The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation Season Seven (Blu Ray)

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation: Season 7 (Blu Ray) So because Paramount/CBS is awesome, they have finished sending me the Blu Ray seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation. I love these remastered sets SO MUCH, especially when you watch an episode on Blu-Ray and then switch over to Netflix to compare, and the difference is amazing. The original version looks washed-out and grainy, whereas the new one could fit onto TV today aside from the aspect ratio. I really wish that the series had originally been shot with 16×9 framing, but as has been explained by the directors several times now, there’s just too many light stands and makeup artists standing in the open matte frame to make it work, plus all the effects shots were composed for 4×3 and you’d have to basically redo them all from scratch. In 1994, after 7 years on the air, Star Trek TNG came to an end – an ending that was inevitable with the death of Gene Roddenberry and Paramount’s desire to move onto feature films. The seven year limit has now become a Star Trek tradition. Which of course brings me to that season… The final year of my favorite Star Trek series is about two things – Family relationships (storyline-wise) and playing dice with the rules of the Star Trek universe (in the real world). People have some SERIOUS mother issues going on in the final year, and Brannon Braga, loosed from the bonds of having Gene Roddenberry watching over his scripts, goes insane and takes most of the crew with him. It’s a very different year than the first six, and with only a few highlights and MANY lowlights it’s generally regarded as a good thing that they stopped when they did, lest the show end up in the toilet of public opinion like Voyager did. Oddly, there was some serious attempts at forging a strong continuity in the final year, referencing many older episodes over the course of the season and introducing bit players that would reappear in DS9, but at the same time so many loose ends were left untied that you have to wonder why the writers didn’t do a better job in giving the season a “finishing” feel to it. Plus the FUCKING STUPID Troi-Worf “romance” that no one wanted to see but still got shoved down the throats of fans who had been patiently waiting for the Troi-Riker relationship to finish playing out at the end. There was indeed some weird shit going down this season, and indeed the show is much darker and gloomier than Roddenberry intended – there’s deaths, departures and insanity on a regular basis, and this darker tone was carried over into DS9, as well. The Episodes “Descent II”. The second part of the sixth season cliffhanger sees Data reuniting with evil brother Lore to control a subset of the Borg who were turned into individuals by Hugh Borg. Now, it just goes to show how badly things had become screwed up when the freakin’ BORG need another bad guy to spruce up their ranks. And as season premieres go, this one is pretty boring, as Data snaps out of it long enough to foil Lore’s evil plan and deactivates him for good. This ep does, however, re-introduce the “emotion chip” that was first brought up in the fourth season and comes into play again in the movies, but there’s not much else notable about it. Family issues: Data and Lore have a stormy reunion.
Crew members gone insane: Data is hypnotized by Lore’s emotion chip into serving him. He is forgiven immediately afterwards by Picard. “Liaisons”. Another rather dull episode sees a routine diplomacy session with an alien race turn into two boring subplots about aliens learning human ways, while Picard ends up stranded on a planet with a soccer mom. Zero in the way of dramatic tension here. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Interface”. Third yawner in a row sees Geordi trying out a new virtual reality toy that allows him to directly control a small probe within in a deserted ship. While there, he meets the ghost of his recently-dead mother, but in classic Star Trek fashion, it just turns out to be another alien. They’d even end up recycling THAT plot point by the end of the season. Family issues: Geordi comes to grips with his mother’s death and we learn that his dad is Ben Vereen. And yet the poor guy still can’t score with anyone.
Crew members gone insane: Everyone is convinced that Geordi must be smoking SOME sort of medicinal drugs for his blindness once he starts seeing ghosts. “Gambit part 1”. Picard’s hunt for a mysterious Romulan artifact has him “dead” on a planet, which leads Riker to take a team to chase the captors and lands HIM in their clutches, too. Some cute moments as Data commands the ship in their absence and Riker & Picard pretend to be enemies on the alien ship, but the story isn’t there. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: Riker seemingly deserts Starfleet as a part of the charade. “Gambit part 2”. The alien artifacts turn out to be a Vulcan super-weapon that turns thoughts into DEATH. But all you need is love, apparently, and I need is a barf bag. The theme of “Piker and Riker get kidnapped and lead a revolt” would later be recycled a few times on Enterprise. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Phantasms”. The very definition of a whacked-out Brannon Braga episode, as Data’s experimentation with dreaming leads him to see bizarre images of crew members as metaphor, and sends him over the deep end until he’s longing to kill Deanna Troi. Sadly he stabbed her before she had a chance to tell us about the great anger she was sensing in him. In the end, it’s just more aliens. Visually, it’s an interesting episode, but if I wanted David Lynch, I wouldn’t have skipped the entire run of Twin Peaks. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: Data is a certifiable box of mixed nuts by the end of this one. “Dark Page”. While communicating with a race of aliens who only speak telepathically (including a young Kirsten Dunst!), Deanna’s mother Lwaxana becomes overwhelmed and goes into a coma, induced by a traumatic event from her past. More Braga metaphors and dream sequences follow, and we learn just HOW bad of a parent Lwaxana really was. Am I watching Star Trek or the X-Files here? Family issues: Deanna and her mother continue their ongoing argument, and Deanna learns of a long-dead relative.
Crew members gone insane: Troi’s mother has a nervous breakdown. “Attached”. Picard and Dr. Crusher get kidnapped during negotiations with a potential Federation member and connected via a mental “rope” between their minds. They escape the prison, but are forced to remain connected with a telepathic link, and we learn what they’ve been feeling for each other all this time. The paranoid Kes provide comic relief, as it’s a nice, quiet character-driven episode to relieve all the Braga madness. Family issues: The spectre of Beverly’s dead husband, Jack, looms large over Picard’s feelings for her.
Crew members gone insane: Beverly and Picard hear each others’ thoughts throughout the episode. “Force of Nature”. In yet another preachy liberal claptrap episode, this time the environmentalists are apparently alive and kicking in the 24th century, in the form of aliens who boobytrap the ship in order to spread their message about warp speed being destructive to the fabric of the universe. And you thought Greenpeace was obnoxious. In the end, the radical viewpoints of these wackos are rushed through the Science Council without debate or further research, and all space flight is limited to Warp 5 except in emergencies. Much like Prohibition, this rule was so fundamentally dumb that it was scrapped by the first movie. Family issues: The alien wackos are brother and sister, and she commits suicide to prove her point.
Crew members gone insane: The writers for pitching such a retarded idea. “Inheritance”. In another one of those improbable retrofitting of history episodes, Data learns that Noonian Soong had a wife that he never mentioned and history never recorded. Well, that’s convenient. Even more so when it turns out that she’s yet another android. You know, for a guy who whines all the time about being alone in the universe, Data sure has a big family. Brent Spiner elevates the mediocre script, as usual. Family issues: Data meets mommy.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Parallels”. This one is so goofy that you KNOW Braga had to think it up. Worf returns from a tournament and begins moving along parallel universes, with subtle differences each time he shifts. Along the way, the seeds of the Worf-Troi relationship are sewn for the first time, as he learns that she’s his wife in just about every universe but his own. Nice to see Worf getting some time to stretch his acting muscles a bit. Family issues: Worf and Troi adjust to married life.
Crew members gone insane: Everyone thinks Worf is losing his mind. “The Pegasus”. Hands down one of the high points of the season, as Riker’s old CO is now an admiral, and one who wants to recover their old ship from the Romulans because of top-secret stuff on board. Riker’s loyalties and ethics are stretched to the limit, and the payoff once you learn what the secret weapon is makes it worthwhile. Sadly, the device was never mentioned again on the shows, because it sure would have helped against the Dominion. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Homeward”. Worf travels down to a dying Federation colony, and discovers that his adoptive brother Nikolai (played by Paul Sorvino) is running the show for them. When it becomes apparent that the whole place is going to be wiped out, Nikolai breaks the Prime Directive and has the whole tribe beamed to the holodeck until a new world can be found. Picard is naturally not thrilled about the situation, but goes along with it because apparently the Prime Directive ceases to apply if your intentions are good. Family issues: Worf & Nikolai.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Sub Rosa”. And now we go WAY into left field, with an old fashioned ghost story based in a Scottish town (well, a Federation colony designed to look like one, at any rate), as Beverly meets her grandmother’s paranormal lover and gets REALLY horny throughout most of the show. Of course, in the end it’s just another alien. The multiple scenes of Dr. Crusher nearly bringing herself to orgasm would NEVER had made it under Roddenberry. And what the hell is “Sub Rosa” even supposed to mean? Family issues: Bev gets sloppy seconds from grandma.
Crew members gone insane: Beverly again. “Lower Decks”. In a refreshing change of pace, this is an episode focusing entirely on four junior officers and what things look like from their point of view, as they compete for a promotion to lieutenant. It’s really neat seeing what the “big seven” seem like through the eyes of newer people, and another decidedly dark turn for the series sees one of the young officers in a body bag by the end of the show. A good episode in any season and a strong highlight in the awful seventh season. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Thine Own Self”. Two weak and unconnected storylines fill up an hour here, as Data is left on a pre-warp world with no memory and a radioactive canister, while Troi takes the test to become a full commander and sets in motion the events that would blow up the ship in the first movie. In fact, she blows up the ship three times in the testing simulations alone! Take the hint, Troi! Neither story is particularly strong here. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: Data loses his memory. “Masks”. And away down the spiral we go, as the Enterprise finds an Aztec temple buried inside a comet (no wait, it gets better!). Soon, the whole ship is magically transformed into stone statues and grass huts, and Data has 18 different personalities. The ending is deus ex machina at its worst and the big showdown is Data and Picard wearing masquerade ball masks and reciting bad poetry at each other. About as bad as it sounds. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: Data, again. New record for him, I think. “Eye of the Beholder”. And it’s back to a Braga mainstay, as Troi gets to go insane again and the whole episode was a dream. Two clichés for the price of one! The “plot”, as it were, revolves around a crew member committing suicide (upping the death count to three so far this year) and Troi & Worf investigating. Troi finds echoes of a murder plot from years before and lives it all out in her mind. Sadly, she doesn’t commit suicide herself at the end. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: Troi gets hysterical, as stipulated by her contract. “Genesis”. The nightmare episode of stupid sci-fi to end all nightmare episodes. A virus is let loose on the ship, causing everyone to “de-evolve” into primitive forms until Data can save the day. The plot is non-existent, and it’s all a coat hanger for the actors to jump around like morons while the makeup crew justifies their budget for the year. Once the cat “de-evolved” into a lizard, they lost me. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: All of ‘em. “Journey’s End”. The plight of the American Indians is moved into space, as the Enterprise is called in to move their sacred colony in order to give the planet to Cardassia as a result of a peace settlement. The analogy is so obvious that the writers than feel the need to have the characters SPELL IT OUT for anyone who doesn’t get what the big message behind the show is. I.E., white people are bad for stealing land from the Indians hundreds of years ago. At the same time, Wesley Crusher has become a BAD BOY, dropping out of Starfleet Academy to smoke pot and bang hot chicks. No, not really, but it’d more interesting than hanging out with that Traveler dude. I mean, he wants to show Wesley the wonders of the universe? Sounds like a pickup line, dude. Thankfully, Wesley goes away for good, even if there is only 5 shows left in the series at this point. Family issues: Wesley is rude and insolent to his mother.
Crew members gone insane: Wesley is all brooding and DARK and stuff. “Firstborn”. Worf is determined to spend quality time with Alexander and teach him to be a warrior, but Alexander is more in touch with his human side and refuses to go that route with his life. A mysterious friend from the Klingon homeworld helps to try convincing Alexander about the advantages of being a bloodthirsty maniac, but doesn’t get through to him. Then, a twist ending that nearly sinks the entire episode and induces a groan every time I see it. The show would have been fine without the Big Secret, and why they felt the need to add it is beyond me. Family issues: Worf continues to grapple with being a parent and a Klingon.
Crew members gone insane: None. “Bloodlines”. Picard learns from a renegade Ferengi that he may have fathered a son 24 years ago, and that son is in danger of being killed. A boring hour of Picard trying to bond with the poor guy results, and in the end the threat is actually minimal, much like the effort put into this dog. Family issues: Picard copes with being a daddy, and having a loser for a kid at that.
Crew members gone insane: Picard thinks he’s seeing things when the Ferengi appears at mysterious times. “Emergence”. More metaphors and imagery, as the ship appears to be coming to life, and using the holodeck to represent that. What the eventual point was, I don’t even know, because this one sure as shit doesn’t go anywhere. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: If you count the ship. “Preemptive Strike”. Ro Laren returns, bumped up a rank after months of Starfleet spy training, and is sent in to infiltrate the Maquis. She just wants Picard to be proud of her, but unfortunately the Maquis make a compelling case for her services, and she betrays the Federation and breaks Picard’s heart. Another dark and depressing ending in a series. Family issues: None, although Picard treats Ro like his daughter, and Ro’s actions are affected by memories of her dead father.
Crew members gone insane: Ro turns heel and leaves Starfleet for the Maquis. And finally… “All Good Things”. In the series finale, Picard jumps back and forth through time as a result of meddling from Q, trying to figure out the solution to a puzzle involving three time periods and three anomalies in space. Truly epic and brilliantly acted and written, and a terrific way to wrap up the show and send it on to feature films. The “big seven” all sitting and playing poker at the end is one of the simplest and yet most powerful images in the show’s run, and this one episode nearly redeems the season by itself. Okay, not really, but it’s damn good and it lives up to the hype and still holds up today. Family issues: None.
Crew members gone insane: It’s thought by the others that future Picard is just dreaming the whole thing as a result of his neurological disease. Overall, this is probably the worst season of the lot, with no direction or guidance from Roddenberry to keep the writers from going to the extremes of their excesses. Longtime fans will get a kick out of the self-referential nature of the continuity and the Crusher-Picard relationship, but for casual fans, start with the middle seasons, not this. Audio & Video Oh my. When they went back and fixed the show for Blu-Ray, they went back and FIXED it. The CGI effects are now on par with some of the theatrical releases, colors are BOLD and jump off the screen…the dark and murky backgrounds are now bright and clear, it’s amazing overall. Easily just as good as the original series redo. I can’t even overstate how much better this looks and how much work would have been needed to change it from the original videotape resolution into full HD. The Pulse: Definitely a show that knew when to call it quits at just the right time, Star Trek’s legacy is wrapped up with the seventh and final DVD set, but it’s a set for fans only. Unless having the awesome series finale on DVD is worth $100 to you, there’s no reason to recommend this portion of the series.

