Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Seven
After seven years and some 176 adventures, it was time for the good ship Enterprise to return to spacedock. This final season in the final frontier concluded a series that had outlasted its early naysayers to garner a huge international following and to firmly laser-weld the name Star Trek to the most successful franchise in TV history. By the time this season concluded on May 23, 1994 with the two-hour magnum opus "All Good Things," another series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was well underway and the first Next Generation feature film would arrive in only six more months. We'd see the seven-season template again in the ultimately superior Deep Space Nine and the immediately inferior Star Trek: Voyager, two series built on the universe that ST:TNG fleshed out.
When Season Seven began, the writers and cast were aware that it was time to wrap things up, so throughout these 25 episodes we feel an end approaching. Within the comfy-old-shoe mix of character-focused dramas and interstellar derring-do, loose threads from earlier seasons get sewn up. Data reunites with his evil twin, Lore, and pulls the plug for good. Lt. Worf and Counselor Troi upgrade their friendship to romance. Ensign Ro chooses her destiny. Capt. Picard finishes off an old enemy. Dr. Crusher finally gets her groove back (albeit with a ghost). Wesley Crusher (for real, this time we mean it) leaves not only the series but this plane of existence entirely. And Troi turns into a newt. As usual, the episodes on hand run the gamut from huzzah! to ho-hum. From start to finish, though, it seems that the writing staff, knowing that this was their last go-round, pushed ideas that broke formula more often than in earlier seasons. There are moments here that might have lifted Seasons One through Six from banal sameness if they hadn't arrived here too little too late. Plus, the strong ensemble cast is in peak form, giving their all right to the end, which comes with a mighty big bang through a "movie" that bests most of the big-screen outings to come.
For years the series' writers used technobabble to weasle out of nettlesome storytelling problems. There's no plot complication that can't be resolved by a polysyllabic beam, pulse, emission, or particle made up by some staffer who probably also cheats at Scrabble. That laziness is endemic here. Season Seven's output from the doubletalk generators includes kedion pulses, verteron pulses, interphasic pulses, warp pulses, tachyon pulses, and subspace differential pulses, along with tetryon particles, vertion particles, one anaphasic lifeform, and spatial anamolies in a pear tree.
And as before, several stories hold winning hands by playing the Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner cards. This was also a watershed year for Gates McFadden, with some of Dr. Crusher's finest and most abundant screen time. In the touching "Inheritance," android Data discovers that he has a mother, of sorts. In "Phantasms" his surreal nightmares reflect a dangerous reality, then he manifests personalities from a long-dead alien civilization in the the moody Spinerama "Masks." Capt. Picard goes undercover as an outlaw in "Gambit" Parts 1 & 2, and it's always fun to see Stewart let his hair down. Picard and Dr. Crusher expose their romantic undercurrents in "Attached," an ep scripted by Carl Sagan's son Nick. "Parallels" presents the coolest alternate-universes story yet with Worf stepping into differing realities until the boffo all-stops-out climax. Riker gets a showcase in "The Pegasus," a taut intrigue story involving his previous captain and an ultra-secret Starfleet Intelligence project gone awry.
Another top-flight mold-breaker, "Lower Decks," finally remembers that there are a thousand crewmembers on this ship by giving four junior officers their own excellent story for a change, something that should have happened early and often throughout the series. "Preemptive Strike" gives Ensign Ro, who joined the show way too late, a fitting sendoff.
At the dismal end of the continuum, the famously risible "Genesis" could have been a nifty Old Dark House creeper if not for ... well, everything, so this story of the crew "de-evolving" into lizards, spiders, apes, and (in Worf's case) a giant cockroach wins the series' All-Time "What Were They Thinking?!" award. A haunted house story, "Sub Rosa," is Trek's take on trashy Gothic romance paperbacks, with Dr. Crusher joining other women in her lineage by being protoplasmically serviced by a ghost lover. The only item of interest in "Dark Page" is 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst. The 'We'll Never Mention This Again' prize goes to "Emergence," where the Enterprise herself gains sentience and makes a baby.
Finally, after the great and the grievous and the majority in between, the series concludes with "All Good Things," a whopper of a finale that brings the series full circle back to its beginnings. The bedeviling Q jumps Picard between past, present, and future with mankind's entire historical existence in the universe at stake. Everybody gets plenty of good material in a two-hour epic that revels in everything we love about Star Trek in the first place.
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Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Complete Seventh Season DVD boxed set suitably matches the six previous silvery megaliths on the shelf. Seven discs hold 25 episodes plus extras, delivering 19 hours 34 minutes of trekkin'. Again the interior digipak unfurls like an hour at the dentist, with no useful episode guide in sight. But the onscreen menus are still cool (the new flythrough of Picard's Ready Room is a nice plus). The episodes themselves still look great vibrant and clean and sound even better in their new DD 5.1 and original DD 2.0 stereo options.
Disc Seven's supplements carry on the traditions of their forebears, with the addition of wistful nostalgia as cast and crew bid farewell to the series (and, in most cases, hello to careers in the feature films). In Mission Overview (14 minutes), Executive Producers Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor, Brent Spiner, and others emphasize the "rollercoaster ride" that was Season Seven. In A Captain's Tribute (16 mins.), Patrick Stewart's casual and candid solo interview is a heartfelt personal tribute to his workaday colleagues and friends. Departmental Briefing: Production (15 mins.) gives welcome attention to Gates McFadden, who recalls her directorial debut helming "Genesis," an ep also noted for its makeup design. Jonathan Frakes discusses directing "Attached" and Stewart recalls the physicality of "Bloodlines" and others; writer Brannon Braga gushes about "Parallels," followed by McFadden, Taylor, and Mirina Sirtis soft-selling the series' (usually tepid) attempts to portray role-model women characters.
A warm and familial farewell comes in Starfleet Moments and Memories, a half-hour group hug with the cast, writers, and production staff looking back at their entire ST:TNG experience. The Making of "All Good Things" (17 mins.) touches on the writing and production work behind the niftiest bookend a Trek fan could ask for.
Closing out the extras is a well-made five-minute promo for the forthcoming Deep Space Nine DVD sets. All good things.... Indeed.