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TrekWeb Newsbits: Extra coverage your crave!

Jul 24 | The official STAR TREK: NEMESIS web site has been updated with the 'Escape the Reman Mines' game and a new Romulan IPIX 3-D tour.


Jul 20 | Film producer Dean Devlin says he'd come out of acting retirement to play a Vulcan while talking EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS at IGN Film Force.


Jul 19 | Original artwork from the STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN UK premiere is to be auctioned on eBay over the next ten days.


Jul 18 | DS9 and ENT guest star Jeff Combs talks his new sci-fi thriller FearDotCom with Sci-Fi Wire today.


Jul 17 | Leonard Nimoy has donated $1 million to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art according to the L.A. Times.


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Aug 6, 2002: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Director's Edition DVD hits U.S. streets
Sep 3, 2002: TNG Season 4 DVD Box Set U.S. Release
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ST:TNG's Third Season a Perfect Beginning For Your Collection: TrekWeb Reviews Newest DVD Gift Set!

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Posted: 08:06:07 on June 24 2002
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: TrekWeb Features

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: The Complete Third Season DVD Gift Set

7 discs, four all-new documentaries
26 complete episodes
Street Date: July 2nd
Retail: $99.28

Written by Steve Krutzler

Support TrekWeb, buy now!The third season of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is special in several ways. Its Janus-like position within the series both looks back to the first two years and forward to the next four. Early episodes like “The Ensigns of Command” haven’t quite shed the naiveté of season two, right down to costumes that hadn’t fully relaxed in their tight-fit and collars that hadn’t quite stiffened up yet. As you watch some of the best TNG has to offer – “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “The Enemy,” “The Defector,” “Sins of the Father,” “Best of Both Worlds” – you become distinctly aware of a noticeable shift from innocent stories crafted to imitate the original series to a grittier and more confident style that finally brought the show to prominence.

This newest DVD gift set from Paramount, hitting U.S. streets July 2nd, may in fact be the set most fans will want to start their collections with. There’s no doubt that it’s packed full of some of the best STAR TREK episodes ever made, titles like “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Best of Both Worlds”; but it also houses some of TNG’s most notable installments, titles that forged a new STAR TREK style based in rigorous reliance on scientific believability, philosophical consideration, and cinematic action-adventure.

It’s also the first season of the series that makes you feel at home. No silly uniforms to gawk at, no more red shirts for Geordi and Worf, a full beard on Riker, and the return of Dr. Crusher into the place we came to expect her for the next five years. This is core NEXT GENERATION. These are the episodes you watched over and over after school or in your dorm room, the ones you don’t flip past when they’re on TNN; and, let’s face it, these are the episodes you’re secretly watching during the commercials of your significant other’s favorite program.

The Ensigns of Command Whether it’s the action-packed “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” quite possibly the best time travel episode in STAR TREK history (yes, even above “City on the Edge of Forever”), the haunting uneasiness and daring final act of “Best of Worlds,” or the tour-de-force performances and welcome guest appearance of Mark Lenard in “Sarek,” there’s no question that season three is one of the series’ most satisfying and probably the best bet for DVD ownership.

If your skin shivers just thinking about Picard’s “that’ll be the day!” before hopping behind the weapons console, your ship has definitely come in. Fortunately, you can now see all your favorite episodes without an annoying black bar along the bottom of the screen, commercials for ROBOT WARS (or commercials of any kind), numbing your finger on the VCR’s tracking wheel, or the painful realization that you recorded “Caretaker” or “The 37’s” over your favorite TNG adventures.

There’s no doubt that TNG year three looks pretty good. The production values seem to increase as the season unfolds and the quality of these images reveals a sharp and colorfully filmed television series. In fact, watching TNG next to ENTERPRISE might reveal a color differential you’d expect only possible from the original series. Visual effects advance quickly, from the awkward shots of the Enterprise and the Sheliak in “The Ensigns of Command” to stunning space visuals in “The Defector,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and of course the season finale, which earn the effects team an Emmy nomination in 1991. The dark greens and reds of the Klingon home world and council chambers in “Sins of the Father” also resist dulling brilliantly.

The DefectorWith no detectable grain (unlike the photos in this review) in the episodes sampled, the most noticeable flaw remains the strangely blue left corners of the end credits sequence. Let’s not mince words, if the last TNG you’ve seen was on TNN or the ten year-old tape collection you’ve been saving in the basement, you’ll be quite pleased with the image quality of these DVDs.

Less impressive are the set’s menus. Underwhelming in their two-dimensionality, the menu design scores points for staying true to the art design of the series but can become annoyingly difficult to navigate at times. While many casual reviewers tout these menus as something you, as a fan, will drool over, they really just look like cheap fan web site design circa 1996 (a little self-deprecating humor). Furthermore, the repetitive and slow animation of the menus begs you to check your watch and their overuse in the bonus documentaries must add up to a couple minutes’ worth of filler in all four of the presentations. Put simply, the default graphic menus of the Xbox video game system are far more visually pleasing. If you’ve already partaken in seasons one and two, this is nothing new to you.