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation: Season 3 (Blu-Ray)

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation: Season Three
So because Paramount is awesome, they have resumed sending me the Blu Ray seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation again after skipping season 2 (and if there was any season to skip, it’s THAT one), and I even got a little bonus with this set! I love these remastered sets SO MUCH, especially when you watch an episode on Blu-Ray and then switch over to Netflix to compare, and the difference is amazing. The original version looks washed-out and grainy, whereas the new one could fit onto TV today aside from the aspect ratio. I really wish that the series had originally been shot with 16×9 framing, but as has been explained by the directors several times now, there’s just too many light stands and makeup artists standing in the open matte frame to make it work, plus all the effects shots were composed for 4×3 and you’d have to basically redo them all from scratch.  
As for the show itself, this was truly the season where Michael Piller, as head writer and executive producer, defined the look and feel of the show and made it from an also-ran into, in my opinion, a superior product than the original series. The third season brings with it some minor cosmetic changes and a few major character changes. Uniforms now have a collar and a much more military look to them, kind of like the dress uniforms seen in the early seasons but without the skirts. Beverly Crusher is back from Broadway purgatory (and for those who have asked, the actual reason for her departure seems to be a closely guarded secret that no one will divulge), taking over for Dr. Pulaski, who never achieved anything more than “guest-starring…” status for the year she was on. Worf has been promoted to full lieutenant, and LaForge is Lieutenant Commander now.  As the third season picks up, the writing is becoming much more balanced between the characters and the pacing is established early and works well. This season has the benefit of including the two episodes widely considered the greatest in Star Trek history by many, making it an absolute “must have” set for fans.
Disc One:
– Evolution. In the season opener (actually produced second), Wesley goes from saving the ship to nearly destroying it, as he falls asleep while illegally experimenting on nanites – microscopic medical robots that are injected into the bloodstream and can do minute repairs on the human body. Wesley decides to see if he can evolve them artificially, and you know what happens when someone plays God in Roddenberry’s universe. Yes, it’s another Star Trek cliché let loose early, as The Ship Goes Crazy with nanites running wild in the computer core and snacking on the processor. Meanwhile, an overzealous visiting scientist – himself a former child prodigy – begins getting antsy about seeing his life’s work ruined by a delay in the experiment, caused by the nanite problem. He takes things into his own hands, and the tiny nanites are none too pleased with his method of communicating with them (i.e., trying to exterminate them) and soon it’s WAR. Nice to see Wonder Boy taking the blame for the ship’s problems for once instead of making everyone else look foolish.

