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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: The Next Generation—The Complete Seventh Season (1993-1994)

"So, five-card stud, nothing wild—and the sky's the limit..."
- Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: December 29, 2002

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

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence)
Run Time: Approx. 1200 min.
Release Date: December 31, 2002
UPC: 097360612448
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+A- B+

DVD Review

Q said it best—after seven successful seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation came to a close, as, after all, "all good things must come to an end." Some fan grumblings might have you believe, however, that those things, they should have done so a little sooner, as the final season is roundly criticized as one of the weakest.

Its flaws are certainly easy to enumerate. The writers seem to be running out of ideas, as more and more of the episodes deal with some sort of psychological affliction that allows for a lot of ultimately meaningless filler. These "bottle shows" take place exclusively onboard the Enterprise and rarely feature even a guest star. And when over half the events occur within someone's mind, things like logic and character development can be easily jettisoned in favor of weird for weirdness sake. Technobabble runs rampant, as any situation can be explained away by long strings of made up science (a fun game: count the various pulses—everything is either caused or cured by some sort of pulse).

But there's a lot to like as well. Though the franchise would continue into feature films, the writers clearly wanted to wrap up some of the loose character arcs that had developed over the previous six years. Thus, we witness the return (and, in some cases, the departure) of characters like Wesley Crusher, Reginald Barclay, the Ferengi DaiMon Bok, Worf's son Alexander, Lwaxana Troi, and Ro Laren. Though not all of their swan songs succeed, it's nice to have an opportunity to say goodbye.

In that sense, I think Season Seven can be counted as an overall success—viewers needed a big goodbye, and, for the most part, the 25 episodes of TNG's final year provide just that. After years on the series, both the actors and writers had grown quite comfortable with the characters, and the same was certainly true of the audience. Such intimacy allowed for small moments of growth in a largely plot-driven series, and small joys like "Captain Picard Day" in The Pegasus (witness Jonathan Frakes' brilliant take on Riker impersonating Picard) or Data's difficulties in dealing with his cat Spot (who mysteriously changes sex from male to female... I blame Feline Supplement #22) offer a reminder as to why this crew became so loved in the first place.

Though it can easily be described as "uneven " as it suffers from dramatic peaks and valleys in terms of quality, the concluding year of TNG is, as are all the others, an essential part of any fan's collection. As I've plowed through 178 episodes over the last nine months, I've found myself enjoying the show even more than I did when I watched it in re-runs every single night, and these last 25 installments did little to make me question my adoration. Revisiting TNG has been a pleasure, and my only real complaint is that there's nothing else to say. Which means, of course, that I should probably think about watching a little Deep Space Nine.

This set includes all 25 episodes of Season Seven on seven DVDs.

Disc One:

Episode 1: Descent: Part II
Stardate: 47025.4

"The reign of biological life-forms is coming to an end. You, Picard, and those like you, are obsolete." -Lore

TNG is not exactly known for its great season premieres, but the follow-up to Descent is fairly effective. As the episode opens, Data appears to be in league with Lore, who is commanding a force of individualized Borg, and the Enterprise crew finds themselves held captive by their former comrade. Picard tries to reason with Data, but he is unable to get through to the android, whom Troi reports is experiencing violent emotions. A solid, action-packed episode that feels somewhat anti-climactic (if only because it basically eliminates the Borg as a credible threat), but there are some very effective scenes with Lore and the welcome reappearance of Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), the humanized Borg from Season Five's I, Borg.

Episode 2: Liaisons
Stardate: Unknown

Worf: Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental, and rude.
Data: You share all of those qualities in abundance. Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.

This uninspiring episode starts off with a fairly strong premise, but does almost nothing with it. The Enterprise receives a delegation of three ambassadors from Iyar. Picard travels with one of them, Voval (Eric Pierpoint) to the Iyaaran homeworld, while the other two stay on board to study human culture (oddly enough, one of them is led around by Worf, who last time I checked wasn't entirely human). Picard and Voval's trip is interrupted when their shuttle crashes on a barren world. Picard wakes to find himself in the wreckage of a different ship, a Terrellian freighter that suffered a similar fate seven years prior; the only survivor is Anna (Barbara Williams), who has gone half-crazy from loneliness. She tells him that Voval is dead, and then begins to act strangely, thwarting his attempts to construct a device that would allow them to call for help. Do you think she's not all she seems? Or is this your first episode of TNG? Even if the planetary exploits are rather rote, there are some funny moments on the Enterprise as one of the Iyaarans becomes obsessed with chocolate (to the point where even Troi is sick of it), and the other engages in shouting matches with the increasingly irritable Worf.

2.5 comm badges for the 2.5 minutes I actually believed Anna's story.

