00:35:05 on August 27 2002
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Typhon Station is a very fastpaced PBeM RPG with skilled, experienced
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We have three stations to post from, SB 185, USS Odyssey, and USS
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will consider character suggestions. So, longtime RPGers and novices,
check us out. See if you want to make Typhon Station your home away
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By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: TrekWeb Features
Written by Steve Krutzler
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
The Complete Fourth Season
26 episodes, 7 discs
Five all new bonus featurettes
The fourth season of THE NEXT GENERATION kicked off with a bang over ten years ago, Captain Picard was stranded on a Borg cube and most of us didn’t know how the action-packed cliffhanger that turned him into a Borg could possibly be resolved. Count then-head writer Michael Piller among them. On the new fourth season DVD gift set, landing in stores September 3rd, Piller admits he had no idea how he was going to write the season opener. Fortunately, that didn’t stop him from concluding what most fans consider STAR TREK’s finest hour with a brilliance that only set the stage for what became one of the series’ most impressive seasons.
Buttressed with Piller’s “Best of Both Worlds, Part II” and Ronald D. Moore’s “Redemption,” season four is verifiably ST:TNG in its prime and this new treatment on DVD makes it a splendid addition to anyone’s collection. While season three bore the growing pains of a series just starting to break out of its shell and miraculously hitting greatness along the way, season four is the polished product of a slick production process and a writing staff firmly in the groove. With new additions in Jeri Taylor and a youthful Brannon Braga, writers like Ron D. Moore came together in a team that would remain with STAR TREK for years to come.
Episodes like “Family” pushed the limits of what type of material the franchise could tackle, penultimate scenarios like “Future Imperfect” entertained with delightful gimmickry, Brent Spiner sharpened his skills by playing Data, Lore and Dr. Noonien Soong in “Brothers,” political intrigue and suspense thrilled us in “The Mind’s Eye” and the very principles that STAR TREK’s 24th century came to embody shone brightly in the “The Drumhead.” Worf even became the butt of all jokes in "Qpid." From action/adventure to the on-going Klingon plot that finally came to a head in the season finale, the fourth season is core NEXT GENERATION and it has seldom gotten better than this.
Visually the transfers are luscious with color and definition you’ll rarely get watching old VHS tapes or bastardized cable presentations. It’s television, so you don’t get the same sharp, crisp imagery you might’ve enjoyed in the recent STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN release. Visual effects show their wear in some places, television budgetary restrictions evident, but the DVD transfer is excellent visually. Upon viewing “Redemption” the video experienced a short duration of jumping about twenty-five minutes in, even after removing the disc and checking for dust or scratches on the surface. No other sampled episodes revealed any similar deficiency and to a casual eye this set is visually stunning. The celluloid has the occasional imperfection or graininess, although this is decidedly minimal. Overall, everyone should be pleased with the way these episodes look.
Audio comes with both Dolby 5.1 Surround and Stereo Surround English options and the spectacular sound effects of the series come through wonderfully. As supervising producer Peter Lauritson boasts in one of the special features, ST:TNG put more bucks into sound and visual effects than any show on television and this DVD set allows you to experience the full range of all the series has to offer. For non-English speaking fans, an international audio track and subtitles are noticeably absent, again following suit with the previous TNG season set releases.
More impressive is the balanced approach of the five original featurettes that show many behind the scenes faces lacking on the previous season’s release. MISSION OVERVIEW presents new interviews primarily with Michael Piller and Patrick Stewart, who talk about the impressive “Best of Both Worlds” premiere and the seemingly insurmountable task of defeating the Borg believably. Piller also relays the reasoning behind continuing the consequences of Captain Picard’s Borg experience in the follow-up episode “Family,” then a complete departure for STAR TREK, involving no jeopardy for the crew and juxtaposing three stories about crewmembers’ families upon a visit to Earth. After careful prodding, Piller convinced executive producer Rick Berman that an Earth-based story was feasible and Piller says the decision to carry on the consequences of the Borg “rape” of Picard in subsequent episodes was a turning point.
“Family” was the beginning of a TNG that Michael Piller crafted into a more character-based, humanistic series that garnered a creative Emmy nomination by the end of its seventh and final season. This metamorphosis is no better realized than in the segments of the 100th episode celebration on the bridge set with the entire cast and crew, including a wheelchair-bound Gene Roddenberry positively misty-eyed at the success of his sci-fi creation. The footage of Roddenberry speaking about the success of TNG and cutting the celebratory cake is the undisputed highlight of this first documentary and a wonderful treat for fans.
