- The Washington Times
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Paramount and CBS Digital continue to beautifully immortalize the crew of the starship USS Enterprise-D with the high-definition release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Six (CBS Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $129.99).

The latest collection arrives on six Blu-ray disks and, again, as with all of the latest re-releases of The Next Generation series, remastered to eye-watering brilliance.

Owners get all 26 episodes of the show originally appreciated during the 1992 to 1993 television season. Yeah, remember the days when a TV show season lasted more than eight to 12 episodes.

That translates into some classic “Trek” for fans highlighted by the adventures of such legends as Capt. Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn), Cmdr. William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton).

Within the set are some of my favorite episodes including:

Relics — Chief engineer La Forge investigates a deserted, nearly destroyed, ship and finds someone purposely stuck in in the transporter buffer. I’ll be darn, it’s Scottie (actor James Doohan), the engineer from the original “Star Trek” series. What follows is a wonderful story as the old Montgomery Scott tries to fit in with the new Enterprise and its crew, and eventually realizes he still has a value in the universe.

Chain of Command — A two-part episode eventually finds Picard relentlessly and brutally tortured by a Cardassian (not Kim or but the villainous actor extraordinaire David Warner) after being caught in a covert mission on the planet Celtris III. The mind games played out will have any fan of George Orwell’s novel “1984” in full salute.

Tapestry — Thanks to the mystical powers of alien “Q,” Picard gets to relive key moments in his life in the most Frank Capra of story lines. Both Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie deliver powerhouse performances here.

Descent — A cliffhanger ending for Season 6 revolves around the crew dealing with a major threat from a unique collection of Borg, while Data has an emotional response to the entire situation. Watch for an appearance by esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking.

What’s important throughout each show, presented in its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio (meaning not wide-screen but old-school size TV), is the CBS Digital team of artisans’ meticulous remastering effort.

They, once again, took the original 35-mm camera negatives, rescanned them and reassembled each show often rebuilding the special effects shots from scratch to deliver the incredible visuals while bundling the look with enhanced DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound. The result is a brilliant viewing experience for the connoisseur of the series.

The great news is almost everything looks amazing from the costuming and special effects to the fine detail on the ship modeling and planets. However, makeup suffers with the high-resolution format making Worf’s head appliance look like a piece of painted plastic.

Still, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Season Six provides some of the best and most intelligent science fiction of the era and arguable some of the best television in the history of the medium.

Best extras: The bonus content is really the remastered shows themselves, what a treat. However, I will mention a trio of new audio commentaries (“Relics” with writer Ronald D. Moore is essential), deleted scenes, crew profiles, episode promos and the near 90-minute documentary “Beyond the Five Year Mission — The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Broken up into three segments (Lithosphere, Biosphere and Noosphere), viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at the entire series, including time devoted to the break out series “Deep Space Nine,” interviews with production staff as well as the actors and a lively bit with Whoopie Goldberg (of course, Guinan the bartender on the USS Enterprise-D).

Play the show (literally): Trekkers wielding an iOS device (iPad, iPhone or iPod) will appreciate the very old-school adventure “Star Trek: Trexels” ($2.99, YesGnome LLC). Offering characters and locations from the original series as well as “The Next Generation,” the action requires building rooms on a Constitution-class starship, resource management and sending crews to boldly go where no pixelated man has gone before.

Expect trouble from the Borg, Klingons and the relentless in-app purchase marketing messages with plenty of screen-tapping and time-wasting required.

Besides the genuine sound effects and interior ship detail, fans will recognize a voice in the game, the legendary George Takei (Sulu from the original “Star Trek” show) as he reads the famed opening lines.

Read all about it: IDG Publishing keeps the “Star Trek” sequential-art universe alive with not only a monthly comic book ($3.99 each) but also plenty of collected editions. For “Next Generation” fans, I suggest the trade paperback “Star Trek: Countdown ($17.99)” compiling the four-issue miniseries from 2009. Although it’s a prequel to the J.J. Abrams movie reboot of the franchise, its storyline continues to explore the lives of such “Next Generation” stalwarts as Jean Luc Picard, Worf and Data.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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