Season 6 is arguably the best season of TNG. The writers that we associate with TNG’s better episodes were all present, the production staff had TNG down cold, the visual effects were at their peak technologically, and the episodes covered a diverse group of subjects and genres. Read on to see how the season looks re-mastered and details of the treasure trove of deleted scenes the CBS Digital team were able to find, available June 24th in North America.
The fourth episode of the season “Relics” is a particularly exciting one for fans of both generations, after “Unification” last season we weren’t sure if there would be any valid way to get TOS actors on screen with TNG ones again. Leave it to Scotty to rig a transporter into a constant diagnostic cycle to preserve himself. On the Blu-ray set we also finally get the deleted scene with Scotty and Troi that fills in a missing piece of the episode, it explains why Scotty appears to have met Troi when he says goodbye at the end of the episode. See the deleted scenes section for more.
“A Fistful of Datas” falls into a bit of cliché, another holodeck malfunction episode, but the comic value and the homage to the Western genre are enough to elevate it.
“Chain of Command” is an excellent two-parter which comments on torture, prisoner’s rights, and handling the change of leadership under a new commanding officer. For more on the episode see our single-disc release review from last week.
“Face of the Enemy” gives Troi an episode all her own, we get to see aspects of her character that hadn’t been explored previously. She has to be commanding and think on her feet as she’s thrown into a situation she didn’t choose and has to figure out how to appear to be a Romulan operative of the Tal Shiar.
“Tapestry” is an amazing episode, it’s often called a Trek version of It’s a Wonderful Life, but that doesn’t do it justice. We learn more than ever before about Picard’s life as a young brash ensign, and the idea that our choices shape who we become, and we need the mistakes and the lessons learned the hard way, is a really poignant message.
“Birthright” part one of the episode can’t quite figure out what it wants to be, Deep Space Nine crossover to help launch the new show? An exploration of Data’s longing to be more human by his accidental dreaming? Or is it about Worf and his long lost father? Data’s dreaming is dropped entirely for the second part (it will be picked up again in Season 7), and we get a fairly interesting story about Klingons and Romulans who have decide to live together, but at what cost to their pride and sense of heritage?
“Lessons” is another episode that in many ways would be a pretty stock TNG episode, but is elevated by the personal nature of the storyline with Picard and his love interest Nella Daren. Picard knowing that the women he loves is the best person for the job on a perilous mission, sends her down to a dangerous planet, and we feel for Picard as he waits in the transporter room to see if she makes it out alive.
“The Chase” is a romp around the quadrant to put together pieces of an ancient biological puzzle (Indiana Jones meets Trek). We get Cardassians, Klingons, Romulans and Humans all in a mad dash to see what secrets of the universe might be unlocked.
“Frame of Mind” is Johnathan Frakes’ tour-de-force episode as his mind struggles to make sense of what’s happening to him, which reality is the real one? A decade and a half before Inception and seven years before The Matrix, “Frame of Mind” was an excellent mind bending and rather creepy episode.
“Timescape” is a personal favorite of mine, a second episode about time phenomena from Branon Braga, after Season 5’s excellent “Cause and Effect” (remember, this is all before it became his go-to cliché story element in later Trek franchise shows). Picard, Troi, Data, and LaForge are returning to the Enterprise via Runabout and they encounter the Enterprise stuck in time seemingly under attack from a Romulan Warbird. All is not what it seems and the mystery is slowly unraveled through investigation on both ships, Troi’s time on a Warbird from “Face of the Enemy” comes in handy here.
“Descent I”, at the time Descent was really something, we got see the Borg again (this was long before they became overused in Voyager), and they were certainly different this time. Data was somehow experiencing emotions? And the reveal that both the Borg and Data’s emotions were both due to Lore’s manipulation seemed like a great cliffhanger. I’m not sure how well it stands up to the test of time, but I still generally like it. Part 2 in Season 7 is in some ways the better part since we to follow up with what happened to Hugh from “I, Borg” and Lore is put to rest for good, but that will have to wait for later this year.
There are some more mediocre episodes, like “True Q”, “Realm of Fear”, “Man of the People”, and “Rascals”, but they usually have some redeeming moments in them. For example, in “Rascals” the interactions between Guinan and Ro are very good, and help expand Ro’s backstory and lighten her character up a bit.
Poor Geordi still can’t win at love in “Aquiel”, an episode Ron D. Moore reflects on as terrible in this season’s documentary. He says, at the time, he and Branon Braga thought they were being clever by making the killer the shapeshifting dog.
“Schisms” is an interesting TNG version of alien abductions; the scene with the victims filling in the pieces of the examination table in the holodeck is a compelling scene. We get to revisit Moriarty and his wish to be corporeal in “Ship in a Bottle” (there was a long running legal dispute with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Paramount that prevented a follow up sooner).
“Starship Mine” is a fun episode that sees Patrick Stewart get what he’d been asking for, more action. Picard pulls a Bruce Willis on some thieves while Data chats everyone’s ear off with his newest social subroutine “small talk”.
Crusher gets to play whodunit in “Suspicions”, an episode that’s uniquely told almost entirely in a flashback from a single point of view (Crusher’s).
Riker gets a transporter double in “Second Chances”, but unlike TOS, he’s not evil, he’s just been stuck pining away for Troi on a planet for years. Sadly nothing really comes of Thomas Riker after this (aside from stealing the Defiant on DS9 he’s never seen again).
Speaking of doubles, “Rightful Heir” is kind of an interesting aside about an attempt to change the political and spiritual direction of the Kingon Empire with a Kahless clone, but it ultimately ends up not really affecting the Empire, or even Worf personally, in the long run. Birthright was a more interesting and challenging episode for Worf earlier in the season.
Audio and Video Quality
The audio is once again generally excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mixes.
CBS Digital is remastering the rest of series, hence the long wait between Seasons 5 and 6 and between Seasons 6 and 7 (which is due out late this year), but the results are worth it. Season 6 is up their superb standards. We get to see more complex visual effects than ever, and we also get a taste of what Deep Space Nine looks like in HD thanks to “Birthright”.
Deleted Scenes: There is a ton of footage that got left on the cutting room floor this season.
Time’s Arrow, Part II – Crusher, posing a nurse, tries to deal with 19th century medical technology (or lack thereof) while LaForge and Troi try to comfort a sick patient. We also see Riker walking his beat as a street cop near by.
Relics – This is probably the most anticipated of the deleted scenes – Troi tries to council Scotty in this deleted scene. This is an important missing scene. Scotty isn’t all that interested in opening up Troi, especially when he figures out she’s a psychologist, which prompts him to say “I may be old, but I’m not crazy!” storming out to Ten Forward for a drink.
True Q – A bit more of Amanda unsettled by her powers in her quarters, Troi enters with a puppy for her, and they discuss what she could do in Starfleet and her hopes for a normal future.
Ship in a Bottle – Barclay is surprised to learn that Moriarty experiences discomfort while being taken offline.
– Cuts bits of the scene where Moriarty proclaims that if his will is strong enough he may make it through the holodeck doors.
Face of the Enemy – DeSeve (the former Romulan defector) realizes the Federation is no longer home to him as he attempts to order a Romulan dish from the replicator and it isn’t recognized.
Tapestry – Q taunts Picard a bit more in the “white limbo” just after Picard appears in the “afterlife”, Q tells him to check his pulse to see if he’s lying.
– More from the awkward morning after Picard and Marta conversation.
– A bit more of Picard’s dreary life after avoiding his mistakes, a scene in engineering with LaForge where he tries to offer his advice to LaForge about an engine problem and gets his comments shot down since he’s a low ranking officer from another division (astrophysics).
Birthright, Part II (~13mins of cut material!) – On the bridge, Worf’s disappearance worries his friends. Picard and Troi discuss Worf and what it could mean to him if his father really is alive.
– In the compound Tokath releases that he cannot keep the secret of the colony, he says he’s ordered Romulan border patrols to lookout for the Yridian vessel.
– An alternate version of Worf sharing the mythology of Kahless with the Klingons of the colony.
– Worf’s confused about a Klingon taking a Romulan husband and his attraction to Ba’el, he has an interaction with her mother, Gi’ral, who fiercely justifies the choices she has made to him.
– More of the legend of Kahless from Worf while hunting, he says Kahless was put to death by Molor. This version contradicts what’s said a few episodes later in “Rightful Heir” which states that Kahless used the first bat’leth to slay Molor.
– Interchange between Tokath and Worf who keeps challenging Tokath and stirring up Klingon pride.
– Extended scene of Tokath’s speech before Worf’s execution, saying how they’ve all become family he uses multiple anecdotes of their trials and tribulations together to demonstrate their bond.
– A cut scene on the bridge where Worf contacts the Enterprise, in the final version Worf’s return is simply explained by a Picard voiceover.
The Chase – A scene with Mr. Mot in sickbay to get his cells sampled, there’s banter between Crusher and Mot, who likes to think he’s a critically important part of the crew, and starts to “help” Crusher with her samples.
Rightful Heir (~12 mins of cut scenes) – Why is Worf behaving strangely? From what would have been the beginning of the episode post-credits. Picard and Riker discuss Worf’s unusual behavior, sloppy reports, barely making to his duty shift on time, etc. in the ready room.
– Worf is skeptical of “Kahless”, an expanded scene of interaction between Kahless and Worf, where Worf questions why he appeared to him.
– Superfluous scene in the observation lounge, as the bridge team prepares to arrive at Borath, most of the expositions points was already covered elsewhere.
– Worf and Kahless talk more in his quarters, they talk about his life on the Enterprise, and how Alexander is under the care of his adoptive grandparents, but that he has still been taught about Klingon heritage. On the bridge Gowron signals to meet outside Klingon space.
– In Kahless’es quarters the cleric Koroth is trying to prepare Kahless for all of the challenges he will face on the home world, Worf interrupts this to chat with Kahless. Worf asks Kahless about death and stovocore. Kahless does not have those answers; he says that when he is corporeal he does not remember what came before. He says Worf has a place by his side helping to restore honor to the empire.
– In the Observation Lounge, Gowron and Koroth are arguing about Kahless, Gowron says he will not allow the supposed Kahless imposter into Klingon space. Worf then enters and reveals Kahless is a clone per the final cut.
“Relics” with Ron D. Moore and the Okudas
“Tapestry” with Ron D. Moore and the Okudas
“Frame of Mind” with James L. Conway (director) and Jonathan West (Director of Photography)
Gag Reel (5:21): – Another great reel of new footage from the CBS-D team. Good stuff with Frakes busting in with a power drill instead of a phaser from “Aquiel”. Spiner adlibbing small talk from “Starship Mine”. And of course a classic Dorn can’t talk through his “Klingon teeth” flub.
Beyond the Five Year Mission – The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation
This season’s documentary is kind of all over the place. Including a slightly pretentious name for the 3rd part.
Part 1: The Lithosphere
Naren Shankar opens the segment saying S6 is where everyone on the writing team hit their stride, and really were doing interesting episodes.
We get archival interview footage of Michael Pillar about DS9.
Season 6 supervising producer Frank Abatemarco talks about how he came to the show through Pillar, they had the same agent. He wasn’t a big sci-fi buff, but he liked the whole group at TNG.
Dave Rossi (later producer of Trek, then Berman’s assistant) says Berman was the busiest producer in Hollywood. He’d oversee the final edits of the show, he’d be going over the next week’s script, etc.
New interview with Rick Berman talks about how DS9 could have conflict through the non-Starfleet characters. He says it was exhausting getting a new show launched while still overseeing TNG.
They discuss how DS9 was being worked on simultaneously to Season 6, and how Pillar was the man to do it.
Naren Shankar talks about the staff pooh-poohing of the new show being on a station, when all of Trek had been about going out to the story, not the story coming to you.
