Star Trek Borg on DVD
The crews of the Starships Enterprise have encountered many a baddie in their forty year history, but none so relentless in its determination to best the gang than the Borg.
We first saw these hybrids in Star Trek the Next Generation, thanks to the rapscallion Q, and their second appearance in TNG's two part "The Best of Both Worlds" is the finest Trek TV episode ever.
As is Star Trek's wont, the Borg made many more appearances, through the run of TNG, then to Voyager – where one of the regular cast members was Borg – and even to the latest generation, Enterprise. It's a grand tradition of reusing material begun with such characters as Harry Mudd and Khan, and most of the Borg episodes have been, if nothing else, interesting (as Spock might have said).
Now Paramount has taken yet another trip to the Trek well, coming up with this four disc boxed set called the Star Trek Borg Fan Collective. While we have problems with these endless reissues of Trek (not that we wish Paramount's bottom line ill), at least they've put together a good set of good quality. Dare we say "resistance is futile?"
Paramount apparently polled fans online to choose the episodes. We weren't there and didn't participate, so we hope they had some method of preventing multiple votes (a fact of online life that makes most online surveys not worth the paper they aren't printed on). Regardless, they have chosen fourteen "hours" (TV hours, minus commercials, etc.) of good Trek entertainment.
The four disc set is laid out in what would be chronological order, so Enterprise is first up despite it being the newest series. This, of course, is because the series itself is a prequel even to the original Kirk-based outings, and in this case it makes sense to have this episode first since in the Trek universe the incidents recounted take place long before Q shows up to task Picard and crew. From there we go to four TNG episodes, including two two parters (BOBW and "Descent") and then to Voyager, from which they've unassimilated five episodes including another pair of two parters.
The only real problem is that they've had to split Voyager's Scorpion two parter over two discs, which means you have to get up and swap discs between them. Perhaps this is Paramount's way of helping to ensure Trekkers get some exercise….
Naturally, you can't just crank out this stuff yet again without giving consumers at least something new to hang their hats on, and in this case they've given us excellent picture and sound quality. We believe that the TNG episodes, at least, look the best ever, though it's been a while since we visited them – though a lot of the digital artifacts we noticed on the original DVD release seem to be gone now.
The best of the bunch for quality, not surprisingly, is Regeneration, the first on Disc One. This is because Enterprise was shot widescreen with HDTV in mind, and on a widescreen TV you just can't beat that.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio is very good.
Extras include a commentary by writers Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong on "Regeneration", and text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda on "The Best of Both Worlds parts 1 and 2" and on "Unimatrix Zero part 2". They give quite a bit of "popup video" bits of trivia about the episodes as well as Trek lore.
Okay, besides the commentaries etc. there's nothing really new about these DVD's. On the other hand, they're a dandy way for a Trek novice to become introduced to Gene Roddenberry's universe – and from here he and/or she can branch out to all series and movies if desired. Of course, after "Best of Both Worlds, " it's all downhill, though to be fair all but the worst Trek episodes are well worth seeing.
Star Trek Borg Fan Collective, from Paramount Home Entertainment
Every Trek fan has his favorite episode(s). But what about the cast and crew? Shouldn't they have a chance to opine about which stories satisfied, entertained (or maybe annoyed) them the most?
Probably, especially if you're Paramount Pictures and your bottom line enjoys the way Trekkies pony up the cash for every return to the well.
Okay, that's maybe a tad too cynical because this "Captain's Log" is the third such fan favorite collection we've reviewed and, though it's also the weakest, it's an interesting assortment of the stories each series' captain deemed to be the best, for whatever reason. Even better, we get to see and hear each actor/captain tell us why he or she thinks a particular story turned his or her crank.
The five disc set dedicates a disc to each series, from the original Star Trek to the most recent (Enterprise). And it's more than just the actor's vision: fans also got to vote on their favorite "captain" episodes (which we assume means the episode that they decided best featured a particular captain). This is good, because it gives more value for the dollars spent, as well as helping to fill the DVD's….
Disc one, not surprisingly, features William Shatner as James T. Kirk, the 800 pound gorilla of Star Trek Captains. His fave was The City on the Edge of Forever, which is a decent choice. It was not only a Hugo-winning tale, but it was one that helped humanize Kirk somewhat as he faces a choice that's guaranteed to give him personal pain but which should restore the universe to the way it was "meant" to be.
Shatner introduces the episode with a rambling speech, then turns up again (as do all the actors in question) in the supplementary material opining at length on a variety of questions such as "What makes a good captain?", "The Importance of Captain's Log", "Captain Kirk's Legacy," etc. Other discs ask their featured star to respond to slightly different questions, but you get the idea.
The fan favorites from TOS are The Enterprise Incident and Balance of Terror, both of which are dandy episodes involving the evil Romulans.
Of note is the appearance of Joan Collins with Shatner in the extra materials section.
Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard from TNG) chose "In Theory" as his favorite, and as do all the stars, tells us why in an introduction. Fan Favorites are Chain of Command (a good two parter that sends Picard on a secret mission) and Darmok, where he is forced to cooperate with an alien if either of them is to find home again.
Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) led Deep Space Nine through its seasons, and Brooks chose Far Beyond the Stars as his number one fave. Here, Sisko contemplates leaving Star Fleet and has visions of being a New York-based science fiction author of the 1950's.
Fan faves on disc three are What You Leave Behind and In the Pale Moonlight.
Kate Mulgrew broke the dilithium ceiling when she was awarded the helm of Voyager, and her pick is Counterpoint, in which Janeway and her merry band rescue refugee telepaths and hides them on board the Voyager.
Fan picks for Voyager are The Omega Directive and Flashback.
The last kick at the Star Trek TV cat – so far, at least – was Enterprise, the only series to have been released in widescreen and that makes it the most satisfying to watch if you have a big, widescreen TV. Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) piloted the first star ship Enterprise across the galaxy and Bakula thought Judgment was the best of his tour of duty. And it's a good one in which he's arrested by Klingons for harboring some apparent insurgents he thought were refugees.
Fan favorites for Enterprise are These are the Voyages and First Flight.
All of these episodes have been released before, so this may make a better rental investment for fans who already own the series. But it's an interesting collection thanks to its Captain's Log hook and if you haven't shelled out for the other boxed sets, it's worth a look if only to hear the actors' take on their series.
Star Trek Fan Collective: Captain's Log
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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