– The Ensigns of Command.
The first Data episode of the season sees him with quite the predicament indeed – the Enterprise is called by a super-powerful race of ugly aliens called the Sheliak, who have informed the Federation that they intend to settle on a world inhabited by what appears to be a human colony. Indeed, the planet had been given to the Sheliak decades earlier in a complex treaty negotiation, and they give the Enterprise three days to get rid of the colonists, or eradication will result. Two problems: Radiation around the planet prevents normal use of the transporters, and there’s over 15,000 colonists on the planet! Data (who is unaffected by the radiation) is sent down to convince the government that evacuation is the best option, but their stubborn decision to stay and fight the potential invaders forces him to take more drastic measures in demonstrating his point about the superiority of the Sheliak. Meanwhile, Picard uses all his diplomatic stalling powers to try to talk the un-talkative aliens into giving him three weeks instead of three days. Another strong episode to start the season, although Data’s oblivious responses to the hot young chick throwing herself at him throughout the show are a bit disheartening.
– The Survivors. This is like something out of the Twilight Zone, as the Enterprise comes across a former colony planet that has been wiped out by alien invaders…except for one house and an elderly couple living inside it. Picard sends people down to investigate, but other than a bit too much homespun charm, there’s nothing really to discover about how and why they survived the holocaust of an entire planet. However, Troi thinks something is amiss, and when she tries to find out, she begins hearing a music box playing in her head 24/7. I heard the same thing happened to Lionel Ritchie all the time. Deafened by the music, there’s nothing left for her to do but…wait for it… Get Hysterical! It seems as though the alien invaders keep returning, but never quite get rid of the Enterprise, which leads Picard to finally put all the pieces together and figure out exactly what he’s dealing with. And the payoff is REALLY powerful and jaw-droppingly depressing, once the motive behind trying to cover up the secret of the planet is revealed.
– Who Watches the Watchers? Four good episodes in a row start out the third season, as Picard is again forced into violating the Prime Directive and watching the house of cards collapse faster each time. This time, in a premise not far removed from the same one used to open Insurrection, the Enterprise is called to repair a hidden survey station on a primitive world, where Federation anthropologists study a proto-Vulcan race in the Bronze Age. Minor note: Pamela Segall plays one of the natives of the planet in her younger days, and she would go on to be the voice of Bobby Hill on “King of the Hill”, and most recently as Marcie on Californication. Anyway, one of the natives sees more than he should have, and is so shocked by technology that he slips and breaks his neck, necessitating a trip to the ship to heal him. The memory wipe doesn’t quite stick, however, and the poor guy is left babbling about a great god who brings people back from the dead – The Picard. Soon his whole village is worshipping the Almighty Picard, leading to the crew having to do some serious damage control, lest they create a whole planet of scientologists. It’s the old theme about “any technology significantly advanced will resemble magic” reworked in a fun way without the heavy-handed lecturing of the earlier seasons.
– The Bonding. While leading an away team, one of the people under Worf’s command is killed, leaving a son behind. He immediately wants to take the boy under his wing and show him the Klingon death rituals to cleanse his spirit, but Troi thinks that might be a BIT much for the poor kid. However, things get weird when the mother seemingly returns from the dead with the ability to transform the world around her. Not one of the better efforts of the season. Disc Two:
– Booby Trap. Yes, it’s the beginning of a great Star Trek tradition, as Geordi gets shot down in flames by a date on the holodeck and sulks about it. However, he’s soon given something to take his mind off his love life, as the Enterprise is flying through an asteroid field and discovers an ancient warship still transmitting a distress signal. Unfortunately, their distress soon becomes the Enterprise’s distress, as something starts sucking the power out of the ship just like the dead ship. Geordi goes to work finding a cure, and to help him he creates a holographic representation of Dr. Leah Brahms, one of the designers of the ship’s engines back on Earth. And before you can say “horny black guy”, he’s falling in love with her while working out the solutions to their problems. The real Leah would visit the ship in a later season and be none too happy about his little hologram.
– The Enemy. Another great tradition begins, in this case ripping off Enemy Mine, which would be listed in the 10 most influential movies of all-time if you were going by Star Trek writers alone. The Enterprise finds a blowed-up Romulan ship on a nasty planet, complete with a survivor. Worf & Riker bring him back to the ship, but Geordi (who is having a bad year so far) gets stranded on the planet with a malfunctioning VISOR. And, as it turns out, with another Romulan, this one armed. So they proceed to help each other reach safety, as per sci-fi clichés. Back on the ship, things take a decidedly darker turn as the Romulan is dying and there’s only one person with a blood type that will match – Worf. But hey, when it comes down it, Worf will do the right thing and spare his enemy’s life, right? Nope. In a rather shocking turn of events for the lightweight drama that is generally Star Trek, Worf coldly chooses to let the Romulan die (and thus bring the Federation to the brink of war) rather than give up his lifelong hatred of them. That’s why Worf’s a badass. There was some REALLY serious bad vibes going on in this episode, and it’s a shame that the Romulans were never fully developed into the monster heels that they could have been.
– The Price. The Enterprise is called in to host negotiations for possession of what appears to be the first stable wormhole in existence. The Ferengi butt in uninvited and soon offers are being thrown around for the wormhole. Picard sends Data & LaForge into the wormhole to investigate, but they discover that it’s actually unstable and thus worthless. Meanwhile, one of the alien negotiators (played by king of smarmy jerks Matt McCoy) seduces Troi and she gives it up yet again. She must have a thing for diplomats. Most of this was sappy talk between Troi and her loverboy, but it wasn’t bad as filler eps go.
– The Vengeance Factor. When a Federation outpost is raided by a group of renegade pirates, Picard decides it’s time to go to the parent planet and tell them to bring the outlaws back into the fold again. Unfortunately, the groups have been estranged from each other for 100 years and reconciliation doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Riker, not to be outdone by Troi, puts the moves on the monarch’s head servant, who happens to be a murderer (unbeknownst to the crew), after carrying a family grudge against the rebels for decades. Riker does some detective work after finding a dead body amongst the rebels, while Picard brings the rebel leader for a sitdown with the big kahuna of the group for peace talks. The final explanation is a bit deus ex machina, but this was a fun episode overall.
– The Defector. Now we start breaking out the Cold War paranoia, as the Enterprise is cruising the Neutral Zone and catches a distress call from a Romulan scout ship, which appears to be getting shelled by a warbird. Turns out the guy on board, a low-level logistics clerk, has discovered plans for a Romulan invasion via a hidden base in the NZ, and he’s willing to switch sides in order to prevent war. But IS he is a defector, or a spy? Evidence starts piling up on both sides of the question and war with the Romulans seems inevitable. When the Enterprise finally investigates the location of the base, all hell breaks loose and it’s a super-tense ending as all the cards are laid on the table. A fun episode with a great ending.  Disc Three:
– The Hunted. Star Trek meets Rambo, as the Enterprise assists a scientific-minded planet looking to become part of the Federation. Unfortunately, a dangerous lunatic has escaped from their penal moon (little etymological pun there, sorry) and threatens the safety of people everywhere, so they ask the crew to catch him. This seems easy enough, but he almost evades them with clever tactics, not to mention he doesn’t register as a life form. What is he, a lawyer? Anyway, they finally catch the guy, and it turns out that he’s a genetically enhanced super-solider, programmed to kill when threatened and strong enough to kick Worf’s ass without breaking a sweat. Troi and Data listen to his sob story and you know Troi would be giving him some Betazed lovin’ if there wasn’t a forcefield blocking her way but amazingly he escapes AGAIN while being transferred back to the prison. Finally, Picard has had enough and heads down to the planet to tell the whole lot of them where they can get off, which is pretty much what I would have done, too.
– The High Ground. And now we get a comment on terrorism, as the Enterprise offers medical aid to a planet in the midst of bombing attacks from a terrorist faction. Unfortunately, Beverly once again crosses the line between stubborn and stupid, and gets herself kidnapped by the leader of the mad bombers. They only want a doctor and they’re good people at heart, they claim, but at the same time they slaughter thousands of people in the name of their freedom. It’s funny because this episode plays out totally differently in the wake of 9/11. Anyway, they can transport themselves instantaneously to plant their bombs, but the actual technology does long-term damage to them, making them truly suicide bombers. Once they kidnap Picard and start fucking with the ship, however, you know they’re not gonna keep the upper hand for long. Had this one been written after 2001 it likely never would have made air, but discounting future events it’s a pretty fair look at both sides of the argument about terrorism as a method of combating oppressive government control.
– Deja Q. Probably the most fun episode of the season sees Q banished from the Continuum for being a pest to the universe. Of course, he decides to live out his mortal life on the Enterprise (much to Picard’s chagrin) and immediately annoys everyone on board. Unfortunately, they’re on kind of a deadline, what with a moon threatening to crash into a populated planet and all, and Q is being threatened with death by a roving mist-like intelligence called the Calamarane. But despite his better judgment, Picard uses Q’s expertise and saves him from his attacker, because that’s what us humans do. The real meat of this episode is John DeLancie and Brent Spiner springboarding off each other with just about every line and furiously trying to underact the other guy. Probably one of the best Q episodes after the Robin Hood one.
– A Matter of Perspective. Ah, yes, a good old sci-fi murder mystery, as Riker returns from a trip to a space station and it blows up, killing a scientist he had been arguing with. Seems pretty cut and dried, but they decide to have a trial anyway. In order to assist, they program the holodeck with witness reports from all the people involved, giving us three different sides of the events leading up to the explosion. The common thread is that the scientist was working on a new form of energy, caught Riker apparently making out with his wife (Troi and Picard’s lack of belief when Riker protests his innocence is a neat touch) and was about to file a formal protest with Starfleet when the space station blew up. Riker obviously had means, motive and opportunity, but what REALLY happened? The truth is SHOCKING. Well, okay, not really shocking, but it does keep you guessing until the end. Data’s art critique to open the show is also hilarious, and foreshadows his eventual love of painting.
