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.

China Beach Even Better In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

ABC’s China Beach only lasted four seasons in its original broadcasts.  But in that short span of time, the military medical drama became a favorite among viewers, critics, and even Vietnam veterans alike.  The series’ second season proves even more than its debut season just why it was (and still is today) a favorite among its audiences.  That is first and foremost because of the show’s writing.  Audiences will see in this season that the writing is even more character driven than before.  Now that it has been released to the masses on DVD, audiences will appreciate the bonus featurette “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”  This piece goes into some depth explaining why the series was especially a favorite not just among general audiences but vets, too.  And making the recently released DVD set complete is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video are to be commended for the set’s packaging.  Together with the writing and the bonus featurette, the three factors come together to make China Beach Season 2 another must have for any of the show’s original audience base.

The very first aspect of China Beach’s second season that makes it work is its writing.  The series’ first season spent most of its time setting the scene for the series.  It spent much of its time introducing the characters and their chemistry, as well as the series’ backdrop.  To the defense of the series’ heads, there’s not a thing wrong with that.  That early establishment was solid in its own right.  Now in its second season, the series’ writers have begun to delve more into the characters themselves.  They begin to show how working in Vietnam is affecting them personally and in their interactions with one another.  Most interesting about this is that the stories of the doctors and nurses at China Beach are in fact based on stories collected from those that actually served and worked in Vietnam.  That explains why the stories are so gripping.  This leads to the second aspect of the success of Season Two’s recently released box set.  That aspect is the bonus featurette, “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”

The recently released DVD box set of China Beach Season 2 includes as an extra, a bonus featurette titled “Voices of War: The Real China Beach.”  This featurette takes viewers behind the writing that comprised Season Two.  It does so by presenting interviews with the show’s heads and cast.  Spliced into the cast and crew interviews are interviews with nurses that actually worked at the medical camps in Vietnam.  The combined interviews display in full detail just what made the series work so well for so long.  Audiences will laugh along as one of the series’ heads tells an anecdote of how one veteran told him something in one episode didn’t happen a certain way but then did a full 180 the following week, asking how in the world the crew knew that said situation had happened.  On another level, audiences will be moved seeing lead cast member Dana Delaney brought to tears in recalling her interactions with the nurses on whom the series was based.  These are just a couple examples of what makes this featurette so important.  Perhaps the most important part of the whole featurette is the recurring sentiment among the cast and crew that the intent with the show was to honor those that served.  They wanted the memory of those that served to be properly honored especially considering how soldiers at the time had been treated by their fellow Americans upon returning from the front lines.   Such sentiment is difficult to find among cast and crew of any of today’s shows.  Audiences don’t hear the cast and crew of any medical and crime dramas sharing such sentiment towards the police officers or EMTs that put themselves on the line every day.  It makes this sentiment all the more powerful.  And in the bigger picture, it makes Season Two even more worth the watch.

The writing and the bonus featurette included in China Beach Season Two are equally important to the overall enjoyment of this recently released box set.  There is one more aspect of this set that audiences will appreciate, making it complete.  That aspect is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video have given proper respect to audiences with the set’s packaging.  Each of the set’s five discs have been given their own spot inside the standard DVD case.  Four of the set’s discs are placed on their own spot on either side of two “leafs” inside the case.  The fifth disc gets its own spot on the back of the case on its own spindle.  This protects each of the discs from one another and from themselves.  The result is the capability of watching this season for a long time.  It is the final touch on an already impressive box set from a show that proves especially in its second season that it is deserving of more respect from a whole new generation.  China Beach Season 2 is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLT2TR6/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1VZVGYAGEKD2Q93H5722&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from StarVista is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://www.timelife.com.  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 news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

China Beach’s First Season A Welcome Re-Introduction For Series’ Original Fans

Courtesy:  Star Vista/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: Star Vista/Time Life Entertainment

China Beach is not one of the most well-known dramas to ever hit the airwaves.  As a matter of fact, this “little brother” to M.A.S.H. only ran for four years as compared to M.A.S.H.’s eleven year run.  Despite that, it still developed a very loyal following among its viewer base.  Now thanks to Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment, fans of the series can once again enjoy the first season of this cult favorite once again some twenty-five years after it first made its debut.  The DVD release of China Beach Season One is a good start to the series’ re-issue.  That is the case first and foremost because of its writing.  It is so easy to compare China Beach to its “big brother” in its setting and the fact that it started up only five years after M.A.S.H. ended.  But in looking at the show’s writing, there is a big difference between the two shows.    Equally important in this first season is the show’s all-star cast.  At the time of the show’s broadcast, the show’s cast members weren’t the stars that they are today.  But that’s what makes this so important.  And last but not least, the bonus features included in this season finish it off.  Fans of the show will appreciate the inclusion of both a look back at the show by the cast and crew, the commentary included on specific episodes, and the cast’s twenty-fifth anniversary reunion.  These additional features bring everything full circle and make this season’s collection all the more enjoyable for its original audience.

When China Beach made its original debut on TV, that debut came only about five years after its “big brother”, M.A.S.H., had ended.  That was not exactly a lot of time when one really thinks about it.  So it would make sense that audiences might naturally make a comparison between the two series.  Comparisons aside, China Beach was quite different from M.A.S.H. as is evident in its writing.  Whereas M.A.S.H. was more a dramedy, China Beach was a more pure drama.  It showed to even more extent just how horrible war was.  Audiences will also appreciate in watching Season One’s new DVD set that it was more centered on a female cast.  As audiences will learn in the bonus material, this was no accident, either.  It’s so subtle in terms of the writing.  But in noting it, it is something extremely important to note in hindsight.  The bonus interviews with Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb help to illustrate that female-centric attitude of sorts behind the show’s writing.  Of course, one can’t ignore the general storylines, either.  While the show centers on female leads, the writing in general makes each episode quite balanced to the point that both male and female audiences will enjoy it especially if they are new to the series.  The human drama not so much just of war, but of the characters’ personal growth throughout the conflict is key to it all.  It’s something that M.A.S.H. didn’t focus on nearly as much.  That’s not to say that M.A.S.H. didn’t focus on this aspect of story.  It’s just that China Beach took that story element to a deeper level.  And that depth works with every other factor of the writing to show what made this series so special in its time.

