What really happened to us?
Data: I cannot answer that.

Here's another one that drags a bit, but at least it presents an interesting mystery. The Enterprises passes through a wormhole, and suddenly the entire crew, save Data, is knocked unconscious. They awake and he tells them they've been out for 30 seconds, but soon things about the ship seem to indicate that much more time has passed, and Picard begins to suspect that Data might be lying to them. Why he might do so is a mystery I'll leave to you, but I will say that, like Remember Me, this episode kept me guessing right up to the finale. Yes, it's another Data-centric show, and I could've done without all of Picard's heavy-handed comments about "clues" and "a mystery," even if it does mean we get to see Dixon Hill once again (and for the final time, sadly).

That's twice this season that Data has mysteriously taken control of the Enterprise. Isn't keeping him around kind of a liability at this point? 3.5 comm badges.




Episode 15: First Contact
Stardate: Unknown

"It is far more likely that I am a weather-balloon than an alien." - Riker

This one is a real treat. Wholly original and thought-provoking to boot, it's probably the season's strongest installment. We begin with a hospital, where an unknown patient is being wheeled in for treatment. He's got a severe head injury, but the doctors soon notice some unusual things. His heart, for example, is where they expected to find his digestive tract, and he has too many fingers and toes. It's Riker, and he's been surgically altered to look like a Malkorian, integrating himself into their society as they are on the brink of warp capability. It seems the Enterprise crew is on a "first contact" mission, gauging the readiness of this species to interact with the galaxy at large. As Riker attempts escape from medical custody, trying to convince the doctors that his abnormalities are simply mutations, Picard speaks with the lead warp researcher, asking her if he thinks she can ethically proceed with her research when many of her species are clearly still fearful of the idea that they are not alone in the universe. Though it repeats some scenes from Who Watches the Watchers?, this one kept me guessing throughout, and the ending is honestly not the one I was expecting. A winner all around, and another in a string of great episodes this season. Plus, Bebe Neuwirth guest stars.

Good thing the Malkorians seem to keep their genitals in the usual place, or Riker might've had some 'splainin' to do. 5 full comm badges.




Episode 16: Galaxy's Child
Stardate: 44614.6

"Captain, I'd like to announce the birth of a large baby... something." - Crusher

The Enterprise stops at Starbase 313 to pick up some scientific equipment, and Geordi has the pleasure of welcoming on board Dr. Leah Brahms, whose image he fell in love with on the holodeck during Season Three, and who is coming on board to talk to him. She doesn't seem to like him much, however, complaining about the way he treats the Enterprise computer. As the two bicker, the ship encounters an alien life form that lives in the vacuum of space. It attacks the ship, and they are forced to destroy it, but they soon discover that it was only protecting its unborn child—which now has attached itself to the ship, because it thinks it is its mommy. Aw. Geordi and Leah must get over their differences if they are going to save the ship from the creatures before it drains the engines of all of their power. That oddball premise could theoretically support an interesting episode, but this one... isn't interesting. Mostly it's the pacing. It feels like they dragged 30 minutes of story out for a full episode. A compelling B plot might've helped things along. Geordi's love life ain't gonna cut it.

I swear I've seen this basic plot in any number of Bugs Bunny cartoons. 2.5 comm badges.




Disc Five:

Episode 17: Night Terrors
Stardate: 44631.2

"We will all go insane..." - Crusher

The Enterprise locates a mission survey ship, only to find that the entire crew is dead of extremely questionable causes. All, that is, save the Betazoid science advisor, Hagan, but he's catatonic. As Troi tries to get through to him, Crusher discovers that the crew of the vessel appeared to have all murdered one another. Troi begins to have strange dreams, and tensions on the ship suddenly increase for no apparent reason. O'Brien thinks Keiko is having an affair, Picard keeps hearing his ready room door chime when no one is there, and a general sense of unease is working its way through the crew. Things get worse when the engines die. Data announces that they are caught in a tachyon rift, and that the ship cannot escape without the force of an explosion behind it. With the Enterprise stuck, Crusher must figure out a cure before the same fate befalls the crew of the Enterprise as did the derelict ship. She knows their problems all started when the Betazoid came on board, but she has to figure out why, and Troi may be the key to unlocking the man's mind. As much as this sounds like the typical Deanna storyline, what with all the sensing and such, it's actually quite good. The atmosphere is pretty creepy throughout, particularly during Troi's dreams/hallucinations, and Sirtis does a great job, for once not overplaying her emotions (hello irony!).

All Troi wants is a dream lover (so she don't have to dream alone). 3.5 comm badges.




