Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6 Blu-Ray

I vividly remember seeing a fantastic episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation back in 1993. I was eight, and though I watched the series from time to time, the episode that stuck out in my mind was entitled “Relics”. It was a fantastic episode and focused on the USS Enterprise receiving a distress signal from a derelict ship called the Jenolan. The ship, that has been lost for 75 years, had no signs of life but did seem to have a life form pattern in the transporter buffer. Once the pattern was materialized it seemed to be that of Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the original USS Enterprise, and the legendary man who was known as “Scotty” by his fellow crew. You see, though I enjoyed The Next Generation from time to time, my introduction to the world of Star Trek was watching the 6 movies based upon the original crew. Of course, since the young age of 8 I have enjoyed everything Star Trek has to offer, but seeing Scotty among the new crew was a defining TV moment for me. Now, after all these years, the 6th season of the classic series, the season that has that beloved episode in it, is being brought to Blu-Ray. Awesome.


The Episodes:

With the death of Gene Roddenberry came a change of direction for Star Trek. At the risk of being mauled to death by fellow Trekkies, that new direction was a breath of fresh air, and frankly, it made the series better. Focusing on a future a little darker than Roddenberry intended, season 6 of The Next Generation was one of the best out of its 7-season run. While there's plenty of fantastic episodes throughout this season, here are three that really stand out.

Relics: As mentioned before, “Relics” has a special place in my heart. However, it's not only a fantastic episode is which Scotty and LaForge get to play off each other, but it also serves as a way of giving the character of Scotty a very open ended and deservedly upbeat ending. 

Chain of Command part 1 & 2: Near the mid-point of this season is one of the best, most powerful pieces of drama Star Trek has ever unleashed. Entitled “Chain of Command”, this two parter saw Captain Picard being kidnapped and tortured by Cardassians. The most iconic and disturbing image of this episode is that of Picard being asked, “How many lights do you see?” Clearly and directly in front of his eyes Picard can see 4 lights, which he gives as his answer. However, using a control device, his captor Gul Madred blasts Picard with some kind of pulse, which sends his body in an incredibly painful spasm. Though there is a Federation and Cardassian struggle brewing throughout the rest of the episode, these torture scenes are incredibly captivating. We always knew Patrick Steward was a superb and versatile actor, but his performance here is magnificent.

Tapestry: Lets be honest, any episode with Q is undoubtedly great, right? Well, that trend continues here in one of my favourite episodes of the entire series. After Captain Picard suffers a heart attack, which was due to his artificial heart failing, he dies and finds himself in an afterlife-like environment. Confronted by none other than Q, he offers Picard a chance to change a crucial moment in his life, a moment that ultimately led to him dying years later. That “moment” is when, as a fresh-faced ensign, Picard was stabbed through the heart by a pissed Nausicaan, an incident that ultimately gave him his artificial heart. From seeing a young upstart Picard to the usual fantastic banter with Q, Tapestry is a superb episode all around.


Video Quality:

Since the release of the first season of The Next Generation on Blu-Ray in 2012, we've seen all subsequent seasons being released on a yearly basis. However, even the most die hard Star Trek fan and Blu-Ray expert were blown away by how great the Blu-Ray transfers actually looked. CBS Digital have once again done a truly stunning job here, as you've never seen The Next Generation like this before. Like, seriously, seeing the series remastered on the Blu-Ray is like watching it for the first time all over again. From the overall crisp visuals to the beautifully enhanced effects that have previously been done a disservice due to a low quality picture, without any of the additional extras, this box-set is worth owning purely for visual fidelity.


Extras:

Deleted scenes: From extended, deleted and alternate scenes, there's over 20 pieces of content here. Though many of these may not be of interest to a non-Trekkie, for anyone who loves Star Trek, these deleted scenes are a bloody goldmine. The best content comes from the episode “Birthright part 2”, in which there's a lovely 13 minutes of previously unseen footage to drool over. Epic!

Audio Commentaries: There are three wonderful commentaries at hand here. Both Ron D. Moore and Denise Okudas provide commentary for the episodes “Relics” and “Tapestry”, while James L. Conway and Jonathan West cover the episode “Frame of Mind”. All three are insightful and interesting. 

Gag Reel: It's nothing show stopping, but the 5 minute gag reel on offer here is hilarious.

Beyond the Five Year Mission – The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation: This 3 part documentary is a lovely centrepiece to the box-set. Focusing on the cast and crew reminiscing about various episodes, character arcs and memorable moments, this is, apart from the deleted scenes, the new piece of content us fans have been waiting for. Racking up to an hour and a half altogether, this is the perfect send off for season 6. Next up... season 7.

Overall season 6, like all the previous seasons released on Blu-Ray thus far, is simply a must for any Trekkie or non-Trekkie out there. Blending some of the best stories the franchise has ever dealt with, season 6 is an absolute powerhouse of drama, suspense, action and overall Trekking goodness. You've never seen the series like this before, and you need this in your collection.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 is literal perfection and gets a 5/5.

[★★★★★]

Denis Murphy


Star Trek: The Next Generation at CeX



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