With the release of the new Star Trek film, there was bound to be a rash of releases of the stuff that went before. And, well, why not? With over four decades of material to choose from, all of those who hadn't gone before will likely want to catch up.
The Best Of Star Trek: The Next Generation, also known as Star Trek: TNG, contains three episodes (one of them in two parts) of what the producers say are the best of the original series. For those who are not familiar with much more than the new movie, from a timeline point of view, this series takes place at a point after the movie you saw, and 80 years after the original series. In our timeline, this series ran from 1987 to 1994.
The DVD comes with four episodes from the Next Generation series, but only three storylines. The episodes do not follow in their original release order so I have made note of both the air date and their sequential order.
"The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I & II" is truly a classic from Star Trek: TNG and in fact, while it can be debated if it is the best of the series, it shows what made this series so great. Not only is it a two-part episode that could make it as a small feature film, but it was one of those ultimate cliffhangers that spanned across two seasons.
The episodes presented here are classified as episode #74 which first aired on June 18, 1990, and #75 which aired on September 24, 1990. Along with being great entertainment these episodes added to the modern pop culture the phrases "Resistance is futile" and "You will be assimilated."
In this story, the Borg, who were first introduced in the episode "Q Who" during the second season, are now being blamed for the destruction of a colony along the Romulan Neutral Zone. Lt. Commander Shelby, a tactician and expert on the Borg, arrives to help with the investigation. It becomes quickly apparent that she is after Commander Riker's position as second in command, while he is being pressured to take command of his own starship.
When the Enterprise over takes a Borg ship that had been sighted in the vicinity, the Borg turn and lock the Enterprise in a tractor beam and demand that Captain Picard turn himself over to them. When he refuses, they board the ship and take him by force. After some failed attempts to rescue the Captain, he hails them from the Borg ship. He has been assimilated, and is now the Borg Locutus. This is where season three ended.
As season four begins, it is realized that Locutus now has Picard's knowledge and the Borg are better prepared for battle with the Enterprise. It is Guinan who advises the newly promoted Captain Riker that he must no longer think like Picard and think for himself if they are going to survive.
While I have many favorites from TNG, I would classify this as one of the best episodes of all Star Trek incarnations. Not only does it have great drama and conflict, it has one of the best repeating minor characters from the series – Guinan as played by Whoopi Goldberg.
It is reported that Goldberg asked to be included in the show because the Uhura character from the original series had influenced her to get into acting. At first the producers wondered why an actress of her caliber would want to do a minor role in a show sold through first-run syndication, but they eventually created her a role as a bartender who has connections with the captain. This again is what made this series so great, the depth and complexity of the characters.
"Yesterday's Enterprise" was the 63rd episode and appeared in season three, airing on February 19,1990. It brought back a fan favorite, Denise Crosby, to reprise her role as Tasha Yar.
In this episode the Enterprise D encounters a rift in space-time in which the Enterprise C emerges from very heavily damaged. As this happens, the entire atmosphere of the Enterprise D changes – it becomes the battle cruiser Enterprise. Worf is gone, and Tasha is back.
In fact, the Federation is now battling the Klingons who are fast approaching the rift. The crew of the Enterprise C finds that they have traveled 22 years into the future where the Federation is losing a long war with the Klingon Empire. Again, Guinan is able to discern that things are not right and exerts her influence with Captain Picard.
While not necessarily one of my favorite episodes, it does present a thoughtful presentation of a time-space problem intelligently and at the least scores a seven or eight on a ten-point scale. I particularly like the scene where, in the only time that Tasha and Guinan meet in the series, Guinan tells Yar that she is not suppose to be alive, and in fact, that she died a meaningless death. Great stuff!
"The Measure of a Man" is a second season episode and is listed as episode 35. It aired on February 13, 1989. While the Enterprise is docked at a new starbase for maintenance, scientist Bruce Maddox, who was on the panel that OK'ed Data to enter Starfleet, now comes aboard and has permission to disassemble Data for study. Maddox, who cast the only dissenting vote that Data was not a sentient being, has now persuaded some in Starfleet that Data is in fact the property of Starfleet.
Picard challenges this ruling, and forces Starfleet Judge Advocate General Philippa Louvois, who had previously court-martialed him over the loss of the Stargazer, to hold a hearing to determine Data's status. Louvois forces Riker to represent the prosecution, with Picard as the defense counsel.
This episode plays out well and while Riker does his best to convict Data as he is forced to, Picard, once again with Guinan's help, is able to defend Data. I liked this episode because it challenges the meaning of what life is, but shows how, when you don't understand all of the implications, you should err on the side of the individual.
There are no extras or special features on this DVD. There are previews, but in as much as that is just sales potential, I do not consider them extras. The quality of the DVD is well done.
When having only four selections out of a total of 178 episodes, one could argue whether these are really the best. I can think of at least five more, including "The Inner Light" where Picard is forced to experience a lifetime as a married man on a world that was destroyed over a thousand years earlier, that should be included. But I would also bet that if you asked 100 fans what the best episodes were they would be hard-pressed to narrow it to four episodes and so I will say that these are four of the better episodes of the series.
While on one hand I wish that this were a multi-disk compilation of the best, from the standpoint of someone who is wanting to see if they would like more, this does its job at a reasonable price. If you own the second season, third or fourth season, there is really no point in getting this. Just go ahead and complete your collection. If you want a taste of what the series was like, I'd recommend it