Episode 3: Interface
Stardate: 47215.5

"Missing? My mother?" -Geordi

Geordi learns that his mother's ship has gone missing, feared destroyed while searching for another ship lost on a planet with a dangerous, irradiated atmosphere. Despite the wishes of his father, Capt. Edward LaForge's (Broadway star Ben Vereen), that his son accept that his mother is gone, Geordi believes her to be alive and is determined to locate her ship. His beliefs are seemingly confirmed when, as he investigates the wreckage of the ship his mother was studying using an interface that allows access to the hostile atmosphere through hooking the brain up to a probe, he encounters his mother (Madge Sinclair). She tells him that he has to rescue her and her crew; he needs only to take the damaged ship deeper into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the interface is having a detrimental effect on Geordi's mind, and the crew fears that he is simply hallucinating his visions of mom as he operates under the stress of the interface. It's nice to see an episode that focuses on Geordi, who usually doesn't do a whole lot more than keep the warp engines running, and I especially enjoyed the peek at his family life. Though the plot is a bit slow moving and predictable, it has enough character moments to keep things interesting.

Edward LaForge, sadly, does not burst into song or wow Geordi with his tap dancing abilities. 3.5 comm badges.

Episode 4: Gambit: Part I
Stardate: 47135.2

Worf: Sir, they have taken Commander Riker. We must do something. We can not just sit here.
Data: On the contrary, Lieutenant. That is precisely what we must do.

This, the first part of a mid-season two-parter, is a difficult episode to judge. On its own, it's rather dull, despite a few bright spots, but it ably sets up the second part of the story. The obvious remedy would be to pare down the script into a single episode, but it's a bit late for that. Anyway, it begins well enough, with Riker searching for Picard in an alien bar, despite the fact that he's been told that the captain is dead. It seems he was on an undercover mission, having infiltrated the ship of Baran (Richard Lynch), a mercenary who has been plundering archeology sites throughout the universe. Riker is captured by Baran and finds Picard very much alive, still impersonating a hired hand, and the two quickly formulate a plan to remain onboard and discover why Baran is so interested in Romulan artifacts. While Riker plays the part of the disgruntled Starfleet officer, Data is in command of the Enterprise, trying to track down his missing captain and commander. Not much happens, aside from what I've described, and some of the simple story details are a bit dodgy as well, particularly the hammy acting and overblown make-up from Baran and crew. Note that Talerra, a Romulan in the crew, is played by Robin Curtis, who was a Vulcan, Saavik, in Star Trek III.

I'm disappointed to see the return of the Season One conception of new races as looking like ugly humans with '80s hair. 2.5 comm badges.

Disc Two:

Episode 5: Gambit: Part II
Stardate: 47160.1

Riker: You are supposed to verify its authenticity. Then I am supposed to kill you. Then I take your place.
Picard: Will, you always seem to be after my job.

Part II turns out to be quite a bit more effective, as Picard and Riker are drawn further into their antagonist roles. Picard discovers the nefarious purpose of the artifacts he's been analyzing, and Data continues to track them down with the Enterprise. Talerra reveals herself to be undercover as well; she's been sent by the Vulcan High Command for much the same reason Picard is involved. There's really not a whole lot to say; the somewhat plodding first half set up this installment with lots of exposition, while this one provides the resultant action. Though the plot would have worked better as a single episode, it's nice to see Picard off the bridge and kicking butt, and the twists and turns of the last 20 minutes make up for previous rough patches.

Who didn't know Talerra was Vulcan after the third time she proclaimed something "illogical"? Some master of subterfuge. 3.5 comm badges.

Episode 6: Phantasms
Stardate: 47225.7

"Data, you must be the first person who has come to my office and been excited at the prospect of a new neurosis." -Troi

In a follow-up to Season Six's Birthright, in which Data found he had the ability to dream, Data's nightmares begin to manifest themselves aboard the ship and he begins to fear for his sanity. He begins to have odd visions—Crusher drinking from a straw stuck into the side of Riker's head, a mouth on Geordi's neck—echoes of his first experience with nightmares. He also loses control of his actions during these moments, sometimes with violent results, as he goes so far as to stab Counselor Troi. There's a B-plot about a strange alien invader attacking the ship that ties in quite nicely, but the main point of this show is clearly to delve into Data's dream world. The surreal sequences are strange and effective (particular the image of Troi with a cake for a body), and there are some nice moments of humor as well, including Data's ponderings on the interior life of cats.

I'm glad to see that none of Data's dreams involved his "fully functional" status. 4 comm badges.

Episode 7: Dark Page
Stardate: 47254.1

Maques: Your mother told me of your need.
Troi: Need?
Maques: A husband. You need a husband. I need a wife.

