“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is a name to conjure with when it comes to science fiction, and with good reason. It may well have singlehandedly revived interest in a series that, prior to it, was just original Trek and a handful of movies. But within “Next Generation,” the series is regarded for its two-part episodes. Some of the best episodes have come out of the cliffhangers that the various seasons produced, and our friends out at CBS Home Entertainment sent for review what may be one of the best: “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Chain of Command.”
“Star Trek: The Next Generation: Chain of Command” was a season six two parter, one that some regard as the single best episode of “Next Generation” ever made. This time, Captain Picard–backed up by Dr. Beverly Crusher and then-Lieutenant Worf–are sent on a secret mission into Cardassian space, where the Cardassians are said to be developing a disastrous new weapon. But while on said mission, Picard is captured, and is plunged into a nightmare of psychological and physical torture as only the Cardassians can deliver in a bid to find out the Federation’s plans for the planet on which the weapon in question is located. Can Picard hold out until he is rescued? Or will he break under unimaginable strain?
Much has been made of this episode’s attention to detail. Here, Patrick Stewart’s dazzling acting skills come to the fore as a man under perhaps the worst tortures that the era can offer. This man has done Shakespeare on several occasions, including one breathtaking performance along with David Tennant–yes, as in “Doctor Who”–in a production of “Hamlet.” But moreover, the episode was actually built in part with some help from Amnesty International, at last report, which throws extra authenticity into the series. If the Cardassians were alive today, they might well be actually using these methods. Everyone else, however, delivers their standard high-end performance–I’d be here forever if I specifically cited Frakes, Spiner, McFadden et al for top-notch delivery–though Ronny Cox, who here plays Captain Jellico, deserves a particular note for bringing an unfamiliar though not unwelcome military edge to the Federation.
This is a series that’s known for its two-parters. “Unification,” “The Best of Both Worlds,” “Time’s Arrow” and so on, but this…this just makes it all worth watching. But as ever, it should be noted that this one two-parter is a part of the larger season six, so it may well be a much better value in the long run to hold out for the full series rather than just picking up this one-disc two parter. This episode ties in wonderfully to “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”–reports put this one as airing about three weeks (two as well since it’s a two-parter)–ahead of the new series in which Cardassia is a major adversary.
Still, as is fairly standard for “Star Trek” on Blu-ray, the playback is exquisite, the sound all the more so, and the special features do contribute to value on this one. Included here is audio options in English 7.1 surround, English stereo, German and French, with subtitles available in the same languages. There is also a making-of featurette, a commentary track, a set of deleted scenes, and a set of episodic promos as well. Finally, included are trailers for “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Six,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification,” and “Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Four”.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation: Chain of Command” is an impressive piece, dripping with authenticity, a terrific bridge into a completely different series and a general joy to behold. It’s part of a greater whole, of course, but it’s an absolutely dizzying part at that.