When the Fathom Events TNG Season One Blu-ray screening concluded (click HERE), my first thought was: more, please. But I have a tendency to be a glutton sometimes. Just look for me at one of those frozen yogurt places where you can sprinkle on your own toppings. Yet I hoped Fathom would repeat the success of that July night with the new high-definition release of each season. Magic struck again last week as audiences around the country flocked to movie theaters to watch second-season episodes of a 25-year old show that they quite possibly knew by heart.
At my screening near Times Square in New York City there were a few people in costume (most notably female version of Geordi La Forge) and there was a jovial mood as the program began. Like last time, we opened with a behind-the-scenes feature detailing some of the business of the high-def upgrade as well as production issues. With enough water under the bridge, the topic of Gates McFadden getting fired was discussed bluntly, especially by Wil Wheaton, who thought for certain he'd be next. Diana Muldaur (whose Dr. Pulaski is, I feel, an underrated character) discussed what it was like coming into the show and how she picked her character's first name. We also saw some cool “how they heck they did that” stuff regarding special effects shots for the episode “Q Who?”
“Q Who?” was, indeed, the first full episode we saw and, much as last time, I was taken with just how well these shows adapt to the big screen. When Ensign Soyna Gomez spilled hot chocolate on Captain Picard there was an audible gasp. Some of the camera movements (like following Picard into the turbolift) had genuine thrust to them and a villain as awesome as the Borg loses none of its luster blown up to full size.
This was a great pick to show off the Blu-ray transfer. Not only does it have terrific special effects, but Q's decision to introduce The Borg to the Enterprise was a great way to hook the handful of people in attendance who might have been new to TNG. (There was at least one; I heard her in the lobby talking to her Trekkie friends.)
There were some moments that might make you smile watching at home that played for big laughs in a group. Riker's suggestion to “take it easy, Wes” when the young ensign starts asking a million questions at once was met with guffaws and cheers, as were the two separate times Picard simply says “Worf” to calm down his Klingon head of security. The biggest laugh came, though, when Picard does call for Worf's aid in yanking the Borg intruder away from the Engineering station. Finally, it is the Son of Mogh's chance to crack some skulls, and he turns to the unnamed security crewman and sends him on the attack instead.
It's an interesting kind of group laughter. It is one part genuine (these are funny moments), there's another part that is somehow copping to the fact that some of the stereotypes about Star Trek have their roots in a kernel of truth. But it okay for us to laugh because we love it. It is an altogether great feeling to share these moments with other diehard fans.
“Q Who?” also proved that actors like Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie have the goods to deliver to a large room. But this was just a warm-up to the second full episode, “The Measure of a Man.”
Before we got to that, there was a nice intermezzo, a look at some bloopers and outtakes. Let's just say that seeing Michael Dorn in full Worf makeup doing his impression of Don Corleone is a treasure I'll take with me no matter where I travel in the galaxy. Also: more footage from a recent cast reunion interview. It is terrific to see the crew poke fun at Patrick Stewart talking about his time at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
But the screening of “The Measure of a Man” took an already special evening and really put it over the top. In a quick prologue, we learned how Melinda Snodgrass' original script was shot as written, but it ended up going long so it had to be edited down. A version that included all the scenes (but minus the effects and sound mix) was cut together and given to Snodgrass on VHS as a gift. That lone tape was the only record of the original version and was used as a blueprint make this special edition. The highest compliment I can pay it: even though I've seen “The Measure of a Man” a number of times, it took me a bit of thinking to recognize what was the “new” stuff. In other words, it flows with a natural pace – so much so that now I couldn't dream of watching this without seeing Riker kick Commander Maddox out of Data's going-away party.
This capacity screening of “The Measure of a Man” ran the full gamut of emotions and, yes, I see the irony in that considering the subject matter. There were big laughs – some from the innuendo lines coming from Picard's former flame Phillipa Louvois – and others just from Riker's reaction shots. I tell you I never really realized just how fantastic of a non-verbal performer Jonathan Frakes was until seeing this.
There were cheers – I mean real hoots and riotous applause – after Picard's final courtroom speech. Jean-Luc Picard, the interstellar Atticus Finch, throws Starfleet's mandate back in its face: “Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits. Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make a good one.”
Patrick Stewart knows how to milk each line for what it is worth and there was dead silence during the final scenes. Once Captain Louvois announced that “Lt. Data has the freedom to choose,” the exuberant audience cheered once more.
And I couldn't have been the only one who had to sniff back a tear when Data came to visit a guilty Riker in the Observation Lounge. Up there on the big screen, seeing two of my space-faring pals hug it out – yeah, maybe my eyes got a little watery for a second. (I'm going to have to revise my Top Tear-Jerking Moments list! (click HERE).
This evening proves that the first one was no fluke: these Fathom Events screenings are the best thing going for Star Trek fans right now. The precise release date for Season Three hasn't been announced, but if you were on the fence about celebrating by joining fans at a nearby theater, I can't urge you enough.
Let me know if you were there last week for the Season Two evening and if anything nifty went down. Also, lemme know which two episodes you'd like to see for Season Three.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.
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