No, you aren't watching Phantasms again. Yes, this is another episode that takes place entirely inside someone's mind. Except it's totally original, since it's Lwaxana (Majel Barrett), not Data. See? Anyway, Lwaxana visits the ship and tries to fix up Troi with Maques (Norman Large), a member of the Carin, a race that converses only telepathically. Lwaxana, acting as ambassador, has been teaching them how to use speech as well. But her constant use of her telepathic abilities leaves her weary, and the appearance of a young Carin girl awakens traumatic memories buried in her subconscious and she slips into a coma. The idea of repressed memories is tired and cliché, and the script doesn't offer anything new to the mix. Troi attempts to rescue her mother by traveling inside of her mind, which means we get lots of symbolism and trick photography that nevertheless feels like yet more narrative padding, and the ending is melodramatic and forced. It is odd to see a young Kirsten Dunst in a bit part as the alien girl who triggers Lwaxana's collapse.

Lwaxana episodes are fun because of their humor and Majel Barrett's larger-than-life performance. So who decided that having her A) tortured and B) in a coma was a good idea?

Episode 8: Attached
Stardate: 47304.2

"Seems as if we're stuck with each other." -Picard

This is an episode for all those Picard/Beverly 'shippers out there. The Enterprise is sent to evaluate the Kes, a race that wishes to join the Federation. Their planet is not unified, however—a percentage of the population is made up of the xenophobic Prytt. Picard and Crusher beam down to the planet to talk with the Kes, but their transport is rerouted by the Prytt, who believe that the Federation is entering a military alliance with the Kes. The Prytt are telepathic, and in order to discover the true intentions of Picard and Beverly, they install them with "psionic implant" devices that will allow their minds to be read. The interesting side effect is that it also allows them to read each other's thoughts. While the Kes work to help the two escape, Picard and Beverly are drawn closer together, forced to deal with their shared history—Picard's long standing attraction, his commanding of the mission that got Beverly's husband Jack killed, and the ultimate fate of their friendship. To be honest, the Kes/Prytt subplot is a bit predictable and mundane. The character interaction between the doctor and the captain is the real point of this episode, and McFadden and Stewart give equally nuanced performances.

I didn't know they still had implants in the 24th century. 4 comm badges.

Disc Three:

Episode 9: Force of Nature
Stardate: 47310.2

"I have never experienced this kind of behavior in Spot. Though she does have the unfortunate habit of jumping on my computer console when I am working." -Data

The Enterprises is visited by two scientists who wish to present a troubling theory—they believe that warp drive damages the fabric of space, that that their frequently traveled system is already showing detrimental signs of its effects. The siblings, Rabal (Michael Corbett) and Serova (Margaret Reed) are willing to go to desperate measure to ensure that their message is heard; they've set up beacons throughout the sector that are able to collapse the warp fields of passing vessels. The core idea of the script is sound enough, an obvious metaphor for the impact of auto emissions on our ecosystem, but in execution it's far too preachy and oversimplified—as contrived as suggesting that everyone on Earth start carpooling tomorrow. There's also the matter of the establishment of a "warp drive speed limit" designed to lessen damage to subspace. A notion that could have had an interesting impact on the rest of the season is rendered moot by the statement that to exceed the stated limit of warp six will be okay under "emergency circumstances" (since, for the Enterprise, it's always an emergency). I did really enjoy the unrelated scenes of Data attempting to train Spot, prompting his best line in ages: "I cannot stun my cat!"

Next week: Data discovers that Spot's kitty litter is harmful to the environment, prompting a heartfelt speech about the advantages of using sawdust as an alternative. Let it not be said that TNG is not relevant! 2.5 comm badges.

Episode 10: Inheritance
Stardate: 47410.2

"Are you certain you are not saying this because you are my mother? I have noticed that parents tend to exaggerate when it comes to their children's accomplishments." -Data

While assisting with attempts to re-liquefy the hardening core of an inhabited planet, the Enterprise takes aboard Dr. Juliana Tainer (Fionnula Flanagan), a scientist with a surprising announcement for Data—she's his mother. She tells him that she helped Dr. Noonien Soong design both him and Lore. Data investigates her story, unsure of her claims, yet eager to hear she's telling the truth. I don't want to go into too much description here, and the surprises throughout are great fun. I will say, though, that this is a marvelously satisfying outing, one that hits all the right emotional notes. It also offers an embarrassment of riches in terms of continuity, with talk of the Crystalline Entity, the events of Brothers, and an appearance by Soong himself.

Does "mommy" count as a contraction? 4.5 comm badges.

Episode 11: Parallels
Stardate: 47391.2

Data: The rate of quantum incursions is increasing exponentially. At this rate the sector will be completely filled with Enterprises within three days.
Wesley: Captain, we are receiving two hundred eighty-five thousand hails.

