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Star Trek The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection 4K

by Glenn Erickson Apr 08, 2023

The four The Next Generation feature films under the Rick Berman flag maintain the character fun of the TV series while working awfully hard to deliver high-quality space opera for the 1990s. Fans get what they want, plus at times a decent sense of humor. An obvious mission was to extend the characters of Jean-Luc Picard and especially Data, who does everything but play a banjo and morph into a goldfish. The series definitely looks and sounds superb in 4K, even if it lacks a unifying mission beyond repeatedly saving the universe. But the Next Generation years were when The Franchise had its ‘boldly going’ act most together.


Star Trek The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection 4K
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital
Star Trek Generations, Star Trek First Contact, Star Trek Insurrection, Star Trek Nemesis
Paramount Home Video
1994 – 2002 / Color / 2:39 widescreen / 448 min. / Street Date April 4, 2023 / Available from Amazon / 99.99
Core Players: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis.
Based on the TV show by Gene Roddenberry
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by
David Carson, Jonathan Frakes (2), Stuart Baird

Fandom has always been fun to share with one’s friends. When we were little kids everything I liked was a one-off, with little continuity even when a series was involved, In the third grade we pondered the inconsistencies in Universal’s Frankenstein movies, proving that doting fans want their favorite bedtime stories to make sense, link up, and tell a bigger story too. I suppose the first James Bond movies paid off for this viewer. We enjoyed the original Star Trek show but only became familiar with it through endless syndicated repeats in the ten-year hiatus between the network seasons and the first feature in 1979.

By the time TV’s  Star Trek: The Next Generation came along I could share it with my little kids, which made everything great fun. The show took Gene Roddenberry’s concept of deep space peacekeepers in a more liberal, less macho direction. The soap-opera characters were pleasant and amusing, with (gasp) interesting women characters as well. I remember wishing that they’d someday do an ‘average day’ episode without the obligatory threat to the Enterprise. But we were impressed by the daring episode that explained the Federation’s ‘Prime Directive:’ Picard and his merry crew, having encountered one planet’s utter exploitation of another, back off without imposing a Federation resolution. The concept of non-intervention in various planets’ development was a crowning notion for space opera. In my childhood, the space voyagers of Forbidden Planet literally met every new lifeform with ‘itchy fingers on the triggers of their ray guns,’ as Pauline Kael said back in the day.

The four 1994 to 2002 The New Generation features came at a time in the action film marketplace when armed conflict is a given; every one of the shows sees somebody, if not the whole cast, engaged in running gun battles. The show ducks away from the non-intervention rule now and then, but the only storyline crutch that becomes a little weary is the ‘turn back the clock and fix something’ time travel warp-a-whoop gimmick. Why that worked for a minute in Superman The Movie I’ll never know. If time-warp tomfoolery were so easy, there would be no conflicts — Oops, the Earth blew up?  Let’s just hop back to the day before and fix it.  Still screwed up?  Then let’s hop back to two days before. Do I have to think of everything?

The ‘Rick Berman’ producing years with the Next Generation clearly sought to deliver medium-budget, big return space adventures. To a degree Berman avoided some of the problems with the original film series, which appears to have been dominated by the clout of the original stars, together and individually. One big delay on those pictures was Paramount’s resistance to the fact that the zillions of ST fans insisted on exactly their specific favorite actors, no substitutes allowed. Either by contract or understanding, the Next Generation cast gives the impression that not every step in the franchise was negotiated by entertainment lawyers. At least, we prefer to think that was the case.

I perhaps take the whole Star Trek lightly, but not disrespectfully. Compared to the Star Wars prequels, they’re great literature. At least Rick Berman knew writers that could come up with halfway interesting characters and good dialogue.

Star Trek The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection 4K is basically an update of a 2009 Blu-ray set, carrying over existing extras, or rather, hours and hours of accumulated extras — commentaries, featurettes, and some wrinkles new to me, like Text Commentaries. I can see where true blue Trek devotees, the ones focused on every detail of series continuity, etc., would be more than satisfied.

The movies are a little uneven but basically decent; only one seemed not quite up to snuff. I’ll give just enough of the plot on each one, make a few comments, and not turn this review into a book … by an unqualified non-expert.

 


 

Star Trek Generations
1994 / 118 min.
Additional stars: Malcolm McDowell, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, Jacqueline Kim, Jenette Goldstein, Whoopi Goldberg.
Cinematography: John A. Alonzo
Production Designer: Herman Zimmerman
Art Director: Sandy Veneziano
Costume Design: Robert Blackman
Film Editor: Peter E. Berger
Original Music: Dennis McCarthy
Screenplay by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga story by Moore, Braga, Rick Berman
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by David Carson

This first film performs some fancy time travel footwork to do a relay handoff between ‘classic’ casts. William Shatner comes back one more time, both for an ‘end of Captain Kirk’ prologue, and then to play hero with Captain Picard against yet another villain, Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Soran. The rogue scientist is willing to destroy a star system just so he can return to the influence of a Colossal Negative Space Wedgie called the Nexus, that delivers infinite bliss to its addicts. Simply put, a guy with an English accent wants his fix.

The bigger budget expands the TV show in all directions, for instance a Holodeck play game that places the crew members on board a vintage British sailing ship. The confected space-time warps that allow Kirk and Picard to vanquish Soran in an altered dimension — just two days later, the specifics elude me — don’t offend, although I’ve read that orthodox ST fans saw it as a break with Kirk’s character continuity.

The only characters to get special attention in the four films are Picard and Data. This time through, Data provides some comic relief (with the help of LeVar Burton’s Geordi) by trying out an ’emotion chip’ that causes him to act in a disruptive manner. I would nominate Brent Spiner for some kind of award for wearing those tortuous-looking contact lenses for so long. How do actors do that?

We’re told that Generations adopted uniform changes from the Deep Space Nine TV show, and that fans weren’t pleased with the re-use of a Klingon ship exploding, taken from an earlier show. So there must have been budget concerns. Malcolm McDowell was considered a good villain but he can’t live up to the high mark of Ricardo Montalban as Khan, twelve years earlier.  Who hasn’t had their fill of crazed, vengeance-obsessed villains?  Too many of the Next Generation movies and the newer J.J. Abrams movies want to replicate The Wrath of Khan.

Even with some short cuts, the planet-based effects feel a bit thin, especially the unimpressive fight at the finish. But the handsome space vistas and ships — in transition from miniatures & mattes, to CGI — look superb in 4K.

 


 

Star Trek First Contact
1996 / 111 min.
Additional stars: James Cromwell, Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige, Robert Picardo.
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Production Designer: Herman Zimmerman
Art Director: Ron Wilkinson
Costume Design: Deborah Everton
Film Editor: John W. Wheeler
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Screenplay by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga story by Moore, Braga, Rick Berman
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

First Contact brings back the biggest Colossal Space Wedgie of them all, The Borg, which means that Captain Picard must struggle against his PTSD memories from his traumatic multi-episode Borg experience on TV. In this even more complicated space-time trick plot the Enterprise must follow The Borg cube back to the year 2063, to prevent it from altering Earth’s past, and curtailing man’s exploration of space. In 2063 scientist Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) tested the first experimental warp drive, thus making first contact with extraterrestrials.

Picard destroys the Borg cube. His team works to help Cochrane get his damaged space ship launched, which brings on numerous character responses to re-living history. Geordi is now doing without his visor and has a new pair of artificial eyes. He’s especially jazzed to meet Cochrane, who turns out to be an involuntary ‘great man.’ Actor Cromwell does his best to make Cochrane into a womanizing eccentric who only wants to make money. The Next Generation’s regulars must teach him to appreciate himself.

Troi (Marina Sirtis) has only one scene of note, getting drunk with Cochrane. That’s when we realize that the woman characters are often left on the sidelines, observing, delivering random exposition. Instead, guest stars take over the main female presence. Alfre Woodard is Cochrane’s panicked companion. She’s transported to the Enterprise believing that she’s been captured by enemy aliens, until the charming Captain Picard straightens things out. The Borg naturally reasserts itself for yet another ray guns + explosions finale, with a ‘Borg Queen’ in the form of Alice Krige to seduce/dialogue with Captain Picard. We’re tired of slimy icky-poo makeup jobs, but Krige brings out some nice character notes in her evil ‘Qveen of Otter Space.’

