Finally the third season of Star Trek TNG has arrived on Blu-ray. Fans have been waiting for this season ever since the Blu-ray release scheme was initially announced. As despite the first two season having their moments in the sun it is the third season that finally allowed The Next Generation to mature. This was largely due to a change in the creative staff with people like Gene Roddenberry and Maurice Hurley being kicked to the curb and being replaced by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It also saw the return of Gates McFadden as Doctor Crusher, though fans were sad to see Diana Muldaur go. In this review I shall discuss whether the season still holds up after almost 23 years and if it is worth buying.
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker.
LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge.
Michael Dorn as Worf.
Marina Sirts as Deanna Troi.
Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher.
Brent Spiner as Data.
Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher.
The Next Generation season 3….
Fans generally agree that the third season of The Next Generation was a bit of a reboot for the series. A few of the shows creative staff were dropped and the emphasis was placed more on conflict, both on a personal and a galactic level. The advantage of all that is that the season feels polished, the disadvantage is that some of Gene Roddenberry’s principles were let go. The third season as such didn’t see any male and female crewmembers wear the unisex skirt uniform. Instead the show focused a little bit less on issues such as gender equality and started catering more to the adolescent youth market (boys) by showing a bit more skin in episodes such as ‘Captain’s holiday’ and ‘Ménage a Troi’. Some might say that the rot that ended Enterprise started with this season. Personally I think that is not true because both Voyager and Enterprise could have been changed for the better if there was the will power to do so. Season 3 for all intends and purposes feels like a better package, a season that tried to squeeze the Star Trek concept to see what was possible!
Suggested episodes to cherry pick…
First I will discuss two personal favorites and then three that fans have come to form an agreement on.
Hollow Pursuits; this episode introduces the recurring character of Lt. Barclay played by Dwight Schultz. The episode was intended as a spoof of fans of Star Trek as the creative staff believed they were far too vested in their fictional world. The episode is memorable because it introduces the recurring character of Reginald Barclay, a man who is a genius but flawed on a personal level. Previously this type of character was confined to non-Enterprise characters. The episode id memorable for its mix of humor and drama but not for its special effects.
Captain’s Holiday; this Picard-centric episode takes place mostly on the planet Risa, known for its almost hedonistic attitude to comfort. Picard must battle aliens from the future while pursuing his archeology hobby. He also develops a romantic interest with Vash, a female bounty hunter. This episode developed the rule that all Picard-centric episodes are just brilliant!
Yesterday’s Enterprise; this episode sees the return of Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar when the Enterprise travels into a alternative universe in which the Federation is at war with the Klingons. Denise Crosby would later be able to play Sela due to this episode. Yesterday’s Enterprise also stands in contrast with its militaristic visuals which I think might have inspired the 2003 Battlestar Galactica remake.
Sins of the Father; this episode continuous the story of Worf’s family disgrace that allowed the character to grow into a fan favorite during the fourth and fifth season. The episode is remarkable as it is the first to show the Klingon home-world. The season 2 episode ‘A Matter of Honor’ was confined to a Klingon ship. The storyline of Worf and his family’s past would later on be woven together with the return of Sela, the daughter of Tasha Yar, as a consequence of what happened in Yesterday’s Enterprise.
The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (and Part 2); the season 3 finale is probably the best remembered episode of Star Trek. It certainly wasn’t afraid of pulling punches as is evident with Captain Picard being assimilated into the Borg Collective. Well, at least this time you will be spared the agony of a season cliffhanger as this disc also includes season 4′s opener The Best of Both Worlds Part 2!
I guess after reviewing the first season of Enterprise on Blu-ray I must have been spoiled because the return to the good old 4:3 aspect ratio certainly caught me by surprise. Despite the disappointing choice of ratio during this time in TV history the actual important aspects such as coloring, sharpness and special effects are nothing short of exquisite. The first two seasons of Star Trek TNG were good but with season 3 the show’s cinematography really diversified. At first I was reluctant to watch the first episode of the season, ‘Evolution’, as it is regarded to be mediocre. However, I found I actually liked it better, now that I could see all the facial expressions properly, thus giving viewers a broader impression of emotion. This sense of realism really carries season 3 into a new realm.
However, sometimes there are some artifacts or blurry faces that distract just a bit too often for them to be ignored. Also the HD transfer does make it often evident that were watching sets constructed in a studio. Similar criticism was recently directed at the first Hobbit movie because it used a higher frame rate. Here it is a question of too much realism.
The audio of this transform is top-notch, though otherwise featureless. It is simple stereo sound as is custom from circa 1990. For the Blu-Ray transfer it has been recorded as DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Meaning it is as crisp as it can be but you wont be hearing the enterprise flying through your room from left to right.
The box-set is completed with a long list of extra’s. As I mentioned in the Enterprise season 1 review, few people buy a Blu-ray/DVD box-set for the extra’s. I think that with internet and multitudes of wiki’s the information contained within these short docu’s is already known to most fans of the show. The most important documentaries are…
Mission Overview: Year Three; which discusses the third season of the TNG in general terms. Though there is some new material there is plenty of stuff used from old interviews that make it feel too much of a rehash.
Selected Crew Analysis: Year Three; this documentary talks about the changes to the characters in season 3. Despite the season doing more in this field than any other it too feels a bit superfluous as you can watch all the changes by viewing the episodes. It’s a bit of fluff to be honest.
Departmental Briefing, Year Three: Production; this documentary show what happened behind the scenes to make season 3 happen. It discusses anecdotes with the creative and production staff and thus gives us an overview of what it takes to make 26 episodes if Science fiction circa 1990. No easy task apparently. This documentary is by far the most interesting, but I wouldn’t buy a Blu-ray set for it to see it.
Overall, the extra’s are OK for someone who wants to know more about the background of Star Trek. Both for fans there is little new to peek their interests. The Blu-ray release contains a few extra’ not mentioned such as commentaries and crew logs, but they fall under the standard fare!
For 77.99 (at the time of writing) you will really get one of the greatest sci-fi seasons of any TV show you can buy. The HD quality adds considerable depth to the acting and the viewer experience. Viewing the entire contents of the Blu-ray box set may seem superficially familiar yet I felt it was also something completely new. Unlike the two previous seasons there fewer ‘bad’ episodes and more ‘brilliant’ ones that make it so memorable. No word yet on when season 4 will be released but expect it to arrive sometime early July. Of course you can already watch two episodes. The first is the season opener Best of Both Worlds Part 2 found in this box set. The second is the episode Inner Light released as part of the Blu-Ray promotional release last year.
Score; 9.5 / 10. A very polished Star Trek outing, though some original TNG ideas were dropped.