It is tempting to think that Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s third season is the year that everything came together on screen and off.
The series had previously stuttered through a shaky first season and a second that showed tentative signs of maturation in episodes like ‘The Measure Of A Man’ and ‘Pen Pals’. Yet, Season 3 represented such a big step up that it was tempting to think we’d missed something in between.
All of a sudden The Next Generation had found its feet.
According to a new three-part documentary on this Blu-ray release, however, the transition wasn’t smooth behind the scenes. Even after two seasons the creative team were getting complaints from some die-hard Original Series fans that it was not Star Trek without the Enterprise’s old guard. That’s hard to imagine now that TNG‘s cast are themselves viewed in those terms.
Much of TNG’s sudden growth in Season 3 has been credited to the late Michael Piller. His influence was undoubtedly profound: in an interview in one of the new documentaries, script writer Melinda Snodgrass credits Pillar over Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman with being the real showrunner. Even so, Piller’s introduction, along with that of René Echevarria and the man who would reinvent Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D Moore, did not produce the harmonious partnership that the season’s string of superior scripts might imply.
Piller’s colleagues have only good things to say about him in the interviews recorded for this box set. Nonetheless, one of their outstanding memories is that he had no social skills. Moreover – and this is a fitting quality for someone who wrote about Vulcans – he apparently couldn’t lie. Taken together those traits eventually led to him being isolated from the other writers after he caused uproar with an innocent but undiplomatic memo.
There were other things, too. The writers argued with Berman or Roddenberry over the episodes ‘Captain’s Holiday’ and ‘Sarek’; Snodgrass put her foot in it when she said they should switch off the holodeck, and Berman rubbed everyone up the wrong way by sending most scripts back from his office with the words ‘Make better’ scribbled all over them.
While the backroom might not have been running like clockwork, though, it functioned well enough to produce arguably TNG‘s most memorable season.
Sure, there would be classic episodes in years to come but no other season produced quality as consistently as the third. Looking down the list of episodes split among the six discs in this set, there is barely a week link in the chain that runs from the premiere, ‘Evolution’, to the seminal ‘The Best Of Both Worlds Part One’. Every disc has must-see highlights, too, such as ‘The Defector’, ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, ‘The Offspring’ and the aforementioned season finale.
Each of these is an object lesson in clever, suspenseful plotting that the writers of Star Trek Into Darkness would do well to take.
All this should be enough to compel fans to make sure this season is in their collection even without its rendition in HD. That is the icing on the cake, however, and makes this box set worth buying even if you already have the season on DVD.
As with Blu-ray releases of Seasons 1 and 2, the remastering is superb and at times astonishingly beautiful. Add to that the new three part documentary alluded to earlier and a tribute to Michael Piller, both in HD, as well as several audio commentaries and other special features from previous releases, and you have an upgrade that will ensure you’ll never forget the name Enterprise.
The Best of Both Worlds
Released the same day as Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3, this feature-length Blu-ray special edition of ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ includes Parts 1 and 2 seamlessly edited together. Unlike some cliffhangers and the subsequent season premieres that resolve them, these two episodes are similar in tone and pacing and therefore tie together very well. Unsurprisingly the visual quality is also exceptional and allows for a proper appreciation of the depth of detail in the Borg ships.
In addition to the movie, this release also includes an audio commentary by Cliff Bole, Mike and Denise Okuda and actress Elizabeth Dennehy, a new featurette titled ‘Regeneration: Engaging The Borg’, episode promos and a gag reel. Given that the two episodes it includes are also on the Season 3 and forthcoming Season 4 box sets, it is not an essential purchase, but fans shouldn’t pass it up.