Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5 Blu-ray review

Season 5 continues the well oiled machine that we knew as TNG. Season 5 is one of the best seasons of TNG. Of course Season 5 includes “The Inner Light” and other excellent episodes such as “Power Play,” “I,Borg” and “Cause and Effect.” Read on to see how the season looks re-mastered and details of the generally excellent new bonus features, available November 19th in North America.

The Episodes

Season 5 starts off with the exciting conclusion to the “Redemption” cliffhanger of Season 4, will the Klingon Empire be destabilized threatening the current power structure of the Alpha Quadrant? will Worf come back to the Enterprise? For more on “Redemption” see our review of the single-disc that was released with Season 4. The season then shifts tone to “Darmok,” a Communication Studies 101 professor’s best friend. It’s a great episode which shows the natural abilities of Picard as a leader and as someone who is genuinely interested in the unknown and learning about the very alien (in speech anyway, if not appearance) Tamarian race. And yes, the infamous phaser from the torpedo launcher error has been fixed, see the Audio and Video Quality section below for more.


“Ensign Ro” gives us one of the first tastes of internal conflict among our crew, it doesn’t come from a “mad admiral” or “alien posing as human,” Ro is just a hard person to get along with initially, and it takes Guinan’s persistence to really let us see that’s she’s more than a two-dimensional extra-character-of-the-week sort.

“Unification” was a mid-season two-part adventure (something new for TNG); it was the first episode to air after Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991, and was also made to serve as a special 25th anniversary episode to celebrate both generations of Star Trek. For more on Unification see our review of the single-disc release.

Troi faces her first command decisions, Worf delivers Keiko O’Brien’s baby in Ten Forward, and Picard has to work with children to get to safety in “Disaster.” We get to see Wesley Crusher twice this season in two good episodes, the better one being “The First Duty,” though “The Game” is certainly helped by the presence of a sassy young Ashley Judd as Ensign Robin Lefler.


The TNG writers take a try at a social message around sexual orientation in “The Outcast.”


We get our first (and probably best) Enterprisecaught-in-a-time-anomaly story from Brannon Braga in “Cause and Effect”; a cameo from Kelsey Grammer, famous from another of Paramount’s hit shows at the time, Cheers, didn’t hurt either.


The end of the season gives us two excellent Picard -focused stories. “I, Borg” shows us his first encounter with a Borg since “The Best of Both Worlds” over a year ago, where he finds himself thinking how the Borg as a faceless group are easy to destroy, but it is much harder to destroy a lone teenager who needs guidance and direction. Then we come to one of the best episodes of the entire series, “The Inner Light,” which finds Picard living out a lifetime as Kamin on the doomed planet of Kataan in only 25 minutes of real time.


Audio and Video Quality

The audio is once again generally excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mixes.

CBS Digital is back doing the full season, no third parties this time, so we don’t have to be too worried about things. Season 5 is up their excellent standards. In some ways they have improved upon the prior seasons with a newly rebuilt Enterprise CGI model, that takes the lines of the 6-footer and incorporates some of the added details of the 4-footer. Season 5 has more use of computer graphics than previous seasons: from the return of the Crystalline Entity, to more active computer displays or in the case of “The Game” a “simple” (by today’s standards) computer generated game, so CBS Digital has had to re-render all of these items.


And yes, the phaser coming from the wrong area in “Darmok” has been fixed. It’s a rather smart and simple fix. They used the raw footage of the Enterprise saucer section firing up at the Borg cube from “The Best of Both Worlds,” along with new phaser bursts timed to the sequence seen in the episode. It works well and was a relatively easy fix for them to implement.

TrekCore has made a video comparing the old incorrect and new fixed versions of the sequence.

There is a little bit of a bummer with this Season 5 set: despite CBS Digital’s tireless efforts, they could not find approximately two minutes of footage this season. While hardly a deal killer, it is the most footage missing on a season set yet. CBS Digital did the best they could, they color corrected the footage and processed the footage as carefully as possible to try to integrate it with the clearly superior footage that is inter-cut with it.

One minute, 41 seconds in “Power Play” found around the 22-\ minute mark in the episode. This is mostly a fairly dark wide shot of the three taken over by the anionic life forms (Data, Troi, O’Brien) and Worf in Ten Forward as they negotiate over the communications system with Picard. Ten Forward being fairly dark helps mask the low resolution of the footage a bit.

30 seconds of footage in “The First Duty” of Wesley’s reaction shots in Picard’s ready room.

