The Good: Messages, Character development, Acting, Special effects
The Bad: Obvious episodes of explanation, Minimal extras
The Basics: The sixth season of the classic science fiction series progresses the characters through a season of action-oriented episodes that are accessible to all audiences.
The sixth season of Star Trek The Next Generation is the first season written and filmed entirely after the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. As a result, some of the feel of the series changes. The biggest change is probably the number of battles either physical (hand to hand or with hand weapons) or between ships. In the sixth season, there are 15 physical fights, 2 psychological/psychic attacks and 5 starship battles. While that may not seem terribly significant in a season that has twenty-six episodes, keep in mind that in the preceding 126 episodes, there were only 49 physical fights, 10 psychological or psychic attacks and 18 starship battles. The feel of this season is very different. The philosopher kings of the first and second season are almost entirely gone now.
As a result, the plots in the sixth season of Star Trek The Next Generation really move. The season sees the resolution to the Devidian invasion of 19th Century Earth, the return of Scotty, abductions by aliens and invasions by Ferengi, two appearances by Q, an undercover mission goes awry leaving Picard at the mercy of the Cardassians, Troi is similarly abducted by Romulans, Data learns to dream and Worf goes rogue to learn about the survivors of Khitomer. The Enterprise is invaded by pirates, Picard falls in love, Riker - like Picard - is captured and tortured, a Klingon icon returns, a duplicate of one of the crewmembers is discovered, the Enterprise is destroyed and the season climaxes with Data experiencing and emotion and defecting to join the Borg.
This is a season where things happen. The characters do things. In fact, there's not truly an episode in this season where things are debated or dilemmas are pondered. This has the effect of making Star Trek The Next Generation much more accessible to the general audience. There is a lot more that everyone may enjoy; manly men will enjoy the battles, geeks will enjoy the scientific anomalies, womanly women will enjoy the romances, all will enjoy the way everything moves here. Indeed, this is a season where things move along and there is more of a "bottle" nature to this season. Unlike the fifth season that capitalizes on the idea of creating a more serialized show, the sixth season reverts to telling a story each week and then moving on. There are a few exceptions and this season has two two-part episodes contained within it, as well as a resolution premiere and a cliffhanger finale.
The highlights, as with any great television series, deal with the characters. Here is a season where our heroes make a great deal of growth. In the twenty-six episodes, six are essentially Picard episodes, 3 Data episodes, 3 Worf episodes, and 5 episodes that must be considered ensemble pieces. As well, there are 2 Troi, 2 Geordi, 1 Dr. Crusher, 1 Q, 1 Barclay and 2 Riker episodes. Each character has a chance to grow in a meaningful way.
Picard develops from grudgingly accepting children to actually becoming one via an accident. He is tortured, forced to relive and explore the consequences of a tragic accident in his childhood and forced to defend the Enterprise in hand to hand combat. As well, he falls in love and explores his love of archaeology. Data makes a significant leap forward as her learns to dream and experiences his first emotion, which happens to be hate. Worf, one of the most significant characters since the decline of Riker's character in the second season, grows as a parent and as a Klingon as he attempts to teach his heritage to Alexander and learns the power of Klingon myth when he teaches Klingon refugees and leaves to explore his heroes. The other notable standout is Deanna Troi. Her abduction by Romulans near the end of the season not only makes for a great episode, but makes sensible her desire to seek command experience in the seventh season.
The acting here is of high caliber as well; Patrick Stewart leads the ensemble cast through a season that does change the dynamics of their characters. Michael Dorn endures the rigors of his most physical season yet as Worf. Brent Spiner manages to infuse more and more humanism in Data without losing the spirit of who the character is. The best performance of the season and the highlight of this boxed set is Jonathan Frakes' desperate performance of Riker in the episode "Frame Of Mind." This is almost worth the price of the boxed set.
So, if you're not yet a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation, this is a good season to jump into it. In twenty-six episodes, only two or three truly hinge on knowledge that comes from the previous five seasons. Moreover, this is probably more accessible given that it is not as ponderous and philosophical as the prior outings.
Fans of Star Trek The Next Generation may enjoy the few extras that come with this set. Like the previous five boxed sets, there are bonuses highlighting the production and best episodes of the season with behind the scenes interviews with cast and crew. Here, Patrick tells wonderful stories about his ties to Amnesty International for "Chain Of Command" and Brent Spiner touts this as the best season they ever did. The only real disappointment is that the bonus disc is simply more of the same; bonus materials that came previously on disc seven of the DVD are removed and given back to us as a bonus eighth DVD. The only real bonus is a nice preview for the Star Trek Deep Space Nine DVD preview and a Star Trek Nemesis trailer. Of all of the seasons, the sixth season had episodes that deserved commentary by the directors and actors. "Frame Of Mind" and "Chain Of Command" could have been made even better by having commentary and their lack is disappointing.
Not disappointing enough to make this set not worth purchasing, though. Ideal for fans of Star Trek The Next Generation and those who want to get involved with the series, the Star Trek The Next Generation season six DVD set is a great collection of science fiction stories that move a group of heroes further to defining humanity through action.
Given that the boxed set provides no details as to the episodes included in the set, I've reviewed the VHS versions of each episode as a service to those considering the boxed set! Please check out the episodes to get a better idea of exactly what is in this set at:
Time's Arrow, Part II
Realm Of Fear
Man Of The People
A Fistful Of Datas
Quality Of Life
Chain Of Command, Part 1
Chain Of Command, Part 2
Ship In A Bottle
Face Of The Enemy
The Birthright, Part I
The Birthright, Part II
Frame Of Mind
Descent, Part I
For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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