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The Best of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Volume 2 DVD Review

Buy The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Volume 2 from Amazon.com The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Volume 2
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Gene Roddenberry / Executive Producer: Michael Piller / Writers: Ronald D. Moore, Morgan Gendel, Peter Allan Fields, Brannon Braga / Directors: Alexander Singer, Peter Lauritson, Jonathan Frakes, Les Landau

Cast: Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. William Riker), LeVar Burton (Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge), Michael Dorn (Lieutenant Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi), Brent Spiner (Lt. Commander Data) / Recurring Character: Patti Yasutake (Nurse Alyssa Ogawa)

Notable Guest Stars: Lanei Chapman (Ensign Sariel Rager), James Doohan (Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), Margot Rose (Eline), Richard Riehle (Batai), Scott Jaeck (Administrator), Jennifer Nash (Meribor), Michelle Forbes (Ensign Ro Laren), Kelsey Grammer (Captain Bateson), Ned Vaughn (Ensign Cortland Zweller), J.C. Brandy (Ensign Marta Batanides), John de Lancie (Q)

Running Time: 181 minutes (4 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase
DVD Release Date: November 17, 2009 / Episodes originally aired March 23, 1992 - February 15, 1993

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By Aaron Wallace

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" fans can add a new DVD to their collection this week. The single-disc, four episode The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Volume 2 is the latest in a long line of DVD releases for the series. The new disc's value lies in what it offers compared to what's already been released. I'll go ahead and give you a hint: it's not much. But let's take a quick look at the show's history on DVD to put it into context.

Paramount began releasing "Next Generation" complete season sets with extremely high price tags in the spring of 2002, finishing the entire seven season run by the end of that year.
Fans struggled for much longer than that to fork over big chunks of their paychecks to acquire the whole lot, often costing over $100 per season even after retailer discounts. Mercy finally prevailed and SRPs were eventually lowered to a more competitive rate... just in time for Paramount to announce a Complete Series set, featuring additional bonus features and really cool packaging... available to you at the low SRP of $488.99.

As soon as now-impoverished fans could claim victory with an ultimate collection in their hands, the home video world began going Blu, and "Star Trek" along with it. As the original series presently rolls out in fully loaded hi-def box sets, and with the Next Generation film series already on BD too, it's all but inevitable that Blu-ray releases of "The Next Generation" are around the corner, the cycle soon to start all over again.

The main title logo for "Star Trek: The Next Generation", 1987's sequel series that ran more than twice as long as the original. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), and Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) set their eyes on a temporal anomaly in "Relics".

Trekkin' ain't easy, or at least it hasn't been for the "Next Generation" fans during the last few years. That's especially true for the casual fans, a group I suspect is large in number and not particularly willing to make a complete set of the show a part of their annual budgets.

For those people, Paramount has released a number of multi-disc sets under the "Fan Collective" banner, compiling episodes from each of the five "Star Trek" series for nearly half the price of a season set. That's great if you like all five of the shows. If your fandom is limited to a series or two, you won't want to pay for hours of content from the others.

That brings us to the "Next Generation"-specific DVDs. There have been three of these. The first was the reasonably priced 2-Disc Jean-Luc Picard Collection, comprised of eight episodes in which the spotlight shines especially on the captain. The idea was compelling and future releases focusing on Data, Dr. Crusher, and other characters had potential for a solid collection. Sadly, five years have passed and we've seen nothing else like it.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) falls flat on his back more than a couple of times in The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Volume 2. Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) plays a small role in the episodes chosen for The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Volume 2, perhaps giving newcomers a false impression of his importance in the show.

Instead, Paramount is now opting for the low-priced single-disc route. The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation hit stores last May with four famous episodes and nothing else. Now comes Volume 2. Here again are four random episodes, all of them quite good but not adding up to a very good sampler when put together. All four come from the fifth and sixth seasons of the show. The first two episodes are memorable because they are exceptional, but they're hardly representative of the show. One focuses on a character from the first "Star Trek", the other spends most of its time outside of the Enterprise.
The third and fourth episodes are, however, more fitting and arguably rank among the series' best.

Unfortunately, three of the four episodes on this disc have already appeared on either the Fan Collective or Jean-Luc Picard Collection DVDs (two of them have appeared in both of those already!). I understand that the "Best of" discs exist as a collection all their own, and that they target the most casual fans with their super-low SRPs, but it seems likely that a number of people who purchased those other compilation DVDs might have been interested in this one too. If so, they're in for a disappointment, as only one episode (the first one) is making its first appearance on a cheap "Star Trek" DVD. 178 "Next Generation" episodes were produced; surely Paramount could have found two or three others to include here instead.

That said, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is a very good TV series. Filled with sophisticated and compelling human drama, and starring a grade-A ensemble cast in extremely accessible character roles, the series is strong enough to capture the rapt attention even of those who find themselves disinclined toward science fiction or space in general. (This is largely true of all Star Trek series, something people seem to be continually rediscovering as a "surprise"). If a $10 DVD is the only shot you're willing to give the show, then this should still do the trick. Please know that these episodes aren't what you'll always find, but they are standouts nevertheless. A closer look at each of the episodes follows.

