Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 – Blu-ray
Starring Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Colm Meaney, Whoopi Goldberg
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Paramount is slowly but surely remastering and enhancing each season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and now sees the release of the Blu-ray for Season 3, which was the season when the series really took off. When TNG started coming out on DVD, Season 3 was the first box set I purchased, because while I’m a great fan of TNG, I’ve had difficulty sitting through some of those early episodes where the show was still finding its footing in the late 1980s (although, the pilot was awesome). Back in those days, people were used to one Star Trek and one Star Trek only. Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov – those were the characters who entered people’s living rooms each week and these are who viewers wanted to see. TNG was initially met with resistance, especially since it had a new Captain commanding a new Enterprise in the future.
The first two seasons were not spectacular; the series suffered from massive turnover of the writers due to internal conflicts, including the staff butting heads with franchise creator Gene Roddenberry. While Roddenberry masterminded the original 1960s series, the writers on TNG found his leadership and Trek law to be too restrictive. Also, thanks to a strike by the Writers Guild of America, Season 2 was truncated. But something happened in the third season: Roddenberry decreased his role in the show, and Michael Piller was brought on to be the creative director in charge of the writing staff, where he unified a core group of strong writers who flourished under his leadership. Piller took the unconventional approach of accepting unsolicited scripts in an effort to obtain better stories, including purchasing the spec script for what became the season’s fifth episode “The Bonding,” written by a young inexperienced Ronald D. Moore, who went on to become full staff, and many years later, the showrunner for the SyFy Channel’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series. Also under Pillar, another significant change was that the episodes became more character-drivenabout and less about the “alien of the week,” special guest stars, or a problem that needed to be conveniently resolved in under an hour.
If you’re already familiar with Season 3, then you know it culminates in the popular season cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds,” where Captain Picard, played by the wondrous Patrick Stewart, is captured by the Borg and assimilated into their collective as Locutus of Borg and is made to be their emissary to The Enterprise as they prepare to take over Earth. Piller wrote this Part 1 episode – mind you, with no story in mind for Part 2! – and solidified The Borg as terrifying advisories for The Federation. How can you defeat an enemy that not only can quickly adapt to the weapons you’re using to fight them, but can also overtake you physically and mentally strip you of your freewill? Pretty scary shit.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 has some very powerful, stand-out episodes:
– Episode 1: “Evolution”: Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) conducts an experiment with nanites, simple computer forms used for medical purposes which are typically confined to Sick Bay. When put together, the nanites multiply and form a collective consciousness and intelligence. Unfortunately, they end up taking over the ship, jeopardizing The Enterprise’s scientifically important mission and eventually is life support systems.
– Episode 4: “Who Watches the Watchers”: When a hidden Federation outpost on Mintaka III suffers damage, it becomes visible to a father and daughter on the planet who end up believing that Captain Picard is an all-powerful god. Disguised as Mintakans, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) beam to the surface to search for an injured Enterprise crew member, but end up upsetting the locals, who believe their actions have angered the Picard god.
– Episode 17: “Sins of the Father”: A Klingon exchange officer turns out to be Worf’s (Michael Dorn) younger brother, Commander Kurn (Tony Todd), who informs Wolf that he must stand trial for the accusations of treason filed against their deceased father.
I can go on and on about the episodes I love in this season – “The Offspring,” where the android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) creates for himself a daughter, who quickly becomes of interest to a Starfleet Admiral who wants to use the new android for scientific study (the episode marks the directorial debut of Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander Riker); “Deja Q,” a comical episode which sees the return of the omnipotent Q (John de Lancie), who arrives to The Enterprise stripped of his powers; and “A Matter of Perspective,” which sees a trial by holodeck after Riker is accused of murdering a scientist (thanks to this episode, wherever there’s a dispute in my house, I suggest we all upload our testimonies to the holodeck).
A fan favorite episode is Episode 15, “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” where the Enterprise-C arrives from the past, bringing the return of Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), who died in the present day (in the show’s first season). While the episode itself is well-done and even won an Emmy, I wasn’t as excited by it, as I wasn’t a big fan of Lt. Yar and didn’t really enjoy seeing her back in uniform (she was the original Chief of Security until her death, when Worf took over).
Aside from the season’s 26 episodes, this 6-disc Blu-ray set contains several bonus features, including a roundtable interview hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane with Season 3 writers Ronald Moore, Brannon Braga, Naren Shankar, and Rene Echevarria. MacFarlane, who’s obviously a great and knowledgeable Star Trek fan, humorously helms the talk, getting the writers to dish on their best and worst episodes; there frustrations, and their ideas for TNG. There’s also a new 3-part behind-the-scenes making-of Season 3 documentary called “Resistance is Futile – Assimilating Star Trek: The Next Generation” (the final part, “The Collective,” is continued on the Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds Blu-ray Edition, released April 30th as well). Rounding out the special features are a “Tribute To Michael Piller” with never-before-seen interviews with cast, crew, family members, and more, and also an “In Memoriam” for David Rappaport, as well as a gag reel (a must-watch) and episode-length audio commentary for select episodes (the one for “Sins Of The Father” was highly entertainment). A fun little feature here is also the Episodic Promos, which were bumpers that ran on television for each episode that were totally opposite in tone to the actual episodes; watch it now and giggle.
The Blu-ray for Season 3 looks great — picture quality and special effects are enhanced – and the episodes all hold up over time and are highly enjoyable upon rewatching (and rewatching and rewatching). I can’t recommend this Blu-ray set enough – I’ve watched these episodes on TV tons of times, yet when I had the chance to view the Blu-ray, I did so several times in a row (that’s right, I just kept going back to the beginning whenever I finished all six discs!). For fans of The Next Generation, owning Season 3 Blu-ray is a no-brainer; if you’re on the fence, I’d say Season 3 is an excellent jumping-on point.
[Note – screen captures included in this review were NOT taken from the Season 3 Blu-ray Edition.]