"All good things must come
to an end"; it's a phrase that is used in the title of Star Trek: The
Next Generation's final episode, and it's true. Next Generation
couldn't go on indefinitely, much though its fans might have wanted it to; with
seven seasons under its belt, the series gracefully took its bow and stepped
off the stage.
The final season of Next
Generation is a dignified conclusion to a fantastic show, with the actors
still fresh and engaged in their roles, and entertaining stories to be told. In
fact, that's probably why the producers chose to end its television run at this
point: better to stop on a high note than to let the show's energy and charm
fade and grow tired. Let the actors move on, but bring them back for feature
films in the Next Generation universe: a perfect next step for the Enterprise
crew. In fact, it's in the fall of 1994, a few months after the conclusion of
the series, that we see the release of Generations, which wrapped up the
feature film sequence of the "original generation" crew after six
films and began the career of the new Enterprise on the big screen.
Though Season Seven isn't quite
as strong as Season
Six, which had an exceptional number of outstanding episodes, it's on a par
with Seasons Four and
Seven begins, of course, with the second half of "Descent," the
season-ending cliffhanger from Season Six. As with all the two-part episodes,
it's a lot of fun, especially since Data has a key role in the episode. After
two so-so episodes ("Liaisons" and "Interface"), we get the
entertaining two-part "Gambit," in which Picard and then other
members of the crew take part in undercover dealings and double-crosses.
Other highlights of the season
include "Attached," in which Picard and Beverly Crusher are forced to
look at their relationship straight-on; I've always been fond of Dr. Crusher,
so this one stands out as a minor but very fun episode. "Phantasms"
is again a Data-centric episode, as his first dreams become more than he can
handle. Showing once more that messing around with reality makes for great
storytelling, "Parallels" is one of Season Seven's most memorable
episodes, as Worf seems to be the only one who notices odd changes in the world
around him. Following on the heels of "Parallels" is "The
Pegasus," a tense and well-crafted story of intrigue within Starfleet that
puts Riker on the spot. "Lower Decks" gives us a story from the
perspective of the ordinary crewmembers, as some of the junior officers get
involved in the kind of top-secret action usually reserved for the bridge crew.
"Preemptive Strike" focuses on the character of Ensign Ro, whom
viewers will recall from an earlier episode, and on an undercover mission that
will test Ro's loyalties to the limit.
Season Seven has its share of
less impressive episodes; in this respect, it's more uneven than Season Six.
Episodes like "Dark Page," in which Troi probes her mother's psyche,
and "Firstborn," which has Worf trying to make his son Alexander into
a warrior, are average efforts that are enjoyable for Star Trek fans
largely in the way they draw on the extensive backstories and well-developed
personalities of the characters in a way that a similar episode in the second
or third season simply couldn't have. I'm not at all sure what possessed anyone
to produce the horrible "Genesis," however, with its premise that
something is causing the crew to "de-evolve" into animal forms; don't
even get me started on how ridiculous that premise is. The episode that
follows, "Journey's End," centers around Wesley Crusher's
soul-searching about his own future, and might seem unpromising; but in fact
it's a reasonably well-handled episode and provides a conclusion that's a bit
unexpected but still consistent with Wesley's character development.
The highlight of the season
comes in its last episode: the double-length "All Good Things..." I
don't want to mention anything that could be a spoiler, but this episode
manages to incorporate the most engaging elements from the series all in
service of a great plot: time travel, alternate realities, the
always-intriguing Romulans, the prospect of interstellar war, and of course, a
focus on the characters and their relationships to each other, well-developed
now after seven years on board the Enterprise. Even knowing that we can
watch the episodes over again on DVD, and that new feature films continue to be
made, I challenge any fan of Next Generation to watch "All Good
Things..." without feeling at least a bit sentimental about saying goodbye
to Next Generation.
Paramount has really done an
excellent job with the transfer of Next Generation onto DVD. Season
Seven looks about the same as the past few seasons, which is to say, very good
indeed. All the episodes are presented in their original aspect ratio of
1.33:1, as they were produced for television. A general softness of the image
is characteristic of how the show has appeared on all of the DVD transfers.
Edge enhancement appears in a few scenes, but not in all of them; on the whole
it doesn't figure in the image very much.
The prints have evidently
received loving care from Paramount; the image is extremely clean and
consistently noise-free, and grain is almost nonexistent. Forget scratches:
there's not so much as a speckle appearing in the print. Colors are rich and
natural-looking, blacks are deep and dark, and contrast is handled well. All in
all, Next Generation looks great on DVD, and certainly much better than
it ever looked on broadcast television.
As with earlier seasons, Season
Seven is offered in both Dolby 5.1 track and Dolby 2.0. The Dolby 2.0 track is
clean and clear, and is the original soundtrack for the show as broadcast on
television. The Dolby 5.1 track is a remastered version that sounds
significantly better; the surround isn't particularly aggressive, but there's
definitely a greater sense of spatial separation for dialogue, and an overall
richer feel to the sound. The music, special effects, and environmental sounds
are all well-balanced with the dialogue, and the sound as a whole is very
natural-sounding, with no distortion or background noise.
It's to Paramount's credit that
even in the seventh season set of Next Generation, the special features
continue to be substantial and interesting; with a great deal of interview
footage filmed specifically for the DVD release, the bonus material is always
fresh with no repetitiveness at all.
Over an hour and a half of
special features are included on the final DVD of the set, in a variety of
focused featurettes. The 14-minute "Mission Overview" gives
(logically enough) an overview of the challenges of producing Season Seven,
which was done concurrently with Deep Space Nine and pre-production for Voyager
and the feature film Generations. "A Captain's Tribute" is a
16-minute set of interviews with Patrick Stewart, with some footage taken from
a 1991 interview but most from 2001. Stewart offers his thoughts on working
with the various other members of the cast, with whom he seems to have gotten
along very well. "Departmental Briefing: Production" is a 15-minute
featurette that takes a look behind the scenes at several episodes, most
particularly "Genesis," directed by Gates McFadden, and
"Parallels," with its interesting visual effects. "Starfleet
Moments and Memories" is the longest featurette, at 30 minutes; in it,
various members of the cast and production team reminisce about the show,
sharing their thoughts on varied topics related to the series. "The Making
of "All Good Things..."" is a 17-minute piece that goes behind
the scenes on the creation of the series' final episode.
Last but not least, there's a
five-minute preview of the upcoming DVD release of Star Trek: Deep Space
Nine Season One. It's an interesting preview, and it looks like Paramount
is taking the same pains with DS9 as with Next Generation in
terms of creating a quality DVD release.
Season Seven of Next
Generation is packaged in the same manner as the first six seasons, with
the DVDs in a fold-out cardboard holder that fits inside a shiny silver
"gift box" container. It's a bit of a nuisance to handle, but it
looks nice on the shelf. The menus have a longer, and unskippable, animated
introduction than in earlier seasons, but otherwise have the same fairly
In Season Seven, we get a great
deal of what Next Generation does best: the telling of entertaining,
often thought-provoking stories with well rounded characters whom we have grown
to know and love. Season Seven isn't quite on a par with the exceptional Season
Six, but given how strong Season Six was, that's not much of a criticism.
Season Seven marks the end of one of the best science fiction television series
ever, and while fans of the series were sad to see it come to an end, it's good
to know that Next Generation ended its television run on a strong note.
The boxed set of Season Seven maintains the exceptional video and audio quality
characteristic of the earlier seasons, and offers a nice slate of extras; it's
a must-buy for Star Trek fans and is highly recommended in general to
anyone who enjoys good science fiction or just plain good entertainment.