Star Trek: TNG: Season 4
Spin-offs and reboots in the world of television are rarely more successful that their progenitor. There are a few notable exceptions ironically two of the best examples have to do with an exceptionally brilliant and talented writer, Ronald D. Moore. He reinvigorated the campy series from the late seventies, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ into one of the most gripping, engrossing and socio-politically involved shows ever. RDM was also brought in to another science fiction series to work his special brand of magic; ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. Brought in during season three for an episode that would lay the foundation for a continuing story arc involving Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) and his family’s discommendation from the hierarchy of the Klingon Empire, RDM soon became known as the ‘Klingon Guy’. This role was expanded to include arcs involved with other alien species and how they relate to the human faction of the Federation. He brought his keen eye for probing the darker motivations of humanity, power, greed and lust, through the prism of non-human eyes. Seasons three, and subsequently four, became the turning point of the series into one that explored mature themes.
Paramount had released all seven seasons of the series on DVD and recently turned their attention to re-releasing them again in high definition. Starting with season three the season finale was a dramatic cliff hanger concluded as the premiere episode of the next season. Paramount has release the season spanning episodes in its own Blu-ray release concurrently with the full season set. ‘Redemption’, a story written by RDM, connecting the fourth and fifth season examining the inner workings of the Klingon and Romulan empires, and the place family ties played in influencing its function. This greatly contributed to a significant paradigm shift in the running of the series. This change provided for a dependency on serialized story arcs with deeper levels of situational and character development. This differentiated this series from the original by reinforcing the social themes that series creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned. In doing so ‘ST: TNG’ broke from the idyllic representation of mankind’s future to embrace a universe fraught with conflict. This series retained the core ideals Mr. Roddenberry had for the future presenting it in s far more realistic fashion. This required a change in format from standalone episodes to arcs requiring .Several episodes, often overlapping with other series and films of the franchise were necessary to fully develop the intricacies and nuances of the plot lines; a new direction that firmly took hold in this fourth season.
Season four hit the ground running ready to implement the format changes outlined above. After the conclusion of ‘Best of Both Worlds’, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has taken some shore leave to reconnect with his family. Traveling to the family vineyard in France Jean-Luc hopes to reconnect to the roots of his humanity after his assimilation with the Borg. This episode was crucial to the development of this central character providing the foundation to a continued fight against their cybernetic foemen, the Borg and a direct lead into to the ST: TNG film ‘First Contact’. It also infuses the arc with an almost unprecedented vein of realism. A man, even one as composed and strong willed as Picard would be seriously affected on an emotional and psychological level. This post traumatic symptomology would persist for the rest of the franchise. The examination of the personal backgrounds of the crew members is continued. Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) was killed in action in a previous season. In the episode ‘Legacy’ the Enterprise returns to her turbulent home world and are taken hostage by a militant faction. The subtle distinction between freedom fighter and terrorist is considered. Further background into Worf’s past is brought out wife the introduction of his son, Alexander (Jon Steuer) and his mother, K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson). The episode builds the scaffold for events that will come to a dramatic climax in the series finale, ‘Redemption’. This is an RDM episode that further elucidates the life of a Klingon and their propensity for internal political derision. Another change that would ripple through the series, Wesley Crusher ( Wil Wheaton) is given a posting at the Starfleet Academy. Not only does this add to the growth of a central casting it offers a realistic avenue to peer inside the often referred to but unseen Academy. As a side note Gates McFadden, who plays his mother, Chef Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher, was pregnant during filming this season and the usual TV ploys to hide the fact were employed. Her character was involved with some controversy when she falls in love with a Trill, a symbiotic species joined to a humanoid host. When the Trill changes hosts the new body is female giving us a glimpse at same gender relationships in the future.
Some episodes remained one offs, standing more or less on their own, within the mythos but not overly concerned with furthering the franchise. One such episode, Devil's Due, is an example, the Enterprise is in orbit around a planet whose inhabitants, the Ventaxians have enjoyed a millennium of peace and prosperity. They attribute this to a pack their ancestors made with Ardra (Marta Dubois), their version of the devil. Now the signs that she is about to return to claim the souls of the planet’s population. Furthermore, since the Enterprise was in orbit when the bill came due they are also the belonging of Ardra. she has a convincing repertoire powers, changing shapes, inducing planetary tremors and blinding lights. Picard is certain she is little more than a galactic con woman out to take advantage of the superstitious inhabitants. Another episode with comic overtones is ‘Qpid’ featuring the return of the omnipotent being, ‘Q’ (John de Lancie) whose places the places the bridge crew into a Robin Hood story. Included is a former flame of the Captain’s, Vash (Jennifer Hetrick). It’s difficult to stay serious with Worf in tights saying lings like "Sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!"
All New Multi Part Documentary Relativity: The Family Saga Of Star Trek: The