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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/26/02

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three
1989-90 (2002) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Two Program Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/C

Specs and Features
Approx. 1,196 mins (26 episodes at 46 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 7 single-sided, dual-layered discs (containing 2-4 episodes each - bonus content on Disc Seven), custom "clam shell" case with inner gatefold packaging, 4 "behind-the-scenes" featurettes (Mission Overview: Year Three, Selected Crew Analysis: Year Three, Departmental Briefing: Year Three - Production and Departmental Briefing: Year Three - Memorable Missions), booklet insert, animated program-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (8 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Picard: "Let's make sure that history never forgets the name... Enterprise."

In the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry's vision of the 24th Century finally hit its stride. I'll say it right up front - I believe that, episode for episode, this is the show's best year. At last, there were no writers strikes or production slow-downs. Finally, the Starfleet uniforms lost that cheesy one-piece pajama look. Season Three saw Whoopi Goldberg (as Guinan) become more involved, and saw the return of Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher. More importantly, it saw the addition of Michael Piller to the show's production staff, as co-executive producer. Piller played a key role in crafting several episodes that catapulted the series to greatness.

That's not to say that there weren't difficulties. At the start of production on Year Three, the series was was helmed by an almost entirely new writing staff and there were no episodes in development. That meant the writers had to work fast - often writing the next day's work the night before - and they had to be inventive. Thankfully, the writers had plenty of great ideas to work from.

There are so many great episodes in this season. Who Watches the Watchers? sees Picard and company struggling not to violate the Prime Directive when a mission to observe an indigenous culture goes bad. The Enemy features a great game of cold war brinksmanship between Picard and a Romulan captain, when a secret Romulan mission to spy on the Federation is uncovered. This is continued in The Defector, when a Romulan officer attempts to warn the Enterprise that the Romulans are planning a major offensive into Federation territory. In Sins of the Father, Worf's dead father is charged with treason and Worf must defend his family name in the eyes of the Klingons. And Sarek sees the return of Spock's father - the Vulcan Ambassador - who is discovered to be suffering the effects of a disease that strips Vulcans of their emotional control on the eve of a critical negotiation.

Then there are the season's best episodes. In Yesterday's Enterprise, the Enterprise discovers a strange temporal rift in space. When another Federation starship comes through it - the Enterprise-C from 25 years earlier - history suddenly changes. The Federation is now fighting a losing war with the Klingons. Guinan is the only one who realizes that something is wrong - the Enterprise-C must go back to restore history. The episode also features the brief return of Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar - a character who died in the show's first season.

Finally, nothing could be better than the season-ending cliffhanger, The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, which sees the devastating return of the Borg. When a colony on the edge of Federation space goes missing, the Enterprise investigates and discovers signs that the Borg assimilated it. The Enterprise confronts the invaders, but the Borg take Picard captive and then head for Earth, where the destruction they could unleash would be unthinkable. Starfleet begins massing a huge fleet of ships to try and stop them, but the Enterprise, with Riker now in command, finds a new weapon that could destroy the Borg ship. When they confront the Borg again, however, they're in for a shocking surprise. This cliffhanger left fans of the show reeling and even people who had never watched Star Trek before were hanging on the edge of their seats. For a brief time, Star Trek: The Next Generation became THE show to watch. And it didn't let people down.

The 26 episodes included in Paramount's third DVD collection (in a boxed set of 7 discs) are as follows: Evolution, The Ensigns of Command, The Survivors, Who Watches The Watchers?, The Bonding, Booby Trap, The Enemy, The Price, The Vengeance Factor, The Defector, The Hunted, The High Ground, Deja Q, A Matter of Perspective, Yesterday's Enterprise, The Offspring, Sins of the Father, Allegiance, Captain's Holiday, Tin Man, Hollow Pursuits, The Most Toys, Sarek, Ménage à Troi, Transfigurations and The Best of Both Worlds, Part I. As with the previous two seasons, I won't go into the episode stories here - you can visit the official Star Trek website for complete summaries of each.

These episodes are presented on DVD in their original full frame aspect ratio. Thankfully, the video looks a little better that it did for the earlier seasons. It still has a slightly digital look to it, along with a slight softness. However color and contrast are excellent. Fans should be quite happy.

As expected, the audio quality of these episodes is excellent, remixed in full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound for DVD. The soundfield is nicely active and surprisingly ambient, with tons of directional play for effects. Dialogue is clean and centered, balanced nicely with the music which is evenly spread around the soundfield. And there's good low frequency as well. As with earlier seasons, there's plenty of fun to be found in the sound on these discs.

Unfortunately, also as expected, this third collection's weakness is in the extras. I do wish there was a little more variety here. It's not that I don't like the featurettes - they're fine for what they are. I just wish there was a wildcard here - something like the Inside Starfleet Archives on the last set. Maybe some production design artwork, or a look at the ships or props. A discussion of the fictional "science" created for the show, or maybe deleted scenes. There HAD to have been deleted scenes.

What you do get here are a series of 4 featurettes. Mission Overview: Year Three (17 mins) features the cast and crew (including Denise Crosby and Whoopi Goldberg) looking back at the season and some of the more exciting episodes and challenges, as well as some of the guests to the set. In Selected Crew Analysis: Year Three (14 mins) the actors once again remember the season and how their characters continued to develop, particularly Geordi and Worf. Departmental Briefing: Year Three - Production (20 mins) features various crew members talking about their work during the year and interesting efforts behind-the-scenes. And finally, Departmental Briefing: Year Two - Memorable Missions (11 mins) has the cast and crew recalling their memories and personal stories from favorite episodes.

Paramount's full seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD are continuing to improve in subtle ways, but I still wish the extras weren't so formulaic. I guess I'd like to see the occasional surprise in the bonus material. Still, I don't think too many fans will be displeased. If you love Star Trek on DVD, this season of episodes is as good as it gets.

Bill Hunt
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