One of writer Brannon Braga's signature "mind-screw" episodes (he also wrote Season Five's loopy Cause and Effect), and certainly the most unique shows in quite a while. Worf, returning from a Klingon Bat'leth tournament, begins to experiences odd memory loss once he's back on the Enterprise. He remembers winning the contest, but he has a ninth place trophy. The cake at his surprise birthday party changes from chocolate to yellow. The painting Data gives him changes location and subject. And, most surprisingly, he finds he's suddenly married to Troi. He discovers, with the help of Data, that he's shifting between alternate universes, and that the cause involves (what else?) a quantum singularity. Watching Worf slowly go nuts is great, as is noticing the changes between universes, both big (in one, Picard was killed by the Borg) and small (Data with blue eyes), but nothing compares to the jaw-dropping final scene, in which all realities begin to converge and hundreds of thousands of Enterprises occupy the same area of space. I also quite like the unexpected appearance of Wesley Crusher, but I suppose a similar cameo from Tasha would have been too much to ask.

Does this mean there's a universe where Riker went beardless for seven seasons? The horror! 5 comm badges.

Episode 12: The Pegasus
Stardate: 47457.1

"Oh, you'll be interested to know I've arranged for a Commander Riker Day next month. I'm even considering making an entry myself." -Picard

The Enterprise is visited by Riker's former commanding officer, Admiral Pressman (Terry O'Quinn), who now works with Starfleet Intelligence. He orders the ship to an asteroid field under terms of absolute secrecy; the only hint as to the purpose of their mission is the clouded history of mutiny on the Admiral's former vessel (during which Riker protected his captain against attack from most of the crew). The Enterprise is scanning the field for the debris of that ship, which was destroyed shortly after Riker and other loyalists escaped in a shuttlecraft. It seems that Pressman was conducting an experiment that would give the Federation a tactical advantage over the Romulans, and that the Romulans have learned of the ship's presence in the asteroid field. It's a race to find it before they do, even as Picard questions Riker about what really happened to cause a Starfleet crew to mutiny. This is one of the best of the season, well plotted, tightly scripted, and thought provoking, showing none of Trek's weaknesses for easy moralizing.

It's hard to imagine Riker as an ensign, a rank which allows for very little dramatic posing. 4.5 comm badges.

Disc Four:

Episode 13: Homeward
Stardate: 47423.9

"It is the sign of LaForge. It is a message to travelers. It is said, when these lines appear and disappear in a pool of water, the road ahead will be filled with good fortune." -Worf

It seemed that just about every episode of TNG's first season dealt with the Prime Directive, so I wasn't exactly eager as this episode unfolded before me. It concerns Worf's foster brother, Nikolai (Paul Sorvino), an anthropologist who has been observing the Boraalans, a pre-warp society. He sends a distress call to the Federation asking them to help relocate the people, for their planet's atmosphere is slowly breaking down, and shortly they'll all be killed. Such an act would, of course, violate the Prime Directive, and Picard thus refuses to help, but Nikolai defies him and beams the people aboard anyway, confining them to a holodeck recreation of their home world. I'm happy to say that, for the most part, this is an engaging episode, and the issues of Starfleet's "guiding principle" are dealt with far more intelligently than they have been in the past, allowing for a moral grey zone. Unfortunately, though, Picard reverts to his speechifying mode of old, babbling on about the noble sacrifice of following the Prime Derective, and undercutting the tension between Nokolai and the crew. Still, it's a fairly strong show anyway, as I quite liked Nikolai's idea to fix the situation, and I enjoyed the palpable animosity between Worf and his brother.

It's a good thing that Picard has a saddle aboard the ship, because he certainly rides around on his moral high horse quite a bit in this episode. 4 comm badges anyway.

Episode 14: Sub Rosa
Stardate: 47423.9

Picard: What the hell is going on?
Data: There appears to be condensed suspension of water-vapor. Approximately one degrees Celsius.
Picard: Fog.
Riker: It just sort of rolled in on us, sir.

I find this episode quite entertaining, despite the middling script and the fact that it feels very little like an episode of Star Trek, most likely because I simply love Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher, and I wish she'd get an episode devoted to her character more often. This one is particularly Bev-heavy. After her grandmother dies, the doctor discovers her old journals and begins to read about an affair she had late in life with a man named Ronin (Duncan Regehr), but she quickly learns that he's not so much alive as a ghost that has been haunting the women of her family for generations. The script takes more than a page or 300 from Anne Rice's The Witching Hour and Lasher, but I still like the mystery and the creepy atmosphere of this episode (helped along in large part by good work from McFadden and atmospheric direction from director Jonathan Frakes). I am somewhat bothered by the fact that Beverly, at least at first, withers so completely under the gaze of her spirited admirer, especially since she has no problem resisting at the episode's end. And speaking of that ending, it's nice to see that, even in cases of haunting and the afterlife, everything can quickly be boiled down to a few lines of technobabble.

