Warping into syndication in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation
successfully launched its seven-season "continuing mission" of the starship Enterprise
, and this classy DVD boxed set gathers the show's inaugural season in crisp picture clarity and dazzling 5.1-channel sound. A ratings leader with a sharp ensemble cast, this revamped Trek
honored series creator Gene Roddenberry's original Trek
concept, nurtured by returning veterans like producer Robert H. Justman and writers D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold. Several first-season episodes have original-series counterparts, and while the season was awkwardly inconsistent for all involved (including Roddenberry's heir apparent, producer Rick Berman), in retrospect the series began on remarkably solid footing.
Patrick Stewart was perfect as Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard, while Marina Sirtis struggled with a wretched hair bun and an ill-defined character, eventually blessing Counselor Troi with delicate nuance. Denise Crosby made a strong but underutilized impression as Security Chief Tasha Yar, and left the series before season's end, allowing writers to develop Klingon Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) into a fan favorite. Brent Spiner transcended Spock comparisons with his triumphant portrayal of the android Lieutenant Commander Data; and while Jonathan Frakes was accepted as First Officer Will Riker, fans ultimately rejected Wil Wheaton as ensign Wesley Crusher, the teenaged son of the ship's doctor (Gates McFadden). Still, these 25 episodes laid a firm foundation for subsequent seasons, and highlights include the Raymond Chandleresque "holo- novel" of "The Big Goodbye," Data's backstory in "Datalore," the Klingon rituals of "Heart of Glory," and a Romulan encounter in "The Neutral Zone." The DVD supplements (all on the seventh disc) are good enough to make anyone wish for more: four featurettes recall myriad first-season challenges, filled with insider perspective and enough NextGen trivia to satiate all but the most obsessive Trekkers back on Earth. Looking back, it's easy to see why NextGen lived long and prospered. --Jeff Shannon
25 episodes on 7 discs: Encounter at Farpoint, The Naked Now, Code of Honor, The Last Outpost, Where No One Has Gone Before, Lonely Among Us, Justice, The Battle, Hide and Q, Haven, The Big Goodbye, Datalore, Angel One, 11001001, Too Short a Season, When the Bough Breaks, Home Soil, Coming of Age, Heart of Glory, The Arsenal of Freedom, Symbiosis, Skin of Evil, We'll Always Have Paris, Conspiracy, The Neutral Zone. Four new exclusive featurettes: "The Beginning" (the genesis of Star Trek: The Next Generation
and Gene Roddenberry's vision), "Selected Crew Analysis" (first-season cast members discuss their roles), "Making of a Legend" (first-season production staff reminisce about their favorite episodes), "Memorable Missions" (cast and crew discuss key episodes and events of the first season).