Written by Hombre Divertido
Less than a week after the new Star Trek motion picture hit the big screen, Paramount rushed two single-disk “Best of” DVD releases to the store shelves with no bonus material, and a mere four episodes per disk. One might accept four episodes chosen out of the 79 episodes from the Original Series, but, one could reasonably expect more to be included in The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation considering the complete series consists of more than twice as many episodes as its predecessor.
One might also expect better than what’s included. They aren’t terrible, but all represent writing that rush the all-to-convenient endings almost as much as these DVD releases were rushed into production. The four episodes include a two-part outing featuring the relentless Borg, a story revolving around the rights of Data to control his “life”, and a story with time travel at its center, which has become a tired theme in the Trek franchise.
The first offering is “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 1) which aired on June 18th, 1990 and served as the cliffhanger conclusion to season three of this iconic series. Written by Michael Piller and directed by Cliff Bole, we find the Federation unprepared for the inevitable encounter with the hostile Borg with whom we became familiar in episode sixteen (“Q Who”) of season two. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is captured by the Borg and assimilated. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), who is dealing with an aggressive up-and-coming officer who is after his job, and concerns about his career choices, must give the order to blow up the Borg vessel with Picard (now called Locutus of Borg) aboard.
“Worlds” (Part 1) is a fine episode that will set the stage for many storylines to come, including the war between the Federation and the powerful Borg, the after affects of Picard’s assimilation, Riker’s career choices, and more. The aspects of the production are good, though there are some disappearing Borg drones between the assimilated Picard and the away team when he is first spotted, that create a distraction.
Season four opens with “Worlds” (Part 2) and finds that Riker did indeed pull the trigger on the Borg cube, but the weapon failed and the Borg, and the assimilated Picard live on. Unfortunately the writing in the second installment is more reflective of the other two episodes in this Best of release, in that the plot simply gets resolved all too conveniently i.e.: Picard is rescued, de-assimilated, Borg ship destroyed, etc. The facts related to the respective accomplishments are too convoluted, and the impact of the battle between the Federation and the Borg ship is not truly dealt with in this episode, though the impact will be felt in future Trek endeavors. “The Best of Both Worlds” is one fine story, but not worthy of taking up half of the Best of release.
Next up is “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” which aired on February 19th, 1990. Directed by David Carson with numerous writers involved, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” deals with a rift in the space/time continuum that allows for a previous Enterprise ship to come 22 years into the future, changing the timeline and the lives of the current Enterprise crew. The Federation is now at war with the Klingon Empire, some characters are gone, and others have returned. This paradox creates a very interesting story. Unfortunately it is far too reliant on the fact that Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) is the only one who is aware that the timeline has changed, must convince the Picard that the previous Enterprise must return to its own time even though it is doomed, and she is unable to be specific regarding her knowledge. This aspect of the story is annoying, as are references to what current history records reveal about the history of the visiting ship. This is the most enjoyable episode in this release, despite the previously mentioned flaws, simply because it has more depth of story than the others.
The final episode on the disk was written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and directed by Robert Scheerer, and aired on February 13th, 1989. In “The Measure of a Man” Data’s rights as a sentient individual are put on trial with Picard defending Data, and Riker reluctantly leading the opposition. This episode has some of the best dialog in the release, but simply does not go deep enough and is resolved too easily. The story fails to adequately play out the concept.
Recommendation: There is enough Next Generation fun here for the price, but no bonus material; providing only four episodes, two of which are one story; and ignoring seasons five through seven is inexcusable. Good, but should have been much better to be The Best.