Yesterday’s Enterprise. Considered by many to be the best episode of any Star Trek series, ever, this one is a brilliant time travel puzzle wrapped around a powerful performance by a returning Denise Crosby. Basically, a rift in space opens up and the Enterprise D (our beloved vessel) runs into the Enterprise C, shot ahead some 25 years into the future. However, once the old Enterprise appears, everything changes instantly – suddenly the current ship is a warship, and Tasha Yar is still alive. And apparently the Federation is getting its butt kicked by the Klingons. It seems that when the Enterprise C disappeared all those years ago, it was in the midst of saving the Klingons from the Romulan attack on Kittimer, and without it there to help, there was never an alliance between the Klingons and the Federation, and war quickly broke out. Tasha starts to realize all this while helping to repair the beat-up Enterprise C, and also falls in love with the only officer left alive on that ship. When the rift opens again, there is of course only one choice to make for her life (and death) to have meaning behind it, and thankfully she’s given some semblance of dignity and importance to her demise after the silly death she was given in the first season. This is just such a fabulous episode thanks to the great writing, little details in the subtly redesigned war-time Enterprise, mounting tension and great acting from all involved. It’s time travel with a PURPOSE, rather than just being a silly plot device. This is the episode you need to buy the box set for. Plus you get TWO audio commentaries for it; the one from the original DVD set with the director as well as a new one with Michael Okuda, Ronald D. Moore and a couple of other people. Fun stuff on the commentary, especially Moore talking about the various drafts of the script and how Denise Crosby loved the character so much that she actually devised a way to return from the dead a THIRD time later in the series. Disc Four:
– The Offspring. And ANOTHER great one follows, as Data decides it’s time to procreate. Except in his case, he creates a new android, which he names “Lal”. Apparently it’s from the Hindu and means “hot piece of ass”. And no sooner is a new female on board (even mechanical) than does Riker make his move, leading to the all-time great Data line (“Commander, I must ask what your intentions are towards my daughter.”). Unfortunately, cybernetic females are just as complex to figure out as real ones, and it turns out that her positronic brain wasn’t 100% working. And you can guess what happens in the end. A really really complex performance from Brent Spiner here, as he has to play someone with no emotions and yet still torn up by the loss of his family member. Although once again I have to point out, for someone who whines about being alone in the universe, Data sure has a lot of relatives.
– Sins of the Father. The awesome Klingon bloodlines plot begins officially here, as we meet Commander Kern for the first time and he serves as interim first officer on the Enterprise in return for Riker’s visit to the Klingon ship in season two. However, he quickly reveals to Worf that he is his brother, and further the Klingon High Council has branded their father, Mogh, a traitor, thus tainting their own honor for generations to come. Worf gets all pissed off and brings Picard to the homeworld to protest his father’s innocence, but it becomes apparent that people, specifically heir apparent Duras, don’t want the truth to come out. The revelation of what really happened at Kittimer and the choice Worf has to make as a result are powerful stuff that start storylines which last all the way until the seventh season, and even into Deep Space Nine! Great stuff.
– Allegiance. This one is basically a big puzzle, as Picard is kidnapped by aliens and left in a room with three other people, with no apparent common ground between them. Who brought them there and why is left for them to figure out. Back on the ship, a duplicate of the captain takes his place, and he immediately begins giving strange orders and singing drinking songs. It’s the latter one that REALLY bugs the crew, oddly enough. This had some fun moments, but didn’t really have anything interesting to say.
Captain’s Holiday. A nice light episode sees an overworked and stressed-out Picard badgered into a vacation on Risa, the pleasure planet, by his crew. Once there, he only wants to read his book and soak up some sun(s), but women keep throwing themselves at him. Poor bastard. But since this IS Picard, he can’t help but get involved in an adventure, in this case aiding the debuting Vash in eluding pursuit from a Ferengi who thinks she has a mysterious chip belonging to him. The Ferengi in question would return as Rom in DS9. Picard and Vash go on a dig in a cave to find an alien artifact, under threats from other, time traveling, aliens who also claim possession, and in the end it leaves Picard feeling better than any week of R&R could ever do. A whole episode of Picard is a winner 9 times out of 10, and this is no exception. Disc Five:
– Tin Man. This time it’s another empath who Gets Hysterical, as the Enterprise picks up Tam, a super-telepath haunted by the voices of millions of people talking to his brain at once, and who is a little bit loopy as a result. His only solace is in chatting with emotionless Data (thus providing a double meaning for the title), until they come across a giant life-form in space that appears to be a ship. Problem: The Romulans also want to get in touch with it, and a race ensues as the Enterprise gets more and more beat up. The ending is suitably deus ex machina, but that’s Star Trek for ya.
– Hollow Pursuits. This one HAD to be written about fans who do that creepy fanfic stuff on the internet these days. It introduces Lt. Reg Barclay (aka “Broccoli”) an eccentric and withdrawn, but brilliant, engineer who also happens to be addicted to the holodeck. He creates elaborate fantasy scenarios involving the rest of the crew to blow off steam, and when the real people discover them, BOY is he embarrassed. Problems are escalating in the real world, however, as The Ship Is Going Crazy and no one can figure out why. Not even Wesley! Barclay saves the day, however, and his holo-addiction would create one of the most beloved recurring characters in the show, as he would make appearances all the way until the final season of Voyager, including a cameo in First Contact. And for someone who asked, yes, Dwight Schultz is better known as “Mad Dog” Murdoch from the A-Team.
– The Most Toys. Another terrific Data-centric episode sees him getting kidnapped by a famous collector of rarities, where he forms an emotional bond with the abused spouse of our villain. The crew thinks Data has been killed, but they eventually figure out the scam and head over to have a talk with the collector. Data, however, stages his own quiet rebellion, which unfortunately ends with his new friend getting murdered in cold blood, just as the Enterprise beams Data away during an act of cold-blooded vengeance. I knew he had it in him. Super acting from Brent Spiner turns a potential snore-fest into a winner.
– Sarek. One of the first major appearances for a character from the original series sees Spock’s father introduced into the 24th century universe for the first time. He is, sadly, going nuts and being overcome by emotions due to a loss of control caused by Bendii syndrome. With a major negotiation upcoming and his talents needed, Picard mind-melds with him to take the edge off, and keeps him going long enough to save the day. This one is obviously carried by the acting jobs of Patrick Stewart and Mark Lenard, and you couldn’t ask for better people to pull it off.
– Menage A Troi. The most drop-dead hilarious episode of the season sees Riker and Troi spending some quality time together on Betazed (wink wink), but before anything can happen, Lwaxana and some Ferengi with a grudge interrupt the proceedings. Riker and the women are kidnapped and have to fabricate a daring escape from the Ferengi. Well, okay, it’s not so much daring as waging a war of wits with the unarmed, but they could have tripped and suffered a nasty bruise! Faced with enemies unwilling to give back his officers and himself unwilling to start a war over it, Picard unleashes the deadliest weapon of them all…melodramatic Shakespearean acting! All the fun and happiness is tempered by Wesley getting promoted to full ensign and thus being given a real uniform instead of the pajamas he had been wearing all season. Still, despite that, one of the truly must-see episodes of the show’s run.
Disc Six:
– Transfigurations. It’s Star Trek meets the Green Mile meets X-Men, as the away team finds a crashed escape pod on a desolate planet, with only one survivor, a man with no apparent identity and life-threatening wounds. However, those injuries soon begin to heal themselves, and the mysterious stranger also begins to heal others. Even Geordi gets some lovin’ from cutie Julie Warner, who had previously dumped him in “Booby Trap”. Although Worf takes credit for teaching him about women. However, things are not great for the stranger, as it turns out that he’s being hunted by people from his planet and faces execution if he returns there. Actually, it’s exactly like the Green Mile, come to think of it. But hey, who didn’t love that movie?
– Best of Both Worlds, Part 1. You may have heard of this episode before. It turns out that the Borg, first introduced in season two, move a lot faster than they initially anticipated, and are on the way to kick some Federation ass. Unfortunately, they can now adjust their shielding faster than the phasers can affect it, and manage to kidnap Picard while storming the bridge. Picard is transformed into Locutus, their spokesman in the quest to assimilate the Federation, and Riker is left in charge of the Enterprise, along with mega-bitch Elizabeth Shelby as first officer. Would they actually kill off Picard after three seasons? The final exchange between Evil Picard and Riker (“Resistance is futile” “Mr. Worf…fire!”) as the show fades to black will send chills up your spine if you’ve never seen it before. If you have seen it before, witness the all-out violence of the space battles in glorious 7.1 sound. A true classic of Star Trek that unfortunately didn’t live up to the hype when the second part was crafted in between seasons. That small matter aside, this is a masterpiece that is referenced time and time again in later Star Trek mythos and set the stage for First Contact and retroactively created the Commander Sisko character that would debut in DS9 later on. And it just plain kicks ass. Bonus: Best of Both Worlds Parts One & Two And I believe I mentioned a special treat from Paramount, which is in fact the Best of Both Worlds theatrical edit on a separate Blu-Ray! I had seen a trailer for it when I went to see Jurassic Park 3D last week, and wouldn’t you know they’re releasing it on Blu-Ray at the same time as the version that debuts in the theater. It has both parts of the cliffhanger and a new commentary from the Okudas (duh), the director and Elizabeth Dennehy, who played Commander Shelby. She’s pretty cool and funny about the whole experience, and thankfully the character mellowed out a lot in the New Frontier novels that followed the show so I don’t hate Shelby quite as much now. However, the theatrical edit does NOT work. Instead of the awesome pounding music score from the cliffhanger in the first episode, they use the edit from the second episode so that it just moves seamlessly from “Mr. Worf, fire” to the second episode, and all the heart-wrenching dramatic tension is sucked out of the episode. Considering what a defining part of my fandom that moment was (along with many others), it’s disappointing to lose it like that. This disc also has a new 30 minute documentary with the actors and writers discussing the restoration of that particular episode, with much of the same stuff covered as Dennehy covered in her commentary track. Overall, it’s a cool idea and it’s worth having for the commentary track if you’re a huge nerd like me, but otherwise it’s strictly for super-casual fans of the show who only want that two-parter. Audio & Video Oh my. When they went back and fixed the show for Blu-Ray, they went back and FIXED it. The CGI effects are now on par with some of the theatrical releases, colors are BOLD and jump off the screen…the dark and murky backgrounds are now bright and clear, it’s amazing overall. Easily just as good as the original series redo. I can’t even overstate how much better this looks and how much work would have been needed to change it from the original videotape resolution into full HD. The Pulse
So that’s the third season, and if you can find a bad episode in that bunch, you’re a pickier Trek fan that I am, because I was able to sit through the entire 26-episode run without feeling ripped off or insulted by any of them. A minimum of Wesley and a maximum of Data and Picard make this season the standard by which all the others were measured, and easily my favorite of the bunch. If you’re looking for a starting point into the show, here you have it. Skip the first two seasons if you need to, but don’t miss this one.

