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Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The

Paramount // Unrated // May 12, 2009
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author

Star Trek was something of a fixture in my house, growing up. My dad's neatly-organized VHS collection of the original series (complete with a binder full of episode descriptions) saw plenty of action in our trusty top-loading VCR, but I wasn't yet a true fan of the franchise. As 1987 and my ninth birthday approached, things were certainly different: a brand new Star Trek series was set to debut---no doubt, thanks to the success of the original feature films---and it was an event on par with the Super Bowl around these parts. I was immediately hooked on this sleeker, more sophisticated incarnation of Star Trek, even though many consider Season 1 to be the show's weakest. This new series had a grander sense of theatricality and deeper characters, but the core of Star Trek: The Next Generation remained the same: this was still about exploration, adventure and discovery. I remained faithful to the show during its long, successful lifespan, and it remains my favorite Trek series by a long shot.

With J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek "reboot" (of which I remain cautiously optimistic) looming on the horizon, Paramount celebrates the franchise on DVD with several fan-favorite episode collections. Obviously enough, today's review takes a look at The Next Generation---and with 178 episodes to its name, choosing four was undoubtedly a tough call. Luckily, three are practically no-brainers.

"The Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 and 2" (seen above) comprises half of this collection; obviously enough, this two part-adventure---which bridged Seasons 3 and 4---turns up frequently on many fan-favorite lists. I can still remember the epic "To be continued..." title card and the long summer wait before its resolution, but the second half is anything but a disappointment. Focusing its attention on The Borg (a machine-like race whose relentless pursuit of the Enterprise puts the Captain in jeopardy), this Emmy Award-winning adventure contains more action, weight and suspense than...well, most Star Trek films, including the even-numbered ones. It's a truly epic way to start the collection, but there's more good things to come.

"Yesterday's Enterprise" (below left) is another easy choice, and it's probably the episode I remembered the most vividly. This stand-alone story from Season 3 creates an alternate universe for the Enterprise and its crew: not only have the ship's appearance and mission objectives been altered dramatically, but the crew has changed slightly as well. Guest starring Denise Crosby and Christopher McDonald, this episode has plenty of heart and conviction...and it's perhaps the best pure example of what TNG brought to the table.

"Measure of a Man" (above right) is the final episode on board here---and at this point, they could've given us "Angel One" and it wouldn't have mattered. Make no mistake about it, though: this Season 2 episode isn't always ranked at the top of fan lists, but it's a worthy inclusion and fits in perfectly. Featuring a much more deliberate pace than the other three adventures, "Measure of a Man" features Data (an android who serves on the Enterprise), whose colleagues are determined to prove that he's more human than a few higher-ups would like to think. This dialogue-heavy drama plays out like a sci-fi version of To Kill a Mockingbird---and if that doesn't sell this poignant story, I don't know what will.

There's a little bit of everything here, but The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation still comes up short. Obviously, these collections are geared towards new and casual fans: after all, any Trek disciple worth their salt has already shelled out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to collect 'em all on DVD. Even so, the exact nature of this release is highly questionable: the episodes are great from start to finish, but why stop at four? Why not toss in a few interviews or featurettes to provide some context for newer fans? How about some movie cash for the upcoming film, or even a behind-the-scenes teaser? These questions, and many more, far outweigh this collection's generally low retail price, not to mention the episodes themselves. This one-disc release has been served up by Paramount---and with no bonus features to its name, there's not much more of a story to tell. But just for the record...let's take a closer look, shall we?

Video & Audio Quality

As expected, these episodes appear identical to their earlier counterparts, and it's not a pretty picture overall. Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, these episodes' native 480i resolution ensures a generally lackluster appearance. Colors aren't exactly bold or bright, black levels are somewhat inconsistent and digital combing is a problem. Even so, it's doubtful that these episodes will ever sparkle like the original series' HD remasters...but this is most likely due to the source material. It's an average ranking at best, but the quality of these episodes far outweighs the visual presentation.

The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (and Spanish or Portuguese mono dubs), fares much better. The series' strong atmosphere is conveyed well, though some of the music and dialogue sounds a bit thin at times. Rear channels and LFE are occasionally put to good use, though most of the soundstage is anchored squarely up front. Optional English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are included during all four episodes.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are simple and easy to navigate. Each 45-minute episode has been divided into roughly half a dozen chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes a few promotional inserts.

Bonus Features

No extras here, not even promotional material for the upcoming film. New studio policy...or just laziness?

Boasting four terrific episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation...and nothing else, this one-disc collection serves little purpose other than a loose tie-in with the upcoming Trek movie. It's been done before (and much better), but that doesn't make this release any less superfluous as a result. New fans and the casually nostalgic may want to give this a rent, but they'd be much better off fully exploring TNG through season collections...especially now that most can be found for under $50 each. There's plenty of great content here...but within the realm of fickle, budget-conscious DVD consumers, it takes much more than this to justify a purchase. Skip It and save up for a boxed set instead.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.
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