Star Trek:The Next Generation Season 4 Blu-ray review August 1, 2013by Matt Wright , Filed under: DVD/Blu-ray,Review,TNG Remastered , trackback
Season 4 is the start of the well oiled machine that we knew as TNG, coming off the success of Season 3 and the attention of using the cliffhanger format for “The Best of Both Worlds”, Season 4 is the first season to have all of the production staff that would be there through the series end. Season 4 contains a lot of fan favorites such as Family, Brothers, Data’s Day, The Wounded, The Drumhead, Qpid, and Redemption. Read on to see how the season looks remastered and details of the new bonus features.
Season 4 gives us a lot of episodes that help to expand the characters we had come to know and like by the end Season 3. It’s also the first season that the writers slip in follow ups to previous episodes. One of the most obvious being the immediate follow-up to “Best of Both Worlds II”, the episode “Family”, where Picard returns home. We get to see Picard start to heal some of his emotional wounds from the Borg and deal with others he’s harbored a long time towards his older brother.
Another major driving force to Season 4 is Worf’s character development, that started back in Season 2 with “The Emissary” (one could even argue it goes as far back as Season 1’s “Heart of Glory”), continued in Season 3’s “Sins of the Father”, and now Season 4 gives us more bits and pieces of Worf’s human and Klingon back story in “Family”, “Reunion”, and of course “Redemption.” Geordi gets his infatuation with Dr. Leah Brahms followed up, with the real women this time, in “Galaxy’s Child”, which features what is only the second major use of CGI in TNG, and one of the most prominent, the space baby, called “Junior” by the Enterprise crew. Vash comes back into Picard’s life, as does Q, in the rather silly but fun “Qpid.”
Brent Spiner gets to show his acting chops in three Data centric episodes, “Brothers” (where he does triple duty!), “Data’s Day”, and “In Theory”, where Data attempts a relationship simulation.
Gates McFadden gets a rare chance to take center stage in “Remember Me.” Barclay’s social anxiety and intelligence seemingly make him the perfect vessel for an alien program in “The Nth Degree.”
We get another powerful courtroom drama in the form of “The Drumhead.” Even O’Brien, who had mostly just stood in the transporter room, gets married in “Data’s Day”, and has his backstory fleshed out in the “The Wounded”.
Riker gets out from under his second-in-command position in “the future” of “Future Imperfect”, and has to pull a James Bond and sleep with his alien nurse to try to get free in “First Contact.” Picard battles a she-devil in the courtroom in “Devil’s Due.” Geordi gets brainwashed by Romulans in “Mind’s Eye” in an homage to The Manchurian Candidate (also laying the foundation for Romulan involvement in “Redemption”), poor Geordi also nearly becomes a cowering glow-in-the-dark alien in “Identity Crisis.” Data may be lying to the crew for reasons unknown in “Clues.” Troi loses her powers in “The Loss”, and can only have nightmares in “Night Terrors.” Oh and Tasha Yar’s sister, who stayed behind at the hell hole of a colony they grew up on, plays the Enterprise crew for fools in “Legacy”, lastly Wesley finally heads off to the academy after missing his chance last year, but first he goes on a “Final Mission” with Captain Picard and gets a little psudo-father-son-time. Phew!
Video and Audio Quality
The audio is once again generally excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mixes.
CBS Home Entertainment wanted three seasons released in 2013, to facilitate that timetable, Season 4 was partly outsourced to a third-party production house. After the rather mediocre Season 2 release, which was done entirely by a 3rd party company, CBS Digital took a different approach, as well as used a different company this time. CBS Digital handled the live-action elements and the final “conform” of the episodes (i.e. they edited the episodes back together to match the original sequences), only the visual effects were handled by another company called Modern Video. Unlike Season 2, this time CBS Digital said they were keeping a close eye on the work Modern Video did, and they said they shared their existing art assets with them.
So the good news is that the live action portions look consistent with Season 3, and the visual effects look very good, they’re at maybe 90% of what CBS Digital does when they do the VFX in-house. CBS Digital just seems to put some extra care and love into their work. However, as you’ll see from the images in this article, the vast majority of the time things look great, and you’d be hard pressed to know someone else did the VFX work, especially without some kind of side-by-side comparison.
There is one rather poor scene, and it’s entirely CGI, the birth scene of the space baby in “Galaxy’s Child” has a very hard edged “computer graphicy” look, somewhat more-so than the original ’90s version, it’s a shame a little more time wasn’t spent on getting the lighting and texturing just right, but I suppose it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. The rest of the episode is faithfully recreated.
The bonus features have been what’s really made the past season releases. Perhaps owing to the aforementioned Season 4 being where the show hit its stride, the documentaries this time aren’t quite as engaging, but generally still a good watch.
Audio commentaries – “Brothers” with the director Rob Bowman and Mike & Denise Okuda and “Reunion” with Ron D. Moore, Brannon Braga and Mike & Denise Okuda.
All of the new video features are on Disc 6 of the set:
As Season 4 had become a well oiled machine, people involved in all aspects of the production really started to feel a sense of family with their co-workers, so fittingly, this is theme of the documentaries on the set.
