Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Complete Season 7

Starring: Patrick Stewart
RRP 84.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

Old friends and foes return as the
Enterprise crew face up to the consequences of many of their actions over the years. Q threatens humanity with the damning judgement of the court he set up seven years ago. Must all good things come to an end...?

The seventh and final season of The Next Generation sees a slight downturn in the overall quality of the stories. As the extra documentary features reveal, the production team stretched themselves rather thinly during the making of this season, as they were simultaneously producing the second year of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (out soon on DVD) and were well into pre-production of the movie Generations, while also developing Star Trek: Voyager.

Descent, the rather naff finale to Season 6, comes to an even weaker conclusion at the start of Season 7. Beverly Crusher's (Gates McFadden) command of the Enterprise makes for some surprisingly effective scenes, but the Borg remain a pitiful foe, one of whom is all too easily overcome by Picard (Patrick Stewart) during a scene in a cell. And Data's (Brent Spiner) recommendation that his android "brother" Lore (Spiner again) be disassembled goes against the legal rights that were accorded to Data in the second season's The Measure of a Man.

Force of Nature is not much better, being a tedious metaphor about environmental damage. By decreeing that warp-drive usage must be restricted to preserve the fabric of space, this episode undermines the very essence of what Star Trek is about: exploration. The story could just as easily have been told using some other race's less clean method of propulsion.

Emergence is, to quote from The Far Side cartoon, just plain nuts! Here, the Enterprise tries to protect itself from harm by creating a new type of life form - ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-ight...

Other episodes, such as Liaisons and Bloodlines, are distinctly average, despite the return of the Ferengi DaiMon Bok (this time played by Lee Arenberg) in the latter. Homeward isn't bad, but its extreme depiction of Starfleet's Prime Directive - asserting that it is forbidden to save the people of a planet doomed to certain death by a natural disaster - makes the regulation seem nonsensical. Sub Rosa is a rather silly "ghost" story, although it's a good episode for Dr Crusher.

The instalments that make this DVD box set well worth watching include the memorable Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) episode, Interface, which features an excellent guest appearance by Madge Sinclair as his mother. The two-part Gambit is an entertaining escapade in which both Picard and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) play a dangerous game of deception. Phantasms is an extremely warped depiction of Data's funny and frightening dreams, but is all the more enjoyable for it. Masks is almost as weird and almost as wonderful. The Pegasus, a Riker episode, takes a refreshingly cynical view of Starfleet, as does Journey's End, in which Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) decides that the Academy is not for him. Thine Own Self is an inventive spin on the Frankenstein myth, with Data cast in the role of the monster. Eye of the Beholder is an effective murder mystery, while Firstborn is easily the most enjoyable Alexander (Brian Bonsall) episode of the entire series.

Dark Page is one of those rare beasts, a decent Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett) episode, and is as moving as Half a Life back in Season 4. Attached, in which Picard and Dr Crusher are forced to acknowledge their feelings for each other, is another emotional experience, as is Inheritance, in which Data's "mother" (Fionnula Flanagan) turns up.

Preemptive Strike is one of several episodes, alongside Attached and Journey's End, that bring a sense of closure to certain ongoing subplots of The Next Generation. In this case it is the fate of the one-time regular Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) that is addressed, although it is fairly obviously signposted. Journey's End and Preemptive Strike also serve the purpose of setting up the Maquis, a group of rebels who go on to play a major role in Star Trek: Voyager.

For me, the real highlights of this season are Parallels, Lower Decks, Genesis and All Good Things... Parallels is the alternate reality story to end all alternate reality stories, in which Worf (Michael Dorn) accidentally slips into an endless succession of parallel universes. (However, Co-Producer Brannon Braga is wrong to suggest that the concept of alternate realities was "radical" at the time - they have been a part of Star Trek mythology ever since Mirror, Mirror in 1967.) Lower Decks is a great novelty, as it shifts from the series' usual perspective to focus on a group of junior officers. Genesis is a piece of pure B-movie hokum, but very creepy and thoroughly entertaining.

The Next Generation may not have boasted the best Star Trek pilot episode ever (that honour belongs to Deep Space Nine) but it certainly can claim the best finale award for All Good Things... Amazingly, the script for this was written in just two weeks (according to a "making of" documentary among the special features), but this double-length episode successfully harks back to the pilot, Encounter at Farpoint, as well as packing in many an exciting or amusing scene, particularly those set in Picard's future. Colm Meaney and Denise Crosby return as Miles O'Brien and Tasha Yar to aid the very effective re-creation of the Encounter at Farpoint timeline.

The final disc contains the usual array of behind-the-scenes features. Running in excess of two hours, these include A Captain's Tribute, in which Patrick Stewart commends his former co-stars, special profiles on Q (John de Lancie) and Lwaxana Troi, and a preview of the forthcoming DS9 DVDs. The latter has me even more excited about the prospect than I had been before - if DS9 is as well presented as this series of box sets has been, then we really are in for a treat.

Richard McGinlay

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