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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Three DVD

By Jon de Burgh Miller on 08 November 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation was little more than a po-faced, humourless clone of the original 1960s series. Season Two was a little more adventurous although it still didn’t quite know what it was trying to be, and still showed signs of trying to find it’s feet.

With season three, however, modern Star Trek finally began. This is the season that The Next Generation came of age and outgrew it’s forefather, so it’s quite apt that offspring, family and the relationship between parents and children is the running theme throughout the season.

‘Evolution’, a thematically strong episode about leaving the nest, starts the ball rolling and immediately we see a more thoughtful, mature and confident series shining through. Beverly Crusher returns from exile to discover her son doesn’t need her as much as he used to, whilst Wesley’s own progeny, a colony of nanites, rapidly find a way to outgrow their creator’s original intention for them. It’s a nice, well-written episode that sets a comfortable and ambitious tone for the season.

The family theme continues in ‘The Bonding’, where Worf’s tough exterior begins to be worn down when he has to look after an orphan, and ‘The Offspring’, where Date creates an android daughter. These episodes sound worse than they are – the trademark TNG mix of action plot with emotion plot ensures the schmaltz never dominates too heavily.

The first half of the season definitely seems to be trying to push the boundaries of what Star Trek can be, while still firmly staying true to what Roddenberry believed the spirit and principles of the show were. An example of this can be found in ‘Who Watches The Watchers’, one of the first episodes to push the oft-mentioned Prime Directive to its limits and raise moral questions about Star Fleet policy.

Despite trying new things, the season does seem to drop the ball a little during the run of episodes from ‘The Price’ onwards, with things reaching a low point with the distasteful ‘The High Ground’ which really brings into perspective how much American views on terrorism have changed since 1990.

After Q’s obligatory appearance in ‘Deja Q’ the best of the season kicks in with ‘A Matter of Perspective’, an original take on the murder mystery plot and the first of several TNG episodes that play with the idea that what the mind sees isn’t always what’s really happening.

And then we get ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, one of Star Trek’s finest moments. Notable at the time for the return of Denise Crosby as her season one character Tasha Yar, this was the first TNG big budget spectacular with a strong script and some great action scenes. It certainly wouldn’t be the last this season, however.

After ‘Sins of the Father’, a self-discovery episode for Worf that sets the pieces in place for the Klingon storylines that would run throughout the show, there’s a run of enjoyable but inconsequential episodes until the end of the season that barely warrant a mention. The only exception really is fan-favourite ‘Sarek’ that sees Picard becoming a surrogate son of the elder statesman of Vulcan, the father of original Star Trek series character Spock. Picard seems to gain a strength and sombreness from this episode that would last him through the rest of the show’s life and serve him well for ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, the episode that ends the season.

Without doubt the best TNG episode and possibly the best single hour of science fiction television ever, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ takes a loose end from season one, a cool new enemy from season two, and mixes it in with the action, pacing and confidence of season three to produce a gripping, tense and shocking episode that sees the Federation’s delusions of invulnerability destroyed as they find it increasingly impossible to stop the Borg from conquering the Solar System. As the Federation’s confidence in itself is shattered, Paramount’s confidence in Star Trek surges and with the final, wonderful cliffhanger of Riker doing his duty and firing on his Borgified captain, you know it can’t get much better than this.

Overall, the third season is a mixed bag. The quality of episodes is very high, with few dud episodes to sour things, but there is a lot of mediocrity here. Nevertheless, the season contains enough classic and amazing episodes to drown out the shortcomings of the quieter, budget-saving episodes.

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By Jon de Burgh Miller

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