Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
List Price
$129.99
Amazon
$67.25 (48%)
3rd Party
$52.06
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
4.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 3

Street Date:
April 30th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 25th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
1990
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
1181 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The third season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was when the series really started to click in just about every episode. By now we're familiar with the crew, we're familiar with how they interact with the future tech, and we even start to recognize some of the futuristic scientific jargon they're throwing around (although, sometimes I feel just as lost during a conversation between Geordie and Data as I do during a medical diagnostic meeting on 'House'). Point is, after seasons one and two, the show had worked its way into a groove, so instead of introductory episodes that explore cursory information about characters and the objectives of the Enterprise, the storylines tend to get deeper and more philosophical. It's a joy to watch 'TNG' when the episode is not only entertaining, but thoughtful.

Season three explores some very deep and, at times, controversial themes. The fourth episode of the season, "Who Watches the Watchers," is one of the more fascinating episodes as far as I'm concerned. The Enterprise is called upon to help a team of Federation scientists who are observing the growth and evolution of a primitive alien species called the Mintakans. Their directive is very clear. They are, under no circumstances, to engage the Minakan people. If they are seen, the evolution of an entire species may be disrupted. Through a few unfortunate events, the Mitankan people end up believing that Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is their god. What seems like a funny premise soon turns into a poignant and candid philosophical debate about religion. Truthfully, I don't know that a show nowadays would discuss the cons of religion (Picard is fully convinced that their belief in a god will hinder their evolution as a people greatly) so plainly.

Everyone gets their fair share of character-centric episodes. Wesley accidentally releases nanites into the ship's computer system ("Evolution"); Geordi (LeVar Burton) finds the dating scene difficult so he resorts to recreating female scientists that share his love for engineering ("Booby Trap"); Worf (Michael Dorn) befriends a recently orphaned boy whose mother was killed on a routine exploratory mission ("The Bonding"); Troi (Marina Sirtis) ends up falling in love with Lloyd Braun (Dan Shor) from 'Seinfeld' ("The Prince"); and Data (Brent Spiner) does his best to save a colony of stubborn settlers who have settled on a planet belonging to a hostile alien race ("The Ensigns of Command"). And, that's only the first few episodes.

This season is filled with memorable moments as we get to know the intricacies of the characters populating the Enterprise. With that knowledge we learn about their ambitions, goals, trepidations, and fears. We're introduced to new alien races, while revisiting old ones like the greedy Frenegi and the blood-thirsty Romulans. We even get another visit from our old friend Q (John de Lancie), which may make you happy or annoyed depending on your feelings toward him.

Perhaps season three is best remembered for its finale, "Best of Both Worlds: Part 1." Having been introduced to the Borg in season two, it isn't until this season where we feel the full weight of their power. "Best of Both Worlds" is such a fan favorite that CBS decided to put out a feature-length version of both parts. Usually, in adventure-centric shows like 'TNG' it's easy to think, "Oh, it's alright. It'll all turn out well in the end." But, when season three ends and Picard is in the clutches of the Borg, it's extremely difficult to think that. The way the conflict between the Enterprise crew and the Borg is handled truly makes it one of the best episodes of the series.

Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Season three is presented by CBS Home Entertainment. They’ve provided a 6-disc set utilizing 50GB Blu-ray Discs. There are 26 episodes in the season. Discs one through three and disc five have five episodes each. Disc four has four episodes. Disc six contains two episodes. The discs come in a slightly oversized Blu-ray keepcase which contains two swinging arms that each house two discs back to back. The set comes complete with a slipcover that matches the rest of the sets.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video remastering of the second season was farmed out to another company in order for CBS to keep up with their release schedule. The differences were significant, with season two ending up with a good-looking, but ultimately flawed video presentation. This season was taken care of in house at CBS, and I must say that none of the errors that appeared in the second season release show up here. So far, the remastering of season three is the best the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Blu-rays have looked.

