As the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation
went into production, everyone knew that attentions would soon be permanently divided by the debut of Deep Space Nine
. Sure enough, that meant crossovers ("Birthright"), guest stars, and references back and forth. The sense of baton-passing drew the TNG
family closer, however. Directorial debuts begun in season 5 allowed for repeat group-huddle ownership of several shows. Jonathan Frakes bettered "The Quality of Life" by "The Chase," which finally offered an explanation why most races in the Trek
universe are humanoid with knobbly foreheads. Patrick Stewart crowbarred a Western into the franchise in "A Fistful of Datas." LeVar Burton introduced the far more exciting Riker clone Thomas in "Second Chances." But here we still find an inability to follow through a good idea, since it was intended for the clone Tom to replace the real Will. Barclay outstayed his welcome with a lackluster "Ship in a Bottle" (despite a hammy cameo from Stephanie Beacham) after he'd injected creepiness into "Realm of Fear." The same happened with Q and the painfully weak "True Q" contrasted by the philosophically challenging "Tapestry," in which Picard faced the decisions of his youth.
Yet ultimately the year provided more memorable moments than either year 5 did or year 7 would. There was the fun of a pint-sized Starfleet in "Rascals," the shocking comment on political torture in "Chain of Command," the endless Matrix-like guessing game of reality in "Frame of Mind," and even a jokey genre nod often called "Die Hard Picard" instead of its official title, "Starship Mine." The two biggest attention-drawing moments came via stellar cameos. There was the bittersweet sight of James Doohan revisiting the original Enterprise bridge on "Relics," then a quick contribution by Stephen Hawking in the cliffhanger "Descent." Both were attempts at keeping TNG the connoisseur's Trek incarnation of choice. --Paul Tonks
26 episodes on 7 discs: Time's Arrow Part II, Realm of Fear, Man of the People, Relics, Schisms, True-Q, Rascals, A Fistful of Datas, The Quality of Life, Chain of Command Part I, Chain of Command Part II, Ship in a Bottle, Aquiel, Face of the Enemy, Tapestry, Birthright Part I, Birthright Part II, Starship Mine, Lessons, The Chase, Frame of Mind, Suspicions, Rightful Heir, Second Chances, Timescape, Descent Part I.