Release Date(s)1993-94 (December 2, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation reached its seventh and final season, it was clear that the writers and producers were struggling for good stories to tell. There are really only two standout episodes in the season in my opinion. The first is Lower Decks, which presents a view of life aboard the Enterprise and the main characters as seen by low-ranking members of the crew. The other, of course, is the series finale (more on that in a moment). To be fair, there are a couple of additional episodes that could, with a bit of argument, be credibly called decent, including stories that give Wesley Crusher and Ensign Ro decent send-offs. But there are also a large number of really terrible episodes, with stories that feel like the writers were simply throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Among these are an ill-advised romance between Worf and Troi that never felt natural, yet another visit by the Borg (and Data’s brother Lore), and a bit about how the use of warp drive was damaging the fabric of space.
Fortunately, the two-part series closer, All Good Things, remains one of the best finales of any TV show to date, sci-fi or otherwise. It involves the entire cast, ties up the character threads nicely, and manages to bring the show full circle to deliver a genuinely satisfying conclusion. It even finds a clever way for us to revisit a previously deceased character for a well-earned grace note. Fans and TV critics alike gave this finale high marks when it was first aired in 1994. Looking back now on Blu-ray, it certainly deserved them. The finale was written by Brannon Braga and Ron Moore (the latter of Battlestar Galactica and Outlander fame), who were also penning the Star Trek: Generations feature film at the time. The finale is better of the two efforts by a good measure.
By now, almost anything said about the audio-visual quality of CBS’ remastered episodes on Blu-ray is going to sound redundant. Suffice it to say that the HD image on these discs is right in line with those of previous seasons, featuring rich color, abundant detail, and light to moderate grain. The show’s aspect ratio has been preserved in the original 1.33:1. The remastered visual effects have been wonderfully done and with a light hand, offering a level of detail you’ve never had the opportunity to see before in the original VFX shots. The audio is available in another great new 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’s natural and dynamic, with good clarity and staging.
As with the previous Blu-ray seasons, all of the existing DVD extras have carried over here, including all 7 original DVD featurettes (Mission Overview: Year Seven, A Captain’s Tribute, Departmental Briefing: Year Seven – Production, Starfleet Moments and Memories, The Making of “All Good Things...”, Closed Set: A Tour of the Real Enterprise, and Journey’s End – The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation), both Best Buy bonus featurettes (Special Profiles and Inside the Starfleet Archives – Dressing the Future), episodic promos for each episode, and an audio commentary with Brannon Braga (on the episode Parallels) that was recorded in 2008 and released only on the Star Trek: Fan Collective – Alternate Realities DVD set (it’s inclusion here is a very nice touch).
Of course, a terrific batch of all-new bonus content has been created for this Blu-ray release, including a Gag Reel (4:53), deleted scenes (from the episodes Descent, Part II, Liaisons, Gambit, Part I, Gambit, Part II, Dark Page, Inheritance, Parallels, Sub Rosa, Thine Own Self, Masks, Genesis, Journey’s End, Firstborn, Bloodlines, and Preemptive Strike), and a pair of new audio commentaries for the episodes Lower Decks (with with René Echevarria and Mike and Denise Okuda) and Preemptive Strike (with Echevarria, Naren Shankar, and the Okudas). There’s also a great new roundtable discussion video called In Conversation: Lensing Star Trek: The Next Generation (42:13) in which supervising producer David Livingston, director James L. Conway, director of photography Jonathan West, and camera operator Kris Krosskove talk about their experiences working on the show and other related topics. Note that all of the new video features are in full HD and are presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
By far the best of the new material, however, is the three-part The Sky’s the Limit: The Eclipse of Star Trek: The Next Generation documentary. It runs almost 90-minutes. (Geek side note, in case you were wondering: The sub-titles for each part are based on terms used for the shadows cast by planetary bodies in space.) Part One: Umbra (29:43) features new interviews with the show’s writers and producers talking about the end of the series. The interviews are wonderfully candid – pretty much everyone admits that they were ready for the show to wrap-up, and that they were having trouble finding new stories to tell. Part Two: Penumbra (28:44) covers some of the same ground with a wide variety of the series’ production and visual effects talent, including such seldom-heard-from liminaries as illustrators Rick Sternbach and Andrew Probert. This gets into much more detailed ground regarding production-related matters, and touches upon larger questions about the series too as well as the role of science fiction in general. Finally, Part Three: Antumbra (30:13) gives all of the show’s key cast members a chance to weigh in on both the final season and the series as a whole. As a concluding chapter in these great TNG behind-the-scenes documentaries, the material here is damn near perfect.
I have only one caveat about this release: Now that Season Seven is complete on Blu-ray, CBS will almost certainly release the Complete Series on Blu-ray in a single package sometime in 2015. As is often the case with such collections, new material is typically created for inclusion in the box on a special bonus disc. Let me tell you, there is nothing that irritates fans of TV series on DVD or Blu-ray more than finding out, after they’ve already purchased all of the more expensive season sets as they’re released, that the inevitable box set has special content they can’t get. It’s wrong, it’s bad customer service, and it should never happen. This is the single biggest reason why many fans have just stopped buying individual seasons of TV shows on Blu-ray and DVD. They know that if they simply wait, they can eventually spend less and get more. Now… I’ve said before on The Bits that if Trek fans really want to support CBS in this Trek Remastered Blu-ray effort, they need to put their money where their mouth is and buy the seasons as they’re released, because this is a business and it’s sales that count more than anything. So here’s what I have to say back to CBS now: If you do create such Complete Series bonus discs, you need to reward those loyal customers who have supported you all along by making those discs available to them via some kind of mail-in offer. It’s the right thing to do. Anything else is essentially punishing your most loyal customers for their loyalty.
The quality of its stories aside, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Seven on Blu-ray is truly a fitting conclusion to an amazing TV BD project that – for a long time – we never thought likely or even possible. On behalf of myself and Next Generation fans everywhere, my thanks to Ken Ross and his team at CBS, especially all those at CBS Digital (and elsewhere) who worked tirelessly to polish every frame, upgrade every planet, and generally make this project look and sound as good as it does. Special thanks once again to my friends Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett, for their heroic effort to create all-new and truly worthy, illuminating and just plain enjoyable extras on all seven. I can only hope the fun continues with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on Blu-ray at some point in the not-too-distant future. In any case, the chance to relive The Next Generation in HD has been a treat. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you really owe it to yourselves to get all seven seasons of this show on Blu-ray (and I should note that Amazon has been having some amazing sale prices lately to make that easier for you). Without a doubt, this is the best TV series Blu-ray release of the year. It’s highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt