With the release of Season 7 we come to the end of rediscovering The Next Generation in high definition. It has been an amazing two years of releases from the CBS Digital team, lifting the veil of edited on videotape standard definition haze. So this release is bittersweet, a new season to go through is always welcome, but knowing this is the last remastered Trek show for the foreseeable future is saddening. Read on for the full review.
Season 7 is often referred to as the season of family. It’s a reasonable description; this season is filled with real, imagined, and fake kin of all kinds. The opening episode, “Descent, Part II” puts an end to the sibling relationship between brothers Data and Lore. A few episodes later in “Interface” we get to “meet” Geordi’s mother (really just an entity pretending to be her) and see his (actual) father on a viewscreen. “Dark Page” pulls the old cliché of a deep dark secret of hiding a sibling from the other with Deanna suddenly having an older sister that died young. “Inheritance” gives Data a two-for-one, more time with his creator/father via a program embedded into a “mother” he didn’t know he had, now an android herself. The awful “Homeward” drags up the fact that Worf has an adoptive brother. The very next episode “Sub Rosa” we visit where Dr. Crusher’s grandmother (fondly spoken of back in Season 1) has been living, the less said about the plot of this episode the better… Another just awful episode is “Bloodlines” which resurrects the mad Ferengi Bok, who already tried to kill Captain Picard back in Season 1, this time he wants revenge for the death of his son so badly he invents one for Picard so he can kill him.
This is also the season where the-powers-that-be planted seeds for the continuation of the franchise. We get a quite a few stories that involve Cardassians (a continued reminder to watch DS9), the Maquis (a setup for the pilot episode of VOY), Riker even puts in a call to Quark at DS9 for information. These references were pretty cool at the time, of course now we’re all used to the idea of a franchise that references each other, like the Marvel movies, but it wasn’t really being done in 1994.
While Season 7 is a mixed bag, there is much to like about this season.
“Descent, Part II” wraps up what happened to Hugh the Borg after leaving him in Season 5, and of course stops Lore permanently.
I’ve always enjoyed “Phantasms”, I was happy to finally see the return to Data’s dreaming program after dropping it entirely in “Birthright, Part II” the year before.
While the main plot of “Attached” is rather silly, the character moments between Picard and Crusher are great, and the attraction we all knew was there was finally brought out into the open. Of course since the writing staff knew they were on to a series of films nothing could really come out of Picard’s and Crusher’s feelings, the captain had to be left free for future female leads in the movies.
Of course there are two widely acclaimed episodes mid-season: “Parallels” and “The Pegasus.” “Parallels” is well written, with the tiny changes slowly accruing to where it finally becomes obvious Worf is in a parallel universe (or two or three). “The Pegasus” is another one of TNG’s strong suits: an episode about ethics, following orders, and personal growth.
In the “Lower Decks” we’re able to see events unfold from junior officers’ perspectives, it is a great story angle, one that wasn’t really allowed until the-powers-that-be could see the end was near and let up on the reigns a bit. We get a call back to the “The First Duty” with one of the junior officers being Ensign Sito Jaxa who was part of Nova Squad at the academy with Wesley.
While a bit less amazing, “Thine Own Self” is a good Data story, where he uses scientific principles to uncover the truth about a mysterious plague that coincides with his arrival in a primitive village, even with damage to his neural nets that is equivalent to person having amnesia. The B-story of the episode is about Troi becoming a full commander, this fills in the gaps about how more senior officers move up in rank and fleshes out the character of Troi, there is a nice call back to Season 5’s “Disaster” when she found herself the ranking officer, yet with no real bridge experience.
The final three episodes send TNG out on a high note. “Emergence” is classic TNG, a new form of an emergent intelligence being nurtured in the Enterprise’s computer is carefully handled by the crew, rather than dismissed as some kind of an anomaly and being erased and/or destroyed. “Preemptive Strike” serves to help set up the plot for the upcoming Star Trek: Voyager TV series, but much more than that, it lets us see Ro Laren one last time. She makes a difficult decision to leave Starfleet, even though she trusts and admires Picard.
Then we come to “All Good Things…” it is an amazing episode, much better than the, simultaneously written, first film adventure of the TNG crew, Generations. For more thoughts on “All Good Things…” please read the single-disc release review.
Video and Audio Quality
CBS Digital has been remastering all of the later seasons, and as usual, the work is generally excellent. Season 7 was already the newest season of TNG, hence of higher quality than most of the other seasons in standard definition, but as usual the high definition upgrade brings out detail and clarity that were hidden behind the video taped post production process of the era. For example, the detail in the rocky face of the asteroid in “The Pegasus” is quite something, and incredible make up jobs from “Genesis” are freakier than ever.
Deleted Scenes – There are an amazing 15 episodes with deleted scenes! Too many to review in the short time I’ve had the season set. The deleted scenes are on the same disc as the episode they came from. Episodes with deleted scenes include: Descent – Part II, Liasons, 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.
New Audio Commentaries:
“Lower Decks” with Rene Echevarria and Mike and Denise Okuda.
“Preemptive Strike” with Rene Echevarria, Naren Shankar and Mike and Denise Okuda.
In Conversation: Lensing Star Trek: The Next Generation (~42 mins)
This director’s roundtable includes David Livingston (producer and director), James Conway (director of multiple TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT episodes), Johnathan West (DP and director), Kris Krosskove (camera operator). This is a rather technical discussion of behind the scenes of TNG. For people who are interested in the nitty-gritty of making Trek this is a good watch.
Gag Reel (~5 mins): Another great bunch of flubs and goofy moments from the set. Frakes taking off after a poor extra walking down the corridor is a standout. Another classis moment is Spiner filming his reaction shots for “All Good Things…” at the observation lounge table, acting like what he’s hearing is ridiculous and waving his hand in disbelief as Picard tells the senior staff he’s been shifting around in time.
Closed Set: A Tour of the Real Enterprise (~11 mins)
This is Mike Okuda’s home movie of the sets of the Enterprise-D. Mike and Denise Okuda narrate VHS footage from a time when they were able to sneak a camcorder on to the sets of TNG towards the end of the series. It is an all too quick look at the soundstages that held our beloved starship, well worth the watch.
The Sky’s The Limit: The Eclipse of Star Trek: The Next Generation ~30 mins/each – ~1.5hrs total
Part One: Umbra – This final season documentary opens with 1987 pitch from Paramount TV exec Mel Harris to local syndication affiliates. It talks about the commercial tie-ins such as the Galoob line of TNG toys. This demonstrates just how far the show had come, breaking all expectations for a syndicated show.
Berman says TNG was preordained to go to seven seasons and then move on to feature films, it was a corporate Paramount decision made two years prior.
The writers admit that they were getting a bit burned out by season seven. DS9 was in full swing, VOY was being launched, and prepping for the move to TNG films was underway. The writers looked for various threads to pick up and close out (Ro, Wesley, etc.). We hear from Moore, Braga, Shankar, Echevarria.
Part Two: Penumbra – Segment starts with Doug Drexler talking about how great it was to work on TNG, how the cast and crew all generally got along and worked to create something special. We hear from directors and producers about the grind of making episodic television. Lots of familiar faces from the production of Trek in this segment: James Conway, Johnathan West, Michael Westmore, Dennis Maddalone, Cosmo Genovese, David Livingston, DC Fontana, David Gerrold.
Part Three: Antumbra – Brent Spiner opens this segment, he so glad the public enjoyed it, since he didn’t do the project for himself, he did it for the audience. In this final segment we hear from the actors. Spiner talks frankly about being burned out, and glad that typically each episode had a focus on different cast members, so he could take a back seat in between Data centric episodes. Marina Sirtis weighs in on the rather forced Troi/Worf romance, she felt Worf became rather un-Klingon-like when he was with Troi, which weakened his character. Sirtis much prefers the Worf/Dax relationship that came a bit later on DS9. Gates McFadden discusses directing “Genesis”. Other actors that weigh in on the TNG legacy include Wil Wheaton, LeVar Burton, Patrick Stewart, John de Lancie, Whoopi Goldberg, Johnathan Frakes, and Natalija Nogulich (Admiral Nechayev).
Disc 6 also includes “Journey’s End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation” special which aired alongside The Viewer’s Choice Marathon the weekend before “All Good Things…” in May 1994. This is a great inclusion, one that fans had been asking for, so I’m really happy to see it here. The special is a good snapshot of the Star Trek franchise as it was in mid-1994. The special looked back on TNG, hyped “All Good Things…” which would be airing the next week, as well as promoted Deep Space Nine Season 3, the launch of Voyager, and of course the release of Generations into movie theaters that winter.
More Season 7 Images