The Season "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Grew Into Its Own Review

Some of the best television programs tend to take awhile to get going. Unfortunately, nowadays network executives seem to be shockingly trigger-happy with the cancellation button. If they had felt that way circa 1989, Star Trek: The Next Generation might not have grown into the phenomenon that it has, one that rivals the original series for fanatical science-fiction loyalty (and, it must be noted, ran four seasons longer than the prematurely canceled original version). I myself am possibly the only child of the Eighties who did not grow up on The Next Generation, my parents being hardcore fans of the Shatner-riffic original series who accepted no substitutes, even if said substitute starred one of the most talented actors ever to grace the small screen in the form of Sir Patrick Stewart.

The differences between the swashbuckling Captain James T. Kirk and the Captain Jean-Luc Picard are so many and so stark that it is hard to compare the two, and similarly, it is hard to compare the two programs despite both being of the Star Trek universe. The original series is campy, comical and somewhat dated, with special effects that could be done by an enthusiastic group of kids in their garage; however, it is charming, entertaining and a landmark science-fiction television program. The Next Generation, coming along nearly twenty years after the original series was canceled, takes itself far more seriously, yet for the first two seasons it seemed as though creator Gene Roddenberry was having a hard time emerging from his own shadow. The characters were rather two-dimensional, especially the women; killing off one female character before the end of season one and then firing another prior season two did not help matters. Many of the show’s early storylines revolved too much around sexuality and other soap opera-style antics and not enough around the high-stakes missions the crew were on. Indeed, for the first two seasons the show seemed to rely a bit too much on the cult quality of the Star Trek brand and the Shakespearean acting chops of Stewart, as well as Brent Spiner’s remarkable performance as the android Data.

Season three of The Next Generation, in contrast, is a marvel, and truly when the show began to stand on its own two feet. Wil Wheaton’s annoying teenage prodigy Wesley Crusher is unfortunately still on board the Enterprise, but you can’t win ‘em all. Early mistakes, such as the firing of the lovely Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, were remedied, and the writing improved by leaps and bounds. That isn’t to say that there are not weak episodes among the 26 that make up the third season; "The Price,” in particular, is a goofy and stupid hour that (once again) decides to reduce Marina Sirtis’ Counselor Deanna Troi to a girly sex object rather than treat her like the respected Starfleet officer that she is. Episodes like “The Defector,” which forces the crew of the Enterprise to decide whether or not a it is worth risking intergalactic war over what a supposed Romulan defector has to say, are much stronger because they actually deal with the history, cultures and stakes of the universe that Roddenberry created. Also brilliant is “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a time-travel mindbender that features great performances from guest star Whoopi Goldberg, as the enigmatic and wise Enterprise bartender Guinan, as well as Denise Crosby, reprising her role as the unfortunately deceased season one tactical officer Tasha Yar, brought back to life in an alternate timeline that should not have been allowed to happen. It all culminates in one of the greatest cliffhangers in television history, “The Best of Both Worlds: Part 1,” which allows Jonathan Frakes to come into his own as second-in-command William Riker (honestly the most Kirk-like character in The Next Generation) when he is forced to face off against his formerly beloved Captain Picard, now one of the evil Borg. These, plus any episodes that feature Data, are definitely the high points of what was already a quality season.

It’s not just the better storytelling that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three worth picking up. The extra penny to be shelled out for Blu-ray quality is definitely worth spending, as the visuals are far crisper and more colorful than what you get when you watch on Netflix , BBC America, or one of the other media outlets where these episodes are available. It’s a great set for any Star Trek, science fiction or television fan in general, and a true testament to how some shows really need to be given a little extra time to grow into becoming classics. Well, except for Star Trek: Voyager. That was rubbish.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The six-disc Blu-ray set of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three contains enough special features to satisfy even the most hungry Trek fan. There is a lovely tribute to deceased producer and writer Michael Piller, who many credit with giving both the show and the Star Trek franchise in general a much-needed creative boost. Also enjoyable is the gag reel that features teenage Wesley Crusher cursing more than any of the adults on set. Hardcore fans especially appreciate the making-of documentary for three episodes and the audio commentaries on several others, as well as a Seth MacFarlane-hosted roundtable with four of the show’s most prominent writers. The six-disc set also includes “Archival Mission Logs,” episodic promos, and an “In Memoriam” feature for actor David Rappaport.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three" is on sale April 30, 2013 and is not rated. Sci-Fi. Directed by Cliff Bole, Les Landau. Written by Gene Roddenberry, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Michael Piller et. al.. Starring Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart.

May
01
2013
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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