Bonus Material

Deleted Scenes (these are found on the disc of the respective episode):

“New Ground” – Worf gets Picard’s advice on having Alexander on-board, after the main staff meeting.

Ethics – Dr. Crusher tries to get Worf to submit to some routine tests to gather information she needs to prepare for the possibility of the neural implants.

“The Outcast” – An extra moment of shared between attraction between Riker and Soren in engineering, which her supervisor sees taking place, that then leads to Soren being taken for “treatment.”

“The First Duty” (two scenes) – Small cut scenes in the academy court room with Commander Albert trying to figure out what happened to his son and Dr. Crusher talks with him about his loss. Dr. Crusher struggles with the fact that Wesley was involved with the accident and is covering it up.

“Cost of Living” (two scenes) – Expanded scene in transporter room where Lawaxana first meets Campio and hears all the protocol she is to follow. Troi tries to council Worf but both are too distracted by their own family issues to be useful to each other.

“The Perfect Mate” – A small cut scene, after he gives Kamala away to Chancellor Alrik, Picard steps back and has a brief fantasy of what it would be like if he interrupted the wedding and took Kamela for himself.

“The Inner Light” (five scenes) – A different opening scene with a casual bridge chat before they come across the probe. A bit more of Picard being confused as he starts his new life as Kamin. A few seconds more of the bridge crew trying to figure out what happened to Picard. In real-life Dr. Crusher sees Picard’s biosigns aging as he does in the program. More conversation between old Kamin and grown up Mirabor talking about how his grandson’s life will be cut short.

Audio Commentaries:
“Cause and Effect” with Brannon Braga and Seth MacFarlane – Rambly, sarcastic. Braga is really hard on the show’s early 1990’s style. You can tell the two know each other outside of doing this commentary, since there’s just a lot of BS’ing and blank space to the commentary, it has its moments, but it is the weakest of the group.

“The First Duty” with Ronald D. Moore and Naren Shankar – Originally they wanted Wesley to go down with his buddies, it would have been Locarno that would have stepped up as the leader. There were arguments about what your promise to your friends and your promise to the state means, the weight of those promises, and the grey area of the circumstances in the episode. They fought with Michael Pillar about it, but Wesley was supposed to be the hero (so Locarno shouldn’t be the one to stand up), and Pillar, as a parent, really wanted there to be a message in the episode about telling the truth.

“I, Borg” with Rene Echevarria and Mike & Denise Okuda – Generally good track, with plenty of contributions from all. Rene says no one could top “Best of Both Worlds”, so they had to go smaller, make a small personal Borg story.

“The Inner Light” with Morgan Gendel and Mike & Denise Okuda – We get to hear the original story writer so this is a very in-depth and knowledgeable commentary with discussions of differences between his initial story and the final teleplay. Highly recommended!


Disc 6 holds the documentaries.

Gag Reel (7:33) – A brand new collection of bloopers found on the reels of film while re-mastering Season 5.

In Conversation: The Music of Star Trek The Next Generation (1hr 14mins) –
Moderated by Jeff Bond (author of “The Music of Star Trek” and a producer of the La La Land Star Trek CD releases), Dennis McCarthy, Ron Jones, and Jay Chattaway are in a music studio recording room with him. McCarthy starts it off since he was one of the first composers hired. He talks about how the producers kept asking them to tone down the music, counter to the TOS style. Ron Jones talks about how he had percussion and bombast in his music, which he says is why he didn’t last as long with the show as McCarthy. The early years were full of contradictions about the score and the direction(s) to take with it. And of course the pennywhistle flute melody from “The Inner Light” comes up and is discussed with composer Jay Chattaway.


Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek The Next Generation (1 hour in total)

Part 1: The Needs of the Many (30mins) – Opens with audio of Gene Roddenberry (from 1981) discussing the need for and value of art. Ron D. Moore says TV is a collaborative art. Rene Echevarria agrees. Branon Braga talks about how conflict drives drama, and it was still able to be slipped in to TNG, and still fit Gene’s positive view of the future. Rick Berman praises the production staff of Season 5 on things going smoothly. We get introduced to Naren Shankar, season 5 was his first season on staff. Morgan Gendel is interviewed about his background as a writer in the TV industry and how he came to write for TNG (The Inner Light). The interviews are interspersed with the 1981 interview of Gene discussing his philosophy on making TOS and then the current interviews, in effect, demonstrating how these ideas fit with TNG as well.