Great Scott! James Doohan returns to the Enterprise as Montgomery Scott in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", only it's a much later ship and the Kirk crew is nowhere to be found! Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) transforms into an even older man in "The Inner Light".

1. 130/6.04 Relics (45:34) (Originally aired October 12, 1992)
In this crossover episode of sorts, the Enterprise stumbles upon the ruins of an old Federation ship and Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) discovers that a life form is preserved in the wreckage. The life turns out to be that of Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), the Chief Engineer in the original "Star Trek" series.
Scotty boards the Enterprise (Enterprise-D, that is, the one helmed by Picard) and is quickly fascinated by the technological advances made since his time. When the ship finds itself in trouble, though, Chief Engineers old and new find themselves at odd in a rivalry that is sure to get fanboys' juices flowing.

2. 125/5.25 The Inner Light (45:30) (Originally aired June 1, 1992)
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) does the time warp again in this episode, waking up on a strange planet and finding that everyone there knows him as Kamin, not Picard. Kamin has a wife and a career and no one there knows anything about the starship Enterprise. As he tries to reconcile his newfound life with the one only he seems to remember, the captain slowly becomes more Kamin than Picard. He lives a long and plentiful life on the planet before making a starling discovery that makes his forgotten memories crystal clear.

3. 118/5.18 Cause and Effect (45:27) (Originally aired March 23, 1992)
The Enterprise is caught in a time loop, causing the crew to relive the same series of events again and again with no recollection of the previous sequences, save for a haunting sense of déjà vu. As the poker-playing crew's unease grows continually stronger, they begin to unravel a temporal mystery. Of the four episodes on the disc, this is definitely my favorite. Kelsey Grammer (briefly) guest stars.

4. 141/6.15 Tapestry (45:05) (Originally aired February 15, 1993)
Part A Christmas Carol, part It's a Wonderful Life, this non-holiday episode begins with the death of Captain Picard. In his temporary afterlife, Picard travels through his past with Q (John de Lancie) as his guide, learning how the mistakes of his youth helped make him the hero he has become.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio. The video quality isn't great -- often soft and dull, not particularly colorful (even when it seems that it should be), and presenting some grain and occasional unwanted artifacts. More than anything, though, the picture is very dark, sometimes distractingly so. The show has never looked all that good on DVD (I haven't been able to compare these to the Complete Fifth and Sixth Season DVDs), so this doesn't come as much of a surprise. One hopes that these look better on Blu-ray one day; however, the original production source may be partly to blame. Though it is disappointing, I don't want to overstate the problem. The show still looks noticeably better here than it does in reruns on TV.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is quite a bit more pleasing. Surprisingly dynamic, the rear channels are almost constantly active with score, background noise, and occasional sound effects. Dialogue emanates primarily from the front center channel, where it is bold and crystal clear. For foreign language viewers, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese two-channel mono tracks are available. Subtitles are offered in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Kelsey Grammer hears the blues a'callin' all the way in space as Captain Bateson, head of a spaceship trapped in time in "Cause and Effect." The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Volume 2 main menu screen is dead still and completely silent, but at least it looks cool.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

This DVD contains no bonus features of any kind, except for one singular reel of previews (1:50) available on the main menu, containing just two promos within it. The first is for "Star Trek": Season One on Blu-ray.
Star Trek Plush Tribbles!
The second is for Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection, Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection, and "Star Trek": Seasons One and Two, all on Blu-ray, as well as several other "Star Trek" releases on DVD. The previews are available as an on-screen option when the disc is inserted, as well as from the main menu screen.

The main menu is silent and static. Episode titles are listed as if displayed on an Enterprise computer console, a picture of the famous spaceship in the background. The plain gray disc is housed inside a standard black keepcase with protective side-snaps. A large number 2 appears on the front cover and spine, a nice touch for collectors.

Inside the case is a flyer for CBS DVD, Star Trek properties on Blu-ray and DVD, and Star Trek Online (a multiplayer online game set to launch in 2010). There's a keycode inside that will allow registered gamers to unlock a "Wrath of Khan" admiral's uniform for your captain in the game.

No, this isn't a deleted scene or a behind-the-scenes featurette... it's just an awkward encounter between Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Q (John de Lancie) in "Tapestry." Worf, Dr. Crusher, Data, and Riker sit down for a repetitive poker game in "Cause and Effect."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" is a compelling television series, earning its high esteem and massive fanbase with human drama that focuses on interpersonal communication and philosophy much more than it does the intricacies of science fiction.

Browse more Star Trek posters,
photos and memorabilia
Volume 2 in the show's Best of DVD series comes at a low price and offers four very good episodes, so it should be easy to recommend. I'm just not sure who's supposed to buy this. Half of the episodes are too atypical to serve as an introductory sampler and three quarters of them have already appeared on similar DVDs that committed fans are likely to already own. With no bonus material to supplement its strange selection, the DVD is less commendable than it could be. If you like "The Next Generation" but only have the Volume 1 "Best of" DVD in your collection, and you refuse to pay more than ten dollars at a time, you might consider this. Otherwise, opt for the Jean-Luc Picard Collection, a Fan Collective DVD, or complete season sets.

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What better way to crack open that Romulan Ale?

Reviewed November 16, 2009.



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