The writers behind China Beach are obviously to be applauded for their efforts.  Audiences will see both in the episodes themselves and in Season One’s bonus material just how much thought went into the show’s writing.  It’s the most important starting point in examining the first series of the series.  Just as important to note in Season One is the show’s cast.  The cast members assembled for the series were not the big names at that time that they are today.  Robert Picardo went on to rise to fame on Star Trek: Voyager.  Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb each have had their own success since the show’s end.  And this is no surprise, considering their chemistry both on and off screen.  Again, audiences will see that chemistry both in the episodes themselves and in the bonus features included in Season One.  Having noted the bonus material included in Season One so much, it only makes sense to delve into them even more.

China Beach Season One is chock full of deep and moving episodes.  And the cast did an extraordinary job of interpreting the writers’ work.  Audiences will get an even deeper appreciation for the work done by the writers and the cast in Season One’s bonus features.  Season One’s bonus features are anchored by a look behind the series’ creation.  Viewers will learn that because the series was set during the sexual revolution, it only made sense to have the series centered on a set of very strong female leads.  That discussion is taken to a deeper level in the interviews with both Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb.  Delaney explains about the job opportunities (or lack thereof) for women at the time, which apparently was why many women ended up nurses overseas. It’s all quite enlightening to say the least.  This is just the tip of the iceberg for audiences.  The bonus features included in Season One offer far more for viewers.  And viewers will find out just what other interesting facts are revealed when they order China Beach Season One online at http://timelife.com/products/china-beach-season-1.  More information China Beach and other releases from Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment is available online at http://timelife.com, http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS, and http://twitter.com/TimeLIfeUS.  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.

True Trek Fans Will Appreciate The Captains Close Up

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/epix

Courtesy: Entertainment One/epix

The Captains Close Up with William Shatner is an enjoyable documentary for anyone that has grown up with Gene Roddenberry’s beloved sci-fi franchise that is Star Trek.  That started as a shot in the dark decades ago has grown to become one of television’s most beloved franchises.  And the people that have helmed the most famous of all starships in sci-fi history have by connection become among the most respected, beloved, and famous figures in television’s modern history.  Fans get to see them every year at conventions around the country.  But how many fans have ever had the chance to see all of the Federation’s most well-known captains in one place at the same time?  Thanks to Entertainment One and epix, Star Trek fans can hear from those individuals in this new DVD.

Epix and EOne’s new Star Trek documentary sees the very first of the individuals to lead the Federation’s flagship interview those that came after him.  This includes Avery Brooks (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Even Chris Pine (Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, People Like Us), makes a surprise appearance in the first of the DVD’s five segments.  Audiences will appreciate the interviews culled for this presentation as they show not just the captains, but the people behind the uniform.  One of the most intriguing factors that viewers will note ties together each of the actors is their collective theatrical background.  Each of the cast members started out in theater before making a name for themselves in each of their respective installments of Star Trek.  One cast member from one of the more recent franchises even notes in her interview that having a theatrical background coming into any of the Star Trek franchises was very important.  That is because it helps to adapt to and interpret each script and situation.

The theatrical experience tying each captain to the other is intriguing.  There is no doubt about that.  Most interesting of all though, is the interviews themselves.  Shatner comes across in an entirely unpretentious fashion as he sits down with each star.  Watching him discuss life on and off screen with each captain is more like watching two old friends catching up on old times than any formal interview.  Deciding which interview best illustrates this is difficult.  But being that he is the most well-known of the captains, the most logical choice would be Shatner’s interview with Sir Patrick Stewart.  Stewart speaks candidly with Shatner about his modest upbringing, his career before and after Star Trek, and about his charity “Refuge.”  Even Stewart’s own son gets in on the act.  He comes in, sits down with Shatner and his dad, and shares some rather entertaining tidbits of information about growing up in a family of actors.  Viewers will laugh along with Sir Patrick as his son shares these entertaining anecdotes.  Sir Patrick’s reaction is timeless.  He visibly blushes, hides his face and laughs embarrassed at the stories.  On the completely opposite end, Sir Patrick’s own emotional story of growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father is just as moving.  It is moving not because he admits his father only beat his mother, but because it led him to create “Refuge” in an attempt to help women who have been victims of domestic violence.  It’s easy to see how difficult it was to discuss this story.  And it makes him that much more human.

After his interview with Stewart, the next best example of the interviews’ candid nature would have to be Shatner’s interview with Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Somehow, the pair moves from talking about home cooking to the more serious discussion about reactions to audience criticisms and so many other topics.  Among those topics is that of how Mulgrew came into the role of Captain Janeway almost by chance.  Those that are less familiar with Voyager will be surprised to discover that Mulgrew got the part of Janeway after the original actress who was to play Janeway abruptly quit mere days after being given the position.  She goes on to discuss the joy of working on the show and balancing that with her own personal sadness and stress of dealing with divorce off screen.  It’s another of the more emotional moments shared throughout the interviews collected for this DVD.  Fans will find their own favorite moments when they buy or order the DVD for themselves.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D3XM3MY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=12P7CS8DNG71Y48M096T&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on The Captains Close Up with William Shatner and other DVDs and Blu-rays from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  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.