Star Trek The Next Generation plug.

Hey Scott, know you're a big Next Generation fan and was hoping you could find the time to plug my interview with Dennis Bailey who wrote the episodes Tin Man and First Contact 

 I apologise for the incomprehensible Irish accents discussing comics .

Keep up the good work.

I'm glad you apologized for being Irish.  It's the first step to getting better.
In a related note, I'm supposed to be getting a review copy of season 3 on Blu Ray from Paramount and I'm insanely pumped about it.   Probably my overall favorite season.

Dirt Sheets and New Generation

Hey Scott,
Long time reader and fan. Had two questions or you/the blog.
1- Was curious if you ever read any other newsletters besides WON? For whatever reason I have always subscribed to the Torch and think it's very good. Was also curious if any newsletters like WON or the Torch ever approached you about doing your reviews for their newsletters? Seems like it would be a "Liz and Randy marriage made in heaven" type partnership,

I read a bit of a Torch for a while during a period when I had people passing it on to me second-hand and I wasn't a huge fan.  I've been a faithful WON subscriber otherwise since the Monday Night Wars.  No, I've never had an offer to do reviews for them, although stuff where it requires that I'm on a deadline is a recipe for disaster anyway.  Plus Dave isn't a particularly big fan of my writing.  

2- It feels to me like this era of wrestling (from WM27 when The Rock came back to now) has been predicated on part time stars returning every once in awhile and it makes for a wierd feel. Other than Punk's rise what else has really changed or happened? The past 2 years and going forward are booked to just get the company to "When the next star comes back for a brief run" Brock, Y2J, HHH, Undertaker etc…
You can tell all their focus is just getting to Rumble when Rock returns or whenever Brock and HHH have a rematch in a few months. While I like the stars of the past, wouldn't it be better for the companies growth if they just went with a "new generation" like after Hogan and Savage left and let the chips fall where they may. I mean Undertaker, HHH, Y2J can't headline the next ten years of Wrestle Manias, so isn't now the time to be pushing new guys to the moon?

The time for that was three years ago, and now we're suffering the consequences of not making any new stars AND having three hours of TV to fill on Mondays.  The closest they came was The Miz but that got really fucked up and died off again.  What's really scary is that pretty soon guys like Cena and Orton, who were supposed to be the big stars of their generation and are carrying the company, are going to start a pretty dramatic downward career turn just by virtue of getting older.  And there's no one to replace them.  Maybe Punk, maybe Bryan?   