Sadly all the footage from DS9 itself is upscaled SD footage, so there’s no secret hint or look at DS9 in HD (aside from footage form “Birthright” of course).
Naren Shankar says the straight jacket of TNG was that it was decreed to be mostly conflict free and too perfect. Which means that the show was outwardly focused, the Enterprise goes to people that do have problems.
Rene Echevarria says that when he joined the writing staff Jeri Taylor was running the TNG writer’s room, Michael Pillar was mostly busy overseeing DS9. It was a group of young guys (Shankar, Echevarria, Ron D. Moore, and Brannon Braga) under the leadership of Jeri Taylor.
Ron D. Moore voices his regret over “Aquiel”. They thought it was going to be a fun Geordi love story, and they thought they were clever with the dog being the shapeshifter.
Part 2: The Biosphere
Richard James (production designer) starts this segment off. He says he wanted to be an art director before he even knew what the term was. He was interested in space travel and UFOs.
Wendy Neuss (producer) says there was a deliberate decision to make TNG a more serious show.
Dan Curry talks about how he had a lot of background in film and had been doing second unit shots already, so he asked Berman if he could direct an episode (Birthright, II).
Johnathan West (DP) says he was a TOS fan as young man, and was able to get on set of TOS thanks to knowing a person in the costume dept. He also got to be on set of TWOK as a camera operator.
Richard James talks about the set problems in the observation lounge with the windows, there were actually Plexiglas windows in the early seasons, they would catch glare, smudge, etc. When James came in he said, why not just remove them? There would be an advanced material that’s robust and perfectly clear in the future, so that’s what’s “there”. Berman loved it.
West’s first episode as DP was “Relics” as a long time TOS fan he was super excited to work with James Doohan. He talks about how the TOS Enterprise bridge set was mostly faked and only a small portion of the set really existed so it had to be shot around.
Wendy Neuss talks about the music production and how she eventually got to be the producer at the soundstage where they were recording the music cues and she’d work interactively with the composers to fine tune the cues.
Entertainment Tonight excerpt about Steven Hawking appearing as himself on TNG. Berman says Hawking helped rewrite a few lines in his scene to be more accurate and actually re-wrote a line into a joke.
Part 3: The Noosphere (a term that means “the sphere of human thought”)
Whoopi kicks off this segement! We hear from her for the first time on the Blu-ray sets. Whoopi Goldberg recounts how she was having lunch with LeVar Burton back in 1987 and he said he was starting on TNG, and she said he wanted to be on the show. Burton passed the word along, but the producers just couldn’t believe it, she was such a big star at the time, so they never followed up. Eventually Whoopi called Gene Roddenberry’s office directly and got a meeting with him.
Jonathan Frakes says he’d still be doing Trek in some fashion if he could. He loved the show, loved working with the people, loved directing it, etc.
Marina Sirtis says that she was in a show written primarily by 20th century men; she would try to fight about her character and her looks. She’d get notes from the production, not about her acting, but about her lipstick or her hair, etc.
Dorn says he loves westerns, as does Spiner, so they loved the idea of “Fistful of Datas”.
John DeLancie weighs in on “Tapestry”, says he knew it was going to be great when he first started reading the script.
Patrick Stewart says he was fortunate to have fun and enjoy his work, his Trek mates taught him that, before he thought that good work wasn’t fun, it was always serious.
Sirtis jokes about the Romulan wardrobe, the big shoulder pads, and how she kept bumping into things.
Spiner says he loves “Ode to Spot”, it was perfectly ridiculous, and he says people expect him to still know the poem. He says working with a feline actor was hard; there were wranglers that would try to get it to do things in the scene. Doing a scene with Spot meant it was going to be a long day of retakes. Spiner complained about it, and the next day a joke script showed up that heavily featured Spot.
Burton says Frakes lead the way by directing and it made him want to direct, this helped him explore another aspect of the craft. The longevity of the show let him watch and learn the aspects of production. He gives to kudos to Berman for allowing actors to go through “Star Trek University” – the boot camp for directors.
More Season 6 images