Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 22, 2009)
With the new JJ Abrams Star Trek “reboot” on the big screens, Paramount decided this would be a good time to get some related product on the shelves. In that vein comes The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a four-episode set. Here’s what we find:
The Best of Both Worlds, Part I: The Enterprise receives a distress signal from one of the Federation’s most distant colonies. When they arrive, they find nothing where a town used to be. Suspicions immediately arise that the Borg caused this disappearance. To investigate this event, Admiral Hanson (George Murdock) and Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) come aboard the Enterprise. Shelby proves to be very ambitious, and she seeks the position it appears Riker may vacate for the captain’s chair elsewhere. This leads him to question his own decisions, as he doesn’t understand his reluctance to leave the Enterprise.
When eventually the Enterprise meets up with the Borg, they provide a peculiar demand: for Picard and Picard alone to leave the ship and come to their Cube. He refuses and battle ensues. Thanks to a tactic thought up by Shelby, they manage to break free of the Borg grasp long enough to escape, where they enter a dense nebula to evade them while they regroup. Eventually the Borg break through, abduct Picard, and set a course for Earth. “Best” lived up to its title and provided one of the series’ strongest episodes.
The Best of Both Worlds, Part II: A discussion of the second show’s events would necessarily include spoilers for the first one, so I’ll just refer you back to the synopsis I offered for that episode.
Suffice it to say that Best II concluded the tale in a very satisfying manner. Like many Trek programs, it placed the Enterprise in an apparently unwinnable situation against an apparently unbeatable foe, and it requires their collective ingenuity and bravery to save the day. Best II packs a nice combination of cleverness and action.
One of the oddest episodes of TNG, Yesterday’s Enterprise finds the Enterprise present at some sort of mysterious time displacement. This moderately alters reality. This Starfleet is at war, and Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) rematerializes from the dead. Uniforms and ship architecture seem mildly different as well, though the changes aren’t extreme. Guinan senses that things are strangely wrong, but Picard can’t grasp the concept.
Of greater immediate concern, this bizarro Enterprise encounters the titular older vessel, the Enterprise-C. Picard deals with its chief, Captain Garrett (Tricia O’Neil) and tries to sort out the facts of the matter. He discovers that they could send back the Enterprise-C to their original time, but this would ensure the destruction of the ship and the death of its crew.
Time travel stories always offer a tricky set of issues, and “Enterprise” caused some of the same confusions and concerns. Nonetheless, it handled those topics fairly well and offered an entertaining look at an alternate universe. The return of Yar made it especially interesting, since we knew she existed only in this setting. The program remained reasonably intriguing from start to finish and seemed like a solid episode.
In The Measure of a Man, cybernetics expert Commander Maddox (Brian Brophy) wants to take Data off the ship and dismantle him for further study. It seems that no one knows how to make more like him, so Starfleet supports Maddox’s efforts to get to the bottom of the dilemma. However, no one on the Enterprise likes this idea, especially since there’s no guarantee Data will be put back together accurately. Data himself also doesn’t want to participate, and he actually resigns his commission when ordered to go. However, some claim he’s the possession of Starfleet, so lawyer Captain Louvois (Amanda McBroom) orders a mini-trial during which the matter will be settled.
Parts of “Measure” felt forced, especially due to Maddox’s excessively villainous ways; he insistently referred to Data as “it” and really seemed like an artificial heavy. However, the show offered a thoughtful and rich exploration of humanity and property and it helped flesh out a number of characters well. Most episodes that focus on Data tend to be gimmicky, so it was good to find one with a deeper, more philosophical basis.