Star Trek: The Next Generation

LaserDisc - US Release
Four years into the series run, Paramount began issuing The Next Generation episodes on LaserDisc in October 1991. All episodes feature Closed Captions and Digital Audio and CX encoding. No additional features were offered. And where The Original Series was issued in groups of five discs, Paramount elected to issue the discs in pairs. This extended the release schedule significantly, with the final episodes being release in May 1999.

Episode grouping was also changed to the now familiar "Production Order". This presented a couple of issues where events would seem to occur out of order. Case in point, the death of Tasha Yar and mysterious reappearance in the next episode and the rescue of Jean-Luc Picard from the Borg and three episodes later shows him still recovering from the surgery to remove his Borg implants. Another side affect was that with the exception of "Encounter at Farpoint," "Unification" and "All Good Things...", all two part episodes got split between two discs.

One major issue did crop up with the production of these episodes. Episode 166, "Sub Rosa" was produced from a faulty master tape and is missing 4½ minutes of footage - in fact, the complete second act is missing. A corrected master was obtained, but a repressing of the disc was never ordered.

For each season, the major artwork was changed on the jackets, with small windows on the cover with a clip from the episode. Some seasons, the artwork is really nice - my favorites are seasons one and six. Others are horrible, with the worse being season two, five and seven.

Paramount also issued several 'collections' of The Next Generation Episodes. The Borg Collective brought together four of the better "Borg" episodes - including a combined version of "Best of Both Worlds". The Q Continuum compiled five of the earlier "Q" episodes. Though it was billed as "the Best of Q", that point is highly arguable. "Worf: Return to Grace" is a collection of four episodes surround the loss and eventual restoration of Worf's family honor. A fourth collection was also issued, "The Captains Collection", which featured one episode from each of the four series.

LaserDisc - Japanese Release
Based on the success of release formula used when The Original Series was issued on LaserDisc in Japan, CIC Video (the Japanese releasing studio for Paramount titles) made a slight alteration to the formula and began issuing episodes of The Next Generation on LaserDisc. Instead of single box sets housing an entire season (each would have been a whopping 13 discs), CIC decided to split the seasons in half. Each ½ season was boxed in a deluxe slipcase (with the exception of the first season which are in actual boxes), containing six or seven discs. Each episode is Bilingual - English Stereo on the Digital Audio tracks and dubbed Japanese Stereo on the Analog tracks. Prices for each set were fairly high, between ¥38,000 and ¥60,000 per set.

Each episode is complete and unedited in this series. The episode "Sub Rosa", which was cut on the US versions, is complete in this series. They are presented in Production Order as with the US editions which presents the same issues - but as there were 12 or 14 episodes per box, none of the two part episodes are divided between box sets - with the exception of the season cliff hangers.

In an odd departure from the release of The Original Series in Japan, Log 1 & 2 do not include any chapter stops, Closed Captions or LaserDisc Graphics. These standard features are present in Logs 3 through 14. CIC also numbered the entire series oddly. The pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint is marked at Episode 000, and numbering begins with 001 with The Naked Now. As a result, the numbering sequence across the entire series is shifted by two. The irritating 'Production Order' episode grouping is used again on this release, making for the same continuity errors present on the US released discs.

External box art is consistent across the entire set of 14 boxes. Each disc is housed in its own jacket, complete with episode specific images. The jacket art is uniform across all 89 discs, which is a nice change from the US editions. There are no trailers included on any discs, and there is no bonus programming in any set.

DVD
In March 2002, Paramount began issuing The Next Generation on DVD. Learning from the mistakes of how The Original Series was released (Forty two-episode volumes), each season is released in a box set, with 7 DVDs in each box. (Season 2 has only 6 DVDs.) Each episode has been digitally remastered and includes a new 5.1 channel audio soundtrack. There are new supplemental features included on the last disc in each set, including documentaries and interviews.

Paramount also accelerated the release schedule, issuing a box set every two months, and issuing the last three seasons within 8 weeks of each other. Of interest however, is the grouping of episodes. Paramount has elected to return to the "broadcast order" on DVD, which will prevent the 'out of sequence' errors that occurred on the LaserDisc editions.

These same box set collections are being released in other markets as well, including Region 2 Europe (PAL) Region 2 Japan (NTSC). Packaging is relatively the same for these import sets, with some minor variations.