Episode 18: Identity Crisis
Stardate: 44664.5

"Starfleet personnel have vanished. Others may be at risk. We must do the best we can to find out why." - Data

Hey, another episode involving Crusher's race against time to save a crew member from some sort of alien disease! After four seasons of reviews, I'm running out of different ways to describe this scenario. Anyway, while investigating the mysterious disappearance of an entire colony, Geordi is infected with a strange alien parasite that quickly begins to mutate his DNA, turning him into another species altogether. The makeup effects for this creature are pretty creative. All of the veins glow bright blue under UV light, giving Geordi a chameleon-like appearance that's quite creepy (and kinda icky). The search for a cure to the condition involves all the standard stuff, including the requisite wild leaps of logic and a particularly questionable scene involving the use of the holodeck, but overall, this one kept me entertained.

Geordi should see someone about those varicose veins. 3 comm badges.




Episode 19: The Nth Degree
Stardate: 44704.2

"What's he done? I mean, we're talking about locking a man up for being too smart." - Geordi

Lt. Barclay returns after his holodeck fantasies in Season Three. He and Geordi are investigating a strange alien probe when he's knocked unconscious. When Barclay returns to the ship, he finds his intelligence increasing exponentially. He's able to fix problems with the ship in mere minutes, and the heretofore shy, reclusive officer is suddenly imbued with a newfound confidence (he even hits on Deanna). But he soon becomes too intelligent, patching himself into the Enterprise computer and making plans to increase its warp capability to explore areas of the universe that would otherwise take years to reach. The sight of Barclay integrated into the computer via the holodeck is a memorable one, and Barclay makes for a good villain as he spies on his crewmates through the computer. I'm glad they used him for this storyline and not Geordi. It's compelling to see this wallflower quickly become obsessed with his growing power—even as the smartest being in the universe, he still isolates himself from his friends.

This episode is much more amusing once you realize how much Barclay sounds like HAL. 4 comm badges.




Episode 20: QPid
Stardate: 44741.9

"Sir, I protest! I am not a Merry Man!" - Worf

Sure it's downright goofy, but this Q episode is a lot of fun. His latest effort to drive Picard crazy is to transport the crew into Nottingham and force them to recreate the life of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, with Vash (Picard's partner-in-smoochies in Season Three's Captain's Holiday) as Maid Marion, the damsel in distress. That's basically all there is to it, but it's a blast watching the actors let their hair down and really get into their roles. Michael Dorn proves himself to be a gifted comedian, and Picard gets to show off his fencing skill. Demerits, though, for making Beverly and Troi knock people over the head with vases and such. I'm sure one of them could've used a bow and arrow or something. Why do the women have to be so dang delicate all the time?

Maybe next time Q will transport everyone into Disney's The Lion King. 3.5 comm badges.




Disc Six:

Episode 21: The Drumhead
Stardate: 44769.2

"Villains who twirl their moustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged." -Picard

TNG does The Crucible as the search for a spy aboard the Enterprise quickly turns into a witch hunt. There's been a security breach, followed by an explosion in engineering that may well have been the result of sabotage. A Klingon exobiologist, J'Ddan, is under investigation, and lots of circumstantial evidence points to him, though he denies any involvement. A retired Starfleet admiral arrives to investigate, along with a Betazoid assistant. Worf gets J'Ddan to confess, but the Betazoid thinks the man is lying, prompting the admiral to call for a full inquiry into the apparent conspiracy. Suspicion soon falls upon Simon Tarses, a Vulcan medical officer who just might be a Romulan spy. Picard, believing the man is being scapegoated, steps in to defend him and quickly finds himself on trial. Though the first two acts move rather slowly, things really get moving once the courtroom antics begin. Patrick Stewart is rarely more engaging than when he's got a big juicy speech to deliver, and this setting is as good an excuse as any to include several. The mystery unfolds quite nicely once the pace picks up, and the ending isn't the copout I was expecting.

If Picard wanted the truth, I think he could probably handle the truth. 4 comm badges.




Episode 22: Half a Life
Stardate: 44805.3

"Please, Mrs. Troi! ...and it's Worf, not Woof." - Worf

Ah, yes, it's the annual reappearance of Mama Troi, the ever energetic Lwaxana (once again played by a fiery Majel Barrett). While on the Enterprise, Lwaxana falls for a visiting scientist conducting experiments on a collapsing star. A relationship looks unlikely, however. He's 60, and he comes from the planet "Logan's Run," where everyone offs themselves right around the time they'd start being eligible for social security. Lwaxana is outraged at what he plans to do, but Picard orders her not to interfere in another culture (in yet another rather loose interpretation of the Prime Directive... I thought it only applied to pre-warp societies?). When the scientist realizes that his vital work will fail if he goes through with the ritual suicide, he decides to stay on the ship, angering the local government and prompting them to send two warships after the Enterprise. I like Lwaxana a lot, but she's forced to be rather serious in this episode, and Majel can't quite handle those elegant speeches as well as Patrick Stewart. This is also one of the season's more blatant moralistic tales, with the metaphor of respecting other cultural practices handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And then there's the sappy ending, which put a strain on my eye-rolling muscles. Where's that sledgehammer when I really need it?

