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As the first three seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation progressed, fans saw a number of tonal shifts as the series found its legs. Season Four brought more continuity to the table: character relationships deepened, origins were explored and story elements from earlier seasons were brought back under the microscope. TNG was a true ensemble effort, loaded with great characters that we actually wanted to know more about...and though we loved to enjoy the occasional monster-of-the-week "junk food" episode, the very best episodes felt more like a full course dinner. "Redemption", a two-part 1991 episode that ended the series' fourth season and started the fifth, is a very good meal...but not quite a perfect one.
As the culmination of events that started in Season Three's excellent "Sins of the Father", "Redemption" revolves around Lieutenant Worf's desire to restore his family's name after his reluctant discommendation from the corrupt Klingon High Council. Gowron (Robert O'Reilly), next in line to lead the Council, informs Worf that the family of Duras (including his two sisters and illegitimate son) is planning to start a Klingon civil war. Soon, Worf's loyalty will be tested, a Romulan fleet will plan an attack on the Federation and the surviving relatives of Duras will continue their attempts to regain political control of the Klingon Empire.
Much like The Best of Both Worlds, which bridged the gap between Seasons Three and Four, CBS presents the two-part Redemption as a separate "feature length" release that, for better or worse, puts both halves together. I wasn't a huge fan of the BOBW edit, as the original cliffhanger ending of Part I just can't be topped...and in most respects, the same applies here as well. This new edit immediately jumps back into action after the shocking reveal of a certain Romulan, which destroys the illusion that weeks or months have actually passed. Casual viewers will be confused and, while it remains another curious "alternate experience", I'd imagine that most die-hard fans won't find it an improvement either.
The real draw, of course, is another handful of fine extras in the same vein as those from past TNG Blu-ray releases. Featuring a terrific audio commentary and a brief but entertaining behind-the-scenes featurette, Redemption feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the expensive season sets, so most fans will probably grab 'em both on release day. This isn't an essential disc by any stretch, but it's still a pleasing effort that collectors will enjoy.
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 (including the two-part Best of Both Worlds), which were also handled directly by CBS. 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 and subtitles are provided in English (SDH), German, French and Japanese. The options are definitely scaled back from previous releases (and the disc is also locked for Region A playback only), so international fans are probably out of luck.
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen above, the Klingon-themed menu interface is attractive, functional and very smooth. The film itself has been divided into roughly a dozen chapter stops, though no sub-menus are present. This release arrives in a standard keepcase with an Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code and a fold-out slipcover, but there isn't a second clear slipcover included this time around.
Like The Best of Both Worlds
, this stand-alone release includes a few exclusive extras. "Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War"
(30 minutes) is an excellent behind-the-scenes documentary in the same vein as those from the season releases. It obvious focuses on all things Klingon, from the history of the empire (which was largely developed during TNG
) to Dan Curry's invention of the Bat'leth bladed weapon. Other featured participants include Michael Dorn, the entertaining Robert O'Reilly (Gowron), writer Ronald Moore, Denise Crosby (Sela), Gwyneth Walsh (B'Etor) and more. It's a nice little examination of a truly enjoyable Trek
mythology and, of course, the two-part episode that helped to build and refine it.
Ronald Moore returns with Michael & Denise Okuda for a feature-length Audio Commentary that goes into more detail about Klingon mythology and the production of the two-parter, which was originally mapped out as a single episode with a much different plot and ending. Once again, the Okudas serve as casual moderators more often than not, and the always-entertaining Moore does an excellent job of keeping this chat entertaining from start to finish. It's a shame that Dorn, O'Reilly or any cast members couldn't join the party, though.
We also get both original Episode Promos and a few Trailers for other Trek Blu-ray releases. As expected, all bonus features include optional subtitles in the languages listed above.
Much like the previous season's cliffhanger, Redemption was originally designed to drum up excitement during the Internet-starved Summer of 1991...and, for the most part, it holds up nicely. As a further exploration of the Klingon culture (which became more layered as TNG progressed), this dark tale of betrayal, revenge and honor feels considerably bigger and more important than your average two-episode TNG block, thanks to terrific set design, memorable characters and several twists along the way. CBS delivers the goods again with an excellent Blu-ray package, which pairs up a flawless A/V presentation and several entertaining new extras. Though less essential than Best of Both Worlds (mostly due to its rather lazy feature-length edit), Redemption is still worth picking up for rabid TNG collectors. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.