So you've been buying all the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Blu-rays as they come out, but you simply can't wait until season four hits store shelves. It's understandable, though, since the third season ends with an impossibly hard-to-swallow cliffhanger. In case you find yourself in this predicament, Paramount and CBS have you covered. They've released a standalone title called 'Best of Both Worlds' which ties in the finale of the third season with the premiere of the fourth. The two-part episode has been seamlessly stitched together to create a feature-length 'TNG' episode.
The standalone release of 'Best of Both Worlds' doesn't feel like too much of a cash grab simply because this is one of the best episodes and story arcs the show ever had to offer. Casual fans, who don't feel like spending enormous amounts of money on the full seasons, can get a taste of what 'TNG' is like on Blu-ray at a fraction of the price.
'Best of Both Worlds' is as much a Riker (Jonathan Frakes) episode as it is a Picard (Patrick Stewart) episode. If anything it's more of a Riker-centric episode as the writers really explore his loyalties to the Enterprise. We find out that Riker has been offered Starfleet captaincies and hasn't taken them. Instead he's stayed on as Picard's Number One. These are the kinds of deep character revelations we get from the later seasons.
At the beginning of 'Part 1,' the season three finale, the Enterprise crew find themselves entering into an inevitable meeting with the Borg. An alien species of collectively conscious organic machines that learn, adapt, and destroy. The sheer immensity and odd design of their ship was enough to give me nightmares as a kid.
Early on, Picard finds out about Riker's unwillingness to advance his career in Starfleet. Meanwhile the ship is joined by Lt. Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) who is the complete opposite of who Riker is now. Shelby is only interested in advancing her career and her headstrong ways soon wear on Riker's nerves. She's gunning for his job and she's not afraid to tell him.
Meanwhile, the Borg make for a fascinating enemy, and one of the best the series had to offer. Their strength came from ruling without emotion. A collective group, but essentially one entity determined to gain knowledge, adapt to their enemies, and take what they needed. However, their strength is also their downfall. As Worf (Michael Dorn) states, "The Borg have neither honor nor courage. That is our greatest advantage."
I mentioned in my review of season three that the finale was one of the rare times in a TV show where I wasn't 100-percent sure it was all going to turn out alright in the end. There's something about seeing Picard assimilated with Borg biotech that turned my stomach. Something that had me wondering if they'd actually get themselves out of this one. Even though it was a given that the Enterprise, and especially Riker, would find a way to win, the journey is one of the most intriguing storylines 'TNG' had to offer.
It was a good idea to release these two episodes in a standalone two-parter. Even if you didn't watch every episode of the show religiously, chances are if you watched 'TNG' at all you know of these two episodes. 'Best of Both Worlds' is one of the many high points of 'TNG' storytelling.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Paramount/CBS release comes in a standard keepcase. The two episodes have been pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray. An UltraViolet Digital Copy has been provided. Along with this release comes a snazzy slipcover with that features Picard in Borg gear, which can be flipped to the side to reveal all of Picard's face. To protect the inventive slipcover a clear plastic slip slides over it.
Just a quick note: Please refer to the video section of 'Season 3' because there really is no use restating what I said there. The only thing to mention is that as the episode transitions from season three to season four there isn't any hint of clarity loss. The visuals from season four appear as clearly and distinctly as the visuals from season three.
A few outstanding video examples from 'Best of Both Worlds' include the intricate facial details – the tear that Picard cries at the end of one of the most memorable scenes, is clearer than it's ever been. Scenes of the Enterprise and the Borg cube look absolutely outstanding. Colors have the same strength as season three. The uniforms are brighter and bolder than they've ever been. The Borg ship, which is a much darker environment than the Enterprise, offers great shadows, little crushing, and no banding.
Same as the video portion of this review, I'd like to refer you to the audio portion of my review of 'Season 3.' The reason being, that 'Best of Both Worlds' carries on the great sounding, all-encompassing sound that the entirety of season three possessed.
A few of the highlights from 'Best of Both Worlds' audio include the numerous battles the Enterprise has with the Borg's ship. Explosions, tractor beams, and shields losing power are all presented with crystal clear clarity. The sound during these battles comes from the front, side, and rear channels. It's truly an engulfing experience. The whirring machinery of the Borg makes for some great nuanced sound effects produced in the front and side channels.
'Best of Both Worlds' is such a treat. Not only is it great 'TNG,' it's fantastically fun storytelling all around. For fans we get to really understand what makes certain characters tick. These are the episode in which we really get to know what's in Riker's head, his past, and how he feels about his career. With great audio and video, along with some well-thought out exclusive extras 'Best of Both Worlds' is highly recommended. Even if you plan on buying the 'Season 3' set too.