If nothing else, Carousel was a lot neater way to commit ritual suicide. This episode had me wishing it was my Last Day. 2 comm badges.




Episode 23: The Host
Stardate: 44821.3

Troi: Beverly, you are in love.
Crusher: Sometimes I wish you weren't so... empathetic.

Well, well, well. Another Crusher episode, and a good one at that. The good doctor finds herself falling for Ambassador Odan, a negotiator of the Trill race, who's on board to travel to a dispute between two arguing planets. Troi is happy for her friend, but she senses something odd about the man (her fears are confirmed when we see something moving around in his abdomen... gross). The Trill are parasitic life forms that transfer from host body to host body, the organism retaining the memories of past lives even as each new incarnation is a separate person and personality. When Odan is unexpectedly injured, the Trill must be implanted into a new host, but the nearest is days away, so Riker fulfills the duty temporarily. This puts Crusher in an odd situation, since Riker/Odan is still in love with her. Meanwhile, Riker's body is slowly rejecting the organism. The conception of the Trill race isn't exactly original, but their use here at least provides some good material for Gates McFadden to work with. Crusher rarely gets to do much more than prod people with medical instruments, and here she has her own melodramatic love story! The pacing is good, but the beginning is a little awkward, particular the scenes of "girl talk" between Deanna and Beverly.

If a worm thing wakes up in a different body, is he still the same worm thing? Ew. 3.5 comm badges.




Episode 24: The Mind's Eye
Stardate: 44885.5

"You swear well, Picard. You must have Klingon blood in your veins." - Governor Vagh

TNG does The Manchurian Candidate as Geordi is kidnapped by some Romulans. The Enterprise crew doesn't notice his disappearance, as he's supposed to be on vacation. The ship warps off to deal with a dispute between the Klingon home world and an outlying planet that wants to succeed from the Empire. Meanwhile, Geordi is being questioned and tortured by the Romulans. They program him as an assassin using high frequency emissions from his visor and return him to the Enterprise. Hilarity ensues. Or not. This is a marvelously paced potboiler of an episode (nice, considering the problematic pacing of late). It's one of those times where we know all the facts and are just waiting for the crew to figure them out before Geordi is forced to kill—pure Hitchcockian stuff, folks. Though after this episode and Generations (where Klingons used Geordi's visor to help them destroy the Enterprise), you'd think our favorite engineer would keep better track of his eyewear.

Now if they can just program the writers to continue the nicely serialized plot they've got going... 4.5 comm badges.




Disc Seven:

Episode 25: In Theory
Stardate: 44923.3

"Honey? I'm home!" - Data

Yes, it's another episode in which Data explores a curious aspect of humanity. Namely, he wants to see what dating is all about. His interest comes after a co-worker gives him a big ol' kiss after a long night of working together. It seems she's just come out of a bad relationship, and Data is everything she wants in a man: kind, attentive, non-argumentative... plus, he has an off switch. There a subplot about a nebula causing problems throughout the ship, but the real attention grabber is Data's courtship, which approaches stalker levels of creeposity. In the end, it seems, the perfect boyfriend is a little too perfect (so that explains my lack of significant other). An amusing way to spend an hour, for sure, but this one is lightweight fluff all the way through.

Next up: Data investigates what it would be like to live a day in the life of a fast food worker. Order up! 3 comm badges.




Episode 26: Redemption: Part I
Stardate: 44995.3

"I've been told that patience is sometimes more powerful weapon than a sword." - Worf

All of the Romulan conspiracy hints that have been dropped throughout the season finally pay off in this climactic cliffhanger. The Enterprise is on the way to the Klingon home world to install Gowron as the next leader of the Empire. Picard urges Worf to ask the new Chancellor to restore his honor once they arrive on the planet, but everyone is surprised to discover that the Chancellor is actually already onboard the Enterprise. Gowron tells them they must hurry if they are to prevent a Klingon civil war. Though Duras is dead, his family is still powerful, and his sisters Lursa and B'Etor are mounting their own challenge to the throne. And they're not alone. The Romulans appear to have a stake in creating a Klingon civil war, and overseeing the operation is an oddly familiar Sub-Commander with blonde hair, quite unusual for a Romulan. I quite like the majority of this episode—the conspiracy stuff plays out quite nicely, building upon an entire season of simmering tension, but the identity of the Romulan mastermind (which I'm sure you know, if you're reading this, but I'm still not going to spoil it, just in case) always felt like something out of fan fiction to me—a cool idea, but in no way logical. Still, it's not a bad cliffhanger, and a decent end to TNG's most consistent season.