First Contact has a smooth, perhaps too slick storyline, but gets extra credit for its depiction of the first warp drive mission — we share in the nostalgia for a future fictional event. Geordi and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) accompany Cochrane in his crude space cockpit for a fun ride. When Cochrane’s ‘warp nacelles’ deploy, it’s a nice jolt: ah, there’s something familiar. Jonathan Frakes directed this feature, doing a great job with a good screenplay.

 


 

Star Trek Insurrection
1998 / 103 min.
Additional stars: F. Murray Abraham, Anthony Zerbe, Donna Murphy, Gregg Henry.
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Production Designer: Herman Zimmerman
Art Director: Ron Wilkinson
Costume Design: Sanja Milkovic Hays
Film Editor: Peter E. Burger
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Screenplay by Michael Piller story by Piller and Rick Berman
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Actor-director Jonathan Frakes again takes the helm for this third installment, but is up against a script that fans judged as having too much forced comedy — in the midst of yet another ‘threat to the galaxy’ we get running gags that strain the characters. Worf (Michael Dorn) has a giant Klingon pimple on his nose. Riker and Troi carry on a hot hot-tub romance. Picard and Data dance and sing, with the lowpoint being Picard realigning Data’s behavior by singing Gilbert & Sullivan with him.

In this one a renegade Federation Admiral (Anthony Zerbe) conspires with the alien Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) to criminally violate the Prime Directive. A small colony called the Son’a lives on a planet with radiations that rejuvenate people and extend their lives for hundreds of years. The Admiral has mocked up a ‘hologram ship’ duplicating the Son’a village, so they can be surreptitiously relocated, allowing Ru’afo to pull off a selfish real estate grab. Obvious dialogue connects this dirty trick with historical relocations of ‘inconvenient’ people on Earth.

The machinations by which Picard and his crew defy Federation orders to ‘do the right thing’ are fairly clever, but the tone of the piece is all over the place. Picard all but shacks up with a 300 year-old Son’a dame (Donna Murphy), setting up a situation that threatens to become a remake of Lost Horizon. The most unwelcome device is having Data behave as a loose-cannon menace, to bring Ru’afo’s conspiracy to light. Nobody wants to see Data ‘break character’ in this way.

I have a feeling that all the joking around was producer Berman’s effort to give Next Generation fans even more character fun. This show is different, even if it feels like an expanded TV episode, taking place mostly in a bland little ‘perfect village.’  But we’re rather happy to see the baddies vanquished with a clever finish, a space confrontation that isn’t all spacemen shooting at each other with ray guns, in darkened corridors.

 


 

Star Trek Nemesis
2002 / 116 min.
Additional stars: Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Shannon Cochran, Dina Meyer, Will Wheaton, Whoopi Goldberg, .
Cinematography: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Production Designer: Herman Zimmerman
Art Directors: Cherie Baker, Donald B. Woodruff
Costume Design: Bob Ringwood
Film Editor: Dallas Puett
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Screenplay by John Logan story by Logan, Brent Spiner, Rick Berman
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by Stuart Baird

Jumping ahead four years and finishing off the Next Generation series (more or less), Nemesis envelops Picard and Data’s personal destinies with the bigger issue of — what else — saving the galaxy once more. Both leading characters must deal with clones. In a Romulan enclave, a senate interested in keeping the peace is wiped out by an usurper, Shinzon (Tom Hardy of Mad Max Fury Road), who long ago was cloned from Picard as part of an abandoned plot to invade the Federation. When he was no longer needed, Shinzon was instead enslaved with a lower caste of Romulan workers, and has been conspiring to take revenge ever since. Part of Shinzon’s scheme is to let the Enterprise ‘discover’ and reassemble the pieces of an earlier beta-tester version of Data, ‘B-4.’ But of course this innocent, less advanced Data has a secret mission to steal Federation and Enterprise secrets to aid Shinzon’s plan for conquest. Shinzon is a menace, but it’s also a battle between two heroes and their alter-egos.

Shinzon has a secret weapon, which we see used to destroy the entire Romulan senate. The emergency interrupts the honeymoon of Riker and Troi, and once again the Enterprise is in danger of being seized or destroyed. The show alternates Picard and Data’s questions about their own personal identities, with various furtive spy missions and overt attempts to take over ships, as in an old pirate movie. Troi is psycho-raped (?) from afar by the nefarious Shinzon, who is portrayed as having all of the bad personality traits that Picard dropped in his positive upbringing.