Part 2: The Needs of the Few (29mins) – The first 15 minutes is devoted to Gene Roddenbery’s passing.
Rene Echevarria opens the segment about meeting Gene Roddenberry in the hallway. We get an Entertainment Tonight clip covering Roddenberry’s death in 1991. Marc Cushman is interviewed about his ongoing talks with Roddenberry towards the end of his life.
Ron D. Moore says that Gene started coming less and less over the course of Season 4 and was barely on the Paramount lot during Season 5. We hear from Rick Berman, Rene Echevarria, Ron D. Moore, Naren Shankar, Mike and Denise Okdua, Johnathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis whose own father had died on same the day as Gene 10 years before, and who considered the Roddenberry’s her American family, about their reactions to hearing of Gene’s death.

The second 15 minutes focuses on Season 5 itself. It opens with talk about the family of reoccurring guest stars that made the later seasons of TNG great. Brent Spiner raves about Michele Forbes and how much she, as an actress, and her character Ensign Ro added to the later seasons.
Michael Dorn talks about Colm Meaney (O’Brien) and what a pro he was and how great it was to have him there when he wasn’t busy with films and other work in Ireland. Gates McFadden talks about how much she liked Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) then and now and how great it was to have him back as a guest star in later seasons. The Okudas talk about the special effects of “Cause and Effect” and the shocking teaser of the Enterprise exploding. Rick Berman, Patrick Stewart, and Peter Lauritson (TNG producer and director of the episode) all proclaim their love for “The Inner Light.”

More Season 5 images







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Matt, thanks for you outstanding and very detailed review. Much appreciated!

Hoping to get this for Christmas.

Good season. Thought Darmok, Cause and Effect and Inner Light were standouts. I don’t buy seasons of these anymore, but this one is actually tempting.

Virtually all the stories at this point are squarely focused on the characters. The weird space stuff is wallpaper. That is as it should be. Great storytelling!

A bunch of personal opinions: Loved I, Borg. I never really warmed to Darmok, even though I knew I should like it better because it’s so Trekky. I hated episode where Riker converts-the-lesbian (I know, I know) with his beard. I liked the Inner Light originally — although that web thing Morgan Gendel did make me question that, as did his continued milking of the episode.

Was Ro introduced with the thought of spinning her off onto DS9?

It’s interesting the writers considered having Nick Locarno salvage his integrity in “The First Duty” while Wesley would turn to the dark side and go along with the coverup. Had it gone this way, Robert Duncan McNeill could have returned as Locarno on Voyager instead of as the suspiciously similar but totally not the same guy Tom Paris. (I know the issue of Nick Locarno’s creator’s royalty being an ongoing expense for Voyager comes up too.)

One can imagine Gene Roddenberry would not have stood for Wesley deciding to take the dishonest way out of the situation. It would have been wrong for the character (from the point of view of the character’s creator) and the correct decision was made.


“Was Ro introduced with the thought of spinning her off onto DS9?”

Yes. Michelle Forbes was offered one of the main roles on DS9 as Ro, but she declined because of her desire to focus on movies. That is how the character of Kira Nerys came about.

It ended up being a blessing in disguise, since Major Kira became one of the most interesting and complex characters, not just on DS9, but in all of Trek. Plus, I’m not sure Ro-Dukat dynamics would have been nearly as interesting to watch.

The Game is a hoot. I love how the entire Enterprise gets taken over by evil space alien videogame mind control and their whole takeover goes almost entirely unnoticed until the final stages of their endgame by Wesley and Lefler because they were too busy getting down with each other.

8. Hmmm. Yeah, I’d known they wanted her to go to DS9 — but was that the reason they introduced the character on TNG in the first place?


Initially, I think it had more to do with creating a character who could add some conflict to the show. I know the writers were driven crazy by Gene Roddenberry’s “no conflict” rule, and so they were looking for a way around it.

The episode “Ensign Ro”, along with “The Wounded” from the season prior, became the launching pad for DS9’s Bajoran and Cardassian backstory.

The writers figured that Ro would be natural fit for DS9 — but Michelle Forbes thought otherwise.

Gosh, it is taking me all my time just getting all the Star Trek spin-off series DVDs, let alone going for an “upgrade” to the latest Blu-ray versions.

#6 Jack – She wasn’t a lesbian. She was of no sex, neither specifically male or female, ie androgynous, or so her people wanted her to believe. I am not sure (or I can’t remember) how these people reproduced… It is not one of my favourite episodes.