Completely remastered to 1080p from its original film elements, season three looks stellar. It's evident here that there certainly is a ton of detailed video information that simply wasn't available back when the show was first airing. The original film elements have captured so much minute detail that fans will likely be surprised by what they're seeing here. Along with the overall boost in picturesque clarity is the added bonus that CBS has gone through and meticulously recreated, or digitally touched-up, many of the visual effects used throughout the season. Never do these enhancements appear garish or out of place, like say many of George Lucas' changes to the original 'Star Wars' movies. Here the transition scenes, like the Enterprise floating in a planet's orbit, have been completely reworked for an HD look. The Enterprise itself looks beautifully authentic, gleaming in all its starship glory. The varied planets depict clouds, weather systems, land masses, oceans, and all sorts of other landmarks and details that make them look much more genuine than the fuzzy planet masses that aired in the original episodes.

While there are a ton of improvements here, there are a few things to keep your eye out for. For those of you that watched the show religiously, do you remember how difficult it was to see some of those darker episodes? Now episodes like “The Enemey,” which were filmed predominantly in darkened sets, have much more clarity and detail to look at. No longer do shadows overtake the entire picture. Yes, at times shadows can be a little unforgiving, some minor crush here and there, but it's nowhere near as bad as it was. Even compared to the DVDs, this is a huge improvement. The black areas are stable, inky, and unencumbered by digital noise.

The other aspect of this transfer that will be perfectly noticeable from the first episode on, is how the color pops. Colors are definitely much more vibrant this time around. All you have to do is take a look at the reds and yellows of the Star Fleet uniforms and compare them to what they looked like in standard definition, and you'll see a gigantic difference. The red of the officer uniforms is actually much more crimson, rather than a light fuzzy red color.

Finally, detail is extraordinary (except for a few soft focus moments). Sometimes it calls a bit too much attention to make-up and wig lines, but for the most part it does little to distract. Instead the detail on display here attracts attention. Everything from the pores on Data's gleaming skin to the hairs in Riker's manly beard are completely visible. There are times where those uniforms hug unfortunate parts of the body – poor Deanna Troi – which can cause for some funny, "Did I see what I just saw?" moments. Let's put it this way, the black bottom areas of the uniforms are no longer simply black masses. There’s much more definition and detail in there than you've ever seen.

There's no need to expound more. Season three is the best looking season of 'TNG' so far. It’s plainly obvious that farming out the second season video presentation wasn’t a good idea. It's great to see that CBS took the reins here and turned out an amazing, fan-pleasing product.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The first season release came complete with audio problems. Those of you that have been buying these seasons know that. CBS and Paramount soon instituted a disc replacement program to help out customers who had purchased the defective discs. Season two may have been released with some glaring video errors, but as far as sound goes it sounded superb. The same applies with season three.

Sporting a newly minted 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, the third season features some wonderfully full-bodied audio that will certainly give your surround sound a workout. On the bridge, beeps and boops of the Enterprise computer are placed perfectly in the rear and side speakers. Phasers travel seamlessly from one channel to another as they shoot across the frame. The low rumble of the Enterprise as it passes by has just enough LFE to be felt in your chest. The opening, as the Enterprise zooms by at warp speed, sounds fantastic. The whoosh travels fluidly through the front channels and into the side channels, creating an encompassing effect that never gets old.

Dialogue is always placed just so. The center channel hosts much of the show's dialogue as the front channels are used for deft directionality. Rear channels provide more than adequate ambiance whether it be action in space as the Enterprise engages in interstellar dogfights, or a team of crew members lands on a strange planet to have a look around.

Fans should be more than happy with this remixed audio track. There are no glaring problems or oversights to report. CBS and Paramount have obviously learned from the mistake on the first season and haven't committed it again.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Episode Promos (SD, 30 min.) - Each episode has an episode promo attached to it. They're fun for nostalgic reasons, but little else.

