Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Redemption

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Having proven themselves entirely capable of creating a nail-biting, cliffhanger finale at the close of season three, the Trek team attempted the same feat with season four. And just as both parts of “The Best of Both Worlds” were edited together and released as an independent Blu-ray title, so it is with “Redemption.” Rather than waiting for The Next Generation - Season Five for part two, fans can watch Worf’s (Michael Dorn) key story arc unfold as one 87-minute feature.

The real question here is, does anyone who’s already collecting the full-season sets need this release? Ultimately, I have to say yes. As with “Best of Both Worlds,” the splicing together of one of the series’ best two-parters into one seamless whole is a neat novelty. But the real value is found in the supplemental material that is exclusive to this release (more on that later). As a “feature-length” episode, “Redemption” is lacking when compared to “Both Worlds.” That episode was buoyed by the introduction of the iconic Borg Collective. It would even be perfectly acceptable as an introduction to TNG even for someone entirely unfamiliar with the series.

“Redemption” doesn’t have nearly as shocking a mid-way point as the abduction of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart). As Worf seeks to restore his honor within the fractured Klingon Empire that disavowed him (see “Sins of the Father” in season three), a face from the past serves as the twist that transitions part one to part two. That face belongs to Denise Crosby, who portrayed the late Tasha Yar in season one. Here she is doubling as her own daughter, Sela, a half-Romulan commander who is siding with the House of Duras (the oppositional force threatening to take the Klingons into civil war).

The whole Sela conceit is also tied to a season three episode (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”), making “Redemption” less approachable as an independent story. But it also highlights the complex storytelling at play. The episode’s writer Ron Moore was commendably ambitious, connecting these previous episodes (as well as season four’s “Reunion”) at a time when story arcs were expressly discouraged by the producers. If the potential Klingon civil war, Worf’s desire to redeem himself, and the mystery of Yar’s daughter weren’t enough, we also get to see Data (Brent Spiner) as the captain of his own ship. There’s enough going on here that most of the regular cast, including Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis), and Geordi (LeVar Burton), are all but absent.

Technically everything here is superb. CBS Digital did a beautiful job restoring the visual elements, with all the moody, murky lighting aboard the Klingon ships looking sharper than ever. The essential re-assembly of TNG hasn’t ceased to amaze and fans who can afford to upgrade from DVD will likely not regret it. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix is also consistent with the standard of sonic excellence heard throughout the full seasons. The original stereo mix is only available in lossy Dolby Digital but I guess you can’t have everything.

Though the special features aren’t extensive, you won’t find them anywhere else. Writer Ron Moore sat with Mike and Denise Okuda for a new audio commentary that brims with interesting tidbits. “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” is a new half-hour documentary devoted to the making of “Redemption,” with insights into the development of Worf as a character. Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was initially resistant to the idea of focusing so heavily on a character he envisioned in a strictly supporting role.

Though I would think Sela should’ve looked a little less like her mother (apart from her ears, we’re supposed to accept that her father’s DNA didn’t impact her looks one iota), “Redemption” is by and large a rewarding viewing experience. In a rare error, Timothy Carhart's name was included twice in the new opening credits. Whoopi Goldberg, who guest stars as her recurring character Guinan, was omitted. In addition to worthwhile extra features, the regular Blu-ray case is housed in a handsome, gatefold cover.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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