‘Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels’ Is Not Dreadful, But Tough To Watch

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount/Showtime/Sky

Showtime and Sky’s Penny Dreadful spin-off City of Angels is an interesting addition to the franchise.  The 10-episode series, which ran for approximately two months this year from April 26 to June 28, is an interesting presentation.  While it only ran for one season, it is a presentation that will find its specific audiences.  That is due in part to the story featured in the program.  This element will be discussed shortly.  While the story does give audiences reason to watch, the general content that accompanies the story unarguably detracts from the show’s presentation to a point.  This will be addressed a little later.  The work of the series’ cast puts the finishing touch to the show’s program.  Together with the story, those two elements are enough to make up for the show’s somewhat overly gritty content and make it worth watching at least once.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is an interesting addition to Showtime and Sky’s original Penny Dreadful franchise, which originally launched in 2014 and ran for three seasons. It is a presentation that fans of hard boiled crime dramas will find at least somewhat appealing.  That is proven in part through its expansive story line, which spans the show’s 10-episode run.  Unlike the original series, which is based on a series of Victorian-era monsters and their experiences, City of Angels is centered more on the real world.  The gritty, hard-boiled crime drama takes place in pre-World War II Los Angeles, California.  It follows the murder of a well-to-do white family in Los Angeles.  The murder is initially blamed on members of the city’s Hispanic community, but of course the truth is eventually revealed at the series’ end, not to give away too much.  This frame-up highlights the racial tensions that did in fact exist between the white members of the city’s citizenry and its immigrant population, especially in the interactions between the city’s all-white police force and the members of the city’s Hispanic population.  Adding to the mix is the impact of the Nazi party in the region at the time.  As if that is not enough, Magda, in all of her various forms, keeps the tension high throughout each of the story lines that interweave throughout the series, adding even more intrigue to the story.  Her actions add to the never-ending discussion on whether human behavior and thoughts are innate or are influenced by external factors (I.E. the sociological discussion of nature versus nurture).  This is discussed in the bonus content that accompanies the series’ home release.  That overarching aspect makes for so much interest in this series.  Of course it cannot be denied that through it all, there are moments when all of the story lines do cause the series to get bogged down in itself.  Each of the story lines do ultimately tie together, but because there is so much going on, it was clearly easy for the writers to get lost in their project.  As a result, audiences end up getting a little lost, too.  Luckily that is not enough to completely ruin the series’ presentation, but it also cannot be ignored.  The fact that the story occasionally gets bogged down in itself is just one of the problems from which this series suffers.  Its general content creates its own problem for the its presentation.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels was intentionally presented as a gritty, hard boiled crime drama.  There is no denying that.  This brand of crime story is nothing new to audiences.  It has been around since at least the early to mid 1920s and 30s.  The thing is that this series takes the general elements of hard boiled crime to a new and somewhat controversial level.  The gruesome fate of the family that was killed is explicit to say the least.  It is reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s look of the Joker in The Dark Knight only far more extreme, complete with blood and gore, oh and nudity.  This is just one over-the-top element of the show’s content.  The overt displays of homosexual (and bi-sexual) intercourse are completely unnecessary, and another way in which the show’s content goes way too far over the top.  As if that is not enough, a moment, such as that in which a police officer’s neck is slashed with a razor and his body left naked and covered in blood (yes, this really is shown) is far too explicit, too.  Between these moments and all of the unnecessary foul language that is used throughout, the general content featured in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels proves to be anything but angelic.  Maybe that is because the show’s heads could get away with it, being on Showtime after all.  Regardless, the noted content (and more) does a great deal to detract from what could have otherwise been a great classic crime hard boiled style crime drama.