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One (Blu Ray)

The SmarK DVD Rant for Star Trek The Next Generation – Season One (Blu-Ray)

(2012 Scott sez: I have been anxiously awaiting the delivery of this one since the initial announcement. Basically, CBS/Paramount has gone back and repaired the film stock frame-by-frame, converting it to high definition 1080P, albeit still in the original full frame presentation. Much like the original Star Trek’s conversion, it’s obviously a labor of love for the people involved. Luckily, I had already reviewed all 7 seasons many years ago…) And now, we go flying back in time to the beginning of one of the greatest sci-fi series in TV history, as Gene Roddenberry took a shoestring budget from Paramount in 1987 and created a monster. It was a pretty unlikely story, too, for those who know the whole backstory with Star Trek: Phase II and the problems that spawned from that (covered in a GREAT book for Trekkies of the same name). In short, Star Trek was supposed to be reborn in the late 70s, with Kirk at the helm again in a new Enterprise, albeit Spock-less (he was to be replaced with an emotionless full Vulcan named Xon) and with a new first officer – William Decker. Eventually the project was scrapped without even a pilot and turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but the idea of a new Trek series was floating around for several years afterward. Fast forward to 1987, as Roddenberry finally convinces the studio to pony up approximately $1 million per episode (not a lot in hour-long drama terms) for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would feature an all-new cast based loosely on the original scripts for Phase II. Decker becomes Riker, Xon becomes Data. Problems beset the production from the start – writing strikes and a total upheaval of the writing team in year two changed the entire dynamic of the show, for instance – but even in the primitive form that was the first year, the seeds of greatness were there. You had to look REALLY close, but there they were. People who haven’t really caught the old eps in reruns (they aren’t generally shown on TNN) (Or Spike TV as it’s now known) might find some significant changes. LaForge and Worf are only Junior-Grade Lieutenants (one silver pip and one black pip) and have command red while working at Ops. Riker is clean-shaven. The Chief Engineer is a rotating job amongst bit players. And the uniforms have no collars. There’s also more annoying style differences that are REALLY noticeable in the early episodes – the music is closer to original Star Trek than what would be produced for the later episodes of Next Generation; a kind of mixture of cheesy orchestral and synths. It’s also mixed further to the front and sounds like a Perils of Penelope serial drama at times. The camera angles are bizarre, as extreme close-ups are used for false drama at key moments and fake zooms are cropped in via post-production when one dramatic stare just isn’t enough to carry the commercial break. Also, there’s a kind of forced familiar banter that just shouldn’t be there in a professional starship crew, let alone one that’s only been together for a few months at that point. Responses are glibly given to direct questions from a superior officer (“Report, Number One…what’s down there?” “Trouble.”), and people refer to each other by first name on the bridge in order to pound names into the viewers’ minds. It’s stuff you didn’t notice the first time through, but is very obvious after watching hours and hours straight of the slickly-produced later seasons. This set contains all 23 original episodes (The first one only counts as one) in original production order (a few are changed in broadcast), and are arranged as follows… Disc One Encounter at Farpoint. This is of course the famous pilot episode sold to syndication, and it still sucks as bad today as it did 15 years ago. It was originally written as a standalone one-hour pilot with the Farpoint story about the alien creature being the centerpiece, until Paramount demanded a two-hour debut instead, and Roddenberry was forced to create another 40 minutes of material in the form of Q’s trial of humanity. The stories feel welded together rather than two parts of the same whole, and neither one is particularly great. However, it did introduce the world to Q. The Naked Now. One episode in and they’re already stuck for ideas, and ripping off the original series. In this case, they run across a ship with the same virus from The Naked Time, they look up the antidote, and Wesley saves the ship again. Oh, wait, sorry, this was the debut of the Deus Ex Wesley ending. Notable for Data being “fully functional” with Tasha Yar and not much else. The “solution” to the problem is even lamer than the problem – Crusher’s original formula from Enterprise’s 75-year old logs doesn’t work, so she tries a “broader base” formula, and it works. Zowie. This one does begin a couple of funny running gags – Picard’s total disdain for Wesley (referring to him only as “the boy” and barring him from the bridge) and Data’s problems with colloquial human expressions. Code of Honor. Love those generic titles. A group of half-naked black dudes kidnap Tasha, but Picard can’t open a can of bald whoop-ass because they have the only antidote to a deadly plague and he has to play nice with them. So he asks politely, but the head dude is all “Yo, G, I’m in love with this bitch” and suddenly his wife is challenging Yar to a boxing match…TO THE DEATH. Everything’s gotta be to the death or it’s not dramatic, apparently. I wasn’t even sure what the POINT of this one was, even though they spend 45 minutes going on about SOMETHING because I guess the poor writers were given a 5-minute plot and then held at gunpoint until they stretched it into broadcast length (the story is effectively wrapped up halfway through). I think the lesson is that black people are savage and backwards, but then I was never good with symbolism. Disc Two The Last Outpost. Yes, history is made as the Enterprise makes shaky first contact with a mysterious race called the Ferengi. Funny story – originally, the Ferengi were gonna be the badass supervillains of the quadrant, until someone thought up the Borg. Just try to picture Quark as the #1 heel on Star Trek. (He ended up being a pretty damn good heel on Buffy, though.) Anyway, speaking of which Armin Shimerman makes his first guest appearance, playing said Ferengi captain, as both the good guys and the bad guys are held captive by an entire planet. Luckily, both Riker and the 600,000 year old alien intelligence are fans of Sun Tzu. No, really. Have I mentioned how bad this first season was? Where No One Has Gone Before. Another 10-minute subplot stretched into an entire episode sees an arrogant engineering tech and his nameless “assistant” doing modifications on the Enterprise’s engines that accidentally takes them 8 billion light years away from home. Whoops. Luckily, unlike Janeway, Picard DOESN’T decide to start taking the long way back, and instead tries to figure out how the hell they got to the edge of the universe in 10 seconds flat to begin with. Aha, but being at the edge of the universe apparently makes everyone insane and we get the standard Braga hallucinations (4 years before he came along, luckily). Oh, and Wesley Crusher may be God. And you thought HHH got a huge push. Another pointless meandering metaphysical piece of tripe about how opening your mind is good and all that stupid shit. Trust me, when Picard gives a general order for everyone on the ship to cast good vibes towards the Traveler and Troi then reports that the ship is a really groovy place to be, baby, you’ll be puking up your granola and LSD in no time. (This one was actually voted by fans as a favorite and given a theatrical release this year. I don’t understand nerds sometimes, either.) Lonely Among Us. Okay, this is a bit better, mainly because it’s written by DC Fontana, who actually knows what she’s doing. While flying by an alien cloud, some sort of intelligence starts taking over the crew and eventually Picard. But in the end, it just wants to go home. Okay, so they recycled that basic plot 18 times afterwards, but this was the FIRST. The subplot with the giant dogs and lizards that are trying to kill each other on the way to the peace conference is pretty funny, as is the debut of Data’s obsession with Sherlock Holmes and the first hints of Picard’s obsession with Dixon Hill. Justice. While visiting a sex-crazed world, Wesley accidentally steps on a flower and is CONDEMNED TO DIE. You’d think Riker would be too busy taking it to the hole on alien chicks to care, but no, it begins a big moral debate between Picard and God (no really, although God is a talking spaceship, kind of an intergalactic KITT, which I guess makes Michael Knight into the apostle or something), which is solved when the writers completely wuss out on any resolution and the aliens get screwed over. I WANTED WESLEY TO DIE, DAMMIT! God is unfair, indeed. The Battle. The Ferengi return, even less ferocious than the first time but more scheming, as one of their ships brings a gift for Picard in tow…the Stargazer, presumed destroyed nine years previous. However, this sets off the 24th century equivalent of Vietnam flashbacks for Picard, as he begins reliving the epic battle that ended his first command, while suffering from REALLY bad headaches. Of course, more is going on than meets the eye, and soon Picard is on the bridge of the old ship and attacking the Enterprise with the dreaded Picard Maneuver (also introduced for the first time in this episode). This one kinda caught me by surprise because I barely even remember seeing it back when I was 13 and it was a really well-built episode considering the early portion of the season. Disc Three Hide And Q. Speaking of returns, Q comes back for the first time, with his character already redefined as a cosmic huckster more than an omnipotent god, and this time he has a deal: He’ll leave humanity alone if Riker can pass up the chance to be given the power of the Q Continuum. This one suffers from the same problem a lot of the first-season eps do, when pacing was still an issue: The premise and conflict are laid out and basically resolved by 30 minutes in, and then there’s 15 minutes left to fill