It's no Borg invasion, but it'll do. 4 comm badges.



Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Transfer quality is easily on par with the fine work on display in Season Three. Colors are generally very strong, with nice solid blacks. Grain is rarely intrusive. As always, special effects shots suffer, showing aliasing and jitter due to being mastered on video, but overall, I have no real complaints. The marginal improvements from set to set seem to have tapered off; we're left with a strong picture despite the flaws.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 remixes are where the sets really shine, and this season is no different. Once again, the mix takes full advantage of all channels, with dialogue anchored in the center and always clear, and effects and the score spreading nicely across the mains with good directionality. Surrounds kick in for space scenes, and are truly impressive when ships are zooming about and going to warp.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

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

Extras Review: Season Four arrives with a very similar set of supplements as the last three seasons. This time we get five featurettes instead of four, and the content is a step up from last season's material, which threatened at times to become boring and repetitive. I'd still like to see a bit more variety in the extras—say, a commentary track or two—but the content provided is decent, if unremarkable.

Mission Overview, Memorable Missions, and Mission Briefing: Production should all be familiar to owners of the previous sets; each of these featurettes appears on each season release. I group them together this time around because each 16-minute piece covers much of the same ground (though they never repeat each other). All three feature interviews with the chief cast and crew members, including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Mirina Sirtis, Rick Berman, and Michael Piller. Mission Overview highlights Patrick Stewart taking over the director's chair for an episode (I guess the one big chair on the bridge wasn't enough), and also features more on Jonathan Frakes doing the same (after a great job on Season Three's The Offspring). It's great to hear the cast talk about what it's like having a cast member direct (especially since Frakes went on to direct the Trek feature films First Contact and Insurrection).

Memorable Missions offers a welcome break in all of the talking head material with footage of the late Gene Roddenberry cutting the cake at the TNG 100th episode celebration. The Production featurette features a lot of commentary from actors Wil Wheaton and Patrick Stewart; the two discuss working on Wheaton's swan song as a regular cast member, Final Mission. Wheaton holds Stewart in high regard, claiming to have learned more about acting in his scenes with Picard than in all the rest of his time with the show. And Stewart has kind words for Wheaton as well. It's a nice bit of sentimental fluff for one of Trek's most resented characters. Poor Wil, not only is his name missing an "L," but he's hated by TNG fans the world over just because he had the misfortune of playing an annoying character. I suppose he deserves a featurette of his own. This piece also includes some goofy behind-the-scenes footage of Mirina Sirtis suspended on wires in front of a blue screen, trying to act scared, but coming off more annoyed, probably because, as she discusses in her retrospective interview, she hates heights and found the harness quite uncomfortable. The trials and tribulations of a ship's counselor.

The remaining featurettes aren't season specific, and thus are more interesting than the rather formulaic trio described above. New Worlds and Civilizations offers some insight on the work that goes into creating the other-worldly locations that the crew visits from episode to episode. From the water reclamation plant as sexual paradise in season one's Justice, to the ultra-modern private residence that became a 24th century home in Season Three's The Survivors, we get a look at how difficult it can be to create unique locals when you're short on time and money. Chronicles from the Final Frontier is all about the writers. The 18-minute clip features interviews with many of TNG's most prominent scribes, including Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Taylor, Michael Piller, and everyone's favorite punching bag, Brannon Braga. It's interesting hearing about how Braga was hired to "shake things up" as part of a new generation of younger writers. In subsequent years, he's been an executive producer on Voyager and Enterprise, and many fans blame him (and Rick Berman) for those series' uneven scripting and static characters. To be honest, he does come off as rather full of himself, using his few interview clips to defend his reputation.

With only three seasons to go, we can probably expect a similar bath of extras on the next box set. Now if they can just keep throwing in goodies like New Worlds and Chronicles, I'll be able to stop commenting on the routine nature of the supplements.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

I can't believe we're at season four already. Paramount has passed the halfway point in their year-long marathon of TNG releases, and neither they nor the series show any signs of slowing down. The studio has done a great job with all of the releases, and I can't imagine any Trek fan can complain about the pace at which they're cranking them out. Keep 'em coming!

 


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