Next up is the SELECTED CREW ANALYSIS documentary, most definitely the weakest link of the five. Devoted mainly to Marina Sirtis' reflections on her harness experience in “Night Terrors” and Jonathan Frakes and Jennifer Hetrick's remembrances of the Robin Hood comedy that Ira Steven Behr came back to pen, “Qpid,” the feature contains new interview segments but little of what hasn’t been covered before in countless interviews or of what doesn't fall under the clichéd category of actors’ trips to the emergency room after a stunt mishap.
DEPARTMENTAL BRIEFING: PRODUCTION provides a much meatier look into the directorial attempts of cast members Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart, who followed Number One to direct “In Theory” late in the season. Full of behind the scenes video with Stewart on the set and still photographs from various production experiences, this featurette is both lengthy and entertaining. Frakes talks about his directorial strategies in the courtroom drama guest starring famous actress Gene Simmons in “The Drumhead” and line producer-turned director David Livingston recalls the first experience of what later became a prolific STAR TREK directing career with “The Mind’s Eye.” Livingston is a face not often seen in these sorts of endeavors and the recent commentary relays several examples of how he attempted to replicate John Frankenheimer’s MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE with several specific shots utilizing wide-angle lenses and elevated points of view. After several segments devoted to direction, Michael Westmore and Brent Spiner provide a hearty look inside the impressive makeup for Spiner’s tour-de-force in “Brothers.” Spiner jokes throughout various shots of the lengthy makeup process, slowly transforming into the mysterious Doctor Soong in both face and voice.
NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS delves into the visual effects utilized throughout the season, focusing primarily on the blending of location shooting with matte painting. This featurettes dazzles with dissolves of a Los Angeles reclamation facility turning into Starfleet Academy through the use of matte painting and visual effects augmentation and devotes some time to how Picard’s home vineyard was created using a mix of real vineyard shots, matte paintings, interior sets, and exterior shots of a Ventura Blvd. house. Voices from Mike Okuda to Peter Lauritson and others on the effects team chime in with behind the scenes video of matte paintings in progress and an extended segment on “The Best of Both Worlds, II.” From the Wolf 359 devastated battlefield constructed out of spare model kits to the Borg cube explosion scene, the documentary is filled with behind the scenes video, stills and anecdotes.
Finally, CHRONICLES FROM THE FINAL FRONTIER manages to wrap up the set with a pleasant smorgasbord of season four personalities, including a rare and extended new commentary by fan favorite writer Ronald D. Moore, who talks about developing the Klingons, sparring with the writing staff in story development sessions (complete with some actual video of the staff during one such meeting) and even developing the initial bond with fellow young writer Brannon Braga. Braga, for his part, also adds interest to this featurette, contributing several worthwhile segments. Braga talks about how STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenberry advised him not to watch the original series and admits his youthful carelessness in making light of the issue in an old magazine interview. It’s humorous to watch Brannon talk of how he’s “never lived it down” with the fans and many will undoubtedly find him to be quite conscientious in these new interview segments. Michael Piller describes Brannon, then an intern, as someone who, with Ron Moore, was full of energy and brought needed vigor to the writing staff. There’s also some stock interview footage of Jeri Taylor, who came aboard TNG in season four and went on to co-create STAR TREK: VOYAGER with Piller and Berman. Noticeably absent, again, is Rick Berman, who appears throughout the set less as a participant and more as a distant force talked about and occasionally glimpsed shying away from the behind the scenes cameras. In fact, there is not one segment, old or new, with the reigning king of the STAR TREK universe.
In the end, season four is creatively one of the richest seasons of STAR TREK you’ll ever see and owning it on DVD with these new special features is an absolute must. If you began your collection with season three, continuing here is a given and if you intend to own any ST:TNG DVD sets, season four is probably one of the best candidates. As with the entire series of sets, there are no outtakes, bloopers, deleted scenes (although Westmore alludes to some such scenes of Spiner as Dr. Soong in “Brothers”) or archival material that you might find on one of the feature special edition DVDs (storyboards, promotional artwork etc.). Packaging still longs for a more permanent medium as the two cardboard casings wear easily and Paramount would be well served to up the quality to plastic for next year’s DEEP SPACE NINE collections. The specials also lack significant new or even archival interviews with several TNG cast members including Michael Dorn (who is featured prominently in season four), Gates McFadden and LeVar Burton. Wil Wheaton makes a couple brief appearances and John deLancie hams his return in “Qpid” in 1991 archival footage.
Topping it off is footage of Denise Crosby hatching her idea for the creation of Sela, the daughter of Tasha Yar taken back in time in "Yesterday's Enterprise." The "stupid idea" was eventually realized by Moore in the season finale, which wonderfully attacked subject matter all-together different from and as equally titillating as the prior season’s Borg bonanza. The perfect cap for what was, really, a perfect season.
(out of five)
The ST:TNG Season Four DVD Gift Set hits U.S. streets September 3rd. Click here to pre-order from Amazon.com and support TrekWeb.com.
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