For all that the content displayed in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels does to detract from the series’ presentation, it is not enough to make the series completely unwatchable.  The work of the series’ cast on camera works with the story to help save it at least somewhat.  Most notable of the cast is star Nathan Lane.  The veteran actor, Lane serves as a supporting cast member here.  Even as a supporting cast member, he still shines both by himself and alongside fellow cast member Daniel Zovatto (It Follows, Lady Bird, Don’t Breathe).  Lane is known typically as a comedic actor, but his dramatic turn here is so powerful.  When he’s by himself, he stands out so much because he takes the full chance to let Michener’s personality develop.  His years of experience on stage and screen comes through fully and fully entertaining.  When he is working alongside Zovatto, who shines in his own right as Tiago, he never tries to outdo the younger actor.  Rather, the duo works so well together, sort of building their characters’ personalities together.  Natalie Dormer meanwhile shines in her own way as Magda as she takes on her various roles.  Among the best of her moments comes as she portrays Alex, clerk to Councilman Townsend.  The way in which she basically plays him is classic clerk to an evil business.  At the same time, she makes her evil intentions just barely noticeable enough really balance things out and make her character so wonderfully despicable.  Going back to Zovatto, the way he presents Tiago’s personal identity struggles as he works with the police and tries to balance that with his identity as a Latino is moving in its own right.  There are moments when he hams it up a little too much, but for the most part, he takes on his portrayal quite well.  In the same vein, the way in which Tiago’s police counterparts take on their roles is fully believable, too.  There is no way that doing and saying what they did could have possibly been easy, but sadly there is a lot of reality about those racial tensions even in that era.  To that point, the actors made it easy to have a strong dislike for their characters and their awful behavior.  That means that they did a good job of showing the vile nature of how horribly they treated minorities even back then, so they are to be commended for that, as difficult as it must have been, morally.  Taking in the performances noted here, that of Lane’s fellow veteran actor Brent Spiner (who does well in a rare non-Star Trek role), and those of all others involved, it can be said easily that the work of the series’ cast plays well into the overall presentation of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.  Together with the story, they do just enough to counter the questionable content featured within the story, and make the series worth watching at least once.

Showtime and Sky Network’s short-lived series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is an interesting addition to the franchise, which started six years ago as a fantasy type series.  Its overall story, which incorporates multiple story lines does relatively well to engage audiences.  Given those story lines do bog the series down at times, but not enough to make the series a failure.  The content that is displayed throughout the series does quite a bit to make it difficult to watch, as has been noted here.  It goes way above and beyond the content presented in classic hard boiled detective novels and movies, basically throwing it all out the window just for the sake of having something shocking.  It really is the series’ biggest detractor and makes the series difficult to watch more than once.  The work of the series’ cast works with the story to make up for the problems created by the content at least somewhat.  Those two elements are positives, and do make up for the problems posed through the content to a point.  Taking everything noted here collectively, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is a powerful addition to Showtime and Sky Network’s franchise that crime drama fans will find worth watching at least once.  Hopefully if another addition to the franchise comes along, it will not be as explicit as this series and worth far more.  If not, then the franchise has closed out on a difficult note.  It is available now.

More information on this and other programs from Showtime is available online at:

Website: http://www.sho.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/showtime

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Showtime


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‘Star Trek: Picard’ Falls Short Of Expectations In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access/CBS DVD

CBS All Access’ latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Picard is another disappointment in the “new generation” of Star Trek series, next to Discovery.  The 10-episode debut season of Picard gives audiences little reason to remain engaged or even entertained in its writing and acting.  That is not to say that this season is a complete failure.  It is saved at least in part by its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Other than those aesthetic elements, there is really no other reason for viewers to even try out this attempt to resurrect the TNG era of Star Trek.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough first outing for the show.  It is not a complete failure, though.  It does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its special effects.  Technology has come a long way in terms of the use of special effects, and they were used quite well throughout the course of Picard’s debut season.  Audiences will marvel at the upgrades made to the Borg cube that was so badly damaged in an epic battle with the Enterprise back in the days of TNG.  In a similar vein, the effects that were used to create the home world of the “synths” and the Federation headquarters is just as impressive.  The space battles that took place were just as  enjoyable to watch, even though they looked more like something out of Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5.  The effects that were used to create the early destruction of the Mars shipyards is worth acknowledging, too.  Those sequences are pretty brutal, even though again, one can’t help but think of BSG in this case, too.  Simply put, the special effects that were presented throughout the course of Picard’s debut (and hopefully only) season give viewers at least something to appreciate here.  Going back again to the mention of the BSG comparison, that item is just one of many that brings about the season’s one major detractor, its writing.

