Friday, September 6, 2013

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Four - 1990 [Blu-Ray]

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

As season four opens, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has been taken by the hive mind of the Borg, twisted into the villainous Locutus and forced to commit violent acts of aggression against the Federation. The crew of the Enterprise, now led by Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) races against time to stop him before Locutus reaches the heart of the Federation - Earth - and decimates its population.

The Borg are not the only threat the crew of the Enterprise will face this year. Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) will come face to face once more with his evil twin, Lore (also Brent Spiner) and his own creator (also also Brent Spiner). Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) will deal with the trauma of losing her empathic powers. Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) finds herself trapped in a slowly-collapsing alternate universe, with no means of her own escape. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) investigates the mysterious disappearances of some of his former crewmates, and discovers he may be next.  Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) will face his destiny as he is once again plunged into the dangerous world of Klingon politics.

Season Four finds the show firing on all cylinders, and is considered one of the best years of "Star Trek" ever produced. Thankfully, this Blu-Ray set presents this fine season in glorious form.

As with previous seasons, the live-action photography looks stellar. Again, the color of Starfleet uniforms is bold and bright, skin tones look fantastic. Additionally, image detail is astounding. While the fact that it's a decades-old TV show can't be hidden - and as such, there's inconsistency in the image from the original production - this is easily the best this show has ever looked, and likely ever will.

If there's an unfortunate downside at all, it's that the visual style of the show has gotten a bit bland by this point. So while all the detail and color look great, the show's lighting is somewhat flat and uninteresting - especially on board the Enterprise. Except, strangely, the Ten-Forward lounge set, which has wonderful atmosphere and deep shadows. If only the rest of the show looked that good!

As with the disappointing Season 2 release, Season 4 has been farmed out to another company for remastering. Unlike that release, however, Season 4 fares much better, and appears held back mostly due to faults of the original production rather than poor quality control. In this season, a new model of the Enterprise was used for filming, and was often lit in such a fashion that didn't quite do it justice. Still, many shots look extremely good.

There are a few shots, on the other hand, that are strangely low-quality. There's a shot of the Enterprise passing away from the camera that seems to have almost no detail on it at all - it's merely a bland gray shape for some reason. This shot is often used to close out an episode, and appears multiple times. It's very strange.

Overall, though, this is another great release. The quality of the episodes themselves, coupled with excellent remastering makes this one a worthy addition to any fan's collection.