12. Keachick – November 20, 2013

No hurry here. I never even bought all the series’ seasons, just some favorite episodes and discs from Ebay on DVD. And as far as the Blu-Ray’s go, no way. I figure I’ve paid enough for episodes, over and over again over the years (especially TOS), starting way back when I bought the VHS tapes from Columbia House decades ago for an outrageous sum. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years. I’m done collecting Trek.

Sooner or later these remastered/retooled episodes will all be available for a nominal sum via streaming over the web, and we’ll have access to them at the touch of a button – you can already get all of the originals on Netflix as it is now. $8 a month, all you can eat.

I understand people like collecting and seeing the boxed-sets on their shelves, but I just feel like these studios have gouged me enough for one lifetime.

13: I feel your pain.

After also spending hundreds across the years and still not having all the DVDs, the fact that Netflix is offering most of it in his catalogue is giving me pause.

15. Victor Hugo – November 21, 2013

I’m trying to downsize in the house and not have physical ‘collections’ of anything anymore, but watching Trek on Netflix also has it’s advantages with its ease. Last weekend, I figured I’d “follow the TOS Defiant,” so I watched The Tholian Web, then went right into Ent’s Into The Mirror Darkly 1 & 2. No messing with DVDs, no fumbling with boxes and inserts. I never thought I would be, but I’ve become a big fan of streaming. That’s one reason Amazon ran a giant discount on the Blu-Ray Trek movie collection yesterday – people just aren’t shelling out for discs anymore.

Danpaine: yes, my wife finally got Netflix on our house, and slowly i´ll discipline myself not to buy more DVDs and Blu-rays, as I have nearly a whole wall dedicated to them. There´s only so much one man can do for the industry over the decades.

Wow. Haven’t posted in awhile, but where is everybody?

18 posts seems like an unusually low number for this site. Hopefully things will pick up soon. I mean, I don’t post a lot but I do enjoy the regulars who post a LOT. I wish I had the energy …

At the moment I’m focused on ending my military career on a high note – even though they choice to keep me on board beyond the mandatory retirement age – but I will miss it when it finally ends.

In the morning I have to do the annual height/weight screening to see if I meet the latest standards …


Thank you for your service, Lostrod.
Best wishes in your next adventure.

Thanks, Matt, for such a great review!

Also, I’m shocked that after four days, there are only 21 messages in this thread. Including this one. Sadly, I think that this indicates the level of interest in Trek these days.

21. Hat Rick – November 22, 2013

Agreed. With the exception of spots in a few commercials lately.

The “hot” thread is the Summer Box Office one, a couple previous to this one. Last I looked they were talking about Kennedy’s death (however that relates to Trek at this point is open to speculation).

Matt is correct. Netflix only has the old SD transfers(which look even nastier when streamed). Netflix’s entire Trek library is a bit of a mixed bag, quality-wise.

It might also be worth noting that the entire library can disappear if Netflix and CBS/Par can’t reach an agreement when renewal time comes.

@ 21. Hat Rick – November 22, 2013

“Also, I’m shocked that after four days, there are only 21 messages in this thread. Including this one. Sadly, I think that this indicates the level of interest in Trek these days.”

Nothing much is happening in Trek world. Nothing on the movie side yet & no new TV series so far.
The only new thing was the Star Trek Renegades trailer that went online today.

Perhaps Matt will make a new thread about that project.

@Hat Rick

“Also, I’m shocked that after four days, there are only 21 messages in this thread. Including this one. Sadly, I think that this indicates the level of interest in Trek these days.”

On the November 11th, “Summer Box Office budget reduction – Trek 3 tidbits” article and thread below this one, we are closing in on 800 posts. So don’t get too hung on on people kind of being apathetic about another TNG season blu-ray release.

I mean, once you say here, “the video/audio quality of this looks/sounds better that both the DVD release of TNG Season 5 and the original TV release,” what more is there to say? We’ve all seen the episodes. Been three, done that.

As an example, I’d love to see them re-lease my 1970’s Mr. Spock Lunch Box again, with a higher quality photo of Spock on it, but what more could I say than, “hey, its a higher quality photo – cool!” ? It’s still a lunch box.

“Star Trek: Renegades” has officially reached their funding goals and a trailer is now available. It looks promising so far:

TNG did mysteries and time-trouble episodes (“Cause and Effect”) like no other Trek series (or movie) has. The episodes are still exciting and compelling 20 years later. Along with Season 4, Season 5 was the apex of TNG and comprised some of the best dramatic episodes of Trekdom, such as “The First Duty” and “The Inner Light.”

One of the best seasons of Star Trek. I hope they continue with DS9.