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Star Trek: Next Generation (Season 2)

Paramount // Unrated // May 7, 2002
List Price: $139.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 4, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

The way that television operates has changed greatly over the past ten years. Where shows often were promoted and helped along if they did not immediately connect in their first season (see "Seinfeld"), if shows now do not succeed in their first few weeks, they dissapear into the abyss. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" really had succeeded in its first season; while the effects were rough and the cast was new, all the elements began to pull together by the season's end as a great cast became more comfortable with one another.

While season two was shortened by a writer's strike, the show reaped the benefits of a successful first season. The cast, as mentioned, was gaining chemistry; the episodes and sets looked improved and overall, more costly - and in a sci-fi show that uses effects, that's certainly a positive; there's even the introduction of one of the most classic villians in "Trek" history, as the Borg appear in "Q Who?" (and they were later seen in the feature "First Contact"). Whoopi Goldberg also guest stars occasionally as the bartender of the ship's new lounge.

What continued to make the series compelling was not only the writing (which was occasionally fantastic, with interesting plots such as Picard seeing himself in "Time Squared" and the Data-on-trial "Measure Of a Man"), but the performances. While William Shatner's performance as Kirk was entertaining as he played off primitive effects, Patrick Stewart really created a far more commanding and complex character in Picard. As someone who is not a "Trekkie", I can even find these episodes compelling thanks to the performances of Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and the other supporting cast members. This is really an example of a show that was perfectly cast; while it seemed as if the creators were unsure of possible success before the show started, they really sought out remarkable talent that were strong enough to continue their bold journey where many have gone before: the big screen. Another movie starring the cast of "The Next Generation" is in the works.

22 episodes on 6 discs: The Child, Where Silence Has Lease, Elementary Dear Data, The Outrageous Okona, Loud as a Whisper, The Schizoid Man, Unnatural Selection, A Matter of Honor, The Measure of a Man, The Dauphin, Contagion, The Royale, Time Squared, The Icarus Factor, Pen Pals, Q Who?, Samaritan Snare, Up the Long Ladder, Manhunt, The Emissary, Peak Performance, Shades of Gray. There is a total of 17 hours of material across 6 DVDs.


VIDEO: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"'s second season is presented, as was the first, in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. While the picture quality of the first season's episodes were very good, the second season's shows look consistently better. Sharpness and detail of the first season was good, but not entirely consistent. These episodes look more consistently well-defined, with better shadow detail and only a few minor instances of softness.

The flaws that were encountered on the first set are rarely apparent on this second season. The first season showed some minor grain now and then, which doesn't show up on these episodes. Slight instances of pixelation also are not seen again here, while edge enhancement is not apparent, either. There's just a smoother overall look to these episodes that's very pleasing. Colors are also presented in a more satisfying manner, looking well-saturated and vivid, with no smearing or other faults. Black level appeared solid, while flesh tones looked natural,as well. These episodes provide stronger visual quality than the prior series and hopefully, future seasons will look even better.

SOUND: As with the first season, Paramount has remixed the soundtrack of each episode in Dolby Digital 5.1. The original stereo soundtracks are also included. These soundtracks are certainly not equivalent to the soundtracks of the theatrical films, but they exceeded my expectations, given the age and the material. Surround use is not highly agressive, but some instances of sound effects in the rear speakers are occasionally apparent. The music sounds rich and full, while there's also a solid amount of bass present. Dialogue is consistently clear and crisp, as well.

MENUS: As with the season one set, Paramount has prepared elegant and easily navigated animated main menus that resemble the computers on the Enterprise.

EXTRAS: As with the first season set, a group of featurettes that cover various aspects of the show are included. Mission Overview: Year Two, Selected Crew Analysis, Production, Memorable Missions and Inside Starfleet Archives. "Mission Overview" is a very enjoyable featurette that provides a look at how the show approached the second season after its successful first outing. Most interesting and touching is the discussion of how Whoopi Goldberg joined the show.

"Selected Crew Analysis" is a featurette that revolves around thoughts from both the cast and crew of the show discussing their favorite moments as well as the development of the characters. "Inside Starfleet Archives" is a very cool featurette that focuses on "Star Trek" coordinator Penny Juday, who handles all of the "Star Trek" props on the Paramount backlot. For those who aren't as into "Trek", this featurette is still very involving, as it shows what an incredible job Penny has to try and keep track of this wealth of material.

"Production" deals with the creation of characters, visual effects and sets. It's fascinating to see how, with a television schedule, things like visual effects, miniatures and other complications were handled. "Memorable Missions" has the cast and crew discussing their favorite moments of the second seasion.

While the featurettes included on this second season set were somewhat more in-depth and interesting (they run for a total of over an hour), I still would like to hear a commentary from members of the cast or crew on selected episodes of future sets.

Final Thoughts: "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is simply great television; the characters are engaging and well-defined, while many of the plots are either light or thrilling, but always entertaining. Paramount has prepared a terrific set for the second season, offering improved audio/video quality and solid supplemental features. Highly recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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