RUNNING TIME: 181 minutes
Paramount goes where far too many cash-ins have gone before.
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby
Best Of highlights four of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s most well regarded episodes:
1) Best of Both Worlds, Part I, the intro to the fan favorite Borg two-part cliffhanger episode;
2) Best of Both Worlds, Part II, wrapping up the cliffhanger episode;
3) Yesterday’s Enterprise, a temporal anomaly episode featuring an increasingly regretful Denise Crosby as Lt. Yar;
4) The Measure of a Man, the seminal Data-centric I, Robot homage which was later made into a Clay Aiken album and lampooned by Sidney Poitier.
TNG never had it easy. Airing years after the original series to impossibly high expectations, the show was seemingly a disaster waiting to happen. Critics and angry fans decried the staid, Kirk-less bridge, and loathed the useless Will Riker and annoying Wesley Crusher. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all came with MAD Magazine’s infamous 1998 hit piece, Star Blecch: The Next Degradation.
20 years and countless message board jokes later, there’s still no real bridge conflict, everyone still misses Kirk, and Riker is still a dipshit, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to like about the Enterprise-D. Especially in its first few seasons, TNG was a thoughtful science fiction show, rather than an action centric space drama; reality-bending space hermits, strange alien cultures, timeline loops, and sentient machines (and soil!) were among some of the show’s more memorable highlights, and although it certainly feels campy now, it’s a fun trip worth remembering.
As an individual part of the Trek universe, however, Star Trek: The Next Generation is in limbo. Prior to May 9th, fans could have rightfully pointed to the Enterprise-D as the most entertaining part of Trek canon outside of the original series, but now that Abrams’ new film shoulders that laurel, it won’t be easy to get new blood interested in TNG. Will Paramount’s Best Of compilation win anyone over, or is it a huge pile of shit?
Unfortunately for fans of holodeck mishaps and hot Earl Grey, this compilation is just a well timed cash-in.
This isn’t an indictment of the actual show, mind you. Best of Both Worlds parts I and II are among TNG’s finest episodes, and Yesterday’s Enterprise is clever and fun. This Best Of is a bare bones, uglier-than-standard-definition dingleberry wipe of a package. There’s absolutely no reason for any fan of the show to pick this compilation up, and in addition to that, there’s so very little here to draw in new fans.
After a 15 minute trailer marathon for the Abrams film and various TOS restorations, the compilation drops you into the ugliest menu screen outside of Idiocracy. There’s nothing to do here besides watch the episodes and re-watch the trailers, making the actual content feel even more like a chocolate coating for a marketing pill. Worse by far is the abysmally bad video transfer, which rivals VHS extended play for quality. I half expected to see vintage commercials for Nuprin pop up between chapter breaks. The audio isn’t nearly as bad (TNG was among the first shows to incorporate Dolby Surround), but that doesn’t mitigate the awfulness of the video. It’s evident that no effort went in to making any of these look good, and the whole compilation suffers as a result.
As far as the episodes themselves go, they’re a decent intro to TNG, but for a show that ran for seven seasons, there‘s a valid debate that four episodes isn’t nearly enough to get a good feel for ST:TNG. $8.99 might sound like a bargain, but I’d definitely wait for a better transfer before wasting a dime on this.
Awful, awful, awful. The cheap case adorned with a bland trek logo meshes perfectly with the shoddy product. There are no bonus features.