An Irish ghost with an attraction to the only redhead on the show? Huh. 3 comm badges.

Episode 15: Lower Decks
Stardate: 47566.7

"Riker! I bet he sleeps in his uniform." -Ensign Sam Lavelle

I've always thought it a particularly ridiculous (if necessary) contrivance of TNG (and of Trek in general) that everything seems to happen only to the main cast, and that the bridge crew is the only group to go on away missions. In fact, you know if some unnamed ensign tags along, he's little more than cannon fodder. Which is why I think this episode was such a good idea, as it focuses on the lives of four junior crewmembers, and features the main cast only when their characters intersect with these new characters' stories. While dealing with the Enterprise's grueling training requirements, the four officers—Lavelle (Dan Gauthier), Sito (Shannon Fill), Taurik (Alexander Enberg), and the more familiar Nurse Ogawa (Patti Yasutaki) become involved in a difficult secret mission. What's really nice about this one is that it puts a human (or Vulcan or Bajoran) face on a few of the heretofore faceless masses of the general crew. It's also nice to see them sitting around complaining about the senior crew, since you know that, even in the 24th century, people are going to hate their bosses. Their involvement in the "secret mission" feels a little odd, if only because they'd be completely absent from it in a normal episode, but it's a good story nonetheless, and creatively conceived.

I mean, if you were a shapely young ensign, would you want to be leered at by Riker? 4.5 comm badges.

Episode 16: Thine Own Self
Stardate: 47611.2

Dr. Talur: I'm sure my grandmother would have called our friend here a demon or a spirit or some sort of monster, but current scientific methodology allows us to dismiss such ridiculous superstitions and concentrate on scientific reality.
Data: Then what do you believe I am?
Dr. Talur: You are an ice-man.

In an episode that reminded me quite a bit of Season Four's First Contact, Data finds himself on an alien planet with no memory of Starfleet, his life, or even the fact that he is an android. The citizens find him strange, but aren't truly alarmed, until one of them, Talur, discovers some of his less-than-organic components. This, of course, leads to the inevitable "kill the demon" situation with the primitive civilization, but what's really cool about it is that Data himself, going by the name Jayden, doesn't realize what is "wrong" with him. There's also a clever B-plot about Troi's attempts, onboard the Enterprise, to pass the required tests that will promote her to full commander (I guess she got sick of Riker pulling rank on her).

Of course, Troi's promotion does arguably lead to the destruction of the Enterprise in Generations... 4 comm badges.

Disc Five

Episode 17: Masks
Stardate: 47615.2

"Geordi, what does it feel like when a person is losing his mind?" -Data

Yet another bottle show that takes place only onboard the Enterprises and one that is also limited by the successful use of but two members of the cast. The Enterprise encounters an unusual asteroid floating in space and is subjected to a sort of sensor scan. Soon, mysterious objects begin to appear around the ship, sculptures carved with intricate alien designs. Soon, the computers are infected as well, at it becomes clear that a computer virus is transforming the ship into a temple from some long forgotten society. Also affected is Data, who begins to manifest the personalities of dozens of alien beings. It quickly becomes clear to Picard that if he wishes to regain control of his ship before it turns into a giant floating rock, he'll have to communicate with Data's multiple personalities, one of whom keeps talking about a fearsome, vengeful goddess. The impact of an interesting idea is lessened by a somewhat meandering script and the talky, plodding scenes with Data and Picard. Still, I quite like the ceremonial refit of Enterprise, and the finale, which features Data and Picard in goofy masks acting as god and goddess is, well, goofy but effective.

Data meets Cybil, and it's a good thing Brent Spiner can do accents well. 3 comm badges.

Episode 18: Eye of the Beholder
Stardate: 47622.1

Worf: We have played poker many times. I have never known you to bluff.
Troi: Well, it wouldn't be much of a bluff if you knew, would it?

By this point, I've had about enough of the psychological episodes, and it doesn't help that this one is poorly conceived. After a crewmember inexplicably commits suicide, Troi begins to investigate what might have pushed him over the edge, only to find herself experiencing hallucinations that hint at a past crime of passion that resulted in murder. I don't mean to give anything away (I don't think I am, since the conclusion is fairly obvious from the get-go), but the way that Troi figures out what really happened is particularly troubling, as it is yet another example of lazy writing excused by an "it was a dream" ending. I didn't quite buy the bit of psychoanalytic technobabble used to explain it all either. Some unusual moments include a fake consummation of the meandering and ill-advised Worf/Troi flirtation and some flat acting from the guest cast (including the alleged girlfriend of the man who killed himself, who reacts to his death with no more emotion than if she'd merely lost a favorite outfit). Watch out for Worf's awkward attempts at asking Riker's permission to date Troi. As far as I'm concerned, the rest was a bad hallucination.

