I remember when "Star Trek: The Next Generation" first premiered and "TV Guide" dismissed it as a show "that baldly goes" where one show, the original "Star Trek," had gone before. They even cracked a joke about the show needing "Spock plugs." Several years later "TV Guide" named Patrick Stewart as its television actor of the decade of the 1990s. So it is not surprising that there would be a "Star Trek: The New Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection." The question is whether they picked the right seven episodes for this DVD set. Clearly the only caveat is that two-part episodes are not in the running, which eliminates the two parts of "The Best of Both Worlds," "Chain of Command," and "All Good Things." The answer to the question is, yes, they did an excellent job of selecting these seven episodes:
"The Big Goodbye" (Written by Tracy Torme, Season 1: Episode 11) is the comic relief episode of the set, albeit by default. Captain Picard takes a break from the difficult preparations to give a proper greeting to the Jarada by doing a Dixon Hill holodeck adventure. Picard is joined by Data, Dr. Crusher, and the ship's historian, Whalen in the scenario set in 1941 San Francisco when the holodeck malfunctions trapping the quartet with the safety parameters off. Whalen is killed and Picard has to play the Dixon Hill role for real.
"Sarek" (Story by Marc Cushman and Jake Jacobs, Teleplay by Peter S. Beagle, Season 3: Episode 23) has the Vulcan ambassador on a mission to establish relations between the Federation and the Legaran. However, Spock's father is suffering from Bendii Syndrome, a rare condition among Vulcans that is characterized by a loss of emotional control. To allow Sarek to fulfill his mission, Picard agrees to a mind-meld that will link their minds. While Sarek is able to use the captain's strength to successfully complete the negotiations, Picard endures a storm of emotions from Sarek as Stewart turns in a memorable performance.
"Family" (Written by Ronald D. Moore, Season 4: Episode 2) is the coda to "Best of Both Worlds, Part 2." All of the plot lines have to do with the title, with Worf's adoptive human parents visiting the "Enterprise" and Beverly Crusher finding a message from her dead husband for Wesley. But the key storyline is Picard visiting the family vineyard in France and encountering his older brother, Robert. Seriously considering a job offer on Earth, the brothers end up fighting and Picard finally breaks down over the guilt he feels for not being able to stop the Borg from controlling him.
"The Drumhead" (Written by Jeri Taylor, Season 4: Episode 21) is the weakest of the episodes selected although it does offer Stewart going up against guest star Jean Simmons as Admiral Satie, who is engaging in a witch hunt looking for a traitor. This is essentially a courtroom drama where Satie finally crosses the line and accuses Picard of being the traitor. A solid episode, but nothing special, especially compared to the next two episodes in the collection.
"Darmok" (Story by Philip Lazebnik and Joe Menosky, Teleplay by Menosky, Season 5: Episode 2) is a personal favorite. The "Enterprise" encounters the Children of Tama, a race whose language is considered incomprehensible. Dathon (Paul Winfield), the captain of the Tamarians beams down himself and Picard to the planet below. There the two learn to communicate and fight a monster together. It turns out the Tamarian language is based on metaphor, communicating by example, and the final two scenes of the episode provide emotional examples of how well Picard has learned this language.
"The Inner Light" (Story by Morgan Gendel, Teleplay by Gendel and Peter Allan Fields, Season 5: Episode 25) is the center square on this bingo card, considered by most fans to be Stewart's finest episode. An alien probe knocks Picard unconscious and he awakens on a strange world named Kataan where a beautiful woman tells him his name is Kamin, her husband of three years, and that he is suffering from memory problems. In what is only 25 minutes aboard the "Enterprise" Picard lives an entire lifetime on the planet Kataan, eventually accepting the life he has no choice but to lead. A powerful episode that gives Picard the chance to live the life he will never have as a Starfleet captain.
"Tapestry" (Written by Ronald D. Moore, Season 6: Episode 15) is a Q episode. Picard is critically wounded in an attack and wakes up in a white light where Q tells him he is dead. Picard's artifical heart has cost him his life and the captain gets the chance to see what would have happened if he had not had that fight with the Nausicaan when he was at Starfleet Academy. The result was that everything that made him a great leader would have been lost and he ends up on the "Enterprise" as a lowly astrophysics officer. This is certainly a nice final episode for this set since it puts Picard's life in perspective.
For me, this scores six out of seven. I would have ditched "The Drumhead" and substituted "Lessons" (Season 6: Episode 19), where Picard shares his music on the Kataan flute with Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren, and receives another lesson in the loneliness of command. It is interesting to note that the UK version of this set has a different lineup consisting of "Allegiance," "Captain's Holiday," "Darmok," "The Inner Light," "Starship Mine," "Lessons" and "Bloodlines." Intersting choices, but clearly on balance the US version has a better lineup.
This colletion certainly does well enought to justify rounding up, especially once you throw in "From Here to Infinity," a documentary of space exploration hosted by Stewart. I was not interested in picking up all season by season "Star Trek: The Next Generation" sets and I cannot imagine a set focusing on any of the other characters being as strong as this collection (Data and Worf will vie for second, obviously, unless they do a Lwaxana Troi set), so the "Jean-Luc Picard Collection" suits me just fine.