Disc 1

  • Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Three (SD, 18 min.) - Cast and crew give a general overview of what the season was like, the enormous writing and creative hurdles they had to overcome, and how fondly they remembered the seasons after the show was over.

Disc 2

  • Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew (SD, 14 min.) - Actors like Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, among others, sit down and talk about how they're characters progressed in season three.

Disc 3

  • Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Three: Memorable Missions (SD, 13 min.) - Cast and crew discuss their favorite episodes and reminisce about the production of each one.

Disc 4

  • Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Three: Production (SD, 20 min.) - First, Michael Piller gives a quick rundown of how he became head writer, and the sort of mess the show was in (no scripts) at the beginning of the season. Later on visual effects supervisor Dan Curry comes on to talk about the show's special effects and their production.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Audio Commentaries - There are five commentaries included throughout the season. Four of them have been newly recorded for this release specifically. They are: Episode 5 “The Bonding” – Ron Moore, Mike Okuda, and Denise Okuda (Brand New); Episode 15 “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – David Carson (Previously Recorded); Episode 15 “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – Moore, Mike and Denise Okuda, and Ira Steven Behr (Brand New); Episode 16 “The Offispring” – The Okudas and Rene Echevarria (Brand New); Episode 17 “Sins of the Father” – Moore, and the Okudas (Brand New).

Disc 5

  • Gag Reel (HD, 9 min.) - While I'm not a huge fan of gag reels, these 'TNG' reels are actually a tad more enjoyable than the standard screw-up scenes we see masquerading a special features. There's something about watching Patrick Stewart mess up that's funny to me.

Disc 6

  • Resistance is Futile – Assimilating 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' (HD, 90 min.) - Split into three parts, "Biological Distinctiveness," "Technological Distinctiveness," and "The Collective," this expansive documentary focuses on the show's writing team and the grand influence Michael Piller, head writer, had on season three's progression and its concentration on genuine character development. This is a great feature if you're looking to expand your knowledge on how the show grew creatively through its third season and what made it one of the best seasons the show has to offer.

  • Inside the Writer's Room (HD, 71 min.) - Hosted by Seth McFarlane this eye-opening, entertaining roundtable discussion includes writers Ronald D. Moore, Naren Shankar, and René Echevarria. They're also joined by executive producer Brannon Braga. McFarlane creates a fun atmosphere for the show creators to discuss their work on the third season, how it affected them, what they thought about the finished product, and how they view the experience today. This feature is definitely worth your time if you're a hardcore fan or simply a casual follower.

  • Tribute to Michael Piller (HD, 14 min.) - In memoriam of Piller, who passed away in 2005, friends, family, and colleagues take a few minutes to remember his life, his creativity, and his influence on 'TNG.'

Final Thoughts

The third season is a seminal moment in the show's illustrious run. Even though the season started out under great turmoil with a new writing staff and no set scripts, the showrunners and writing team found a way to bring out the best the series had to offer. It's apparent they set their sights on really developing and understanding the beloved characters of the Enterprise. They tackled controversial and poignant topics, often taking stances that might not be politically correct. Throw in the fact that this is the best season as far as stellar Blu-ray presentation goes, and this release comes very highly recommended.

Technical Specs

  • 6-Disc Set
  • 50GB Blu-ray Discs

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • German: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish

Supplements

  • Archival Mission Logs
  • Promo Trailers for all 26 episodes

Exclusive HD Content

  • Resistance is Futile: Assimilating The Next Generation (HD)
  • Audio Commentary on Selected Episodes (with Rene Echevarria, Jonathan Frakes, Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, David Carson and others)
  • Star Trek The Next Generation: Inside The Writer's Room (HD)
  • A Tribute to Michael Piller (HD)
  • Bloopers: Gag Reel (HD)

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$129.99
Amazon
$67.25 (48%)
3rd Party
$52.06
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»