Release Date(s)1991-92 (November 19, 2013)
Studio(s)Paramount Television (CBS)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Star Trek: The Next Generation celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Trek franchise with a fifth season run of 26 episodes. Though these were something of a mixed bag overall, there were some real standouts during the season. Highlights include Darmok (featuring Paul Winfield), Ensign Ro (which introduced Michelle Forbes as a semi-regular and featured the first appearance of the Bajoran race), the 2-part Unification (featuring Leonard Nimoy in a fine guest appearance as Spock, as well as the return of Mark Leonard’s Sarek and Denise Crosby’s Sela), Cause and Effect (directed by Jonathan Frakes, with a cameo by Kelsey Grammer), The Outcast (an examination of LGBT rights issues), The First Duty (featuring the return of Wil Wheaton and guest appearances by Robert Duncan McNeill – who would later star in Star Trek: Voyager – and Ray Walston of My Favorite Martian fame) and an episode that’s widely considered to be one of the series’ best, The Inner Light, in which Picard is exposed to an alien probe and subsequently experiences an entire lifetime’s worth of memories. Additional episodes include Redemption II, Silicon Avatar, Disaster, The Game (guest starring Ashley Judd), A Matter of Time, New Ground, Violations, The Masterpiece Society, Conundrum, Power Play, Ethics, Cost of Living, The Perfect Mate (featuring Famke Janssen from the X-Men films), Imaginary Friend, I, Borg, The Next Phase, The Inner Light and Time’s Arrow. It’s worth noting that, in addition to adding the character of Ensign Ro Laren to the show’s cast, the season continued to expand the role of Colm Meaney’s Miles O’Brien. As it happened, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry passed away unexpectly during the filming of Hero Worship, so the episode Unification I is dedicated to his memory.
CBS’ new Blu-ray set features a level of video and audio quality very much in keeping with previous HD-upgraded seasons on Blu-ray. Color is rich, detail is sufficient and light to moderate grain is visible. The image is at times a bit softer looking throughout this season, but that appears to be an artifact of production as opposed to any defect in the remastering. I should note that about 2 minutes of original camera negative for this season couldn’t be located (for the episodes The First Duty and Power Play) so they’ve been upconverted from SD. Meanwhile, the upgraded and updated visual effects continue to be superbly done, including new and more detailed planetscapes, new computer display imagery, the odd production error fix, great new views of the practical ship models and even a stunning new CG model of the Enterprise D used for select shots. Once again, the audio is available in a fine new 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’s natural and dynamic, with good clarity and staging.
All of the existing DVD extras have carried over here, including all 5 original DVD featurettes (Mission Overview: Year Five, Departmental Briefing: Year Five – Production, Departmental Briefing: Year Five – Visual Effects, Memorable Missions: Year Five and A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry), both Best Buy bonus featurettes (Intergalactic Guest Stars and Alien Speak) and episodic promos for each episode.
As always, CBS has crafted great new special features for this Blu-ray release too, including new audio commentaries on 4 episodes (Cause and Effect with Brannon Braga and Seth MacFarlane, The First Duty with Ronald D. Moore and Naren Shankar, I, Borg with René Echevarria and Mike & Denise Okuda, and The Inner Light with Morgan Gendel and Mike & Denise Okuda), plus newly-uncovered deleted scenes from 7 episodes in full HD and a gag reel.
Better still, producers Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett have turned in another fine set of in-depth HD documentaries for this season, including Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation and In Conversation The Music of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Requiem doc is split into two parts. Part One: The Needs of the Many (30 mins) focuses on the season’s writers and how their contributions to the show continued to grow and evolve over the season, highlighting select early season episodes. Their comments are intercut with really fascinating archival interview footage of Gene Roddenberry talking about his vision for Trek and why he believed the future would be a utopia. That’s fitting, because Part Two: The Needs of the Few (29 mins) then covers Gene’s passing (in October of 1991) and the impact it had on the show’s cast and crew. It then continues on to address additional episodes from the latter part of the season. Finally, In Conversation (74 mins) features Jeff Bond, author of The Music of Star Trek and co-producer of La-La Land Records’ excellent Star Trek: The Original Series – Soundtrack Collection CD box set (I’ve also known him personally for some time – trust me, Jeff knows his Trek), interviewing veteran TNG composers Jay Chattaway, Dennis McCarthy and Ron Jones about their scores for the series. What’s particularly interesting here is the different approaches each of them took to their work, and the way they were each given different leeway by the producers to explore the show’s musical soundscape. It’s yet another terrific batch of documentary content.
Bottom line: If you’re a die-hard fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and you’ve been enjoying CBS’s remastered BD releases thus far, this fifth installment should find a very welcome home in your Blu-ray library. Once more, our hats off to everyone involved at CBS for continuing to deliver great quality, content and value for the money.