Monday, November 28, 2011

A Great Season Of Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Mediocre Card Set: Season Four.

The Good: Continues the sets well, Good images, Interesting chase cards
The Bad: Unremarkable chase cards, Dull, Overproduced
The Basics: At the time, one of the most technically advanced trading card sets, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Four now seems dull and overly common.

Fans of virtually every television show will debate which season of the show is the best. It's just nature, I think, in a society that categorizes things. We make lists of best episodes, best performances, prioritize the episodes and seasons. When among fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I often find myself taking the fourth or fifth season as my favorite and the one that might well be the best.

To commemorate the fourth season, Fleer/SkyBox continued the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode collection set of trading cards. At the time, this was using cutting-edge video capture technology and the holograms seemed sophisticated. Today, in an era of autograph and costume cards, the series seems more or less passe. Fortunately, it is one of the least expensive sets to come by and assemble.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Four Trading Cards was a series of Star Trek trading cards that continued the incredible new standard in image transfers to the trading cards that was pioneered in "Episode Collection Season One." Properly assembled, the set has 118 cards, all but one of which may be found in the standard hobby release boxes. Boxes tended to be 36 pack boxes with eight cards per pack.

The full set of "Season Four" trading cards included: 108 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, 1 survey card, 1 9-card prototype card sheet. All but the last card could be found in boxes. There was also a binder available directly from SkyBox, who produced this set of cards.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection trading cards represented a new level of quality for SkyBox, the non-sports card division of Fleer. Gone were the days of cheap cardboardy cards, like the late 70s and '80s had had, gone were the easily damaged cards of the earliest SkyBox releases. In their place were wonderful, high quality cardstock which featured bright, vibrant images and a subtle UV resistant coating! "Season Four" continued that tradition with incredible and rare images taken from digital video transfers, which allowed for high quality images that look great even today.

Common Cards

The common card set follows in the tradition of the prior Episode Collection sets, with 108 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 78 cards chronicling the twenty-six episodes of the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1 card detailing the main credits for season four, 2 checklist cards, 9 cards creating a tribute to Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge, and 9 cards creating a tribute mural to Ensign Wesley Crusher. This common set is a beautiful work, despite some of the quality issues related to the principle photography from the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The set opens with nine cards that form a "title page" when properly assembled in a binder. The front has various images from the fourth season over a mural of the Enterprise going out into the universe which acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the fourth season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the fourth season.

The set is a regular series of three cards per episode from the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The set includes a decent mix of special effects shots and character images and the backs are plot summaries that detail well the aspects of the episode needed to recall what happened in the episode. The backs are very complete with the plot synopsis's so fans who have not seen episodes might not want to read the cards as most do indicate how each episode ended!

In one of the more clever and collector friendly aspects of the set, the Episode Collection cards, "Season Four" included, alter the location of the card number for ease of organization and collation. Because the murals must be put into card pages a certain way to get the desired result (one image from all nine cards put together), the cards that follow must be organized in order as well (which makes sense because they tell the plot of an episode! Cards have their collector numbers on the left, center, and right - respectively - for the first, second and third cards in each episode. As well, there is an alternate numbering system to reinforce this order wherein the episode number may be used as a reference point, with a, b, and c denoting the proper order. It may seem like a lot of fuss, but it's awfully convenient when collating hundreds of cards to be able to eliminate so many with a glance based on where the card number is located.

Following the episode portion, the common card set has a card that encapsulates the fourth season closing credits and the two checklist cards.

Capping off the set, there are two more 9-card murals, one of Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge and one of Ensign Wesley Crusher. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Geordi's is a blueprint of engineering featuring head shots of various appearances he had over the seven years of the series. Ensign Crusher's is similar with the mural being a space scene with physics concepts transposed! The backs of these cards are wonderfully detailed containing information and very complete character biographies of the characters (and often how they interact with other main characters). These cards are wonderful for fans who go to Star Trek conventions and get trading cards autographed because they are nice headshots with intriguing backgrounds with plenty of space for the celebrity actor to sign over.

Chase Cards

As for the bonus cards, there are ten, most of which are still very easily available in the market today because they are present in the boxes of these cards. While not strictly a bonus card, the survey card comes up at least one per box, making them a cheap staple to the set - some dealers even include the latter with the common card set.

The first level of chase card (chase card, insert card and bonus card are all the same thing - cards that are far less frequent than common cards and have a different numbering system and usually something distinctive about them that makes them more valuable than normal cards) is a set of six embossed Klingon and Character cards. These are glossy cards that have a raised surface and foil lettering or accents and they stand out, front and back, as chase cards. There are three Klingon culture cards, written on the backs in both English and Klingon, that focus on the Klingon food, a Klingon sash, and Klingon communicator. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Shelby, Keiko, and Soong. These cards are approximately one in every twelve packs, so it took at least two boxes with ideal collation to assemble this set. These continue the numbering system from the prior sets as S19 - S24.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Four set, were the two dual-image holograms! HG7 is Geordi LaForge and HG8 is Ensign Crusher. These holograms have a three dimensional image and move one frame, so Geordi and Wesley both move their head in their three-dimensional images! By the time this set came out SkyBox seems to have gotten its act together and picked decent images to use for the holograms. As a result, these provide two good, clear, solid images each.

Finding them, though, can be a real pain! The stated odds for a hologram card were one hologram in every 180 packs (five boxes). This means with ideal collation, ten boxes would be needed to assemble a master set of cards that can be pulled from boxes. Experience with the Season Four cards shows that the holograms were a bit more common than that. This is why the Season Four holograms have slipped in the secondary market to approximately $25/ea.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

In order to complete a true master set, collectors must hunt down a binder and the promo sheet from SkyBox (P1). The promotional card has a decent collection of images from the season four set and is relatively easy to find in the secondary market for approximately $5.00/ea.


Today, collectors tend to be a bit more savvy with their chase cards. With the advent of autograph cards and costume cards, things like holograms (and certainly simple embossed cards) seem passe. The set is all right for collectors who collect for the sheer joy of it as boxes may usually be found inexpensively and yield at least one common card set and three bonus cards (at least).

I still have mine in my collection and I can't see getting rid of this (or the other six) sets, so ultimately, I'd say that it's an intriguing and enjoyable enough set that collectors and fans will want to make the effort to assemble a full set, who knows what the future holds as far as its value? Fortunately, the fourth season is one of the strongest and that makes it easier to get excited about this set. Fortunately, it was overproduced enough that it can be found easily. The only people this will appeal to are those collecting the entire Episode Collection series.

This set culls from source material found in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards that I sell in my online store! Click here to visit the store and check out my current inventory!

For other Star Trek The Next Generation trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek The Next Generation Inaugural Edition
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3


For other card reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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