Aurally the discs offer 5.1 Dolby digital surround and stereo sound, but since most of us don’t have high-tech entertainment setups, this is largely wasted. The source material doesn’t utilize the surround technology all that much anyway, to this reviewer’s knowledge. Nonetheless, the episodes’ original recordings are crisp and brighten each episode with another plus about season three: the scoring. Years of bland musical accompaniment on VOYAGER and ENTERPRISE will immediately become apparent after just a cursory listening to lively musical work in “The Defector,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Sins of the Father” and “Tin Man.” Composers Ron Jones, Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway (among others) prove that STAR TREK sounds best when scored like a feature film each week, a fact that only becomes more apparent when viewing TNG of this era.

Yesterday’s EnterpriseAs with the previous TNG DVD releases, season three comes with several behind-the-scenes featurettes. Primarily consisting of interviews with the cast and various production personnel, all four presentations resemble each other and can be delineated mainly by the topics of discussion. “Mission Overview” is the first and longest segment, featuring discussion of the major changes that occurred in season three. Whoopi Goldberg remembers bugging the producers for her role as Guinan, a character she points out as the last created by Gene Roddenberry himself. The cast reminisce about having Denise Crosby back for “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” Wil Wheaton and Gates McFadden talk about the return of Beverly Crusher. Everyone celebrates Jonathan Frakes’ directorial debut with “The Offspring.”

Equally split between old interviews at the time or shortly after, and new material compiled eight months ago, the time is well-spent and seeing the actors back to back with their younger alter egos is a treat. Executive producer Michael Piller has plenty of screen time, as you would expect since this was his first year on the series, and most of his comments were recorded just six months ago. Whether it’s the story behind “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or “Evolution” or “Best of Both Worlds,” Piller fills us in on the seat-of-the-pants situation behind the cameras with insightful and thoughtful remarks. Rick Berman has just one appearance throughout all the extras and it isn’t even new.

Sins of the FatherNext up is “Selected Crew Analysis” and all that means is the players talk about their characters in year three. Hear LeVar Burton carry on about the ignored sexuality of Geordi until “Booby Trap” or see Gates McFadden exclaim her pleasure at returning in an ancient interview. Once again blended with new interviews, this feature could’ve been grouped with the previous but does contain some interesting commentary of Patrick Stewart’s about making sure Picard got some action from time to time, though for some odd reason the producers of the segment felt his comical fight with the Ferengi in “Captain’s Holiday” was a better illustration than his Klingon encounter in “Sins of the Father.”

”Departmental Briefing – Production” takes the same format and adds a look at some concept sketches and models to go with interviews of behind-the-scenes personnel such as Mike Okuda, Dan Curry and Richard James. Attention is given to special effects in various episodes like “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” the first appearance of the Klingon home world in “Sins of the Father,” and the organic vessel from “Tin Man.” But the special seems all too eager to flip past each anecdote at a rapid pace, suggesting a lack of material. Jay Chattaway’s segment is slightly longer, however, and offers a rare look at the composer’s first scoring session for “Tin Man.”

SarekThe final bonus program is “Departmental Briefing – Memorable Missions.” Once again drawing from the same interviews as the first two, key players talk about specific episodes they remember fondly from the season. Particularly notable here are Stewart’s recollection of a challenging shot in “Sarek” and Piller’s telling of how when “Deja Q” was first going to be nothing more than a “wild goose chase Q episode,” Gene Roddenberry asked what the episode was about and the resulting creative process turned the episode into something meaningful and cemented the true meaning of STAR TREK for the writer. Co-writer and production associate Eric A. Stillwell also humorously recalls visits to the set by important figures including then-General Colin Powell.

All four features are a welcome addition, but as those already familiar with these sets will tell you, that’s all folks. There are no running commentaries like a feature DVD release, little in the way of production stills or promotional materials, no outtakes, no charming deleted scenes. The DVD menu design dominates all four features, sucking a few minutes from each, and at least three of the programs could’ve been easily combined into one. Packaging is adequate, consisting of two cardboard boxes, but for the price tag on these sets a nice plastic outer case would’ve upped the confidence in your investment. The included booklet is little more than an afterthought. Perhaps future releases will include the trailer for the upcoming STAR TREK: NEMESIS or even ENTERPRISE year two promos, just to up the ante a bit.

The Best of Both WorldsFortunately, all this is of little consequence: no one’s buying these sets for the extras. Season three is incredibly varied, from Romulan intrigue to Klingon mythos to prison drama; from Q to time travel to TOS guest stars; even the first (and best) Risa episode is here; and of course, the Borg. For completists, this will be your favorite. If you’re only ever going to own one or two of these sets, this should be one of them, and if you’d just rather forget the first two seasons, this is at least where anyone’s collection must begin. Quite possibly the best twenty-six episodes of THE NEXT GENERATION and with almost no misfires, it doesn’t take Locutus to tell you resistance is futile.

Support TrekWeb by pre-ordering now!

See also: Complete episode list

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