Click here for audio accompaniment, because why not?
The Best Of Both Worlds was Star Trek: The Next Generation's first attempt at a season-ending cliffhanger...and man, did they get it right. Neatly dividing Seasons Three and Four in 1990, BOBW ushered in a bold new era for TNG: this second attempt at a Star Trek television series finally stepped out of the original's massive shadow, respectfully developing its own unique voice in the process. This two-part episode resurrects The Borg as an unstoppable threat: first introduced during Season Two's excellent "Q Who", these hive-minded machines are now attempting to assimilate humans just as they've absorbed countless other races.
Written and developed by relatively new head writer Michael Piller, The Best Of Both Worlds nearly succeeded at painting the series into a corner; it was reportedly Piller's final TNG script, but he was asked to return and finish the job. Both halves work almost seamlessly to build quick tension and maintain it, from Captain Picard's abduction to the crew's strategic attempts to retrieve him. The pacing is almost flawless, performances are superb all around, and the series' reliable VFX and production design reached new heights in the process.
Elizabeth Dennehy's acting debut as Lt. Commander Shelby is another of BOBW's highlights; the 28 year-old actress had zero Trek knowledge before her audition, but her character adds another dimension to the Enterprise crew. Shelby's career-first mentality only enhances The Best Of Both Worlds' "anything goes" atmosphere: if Picard would indeed be lost to The Borg, she'd unquestionably be in line for Riker's old job. Since it was assumed that her character would return in a future episode arc (and I almost forgot that she didn't until I checked), Dennehy's one-off appearance feels all the more special under these circumstances.
Although the first half of BOBW is available on Season Three (with Season Four due in July), this stand-alone release stitches them together into a 90-minute feature; for the most part, it works as well as expected. I'll be honest, though: the original "TO BE CONTINUED..." format is still my preferred way of watching The Best Of Both Worlds, even if a bit of convenience is sacrificed in the process...and within the tight boundaries of this full-length adventure, the intensity of Part One's original ending is just too great to pass up. Even so, this separate Blu-ray release is still a worthy and welcome experiment, and the inclusion of a few exclusive supplements sweetens the pot even more. Let's see what's in there, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Not surprisingly, the quality of this 1.33:1, 1080p transfer is phenomenal. The remastering efforts of CBS Digital have again yielded perfect results...much like Seasons One and Three, which were also handled by the same quality control team (Season Two, on the other hand, got farmed out and wasn't treated with quite as much care, partially due to tight deadlines). Featuring bold colors, a light layer of natural film grain, rock-solid black levels, strong image detail and crisp textures, this series continues to look younger, bolder and more relevant than ever before. As the quality of TNG's original VFX shots and film stock steadily improved during its seven-year lifespan, so does the effectiveness of this substantial, eye-catching presentation. For obvious reasons, this only makes me more anxious for what's to come.
DISCLAIMER: These captures are from promotional sources and do not represent Blu-Ray's 1080p resolution.
Not to be outdone, the default audio is basically flawless. The main feature includes a new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix; the added punch mostly beefs up music cues and warp fly-bys, but it also creates a pleasing ambiance for scenes inside the ship as well. Dialogue is crisp and clear, LFE is quite forceful at times and the music cues never fight for attention. The original 2.0 Stereo mix is also included for purists, but it's presented in lossy Dolby Digital instead of DTS-HD Master Audio. No one should consider this a deal-breaker, but it continues to be a slightly disappointing oversight as part of CBS' otherwise detail-oriented campaign.
Optional DD 2.0 dubs are provided in German, Spanish, Italian, French and Japanese. Optional subtitles are provided in English (SDH), German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. Sadly, no Klingon or Ferengi, but what can you do?
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen above, the "computer interface" menu designs are attractive, functional and smooth. The film itself has been divided into roughly a dozen chapter stops, though no sub-menus are present. No layer change was detected and the disc is unlocked for region-free assimilation. This release arrives in a standard keepcase with an Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code, a handsome "partial fold-out" slipcover and a second clear plastic cover, just for added protection.
There's a nice mix of extras here, presented in a similar fashion to existing TNG
collections. First is a feature-length Audio Commentary
with Michael & Denise Okuda, director Cliff Bole and actress Elizabeth Dennehy; though none of the participants are completely engaging during this 90-minute session, we're still treated to plenty of interesting production stories, TNG
trivia tidbits and the like. As expected, the Okudas serve more as moderators and try their best to keep things moving, but at times this commentary seems to flounder a bit.
"Regeneration: Engaging The Borg" (30 minutes, 1080p) should be familiar to those who have enjoyed TNG's retrospective documentaries thus far. Featuring comments from key cast and crew members including Elizabeth Dennehy (Lt. Commander Shelby), Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis and more, this worthwhile "conclusion" of Season Three's multi-part documentary is definitely a highlight. My only minor complaint is that Dennehy frequently repeats most of the stories from her commentary, but that's about it. The bonus features conclude with an episode-specific Gag Reel (5 minutes, 1080p) and both of BOBW's original Episode Promos (the last by Ernie Anderson, and the first by Don LaFontaine!).
As expected, all bonus features include optional subtitles in the languages listed above.
The Best Of Both Worlds combines both halves of Star Trek: The Next Generation's defining moment: when the stakes were raised unbelievably high and TNG finally stepped out of the original Star Trek's massive shadow. As a faux feature-length episode, it's an interesting and welcome experiment...but, for my money, BOBW still works best in its original two-part form. Still, there's enough here to make it worthwhile, such as the different feel of its presentation and, of course, the handful of exclusive supplements that fit in perfectly. I'll be completely truthful: BOBW still feels like a Season Three bonus disc that fans have to pay extra for...but if die-hard Trekkies have the money, they'll probably want to go for it. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.