I believe this episode was created solely to satisfy the writer's desire to see Worf and Troi get biz-ay. 2 comm badges.

Episode 19: Genesis
Stardate: 47653.2

Barclay: You are such a sweet little kitten.
Data: She is to you. However, there have been several... injuries to other members of the crew who have attempted to take care of Spot.

A somewhat ridiculous episode, at least in terms of its scientific basis, this one is nevertheless a guilty pleasure of mine. Various crewmembers begin to act strangely, and it soon becomes clear that they are devolving due to the effects of a mutant virus that is activating their latent DNA. Troi turns amphibian, while Work transforms into a violent Klingon animal; Riker is a Cro-Magnon primitive and Barclay becomes a giant spider. Picard and Data, away from the ship, return to find it drifting in space, its power systems damaged by the former crew. The conclusion is even more ludicrous than the setup (even if it does involve cute little kittens), but this one gets a pass for its sheer entertainment value. Great moments include Barcley's hilarious "spider" impression, a scene with Spot the cat, and a few jump scares that really made me jump. Gates McFadden, in her directorial debut, delivers a suitably creepy mystery despite the flawed script.

So if Data had become infected, would he have devolved into a Powerbook? 3 comm badges.

Episode 20: Journey's End
Stardate: 47751.2

"Starfleet isn't for me." -Wesley

Another in Season Seven's series of endings, this episode wraps up Wesley's storyline with a neat little bow. Wes visits the Enterprise, on leave from Starfleet Academy, just as Picard has been asked to inform a group of Native American colonists that they must leave their adopted homeworld due to a newly negotiated treaty with the Cardassians. Wesley is disenchanted with Starfleet in general, and his feelings are intensified as he learns of the plight of the settlers, who left Earth in the 22nd century in search of a new life for their people. I quite like the idea of the Native American culture being subjected once again to the influence of distant patriarchal powers, and I actually find Wesley's part in it all quite appropriate (there are some nice references to Season One's Where No One Has Gone Before, including an appearance by Eric Menyuk, reprising his role as the Traveler), but there are some problems with the execution. Wheaton's acting is a little weak, and the Native American spiritualism is presented in a manner than feels a bit condescending, not to mention the fact that there is no mention made of Wesley's troubles in The First Duty. A decent farewell for a character that many fans wished had never been introduced at all. Watch carefully for some setup for Voyager's Chakotay character.

Wesley's spirit animal would clearly be a weasel. Just look at him! 3.5 comm badges.

Disc Six:

Episode 21: Firstborn
Stardate: 47779.4

"I don't wanna be a warrior!" -Alexander

I suppose some closure was needed for the story of Worf's son Alexander (Brian Bonsall), but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Worf is concerned that his son isn't interested in Klingon traditions (and because he is a whiney little baby), so he takes him to witness a traditional ceremony (which looks like nothing more than a Klingon version of West Side Story, what with the dancing and singing and knife fights). As they are leaving, Worf is attacked by assassins, but he is saved with the help of K'Mtar (James Sloyan), who announces himself as a friend of Worf's brother. K'Mtar believes treacherous sisters Lursa and B'Etor (from Redemption) are behind the attack, and as the crew hunts them down (with a little help from DS9's Quark (Armin Shimmerman), he also shows an interest in training Alexander as a warrior. The interesting search for the sisters is dragged down by the plodding Alexander plot; I just can't seem to care about the character, due in large part to Bonsall's terrible performance. The time travel twist at the end is a nice touch, but it comes off as a contrived deus ex machina that does little to resolve anything about Alexander's future.

I wish Wesley had taken Alexander with him when he left for those other planes of existence. And that he'd left him there to starve. A weak Worf outing worth 2 comm badges.

Episode 22: Bloodlines
Stardate: 47829.1

"You know, I don't think anyone is born knowing how to be a parent. You just sort of figure it out as you go. But the one quality that tends to be a requirement for parenthood is patience." -Beverly

In a sequel of sorts to the first season outing The Battle, Picard is once again menaced by the Ferengi DaiMon Bok (Lee Arenberg), who holds the captain responsible for the death of his son, killed when his ship was destroyed in a battle with a vessel under Picard's command. His plan for revenge? To kill Picard's son. Yes, it seems Picard has a bit of Kirk in him after all, and that Jason (Ken Olandt) was the result of a "brief relationship" in his past. Picard has trouble relating to the young man, who is uninterested in Starfleet and has a criminal record. Meanwhile, Bok is mysteriously appearing on the ship and promising vengeance against Picard, and the crew cannot detect how he is getting onboard. Though ultimately somewhat pointless (with a reset button ending that renders all character growth meaningless), this is, at least, an interesting and well plotted episode, with good performances from the guest stars and a nice twist in the final act.