so they talk and talk and TAAAAALLLLLK. In particular the final sequence where Riker offers gifts to all the crew members drags on like roadkill caught on a bumper all for the point of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Well, DUH. Picard and Q exchanging Shakespeare is pretty cool stuff, though. And as the bard would say, this one was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Haven. Originally aired fifth but intended for placement here, you can see why they moved it up so drastically upon original run of the show. Deanna Troi is betrothed to “genetic bonding mate” Wyatt, and the whirlwind that is Lwaxana Troi is unleashed on the world for the first time as the wedding ceremony is to be held on the Enterprise. Now, up until this point, Deanna was little more than a background character, but with the introduction of her mother she was suddenly fleshed out into a pretty full character, and in another historic first, Deanna Gets Hysterical halfway through as a result of her mother’s insane bickering with Wyatt’s parents. Majel Barrett takes a little while to get into the swing of things, but by the time Mr. Homm is bombed out of his gourd and ringing the chimes every time Lwaxana takes a bite of dinner while Data hovers over the table with a grin on his face observing everything, it’s HOWLINGLY funny stuff. The main plot about cosmic lepers invading a paradise planet is strictly throwaway stuff to get the groom off the ship at the end with a plot device, so ignore it. Definitely an essential episode from the early run. (Some people really hate this episode because of the broad comedy. Different strokes and all that.) The Big Goodbye. Another one of those early eps that’s important for introducing details that would come into play later, but kinda suck on its own. This is the first Dixon Hill episode, as Picard takes a much-needed mini-vacation into the “newly upgraded” Holodeck, which now features fully interactive modes instead of the static backgrounds that had been used up until that point. This is of course a hugely effective storytelling device for the writers that is used millions of times later on in every other series that follows. And in another first, Something Goes Wrong On the Holodeck, as a friendly scan from an alien turns off the safety features and Picard’s team of detective wannabes (including Data, chewing the scenery as a hard-boiled gangster, as you might expect) is stuck in there while in the middle of something out of the Maltese Falcon. And of course, Wesley Saves The Ship. This time they didn’t even bother to explain how he did it, or why a 13-year old kid would be allowed to poke around the newly upgraded mechanisms while a highly-trained team of engineers stands around picking their noses, but that’s Wesley for ya. A lot of the minor details were done wrong here – Picard has lipstick remaining from a kiss when he leaves at one point, and when the villains walk out the door they take a minute or so to fade (for dramatic effect), but most of the ground rules are set here. Unfortunately, this one is all potential (like Picard being interrogated and having the time of his life) and no payoff, as once again things grind to a halt at the 30 minute mark and everyone literally stands around and talks for 15 minutes once all the plot developments have been used up. And when one of the holodeck characters asks Picard if he’ll die when the program ends, in a heartfelt way, Picard’s response is basically “Hmm, good question. Well, see ya.” Thankfully they’d address that particular philosophical puzzle in much better fashion starting with the Moriarty episodes, but to all things a beginning, as they say. Datalore. Now, while you don’t often see season one episodes floating around in syndication or on TNN (Spike TV!) these days, this is one of the few that you DO, and for a damn good reason: It’s the best of the inaugural season and one of the best in the run of the show, comparatively speaking. The concept is nicely simple – Data and the crew find another android on his home planet, who turns out to be named Lore. Except he’s evil and uses contractions. The old switcheroo occurs, and the Enterprise is left to discover who’s screwing who over in time to save themselves from destruction via the same Crystalline Entity that wiped out the colonists on Data’s home world 25 years previous. (Check out the CGI redo on the Entity here! BEAUTIFUL!) Sadly, Wesley Saves the Ship again, but at least you get to hear both Picard and Beverly tell him to shut up while he’s running his mouth at the wrong time. I take small pleasures when I can find them. Lore would go on to become one of the great recurring villains of the series. (This was the other one chosen for theatrical release. I approve of that one.) Angel One. Yes, it’s another one of those episodes where the Enterprise preaches to a backwards planet about not violating the Prime Directive and then spends the whole episode interfering. In this case, they travel to a world where women run the show and men are treated as sex objects, in search of a lost escape pod. Riker the Man-Whore proceeds to start dressing like a slut and attempting to score with the leader of the planet, while meanwhile the ship is struck down by a nasty strain of the common cold. (Even though Wesley commented in Datalore that people “used” to get colds, but not anymore.) As thrilling as it sounds. Nothing WRONG with it, but it’s just not a story that lends itself to repeat viewings. Disc Four 11001001. A truly unique title (binary for 201) for once sees the ship in dock to repair the holodeck (last seen damaged in The Big Goodbye), and strange aliens who operate in pairs fixing the computer. While everyone is off having fun on starbase, Riker hangs out in a seedy New Orleans bar on the new improved holodeck and meets Minuet (played by Carolyn McCormack, who became Elizabeth Olivet on Law & Order). However, the Binars turn out to have plans of their own regarding the ship. Again, not really exciting, but an interesting idea that would be fleshed out in FAR more sinister and dark manner with “Starship Mine” in the sixth season. Too Short a Season. No, it’s not talking about the strike-shortened second season. Admiral Mark Jameson uses the Enterprise as a taxi service to a suspicious hostage negotiation on another planet, where his old enemy is in charge of things. Things get weird when the 85-year old Admiral (with a REALLY obvious aging makeup job) starts getting…younger? A heavy-handed moral lesson finishes things off by the end. When The Bough Breaks. This is one of those ones with an interesting premise where the entire conflict could have been avoided if everyone involved stopped for five seconds and thought up a better solution. The Enterprise parks in front of a cloaked world and gets to meet a legendary ancient race, but soon their hospitality goes bad when they kidnap 6 of the Enterprise’s children (including Wesley, of course) because everyone on the planet is sterile and thus unable to have any of their own. The Enterprise can’t just beam them back because there’s a giant shield around the planet, but then they start piling on unnecessary plot points in order to explain away the plot holes. For instance, the planet is controlled by a supercomputer that does all the thinking for them, leaving their super-advanced scientists unable to determine that simple radiation poisoning from the sun is killing their sperm. Of course, Beverly figures this out in mere hours after a tricorder scan. But they can’t figure out how to get through the shield. Right. And no one stops to ask “Hey, why not just ask the PARENTS if they want to stay down on the surface, too?” All that aside, it’s a pretty good ep and Picard’s uncomfortable interaction with the children after saving them is classic stuff. Home Soil. This one is kind of a misdirection ploy, as it starts out as a detective story and then turns into an exercise in saving money on special effects. While visiting a terraforming colony, the crew is witness to a scientist getting carved up with a laser knife by accident, and foul play is immediately suspected once the same thing nearly happens to Data. The investigation of the other three team members begins, and then suddenly the episode takes a turn into left field as they find microscopic life forms on the supposedly-dead planet and beam it up to Sickbay. In classic high-tech Star Trek manner, the alien is a small light bulb flashing on and off inside a bell jar. No, really. And then it starts reproducing (doubling the production budget from one light bulb to two), leading them to think it might be alive. And then it starts taking over the ship (as seems to happen a lot with alien intelligence, as though no one in the universe has anything better to do than take over the ship – doesn’t anyone READ or eat lunch or anything?) and we get thrilling scenes of people standing around on the bridge and talking while little light bulbs flash at them. SMELL THE TENSION! Of course, the miracle of the Universal Translator saves the writers from having to think up anything original again, and everyone makes nice and goes their separate ways. Of course, the alien intelligence brutally murdered someone with a LASER SAW, but apparently “let bygones be bygones” is part of the Prime Directive in the 24th century, too. Coming of Age. Oh, goodie, a whole show dedicated to Wesley Crusher. Sort of. Wesley goes to a planet for his first attempt at entering Starfleet Academy and meets a Benzite – an alien with an inhaler attached to its chest. There they go through rigorous testing doing what looks like playing Tetris and playing “name the alien” in the hallways. Meanwhile, on the ship, there’s CONSPIRACY afoot and Starfleet is investigating Picard for something, but not really. Ooh, this one’s money, baby. In the end, Wesley is a failure. Well, at least it has a happy ending. Disc Five Heart of Glory. The first proto-Klingon episode, as the Enterprise finds a freighter drifting in space with 3 Klingons aboard. Worf immediately bonds with them and gives us our first look at this backstory by relating the Kittimer attack and his adoption by farmers. His brother is even mentioned. We establish that he’s never been to Q’onos before, and soon his Klingon blood starts boiling with the need to kill