Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Complete Season 6

Starring: Patrick Stewart

RRP 84.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

The Enterprise crew once again face mortal danger from Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians, while Q returns to plague Captain Picard not once, but twice. And personalities clash when a new captain takes command of the ship...

In my opinion, the sixth season of TNG is one of its best, second only to Season 3 in terms of powerful storytelling and direction.

However, things don't get off to a good start at all with Time's Arrow 2. The documentaries that comprise the extra features reveal that the creators hadn't really thought out how this complex time-travel narrative was going to be resolved... and it shows! All of a sudden Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) decides to try and reactivate Data's (Brent Spiner) disembodied head, which would have come in useful during part one if anyone had thought of it. In addition, countless questions about the mysterious aliens and their motives are left unanswered.

The season doesn't end particularly well, either. Descent robs the Borg of most of their menace by doing away with their chilling hive mentality. (Fortunately this did not affect the entire Collective, and the Borg were back on form in the movie First Contact.) Data's conversion to the dark side is presented without any subtlety whatsoever, and Picard's (Patrick Stewart) plan to beam down all but a skeleton crew is frankly insane.

Some other episodes aren't bad per se, just not too inspiring. The Quality of Life recycles a lot of plot elements from Season 3's Evolution. Aquiel is a worthy but slightly dull Geordi love story. Birthright is a rather slow-moving two-parter, in which Data's subplot during part one (which guest-stars Deep Space Nine's Alexander Siddig) is more interesting than the main story concerning Worf's (Michael Dorn) search for his father. The episode The Chase seems to exist solely for the purpose of explaining why so many aliens look humanoid in the Star Trek universe.

However, these few indifferent episodes are more than compensated for by classics such as the two-part Chain of Command, which makes use of two excellent guest stars. Ronny Cox plays the abrasive Captain Jellico, whose methods of command come as a great shock to the Enterprise crew. Meanwhile, Picard is captured by the Cardassians while on a secret mission, and is tortured in some particularly harrowing and well-played scenes featuring the excellent David Warner as his cruel interrogator.

Tapestry is of the same high standard, and is quite possibly the best Q (John de Lancie) episode ever. Although the concept of Picard inhabiting the body of his younger self is very Quantum Leap, this story is an excellent examination of his character, and ties in well with his recollections from Season 2's Samaritan Snare. There's a heart-warming It's a Wonderful Life flavour to this show.

Among the remaining episodes, Realm of Fear is another welcome Reg Barclay (Dwight Schultz) episode - although the notion of a traveller being able to perceive the passage of time while in a transporter beam goes against the evidence that is suggested by most other episodes, including this season's Relics. Speaking of which, this irresistible tale is justly famous for its touching guest appearance by James Doohan as Scotty, and for the production team's brilliant re-creation of the bridge from the old Enterprise.

A couple of instalments stand out particularly because they establish new Trek sub-genres which would be used again and again in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. A good one for fans of Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and/or the Romulans, Face of the Enemy is the first of several "crewmember wakes up with an alien face" storylines. Starship Mine is the first of Trek's exhilarating Die Hard pastiches, with Picard standing in for Bruce Willis. He would fulfil the role again in First Contact, while even Kathryn Janeway would don the trademark vest in the Voyager episode Macrocosm. Similarly seminal is Frame of Mind, which itself is clearly inspired by the movie Jacob's Ladder - neither the main character, in this instance Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), nor the audience can be sure of what is real, what is illusion, and what is madness until the very end of the show.

Schisms is a memorably creepy piece of work, while True Q is another strong Q episode - apparently to make up for the lack of a Q episode in Season 5, we get two this season. Rascals, in which three of the crew are regressed to childhood, is great fun, as is the Patrick Stewart-directed Western spoof, A Fistful of Datas. Ship in a Bottle marks the long-overdue return of the holodeck's Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis), while the LeVar Burton-directed Second Chances is another strong Riker show, with a convincing dual performance from Frakes. Lessons is a moving, though not too slushy, love story involving Picard. Finally, there's further Romulan action in Timescape, an engaging time-warp tale.

The final disc also includes the customary documentary features - running to two hours in total - covering all aspects of the season, as well as special profiles on Brent Spiner and effects supervisor Dan Curry, who has contributed a great deal to the visualisation of Klingon weaponry and architecture over the years.

All in all, this excellent box set should hit you for six!

Richard McGinlay


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