June 24, 2014 marks the release date of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 on high-definition Blu-ray, with a remastered transfer and improved special effects from Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios on one of the show’s best years before heading into its weaker, but still solidfinal season. By the time Season 6 rolled around for the show, everything was in a storytelling and chemistry groove for the cast and the creators since turning a corner in content three years before and finding its thematic voice since.
The sixth season is unique in the canon due to the fact that is was produced simultaneously as the property was branching out with its new spin-off series Deep Space Nine (which factors into some of the episodes like ‘Birthright Part 1’), so behind-the-scenes there were several creative hands being shuffled around, but the season didn’t suffer in the slightest, thanks to the handling of excellent guest stars (James “Scotty” Doohan in ‘Relics’, James Cromwell and even Stephen Hawking himself), tying up old issues from previous seasons (‘Moriarty’) and putting new spins on classic villains (‘Descent Part 1’).
For fans, the sixth season delivers a lot over the spread of its 26 episodes. Along with opening and closing with half of a two-part story arc, their also exists two separate two-part episodes in the middle of the season. The very first episode is the end of the time-traveling yarn ‘Time’s Arrow’ that served as the cliffhanger of the previous season, Worf embarks on a mission to discover if his father is still alive in ‘Birthright Part 1 & 2’, the Borg return as an evolved threat in ‘Descent Part 1’ (that also ends on a cliffhanger note with the return of another villain), but the centrepiece of the season is ‘Chain Of Command Part 1 & 2’.
Inspired by the literary classic 1984, ‘Command’ serves up the Cardassian alien race as major player in the ranks of Federation enemies when Captain Picard is held prisoner by them and undergoes a gruelling torture and brainwashing process. David Warner (Titanic) plays the interrogator and has incredible chemistry with Patrick Stewart in those scenes. Other favourite episodes in the year include the Die Hard-like ‘Starship Mine’ that finds Picard battling terrorists solo aboard the empty ship and ‘Frame Of Mind’ that is perhaps one of Jonathan Frakes’ best episode outings as Commander Riker in the mind-bending tale.
Much like its predecessors, the remastered high-definition image is phenomenal and elevates watching The Next Generation for modern audiences very effectively. Some dated CGI effects are altered to blend in better with other material in some instances, while the picture in general possesses excellent colour and crisp detail. Like earlier sets, the new audio DTS HD Master 7.1 mix is relatively flawless even if it only packs a punch in a couple of areas, but the dialogue and ambience stay consistently clear.
The biggest new special feature of interest is ‘Beyond The Five Year Mission: The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘, a 90-minute retrospective divided into three parts with creators, crew and cast members all chiming in discussing the season (which potentially almost killed off Riker) and Trek’s path at the time branching out into Deep Space Nine. There are three audio commentaries options in a few favourite episodes, but if you’re looking for one on ‘Chain Of Command’ you will need to purchase the individual release of those two episodes.
There are a collection of Deleted Scenes from nine episodes (also restored in a digital transfer from the original negative), as well as a hilarious Gag Reel in HD. Ported over from the previous standard DVD box set are Archival Mission Logs (interviews and footage), Episode Promos and Trailers. Ultimately this six-disc set is a not to be passed over edition in what is arguably one of the show’s best seasons and certainly its last, even though the final year is sure to receive a stellar set as well.