Last night, I and so many likeminded Star Trek fans returned to Wolf 359.
In the third theatrically-held Fathom event tied to the release of a season of The Next Generation on Blu-ray, I got to see the Enterprise-D on the big screen. Whereas the Season 1 and Season 2 events chose two episodes (as well as some behind-the-scenes footage) for the evening's programming, this was a little different. We screened the new “feature-length” version of “The Best of Both Worlds,” the cliffhanger from Season 3 into Season 4. (I'll get into what I mean by “feature-length” in a moment.)
Before the lights dimmed, in addition to the usual pre-show Trek trivia on the screen, I did my usual snooping around the theater looking for folks in costume. There were a few, but none better than the somewhat obscure character Selar with some slight Borg alterations. Hey, it could happen!
First up was the behind-the-scenes feature, focusing exclusively on “The Best of Both Worlds.” These were my chief takeaways.
-- It wasn't just us who wanted to know what would happen in Part Two. Writer Michael Piller reached the cliffhanger ending and didn't think he'd be doing the follow-up, so didn't really care how they'd get out of NOT killing Picard. (Oh, I mean Locutus.) Also, was Patrick Stewart leaving? Was Elizabeth Dennehy's Commander Shelby going to be the new First Officer, with Riker moving up? There was speculation with the cast and crew, not just the fans.
-- Elizabeth Dennehy is honest, hilarious and wonderful. She also didn't know her lines during the first day of shooting and thought she was going to get fired. That's not the case now, as she can rattle off her densest line of technobabble upon request over 20 years later. She also admitted she thought Jonathan Frakes was trying to pull a fast one on her when he suggested that Riker and Commander Shelby should “have a little heat” in their relationship.
-- Jonathan Frakes on Commander Shelby: “She wanted my pips!!!!”
-- Ira Steven Behr's purple goatee gets applause. Always.
-- Michael Westmore owns Star Trek pinball machines.
-- Some of the debris in the shots of the Federation fleet after the Battle of Wolf 359 is… granola.
-- While not having much to do with “The Best of Both Worlds,” the New York-audience I was with lost their mind at the story of Patrick Stewart waiting for the subway in Brooklyn and having a man whisper “You're keepin' it real, man” as he walked past. He said it was the kindest thing a stranger ever said to him in public. And he repeated, “Keepin' it real, man...”
-- Marina Sirtis asks is “The Best of Both Worlds” was the one where “We got to see Patrick naked?”
With the prologue over, the newly restored high-definition version of “The Best of Both Worlds” (available now on Blu-ray! Buy buy buy!) kicked off. I've written about this landmark episode before -- click HERE -- but seeing it big and with 200 of your new best friends adds a new perspective. For example:
-- Everyone laughs every time Wesley opens his mouth. Sometimes they just laugh when he's standing there. I'd like to say they are laughing with him and not laughing at him… but I don't want to lie.
-- Geordi La Forge, no one does an unnecessary roll jump quite like you. The closing door in engineering during the Borg attack wasn't THAT low! You could have just ducked to get out of there.
-- I don't know about where you saw the simulcast, but in my theater on 42nd Street in Manhattan (and there were multiple screens for this sold-out event) someone took it upon themselves to shout “READ IT, GIRL!” when Commander Shelby spoke freely to Riker in the elevator.
-- To that end, I really want to see that alternate universe where Riker leads the Enterprise with Shelby as his first officer. Not that I don't want Picard around (or, even worse, for something to happen to him), but the dynamic between Frakes and Dennehy is terrific. On the big screen the rolled eyes and short sighs play even bigger than they do on TV. The look Shelby gives Riker when he reminds her – the Federation's top Borg expert – that the Borg have the ability to adapt is absolutely priceless.
-- I never noticed it before, but you can hear a few notes of the classic TOS score when the away team beams over to the Cube and sees Picard as Locutus for the first time. And here we thought Michael Giacchino was a genius for his Star Trek (2009) score!
-- They cut the “To Be Continued. . . !” This special “feature-length” presentation of “The Best of Both Worlds” plays through like a movie. As such, the gap we experienced in summer 1990 doesn't exist. It still works, but for those of us waiting for a freak-out moment as the orchestra swelled “dun-dun-dun! Dun-dun-dun! Dun-dun-dun! Dunnnnnnnnn!” over a black screen – well, we didn't get it! Eh, you can't have everything.
-- When Whoopi Goldberg enters a scene she gets a round of applause. When her scene ends, she gets a round of applause. When she speaks, she gets applause. It's amazing you could ever hear anyone speak in Ten-Forward with all that applause.
-- When Starfleet informs the Enterprise that they have engaged the Borg at Wolf 359, all I could think about Jennifer Sisko.
-- Shelby commenting on the wreckage of the Melbourne – where Riker was considering transferring – sends a genuine chill up everyone's spine.
-- The Mars Defense Perimeter sounds impressive, but sending three rinky-dink ships to get swatted down like flies by a Warp 9.6 Borg Cube isn't exactly sharp thinking. For “Oh, sh*t” purposes at the screening, however, it is very effective.
-- After Picard and Data save the day and the Enterprise is safely orbiting Earth (and Shelby is leading a task force to rebuild the fleet), the crowd bursts into whoops and applause. This is followed by tremendous laughter as we got another taste of what has swiftly become a highlight of these presentations – the blooper reel. As usual, Worf gets the big laughs. His closer, a flubbed line where he strangely shouts “I don't play with boys!” brings the house down.
Are you kicking yourself for missing this? You should be. But the good news is that there will probably be a another event like this when the Season 4 Blu-ray set comes out. If you are a hardcore Star Trek fan, you don't want to miss it.