stuff and howl skyward when one of his comrades is killed. I’ve gotta wonder – is howling to the skies while in space like praying towards Mecca for Muslims, where you have to follow complex charts to figure out what direction to point? Because Klingons aren’t the brightest race to begin with. Anyway, Worf’s loyalties are teased, but in the end he chooses Starfleet. The seeds of the later storylines are sewn here, though, even if all the Klingon stuff is pretty weak and superficial on the first attempt at it. The Arsenal of Freedom. Despite the increasingly tired trips to the same planetary set (redressed with a different climate each time they go there), this one kinda rocks. The Enterprise stumbles upon a planet that is the ultimate in commercial enterprise (no pun intended) – an intergalactic weapons dealer, making death and destruction for whichever species is the highest bidder. One problem – everyone on the planet is long dead and the system is running on autopilot. The away team beams down to deal with it and soon finds themselves battling sentry units that automatically adjust to their tactics and fire on them in new ways as a result. Meanwhile, Geordi is left in charge of the ship and finds himself getting his ass kicked by another sentry ship in the atmosphere. The special effects are a joke and the set looks as fake as Beverly’s dye-job, but it’s a cool story idea and it’s pulled off about as well as the $10 or so afforded by the budget could handle. If this one had been done in season six, it would have cost $3 million and been a two-parter. Symbiosis. Apparently Gene Roddenberry had a drug conviction in his past he was trying to atone for (at least that’s my theory), because this is the most preachy, heavy-handed anti-drug episode humanly possible without having Wesley himself get hooked on crack. The crew finds a freighter floating in the atmosphere of a planet and on the way down, and apparently piloted by Rob Van Dam (Sample dialogue when informed that Enterprise will try a rescue: “Uh, yeah, sounds great.”). Upon rescuing four of the survivors, it is revealed that there’s two groups of people, fighting over “medicine” to fight a plague on one of the worlds. One group makes the “medicine”, the other buys the “medicine”, and the two worlds have maintained that relationship for hundreds of years. Of course, Beverly discovers that there’s not really a plague and the medicine is actually a narcotic. This prompts Tasha Yar to bring the episode to a SCREECHING halt and make a 5-minute long condescending speech at Wesley about how dumb you have to be to do drugs. Picard, thankfully, remembers that he’s bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere with the drug trafficking scam, no matter how hysterical Beverly gets, and his solution to the problem is, while less than elegant, a clever way around that restriction. Two notable inside jokes to watch for: Merritt Butrick (Kirk’s idiot son David Marcus in the second and third movies) and Judson Earney Scott (Khan’s idiot son Joaqin in the second movie) playing opposite each other, as well as an “easter egg” of sorts. The egg comes at the end, when Picard and Crusher are leaving the cargo bay – look behind them into the closing doors, and you can see Tasha Yar acting totally out of character by waving goodbye to everyone. This episode was actually shot AFTER the one following, and that was Denise Crosby’s way of getting the last word in after her character’s death. Oops, spoiled it. Skin of Evil. Yes, in a double whammy, they not only kill off Tasha Yar in senseless fashion, but it’s also one of the worst Star Trek episodes I can remember. Here’s the plot: Troi’s shuttle crashes on a planet (the crash isn’t seen because this one is all about the money). The Enterprise crew investigates, finds the OIL SLICK OF DEATH patrolling the place (apparently that Exxon-Valdez disaster has spread to other WORLDS now), Tasha is killed out of nowhere, they talk to the creature, Troi talks to the creature (poor bastard), Picard talks to the creature, the creature talks to them, the creature talks to himself, Picard talks to the crew, Troi talks to Picard, Riker gets sucked into the creature and probably scores with it because it’s Riker, Picard talks at the funeral, Tasha talks at the funeral from beyond the grave, people cry, I’m bored, the end. Given the task of killing a major character, THIS is what they came up with. And don’t think I’m not pissed off that given the same task for Nemesis the best they could do to kill off my favorite Star Trek character of all time was rip off the second movie. (There was many reasons to be pissed off with Nemesis, but at least the reboot fixed a lot of those problems, plus gave us LENS FLARE!) Anyway, this episode is RIPE for chances to mock it, from the numerous repeated shots to save money (count the number of times that the oil slick covers and uncovers the shuttle, or the guy in the slick rises up dramatically from different angles) to the unintentionally hilarious funeral speech that can be easily augmented with a few well-timed lines, to Troi being Troi. This was horrible, rushed sci-fi garbage at its worst. We’ll Always Have Paris. Things start to get weird, as the Enterprise travels to visit a famous scientist with bizarre theories on time-space relationships. As they get close, people start having dйjа vu and events repeat themselves. At the same time, Picard yearns to see his former love, whom he stood up in Paris before joining Starfleet, and who just happens to be married to that scientist. With the scientist dying and space-time falling apart as a result of his experiments, Data is called on to save the day. The time problems provide for plotholes galore, and in fact one very troubling moral issue: There’s a scene where Picard, Riker and Data are getting onto a turbolift, but time repeats and we see another version of them getting onto the same turbolift, while sharing the space with the originals. However, they decide not to get on and the camera follows them instead of the originals. So what happened to the past versions of Picard, Riker and Data? Did they just vanish from existence? Isn’t that kind of cruel? For some reason that one particular scene really bothered me and kind of freaked me out. Of course, Brannon Braga probably would have had the duplicates continue to exist and join the Maquis or something. Disc Six Conspiracy. As the title suggests, this is like something out of the X-Files. The paranoid admiral and his aide (last seen in “Coming of Age”) return for another go-around, as various Starfleet captains are convinced that SOMETHING is wrong within Starfleet Command and Picard needs to investigate. After getting Data to scope out the last 6 months of orders from Command, a pattern is discovered that leads the Enterprise back to Earth to personally look into things. Once there, they meet the admiral again, but this time he isn’t what he seems. In fact, many people aren’t, leading to a very creepy climax featuring parasitic bug-creatures trying to invade the Federation from within. The Harryhausen-ish special effects for the bugs aside, this one is like a template for what Chris Carter did with the X-Files. Unfortunately, the entire writing team was purged in between the first and second seasons, and a major plot thread about a homing device left on Earth for the rest of the bugs was never mentioned again in the Star Trek universe. The Neutral Zone. The first season finishes with a bang, as the Romulans are back on the block and entire outposts are mysteriously being wiped off the face of the planet. While that particular mystery was never directly resolved (again, due to the writing team change) most assume that it was the Borg. The main plotline for this one revolves around the Enterprise’s discovery of a cryonic ship from the 20th century, carrying three bottom-feeders who now have to adjust to life in 2364. No real big conflict here, just a general sense of foreboding leading up to a staredown with a Romulan warbird, thus reintroducing a MAJOR villain back into the Trek universe to replace the failed Ferengi. Overall, the first season was undoubtedly the weakest compared to the others that followed – none of the episodes are really “classics” (except maybe Datalore) and people were still struggling to get their head around the characters, but the groundwork was there in most cases. They had to start fresh in the second season anyway, as all the writers were replaced and Michael Piller took over as head writer. (He unfortunately died a few years ago.) For most people, you want to start with the third season, definitely. Audio & Video Oh my. When they went back and fixed the show for Blu-Ray, they went back and FIXED it. The CGI effects are now on par with some of the theatrical releases, colors are BOLD and jump off the screen…the dark and murky backgrounds are now bright and clear, it’s amazing overall. Easily just as good as the original series redo. I can’t even overstate how much better this looks and how much work would have been needed to change it from the original videotape resolution into full HD. Plus it’s now in full 7.1 DTS surround, although this isn’t exactly the season to show that off. The Extras Still no commentaries, but they have carried over all the original features from the original DVD release, plus new HD features about the restoration, and a 90 minute documentary on disc six about the beginning of the series. The feature on disc one, Energized, is about the painstaking detail behind converting to HD and it’s amazing. The comparison shots will make you appreciate the work and love that went into this. It also explains why the show hasn’t been altered in 16×9, and shows what the original effects shot would look like if it was moved to widescreen (spoiler: NOT GOOD!), and you can actually see the unwanted light stands and negative scratches on the sides if they opened up the filmed matte. It’s all one breathtaking labor of love and now my well-loved original DVD sets can find a new home. The Pulse Quality issues of the actual show aside, this set is worth buying because the HD conversion gives the show new life and allows you watch for all sorts of details you couldn’t see before. Plus it’s still a fun show and one of my favorites of all-time. Highest recommendation!