As with previous season sets, there is a multipart documentary that discusses the season, this season it is called: “Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation“, each part is 30 minutes:
Part 1 – “Homecoming” – Focuses on production/writing, the open script submission policy, how much the writing side of the production staff was like a big family that fought and made up and generally just loved collaborating. Trek author Larry Nemecek basically provides context to the background of the season with comments similar to those that he wrote in his TNG Companion book. Ron D. Moore, Branon Braga, Rene Echevarria, and Lolita Fatjo all have great things to say about the writing staff and the open script submission policy, and of course, their leader, the late Michael Pillar.
Part 2 – “Prosperity” – This section focuses on the episodes, and the actors getting to really play their characters, getting good character moments, etc. Brent Spiner is featured heavily since he gets a lot of work in Season 4 (“Brothers”, “Data’s Day”, and “In Theory”). Director Rob Bowman discusses the technicalities of shooting Spiner as three different people in “Brothers.” Michael Dorn discusses Worf and how he was used as a comedic “straight man” (cut to a shot of Worf saying he is not a merry man), Wil Wheaton discusses leaving, plus Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Gates McFadden chime on their episodes and the season in general. Surprisingly, outside of Wil Wheaton’s own self-conscious reflection, nothing else is said about his leaving the show.
A second documentary is included, this is a conversational piece, filmed in Doug Drexler’s living room.
“In Conversation: The Star Trek Art Department” (67 minutes) – This sit-down includes Herman Zimmerman, Rick Sternbach, Mike and Denise Okuda, Doug Drexler and visual effects supervisor Dan Curry. Doug leads off with a little bit of an introduction in the boysterious way that he has. Doug has major praise for Herman Zimmerman. The group points out that if Zimmerman hadn’t hired Mike Okuda, Mike would have never met his wife Denise (who of course also eneded up working on Trek). Those present all echo the idea of family (the theme of the documentaries on this season set), and how great it was to work with all the people in the art and visual effects departments. This chat you might find a bit boring if you don’t already know a bit about the production side of things. If you’re interested in those aspects there are some good annecdotes and nuggets of information throughout the conversation. Zimmerman is a wealth of information about the creation of the sets for TNG and the early days of pre-production, including anecdotes on the humor of Bob Justman’s memo writing. The conversation goes to the creation of the space station on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and how it was one of the best collaborations between everyone in the art departments.
Gag Reel – Like season 3, this is a brand new gag reel made from the 35mm negatives found in the archives. It’s short at 3:34 minutes and unfortunately not nearly as good as the previous seasons.
Deleted Scenes – This Season we get a treasure trove of deleted scenes! This is probably the best bonus material on the set. These aren’t blurry VHS workprint versions, the Blu-ray production team found the original 35mm scenes and scanned them in at 1080p.
Best of Both Worlds II – Riker voices his doubts and confesses that Picard was more of a father to him than his own to Troi in the ready room. This scene was best left on the cutting room floor. It’s quite melodramatic and is rendered superfluous by the much better “tough love” scene with Guinian and Riker in the ready room that is in the final version.
Family – Wesley’s father describes his family history (for example: there was a Crusher who was a horse thief on Nimbus III, a reference to Star Trek V)
Brothers – Cut dialog from when Data first meets Dr. Soong, Soong tests Data’s reflexes and discusses what a humid day feels like, and more.
Final Mission – 1.) A nice moment in the cave between Wesley and the injured Picard, where Picard says he can see Jack Crusher in Wesley’s face.
2.) A short scene set on the bridge as they enter orbit of the moon Lambda Paz and find that due to interference they need to send a shuttle down instead of using the transporter.
The Wounded – By far some of the best and largest number of cut scenes are from The Wounded.
1.) A little lecture about treating the Cardassians as guests is cut from the bridge discussion on guarding the Cardassian visitors
2.) A scene with O’Brien and Riker in the transporter room, with O’Brien defending Captain Maxwell.
3.) More from the dinner with O’Brien and Keiko where she asks him how he feels about the Cardassians
4.) Chasing Maxwell from the Enterprise, on the bridge there is a bit more discussion of the implications of what relaying the prefix codes to the Cardassian warship would mean.
5.) As Maxwell is escorted to the bridge to see Picard, Maxwell calls the Enterprise a “sweet ship” and reacts badly to the Cardassian commander being on the bridge.
6.) In the ready room scene with Maxwell and Picard, Maxwell admits he doesn’t have real proof, just a hunch.
Galaxy’s Child – a very short bit (50 seconds) of reaction shots of the bridge crew being fascinated with the space baby and Picard and Worf reciting a nursery rhyme. Pretty awkward stuff.
Qpid – Q as The Sheriff of Nottingham talks a bit more to Sir Guy of Gisbourne about how to make life miserable for Robin Hood.
The Host – Odan, now in Riker, is having issues sharing consciousness with Riker, in the cut scene he finds himself compelled to play poker with Riker’s friends since he seems to have a combination of both Odan and Riker emerging.
More Season 4 Images