Season One
It was perhaps the most anticipated series premiere of all time. Star Trek: The Next Generation began its syndicated run during the week of September 28, 1987, with the two-hour pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint," and was watched in over 12 million North American households. Set in the 24th century, some 85 years after the classic series, the further voyages of the Starship Enterprise took up the continuing mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before." Outfitted with a host of new technologies - including a holodeck - the new one-of-a-kind U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC 1701-D) and its crew of more than 1,000 were off to a promising start. Despite early criticism of plot likes that too closely resembled those of the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation quickly developed its own devoted following and steadily climbed in both ratings and in the number of stations airing the program in prime time - a first for a syndicated series. By year-end, the series had become the No. 1 first-run hour-long series in syndication, reaching 9.4 million people in the United States and giving Paramount the confidence to boost the budget of Star Trek: The Next Generation to $1.5 million per episode. The space show's rise in popularity proved that Trekkers were once again hooked on the continuing adventures of a crew intent on exploring the unknown universe.
Season Two
Numerous changes were on the boards for cast and characters alike at the beginning of the second season. Most notable was the absence of Dr. Beverly Crusher. She had accepted a posting at Starfleet Medical and was replaced by Dr. Kate Pulaski (Diana Muldaur, a guest-star from the classic series), whose sometimes crusty and stubborn personality was renascent of another famous doctor in the classic series. Among the crew, La Forge becomes chief engineer and Worf's promotion to security chief (replacing the late Tasha Yar) is made permanent. Meanwhile, Riker has grown a beard and Deanna adopts a more flattering hair style and uniform. And tending bar in the ship's Ten-Forward lounge as Picard's old friend Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), who, like most bartenders, serves up good advice with two fingers of synthehol. While ambitious plot lines would give way this year to character development and a chance for the cast to have some fun, the 1988 strike by the Writers Guild delayed the start of the season and shortened its run from 26 to 22 episodes. The quality, however, did not suffer, with viewers being treated to a much more insightful view of the Federation in the 24th century.
Season Three
The third season would mark Star Trek: The Next Generation's emergence from the shadow of its predecessor. The new series' writing staff matured under the leadership of Michael Piller, and the day-to-day operations passed from Gene Roddenberry to new executive producer Rick Berman. This season's plot lines would emphasize character development, humor, and scripts with a social conscience - stories that would attract a new legion of faithful fans. And, thanks in part to a vigorous letter-writing campaign waged by devoted fans, the third-season start saw yet another change in medical officers, as Gates McFadden returned to the role of Dr. Beverly Crusher (just back from a year-long assignment at Starfleet Medical). The look of ST:TNG changed as well, as new costume designer Robert Blackman replaced the men's one-piece jumpsuit - that had so constrained Starfleet staff - with the striking and flexible two-piece uniforms worn by crew until 1996. That, of course, lead to the "Picard Maneuver" - the small tug Patrick Stewart gives to his uniform top when it starts riding up on him. A small gesture, certainly, but the trademark tug somehow defined the captain in a manner no other script detail ever could.
Season Four
Trekkers impatiently awaited the resolution of season three's cliffhanger. Could Picard be rescued from the Borg? Was it possible to stop the Borg from destroying the Federation? The summerlong suspense only added to the success of "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II." The fanfare over that episode had barely died down when "Legacy," Star Trek: The Next Generation's 80th episode, aired in late October, breaking the mark set by the original series' 79-episode run. The fourth season would also mark the return of may previous guests, including Q, Lwaxana Troi, Lieut. Barclay, Dr. Leah Brahms and the Traveler. And, in what was to become the season's dominant theme, nine of the first 11 episodes dealt with family: Worf introduces his foster parents, meets his son and then avenges his lover's death; Picard returns home to reconcile with the brother he hasn't seen in 20 years; and Data meets his father, battles his evil twin brother and learns how to love. This was also the season of maturity: Wesley takes his leave of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D to study at Starfleet Academy; O'Brien gets married; and Worf takes responsibility for his son - and his life as a Klingon. Altogether, the forth season featured the greatest number of episodes ever to deal with character development.
Season Five
The fifth season was launched with great fanfare to celebrate Star Trek's 25th anniversary - not bad for a show that NBC tried to kill more than once. By the fall of 1991, Star Trek: The Next Generation was achieving weekly ratings that would have placed it on the Nielsen Top 10 prime-time every week - had it been televised on a U.S. network. The season boasted top-notch scripts and consistently fine performances. Even in the absence of a network berth, the show still managed to capture a handful of Emmy awards for technical excellence.

Stories this season would shift their emphasis to character development, social commentary and the importance of overcoming personal differences to fight for a common goal. Issues such as vengeance, sexual preference, euthanasia and genetic engineering were explored without succumbing to preachiness or forsaking the action- adventure mode that was Star Trek's hallmark. Fans noted the absence this season of Q - the roguish mischief-maker and fan favorite. And, on a much sadder note, the world bid farewell to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who dies in October 1991. Even with the death of the Great Bird of the Galaxy, no one doubted that his vision would continue to live long and prosper.

Season Six
With rumors already circulating that Star Trek: The Next Generation's sixth season might well be its last, the year was marked by storylines that brought closure to earlier episodes, and allowed several characters a sense of completeness in their lives: Data, in seeking his father, again meets up with his evil twin; Worf, undertaking his own paternal quest, explores the spiritual side of his Klingon nature; Riker, while encountering his other self, gets a second chance to build a life with Deanna; and Picard, on a journey to the afterlife, is tempted to undo his past mistakes. And while Q - to fans' delight - resurfaces in the sixth season to resume his mischief-making, Lwaxana Troi - another fan favorite - unfortunately does not return. It's a season packed with emotion. Great excitement surrounds the launch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - the third Star Trek incarnation - while The Next Generation series experiences its own score of sentimental high notes, including the return of Lt.-Cmdr. Montgomery Scott to the Federation fold and the guest appearance of physicist Stephen Hawking in the season finale. With the cast eventually signing to a seventh year, the sixth season would emerge as one of superb storytelling, stories that allowed the crew to seek out new life, as well as explore within.
Season Seven
As the seventh season began, family re-emerged as Star Trek: The Next Generation's dominant theme, with several earlier (fourth season) storylines brought full circle. The focus on father-child relationships in earlier episodes would switch in the seventh season as crew members - particularly Geordi, Data and Deanna - sought to define their relationships with their mothers. On the romantic front, two simmering relationships - Picard and Crusher, Troi and Worf - were at last reignited. The year would also be marked by a number of clever science-driven episodes, one of them ("Genesis") allowing Gates McFadden to make her directorial debut. But all good things must come to an end - as the title of the final TV episode would underscore. When Paramount confirmed in early November that the seventh season would be the last, the series - that was always about so much more than phasers and warp speed - began to tie up loose ends. And while setting the stage for the fourth TV series - Star Trek: Voyager - ST:TNG finished its run in the same position in which it had begun: the Number 1 hour-long drama in syndication.

Season summary material from Star Trek: Thirty Years - Special Collectors Edition ©1996 Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Updated: April 19, 2003
Send comments and mail to: Blaine Young
©2003 Blam Entertainment Group