The writing that is featured in the first season of Picard is problematic to say the very least.  The whole thing starts off as essentially a “sequel” of sorts to Star Trek: Nemesis, the finale to The Next Generation’s cinematic universe.  That 2002 movie was the lowest point for the TNG franchise at the time, but Jean Luc’s desire to find Data’s consciousness here is just cheesy to say the very least.  The real Jean Luc-Picard did mourn for Data in Nemesis, but he ultimately would have accepted Data’s passing.  So to have this story open like this makes suspension of disbelief difficult to say the least.  From there, audiences are presented with the all too familiar topic of whether artificial intelligence can become fully sentient.  It is a topic that became central to TNG, but was addressed far before Star Trek was a thing, thus the reference to Isaac Asimov throughout this season.  It has been used and used again so many times throughout the sci-fi world that it has become little more than a trope.  The over-the-top preachiness that ensues in regards to the Romulans’ blind hatred of synths is yet another echo of something that has been addressed so many times in other movies and television shows that preceeded Picard.  To that end, it makes the topic that much more unengaging. 

Of course for all of the negative in the show’s writing, it does have some positives.  One positive element of the writing comes in Jean Luc’s revelation about the Borg being “victims, not monsters” as he visits the Borg cube in which he himself became a Borg in TNG.  He realizes that the Borg were in fact real, living beings who were transformed by the sentience.  That is a direct connection to the bigger discussion on the synths’ place in the universe, but is still far less preachy than the other noted talk.  Considering that the story line in Star Trek Discovery states the Federation essentially made the Borg when it created “Control,” Picard’s statement holds even more water so to speak.

Staying on the topic of Jean Luc’s revelations, his comment early on that the Federation does not decide which society survives is powerful in itself.  It echoes back to Luke Skywalker’s disillusionment with the Jedi order in the Star Wars universe.  The Federation’s Prime Directive was to not get involved directly in any society, so for his fellow Admiral to declare the Federation does hold that power makes Jean Luc a more sympathetic character.  It shows that there is at least a little bit of positive to the writing.  Sadly though, other than these revelations, most of the writing still poses its share of problems.  There is so much exposition and waxing philosophical throughout the season that the show’s pacing starts to suffer many times.  It isn’t the lighter but direct writing that audiences enjoyed in the “old days” of Star Trek.  Audiences are even made to endure an extensive discussion on mortality in the season finale (not to give away too much) that is way heavy. 

As if everything noted was not enough, the blatant foul language and often gory content written into the scripts detracts from the writing even more.  TOS, TNG, DSN, Voyager, and Enterprise did not need violence and foul language in order to work.  To that end, why did the show’s creative heads think these elements were so necessary in this case?  It leaves one shaking one’s head in disbelief that much more.

Simply put, the writing detracts from the presentation of Picard: Season One noticeably.  That is even with its rare positives.  While the writing does considerable damage to this season’s presentation, there is at least one more positive for audiences.  It is the packaging of the season’s home release.

Audiences will note that Season One’s packaging actually is its own positive.  The set’s three discs sit on their own “plate” inside the box.  This protects them from being damaged in any form.  Brief but concise episode summaries are also printed on the inside of the set’s cover art.  This is where things get a little bit problematic.  Due to being printed on the inside of the case’s art, some of the summaries are partially covered by the package’s “bones.”  This leads to the need to shift the box so that they can be better read.  Even doing that is problematic because even in doing that, there is still some difficulty in reading said summaries.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen with all of the summaries.  To that end, the inclusion of the summaries is still mostly positive in its own fashion.  When all of this noted packaging presentation is considered along with the show’s special effects, the show’s presentation proves to have at least something to appreciate

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough start for this series.  It does not give audiences much to appreciate.  Rather, it comes across more as a cash grab attempt by someone to get fans of The Next Generation to welcome the “new age” of Star Trek.  That is evidenced in large part through the season’s central story and writing.  The writing comes across as some kind of attempt by the  show’s creative heads to see if they could make up for the failure that was Nemesis while also rehashing the far too familiar topic of artificial intelligence and the potential results of said intelligence becoming sentient.  It all feels so forced.  To the show’s defense, there are at least a couple of positives to the writing, but they are just not enough to make this season memorable.  The only real positives to this season are its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Even as much as they do to help the season’s presentation, they just are not enough to save Season One.  Ultimately, one can only hope that considering all of the problems posed throughout the season, the now confirmed second season will be anything but the failure that is Season One.