And hey, at least Picard's son isn't as annoying as Wesley or Alexander (sorry, but it's my last chance to make fun of them!). 3.5 comm badges.

Episode 23: Emergence
Stardate: 47869.2

"The intelligence that was formed on the Enterprise didn't just come out of the ship's systems. It came from us, from our mission records, personal logs, holodeck programs, our fantasies. Now, if our experiences with the Enterprise have been honorable, can't we trust that the sum of those experiences will be the same?" -Picard

Picard and crew start to experience a lot of weirdness as the holodeck malfunctions, the Enterprise jumps to warp randomly, and new sensor nodes pop up throughout the ship. Sensing that the mystery might be solved on the malfunctioning holodeck, the crew enters into an ersatz version of the Orient Express, as Geordi formulates a startling hypothesis. There is evidence that the oddness is being caused by the Enterprise itself; the ship having gained a rudimentary sort of sentience after seven years of sensor readings, data entries, and personal logs. A pretty solid episode all around, with a creepy atmosphere and suspense that excuses the somewhat contrived use of the holodeck to solve the mystery. The ending is fairly unique as well, rounding out an episode that is interesting if not innovative.

This one proves that sentient star ships don't all have to be as boring as V'ger. 3.5 comm badges.

Episode 24: Preemptive Strike
Stardate: 47941.7

"When an old fighter like me dies, someone always steps forward to take his place." -Macias

The promoted Lieutenant Ro (Michelle Forbes) returns to the Enterprise after a stint in Advanced Tactical Training (explaining her absence for the last season or so). The ship receives a distress call from a Cardassian ship under attack by the Maquis, a group of primarily Bajoran "freedom fighters" willing to use violence to overthrow their oppressors. Fearful that continued Maquis attacks will reignite the Federation's war with Cardassia, Starfleet enlists Ro as an undercover agent and asks her to infiltrate the group. Once she does, she finds her loyalties tested, as she clearly feels sympathy for the Maquis and their struggle. I always thought Ro was a great character (I would have liked to see her in the Kira role on DS9 or as one of Voyager's Maquis crewmembers), and this episode explores her character in a thoughtful and surprisingly dark manner. Originally titled The Good Fight, the script offers obvious metaphors for the persistent cultural clashes in Ireland, and the moral grey zone of violent resistance. Michelle Forbes gives an impassioned performance, and the close with Picard manages to be poignant, shocking, and surprisingly ambiguous for this series.

If Michelle Forbes had done Voyager, we'd be all, "Seven of who?" or "Nine what?" 4.5 comm badges.

Disc Seven:

Episode 25: All Good Things
Stardate: 47988.1

"Goodbye, Jean-Luc. I'm going to miss you. You had such a good potential, but then again, all good things must come to an end." -Q

So it all comes down to this, the series' finale of TNG. After a season full of stumbles, writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga deliver a knockout show that brilliantly brings the series full circle. Picard finds himself jumping through time, from the Farpoint mission (introduced in the series' premiere), to the Season Seven "present," to a future where Riker commands the Enterprise and Picard himself is old and retired. In all three time periods, that captain encounters a space anomaly that threatens to unravel the very existence of humanity. And when we're talking about the end of human life, we can reasonably expect a visit from Q (John de Lancie), who has proven inordinately interested in Picard over the years. An elegantly structured plot, nostalgic appearances from Chief O'Brien and Tasha Yar, and amazing acting from the entire cast (particularly Stewart, who masterfully plays Picard across all three time periods, and Spiner, who effortlessly regresses Data to his mechanical Season One stiffness), and impressive visual effects (the modified future Enterprise, Crusher's ship, and the 3D-tactics space battle, to name but a few) combine to create what is clearly the best episode of the season, and arguably the best of the series. Which is, I think, about as much as you can ask of the episode that brings to a close the most successful series of one of the most enduring franchises in television history.