The extended finale is a spectacular space battle amidst colorful cosmic clouds, with lots of techo-babble but also some nice tactical surpises. Other ships led by the ‘good’ Romulan Commander Donatra (Dina Meyer) come to Picard’s aid. Brent Spiner is also given a story credit, so it’s no surprise that Data gets a series-end sendoff similar to that of Spock, many features before.

Did stars Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner have the most powerful agents?  Picard and Data are treated as stars (each with two characters to play) and everyone else pulls  glorified support duty. Worf is there whenever gruff physical action is wanted, but Geordi and especially Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) are mainly around to offer minor assists. Riker and Troi at least get some scenes to themselves. The screwiest decision was to bury the strikingly individualistic Ron Perlman under makeup that renders him identical to the rest of Shinzon’s ugly-mug monster minions.

 


At its best the Next Generation years offered more varied and interesting characters, plus a more refined captain in Captain Picard. For many the robot Data was a truly futuristic notion. Even if the questing space explorers spent all of their time doing space law enforcement, we still had a fun bunch of warm-hearted characters to enjoy. The movie series didn’t really take us anywhere new, but it also didn’t drop off in quality. The franchise remained robust, much to the joy of Paramount’s corporate stakeholders.

I worked for the committed Star Trek enthusiast Gregory Jein, who praised the show as launching him on his career as a miniature-maker, even as he criticized the space opera genre as being a fancier version of Submarine Movies — the difference being ‘transporters’ to eliminate the repetitious up & down periscope, get-out-the-dinghy business. Greg got his dream assignment — after crafting an alien mother ship and a full playset of WW2 planes, boats and tanks for Spielberg, he got to spend years designing and building Star Trek ships and props — for a franchise with a good record for not embarrassing itself.

 


 

Paramount Home Video’s Blu-ray of  Star Trek The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection 4K kicks these shows up to the 4K format, giving them the chance to shine in full Home Theater-ready glory. The encodings are superb, and the new 7.1 lossless soundtrack option has already received good notices. The appearance of this fancy-fancy set seems cued to the release of the third and final season of Picard on the Paramount+ streaming outlet, which reunites the full Next Generation cast.

The extras delineated below are not new, yet we’d have a hard time improving on them. The directors and producer Rick Berman weigh in heavily, as would be expected. We’re impressed that, in addition to Paramount’s full list of alternate language and subtitle choices, all the audio commentaries also come with English subs. That gives hearing-impaired viewers a full ticket to participate.

One extra wrinkle that would seem attractive to hard-core Trek fans, are ‘text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda,’ franchise insiders that have written volumes about the series and its intricate lore — like which starship bridges were re-used for which ships in which shows. Sampling one of their text tracks, we’s guess that the Trekkies (is that a dead term?) we knew would dote on every detail. Heck, my own little brother was knowledgeable enough to apply to the Federation Academy, had it existed.

The set comes in a fat box with eight discs, three in each format, plus the digital codes. We understand that the 4K shows are available individually, too.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


Star Trek The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection 4K
Blu-ray rates:
Movies: All Very Good
Video: All Excellent
Sound: All Excellent (5.1 + 7.1 tracks)
Supplements:
All Four: Text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda
Generations
commentary by David Carson
commentary by Brannon Brega & Ronald D. Moore
featurettes:
Library Computer, Production, Visual effects, Scene construction, The Star Trek Universe, Deleted scenes, archives, trailers.
First Contact
commentary by Jonathan Frakes
commentary by Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore
commentary by Damon Lindelof & Anthony Pascale
featurettes:
Library Computer, Production, Scene construction, The Star Trek Universe, The Borg collective, archives, trailers.
Insurrection
commentary by Jonathan Frakes & Marina Sirtis
featurettes:
Library Computer, Production, The Star Trek Universe, Creating the Illusion,Deleted scenes, archives, advertising
Nemesis
commentary by Stuart Baird
commentary by Rick Berman
commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
featurettes:
Library Computer, Production, The Star Trek Universe, The Romulan Empire, Deleted scenes, archives, trailers.

Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English and numerous others
Packaging: Four 4K Ultra HD discs plus four Blu-rays in fat keep case in card sleeve
Reviewed:
April 5, 2023
(6913trek)
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Text © Copyright 2023 Glenn Erickson

About Glenn Erickson

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 6.51.08 PM

Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.

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