More information on Star Trek: Picard is available along with all of CBS All Access’ latest news at:

Website: http://www.cbs.com/allaccess

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CBSAllAccess

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00IURL19Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717281&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+6. The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Command-Blu-ray/dp/B00IUR3YI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717308&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+chain+of+command.

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ParamountMovies and http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

StarVista, Time Life Announce Release Date, Details For Mama’s Family Season Three

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Thelma Harper returns this winter!  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life have announced that they will release the third season of the hit sitcom Mama’s Family on February 25th, 2014.  There are changes for the Harper family in the series’ third season.  The most noticeable of those changes is the departure of Vint’s kids, Buzz and Sonja.  The pair was replaced in Season Three by a new character named Bubba Higgins.  Bubba was the child of Ed and Thelma’s daughter Eunice.  He was played by Allan Kayser.  His sudden appearance is explained by his having been previously incarcerated in juvenile hall.  It is explained that he decided to move in at Thelma’s because Ed and Eunice had moved to Florida.  It’s not the only change that viewers see this season.  Ellen (Betty White—Golden Girls) goes under the knife, and Thelma’s sister Fran (Rue McClanahan—Golden Girls) dies.  Of course, Thelma doesn’t let it remain a somber occasion.  She harps on Ellen for how she did her hair for the funeral.  There are plenty more laughs from this, the penultimate season of Mama’s Family in its original run.  The upcoming box set’s release’s bonus features and guest appearances will impress, too.

Mama’s Family Season Three comes packed with its own share of bonus features.  Fans of The Carol Burnett Show that weren’t lucky enough to get their hands on any of the stand-alone box sets or the complete series set get yet another classic “The Family” skit taken from said show as a bonus in this set.  Also included is a profile of Bubba Higgins, an interview with Allan Kayser, and a Mama’s Family cast reunion.  If the bonus features aren’t enough for viewers, maybe the guest star lineup will.  Golden Girls star Betty White returns again.  Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Dr. Joyce Brothers, Jack Dodson (The Andy Griffith Show), and Lewis Arquette (Best in Show) all make appearances, too.

All twenty-five episodes of Season Three are included across four discs.  The set is listed at an MSRP of $29.95.  More information on Mama’s Family Season Three and other releases from StarVista Entertainment and Time Life is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://www.timelife.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek: TNG’s Fifth Season Is One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the great science fiction series of the twentieth century. It took what was started by its predecessor and carried it to a whole new level. Thanks to Paramount and CBS Home Video, fans of this modern classic series have already gotten to enjoy all seven seasons of the hit series on DVD. And now it is being re-issued to DVD once again alongside first-time ever Blu-ray releases. Paramount and CBS Home Video just recently released the series’ fifth season in its entirety to Blu-ray. Season Five is one of the best from Star Trek: TNG (as it will henceforth be titled). The season itself is so impressive first and foremost because of its episodes. Season Five’s episodes offer audiences some of the series’ most substantial material of any of the series’ seven total seasons. Season Five’s Blu-ray release ups the ante, presenting each of the season’s episodes exactly as they originally aired. This makes this collection even more worth picking up for the Trek fan in any household. And what Blu-ray re-issue would be complete without the mandatory bonus features. Paramount and CBS Home Video have impressed once again with the bonus features included in this set. They are the finishing touch on the six-disc collection. They make this collection a definite must have for any hardcore Trek fan while he or she waits for the release of the show’s penultimate season.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five is one of the series best first and foremost because of its episodes. To be more precise, Season Five is such an impressive season because of its writing. One excellent example of the strong writing in Season Five is the season’s second episode, “Darmok.” Captain Picard is forced to survive in the wild alongside a representative of The Children of Tama. There’s just one problem. There is quite the language gap between them to say the least. In order to survive, Captain Picard is forced to learn the representative’s language. In learning the language of another people, he better understands his new found friend and his culture. This leads to an even deeper appreciation for The Children of Tama. This is an episode to which audiences can clearly relate. Audiences can relate to this storyline as it teaches viewers that only by having an open mind about other cultures can mankind achieve any progress towards peace. Understanding the language of other cultures is just the starting point in that path. On a similar note, “I, Borg” relates to audiences just as much as it sees a young Borg learning about individualism after having being separated from the Borg collective. This is a lesson to which any viewer can relate. To a lesser extent, audiences will appreciate just as much the second half of the season bridging, “Redemption.” There is no lesson here. It is just a solid continuation of the story started at the end of Season Four. Audiences finally see the outcome of Worf having left the Federation to join in family in dealing with the Klingon High Command as a new leader is chosen for the Klingon people. Much as with so many of the series’ episodes, it is a character driven episode. It showed once and for all that while Michael Dorn was a supporting cast member, he could still hold his own in his own story arc. These are just a few of the episodes that make Star Trek: TNG Season Five another must have for any Star Trek loyalist. There are plenty more from which fans will call their own. And they’re just the starting point of what makes Season Five so enjoyable.