Maybe it's because I just watched Stewart's Christmas Carol, but all I could think during his last few scenes was "Christmas day! I haven't missed it!" A fitting farewell and 5 full comm badges.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: You'd be hard-pressed to find many differences between the video quality of this season and any of the others; it exhibits the same plusses and minuses. Footage of the actors remains quite nice looking—a little soft, perhaps, but with an even color balance, decent black level, and good detail. Special effects shots were, as always, finished on video, and thus they continue to suffer from graininess, shimmer, and occasional edginess. Overall, the material looks great for a re-mastered TV show, and I'm sure if you've been following the series you know what to expect by now.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 DD remixes are also on par with the other season sets; that is to say, they are quite impressive and engaging. The front soundstage handles the material well, anchoring dialogue in the center channel and presenting sound effects with frequent panning and directionality. The rears are put to good use creating atmosphere or handling the flashier moments of the space battles and ship fly-bys, and LFE is a constant presence with the low thrumming of the Enterprise itself.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 204 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Deep Space Nine
4 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Book Gatefold
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Fittingly, the last season of TNG on DVD also includes the best set of extras. The format is the same—several featurettes covering different aspects of the series' production—but the air of finality to the pieces included this time around lend an energy and an emotionality that was lacking in some of the other years' material. I still wish there was more variety among the bonus features for all seven seasons of the show (particularly considering how monotonous some of it got around season four). Commentaries would've been nice, and I'd have welcomed more candid behind-the-scenes material or gag reels. The few pieces that did break the mold to cover areas outside simply the production of the show (including Season Two's peek into the Starfleet Archives) were a nice change of pace, and the Season Seven set offers a few more.

I'll get the familiar stuff out of the way first. As with each set, this one includes the season wrap-up Production and Mission Overview. As the entire creative team was in upheaval as they tried to end the show on a high note, these two featurettes include a lot of great info and anecdotes. Production runs for 16 minutes and covers, among other things, Gates McFadden's directorial debut with Genesis, and there's some nice behind-the-scenes footage of the make-up artists working on that episode's complex effects. Writer Brannon Braga talks about the difficulties in writing the mind-bender Parallels, and we get some good footage on the effort required to fill up the screen with Enterprises. I especially enjoyed Executive Producer Jeri Taylor's comments about the strong women of TNG; I've always been of the opinion that Troi and, particularly, Beverly, were sorely underused throughout the series (as I shed a tear once again for dear, departed Tasha). Finally, there's a small bit about Carl Sagan's son Nick being hired as a staff writer.

Mission Overview, which runs for 15 minutes, begins with Rick Berman describing Season Seven as the "most chaotic" time in his life, as the Trek crew was not only wrapping TNG, but prepping both the film Generations and the series Voyager, while also hard at work on Season Two of Deep Space Nine (perhaps the fact that they were spreading themselves so thin explains the uneven quality of all listed endeavors). Also discussed in this piece is the departure of Wesley's character, the introduction of Geordi's family, the attempts to establish the Maquis and the Native American presence in the universe (which would both become a part of Voyager), the attempts to tie up loose ends for each character, and the emotional filming of the final episode (featuring some nice on-set interviews). All in all, both of these clips, though familiar in format, feature lots of great stuff for Trek fans.

On to the material unique to this set. A Captain's Tribute is a 16-minute, self-described "love fest" from Patrick Stewart as he discusses the joys of working with this particular ensemble cast. As always, Stewart is a heartfelt and engaging speaker, and just knowing that the cast got on so well behind the scenes makes me love the show even more. Starfleet Moments and Memories is a wonderful 30-minute documentary, and probably the best piece of the entire series. There's some nice footage of the cast goofing around together before producer Rick Berman talks about the struggles to create a follow-up to the Original Series, and laments the fact that the production talent wasn't always recognized for the work they did every week (though the show did receive numerous technical Emmy awards, and the series itself was nominated for best drama in year seven). Nearly every member of the cast and crew then gets a moment to recall their fondest memories of the series, and reflect on what the show has meant for their lives.

The Making of All Good Things is a self-explanatory, 17-minute featurette. It starts off with comments from co-writers Brannon Braga and Ronald Moore, and the two discuss their thought processes in penning the finale and hint at some abandoned storylines (including one in which Q went crazy). Make-up artist Michael Westmore discusses the difficulties is portraying the cast in three different time periods over the course of one episode (supplemented by some candid latex application moments with Picard and Riker), and cast members get their say as well.

Finally, there's a five-minute teaser for the upcoming DS9 season sets, featuring lots of brief interview clips and scenes from the show. It seems we can expect even more quality Trek on DVD from Paramount in 2003, so don't plan on letting your credit card rest for too long.

The only fault I can find with this extras package is the omission of the Journey's End special that aired right before All Good Thing back in 1994. It was a well-done retrospective, and though parts of it may have been redundant after the newly produced material, it still would've been nice to see (though it is available on VHS... what's that?).

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Sure, Season Seven of Star Trek: The Next Generation features its fair share of clunker episodes. But it also includes some of the best character stories of the entire series and a finale that ranks among the best material ever produced for television. Paramount ends the year with a flourish, the last two seasons arriving within a month of each other, with no impact on the sets' uniform quality. TNG's DVD release has been a monumental effort on the part of the studio, and a wonderful journey for Trekkers. Set coordinates for Deep Space Nine.


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