The writing behind the fifth season of Star Trek: TNG is the most important part of its success. Audiences will appreciate also that Paramount and CBS Home Video have continued their high standard of presenting each of the episodes as they were presented in their original broadcasts. The commercial segues are one hundred percent clean. Also noteworthy is that each episode is presented in its original 4:3 format. However those with HDTVs may be able to use their remotes to switch from the classic 4:3 format and switch to a full 16:9 cinema style presentation if they so choose.  There is something about seeing each season in a full widescreen presentation that makes it even better than in standard 4:3 style.  It just adds a certain charm so to speak about each episode. What’s more, no one part of any episode has been removed from any of the season’s episodes. Believe it or not, there are some companies that cut portions of movies and TV shows in their home releases. Luckily, neither Paramount nor CBS Home Video has done that here. And it’s just one more positive to the set’s overall presentation.  Added in the season’s strong writing, it makes this season all the more worth the money.

The writing and overall presentation of Star Trek: TNG Season Five are the most important elements of this season’s home release.  It wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory bonus features, though.  The bonus features included in Season Five are impressive to say the least.  But the amount of features and their content is only part of the whole to this aspect of the set.  Audiences will especially appreciate that the bonus features have been spread across all six of the set’s discs.  A general overview of what makes Season Five’s episodes great opens the bonus features on disc one.  Audiences will be interested to hear the back story on specific episodes, and their significance in the relation to real life.  It’s followed up on discs two and three with examinations of the show’s production values and visual effects respectively.  From there, audiences are offered a tribute to series creator Gene Roddenberry on the set’s fifth disc along with a look at Season Five’s big name guest stars.  Fittingly, the set’s final disc takes a look back at the series just as with the previous four seasons.  The cast and crew give even more insight into what made the show so great up to its fifth season.  One could ramble on aimlessly for some time about the bonus features.  But suffice it to say that each of the features included across the set’s discs are bonuses in every sense of the word.  And they put Season Five over the top.  They are the final argument proving exactly why this set is a must have for Star Trek fans of any age.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=464253.  More information on this and all things Star Trek is available online at http://www.startrek.com and http://www.facebook.com/StarTrek.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek: TNG Gets Even Better In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the greatest incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved franchise.  Considering that it started in the late 1980s, it was unlike roughly anything else on television at the time.  So for audiences to say that its first two seasons were shaky is somewhat unfair.  The show’s first two seasons were enjoyable in their own right.  And it only got better from there.  Season Three proved how far the show had come since its premiere.  And now, with Season Four officially out on Blu-ray, audiences can see how much more developed the show had become in its run.  Season Four shines first and foremost for its writing.  From wrapping up the hugely popular Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger that started at the end of Season three to the introduction of Data’s “brother” in “Brothers” to the season finale that sees Worf  stepping down from Starfleet this season sees more than its share of storylines that will keep audiences engaged.  The writing involved in each episode was the major sticking point for Season Four.  In terms of the overall presentation, much more can be said that makes Season Four work.  The set’s bonus features and its packaging play just as much a part in its success, too.  Together with the solid writing, the packaging and bonus features help to make Star Trek The Next Generation: Season Four another great addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan.

The writing involved in each episode of Star Trek’s fourth season is some of the best that the show saw in its seven-season run.  It really helped to validate Star Trek literally for a new generation.  The resultant effect was that its validation also validated, in turn, science fiction in general on television.  Because the writing progressively got better through Star Trek: TNG’s fourth season, it could be argued that it really helped open the door for more science fiction shows to make their way onto mainstream television.  Prime examples of this would be in the rise of shows such as: Babylon 5, The X-Files, Earth 2, etc.  There are many more that could be listed that came not long after Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four.  These are just a handful of that mass that came possibly as a result of this season.  To make such a claim as this is a very powerful statement.  So it raises the question, what made the writing in Season Four so impressive and important?  The answer to that is that the show’s writers were able to balance strong stories with personal character development.  Data, Dr. Crusher, Capt. Picard, and Worf all became the central focus of their own episodes.  Even Dr. Crusher’s son, Wesley, got his own share of face time through this season.  In the case of Capt. Picard, audiences got to see him face being human again after being saved from the Borg.  And later, he is forced to face some old demons when he takes a vacation to see his own family.  Dr. Crusher has to watch her son grow up and go off on his own to Starfleet Academy.  Thanks to the show’s writers, she also has to face the philosophical question of what reality is in the episode, “Remember Me.”  Who would have ever thought that science fiction and philosophy would work so well together?  But it worked.  Even Worf has his own moments as he is forced to consider some very difficult decisions as the season closes.  Here is an individual that audiences have come to know as being a very strong individual both physically and emotionally.  So seeing him have to do such deep soul searching in a manner of speaking shows so much more depth to his character.  And it makes audiences want to see more from him.

The personal character development balanced with the storylines in Season Four are the anchors to this season.  This is clear.  Thanks to the people at Paramount and CBS Home Video, viewers have gotten in this season’s box set (as with the previous three seasons) even more understanding and appreciation for the writing thanks to the season’s bonus interviews.  As with the previous seasons, the writing staff as well as members of the cast are interviewed this season.  Audiences will appreciate the insight on the episodes included in Season Four.  The gag reel included in Season Four adds even more enjoyment.  There’s something about science fiction that makes gag reels even better than others.  Maybe it’s the use of blue/green screen forcing the cast to essentially play pretend.  Maybe it’s just the camaraderie between the cast members.  But the gag reel will have viewers laughing hysterically.  And as minor as it may seem, including the episodic promos as an option with each episode is that icing on the cake.  There’s something about having the original episodic promos both by themselves and along with the episodes themselves that generates a full sense of nostalgia for those that remember watching the show on television.  It makes the whole viewing experience that much better, and worth watching every time.

The bonus features and the writing included in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four work together to make the overall viewing experience a win.  There is one more part of this season’s set that makes everything complete for the show’s fans.  That one last part of the puzzle is the set’s packaging.  Season Four is comprised of six discs in its Blu-ray release.  It would have been so easy to package that many discs in a larger box.  But Paramount and CBS Home Video didn’t do that.  They maintained the standard set in the previous three seasons’ release.  The discs were placed inside the case in a fashion that is both ergonomic and that protects them from scratching one another.  This both saves space on racks and in cabinets as well as preserves the discs for future viewings.  It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation Four one of the year’s best box sets.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00CKYHH6O/ref=sr_tr_sr_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1376406257&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+4.  After ordering Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four, fans can keep up with all of the latest releases from CBS Home Entertainment on its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment.  

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek TNG Season Three Even Better On Blu-Ray

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

One of the most anticipated movies of the Summer 2013 movie season is the upcoming sequel to the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.  Just in time for the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Paramount Studios and CBS Home Entertainment have released the third season of the highly acclaimed series, Star Trek The Next Generation.  From here on out, it will be shortened to Star Trek TNGStar Trek TNG Season Three is considered by many fans of the show to be one of its best.  It is where the show started to turn around and start to take off.  That is thanks in large part to the leadership of head writer Michael Piller.  It was under his leadership that great episodes including: “The Offspring”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Sins of The Father” came about.  And who can forget what is considered one of television’s best ever episodes in the two part episode, “Best of Both Worlds?”  These episodes are just part of the whole that make Season Three so great now that it is available on a five-disc blu-ray box set.  The bonus features included also play a role in this new set’s success.  And of course, one has to also take into account the set’s packaging, which is just as impressive as every other aspect of the box.  All assembled together, it makes for a box set that any true hardcore fan of Star Trek TNG will appreciate and enjoy with every viewing.

The episodes included in the third season of Star Trek TNG are some of the series finest.  A prime example of this comes in the form of “The Offpspring”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Sins of The Father.”  In “The Offspring”, Data has one of his first tastes of being human when he creates an android child for which he can care.  This episode is a wonderful example of art imitating life.  Just as Data didn’t know what to expect as a parent, neither do real parents.  And Captain Picard’s reaction to Data on Data’s announcement was just like that of a parent to perhaps his or her own child announcing the expectation of a new child.  Data is forced to learn his “offspring” and she is forced to learn about the world around her.  Again, it is such a mirror image of actual life.  Much the same can be said of the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  This episode gave the show’s writers more chance to show a more “human” side to Worf when he is forced to return to the Klingon home world and answer for charges placed against his father.  This episode also introduces Worf’s brother.  It is those family interactions with his brother and standing up for his father that shows a largely hidden side of Worf.  Again, this is art imitating life.  There are people much like Worf who would prefer to keep their gentler, more caring side hidden so as to maintain a certain reputation.  Again, this mirror image of life makes the suspension of disbelief that much easier, and thus enjoyment of the episode that much easier in turn.

Both “Sins of the Father” and “The Offspring” are episodes to which audiences can relate so easily.  That’s because of the ability to relate to these episodes.  Season Three also offers audiences episodes that are less related to regular life and more related to scientific theory.  Such is the case of “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”  Audiences get in this episode the concept of whether wormholes exist and whether they are more closely related to black holes or are perhaps extraterrestrial passageways between time and space.  Yes, this is a deep concept.  And the writers obviously knew this.  That’s because they didn’t present the theory in a fashion that would be above the heads of casual sci-fi fans and not too much below those that are far more deeply involved in scientific theory.  This episode also sees the return of Tasha Yar, who in herself presents another theory linked to the interconnectivity of events at given points in time.  That, along with the general storytelling, makes this another wonderful addition to the hit sci-fi show’s most integral season.

The writing for the episodes noted here (and the others not listed) makes Star Trek TNG Season Three the best in the show’s seven season run.  Audiences will understand and appreciate this even more in the bonus three part feature, “Resistance is Futile – Assimilating Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  Audiences get to hear from the writers and the main cast of Star Trek TNG in this feature.  Viewers will be quite interested to hear just how much went on behind the scenes in order to bring Season Three’s episodes to life.  There apparently was a lot of turmoil among the show’s staff of writers; so much so that at one point, there might have been either a mutiny or an all out walk-out.  There are also discussions from members of the main cast, including: Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner.  McFadden discusses coming back to the show after having been away for a season.  Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Troi, adds her own thoughts on McFadden returning to the show.  She shares that she was quite happy to have her friend back.  Brent Spiner’s thoughts on being addressed by the public as Data instead of Mr. Spiner are definitely worth checking out.  He makes perfect sense in what he shares.  And Michael Dorn sharing some funny moments in taping episodes of the show will have audiences rolling with laughter.  Again, it is one more positive to a set that already has so much going for it.

The episodes written for Star Trek TNG Season Three and the discussions about the writing processes together make this latest box set another must have for any true Trek fan.  There is at least one more aspect of the set that viewers will appreciate.  That aspect is the set’s packaging.  The set is comprised of five Blu-ray discs.  Each disc is placed in its own spot inside the case in what is increasingly becoming the standard for multi-disc box set packaging.  Following this model protects the discs, thus preserving them for a much longer period of time than those sets from other shows that might have otherwise been packaged in a less ergonomic style.  That is another positive to the set’s packaging.  Because of the style in which this set was packaged, it takes up less room on a DVD and/or Blu-ray rack than more traditional box sets.  This is an example of the adage that less is more.  This combined with everything else presented in the new Star Trek TNG Season Three box set, makes this set an absolute must have for those who perhaps would rather see the show in high definition rather than standard def.  It is available now in stores and online.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.